Editors’ Blog

Trump’s Two Storylines

The biggest challenge of telling the story of history as it unfolds is that you don’t know how it ends. This is a commonplace, of course – a humorous aside or even trite. But the implications of this fact are not always obvious. So it can be worth considering what it means. We are a story telling species. We take the unorganized facts of existence and weave them together into meaningful trajectories through time. The meaning and logic of these stories are intrinsically linked to and bounded by the unique features of the human brain. When I started studying to be a historian in a PhD program in the early 90s I found this unnerving. But I later realized or perhaps decided that it was one of the essential, nourishing features of being human.

This is always the case. And we are constantly in the process of revising stories – either in our own individual lives or as journalists making sense of the larger world we live in. But there are some moments in which the fracture, the potentially different storylines seem especially great, where the very different lists of what’s important and what’s not is especially stark. We seem to be in one of those moments in the story of the 2024 campaign. And by this I actually don’t mean the hugely consequential question of who wins the election, though of course it’s related to that. I’m talking about the Trump story itself.

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Your Thoughts on Trump Coverage

TPM Reader NB responds to my post on Trump coverage …

I have to say, this piece made me uncharacteristically angry, and I’m still trying to put my finger on precisely why—especially since I agree with you about the basic remedy. Yes, the media’s job is neither to hide behind endless euphemism or analysis-as-apologia, nor to engage in deplatforming, but first and foremost to inform. Leave the excuse-making to partisans or to the audience’s own shocked internal But Surely!’s.

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Learn to Cover Trump Right Before It’s Too Late

In today’s Morning Memo, David notes that Donald Trump’s latest ravings have been so extreme as to manage to break through, at least partly, the wall of mainstream media indifference. Trump pledges to take Comcast (owner of MSNBC) off the air for “treason” if he’s returned to office and suggests that retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley should be executed. Milley, who retires at the end of the month, gave a lengthy (and, for Trump, unflattering) interview to Atlantic Monthly editor Jeff Goldberg. So that’s what Milley’s execution is about. This is the moment we live in in the history of the American republic, a man who talks like a character out of a dystopian novel about the end of America is the choice of about half of Americans to be the next President.

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Flash Flood (Of Resignation Calls) Now Engulfing Menendez
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez arrives to the federal courthouse in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Jurors in Menendez's bribery trial remained deadlocked Tuesday after a judge told them to "take as much time as you need" to reach a verdict on 18 counts against the New Jersey Democrat and his wealthy friend. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In last night’s piece, I noted that while Bob Menendez’s D.C. dam was mostly holding, the story was dramatically different in New Jersey where virtually everyone in the state party establishment had already called on him to resign. Just in the last couple hours the D.C. dam appears to be giving way. Sens. Warren and Rosen and, most importantly, his New Jersey colleague Cory Booker have now each called on Menendez to step down. I’d be surprised if half his senate colleagues hadn’t followed suit by the end of the day.

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Menendez is Defiant. It Probably Won’t Matter
UNITED STATES - APRIL 21: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., talks with reporters before the senate policy luncheons on the Capitol, April 21, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If you watch politics long enough you realize that the secret to not being forced to resign is simple: just don’t resign. Obvious? Sure, in a way. But for countless politicians it remains oddly elusive. It’s a sort of Zen Koan of political scandals only revealed in its fullness to those who have spent years or decades meditating on the carnival of political scandals.

I often regret when good politicians fail to grasp this. We now see a bad one — Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey — trying to make a go of it. As our proverb makes clear, if Menendez absolutely refuses to resign there’s literally no way to force him. But that may not be as big a deal as it seems. Forcing him to resign may not be necessary.

The simplest alternative is for another candidate to defeat him in a primary. It may not be as hard as it sounds.

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TPM Reader RS chimes in on the senior Senator from New Jersey …

In watching the different reactions of NJ politicians and Senate Democrats to Sen. Mendendez’s indictment, I’m struck by another juxtaposition: the different responses of Senate Democrats to Sen. Menendez and former Sen. Franken.

I have never been particularly concerned with the pressure that was placed on Sen. Franken to resign (and think that Sen. Gillibrand has gotten a bit of a bum rap for her role in the process that probably affected her Presidential campaign in 2020, unlikely as it was to succeed in the first place).  But I can’t help but wonder if the Democrats haven’t created a situation where getting indicted is what helps a Senator keep his or her seat at least in the short-term — because colleagues will point to due process, the presumption of innocence, etc. — whereas non-criminal allegations of impropriety are in a way more serious because they “have to” be dealt with by the Senate.

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Back to One of My Hobbyhorses

While English-language AI is gobbling up much of the online English language almost always without permission, there’s a problem for Danish AI, reports Bloomberg. Apparently, most of the Danish web is under pretty stringent copyright protections. And Danish law makes the kind of recourse-less stealing that Silicon Valley AI companies are getting away with way too hard. Government records and legislation are in the public domain. But that formal Danish is too distant from how people really speak and write to serve the purpose. The solution turns out to be horses.

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Listen To This: Ups and (Shut)Downs

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the looming government shutdown, Donald Trump’s abortion politics and the Senate’s dress code.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Israel-Saudi Peace Deal: What The F… Is in It for the US?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, essentially frozen out by President Biden, is back in laudatory mode. In a long withheld sit-down with the President yesterday Netanyahu told Biden, “Under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia.” Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s longtime chief agit-prop guy and hype man, says it could be a “reverse 9/11” for the U.S. That sounds kind of weird frankly and not necessarily something you’d want, given that 9/11 and everything that happened after it kinda sucked. But what he means is that whereas 9/11 led to one disaster after another for the U.S. in the region, this Israel-Saudi peace deal would make everything in the region suddenly awesome for the U.S.

But who are we kidding here exactly?

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Cats Out of Bags

There was a revealing bit of news today on the Republican government shutdown front. Punchbowl reported that Republicans are debating whether “to move the CR debate away from spending levels and toward border security.” This sounds tactical and a bit in the weeds until you realize this means House Republicans are considering changing the reason for creating a government shut down crisis in the first place. The idea is supposed to be that the GOP right is so hardline on spending that they’re pushing to shut the government down unless they get even more spending cuts than they agreed to back in May. But now they’re saying, forget about the spending stuff we’ve decided to shut the government down over “border security” instead. Who knew the budget stuff was so easy to solve? It illustrates perfectly what most of us already know, which is that policy issues are just an excuse to shut the government down because it’s something Republicans like to do. Otherwise you can’t change your reason in the middle of the whole thing.

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