Discover more from The Bulwark
You Cannot Be Serious
Plus: DeSantis reaps what he sowed.
Some of you are old enough to remember when we had occasional “Silly Seasons,” which, not coincidentally, often occurred during the long lulls of summer. For a few weeks, the media would become obsessed with the frivolous, the outlandish, and the bizarre. Think endless accounts of shark attacks and sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.
Alas, our seasons of unseriousness have now become endless, because we do not live in serious times, do we?
Over the last few days, the Right melted down over the “Barbie Movie,” with no discernible impact at all at the box office. We embroiled ourselves in a fiery debate over whether slavery (and the Holocaust) actually taught valuable life skills; the NY Post ran a cover story about dog bites in the White House; Kevin McCarthy floated a performative impeachment of Joe Biden; Elon Musk murdered Twitter; Mayor Rudy admitted that he lied about Georgia election workers; and the GOP is trying mightily not to notice that its frontrunner is losing his mind as he awaits the next tranche of indictments. Meanwhile, a funnel cloud appeared over the Capitol, and the seas may be setting new temperature records.
You did not, in fact, take crazy pills this week.
It’s just the news cycle.
the judge declared there was “ample, arguably overwhelming evidence” that Trump is a rapist by the word’s most common definitions, and even “some federal and state criminal statutes.” This wasn’t “locker room talk,” this was an actual sexual assault committed by one of the most powerful men in America.
Yet Kaplan’s opinion wasn’t nearly the top news story of the day. It was merely another data point of our deeply deranged political moment. Despite that ruling, Donald J. Trump remains the clear front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Happy Wednesday, (especially those of you who observe Hump Day).
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By now it almost feels like overkill to remark on the spectacular self-immolation of Ron DeSantis’s campaign. JVL has already covered the Florida Man’s ghastly weekend: “The DeSantis ‘Reset’ Is a Death Rattle.” And there’s no sign of any break in the most shambolic political implosion since Scott Walker’s front-running presidential campaign disintegrated on the launch pad.
In fact, it’s getting worse: “Ron DeSantis fires staffer who retweeted video with Nazi imagery.”
The staffer, Nate Hochman, had retweeted the video over the weekend before he deleted the post, a screenshot shared with NBC News showed. Hochman, a communications staffer who has written for The New York Times, National Review and other outlets, is considered by some to be an up-and-coming thinker on the right. [Editor’s note: FFS.]
“Nate Hochman is no longer with the campaign,” a campaign official said. “And we will not be commenting on him further.”
Ahem. If only they had been warned. Oh wait.
Here’s Tim Miller, in the Bulwark, four months ago: “DeSantis Finds His Voice: A NatCon Culture Warrior Who Praised a Prominent White Nationalist”:
Hochman, a conservative writer who has earned more ink by the age of 25 than anyone this side of Justin Bieber, has garnered a reputation as a young MAGA whisperer. The New Republic tagged him as one of “the radical young intellectuals who want to take over the American right.” He’s written for the Dispatch, National Review (where he was on staff), the Claremont Institute’s American Mind (where he interned), and more. Heck, even the Gray Lady turned to Hochman for a think piece about the secular culture war.
But like every MAGA intellectual (or “intellectual”) before him, Hochman, has found it necessary to cozy up to the movement’s gutter-dwelling racists in order to climb the ladder of influence.
As first reported by the Dispatch last year, Hochman participated in a Twitter Space with white nationalist virgin Nick Fuentes—and lavishly praised him. “We were just talking about your influence and we were saying, like, you’ve gotten a lot of kids ‘based’ and we respect that for sure,” Hochman said. “I literally said, I think Nick’s probably a better influence than Ben Shapiro on young men who might otherwise be conservative.”
The film captures the race against the Nazis to develop the first atomic bomb, and…
He went on to discuss the merits and demerits of one of America’s most vile humans, saying the fact that he has said “super edgy things means that there’s a pretty strong ceiling to what you can actually accomplish in politics.”
“Edgy” is definitely one way to describe Holocaust denial!
When the Dispatch asked him about his Fuentes remarks, Hochman acknowledged that he said some “really stupid things, which I don’t actually believe”—but did not apologize.
In the intervening time The Bulwark was provided with the audio from the Twitter space—and it turns out that complimenting a white nationalist was not the only stupid thing Hochman uttered that day.
During his naked attempt to get Fuentes to think he was also based, Hochman says “when the man’s right, he’s right” in response to Fuentes’s claim that “women are goofy, okay, they should have no authority, they should have no authority over men.” Then, after Fuentes says that women “just really have no business in politics,” Hochman repeats his response: “When the man’s right, he’s right.”
Hochman later asked Fuentes how he plans to deal with the fact that “50 percent of American whites are, like, shitlibs now” if he wants to be successful in advancing white identity politics.
Women are goofy and shouldn’t be allowed in politics.
Half of white people are shitlibs.
As Tim wrote back in March, “Nate Hochman’s hiring sends a signal of what the Florida governor wants for his campaign.”
Indeed, it did. And the governor got it good and hard.
Some “Times of London” Trivia
Good catch from one of our readers:
The quiz itself? See how you do…
1. Why House Democrats are Salivating
If you work at the DCCC or you’re camped out in House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ second-floor Capitol office, the current state of the Republican Conference probably has you salivating.
No. 1: House Republicans are on a path to force a government shutdown this fall. If you talk to senior GOP leadership figures privately, they’ll admit this. At some point between now and the end of 2023, the rift inside the House Republican Conference will be so deep and profound that there’s little chance that they can avert a “lapse in appropriations,” aka a government shutdown.
At the same time, House Republicans are likely — if not certain — to impeach President Joe Biden. McCarthy said Tuesday that the “only way” Republicans could investigate their claims against Biden, the IRS, the Justice Department and the FBI is if they open an impeachment inquiry into Biden. Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) is openly speculating whether Biden accepted bribes from Ukrainian figures tied to Hunter Biden. The younger Biden is scheduled to be in court today as part of his federal plea deal on tax and gun charges, an agreement that House Republicans are trying to block.
Now keep in mind, even if the House impeaches Biden, the Democratic-controlled Senate will ultimately acquit him. But this process — and the political fallout — will dominate Capitol Hill for months.
And again, vulnerable House Republicans will be asked to take tough votes that could rebound against them down the road.
2. Anti-Trump Ads in Iowa Feature Republican Voters Who Turned Against Him
The group, the Republican Accountability Project, is spending $1.5 million on ads in Iowa to try to persuade likely Trump voters that the former president would struggle to win the 2024 general election. The organization’s goal is to help lift another contender to the Republican nomination — anyone but Mr. Trump.
The ads feature first-person testimonials from Iowans explaining that they like Mr. Trump but fear he could fail to win back the White House for Republicans by being unable to appeal to swing voters.
In one spot, Fran, a two-time Trump supporter, says she “really appreciated” his presidency. But she adds that she will not support him again in the primary.
“Donald Trump has way too much political baggage,” she says. “The next Republican candidate has to be somebody who can convince swing voters, independents, to vote for them. Because Donald Trump can’t.”
The campaign will be shown on broadcast, cable and digital ads in Iowa’s two biggest media markets through the summer.
3. A Second Trump Presidency All but Guarantees His Exoneration
If, as seems likely, Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee next year, the 2024 elections will be a referendum on several crucial issues: the prospect of authoritarianism in America, the continuation of a vibrant democracy, the relationship between the executive branch and the other two branches of government, and much else of grave significance.
It will also be a referendum on whether Trump will ever be held legally accountable for his actions. Trump faces multiple civil suits and at least two criminal indictments (with two more seemingly just over the horizon). If Trump were to win reelection, it is almost certain that none of these will ever be resolved—at least not in a way that is adverse to his interests, which any reasonable system would admit as a possibility. Such is the power of the presidency.
4. Elon Musk has officially killed Twitter.
Twitter, the text-based social media platform that played an outsized role on society by serving as a digital town square, was killed by its unhinged owner Elon Musk on Sunday. It was 17 years old.
A zombie Twitter, known only as X, reluctantly endures. A warped and disfigured platform, X marches on like a White Walker, an ugly shell of its former self under the command of a loathsome leader.
Whereas Twitter was once a fountain of authoritative information, X is a platform where trolls can pay a small fee to have their ugly content boosted ahead of reputable sources.
5. Kim Strassel’s Disingenuous Biden Bashing
The Biden Malaise is written in lowbrow prose for a lowbrow audience that already shares Strassel’s outlook. It is replete with sentences that are grossly simplistic—“Taxes are bad.” Or designed to inflame—“It was official: Biden had no intention of uniting the country.” Or to ridicule—she fixes on Biden the appellation “President Motormouth.” In the aftermath of our experience with Donald Trump in the White House, it is grotesquely absurd—and sheer projection—to contend, as she does, that the Biden presidency “has exacted a devastating toll on the American economy, its foreign standing, and its national psyche.”
Beneath all such arrant rubbish, Strassel strikes me as someone intelligent and well informed who, in the service of a bad cause and as a master of disingenuousness, has chosen to spend her limited time on this planet producing partisan trash.
See what he did there: