The Poltroons of Texas

Plus: Panic punditry about Biden

“A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.” — William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 6)

We really need a better class of insults. Our expletives have grown tired, our language of abuse dumbed down and reduced to twitter slaps. Among his more deplorable legacies, Trump has shrunken the vocabulary of our democracy to the level of a badly-educated sixth grade mouth-breather.

Mea culpa, since we are all affected to some degree. We have been known to refer to the former president, for example, as The Orange One. But that’s weak tea. The Bard would have been… more descriptive.

“That trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?” Henry IV Part 1 (Act 2, Scene 4)

We definitely need a Muse of Invective to help us manage these times.

Otherwise we are left with this sort of thing from the not-at-all-insane Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers.

Ah, yes, Bill Kristol, that well-known neoconservative (checks notes) Trotskyite communist. (I would pay good money to hear Rogers try to define ‘Trotskyite.”)

Exit: It’s not just Arizona, of course.

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**

We wake this morning to several stories that challenge our powers of description.

Let’s start with Texas, where the governor has issued a mandate against mandates, because small government, private business, FREEDOM!, or something. Greg Abbott’s order bans COVID vaccine mandates “by any entity” including private businesses in the state.

As the Wapo notes this morning, “Abbott’s move puts him at odds with some large corporations and with the Biden administration, which last month announced plans to require all employers with 100 or more workers to adopt vaccine mandates or testing regimens. A number of large private companies in Texas have issued mandates.”

It also puts him at odds with “conservative” notions of limited government, the rights of private businesses… and himself. This is the same Greg Abbott, who tweeted just a few days ago:

Ah well, never mind.

BTW: The whole narrative that Southwest Airline’s flight cancellations were due to anti-vax strike turns out to be bogus. “The airline and the union that represents its pilots took pains throughout the weekend and on Monday to say that the disruption was not caused by protests over the airline’s recently announced vaccination mandate, denying an idea, fueled by some early news reports, that had gained traction online among conservatives and anti-vaccination activists. Conservative lawmakers pointed to Southwest’s cancellations as evidence that vaccine requirements could harm the economy.”

Exit take: Abbott may be about to get a lesson in the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which prohibits states from interfering with the federal government's exercise of its constitutional powers.

**

The ignorance of Allen West

Abbott may have been motivated to dial up the demagoguery by the behavior of his primary challenger Allen West, who continues to rail against vaccine mandates despite being hospitalized with COVID. Via the Wapo:

From his hospital bed, he issued a string of tweets attacking vaccine mandates and promoting controversial treatments, vowing that if elected, he would “vehemently crush anyone forcing vaccine mandates” in Texas.

“Our bodies are our last sanctuary of liberty and freedom, I will defend that for everyone,” he wrote.

West, however, turns out to be as bad at math as he is at science.

West also said that he and his wife, Angela, who is vaccinated, had received treatment with monoclonal antibodies — a move that a number of people argued on social media was at odds with his remarks against vaccines that he said were “enriching the pockets of Big Pharma.”

The ignorance here is invincible and impermeable.

Monoclonal antibodies are proteins created in the laboratory to mimic the human immune system. The Biden administration announced last month that it had reached an agreement to buy another 1.4 million doses of the only authorized antibodies from the pharmaceutical company Regeneron for $2.9 billion, or $2,100 per dose. The most expensive coronavirus vaccines are about $20 a shot.

“Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows” -Troilus and Cressida (Act 2, Scene 1)

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Claremont gaslights America.

The Trumpian “think-tank,” is making a bold move to whitewash its resident seditionist, John Eastman. In a statement posted online, Claremont tries furiously to ret-con Eastman’s role in the attempts to overthrow the 2020 election, complaining of what it called the “recent combined disinformation, de-platforming, and ostracism campaign,” against its senior fellow.

Contrary to almost universally false news accounts, which have done great damage, John did not ask the Vice President, who was presiding over the Joint Session of Congress where electoral votes were to be counted on January 6, to “overturn” the election or to decide the validity of electoral votes.

But this is codswallop, because that is exactly what Eastman did. He put it in writing. Aaron Blake notes how the sophists at Claremont rely on their own brand of chop-logic and careful parsing.

Essentially, the statement isn’t disputing that Eastman provided a ready-made procedure for Trump and Pence to get the election overturned — he clearly and unambiguously did so — it’s that he didn’t explicitly say Pence should overturn it himself.

This, though, is a distinction without much of a difference. And it ignores the weightier issues that have led some groups to distance themselves from the Claremont Institute. (The group’s statement says the Federalist Society has “refused to allow John … to discuss essential constitutional questions,” despite his 20 years of involvement with it.)

In the memo, which was revealed recently in a new book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Eastman lays out his step-by-step plan for getting Trump reinstalled:

  1. Pence defers on counting electors for several states that Joe Biden won, saying there are multiple slates of electors in them.

  2. When the counting is finished, Pence declares the total number of electors is 454 — rather than 538 — at which point Trump has a majority.

  3. When Democrats complain that one needs a majority of 538 instead of 454, Pence relents and says that, since no candidate has a majority, the House will decide the winner, as per the Constitution.

  4. (In Eastman’s own words:) “Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote. President Trump is re-elected there as well.”

According to the Claremont Institute, though, this is not tantamount to asking Pence to overturn the election. And that could be construed as true, only in the most literal and generous of legal readings. What Eastman was doing was providing a procedure by which Pence could simply facilitate the expected result of Congress overturning the election. But at least he wouldn’t ask Pence to try to do this himself, I guess.

“More of your conversation would infect my brain.” Coriolanus (Act 2, Scene 1)

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Are reports of Biden’s demise premature?

Lots of panic punditry out there.

In the NYT, Charles Blow sounds multiple alarms: “Democrats, You’re in Danger”:

“They just aren’t getting enough done. … The warning signs are all around. ...

“Democrats are still wrangling over their infrastructure and social spending bills. … There is still a crisis at the border. … Then there is the massive, widespread assault on voting rights … [and] it is still not clear if there are enough votes in the Senate to pass voter protections … As for police reform, negotiations … completely fell apart. …

The Wapo headline reads: “‘Frustration is at an all-time high’: Behind Biden’s falling poll numbers.” Politico: “‘The president’s decline is alarming’: Biden trapped in coronavirus malaise.” And, our colleague JVL, who can be always counted on to find the lump of coal in the stocking: “Joe Biden Is in a World of Trouble.”

These people are all smarter than I am, so they are probably right. But…

This last story is based on our colleague Sarah Longwell’s focus group with nine disaffected Biden voters. (You can listen to her podcast on the group here.) I don’t want to give away too many spoilers here, but I had a chance yesterday to listen in on another one of her focus groups of independent Biden voters. And it was… not terrible. (Although lots of concern about his messaging and age.)

Also, the polls numbers are bad — but, perhaps, not as terrible as some of the commentary suggests.

Here is Will Saletan’s contrarian take:

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I had some thoughts about the GOP

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Quick Hits

1. Dear Democrats: Only 10% of People Even Know What You Are Fighting For

Tim Miller has some more tough love.

Quick: What is in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better,” “Human Infrastructure,” “Reconciliation,” “Unicorn Boner,” “Bed Bath & Beyond” legislation?

Can you tell me?

I’m guessing that you can. Well maybe you don’t know everything that’s in it. But I bet you can name a couple things. Because you, dear reader, are an engaged citizen. You participate in our rollicking national civic dialogue. You subscribe to a few substacks.

But do you understand just how rare you are, person who knows what is in the BBB plan? You are like the recherché and retired Batty the Bat beanie baby or the sweet Nikola Jokic double behind the back dribble TopShot NFT.

Because when CBS News asked the American public how much they know about the “Build Back Better” plan only 10 percent replied “a lot of the specifics.”

10 percent!


2. The problem with Stacey Abrams.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (yes, the guy who stood up against Trump’s Big Lie), writes about Abrams in NR.

Like President Trump and his allies did over the last year, Abrams’s Fair Fight Action alleged that voting machines “erased” 100,000 votes in 2018. Her group pushed hacked-voting-machine claims long before President Trump and his supporters were vehemently criticized by the media and much of the Democratic Party for doing the same thing.

Considering the damage President Trump’s stolen-election claims have done to the public perception of our elections, Abrams has a lot to answer for, whether or not she chooses to run for office. American democracy relies on an adversarial press to hold leaders accountable. Given MSNBC’s lurch to defend Abrams and their use of disinformation to support it, there is little reason to believe they will do their jobs if and when Abrams starts her disinformation campaign again.

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