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Apocalypse (not) now.
May 15, 2023
When Americans went to bed last Friday evening, Fox News was running a “countdown timer” to the apocalypse. What apocalypse, you ask? In Fox’s telling, the “apocalypse” was to be heralded by the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era Covid policy that allowed for the expedited removal of foreign nationals seeking asylum in the U.S. (A video of the countdown timer can be seen here at the 55-second mark.)
According to Fox, when the Title 42 countdown timer reached zero hour, “hordes of illegal immigrants” would bust through the US border and overwhelm American civilization. See, e.g., Laura Ingraham on Fox News, The scenes you're seeing at the border are exactly what Democrats want. Per Ingraham,
In T-minus two hours now, hundreds of thousands of foreigners gaming our immigration system will begin pouring in. Now, after they get there, though, they're going to be asked where they want to go, then they're going to get their free bus tickets, all courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
The countdown timer to the apocalypse reached 00:00 on Friday evening at midnight. And then . . . nothing happened. Well, not exactly nothing. According to the Department of Homeland Security, border crossings began trending down—by as much as 50%. It is, of course, too soon to declare the trend permanent, but if the apocalypse is upon us, Fox miscalculated the date.
As of Sunday evening, the story of the “Title 42 apocalypse” had almost disappeared from the Fox News website. It was buried as twenty-six stories below the headline on Sunday, which blared, Former US attorney says top levels of DOJ, FBI making 'political decisions' not to investigate Bidens.
But even Fox was forced to admit that border crossings decreased concurrently with the expiration of Title 42—although it did so in a back-handed way. See Fox News, Biden says border looks ‘much better than you all expected’ after Title 42 ends, has no plans to visit.
As Fox conceded in its twenty-sixth-ranked story on Sunday evening,
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said border patrol agents have seen a 50% drop in the number of migrants crossing the border since Thursday.
The long-term crisis at the border and the failure of US policy are real. Fox’s failed effort to manufacture a crisis was an illusion. But it is also a morality tale that we must keep top of mind as we move into 2024. The hyperbole at Fox infected the entire news ecosystem. Every network had reporters and cameras at the southern border because—well, because Fox was at the border with reporters and cameras.
The attention to Fox’s fabricated border crisis suggests that the media has learned little over the last seven years. Remember Trump's claim in 2018 that “caravans” of criminals were headed to the US through Mexico? While the media generally attempted to refute those claims, it also repeated the story thousands of times without labeling Trump's claim for what it was—a “lie.” See Newsweek (11/1/18), Trump Says Caravans Are Larger Than Reported: 'I'm Pretty Good at Estimating Crowd Size'.
The failure of US immigration policy (including the Biden administration’s dubious decisions to continue some Trump policies) is beyond the scope of this newsletter. We must find a way to create a system that is more fair, humane, and efficient—and that dramatically increases legal immigration. America’s immigration problem is that there is too little of it, not that there is too much.
America is a great nation (in part) because of immigration. If it is to remain a great nation, it will do so (in part) by increasing immigration to help America remain competitive in the global economy. The current dysfunction and failure of US border policy are interfering with a traditional source of strength and renewal for the American dream. Let’s not compound that interference by repeating myths and lies about the impact of asylum seekers entering through the southern border.
Trump's Mother’s Day greeting.
I highlight the following for everyone who continues to harbor doubts about Joe Biden’s age or mental fitness. On Mother’s Day in the US, Trump sent the following greeting:
Happy Mother’s Day to ALL, in particular the Mothers, Wives and Lovers of the Radical Left Fascists, Marxists, and Communists who are doing everything within their power to destroy and obliterate our once great Country. Please make these complete Lunatics and Maniacs Kinder, Gentler, Softer and, most importantly, Smarter, so that we can, quickly, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!'
Besides the obvious omission of Melania, the mother of his son Barron, Trump failed to mention his daughter Ivanka, who is the mother of his grandchildren. While those omissions are inconsiderate and crass, that is not the most important point about the post.
As one commenter observed in response to the post, “The sooner we all acknowledge Trump is mentally ill, the safer we will be.” Good point! We have accepted and normalized behavior by Trump that would be instantly recognized as possible signs of mental illness in any other American. The accumulated heft of Trump's ravings on Truth Social should be taken as conclusive proof of his derangement.
And yet . . . Democrats are letting Republicans control the narrative that “Biden is too old” or “not mentally fit” for the job. Oh, yeah? Take a look at the video of Biden in the Fox News story above where he is commenting on Title 42 and the debt ceiling during a rest stop on his five-mile bike ride. In addition to noting that he bought an orchid for Jill Biden for Mother’s Day, he included this gem on negotiations about the debt ceiling (in response to a reporter’s question):
It’s never good to characterize a negotiation in the middle of the negotiations. I remain optimistic because I am a congenital optimist. But I really think there is a desire on their part as well as ours to reach an agreement. And I think we’ll be able to do it.”
Biden may be slower than he was forty years ago, but he is plenty sharp. Heck, I hope I can still ride a bike at 80 years old. The fact that Biden can do so while parrying with a press pool playing “gotcha” is impressive.
More smoke-and-mirrors from the GOP investigation of President Biden.
The GOP Chair of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, has been overpromising and under-delivering on facts in his supposed blockbuster investigation of Joe Biden. Comer claims that the Committee has a “whistleblower” who will expose efforts by the Biden administration to interfere in the investigation of Hunter Biden. But here’s the catch: The whistleblower relies on a confidential informant who mysteriously “disappeared” when the time came to identify the informant. How convenient! And suspicious! See Mediate, ‘Just Stunning!’ Maria Bartiromo Blown Away by James Comer Saying His Committee Lost Biden Investigation Informant.
The gullible Bartiromo did not consider the possibility that the alleged informant never existed and “disappeared” only when it came time for the whistleblower to identify the informant. Comer went on to explain to Bartiromo that most of the informants relied on by the Oversight Committee are “in jail, in court, or missing.” Uh, okay. That suggests that people telling tall tales to the Committee have the incentive to get out of jail or avoid conviction (or don’t exist). That is not a confidence-inspiring basis for Comer’s investigation.
Reforming the Supreme Court.
Over the life of this newsletter, the opinion expressed by me that has received the greatest amount of reader pushback is my view that we should expand the Supreme Court. When I first began expressing that view, many readers looked at me askance as if I was a “whacko.” The objection readers almost always raised was that expanding the Court would “destroy the legitimacy of the Court,” to which I always responded, “It is too late for that.”
After the Dobbs and Bruen opinions (among others) and the string of financial scandals involving Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito, many people are coming around to the view that expanding the Court cannot hurt its legitimacy more than the ongoing scandals. Jamelle Bouie made that point in his op-ed in the NYTimes, Opinion | Clarence Thomas Can’t Undermine the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court Fast Enough.
Bouie argues that Democrats continue to grant deference to the Court it does not deserve. Bouie argues (as do many legal scholars) that the Court has largely been a reactionary force in American history that has pushed against the tide of equal justice under law—with notable, periodic exceptions. And, most alarmingly, Bouie notes that if Democrats do not act decisively, the reactionary majority (and its successors) will control the Court until 2065. Imagine the damage the Court can inflict during those decades.
[W]ithout court expansion or other serious reforms to the structure of the court — and absent unforeseen circumstances like an inopportune death — Republicans can expect to hold a majority on the Supreme Court until 2065, according to a recent paper on possible partisan composition of the court over the next century.
Put differently, barring a Franklin Roosevelt-like run of election victories, the only option Democrats have to rein the court in as a tool of the most reactionary forces in our society is to try to change its size and structure. The necessary first step toward those and other reforms is to undermine the court’s legitimacy, to knock it off its pedestal and remove some of its mystique.
And if the final result is a court that is much weaker than it has been in recent history — a court that can’t claim total control over the meaning of the Constitution — then that is something to celebrate. The Supreme Court is imperious, a fickle friend to justice. It would be better, in the end, to remove it as much as possible from the decisions that shape our lives, rather than to leave it with a leading role in the affairs of we, the people.
Should Democrats wait for forty-five years to regain control of a Court that is delegitimizing itself on a weekly basis? Or should we take bold action at the first opportunity to constrain, reform, and recalibrate the Court’s role in our system of checks and balances? I think the question answers itself.
Follow up on Mother’s Day.
Thanks to the hundreds of readers who posted comments or sent emails honoring their mothers, grandmothers, friends, mentors, and historical figures who nurtured and inspired them. If you haven’t looked at the Comments section to Mothers of democracy, I highly recommend doing so. The comments are inspiring and uplifting.
I wanted to share one comment from a reader who recommended a website called Look What She Did. Here is the reader’s description of Look What She Did:
Look What She Did is an organization that creates short videos, each less than 4 minutes long, with one woman telling the story of another woman who inspired her own life. Most of the women they are talking about you have never heard of, and, yet, each story is inspirational. This organization came about because two women had never heard of the woman their local courthouse was named after. So they found out about her and made a short video to share with their friends. And, voila!, LWSD was born. To date they have over 150 videos you can easily view, for free, separated into categories such as arts, science, politics, and more. And more videos coming each month. Enjoy!!
Last week, I recommended Jessica Craven (Chop Wood Carry Water), Simon Rosenberg (Hopium Chronicles), and Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) as part of my “essential reading list.” I asked readers to mention other Substack authors. They did and I immediately recognized that I had omitted two other authors who are part of my daily reading—Joyce Vance (Civil Discourse) and Judd Legum (Popular Information). (I also follow Larry Tribe on Twitter—the only person on Twitter I read regularly.)
I am a paying subscriber to every Substack author noted above—and I owe each of them a debt of gratitude for educating me and helping to sustain me during challenging times. After the disappointing developments at CNN, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find trusted news sources. In the aftermath of the CNN debacle, many readers wrote that they have stopped consuming news from major media outlets. Instead, they curate news from individual authors. That is a reasonable strategy for self-preservation—up to a point.
For all of its faults, the media plays an essential role in ensuring transparency and accountability. Our democracy would collapse in the absence of free and independent media. So, let’s not give up on every media outlet. We need to reward the good ones, even if they upset and disappoint us frequently. I receive criticism and disagreement in response to every newsletter I write. It would be disappointing if everyone who disagreed with something I wrote quit reading the newsletter because of a single disagreement.
So, too, with major media. Let’s continue to support them even as we sometimes disagree with how they choose to cover the news. It’s a tough business, and my respect for journalists has increased greatly as I have become an intense observer of the media over the last seven years. We should hold them accountable when they make mistakes and we should not tolerate entertainers and carnival barkers posing as legitimate journalists. Which brings us full circle to Fox News. The apocalypse is not now, but Fox monetized that story for every penny of advertising revenue possible—to its everlasting shame.
Talk to you tomorrow!