Editor’s Blog

‘Religious Liberty’ – Not Just for Gay Cakes Anymore

Here’s a pretty important wake-up call for those who may need waking up about the growth of support for ‘religious liberty’ exemptions as a tool to provide legal sanctuary for affirmative discrimination. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows the percentages of public support for certain kinds of discrimination under ‘religious liberty’ exemptions and how they’ve grown in recent years – and substantial numbers support exemptions to discriminate against Muslims and Jews.

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Trumpism Before Trump
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with reporters outside the Senate chamber about a continuing resolution to re-open the government on Friday, January 25, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Much to discuss and process with today’s SCOTUS 5-4 decisions. But it focuses my attention on something different. The Trump Era really began not in November 2016 or January 2017 but rather in February 2016. That’s when Justice Antonin Scalia died and Mitch McConnell, within hours, announced that he would not allow the Senate to consider any nominee from President Barack Obama, then just beginning fourth year of his second term.

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Wrap Up and Concluding Thoughts on the First Debate

As I’ve written a few times in my running commentary, this was better than I expected. The debate was run well. Most of the candidates did well or better than I expected. It was refreshing and positive in a way I didn’t expect. Donald Trump came in for a decent amount of criticism. But given the centrality of a sitting President to the opposition party and a President this consistently bad, predatory and corrupt, he played a surprisingly small role in the proceedings. I was caught off guard by how refreshing that was.

The stand out to me was Cory Booker. Especially in the first hour he took possession of the stage. He had a really strong performance. He made me think about him seriously again as a nominee after I’d mainly written him off my list of real contenders. I think he’s the big story of the night – both on the merits and as someone who did well and needs to make a move into the top half-dozen candidates.

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Scrub Debate Live Blog #3

10:50 PM: Delaney seems like he’s from a different era and not a terribly relevant or good one. I think Ryan has zero percent chance in this race and he shouldn’t even be in this debate (like most of the people in this debate). But I think that was a decent conclusion, even though it didn’t seem like it at the beginning.

10:39 PM: This was a moment.

10:35 PM: That was the first decent answer from O’Rourke.

10:33 PM: Sen. Klobuchar doesn’t seem to be able to credibly say “when I’m President” and sound like she might believe it.

10:18 PM: Warren started shaky. She’s hitting her stride in the second hour. Her senate answer at around 10:15 eastern was her best moment yet in the debate.

9:55 PM: I remain impressed by this debate even though my expectations were low. Cory Booker stands out to me as the candidate putting in the best performance and helping himself the most. De Blasio has also impressed. But I see no makings of a real campaign. Every candidate, with the possible exception of O’Rourke, has done decently. But I’m struck that Warren seems to have receded into the background. I don’t know whether this would be born out by the timer. But it seems like most of the candidates have spoken more than she has. Booker seems like the story.

Scrub Debate Live Blog #2

9:50 PM: I wondered what on earth Booker was thinking when he was (I think) the only candidate who didn’t raise his hand on the Iran question. But his answer was pretty decent and he managed to take command of the debate stage.

9:44 PM: Castro is just eviscerating O’Rourke. I’m not speaking to the policy question. But he’s taking control of the debate and O’Rourke just seems unprepared.

9:36 PM: In that nature of things, I tend to watch these debates as I think they will play for a larger audience. In other words, I watch them from a kind of second remove. But my big takeaway from the debate so far is to give another look at Cory Booker. He hasn’t really registered in public support terms so far. But maybe that will change. De Blasio’s answers are frankly great. (I’ve said before I think he’s a great mayor.) I just don’t think he’s as plausible nominee.

Scrub Debate Live Blog #1

9:33 PM: Okay, first break. I’m finding this debate more refreshing, engaging than I’d expected. I’ve expressed my frustration about the number of candidates allowed into these debates. I still feel that. But this seems like a debate that is engaging questions that most Americans are actually thinking about. Not all certainly: a big chunk of the country is obsessed with anti-immigrant policies, Iran, etc. But it’s better than I expected.

9:27 PM: I’m not sure what Booker is actually saying here in policy terms about Medicare for All or private insurance.

9:23 PM: O’Rourke feels like a throwback to a different era. I don’t mean that in the sense of being on one side or another of the health insurance policy question. I just mean tonally. Seems like a different era.

9:20 PM: That’s actually news. Only De Blasio and Warren said they were for Medicare for All, i.e., a single payer plan which would eliminate all but supplemental private insurance.

9:14 PM: I don’t know why de Blasio is running. But that was a great answer.

9:10 PM: Warren’s second bite at the economy apple, the response to Booker, was much better, the kind of clarity she’ll need as nominee.

9:09 PM: I think Booker’s answer on the economy is clearer, better than Warren’s.

9:04 PM: This is a bad format. Everyone’s rusty. But it’s too rushed.

9:02 PM: I do this for a living and I’m not totally sure who the guy over on the right is.

9:01 PM: Placeholder commentary.

Okay, We’re Doing This

Live blogging about the commence!

* For the moment, I’m trying to distinguish between the people who are decent people and have no business being on this debate stage and the folks who suck and have no business being on this debate stage.

* The MSNBC color commentators sound like they’re punchy or high.

That’s What Some People Say

It’s puts a candidate in an impossible position to get a hypothetical about how they’ll approach losing. But it’s a question candidates can and do learn how to deflect. But it’s no coincidence that Bernie Sanders quickly pivots to claims that the Democratic primary process was and is rigged against him. Or, as Sanders put it: “That’s what some people say.”

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In Case You Missed It

TPM’s Matt Shuham obtained internal emails among law enforcement in New Mexico earlier this year as officials grappled with how to respond to reports that a right-wing so-called “militia” was taking it upon itself to detain border crossers. “In any other circumstance this could/or would likely be a crime,” the head of New Mexico State Police wrote in one thread.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Republican vice presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) participate in the vice presidential debate at Centre College October 11, 2012 in Danville, Kentucky.  This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates before the closely-contested election November 6.
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Answer to Hunter/Shagfund Mystery?

We’ve gotten a number of emails making the same basic argument on the Duncan Hunter/Shagfund mystery aas TPM Reader TP. And I’m starting to think they are on to something …

I think the more interesting part of the Duncan Hunter mystery get-togethers is likely to be the guest lists.

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All Shook Up

Big new development in the census citizenship case: Appeals court throws another roadblock in the path of the Trump administration. Tierney Sneed is working through the order and its implications here.

The Mystery of Duncan and the ‘Get-Togethers’

I note below that the Hunter filing ends with a minor mystery. After listing off multiple instances in which Hunter used campaign funds to pay for his affairs, the filing concludes by noting other non-work or campaign related activities paid for with campaign funds which are so prejudicial that prosecutors fear disclosing it might taint the jury pool. Since they’ve just listed off numerous extramarital affairs Hunter expensed to his campaign, these other activities must be pretty prejudicial!

So what are they?

Let’s start again with the passage in question.

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Livin’ Large: The Duncan Hunter Story

I’ve read through the new Duncan Hunter court filing. And it’s rather remarkable. Prosecutors list five extra-marital affairs Hunter carried on with various GOP lobbyists, operatives and congressional staffers (one of whom worked in his own office) and funded out of his campaign funds.

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Hunter’s Shagfund
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 13: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is interviewed about his vaporizer pen in his Rayburn office, January 12, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Duncan Hunter, now facing charges alone after his wife elected to change her plea to guilty, allegedly used his campaign account as a personal shag fund to pay for at least five separate extra-marital affairs since he inherited his House seat from his father in 2008.

Hunter originally blamed his wife for the misappropriation of funds.

Primary Race Coming Into View

Unsurprisingly, after a week of discussion of Joe Biden’s conversations with segregationist Southern Democrats in the 1970s, the controversy appears to have done precisely nothing to affect his standing in the primary race. Twitter is not real life. The activist-centric political conversation seems to have very little traction with the broader Democratic electorate. And yet, the race does seem to be changing. At least its contours are starting to come more clearly into view.

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Have You Detected The Pattern?

With the right wing extremists, you often end up not just with the toxic rhetoric and vigilanteism. There’s frequently something else. In the case of Jim Benvie, the new criminal charge of allegedly impersonating a federal agent fits the bill given his fixation with the border. But the alleged child cancer scam in Oklahoma (not a border state!) takes it to a whole other level. TPM alum Nick Martin has been on the case, and we catch you up.

Local Newspaper Denounces Islamophobic ‘Cowards’

On Friday, a New York Times article made the rounds which profiled the Concerned Community Citizens (“or C-Cubed”) of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, an Islamophobic group obsessing over the local population of Somali refugees and fretting about white replacement. “I think of America, the great assimilator, as a rubber band, but with this — we’re at the breaking point,” Kim Crockett, vice president of a think tank called the Center of the American Experiment, told the Times. “These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible.”

This morning, the Saint Cloud Times, the local newspaper, hit back at the Islamophobia in its community.

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