Editors’ Blog

Low Energy

For all the endlessly merited outrage about Justice Alito being outed as the second pro-insurrection Justice (I mean, more evidence, no surprise), it seems like the response on Capitol Hill is truly low energy.

From TPM Reader HS

I’ve been a reader since the 2000 election and live in San Francisco.  When the story on Alito came out last week, I called Senator Padilla, a Judiciary committee member, and left a message about how outrageous it was and hoped that as a member of the committee, he would call for hearings and investigations (no one answered).  I also called Senator Durban’s office (picked up on first ring) and communicated the same. 

Today, I called my Senator again.  His staff person said “I haven’t been briefed on his position and I will be happy to pass on your message”   That’s it.  No response at all.  CALIFORNIA! 

Indeed, that’s the best a senator from California can do?

Your Primal Scream Is Good Therapy, Not Good Campaign Advice Prime Badge
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After a short bout of mea culpas and self-flagellating in response to Biden’s State of the Union speech in early March, Ezra Klein is back with a laundry list of complaints about the campaign. He starts by taking as gospel an Axios report about Biden campaign polling denial and proceeds to whine and perseverate about every possible aspect of the campaign.

This passage from the lead in to the piece offers some illustration …

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Benny Gantz is a Follower, Lacks Moral Courage Prime Badge
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Let me add a few thoughts on the issues we were discussing yesterday about Israel and Israel’s government. For several years, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has loomed over Israeli politics as a potential successor to Benjamin Netanyahu. This is an established dynamic in Israeli politics wherein the IDF is far and away the most respected institution. Former chiefs of staff almost always get discussed as potential prime ministers, though only two of them have actually done it, and many of them become government ministers. Gantz has run as the leader of a party he created which has existed under a few labels. He’s won more seats, then fewer seats. Through the war he’s been the public’s top choice in polls for the next prime minister.

What I say now is based on no inside information or even reporting and it may seem audacious to say about someone who’s had such a career of accomplishment. But it seems clear to me that the man is a follower and has some fundamental lack of moral courage.

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A Response to TPM Reader JB

TPM Reader JS responds to TPM Reader JB’s note from last night. As I said with JB, I don’t agree with all of the points. But the overall argument hits at what I do believe JB leaves out, which is that the U.S. is still the great power in the region. And the situation in Gaza is umbilically tied to three or four other major regional tension points. To my mind the real issue is that we cannot bring this episode to a close because of Netanyahu’s intransigence which is one part ideology and one part the need to keep his coalition intact which, in turn, keeps him out of jail. That’s a tough reason for a great power to be consumed by an issue.

JB is a classic dot disconnecter. His assertion that Israel is taking too much bandwidth from Ukraine, for example, completely misses the point. I’m going to pretend the assertion that Bibi was trying to suck us into a war with Iran was hyperbole, because it’s ridiculous, bordering on the conspiratorial (Bibi approved the killing of the Iranian general knowing they would shoot 300 drones at Israel and this bank shot would bring the US in against Iran? Lol, lmao even.)

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Not Our Problem

I debated for a bit how to explain why I was publishing this note from TPM Reader JB. I happily publish notes I agree with and others I don’t. In this case though, I disagree with quite a few individual assertions but found myself overall saying yes. That’s pretty much it. That’s a not-terribly-clear reaction. But I found it worth sharing with you.

There is a story told about Franklin Roosevelt, who spent most of the Wilson administration as an active Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Decades later as President, he was hours into a meeting on military spending with his Army Chief of Staff, George Marshall, before Pearl Harbor, when the services’ needs were great and money was scarce.  Wearily, Gen. Marshall acknowledged the history, but asked Roosevelt, “Mr. President, could you at least stop referring to the Navy as ‘we’ and the Army as ‘they’?”

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A Quick Survey of Numbers, Vibes and the Inner Lives of Campaigns Prime Badge
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In yesterday’s podcast Kate and I discussed that NYT-Siena poll (way overplayed and exaggerated but still not great for Biden) and the debate story which was literally continuing to break and change while we recorded the pod. The two stories intersect in some interesting ways.

The Times said: “The early-debate gambit from Mr. Biden amounted to a public acknowledgment that he is trailing in his re-election bid, and a bet that an accelerated debate timeline will force voters to tune back into politics and confront the possibility of Mr. Trump returning to power.”

A public acknowledgement!

In recent days I’ve been in a running conversation with several Times staffers about Times coverage, some private, some on social media, trying to both keep it real and keep it calm. When I saw this line it struck me as part of that subtext of so much Times coverage, at least going back months and in many ways much longer, of “Joe, stop playing games and admit you’re behind. Admit you’re behind, Joe!”

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Listen To This: For Whom The Bell Polls

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Kate and Josh analyze the presidential polling landscape plus some breaking news about the debates.

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

A New, Big Crack in Netanyahu’s Governing Coalition Prime Badge
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I wanted to update you on an important development in Israel and the Israel-Hamas war. There have been a few of these blow-ups in the far-right Netanyahu coalition. But they’ve all gotten hashed out and patched up eventually because, as we’ve discussed, the government’s very unpopularity is, paradoxically, its greatest adhesive in holding on to power. Since October, coalition members have known they’d lose power in a new election. So no one has really been willing to trigger new elections — the recent polls have shown some limited recovery of Netanyahu’s fortunes.

In any case, here’s the latest thing.

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Is Biden in ‘Denial’ about the Polls? Prime Badge
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Axios has a new piece out today with the headline: Biden’s Polling Denial. It’s not spin, the article says. The President and his top advisors actually don’t believe his bad poll numbers. “That bedrock belief has informed Biden’s largely steady-as-she-goes campaign,” says Axios. The article notes yesterday’s NYT-Siena poll of swing states and another recent Bloomberg set of swing state polls as examples of bad polling numbers the White House refuses to believe, before then shifting gears to note that other polls actually show him doing significantly better.

The factual questions here aren’t terribly complicated and they’re not really the reason I note this article or write this post. Most polls currently show Biden just behind Trump in a tight race. Others show him either tied or just ahead. And there is a theory of the election that those polls, with a greater emphasis on high propensity voters and the concentrating effect of the final months of the campaign, will put Biden on top in November. I’ve tried to air these different arguments here in the Editors’ Blog. You can believe one or the other.

I note the article because of what it says about the group psychology of each party and the related and intertwined factor of how the political press treats those parties.

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NYT-Siena Obsessing Addendum

Let me expand a bit on today’s Backchannel about that Times-Siena poll and polling issues more generally. I mentioned keeping an eye out for the delta between Likely Voter screens and Registered Voter ones. As we’ve noted a few times, this has become a consistent pattern in this presidential race: Joe Biden does substantially better in likely voter polls. And this isn’t an arbitrary difference. It’s not like saying Trump does better in the NYT-Siena poll than he does in the ABC-Ipsos one, so I prefer the latter. A Likely Voter screen is the pollster’s attempt to poll the actual voting electorate as opposed to the population of registered voters. So that distinction is very key. And if they diverge you really want to be doing better with Likely Voters, as Biden is.

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