Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: Match Made In Reactionary Chucklehead Heaven
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Two dudes who have advanced their careers, in recent years, by saying and doing things to rile people up as they curate their cult of personality points are teaming up to make an announcement that everyone already had on their 2023 bingo card.

You’ve got Elon Musk in one corner — a man who will say just about anything to elevate his brand as the free speech Messiah. And then you’ve got Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the other — Trump’s long-anticipated 2024 rival who has spent the last year using his Republican-dominated state legislature to pass outrageous, so-called “anti-woke” legislation packaged to appeal to the furthest-right MAGA voters and cushion his 2024 bid.

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Shuddering Foundations

Here’s one thing to keep an eye on as we moved toward ~ June 1st. Over the last few days there’s been a growing jitteriness on Wall Street and in the D.C. stakeholding communities. Like, shit, this really might happen. I don’t see any panic yet. But the complacent assumption that obviously it’s going to get worked out is starting the fray or at least come under some strain.

What appears to have gone on over the last four or five days is the White House just keeps saying no to new or expanded GOP demands. Of course, they’ve already agreed to or tentatively signaled their willingness to agree to quite a lot. So there’s no hard line or Michael Corleone-style “my offer is nothing.” But they do seem to have come to a line. At least for now.

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The Bigs Turn on Meatball Ron

For the last two or three months we’ve had this on-going spectacle of major media continuing to portray Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the arch-rival and potential slayer of ex-President Trump, even after it’s become increasingly clear he has really no chance at all of winning the nomination. In fairness to DeSantis, it’s unlikely that anyone stands a chance, unless the judicial system or mortality remove Trump from the stage. But it’s only with DeSantis that you have the yawning gap between perception and reality. Everyone knows Pence and Scott aren’t happening.

Now we’re seeing the first signs of the Bigs catching on.

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Where Things Stand: Even At Anti-Abortion Gala, DeSantis Shied Away From Hyping His 6-Week Ban
This is your TPM evening briefing.

As he stood before one of the friendliest crowds imaginable this weekend, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was still hesitant to spend much time touting the passage of a strict six-week abortion ban in Florida, a law that he only briefly described as “a landmark piece of legislation for this state.”

DeSantis made a big show of signing his state’s 15-week ban into law last year. He televised the bill’s signing and dragged in a bunch of Republican state lawmakers, children holding pro-life signs and a packed crowd to applaud his signature. But when he signed his six-week ban into law in April, he did it privately. His office marked the occasion by putting out a press release in the middle of the night. When he gave a speech at Liberty University the next day, he didn’t even bring it up.

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Even though this won’t come as new news to many of you, the following is still a clarifying prism. A negotiation is usually two sides haggling to get things they want. Leverage is often unequal. Sometimes one side isn’t “getting” anything but rather just trying to give up as little as possible. But in this negotiation, Republicans are getting various policy priorities and Democrats are “getting” Republican agreement not to create a global financial crisis. That’s extortion, not negotiation. A government can’t operate in any consistent or sustainable way when policy deliverables go to the party willing to credibly threaten the most damage to the country itself.

A Few Observations on the Debt Limit Follies

It looks like we’re in for a down-to-the-wire drama over the next ten days to two weeks as we come down to the still-fuzzy default deadline. We’re going to have a lot of pinging back and forth, drama and access journalism headlines over the next several days. We’ll try to keep you aware of those things while keeping the focus on the fact that this is a manufactured crisis and not truly a negotiation (in the sense of each side bargaining to get things).

There’s been a series of stops and starts in recent days, with House Republicans repeatedly leaving the talks and then coming back. The key driver is the Freedom Caucus. The negotiators were near some mix of clawed-back COVID funds, “permitting reform,” work requirements and budget caps. All bad, but still very different from the Freedom Caucus-dictated budget outline passed several weeks ago. As a deal got closer, the Freedom Caucus yanked McCarthy back and said they wanted their whole bill.

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14th Watch

Today President Biden seems to be increasingly teasing 14th Amendment authority, after headlines yesterday suggesting he was telling congressional progressives to drop the idea. I’ve basically stopped trying to interpret what’s happening here. But one thing is clear: even if President Biden has no intention of doing this or resorting to other extraordinary measures, it is insane to rule it out in advance publicly. At a minimum he needs Republicans to think he might take an action that would leave them with no ransom at all. Otherwise you’re simply negotiating against yourself.

Understanding ‘Mass Shootings’

Following up on my post from Thursday, I wanted to address a definitional question about what constitutes a mass shooting. This may seem rather technical, picayune in contrast to the horror. But it’s an important point both for understanding the statistics we see and acting to change things.

We often hear statistics about “mass shootings” in the United States. But those aren’t really what most of us think of as mass shootings. Most news and policy organizations use an FBI-derived statistic which looks at firearms incidents in which four or more people are shot, regardless of the severity of the injuries. That can include stick-ups gone wrong, family disputes, gang hits, everything under the sun.

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Fox News screen capture A Wingnut Anti-Migrant Story Implodes – But Is This the Full Story?

I’m feeling exhausted after a long week and you probably are too. But I want to put something on your radar. Because there’s something more going on here. A week ago the New York Post went to town with a made-for-Fox News story of a group of veterans who had been booted out of hotels about an hour north of New York City to make way for migrants. As I said, it was a made-for-Fox News: Here are these disabled or impoverished American veterans getting kicked to the curb to make way for migrants with no permission to be in the country in the first place. Politicians jumped on the story. The Post ran it. It made the rounds of the wingnutosphere. Fox of course got on board.

But none of it was true. And I don’t just mean not true in the sense of being misleading or incomplete or embellished or sensationalized. It was a hoax. Sharon Toney-Finch, the founder and head of a small local nonprofit, the YIT Foundation, which focuses on veterans issue and premature births (?) was the source of the original story. But it turns out the she recruited a group of 15 homeless men from a local shelter to impersonate veterans and talk to the press about their tale of woe.

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A ‘Pause’: The Freedom Caucus Yanks Kev’s Leash. What Next?

Quite a few of you have written in to ask me: Is it possible the White House was negotiating with the knowledge that McCarthy would be forced to make unreasonable demands, thus leading House GOPs to close the door on negotiations? In other words, were they negotiating with the knowledge they’d get credit for coming to the table and having the Republicans walk away?

It’s possible?

Normally I have a pretty intuitive sense of political tussles. In this case, I don’t. It’s not clear to me what’s happening, what will happen and to what extent the different players even have a plan. On the hypothetical above: I doubt the White House would enter into negotiations with the expectation and hope that they would fail. More likely it would be that they decided to sound out the possibility of a reasonable deal with the knowledge that Republicans were likely to blow up the negotiations on their own. In that case they get back the reasonableness/adult in the room cred from the D.C. powers that be at little cost.


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