Editors’ Blog

Certainly Illinois Can Do Better Than Dick Durbin Prime Badge

I’ve been hearing from people in and out of the political world saying things like this: folks like Dick Durbin really need to retire. Yes, I’m talking about his Sunday show appearance yesterday and his commenting on the Biden classified documents. What I’m describing here isn’t only about Dick Durbin. But he is one of the prime offenders.

What is Dick Durbin doing in the Senate exactly? What I’ve seen from him, know of him mostly for years is appearances like that on the Sunday shows, ones which play to the D.C. press and establishment opinion. It’s of a piece with Durbin’s position or really non-position on “Roe and Reform.” Durbin was one of the prime holdouts. Well, he wasn’t even a holdout really — he simply wouldn’t discuss it at all. The best he could manage in mid-2022 were some vague comments about not being over-hasty about things.

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The Debt Limit is Unconstitutional Prime Badge

Along with a categorical refusal to negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, Democrats need to start now making the affirmative case that the debt ceiling is itself unconstitutional. Back in 2011 President Obama said he had spoken to legal scholars and concluded this was not “a winning argument.”

This again is an example of Democrats playing to the elite legal academy, credentialed opinion.

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Durbin Troubles Prime Badge

The other issue with Durbin, and the far more important one, is the debt limit. He said the right things this morning in the same interview: no negotiation on the debt limit, period. But that’s now. Durbin is the deputy leader in the Senate. All the gravitational pull to seek press and elite D.C. approbation will be put to the test in coming months over the debt ceiling. Durbin’s a very weak reed to rely on.

Durbin An Embarrassment Prime Badge
Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Like more than a few Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) embarrassed himself this morning on the Biden documents case. He said President Biden is “diminished” by the situation. On Trump and Biden: “At its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” he said. In each case, after whacking Biden around a bit, he went on to lamely distinguish between the two situations. Those distinctions, needless to say, will never be the headlines, never garner attention, never be what shapes news coverage. Manchin of course was worse, saying Biden “should have a lot of regrets” and questioning whether we know whether Biden’s or Trump’s actions are more egregious.

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Klain to Depart as Chief of Staff Prime Badge

Ron Klain, White House Chief of Staff, will reportedly announce he’s departing the position shortly. I have no inside knowledge of what’s behind this. I suspect it’s mostly the reality that there’s a short half life to the position itself. Indeed, rattling around my head for 20 years is a Klain anecdote in which he told his staff, when departing as Al Gore’s Chief of Staff in 1999, that the position is ”like a milk carton, and milk cartons have an expiration date.” I doubt it is about any substantive disagreements about anything

The only thing I can think to add about the transition is that this period is a major transition regardless. The next two years will be very, very different from the last two. There aren’t going to be any big legislative initiatives — no trying to get House progressives somehow on board with whatever new demand comes from Manchin and Sinema. That’s done. It will be about two things: First, seeing whether the House Freedom Caucus breaks the Republic or whether they are in turn broken by President Biden. Second, laying the groundwork for the 2024 election in which everything will be on the line. The outcome of the first largely determines the possibilities for the second.

Given this shift it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a few more personnel changes. It’s just a very different brief.

NYT Whitewatering Very Strongly Prime Badge
The New York Times newspaper are displayed for sale at a news stand in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The New York Times said Tuesday it will transfer some of its staff out of Hong Kong because of the uncertainties about practicing journalism in the Chinese territory under its newly imposed national security law. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

For those of you who remember the embarrassment of the Times coverage of the “Whitewater” scandal, it must seem like déjà vu all over again. It does to me. The paper’s editors are trying, and I mean really trying, to make the Biden classified documents issue a thing. And I mean a grave thing. The stage was ably set by the subject line of the email I received blasting out their latest deep dive on the story: “Inside Biden’s 68 days of silence.” It’s this like a Gabriel García Márquez homage? I mean good lord. Are we really doing this again? Of course we are. It’s how they roll.

I took the liberty of a short set of annotations.

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Out of Patience Prime Badge

Is the federal judiciary running out of patience with Donald Trump? Or, at least, one federal judge? Yesterday, as David noted this morning, federal judge Donald Middlebrooks hit Trump and his lawyers with almost $1 million in sanctions for their meritless and absurd lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and others. Trump has been notorious for decades for constantly threatening and sometimes filing predatory, frivolous and abusive lawsuits. But he’s mostly gotten away with it. That seemed to come to end with Judge Middlebrooks’ hefty sanctions.

Then this morning, Trump withdrew his case against New York Attorney General Tish James. What do the two cases have in common? They’re both before Judge Middlebrooks, a federal judge in Florida.

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Where Things Stand: Santos Office Forwarded Constituent Calls To Office Of NY GOPer Who Wants Him To Resign
This is your TPM evening briefing.

The glitch was only temporary, but, man, it’s gold. You really can’t make this stuff up (unless you are George Santos).

Long Island news outlet Newsday has the goods.

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Did The Justices Get Asked If They Did It? Prime Badge

About that Supreme Court report … It does not state it explicitly. But the plain language of the report strongly suggests that the investigation did not investigate or question the justices themselves. It repeatedly refers to investigations of and questioning of Court “personnel” (temporary and permanent) and Court “employees.” We can’t say those terms have a definitive legal meaning in this context. But the justices certainly aren’t employees of the Court. They are the Court. “Personnel” also seems to refer to the same class of people: everyone who works at and for the Court, not the justices. I suspect most Court observers would agree that this is at least the most obvious interpretation of those word choices, if not the only possible one.

It’s not terribly surprising that the investigation didn’t investigate the justices themselves. But it’s worth noting that that is at least the most obvious reading of the wording of the report. We’ll follow up to see if we can learn more.

Listen To This: But His Classified Docs

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the classified document false equivalency and the newest adventures of George Santos.

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

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