Editors’ Blog

What Is the Right?

This lovefest between Tucker Carlson and Viktor Orbán is fascinating on a number of levels.

One thing that a number of us have been saying for some time is that increasingly over the last decade-plus, the GOP has continued to present itself as a center-right party of government while increasingly operating as a rightist revanchist party on the European model. This intentionally conspicuous hobnobing with Orbán is part of that story. Obviously, Carlson isn’t formally representing the GOP. But in practice he does. He’s far more influential in conservative politics than any elected official currently in office.

The Battle To Vaccinate

A few weeks ago in my off-air brainstorming I had thought about simply paying people $100 to get vaccinated. It’s almost certainly a good investment for government. I mean, we’ve paid many thousands of dollars to individuals to maintain the economy through the stresses of COVID and other outreach efforts cost significant amounts of money too. The idea had occurred to me when reading articles about how many people have not gotten vaccinated simply because it requires taking time off work or having the risk of a couple days downtime from side effects. So I was excited to see that people at the White House were thinking along the same lines.

It is a good reminder that the vaccine ‘hesitancy’ issue is really two different issues, and they’re not even both hesitancy.

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For Your Weekend Reading Pleasure #2

An essay on building a small sailboat by hand.

For Your Weekend Reading Pleasure

For your weekend reading pleasure ‘History’s Heroic Failures‘, stories of kings from the distant past who rescued their kingdoms in historic victories only to lose everything to new foes, leaving the earlier triumphs all but forgotten.

Where Things Stand: Mo Brooks Says He Wore Body Armor On Jan. 6. Because Of Antifa, Of Course Prime Badge
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UNITED STATES - MAY 17: Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol, May 17, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) was one of the first Republicans to point the finger at the amorphous “antifa” as the true culprits behind the Jan. 6 insurrection.

His tone hasn’t changed much since.

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Yep, We Need More Blame

We’re now getting more information about what new data was behind the CDC’s revised guidance on COVID-era masking. An internal power-point presentation was shared with The Washington Post and the CDC will apparently be making a public presentation today. One key datapoint seems to be an apparent super-spreading event on July 4th in Provincetown, Massachusetts which suggests very efficient spread of COVID among vaccinated people. As you know, I have followed the emerging data very closely. There’s so much conflicting data on transmissibility and even what constitutes transmission and infection (more on that later) that it’s really, really hard to know what’s happening. I would say the more you dig into the data the more confusing it gets, not less. With all that said though it’s clear that Delta COVID is much more transmissible than earlier versions and that available vaccines, while still very effective, are not as effective as they appeared to be and likely were even a couple months ago.

That sucks. But here we are.

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Subpoena Jim Jordan

As the Jan 6th investigation committee gets down to work we are learning each day how many members of the House GOP caucus are at best witnesses to key events tied to Jan 6th and perhaps in some cases perps. Rep. Jim Jordan got asked again about what conversations he had with President Trump on January 6th. The questions were from Taylor Popielarz who covers the Ohio delegation for Spectrum News. You have to watch the video to appreciate how caught off guard Jordan seemed to be by the question and how flustered and tense he got when pressed on details.

Here’s the video.

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Where Things Stand: Turning Point USA Is Targeting Teens With Anti-Vax Propaganda Prime Badge
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Turning Point USA is pushing anti-vaccine talking points as part of its fundraising efforts.

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A Helluva Spot

Yesterday, Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, went on CNBC to discuss a new study which suggests that the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy drops from about 96% against hospitalization to about 84% after six months. Bourla said that these results match with data emerging out of Israel. “We have seen also data from Israel that there is a waning of immunity and that starts impacting what used to be what was 100% against hospitalization. Now, after the six month period, is becoming low 90s and mid-to-high 80s.”

The good news, says Bourla, is that this can be solved with a booster shot. This all sounds plausible and it’s good news inasmuch as people can get booster shots and get back to higher levels of protection. But study is funded by Pfizer and remember that Pfizer is currently in a tussle with the CDC and the FDA over whether booster shots are actually necessary. A few weeks ago Pfizer announced it was moving ahead with seeking authorization for a third shot and the CDC and FDA, quite curtly, issued a joint statement saying, in so many words, not your call.

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Don’t Sweat Sinema’s Antics

Yesterday, just as the bipartisan infrastructure mini-bill was coming together, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) announced she didn’t support the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan – where most of the Biden agenda is housed. Freak out? I wouldn’t.

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Where Things Stand: It Was Hard To Spit Out, But Jim Jordan Confirmed He Spoke To Trump On Jan 6 Prime Badge
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Amid a stream of words delivered in his typical auctioneer fashion, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) confirmed Wednesday afternoon that he did, in fact, talk to Trump on Jan. 6.

When exactly that conversation happened — before the insurrection, during the attack, after the fact, when Congress was certifying President Joe Biden’s win — couldn’t tell ya.

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Out of Patience with the CDC? Grow the F Up
MELBOURNE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2021/05/17: A nurse gives Sherri Trimble, 15, a shot of the vaccine at a vaccination clinic at Health First Medical Centre.On May 12, 2021, the CDC approved the use of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in 12 through 15-year-old adolescents. Vaccinating this age group is seen as a keyway for middle and high schools to reopen fully by this fall. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I will get to some points about the CDC’s updated masking policy in a moment. But first a few points about the CDC’s decision-making generally. I thought the earlier decision to end the masking guidance for the vaccinated was a mistake. I think the CDC was trying to balance the evolving science with immense public pressure to offer what amounts to a reward for vaccination, to declare the pandemic over or show the benefits of vaccination.

But after yesterday’s updated policy or reversal I kept seeing comments on Twitter, headlines in OpEds and comments from people on TV saying, “That’s it!” “That’s the final nail in the coffin of the CDC’s credibility!” Or ‘the experts’ or Fauci or whoever else. “First it was no masks! Now masks are back! Which is it??!?!!?”

Really people need to get the f*#$ over themselves.

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Where Things Stand: McCarthy Hides From Jan. 6 Testimony Prime Badge
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The House minority leader says he didn’t even watch the hearing he was trying to distract you from.

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Insurrectionists as ‘Political Prisoners’

The main focus of our write-up was the fact that this event was disrupted by protesters. But I wanted to zoom in on what the event was about. It was a bit of counter-programming to today’s hearings, a House GOP press conference discussing the treatment of indicted insurrectionists as “political prisoners.”
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The Jan 6th Insurrection Was The Centerpiece of a Failed Coup by Donald Trump

My colleagues David, Matt and Josh have each addressed this question of the scope of the Jan 6th committee in different ways on the site this morning. I wanted to add my voice to theirs and add some thoughts of my own.

Especially Republicans, but not only Republicans, want to focus any investigation on the narrow questions of the security breach itself. How did the insurrectionists manage to enter the Capitol complex? This is wrong and insufficient on many counts, not least of which is that we basically already know the answer. Just as important it focuses the inquiry on the possible shortcomings of some of the primary victims – Capitol Police officers who failed to protect the premises.

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Jan. 6 Committee Hearing Underway

Follow along with our live coverage here — and don’t miss Matt Shuham’s big piece on the proper scope of committee’s inquiry.

Where Things Stand: Sinister Counter-Programming Prime Badge
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The first hearing of the House’s Jan. 6 select committee starts bright and early Tuesday morning, focused on testimony from key law enforcement witnesses who were defending the Capitol during the mob attack. And we’re expecting varying degrees of hay-making and counter-programming from the GOP.

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Candidate Under Investigation in PA Road Fatality is Vice Chair of CPAC

You see this story about the gubernatorial candidate from Pennsylvania who’s being investigated for his involvement in a fatal motorcycle accident. He apparently drove for miles after the accident with the motorcycle stuck to the front of his car. Charlie Gerow insists he wasn’t the “cause” of the accident. As I said, his role in the accident is currently being investigated by Pennsylvania State Police.

But TPM Reader BH points out that Gerow is not just a candidate for governor. He’s the Vice Chair of the American Conservative Union, the group that puts on CPAC.
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Ex-President Trump says any Republican who signs on to the bipartisan infrastructure deal is a RINO.

“Senate Republicans are being absolutely savaged by Democrats on the so-called “bipartisan” infrastructure bill. Mitch McConnell and his small group of RINOs wants nothing more than to get a deal done at any cost to prove that he can work with the Radical Left Democrats. It is so important to him that he is agreeing to almost anything. Don’t do the infrastructure deal, wait until after we get proper election results in 2022 or otherwise, and regain a strong negotiating stance. Republicans, don’t let the Radical Left play you for weak fools and losers!”

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Major Health Care Orgs Call for Vaccine Mandates for Health Care Workers

Group of major national health care societies and organizations call for mandatory COVID vaccination for all health care workers. Press release after the jump …
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Is Vaxed America Running Out of Patience?

I wanted to share some thoughts and snippets of news following up on the GOP vaccine switcheroo. But first I wanted to share this LA Times article that helped me think more broadly about the issue. Reporter Brittny Mejia went to a pop-up vaccine clinic in LA to talk to people who were finally getting vaccinated after waiting months into their eligibility. The people who turned out at this clinic were mainly Latino immigrants, so not the demographic that has garnered the most attention in the mainstream media discussion. The reasons ranged the gamut: they’d had COVID and assumed continued immunity; they didn’t want to or couldn’t take time from work; they had general apprehensions about a vaccine without a long testing history; they’d heard conspiracy theories women becoming infertile. In some cases, it was perhaps some vague mix of one or more of these and just continuing to put it off – apathy for lack of a better word.

What jumped out to me is that basically none of the couple dozen people who showed up the day Mejia was there had held out for any ideological or political reasons. And in most cases – as their being there to get their shot makes clear – they were ultimately convincible. Many people who have heard stories of alarming side effects can be convinced by actual data or reassurance from people in their community they trust. We can make policy decisions that make it easier on people who don’t feel free to miss a day or more of work.

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Getting Out the Checklist

TPM Reader JL walks us through the data points …

1. The ferocity of the upsurge, at least as measured by new cases has taken me aback to a large degree. Ashish Jha and Scott Gottlieb are my go to sources and I don’t think they expected to see this kind of upsurge in cases.

2. That said, I think you put your finger the other day on a key issue, i.e., that it’s really hard to know how we should be measuring cases among the vaccinated. The line between mild/asymptomatic and the antibodies did exactly what they were supposed to do but there’s enough Covid particles for a positive PCR test is not just blurry but almost impossible to define.

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Behavior Matters Too

Differential vaccine uptake is clearly playing a dominant in COVID severity across the country. But I also think behavior – including but not limited to masks – is playing a bigger role that some imagine. From TPM Reader RS
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Give This A Look
Tom Barrack, former Deputy Interior Undersecretary in the Reagan administration, and CEO of Colony Capital, delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

I wanted to bring this story by Josh Kovensky to your attention.

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Where Things Stand: Half Of House GOPers Are Fueling Vax Skepticism Prime Badge
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Some are staying silent. Others think it’s none of your business. A handful are shamelessly promoting anti-vax rhetoric.

Half of House Republicans will not share their vaccination status, or openly refuse to get the shot.

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The Great Vax Switcheroo Hits the States

According to Brett Kelman, health care reporter for The Tennessean, the state of Tennessee has completely reversed its decision to discontinue near all forms of adolescent vaccine advocacy. “We put a pause on many things, and then we have resumed all of those,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. This decision was a huge story little more than a week ago. Now it’s being completely reversed.

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Back To This

I thought I was done with poring over COVID case data. Things change.

I took a look at what is happening in the US on a state by state basis. It’s stunning to see. The best metric for prevalence of COVID is number of cases adjusted for population. Specifically, I’m looking at the number of new cases over a seven day period per 100,000 residents. Through this prism the crisis is overwhelmingly concentrated in three contiguous states along the Mississippi River: Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. Plus Florida.

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Where Things Stand: Garland Makes DOJ-White House Split Official Prime Badge
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on May 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The Justice Department and the White House have been seeking to put some distance between each other since President Biden first took office. But Attorney General Merrick Garland made it official on Wednesday.

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Biden Namechecks Fox Vax Switcheroo

Even Joe noticed …

Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: Pelosi’s Veto

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is now live! This week, while discussing the fate of the bipartisan infrastructure package, Josh and Kate react in real-time to the news that Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected some of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the Jan. 6 committee.

Watch below and email us your theme song submissions and questions for next week’s episode.

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

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