Stop Calling It The ‘Culture Wars’

INSIDE: Kellyanne Conway ... Devin Nunes ... Liz Cheney
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on reproductive rights as Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra listens during an event at the Roosevelt Room of the White House on ... WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 08: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on reproductive rights as Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra listens during an event at the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 8, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.

Biden Threatens First Veto

There’s a lot to unpack here, and most of the coverage doesn’t quite capture the dynamic.

Republicans have gone to their reliable playbook: turn something into a “partisan” issue in order to undermine consensus, put an issue or constellation of issues off-limits, and exploit the fearfulness of controversy-averse institutions and corporations.

The latest target is ESG.

The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday to rollback a Labor Department rule that makes it okay for investment managers to consider ESG (if that rule sounds pretty tepid, it is). Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (MT) and Joe Manchin (WV) crossed the aisle to help pass the anti-ESG resolution.

Biden has threatened a veto and is expected to follow through on the threat.

We talk about this stuff a lot as part of the “culture wars,” but that bestows a legitimizing gloss on it, as if there is some deeper, truer cultural dispute. There’s not. This a GOP tactic, and a highly effective one in part because media coverage still fails to get it. It gets treated like these things just happen, as if Democrats or Fortune 500 companies stumble into previously unseen cultural war ambushes because they lack a feel for flyover country.

Let me offer one example from a NYT story this week. Note the passive voice here:

The deck on the story reads: “The business world has been pulled into partisan politics, with Republicans bringing their battle against socially conscious investing to Congress.”

The story quotes a consultant, again with the passive voice:

“E.S.G. has been caught in the culture war cross hairs in the U.S.,” said Alexandra Mihailescu Cichon, executive vice president at RepRisk, a company that helps corporations track their E.S.G. goals. “It’s become a liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican issue.”

This doesn’t just happen. Republicans and right-wing activists make it happen. They devote a lot of time, energy and resources to it. While I’m picking on media coverage, credit to the WSJ this week for reporting that Federalist Society notable Leonard Leo is behind an effort spending millions of dollars to target ESG. So real money, real resources. It’s not passive.

By almost any measure, Republicans have already won once they’ve “made it a partisan issue.” What seems to get misunderstood is that that’s the actual goal. Corporations and institutions don’t want to pick sides. They want to play it down the middle. So Republicans keep shifting the “middle” farther and farther right. By this point in these controversies, the game is basically over already.

What’s maddening is that everyone keeps getting played.

Kellyanne Conway Meets With Prosecutors In Hush Money Case

It wasn’t clear whether the former Trump 2016 campaign manager testified to the New York grand jury or merely met with prosecutors in the revived probe into Trump’s hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

Conway’s potential relevance in the probe? The NYT cites former Trump fixer’s Michael Cohens account from his book:

Mr. Cohen has said that Ms. Conway played a small yet notable role in the payment: she was the person Mr. Cohen alerted after making the payment, he wrote in his 2020 memoir.

“I called Trump to confirm that the transaction was completed, and the documentation all in place, but he didn’t take my call — obviously a very bad sign, in hindsight,” he wrote. Instead, he wrote, Ms. Conway “called and said she’d pass along the good news.”

Nunes Defamation Suit Dismissed

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed the defamation lawsuit by former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), now the CEO of Trump’s Truth Social, against CNN and Jake Tapper. Nunes claims he was defamed in a CNN segment on bogus conspiracizing about the attack on Paul Pelosi.

Wahoowa?

Liz Cheney is joining UVa’s Center for Politics as a professor of practice.

CPAC Is Gonna be Different This Year

The groping allegations against CPAC head Matt Schlapp are a big part of the shift for this year’s right-wing/MAGA festival. But there’s more going on.

Semafor: Unsold tickets, fringy sponsors, missing stars: It’s a rough year for CPAC

ABC: Trump and more 2024 hopefuls gather for CPAC — but other big names stay away

Politico invents expectations: Trump is poised for a CPAC love fest or face plant. There is no in between.

Not Sure I Buy It Yet

Just going to leave this here as a potential harbinger, although it’s starting to feel like its own genre of political reporting: Trump’s loosening grip on GOP defines early 2024 campaign

New Findings On Havana Syndrome

A years-long effort by the U.S. intel community concluded that Havana syndrome was “very unlikely” to be the result of a weapon developed by a foreign adversary. The assessment stopped short of discounting the personal health experiences of U.S. government personnel abroad.

Corrected: An earlier version of this item misstated the nature of the assessment.

Michigan Poised To Codify LGBT Protections

The Michigan Senate passed a bill codifying protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill is expected to pass the state House and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Man Arrested After Trying To Check Explosive On A Flight

The Pennsylvania man was arrested Monday after allegedly trying to check a bag containing an explosive for an Allegiant Air flight from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Orlando, according to authorities.

RFK Assassin Denied Parole

Sirhan Sirhan, 78, was denied parole by the California parole board after it was revamped following a 2021 recommendation that he be released.

California Snowin’

Some amazing images from the epic snows blanketing California, with much more in the forecast:

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Clouds hover in the background Hollywood skyline on March 1, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images)

RUNNING SPRINGS, CA – MARCH 01: A church is shown buried under snow in the San Bernardino Mountains area where residents continue to be trapped on March 1, 2023 in Running Springs, California. San Bernardino County has declared a state of emergency as communities remain buried after a series of blizzards shut down all roads into the mountains, leaving the area running low on gas, food and supplies. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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