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McCarthy goes weak in the knees.
September 19, 2023
The proposal for a “continuing resolution” by a rump caucus of the Freedom Caucus was met with a bucket of cold water on Monday by the most conservative members of the House GOP. Confused? So is everyone else. See Politico, Another doomed GOP spending plan collapses. Worse, members of the GOP caucus have begun suggesting that Kevin McCarthy’s tenure is nearing its predictable demise.
Politico included a few choice reactions by GOP representatives to a proposal that emerged from the Freedom Caucus:
Rep. Matt Gaetz told Olivia Beavers he “will not support this 167-page surrender to Joe Biden.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) called the plan a “continuation of Nancy Pelosi’s budget and Joe Biden’s policies.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) posted to Twitter, “I’m a NO,” while Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) simply posted “NO.”
It also highlights just how unmanageable the House GOP truly is, with Freedom Caucus leaders — including Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), its chair — endorsing a deal only to see it publicly rejected by a good chunk of its membership within a matter of minutes.
On a Sunday talk show, GOP Rep. Nancy Mace mused that “everything is on the table” in the budget stand-off, implying that a “motion to vacate the chair” is an option.
And, in case there was any doubt, Republicans in the Senate are making clear they will have none of the insane proposals being floated by the rump caucus in the House. On Monday, Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues to pass a defense spending bill. Per The Hill,
Senate Republicans, many of whom have outwardly denounced impeaching President Biden, have also aligned with Senate Democrats to advance a spending bill. Thirty-seven Senate Republicans voted with Democrats on a bill that included $100 billion more in spending than current proposals in the House and omitted many of the culture-war provisions that House conservatives are demanding, such as anti-abortion provisions for the military.
McCarthy has taken to whining that his narrow majority makes it difficult to get things done. Speaker Pelosi worked with an equally slim majority and managed to help President Biden pass some of the most consequential legislation in the last half-century.
Putting a positive spin on the mess in the House is difficult. If there is one, it is that the chaos in the GOP House is a sobering view of what Congress will look like if the GOP maintains control over the House or gains control of the Senate. Republicans have lost the ability to govern. “The Party of No” has no plan, no vision, and no guiding principles other than the perpetuation of power for its members. And greed.
As painful as it will be to watch—and to experience—a government shutdown, House Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for their inability to pass a single piece of legislation or a continuing resolution.
The US and Iran agree to release prisoners.
In a continuing show of President Biden’s resolve, the US has secured the release of five US citizens who have been held hostage in Iran for years. Thirty-five Americans imprisoned by foreign nations have been released under Joe Biden’s watch. See Washington Post op-ed by Jason Rezaian, A top NSC official explains why Biden moved ahead with the Iran hostage deal.
There is a tremendous amount of disinformation about the terms of the deal, especially about the $5 billion in Iranian funds that were moved from an account in South Korea to an account in Qatar. As explained in Rezaian’s op-ed, the funds belonged to Iran but were impounded in a South Korean account and have been available to Iran for spending on humanitarian needs for years. Those funds were transferred to Qatar under an agreement that placed more oversight on disbursements than were in place in South Korea.
The details are outlined in the WaPo article (accessible to all). If you hear someone assert that “the US paid Iran $5 billion for the release of five Americans,” that statement is wrong on every level. Keep this article handy in the event you need to cite the true facts.
And do not lose sight of the fact that while House Republicans spiral into chaos, Joe Biden continues to direct the nation’s foreign policy with a steady hand.
NBC’s interview with Trump, Part II.
My note yesterday about the Meet the Press interview with Donald Trump generated a lot of response from readers. Although most people agreed with my criticism of NBC, a fair number of readers disagreed. Many readers noted that Trump made several admissions during the interview that will be helpful to special counsel Jack Smith. Others argued that it was acceptable for Kristen Welker not to push Trump with aggressive questions because Trump would have walked out of the interview. One reader said they appreciated seeing that Trump has deteriorated mentally over the last several years.
While I appreciate the comments, I believe they miss the point of my criticism. Choosing to interview Trump at all helps to normalize him as a legitimate candidate for the presidency. He is not. He was the first president to attempt a coup. He incited an insurrection. He refused to return defense secret documents. He has obstructed justice by urging his employees to delete surveillance tapes. He attempted to use US military aid as a bribe to fabricate dirt on his political opponent. A civil jury found him liable for sexual assault, which a federal judge said meets the legal definition of rape. He defamed two poll workers—Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss—by accusing them of “stuffing ballots,” a lie that resulted in death threats. He has threatened to use the DOJ to “lock up” his political opponents in his next term. And there is more, much more.
Against that background, to begin an interview with “Why are you running for president” and “What will a Trump second term look like?” implicitly accepts and forgives all of the above by assuming that Trump is a legitimate participant in a democratic process. That is why NBC’s decision to interview Trump at all normalizes him, regardless of Welker’s performance as an interviewer.
The fact that Trump inadvertently made admissions helpful to Jack Smith is nice—but entirely beside the point. Trump makes admissions every time he opens his mouth. Let him do that on Fox, One America Network, and Breitbart. NBC did not need to legitimize Trump's candidacy with Kristen Welker’s first-ever interview as host of Meet the Press.
Many people defended Kristen Welker on the ground that “any” interviewer would not have been able to keep up with Trump's torrent of lies. My point exactly! Trump's ability to engage in high-velocity lying makes him an unsuitable interviewee—because the interviewer inevitably allows Trump's lies to go unanswered.
NBC admitted as much when it released a separate “after the fact” fact check of Trump that identified seventeen lies during the interview. See NBC News, Fact-checking Trump's 'Meet the Press' interview. Because the interview was pre-recorded, NBC had time to prepare Welker with the facts (including video) to challenge Trump in real time. NBC and Welker weren’t up to the task. (The same would have been true of almost any interviewer.) Or NBC could have fact-checked Trump with a running banner under the interview that said, “This claim is false because . . . .”
NBC knew it was not up to the task of interviewing Trump in a meaningful way. So, what should NBC have done? It should have either not interviewed him or it should have followed the advice of David Pepper in his blog Pepperspectives, How To Interview Trump (substack.com). I highly recommend Pepper’s blog to all readers—especially journalists out there with the opportunity to interview Trump.
David Pepper writes,
Never move on from the FIRST lie until [Trump] acknowledges it’s a lie.
And most importantly, for as long as [Trump refuses] to acknowledge it, as much as you want to move to the next question, do NOT!
Literally….end the interview rather than moving on to the next topic.
Why does this matter?
Because Trump and other dishonest subjects go into these interviews KNOWING they can get away with endless lying.
First, in many cases, they’re not even fact-checked.
Second, even if they are fact-checked, they KNOW that the interviewer’s goal is to get through a long list of questions.
David Pepper hits the nail on the head. Welker’s interview failed because (a) she did not fact-check Trump in real-time, and (b) she had a long list of topics to cover and felt compelled to “move on” (something she repeatedly said during the interview).
Because Trump knew he would not be fact-checked, he knew he could lie with impunity. Which is what he did—with NBC’s complicity.
Two more comments and then I will stop. As one reader (Loretta R) noted in the Comments section:
The one sure way for the media to contain Donald Trump’s lies is to STOP REPEATING THEM.
“Repeating Trump's lies” includes giving him a platform to repeat those lies himself—like CNN’s “townhall” and NBC’s Meet the Press interview.
Second, reader Ellie K. recommended The Media and Democracy Project Blog | Substack and the Media and Democracy Project as resources for helping to fight the false and biased narratives in major media outlets.
We need to keep up the pressure (and criticism) of major media outlets for treating Trump like he is simply another GOP contender rather than the greatest threat faced by American democracy at this moment.
Hunter Biden strikes back.
The Republican Party, the House, and the media have invaded Hunter Biden’s privacy in a way that should provoke outrage in all Americans. Private files on his laptop were stolen, disseminated to Trump's political operatives, shared with the media, and entered into the Congressional Record. Theft of electronic information is a crime. But because Hunter is Joe Biden’s son, the GOP, Twitter, Congress, and every media outlet known to man has treated Hunter Biden’s emails as if they are in the public domain rather than stolen property.
Hunter Biden has now sued a former Trump staffer who has made it his full-time occupation to disseminate stolen computer files belonging to Hunter Biden. See Politico, Hunter Biden sues ex-Trump staffer tied to laptop’s dissemination. Per Politico,
Biden is suing [the Trump staffer] under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act. Under that law, people can sue others who harm them by accessing their computers or data without permission.
Under California law, it is a felony to
Knowingly access and without permission . . . cop[y] or make use of any data from a computer . . .
That certainly sounds like what Rudy Giuliani, Jim Jordan, Fox News, and dozens of leading media outlets have done with private files from Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Separately, Hunter Biden has sued two IRS agents who disclosed his tax information to congressional committees. While federal law protects whistleblowers who report government wrongdoing, it does not protect the disclosure of private tax data relating to a private citizen. Indeed, the opposite is true; the IRS may not disclose taxpayer data to Congress except upon request of the Chair of the Ways & Means Committee—and then it may be disclosed only to the Chair. See CNN, Hunter Biden sues the IRS, alleging agents illegally released his tax information.
Hunter Biden’s lawsuit alleges the following:
[S]ince their public testimony before the House of Representatives on July 19, 2023, the agents have become regular guests on national media outlets and have made new allegations and public statements regarding Mr. Biden’s confidential tax return information that were not previously included in their transcripts before the Committee on Ways and Means.”
Hunter Biden should be held to account like any other citizen in the United States. But the fact that he is the president’s son does not mean that his private information is fair game for political operatives. Indeed, one wonders why a prosecutor in the state of California is not pursuing criminal charges against the Trump staffer who “accessed and copied” Hunter Biden’s computer information without permission, in violation of California’s criminal code.
Reader Ellen Thomas posted a wonderfully informative note in the Comments section on Monday. It relates to a podcast called Dirt Road Democrat (by Jess Piper) and features the founder of Blue Missouri, Michele Hornish. Ellen’s comments were prompted by my plea that we not forget Democrats holding the fort in deep red states. The podcast is worth listening to for many reasons, but especially because it describes the struggles of Democrats in red states.
Here is Ellen’s post from the Comments section:
I have recommended the Dirt Road Democrat podcast before. The most recent episode, an interview with Michele Hornish, a founder of both Blue Ohio and Blue Missouri, is something I think everyone who cares about democracy should listen to. It goes into the cost of the lack of representation for rural Democrats. 40% of Missouri's legislative seats are not contested!
Some of the consequences of contesting a seat, even if the Democratic candidate loses, Republicans have to spend money, campaign on real issues, and spend time door-knocking and connecting with voters. There is a 1.5% increase in votes for top-of-the-ticket Democrats in contested districts, and a 1% increase in turnout.
Blue Ohio and Blue Missouri ensure that every Dem running in a red district has at least a little funding. Some of the stories are really moving, and it's a place where not a lot of money can make a big difference. Here's a link: Dirt Road Democrat.
I echo Ellen’s comment: Michele Hornish and Jess Piper describe how $5,800 can make or break a campaign for a Democrat running against the tide in a deep red state without support from a state organization or major donors. The podcast is inspiring and uplifting. Even better, Dirt Road Democrat represents one of the thousands of grassroots efforts that did not exist before 2017 that will help Democrats restore balance and sanity to politics in America. Give it a listen; it is worth your time, I promise.
Talk to you tomorrow!