Editors’ Blog

Power and Lies and Elise Stefanik Prime Badge
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., questions Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Aaron Blake of the Post dug up these statements from Elise Stefanik, the representative from New York State who is likely to replace Liz Cheney once she’s ejected from the House GOP leadership. Stefanik was a garden variety Upstate New York Republican before she hitched her wagon to Trump around 2018 and went all in with the Trump personality cult.

In the lead-up to the January 6th insurrection most congressional Republicans were careful to avoid repeating Trump’s most outrageous lies about a stolen election. They focused on the purported unconstitutionality of pandemic-related changes to election regulations. In other words, they weren’t directly claiming a stolen election in the sense of stuffed ballot boxes or dead voters or other similar stuff. They were arguing that states had exceeded their constitutional authority in doing things that making voting by mail easier. So those votes were illegitimate though not ‘fraudulent’ in the way most of us understand the term. This allowed them to back Trump’s claims of an illegitimate election by hanging their hat on a very weak constitutional argument rather than racist lies about ‘inner city’ vote fraud and other conspiracy theories.

But Stefanik wasn’t so careful.

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Two Views on Science and COVID Shaming Prime Badge

From TPM Reader JS

Strongly disagree. Science is science. You can’t wrap yourself in it to justify the shutdowns and then appeal to “trauma” to be for them.

And from TPM Reader MH

Thank you, Josh, for your humane defense of people feeling cautious and traumatized, and for pointing out that most of the country is still not vaccinated.

The case numbers didn’t start dropping in New York until the first week of April. I didn’t get my “fully vaccinated” card until a month ago, and the data on variants and vaccine escape was also slow to arrive. We didn’t know *what* was keeping the cases up, but if you listened to the epidemiologists, they said “variants” a lot.

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Cheney Throws Down the Gauntlet Prime Badge

I’m not sure what the analogy is. But a new Post OpEd from Liz Cheney makes crystal clear that she is making her political fate – certainly her role in the Republican House leadership, which seems doomed – a test case for the future of the Republican party. Here’s the piece.

As I said in the podcast today, it would be simple enough for Cheney to ‘look forward and not back’ as they say. Not change her position on the disgraceful legacy of last winter but point to where she and her conference agree on opposing the Biden agenda. Rather she has deepened and sharpened her critique.

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Where Things Stand: The Gang’s All Here Prime Badge
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UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 19: Jenna Ellis, right, and Sydney Powell, attorneys for President Donald Trump, conduct a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020. Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani also attended. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some of Trump’s closest “Big Lie” allies along with one of his former lawyers are launching a new advocacy group to try to further cement former President Trump’s false claims about a stolen election into reality.

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Annals of Covid Shaming Prime Badge

I publish many great TPM Reader emails here. They’re one of the best things we offer as a site. But it’s seldom that I publish one that captures so palpably something I’m feeling or states more resonantly what I had, less coherently, had in my mind. As TPM Reader JG notes here I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that The Atlantic seems to have cornered the market on these tut-tutting articles about liberals or blue staters who apparently aren’t letting down their COVID guards quick enough.

From TPM Reader JG

I saw your tweets re: the Emma Green article in The Atlantic earlier and wanted to contribute some brief thoughts as a long-time resident of Somerville, Massachusetts. Specifically, I wanted to push back on the idea that it’s progressive politics and not the experience in the region that is the main reason for the attitudes of many COVID behavior.

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On Covid and Reform Prime Badge

From TPM Reader MW

I appreciated your think-piece on the pandemic as a catalyst for progressive reform. I absolutely agree with you that political reform can happen very rapidly—far more swiftly than people expect—and I share your optimism that we may be nearing such a period. As you note, America’s welfare state and civil rights advances were developed in relatively short sprints, emerging suddenly from periods of political stasis.

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On Liz Cheney Prime Badge

From TPM Reader AT

I share Josh’s chagrin about my growing respect for Rep. Liz Cheney. Like Josh, I am repulsed by her policy positions – and, perhaps more importantly, by the values and ethics that underlies those positions.

BUT Liz Cheney provides Democrats an important and powerful contrast: Liz Cheney accepts the rule of law, does not sell conspiracy theories because they are politically convenient. Almost every other elected Republican demonstrates through their actions a fundamental opposition to democracy itself. Those same elected Republicans are eager to punish Rep. Cheney for supporting our system of government.

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Where Things Stand: McCarthy’s Back On The Couch Prime Badge
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Just in case the House minority leader’s sleeping arrangements were keeping you up at night — he told “Fox and Friends” this morning that he will soon be back to sleeping on the couch in his office on the Hill where he, apparently, belongs.

Nature is healing, etc.

But why are Kevin McCarthy’s sleeping arrangements a topic of discussion? Read More

On Trump, the GOP and the Big Lie Prime Badge

From TPM Reader WB

There’s a fascinating dynamic at play in the Cheney drama. While Trump’s presence and influence have receded on the national stage, they have only grown within the Republican Party. Since he lost the election Trump has occupied very little of my headspace. I don’t know anyone who still talks about him. It’s amazing in its own right how quickly most of us have learned to ignore him. And yet at the same time fealty to Trump has become the sole organizing principle of the Republican Party. For a while it looked like apostates like Cheney might survive in the party, but now it’s clear they will not.

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On the Big Lie Prime Badge
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 30: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., conduct a news conference on the China Task Force report in the Capitol’s Rayburn Room on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. The report outlines bipartisan action to combat threats from China. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kevin McCarthy signaled this morning that Liz Cheney may be on the way out as conference chair. She can’t effectively deliver the message, he says.

The truth is he’s right. And that is damning. It confirms that the GOP message is loyalty to Donald Trump, embrace of the Big Lie of a stolen election and – subsidiary to these two points – pretending the insurrection never happened.

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COVID and the Roots of Reform Prime Badge

When I was 19 I got assigned to a work study job as a research assistant for Daniel Rodgers, a history professor who, fortuitously, turned out to be one of two or three people who taught me how to think. The research I was going to do was for a project that was eventually published a decade later as Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age. The book is about the trans-Atlantic connections, borrowings, rivalries between reformers and states during the period in which virtually all North Atlantic states devised some version of what we call welfare states. There were rich well-springs of home grown reformism in the US. But looking to models in Europe was a constant focus. A recurrent theme is that the US so often seemed to be a late arriver to these reforms or resisted them because of beliefs in American exceptionalism or a more general resistance to state action.

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Where Things Stand: Flynn Has Been Busy Post-Pardon Prime Badge
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In the waning days of his presidency, former President Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, ending a years-long, messy legal battle in which Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI only to reverse course, hire Sidney Powell as his lawyer, and seek to reverse his plea.

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Vaccine Hesitancy and the Future of the Pandemic Prime Badge

There’s an article today in the Times which reports that we may never reach ‘herd immunity’ for COVID or at least that we may not do so for a very long time. The article strikes me as needlessly alarmist, in part because the ‘news’ being reported is as much a question of semantics or people being informed about epidemiology as it is some new negative development in the course of the pandemic. The details are probably what you would expect, a mix of vaccine hesitancy, more transmissible viral strains and viral evolution that slowly chips away at vaccine immunity all working together to put ‘herd immunity’ out of reach. But I want to zoom in on the potential role of vaccine hesitancy or politics-driven resistance to vaccines.

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Thinking About the 2022 Midterm Prime Badge

The Atlantic has a piece by Ron Brownstein on the 2022 election and whether or not the Democrats can avoid a “wipeout”. It is, typically for Brownstein, quite good.

My worry is not that there will be a wipeout but that Republicans may have a comparatively disappointing midterm and still take control of at least the House. The mix of redistricting, the strong pattern of mid-term losses for first term Presidents and the fact that the margin is already razor thin – these all stack the deck heavily against the Democrats. Most of the article goes over different strategies Democrats are discussing and specifically the general consensus that they are better served going big on their policy agenda than trimming their sails to avoid antagonizing swing voters or Republicans.

Let me share a couple thoughts of my own on this question.

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Read This Piece

Perhaps you read it many years ago. But if not, I wanted to flag your attention to this article Sarah Posner wrote for TPM back in 2015. Yesterday we reported that Josh Duggar, one the kids from the Duggar Family of Reality TV fame and himself a one time player in hard right evangelical politics, was arrested for possession of child pornography. This followed an earlier scandal in 2015 when it was revealed that as a teenager a decade earlier he had molested his younger sisters and one other girl of the same age.

This led to the cancellation of the family’s show 19 Kids and Counting. But what was revealed in that story was that in response to the sexual abuse the family sent Josh to be ‘mentored’ by a guy named Bill Gothard at a place he founded called the Institute for Basic Life Principles. Posner calls the IBLP “an insular and authoritarian evangelical homeschooling ministry whose charismatic founder, former followers say, sexually harassed female employees, blamed rape victims for provoking their attackers, and subjected young disciples to grueling physical labor for little or no pay.” It’s a fascinating part of the Duggar backstory. But more than that it is a fascinating look into part of the world of rightwing evangelical politics where a climate of sexual repression and adulation of charismatic leaders creates its own world of sexual abuse and predation. Here’s the piece.

Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: Rudy Got Raided

A new bonus episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! Today, Josh and Kate discuss the FBI raids on Rudy Giuliani’s properties and recap the events that brought us to this stunning development.

Watch below and email us your questions for next week’s episode: talk@talkingpointsmemo.com:

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

Where Things Stand: We’ve Been Covering The Duggars For A While Prime Badge
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The oldest son of the Duggar family clan, Josh Duggar was indicted by a federal grand jury in Arkansas for allegedly receiving and possessing child pornography. He pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment after being arrested last night by U.S. Marshals in Arkansas.

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The Russian Nesting Doll of Giuliani’s Corruption Prime Badge

I had worried that federal prosecutors might be forced to whittle the fullness of Rudy Giuliani’s criminal conduct down to a technical violation of failure to report lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity. But reports this morning suggest his legal peril may go well beyond that. Federal investigators seem to be looking at his decision to work with Russian spies to damage Joe Biden and spread disinformation about his family and seek the ouster of the US Ambassador to Ukraine as part of the extortion plot that eventually got Trump impeached.

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Where Things Stand: A Very Public Testing Of The Waters Prime Badge
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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announces the Trump Administration's plan to create the U.S. Space Force by 2020 during a speech at the Pentagon August 9, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. Describing space as advasarial and crowded and citing threats from China and Russia, Pence said the new Space Force would be a separate, sixth branch of the military.

The former Veep is speaking at a carefully chosen podium this evening.

He’s giving his first speech post-Trump administration tonight, in a less-than-coincidental state (South Carolina) to a less-than-coincidental audience (the conservative Christian Palmetto Family Council).

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Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: Dems in Array

This week, Josh and Kate discuss a week of actual fake news rocketing around the rightwing media ecosystem leading up to President Biden’s first big speech.

Watch below and email us your questions for next week’s episode: talk@talkingpointsmemo.com:

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

An Amazing Moment That Thankfully Didn’t Happen

Thank God it didn’t come to that. But if Derek Chauvin had been acquitted in Minneapolis federal officials were planning to arrest him at the court house on federal civil rights charges. The DOJ still plans to bring those charges against Chauvin and the three other officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death.

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Short and Sweet

Tim Scott had a tough job following Biden and it showed. His speech seemed premised on Biden delivering a confrontational and aggressive speech that he didn’t give. Scott seemed to argue that Biden had brought to an end some glorious era of national unity. This is absurd. I don’t think it was effective.

Notes on Biden’s Speech Prime Badge

I didn’t have great expectations for tonight’s speech because political events seldom turn on speeches. Nor is speechifying Biden’s forte. He’s workmanlike, solid. But he’s no great orator. That’s Barak Obama.

But I saw an extraordinarily effective speech. Like so much with Biden he managed to find in the historical moment things that play to his strengths. I’ve been watching State of the Union addresses for forty-plus years and I have never seen one like this. Biden delivered it with a tremendous informality. Biden is no Obama when it comes to oratory. But Obama couldn’t have delivered this speech. It would not play to his skills which are heroic and oratorical rather than empathic and conversational.

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A Big Effing New Deal

A historic proposal by any standard. Join us here to watch the culmination of the day’s rollout.

Where Things Stand: What To Expect Tonight Prime Badge
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BURLINGTON, IA - AUGUST 07: Former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks about White Nationalism during a campaign press conference on August 7, 2019 in Burlington, Iowa. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

The President is scheduled to deliver his first joint congressional speech tonight, which will largely serve as a platform to unveil the details of his latest legislative proposal.

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On the Contested Terrain of Language #7 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader TS

Absolutely right, this latest one. My university sends out an endless stream of apologies for centuries old ethnic crimes, “climate surveys” asking who feels excluded, demands to take one kind of sensitivity training after another, and letters from every administrator after every national controversy showing “compassion” and asking us all about our feelings. Administrators are being hired by the droves to supervise all this, write reports, conduct surveys, and police language.

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On the Contested Terrain of Language #6 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader DK

As I see it, there are two complaints about the “wokeness.” One is completely disingenuous and seems to only come from white people: that it goes too far in “restricting” speech or is “overly prescriptive” in dictating how people are supposed to address one another. The biggest legacy of European Colonialism and the white supremacy intrinsic to it is that of the continued insistence on imposing identities around expectations of who people are and what worth people have in its system of values—both societally and—often—financially. Why should I (a white cishet 52 year old) feel the sads—or rage—that I can no longer assume as much as 52 year old white dudes did 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 years ago about the people they meet in their every day lives?

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On the Contested Terrain of Language #5 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader SD

I was listening to some old Shelby Foote C-Span interviews recently on YouTube. I was listening to this one on his interactions with William Faulkner. If you listen to this interview between roughly the nine-minute mark and the 16-minute mark, he gives a lengthy perspective on his views of the South and Mississippi of his youth.

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On the Contested Terrain of Language #4 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader DH

I was happy to see MK’s comments. They helped me understand a bit what the anti-wokeness energy is about.

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On the Contested Terrain of Language #3 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader MK

I’ve never written in about a story before, but I’m right at the heart of this one! I’m in my early 40s, female, and mixed race. People usually think I’m Latina, occasionally they think I’m Black (I’m neither). I’m pretty progressive (voted for Warren).

I work in a very woke environment. Some of the things are great! It’s nice to know people’s pronouns.The company Ramadan message included helpful, actionable suggestions on how to be considerate of our fasting colleagues. This workplace is absolutely more diverse than anywhere else I’ve worked.

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