Discover more from The Bulwark
The Strange, Twisted Journey of Mike Lee
Plus: Liz’s smackdown.
HappyBirthday, Mr. President. Poll: Biden’s standing hits new lows amid Israel-Hamas war — NBC
Madison, Wisconsin! University of Wisconsin-Madison condemns neo-Nazi march in the city
Happy Monday, and welcome to a blessedly short workweek.
By now it is a story as old as time. A once-respected, apparently normal Republican politician looks in the mirror one day and decides, to hell with it, I’m going all in on the insanity.
Somewhere in the mists of the Before Times, Mike Lee was a simulacrum of a serious conservative. But there is no longer any incentive to try to sound like William F. Buckley Jr., so Lee has decided to follow ElonAlexJonesTuckerMTGTrump into the feculent bog of conspiracism.
Actually, he dove in face-first.
The senior senator from Utah spent the weekend misunderstanding some of the newly released footage from January 6th and spreading a risible theory (that was quickly debunked):
Lee claimed in a series of tweets that the footage somehow disproves the Left’s political narratives about the Capitol riot, he picked up on a tweet from Derrick Evans, the former West Virginia lawmaker who pled guilty to a felony civil disorder charge after live-streaming himself storming the Capitol. The post had a photo of a Trump supporter inside the Capitol holding an object in his hand, giving Evans basis to say “Is this person flashing a badge? If so, this would prove there were undercover federal agents disguised as MAGA.”
Big, if true, of course, because it would seem to quasi-confirm one of the right’s favorite conspiracy theories: that J6 was a false-flag op incited by undercover federal agents.
Not. Even. Close.
As reporters, readers, and assorted sentient beings quickly pointed out to Utah’s senator, the man in the photo was not flashing a badge. He’s holding a vape pen.
And he is not a federal agent. His name is Kevin Lyons, who was recently sentenced to four years in prison, and he is a real piece of work:
Once on the Capitol grounds, Lyons gathered with other rioters and encountered tear gas and flashbangs.
Lyons did not leave the grounds; rather, he stated his intentions, saying, “We’re storming the Capitol building” and “I guess we’re all going to jail.” Lyons then yelled, “Let’s take it!” before heading up the Capitol stairs toward the Senate Wing doors.
Lyons yelled comments at police officers while he walked toward the Senate Wing door, saying, “Oath breakers!” “Fucking Nazi bastards!” and “Traitors!”
As NBC’s Ryan Reilly noted, Lyons also had a photo he stole from Nancy Pelosi’s office.
My colleague Tim Miller sums up the state of play here: “A Senator looks at a grainy photo of a vape pen 3 years after the storming of the Capitol and wonders if the smoking device might be evidence that the guy in the MAGA hat was really secret FBI.
“This is ‘Dude Where’s My Car’-level legislating.”
It gets worse. Because, of course.
On Saturday, Liz Cheney called Lee out for his nutbaggery:
Lee, predictably, continued doubling down, demanding: “Shouldn't the J6 committee have been demanding answers to this question?”
“Why didn’t Liz Cheney and Adam Kizinger [sic] ever refer to any of these tapes?Maybe they never looked for them. Maybe they never even questioned their own narrative. Maybe they were just too busy selectively leaking the text messages of Republicans they wanted to defeat,” Lee Xeeted Saturday.
As Socrates once said of the Sophists; bullshit, all bullshit.
Lee’s descent into conspiracism raises familiar questions. Our former colleague Andrew Egger writes: “Hard to think of a worse heel turn in all of politics than Mike Lee suddenly realizing getting ‘base’ was the way to the heart of the world’s dumbest people and becoming a willing accessory to whitewashing January 6.”
BTW, in case you are wondering why there is so much of this J6 conspiracy nonsense on your Xitter feed, consider this scoop from Semafor:
Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X, formerly Twitter, has turned the service’s Hail Mary bet on an imagined $100 million political advertising business over to someone she trusts: her son Matt Madrazo…. He’s part of what’s essentially a two-man operation to restart X’s political advertising business with the goal of capitalizing on the massive amounts of money that campaigns are about to spend during the 2024 elections.
According to three people with knowledge of the situation, Madrazo has been tasked with outreach to Republican digital advertising firms and spenders…
Speaking of X. . . . After Musk’s foray into raw antisemitism, the exodus from his dumpster fire of a website accelerated:
Apple and IBM, two of X's biggest tech advertisers, both said they would pause advertising on X. Lionsgate, Disney, Comcast/NBCU, Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery and other firms also paused their marketing.
It’s become an even shittier platform under the new regime that advertisers are fleeing from. It’s good for quick news posting still, but it’s the only use case. Otherwise, it’s degenerated into a toxic stew of grievance and it largely useless as a social media site.
Exit take: Elon is not taking it well: Musk threatens ‘thermonuclear lawsuit’ as X ad boycott gathers pace – POLITICO
The Bulwark Live, With Brian Stelter
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube:
American Jews Are Nervous (with Bill Kristol)
It’s been more difficult to be Jewish in America since October 7, so we’re listening to how Jewish voters are processing this moment. Bill Kristol joins Sarah to break it all down.
1. Colorado Judge: Trump Can’t Be Barred from Ballot Over Jan. 6th
ON FRIDAY, AFTER SEVERAL DAYS of trial involving multiple witnesses and other evidence, a Colorado state court became the fifth to reject an effort to keep Donald Trump off a state presidential ballot under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, a post-Civil War addition to the Constitution ratified in 1868. It provides: “No person shall . . . hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath . . . as an officer of the United States . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Because the Colorado case involved lengthy testimony and detailed findings of fact and rulings on the meaning of Section 3, the 102-page decision is worth summarizing at some length. Clearly, Colorado District Judge Sarah B. Wallace wrote with an expectation that judges at higher state courts and likely even the U.S. Supreme Court would wind up studying her analysis on an appeal petition.
2. Don’t Believe Viktor Orbán’s Defender-of-Christianity Pose
THE HUNGARIAN EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP (known locally as MET) is a small, independent-Methodist denomination of 19,000 members. It has been internationally recognized for its charitable work operating some 63 institutions—schools, care homes, and homeless shelters—in Hungary’s poorest communities. But its work is visibly disintegrating since the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán withdrew public funding—an apparently vindictive move that undermines his attempt to depict himself as a defender of Christian civilization.