Editors’ Blog


Everyone handles the current moment differently. TPM Reader NR:

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Trump Owned Jerry and Jerry Knew It Prime Badge

Since I wrote the Falwell update below, Giancarlo’s story has been published and it’s about what most of us have long suspected: Giancarlo had a relationship with the couple in which he and Becki Falwell had sex while Jerry Falwell watched. Other than the hypocrisy and the payoffs (which were likely illegal since they used money from Liberty University) more power to them. But I want to zoom in on the 2016 endorsement that I mentioned in the previous post.

I imagine there are quite a lot of details to emerge. But let’s go just on what has been reported very reliably so far.

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Where Things Stand: The Circus Begins Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.
NYTRNC20An RNC sign glows outside the Charlotte Convention Center’s Richardson Ballroom in Charlotte, NC where delegates gather for the roll call vote to renominate Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States and Mike Pence to be Vice President.(Travis Dove for The New York Times)

Glancing through tonight’s lineup of speakers suggests that, this evening, we are in for a journey down to the depths of the Trump fever swamp, with only a few potential opportunities to come up for air, when folks like Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) speak.

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Limited, Modified Jerry Falwell Hang Out Prime Badge

Yesterday, Jerry Falwell Jr., fresh off getting bounced from running his dad’s university, finally came forward to admit — or perhaps better to say “claim” — that his wife Becki Falwell had indeed had an affair with pool boy Giancarlo Granda.

But of course it’s not that simple. Falwell brought the story to one of the most reliably Trumpy and wingnutified journalists in the business, Paul Bedard, who now operates out of The Washington Examiner. In other words, a venue where Falwell was guaranteed a gentle touch — which is good since the lengthy statement Falwell released makes pretty clear this is an attempt to get out in front of what appears to be a much bigger and more damaging story.

To refresh everyone’s memory, back in 2012 the Falwells were at a luxury resort in Miami where they met a pool attendant named Giancarlo Granda. They were so impressed with his ambition and winning ways, so their story went, that they promptly started traveling with him, bringing him to Lynchburg, going to secluded vacation resorts with him and finally setting him up in business running a tumbledown youth hostel in Miami. Around the same time Michael Cohen shows up in the mix. Later, Cohen helps the Falwells make some nude photos of Becki disappear. (Apparently someone was blackmailing them with the threat of releasing them.) Then a few months after that Cohen brokered Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Today it now goes without saying that white evangelicals are Donald Trump’s most reliable and intense source of support in American politics. And perhaps this was always inevitable. But it wasn’t clear during the 2016 primary season and Falwell’s endorsement was a critical moment in giving this critical demographic permission, sanction to rally behind Trump.

But I get ahead of myself.

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The Post-Policy Party

Today, we learn that the GOP is done with the whole party platform thing. The party and Trump are one and the same, like Louis XIV and France.

Back in June, Steve Benen wrote for TPM Cafe on how the GOP came to be a post-policy party, with an exclusive focus on winning.

Read that here.

Where Things Stand: Show Of Hands, Should We Separate Families? Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

They took a vote. A, hands up if you think we should do this bloody thing, vote.

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It Was All a Lie Prime Badge

It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump. That’s the title of the new book by Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican operative, chief strategist for Mitt Romney in 2012 and now a leading Never Trumper and one of the people behind The Lincoln Project. Recently we talked about Trump, the GOP, the Southern strategy and growing up in Mississippi in the final days of Jim Crow.

Watch our chat here after the jump.

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What the Convention Revealed of the Democratic Party

Conventions present the face of the party to voters. The Democrats of 2020 are the party of democracy, character and competence (contra Trump) and social inclusivity, with an emphasis on women and minority groups. Programmatically, they promise a continuation of the Obama years, for instance, incrementally shoring up the Affordable Care Act. (The words “public option” were notably missing from Biden’s speech.)

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Are Kids COVID Vectors? Prime Badge

Yesterday The Washington Post reported this study in The Journal of Pediatrics which suggests that children may play a more significant role in the spread of COVID than is widely believed. The gist is that they have comparable viral loads but are far more often asymptomatic. So they may be able to spread COVID just as easily as others but the fact that they’re sick is more hidden.

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A Few Thoughts on a Novel Convention

This was a very powerful speech from Joe Biden, better than I expected. I don’t think of Biden is a great public speaker. That’s not really necessary for the job. But this was very powerful. It matched powerfully with the historical moment. I was struck listening to Biden’s speech that it made Trump seem like such a vacant, meaningless man. Which is to say it accurately captured him … but it did so largely as an absence.

Trump was a central focus of Biden’s speech and yet he seemed like such a thin presence, almost not even there. This in itself is something because Trump’s chaotic, predatory presence has been such a dominating one in our public life – echoing in our heads – through his presidency.

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Where Things Stand: A TPM Piñata Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

TPM reporter Matt Shuham has been on the story surrounding the “We Build The Wall” project for months. At one point during the bluster of breaking news this morning he likened covering the story of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s arrest, and all the absurd developments surrounding it, to “hitting a TPM piñata” — every time you smack it with a bat, something better falls out.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Den of Thieves Prime Badge
on January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC.

It somewhat defies commentary when something you’ve thought and said for years is suddenly confirmed by an unexpected new bundle of evidence. I should note the “I” isn’t relevant here. I’m one of legions who’ve thought and said this. The fact that Bannon was even involved with this crowdfund-the-wall “charity” wasn’t clear to me let alone that he was about to be indicted for perpetrating a massive fraud against the MAGAfied donors. But while it is entirely unexpected in the particular it’s entirely predictable, perhaps inevitable in general.

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All The Bannon That’s Fit To Print

I know you came for our ongoing coverage of today’s remarkable convergence of Stephen Bannon and Brian Kolfage’s border wall bamboozlement in federal criminal purgatory. You can find all of it right here.


Bannon indicted!

Where Things Stand: It’s Ladies’ Night Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

You might not have noticed because we are good at hiding it, but some of the TPM staff is a bit sleep deprived this week.

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Get the Commitments Now – Or It Will Never Happen

I’m concerned and frustrated by this – and no it’s not a Susan Collins impersonation. The executive branch under Trump needs to be audited. We need a full report on everything that happened – something that is distinct and separate from any kind of criminal investigations and more important than criminal probes. I’ve laid out why this is important and how it should work here and here. But it’s simply not going to happen unless Democrats secure clear commitments from Joe Biden and congressional leaders in advance.

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The Soothing Shock of the New Prime Badge

There are so many more important events unfolding before us and questions to be answered. But I wanted to share a few thoughts on aesthetics and communications. From the beginning of the pandemic, if you’re a TV watcher, you’ve been watching people interviewed in their homes. The hosts have mainly set up mini-studios so the fact that they’re recording from home is almost hidden. But with guests it’s all pretty clear. They’re in their den or at their computer. They may put some thought into the background. But basically it’s their home.

And really, it’s much better. Certainly it’s more congenial for the guests who don’t have to trek to studios and sit in green rooms for hours for six minutes on air (this is the main reason I seldom do TV). But it’s also better viewing. It’s more relaxed. You see the creature in its natural environment as opposed to through the homogenized medium of TV studios.

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Where Things Stand: The Sideshow Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

An approaching full week in the spotlight is not enough to satiate President Trump’s attention appetite.

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So Many Stories

There must be countless examples of this. Here’s a report from a local CBS affiliate in Houston about an 82 year man who’s gone a week without his heart medication because the package containing his medication has been sitting in a Houston mail processing facility for 10 days.

According to the report the man actually went without the medication altogether for one week before his daughter got a supply at a local pharmacy. The package with the medication is now more than 10 days late.

The Emerging Democratic Majority Revisited

On the eve of the Democratic convention, a Danish newspaper asked me whether I thought the “emerging Democratic majority,” which Ruy Teixeira and I wrote about, was still intact. Here is a revised version of what I wrote them.

In 2001, Ruy and I did predict that by the decade’s end, there would be a Democratic majority, although not on the scale of the New Deal majority. We felt vindicated by the 2006 and 2008 Democratic results, which more or less followed our script of a majority based on professionals, women, minorities, and about 40 percent of the white working class. The one thing we didn’t anticipate was the support of young people as a distinct group for the Democrats, which has carried over. Read More

Make Him Own It

President Trump’s attack on the United States Postal Service is one of the most brazen and frontal attacks on the government of the United States in living memory. It could not be more serious. With the immediate threat posed by Trump’s effort to sabotage the November election every conceivable effort and available power should be used to reverse or ameliorate his actions. But while Democrats should be making every effort to combat Trump’s attack on the state they should also be making equally great efforts to make him pay for his corrupt conduct at the ballot box.

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Where Things Stand: We’re On This Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

The news surrounding the USPS last week was grim. Out of all of President Trump’s rhetorical bellyaching about the 2020 election, this thread appears like it could have tangible ramifications.

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Keep The Reports Coming

I’m still wading through your emails about postal delivery in your regions and zip codes. It’s remarkable to me how widespread the disruptions are. Postal routes only being delivered to certain days a week, letters or small packages that would normally take 2-4 days taking two weeks and longer. I know that letters and parcels are lost all or delayed all the time out of the tens of billions of items of USPS handles every year. There’s a whole system for reporting and tracking them down. But for each of us individually I feel like it’s actually pretty uncommon. Significant delays now appear to be quite common, as we’ve seen in the news coverage.

Please keep your updates coming. Remember, please include your zip code. We should take advantage of the preexisting districtization of the whole country in numerical codes. One more thing, news reports in local media are just as helpful. We’re all seeing the same national AP stories and stories in the national media. But reports in local media are even more important for us. So please send us what you’re seeing.

Let’s Do This

Are you seeing anything odd in the delivery of mail, quality of service or timeliness of delivery? Are access points to the mail being limited? TPM Reader DG just told me that in South Los Angeles he still hasn’t received his mail at 8:30 PM this evening.

So what are you seeing? If you have anything to report, just shoot us an email at our main TPM email address which you can find in the pull-down menu at the upper left of the site. Here’s the key: Definitely tell us where you live. But the most important thing is to tell us your zip code. That will be a great help in aligning and making sense of the reports we receive.

Seriously, see something? Let us know.

Which Side Are You On? Prime Badge

I’ve written at various points about my dark view of most police unions in the country. Much of that dark view has been shaped by Pat Lynch, the head of the main NYPD police union. Lynch is almost a caricature of the municipal police union chief: intemperate, often contemptuous to civilian control, drenched in grievance. Yesterday, Lynch went to President Trump’s Bedminster resort where the President is spending the weekend and delivered the union’s endorsement for Trump, apparently the first time in living memory the union has endorsed for President.

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Where Things Stand: Concrete Plans To Challenge The Election Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Like any good manipulator, President Trump has been signaling for weeks that he plans to be very mad about the election. The preemptive complaints about mail-in voting, the race-baiting, the showy displays meant to signal law-and-order — he’s building a sturdy base narrative to stand on when things don’t go his way in November.

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You’ve Got (No) Mail! Prime Badge

For anyone watching from a distance, this sabotage of the US Postal Service thing is for real. There’s really no question. We know this to be true from too many different directions, not the least of which is the President telling us it’s true. Some of the changes are things corporate lobbyist friends have likely wanted to do for ages – a different vision of managerial efficiency, sloughing off non-economic services. But even when that is taken into account these changes are being done in a way that – at a minimum – maximizes near-term disruption.

If that weren’t enough we are clearly seeing widespread delays in many parts of the country. If causing delays is not the goal then, given the impending election, you’d think there would be some course correction. But that’s not happening. It’s full speed ahead. There’s no course correction or adjustment because nothing is going wrong. This is the plan.

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Let’s Chat Prime Badge

This week David and Kate and I talk Biden, Harris, the upcoming debates as well as the House GOP’s new QAnon Caucus. Watch after the jump. Read More

Where Things Stand: The Love Letters Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Here’s something to look forward to as we attempt to distract ourselves from the fact that COVID-19 is still very much our reality: Reading the contents of pen pals President Trump and Kim Jong Un’s letters to one another.

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Trump and That “Disrespectful” Woman Prime Badge
on September 9, 2015 in Washington, DC.

These things are so transparent that it is hard to know what to say beyond the obvious. But I wanted to note that based on yesterday’s evidence, Donald Trump’s and the Trump campaign’s central attack line against Kamala Harris is that she is “disrespectful.”

A Trump campaign email that went out last yesterday called her “the meanest, most horrible, most disrespectful, MOST LIBERAL of anyone in the U.S. Senate.” In his afternoon press briefing President Trump used the word three times. He said Harris was “very disrespectful to Joe Biden” and then said it’s “hard to pick somebody that’s that disrespectful.” Later he attacked her ‘disrespectful’ behavior toward Brent Kavanaugh. “I thought it was terrible for our nation. I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate.”

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