Trump Campaign Warns GOP Lobbyists
Wisconsin High Court Rejects Democrats’ Map Challenge
The First Downballot Primaries Start on Tuesday
Bonus Exchange of the Day
Trump Says Little on Gaza
Thousands Turn Out for Navalny’s Funeral
• IVF Bill: Well, That Was Fast
• State of the Union: Britt Will Serve up This Year's Red Meat
• Un-Retirement: Once Your Foot Is in the Door...
• News From Across the Pond: Gaza War Is Wrecking British Politics
• I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Forged in Fire
• This Week in Schadenfreude: A Fool and Their Money?
• This Week in Freudenfreude: Strong Medicine
On Wednesday, we provided links to Joe Biden's 2014 and 2024 appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers, so that readers could judge for themselves how much he's changed over the past decade. We also had several people write in and say that Donald Trump should get the same coverage. Very well; here, courtesy of reader B.C. in Youngstown, OH, is video that intersperses clips of Trump at CPAC 2014 and CPAC 2024.
It's quite the circus they have going on Capitol Hill. After much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, the members passed yet another short-term bill to keep the government from shutting down. This is the fourth such bill this year.
Most members clearly do not want the government to shut down, either for fear of the harm it will do to the American people, or for fear of political blowback. And so, the stopgap bill passed by overwhelming majorities in each chamber; 320-99 in the House and 77-13 in the Senate. Once Joe Biden signs the bill today, the deadline for the first set of spending bills will be pushed to March 8, while the deadline for the second set will be pushed to March 22.
Will Congress figure things out this time? Well, there are two reasons for optimism. First, many members say they are close to the finish line. Second, the State of the Union is March 7, and that provides Biden with an opportunity to hammer the members before a national audience if they haven't sent him a bill. This said, when there's enough dysfunction to require four extensions, you can't be surprised if there ends up being enough dysfunction to require a fifth (and a sixth, and a seventh, etc.). Obviously, a partial or full shutdown is also still possible, but again, it seems pretty clear that a big majority does not want that and will do what it takes to prevent it. Sorry, Freedom Caucus! (Z)
Given how much damage the Republican Party is taking thanks to the IVF decision in Alabama, we speculated that the GOP Senators just might let the IVF-affirming bill from Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA) pass via unanimous consent. This would have allowed the Republicans to try to get away from this problem without formally taking a position on it. Politicians generally love being able to avoid being pinned down on tricky issues.
So much for that. As soon as Duckworth and Murray asked for unanimous consent, the request was shot down by the exact same senator who shot it down the last time unanimous consent was requested on this bill, back in 2022. That, of course, is Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), who raised a list of objections to the legislation:
It would legalize human cloning. It would legalize commercial surrogacy, including for young girls without parental involvement. It would legalize gene edited designer babies and lift the federal ban on the creation of three parent embryos.
Does anyone believe ANY part of that?
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not confirmed that he will bring the bill to the floor of his chamber for a normal-order vote, but if he doesn't, we would be very surprised. First, it advances a policy that has broad support, and that is much in the headlines right now. Second, it puts Republican members in a very difficult position, politically. Seems like a win-win for him and his caucus, but with the budget and other matters to deal with, you never know. (Z)
The State of the Union is less than a week away, and the GOP has finally chosen its respondent. It is Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), who just commenced her second year in the upper chamber, having succeeded her former boss Richard Shelby.
Customarily, in an election year, the respondent is someone who is running for office, and who can use some PR. That obviously does not describe Britt, who won't be up again until 2028, and who will hold on to her seat for as long as she wants it without breaking a sweat. Clearly, she was chosen because it is her state that was responsible for the hot-button IVF decision, and because she is a woman, and because Joe Biden is undoubtedly going to bring up reproductive issues one or two or ten times in his speech.
The question is exactly what Britt will say. On one hand, it's her job to fire up the base, and to remind the country that Biden is feeble, incompetent, corrupt, the embodiment of evil, etc. On the other hand, she's a moderate (by GOP standards) on abortion, and she's already expressed opposition to the IVF decision. So, she likely won't be as extreme as, say, her senior colleague Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) would be, and she might even put forward an alternative IVF proposal, in response to the one from Tammy Duckworth and Patty Murray (see above). Certainly, it will be of more interest than the usual SOTU response. (Z)
It would seem the only thing worse, these days, than serving in Congress is NOT serving in Congress. This week, three current or former members of the House who had previously decided to depart Congress changed their minds.
First up is Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), who said he had achieved what he had set out to achieve when the House Homeland Security Committee, which he chairs, impeached DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He has now rethought that, and says that he's going to hold on to his seat, after all. His district, TN-07, is very red (R+10), so he's safe, assuming voters there don't punish him for his waffling.
And then there is Matt Rosendale (R-MT), who flirted with a U.S. Senate run for a week, and then hinted at retirement for another week. Now, he says he wants to stay in Congress, and will run for reelection to his seat. He'll face a primary battle, and since he's a fire-breathing right-winger, he might be vulnerable to a challenge from a more centrist candidate. Probably not, though, since MT-02 is R+16. Fun trivia fact: By area, MT-02 is the largest congressional district in the country that is not comprised of an entire state.
And finally, a former Republican House member who decided he'd like to return to Washington, albeit with a promotion. That would be Justin Amash, who was a Republican and then became either a Libertarian or an independent, depending on who you ask, in response to the actions of Donald Trump that led to impeachment. Amash is now back to being a Republican, and thinks he might just enjoy being a U.S. Senator. In his announcement for the open seat in Michigan, he explained:
The past few years away from Congress have given me time to reflect on the experiences that have shaped my life, the principles of liberty that inspire me, and what my tenure in Congress meant to the people of my community...
Regardless of who wins the White House and Congress, the United States will remain deeply polarized. What we need is not a rubber stamp for either party, but an independent-minded senator prepared to challenge anyone and everyone on the people's behalf—someone focused not on extending federal power so Republicans or Democrats in Washington can achieve their political ends, but on ensuring that Americans have the personal and economic freedom to pursue their own ends...
The "politician who is above partisanship" sounds good on paper, but such folks rarely attract enough votes to be competitive. We suppose it's not impossible that, in a Republican primary that already had 12 other candidates, including at least three or four serious ones, Amash could eke out a plurality. But we doubt it. (Z)
There was yet another by-election in the United Kingdom this week. Because it appeared to be a relatively minor affair, we arranged for just one report from our British correspondents, rather than a preview and a wrap-up. As it turns out, however, there is rather more significance to the election than expected. Here's reader A.B. from Lichfield, England, UK with the story:
This was originally going to be a brief report on the February 29 parliamentary by-election in Rochdale, a former mill town in Greater Manchester. The chaotic election has been deeply impacted by the Gaza War, making an otherwise mundane election in an ostensibly safe Labour seat of potential interest to a North American political audience (and besides, by an odd coincidence work had taken me to Manchester on polling day). Events over the last two weeks have shown that the Gaza War is having a far broader impact on British politics, and Rochdale now has to be given a bit more context.
The Rochdale by-election was called after the death of popular Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd, a giant of the Manchester political scene. Subsequent events turned this into one of the most chaotic by-elections in recent British political history. Labour candidate Azir Ali was recorded stating that Israel had deliberately allowed the October 7 Hamas attack to go ahead so they could have "the green light to do whatever they bloody want" in Gaza. Ali survived that after apologizing, but Labour then withdrew support for their candidate within 24 hours of the apology after a further recording emerged of the candidate stating that Labour's suspension of a left-wing MP was driven by "people in the media from certain Jewish quarters." Not to be left out, the Green Party then withdrew support for their candidate after it was found that he had previously made Islamophobic comments over the Quran and Gaza on the site previously known as Twitter; over 20% of the population in central Rochdale is Muslim, so this was obviously a problem. In both cases, the parties only withdrew support for their candidates after ballot papers had been printed, so this had no impact on how party affiliations were listed on the ballot.
While Azir Ali might still have been elected—much to the embarrassment of his former party—the other two main candidates for the seat had their own challenges. Simon Danczuk was running for the right-wing populist Reform UK party. Danczuk was the Labour MP for the seat from 2010 to 2017, building a reputation as a fierce critic of child sexual abuse (which, unfortunately, has been a significant issue in Rochdale over the last 20 years). It was regrettable, then, that he was suspended from the Labour Party in 2015 and dropped as their candidate after he was caught sending explicit text messages to an underage teenager. Apropos of nothing in particular, the current Mrs. Danczuk—the third lucky holder of that title—was half her husband's age when they married in 2023. But at least she's Rwandan, thereby conclusively proving to right-wing Reform UK supporters that their party can't possibly be racist.
The final serious candidate was George Galloway, a former Labour MP who's built himself something of a career running in seats with strong Muslim minorities—occasionally winning as a minor party candidate—while positioning himself as the voice of disaffected British Islam, which is quite the feat for a 69-year-old white Scot from Dundee. While many on the left of politics have traditionally been critical of Western military action in Iraq and Israel's current attack on Gaza, Galloway has arguably often taken this to extremes, with his long-term support of Saddam Hussein drawing particular criticism in the past. More recently, on Feb. 14, 2022, Galloway made a point of gloating on Twitter that he was right that Russia would never invade Ukraine, that he'd been right "again," and that everyone who was wrong about this should "show some humility." Russia invaded on the 24th. Strangely, Galloway hasn't deleted the tweet.
So the three most likely winners in Rochdale were a candidate disowned by the Labour Party over antisemitism, a right-wing populist who was expelled from the Labour Party for sexting a 17 year old, and a left-wing populist notorious for cynically targeting disaffected Muslim voters and who was expelled from the Labour Party for his support of Saddam. It was quite the choice.
While all of this has been going on in Rochdale, Gaza has also had an impact on national politics. Last week, Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsey Hoyle managed to get himself into a mess over a Scottish National Party motion to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. This is far too deep in the weeds—what (V) & (Z) would call "inside baseball"—to fully outline here. It's enough to note that Hoyle's mishandling of the issue, which he claims was driven by concerns for the safety of MPs, led to chaotic scenes in Parliament as the SNP called for the speaker's resignation and government MPs walked out of the debate—a rare case of the Conservative Party and the SNP agreeing on something (to the slight discomfort of both).
Meanwhile, PM Rishi Sunak managed to create a mess of his own when former Conservative Party vice-chair Lee Anderson, who comes from what we might charitably call the party's "robust right," was suspended for stating in an interview with GB News (a channel trying very hard to position itself as the U.K. version of Fox News) that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is "controlled by Islamists" (Khan is a Muslim). Sunak and cabinet members refused to characterize Anderson's remarks as Islamophobic or racist, leading to a comical round of media interviews where senior government MPs confidently stated that Anderson had been suspended because his remarks were wrong, but were then unable to articulate why they were wrong. This has all rather undermined government attempts to attack Labour leader Keir Starmer (whose wife and children are Jewish) for being ineffective over tackling antisemitism on the left. Anderson is meanwhile not so secretly considering defecting to the absolutely-not-at-all-in-any-way-racist Reform UK; if he does, he would become that party's first MP.
There's no way of describing any of this as "entertaining" without making light of the tragic events in Gaza and Israel. It's certainly been different; maybe "depressing" would be a better word.
And the result in Rochdale? I awakened Friday to discover that Galloway won with nearly 40% of the vote, specifically stating "this is for Gaza" in his (much-heckled) victory speech. This will be taken as expressing unhappiness with the Labour leadership's position on Gaza and decision to drop its local candidate for antisemitism, mirroring debates in the United States where Arab-Americans and some left-of-center voters are unhappy with Biden's approach to the conflict. But where the people of Dearborn, Michigan, could only vote "unaffiliated" in the recent Michigan Democratic primary, a plurality of voters in Rochdale have decided to issue their protest by supporting a controversial serial opportunist representing the supposed "Workers Party of Great Britain" who was expelled from his first party for supporting Saddam Hussein. The only real consolation is that the sexting Simon Danczuk ended up finishing sixth. Under the circumstances, it's perhaps a surprise that the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate could only finish 11th (and last).
Meanwhile, correspondent S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK adds this:
Delving slightly deeper into the Rochdale result, this by-election possibly ranks as the largest protest vote in decades. Not only did "Gorgeous George" win, but a local businessman standing as an independent came second with 21% of the vote. Meanwhile, the result was disaster for BOTH Labour and Conservatives. Between them, they received just 19.7% of the vote. A collapse in Labour's vote was to be expected given the circumstances surrounding their original candidate, but a fall of 44% was definitely at the top end of expectations, whilst the Conservative vote also fell by 19%. Clearly there is something of an "enthusiasm gap" when the two largest U.K. parties see their combined vote fall by 63%. I am hopeless at predicting results but I think this indicates that the coming U.K. general election will see a very weak turnout.
And there is also the performance of Reform to note. Various right-wing elements of the U.K. media and certain Conservative MPs have been talking up the "threat" of Reform as a lever to make Sunak adopt the policies they favor. Granted that Reform (for some reason only known to themselves) chose a flawed candidate in Simon Danczuk, but even so a fall in their vote compared to the 2019 election was very unexpected. They trailed in at 6%. Their current leader (at least, while Nigel Farage is pursuing his broadcasting career), Richard Tice, put the result down to the difficulty of running three by-election campaigns within a month with limited resources. This raises the obvious question: How can you run a general election campaign, which is going to involve far more than three seats? If the election in Rochdale does have a lasting legacy, it might be the bursting of the Reform bubble.
Thanks to both of you! (Z)
Here's the answer key to last week's theme, courtesy of D.M. in Burnsville, MN
These are all "reality" TV shows:
- IVF Decision: Republicans Are Running for the Hills
- Biden Impeachment: GOP Hopes Are Shattered
- Biden Age: Could the Antiques Roadshow Reach a Dead End?
- Right-Wing Websites in Decline: Breitbart's the Biggest Loser
- I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: The Big Break
- This Week in Schadenfreude: What Not to Wear
- This Week in Freudenfreude: Happy Birthday to an American Idol
We gave the hints that it was appropriate for a day with so many Donald Trump stories (because, of course, he hosted The Apprentice), and that if anyone was not seeing the theme, it might be because their life is not surreal enough (The Surreal Life being another reality show, as is Forged in Fire).
Here are the first 25 readers to get it right:
- G.K. in Hillsborough, NJ
- K.R. in Austin, TX
- G.M. in Chevy Chase, MD
- D.L. in Uslar, Germany
- B.F. in Madison, WI
- R.H. in Corning, NY
- D.S. in Layton, UT
- A.S. in Fairfax, VA
- L.W. in Nashville, TN
- H.B. in Croydon, England, UK
- S.C. in Deerfield, NH
- S.G. in Durham, NC
- B.M. in Chico, CA
- J.N. in Zionsville, IN
- D.S.S. in Bentonville, AR
- K.K. in Oostburg, WI
- J.F. in Fayetteville, NC
- R.D. in Cheshire, CT
- S.J.V. in New York City, NY
- C.S. in Cincinnati, OH
- R.P. in Brooklyn, NY
- L.D. in Bedford, MA
- B.U. in St. Louis, MO
- S.W. in Winter Garden, FL
- S.F. in Hutto, TX
S.J.V. noted that not only are they all reality shows, but they are reality shows where the host did not become president of the United States. Fair enough, but don't count out Ryan Seacrest quite yet.
As to this week's theme, it relies on just one word in each headline, and it's (pretty much) in the Trivial Pursuit category Sports & Leisure. As to a hint, we'll tell you that the original headline of this item was Freshwater Blue, but we changed it because we decided it was in poor taste.
If you have a guess, send an e-mail to email@example.com with subject line "March 1 Headlines." (Z)
Here's a story where everyone involved is worthy of some schadenfreude. Donald Trump Jr., as you may know, conducts speaking tours where he sells tickets for a sum that is rather princely, especially given that he's more like a court fool. We're talking $100+ per person, which is quite a lot for blather you could just as easily hear by watching any of 500 Trump Jr. YouTube videos.
Last year, Trump Jr. was supposed to take the show to Australia, and to that end his operation sold many thousands of tickets to Aussie fans of his. Then, the trip was postponed due to alleged "visa problems," and then it was postponed again. Now, ticket holders want their money back, and Trump Jr. and his people have gone incommunicado. The ticket holders may have to get in line behind New York State, at this point. It's a situation where you kinda hope that Trump Jr. doesn't get to keep the money, but where you also hope that the people who paid to hear his hateful rhetoric don't get their money back.
That's a pretty small shot of schadenfreude, however, so let's round it out by moving on to another presidential son. Hunter Biden got grilled for 6 hours yesterday in front of the House Oversight Committee and House Judiciary Committee (transcript here). The GOP members were trying desperately to dig up some dirt and, by all indications, they were not successful. Certainly, all the coverage was about the various embarrassments suffered by Republican members.
Most obviously, and most schadenfreude-ish, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) decided to ask Biden: "Were you on drugs when you were on the Burisma board?" Biden reportedly looked directly at Gaetz and replied: "Mr. Gaetz, look me in the eye. You really think that's appropriate to ask me?" The Representative, who was obviously trying to look away, mumbled that he thought it was OK, and Biden said: "Of all the people sitting around this table, do you think that's appropriate to ask me?" Shades of Joseph Welch and Joe McCarthy.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) came to the hearing prepared to do a little trolling. So, for example, he asked the First Son a series of questions, including: "Did your father ever employ in the Oval Office any direct family member to also work in the Oval Office?," "While your father was President, did anyone in the family receive 41 trademarks from China?," and "Has your father ever in his time as an adult been fined $355 million by any State that he worked in?" In case you need a cheat sheet, the answer to all questions is "no," though it would be different if certain other presidential sons were answering.
The bon mot of the day for Swalwell, however, was not addressed to Hunter Biden. No, it was a question for Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY). During an exchange over the Committee's transcripts, and when they would be released, Swalwell wondered if Comer would be issuing them "in English or Russian?" Game, set, and match for the Californian. (Z)
During their coverage of Tuesday's elections in Michigan, MSNBC grabbed a local for a woman-on-the-street interview. Her name is Susan Titus, she's an 80-year-old grandmother, and she looks it. It's possible the network saw "elderly and white" and thought they might be putting a Trump voter on the air, in the name of "balance." At very least, they certainly expected an assessment of the election that was restrained, possibly kindly, and certainly G-rated.
They did not get it, as you might guess. Titus is not only on top of the issues, she has very strong opinions about Donald Trump, and she's not shy about sharing them, even on national TV. Here is the video, if you'd care to watch it for yourself:
If you don't choose to watch, what she said was this:
NATO is a bulwark against Russian aggression and [Trump] was ready to walk out of that. There are other ways he treated the people of Muslim religious background. His dirty mouth. I think he's pretty much an asshole, to coin a phrase, and it's terrifying to me, at 80, to think that he would be one of the last presidents. He could decimate social programs that I've been committed to and worked on for a very long time, and so there's a whole variety, as well as his personal way of dealing with people and the world.
We're leaving that uncensored because it went out live, just like that.
The video has since become a meme; widely shared on social media. And note that we are using this for freudenfreude not because of what she said, per se, but because Titus was given a platform, and she seized it without thinking twice, all the while confounding the expectations of the MSNBC reporters. You go, Susan!
Have a good weekend, all! (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb29 Trump Got Mixed Legal News Yesterday
Feb29 Trump Seems to Be Underperforming the Polls So Far
Feb29 Why Won't Haley Drop Out?
Feb29 Wyoming's County Caucuses Start Saturday
Feb29 Russia Is the Dividing Line for Republicans
Feb29 DeSantis 2028?
Feb29 2020 Isn't Over Yet
Feb29 Demography is Destiny--But It Is Complicated
Feb29 AI Chatbots Are Already Giving Out Dangerous Misleading Information
Feb28 What's Good for the Goose Is What's Good for the Michigander
Feb28 One Last Look at South Carolina
Feb28 The Other Guy Is Out
Feb28 Story Behind AI Robocall Revealed
Feb28 Johnson Says He Doesn't Want a Shutdown
Feb28 IVF Fight Heads to Congress
Feb28 Looking Forward to 2024, Part IV: Reader Predictions, Donald Trump Edition
Feb27 Trump Legal News: Will Your Lawyer Talk to God?
Feb27 The Republicans Are The Nazis' Party
Feb27 Today in Republican Shenanigans
Feb27 Ronna Romney McDaniel Sticks to the Plan...
Feb27 ...And So Does the New York Legislature
Feb27 Biden Sits for an Interview with Seth Meyers
Feb27 Another Week, Another Useless Poll
Feb27 Looking Forward to 2024, Part III: Reader Predictions, Joe Biden Edition
Feb26 What Will Haley Voters Do?
Feb26 What Will Haley Do?
Feb26 Vice Presidential Candidates Exhibit Their Trumpiness at CPAC
Feb26 Nancy Mace Also Wants to Be Trump's Running Mate
Feb26 The Clock Is Ticking for Trump
Feb26 Democratic Groups Are Prepared to Attack Biden on His Possible Border Measures
Feb26 California Senate Race Is Tightening
Feb26 Sherrod Brown Gets Some Good News
Feb26 Is Facebook Like Verizon or Like CNN?
Feb25 Nikki Haley: Good, but Not Good Enough
Feb25 Sunday Mailbag
Feb24 Saturday Q&A
Feb23 IVF Decision: Republicans Are Running for the Hills
Feb23 Biden Impeachment: GOP Hopes Are Shattered
Feb23 Biden Age: Could the Antiques Roadshow Reach a Dead End?
Feb23 Right-Wing Websites in Decline: Breitbart's the Biggest Loser
Feb23 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: The Big Break
Feb23 This Week in Schadenfreude: What Not to Wear
Feb23 This Week in Freudenfreude: Happy Birthday to an American Idol
Feb22 Trump's Short List for Veep Is Full of People He Would Never Pick
Feb22 Noem Will Use S.D. National Guard to Bolster Her Veepability
Feb22 Another Goal for Trump v2.0: Christian Nationalism
Feb22 Biden Has Canceled Student Debt for Almost 4 Million former Students
Feb22 Nikki Haley Agrees That Frozen Zygotes Are Children
Feb22 Republican Parties in Three Swing States Are Consumed with Infighting