Understanding Manchin #1

In general I don’t think I wholly agree with TPM Reader GT’s take here. This is likely right as a general matter. But what makes me very leery of underestimating Manchin is that he has managed to win three Senate elections (2010, 2012 and 2018) during a period when West Virginia has gone from being a very to an overwhelmingly Republican state in terms of national politics.

Here’s GT

I like your point on Manchin’s position is simply confusing. Here is how I resolve that. I’ve been minorly active in my small state’s Democratic party. I’ve met state legislators and similar. And, not to be mean, but a lot of these people are simply not that talented. Being in small state politics is kind of the boobie prize for the provential elite. Your friends make all the money in real estate and other while you play student council in the state legislature where the majority leadership does everything.

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Where Things Stand: The Drip Drip Of Proof Prime Badge
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CNN exclusively obtained audio of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s messy conversation with Ukrainian officials, attempting to pressure the government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden.

It didn’t reveal much beyond confirming what we already knew and have known since the first impeachment — there was a quid pro quo.

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Trump and Netanyahu and the Politics of Burn It All Down Prime Badge

From an American perspective the most interesting thing right now about the political crisis in Israel is how closely it maps to the one in the United States: a right wing political leader who simply refuses to accept losing office. Since we discussed this last Netanyahu and his supporters have continued the campaign of incitement against the right wing members of the incoming government. After the head of the country’s domestic security service issued an all but unprecedented warning about incitement and the risk of civil violence or assassinations, Netanyahu responded with even more incitement. In reply he made a perfunctory statement about incitement and then told his supporters to “let’em have it.” So, not really getting the message.

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Don’t Worry About It? Prime Badge

On the infrastructure front, TPM Reader MC thinks Manchin’s talk is mostly just talk, made to put himself at the center of the conversation and maximize his leverage when final negotiations get underway on an actual bill. I will add that this is broadly consistent with what I’ve heard from people close to the decision-making processes. And it’s always seemed to me like the most likely scenario. Still, hope is not a plan.

Your recent post is great, but to my mind misses something about Manchin’s possible decision process.

It’s been known for a long time that drafting the infrastructure legislation would take awhile. Back in early April, Pelosi said publicly that she hoped the text would be ready by July 4, with a vote in August. The timeline hasn’t been extended by Manchin’s hemming and hawing.

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Where Things Stand: Willing Hostages With No Agenda Prime Badge
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Former President Trump spoke at a GOP convention gathering in North Carolina over the weekend, where he not only gave his endorsement in the state’s crowded Republican primary for an open Senate seat, but also vowed to continue weighing in on races that will be crucial to the party’s midterm success.

The key ingredient to earning that coveted Trump endorsement, of course, remains fealty to the former president and his ongoing list of grievances.

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Making Sense of the Big DC Summer #2

Sometimes a writer will take a bundle of ideas that have been floating around in a lot of other peoples’ heads and commit them to paper with clarity and concision. If you are one of the other people in whose mind the ideas have been floating, seeing this happen can be both illuminating and annoying. But if someone else wrote them down before you did it likely wasn’t just a matter of speed. It was because you hadn’t done the work of taking the inchoate impressions and feelings that occupy all of our minds and whittling them down to concrete assertions and arguments that others can readily understand. We don’t really know what we think until we are able to commit it to the written word.

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Making Sense of the Big DC Summer #1 Prime Badge

I got a decent amount of pushback on this rather pessimistic post I published Friday evening about the fate of the President’s legislative agenda – particularly for saying the White House was ‘adrift’. This is particularly about the President’s two big infrastructure bills. But it’s also about the President’s broader and quite ambitious legislative agenda – S1/H1 and a raft of other bills which would require some tweaking or squeezing of the filibuster because they can’t be passed through the 50 vote reconciliation process and they won’t get 60 votes.

First, it’s good to hear from you. If you’re involved in the process either at the White House or on the Hill or in the broader para-political process, please get in touch. Hit me at the main TPM email or my personal email and if you need a secure messaging option I can make that happen too.

On to the details.

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How the Death of a 99 Year Old Arch-Segregationist Helps Explain The Trumpite GOP Prime Badge

John Patterson, former segregationist Governor of Alabama, died on Friday at the age of 99. In an interview with The Washington Post for what would later be his obituary, he said “Having a record of supporting segregation is a terrible burden to bear.” In 2008 he announced he’d be voting for Barack Obama for President, 50 years after his election as Governor.

Patterson is one of the last in a pretty long list of segregationist luminaries who later came to regret and recant their support for Jim Crow. We’re right to have limits on our patience for too much of these latter-day apologies. But Patterson’s story is instructive for understanding the current drive of radicalization within the Republican party.

All of these guys were segregationists to start with and all of them were racists, certainly by the standards of today and in pretty much every case by the standards of their own. But pretty few of them were the most racist and few got into politics with strong positions either way on segregation or the racial politics of their day.

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Israel on the Brink Prime Badge

I’ve mentioned a few times that Israel appears to be on course for a Jan 6th type moment. The possibility of that seems much more serious than when I first suggested it. The chance that Netanyahu and his supporters will be able to break free a few defectors from the new coalition government and prevent it from being sworn in seems perhaps to be diminishing. But the chance of violence of some sort or at least the expectation of it seems to be growing rapidly. The head of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, just issued what seems to be an all but unprecedented warning that the climate of incitement threatens not only violence but a breakdown of the democratic order itself. The message seems clear aimed at Netanyahu without mentioning him by name.

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How Netanyahu Could Still Remain in Power Prime Badge

Benjamin Netanyahu’s dozen years as Israel’s Prime Minister are most likely coming to an end. The new government should be sworn in sometime next week. But it’s still not a done deal because Netanyahu and many of his supporters view his removal from office – even by a unity government led by one of his former proteges – as existential. I’ve mentioned several times the January 6th analogy. But every political system has different mechanisms and every country has a unique political culture. So how could Netanyahu manage to remain in power either by norm-busting but still technically legitimate means or by extra-legal and extra-constitutional means?

Let’s start with the central fact: For the moment the new government is only a proposed government. To come formally into power it must be approved by a vote of 61 members of the Knesset, the country’s parliament. The coalition has to keep everyone on board for several days so they cast those 61 votes.

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Israel Gallops Toward Its Own Jan 6th Prime Badge

By rights, it’s over and in effect it probably is over. Last night Israel’s opposition finalized and formally agreed to create a coalition government that will remove Benjamin Netanyahu from power. The coalition stretches from the right to the left and includes an Arab Israeli Islamist party. The architect of the new government is opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose deftness, patience and self-abnegation in this effort is really hard to capture or overstate. He has the signed document, which will make the right-wing Naftali Bennett Prime Minister for the government’s first two years, and he’s brought that to the country’s President. In the Israeli system, that’s it, all but the formality of the parties who just agreed to the deal voting it into power in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

But Netanyahu isn’t letting go.

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TPM Inside Briefing With Paul Krugman Prime Badge

Yesterday we held an Inside Briefing with Paul Krugman in which we discussed pretty much all the economic policy questions (and the political debates growing out of them) of the early Biden presidency. We talk about the Biden infrastructure plan, inflation, chronic under-investment, Larry Summers, whether deficits matter and more.

If you’re a member, you can watch our discussion after the jump. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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Where Things Stand: Trump Is Only Now Catching Up To The MyPillow Guy Prime Badge
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By now you’ve likely seen new reporting from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman: Former President Trump is telling people that he expects he will be “reinstated” to the presidency in August.

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In this Jan. 31, 2014 photo David Pecker,  David Pecker, Chairman and CEO of American Media, addresses those attending the Shape & Men's Fitness Super Bowl Party in New York. The Aug. 21, 2018 plea deal reached by Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen has laid bare a relationship between the president and Pecker, whose company publishes the National Enquirer. Besides detailing tabloid’s involvement in payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to keep quiet about alleged affairs with Trump, court papers showed how David Pecker, a longtime friend of the president, offered to help Trump stave off negative stories during the 2016 campaign. (AP Photo/Marion Curtis)
Thunder in the Distance Prime Badge

With Texas Democrats refusing to attend a state legislative session in an effort to block the state’s election crackdown law it reminded TPM Reader MR of a similar instance 18 years ago. It was a story I covered closely at TPM, and MR dropped me a note this morning reminding me. It’s more than just a trip down memory lane. What happened in 2003 in Texas was a preview, prologue to almost everything that would happen over the subsequent two decades. It presaged the debt ceiling hostage taking; it presaged Merrick Garland; and it presaged Donald Trump.

As we know from looking forward to the 2022 midterm, once a decade there’s a federal Census, a reapportionment of congressional seats and redistricting in every state that has more than one representative. It happened in 2010, setting the ground work for Republicans storming back into the majority in the House. Democrats rightly fear something similar will happen next year.

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Some Thoughts on the COVID ‘Lab Leak’ Theory Prime Badge

Are you having trouble keeping up on the press discussion of a ‘lab leak’ theory of the origins of COVID? Here are a few pointers.

Broadly speaking, there’s seldom been an example of a more rapid shift in public opinion or rather elite conventional wisdom in the face of so little changing evidence. A bunch of right wing or right-adjacent columnists are running around high-fiving each other and patting themselves on the back about how “the media” got it wrong.

On balance, this isn’t true. What happened is that from the outset China-hawks who were largely out to defend Donald Trump made a series of baseless accusations about COVID either being a bioweapon or the accidental release of a Chinese biological warfare weapon. When that got shot down (there’s strong genomic evidence against this), they retreated to a more conventional lab accident as their pet theory. The best one can say is that most journalists became reflexively skeptical to all such claims since they were mainly coming from people who are professional liars with obvious axes to grind.

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Where Things Stand: A Big Lie Weekend Prime Badge
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A few prominent Republicans and Trump allies opted to celebrate one of America’s more patriotic federal holidays by hanging out with QAnon supporters and promoting the big lie.

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We’ll Know in the Next Three Days Whether Netanyahu is Done Prime Badge

Never say never and all that. But it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu’s dozen years as PM may be on the verge of ending. He was on the same precipice two weeks ago when his erstwhile ally and protege Naftali Bennett was negotiating to form a government with opposition leader Yair Lapid. Then the outbreak of inter-communal violence within Israel and another shooting war with Gaza led Bennett to foreswear that option and go back to negotiating with Netanyahu. Now Bennett is back to apparently finalizing that deal with Lapid.

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Where Things Stand: As Commission Vote Fails, Gaetz Flirts With Idea Of Political Violence Prime Badge
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UNITED STATES - JULY 1: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,attends the House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in Longworth Building on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) continued their tour of terribleness last night.

As arguably the most Trumpy and scandal-plagued lawmakers in the House, the two have been holding a series of weird MAGA rallies around the country in recent weeks for unclear reasons — perhaps to prove their fealty to the master, to burnish their brand, or just because the two have nothing better to do. One has no committee assignments because she threatened violence against her now-colleagues on social media in the past. The other is under federal investigation for the possible sex trafficking of a minor. As Trump maintains — only the best people.

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Takeaways from the Jan 6 Filibuster Prime Badge
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, make their way to a news conference in the Capitol after the Senate passed a continuing resolution to reopen the government on January 22, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans using the filibuster to block the creation of a Jan 6th Commission is both despicable and entirely unsurprising. But the vote itself – which was 54 Yeas and 35 neas – compels us to note and consider a few points.

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Yep, I’m Starting to Worry Prime Badge

As far as I can tell, no one thinks HR1/S1 is going to be passed in this Congress. Negotiations over a ‘hard’ infrastructure bill currently have a White House proposal of $1.7 trillion and a GOP proposal which, once you wipe away the whip cream and sprinkles, is about $200 billion. And yet negotiations are continuing.

In recent days I see lots of complaints that ‘the Democrats’ are about to blow it on electoral reform, infrastructure and much else. This is wrong. The issue isn’t ‘the Democrats’. It’s a handful of centrist Senate Democrats who simply refuse to use the power at their disposal to pass these laws with 50 votes. In fact, it’s really just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and probably at the end of the day just Manchin. The distinction is important because it’s easy to demoralize yourself. It’s easy for a political party to demoralize itself. It’s easy for people who have their own agendas to demoralize people because they think it serves their factional political interests. If you lived through the Obama years and think, ‘wow, did we really not learn this lesson?’ ‘what’s wrong with you people?’ well, that’s going to cause a lot of frustration and make you wonder just who’s calling the shots and what they’re thinking.

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Where Things Stand: There’s A Lot More Support For QAnon Conspiracy Theories Than You’d Think Prime Badge
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As expected, Republicans are the main group of Americans who support some of the most outlandish conspiracy theories connected to the QAnon movement.

But a lot more Americans believe in some aspects of the far-right conspiracy theory than you’d think.

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Mitch Has a Big Interest in Saying the DOJ has Jan 6 Covered Prime Badge
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 1: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., conducts a news conference in the U.S. Capitol after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

Over many years and in many contexts I have argued that in cases of great public corruption and wrongdoing we place far too much emphasis and priority on criminal investigations and too little on public investigations and accountings. Both kinds of inquiry have their place. Generally both can ride in their own lane and not interfere with each other. But to the extent they bump up against each other we should prioritize the public investigations.

Take the Mueller probe. Our public interest in this or that person serving a few months or years in prison is far less than our public interest in finding out what happened and who is responsible for it. Criminal investigations are, rightly, highly secretive. Their mandate is rightly limited. That leaves the public interest too often out in the cold.

As I said, this is a longstanding belief of one and one that applies in numerous cases. But it has a particular relevance to the controversy over a Jan 6th Insurrection. Republicans are using every argument they know to deny, diminish and ‘move on’ from what happened on January 6th. Because they did it. Opposing a commission is just one part of that.

But there’s more to it than that.

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Is Evangelical Support for Israel a Brittle Branch? Prime Badge
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 18:  Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Israel Ambassador Ron Dermer attend the Champions Of Jewish Values international gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 18, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by J Carter Rinaldi/FilmMagic)

One of the complexities and anguishes that many American Jews feel about Israel today is not only that there is a growing cleavage between how American Jews and Israelis see the occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is also the increasing tendency, especially on the Israeli right, to say ‘who cares about American Jews?’, who make up only a tiny sliver of the US population, and focus rather on white evangelicals who make up a big chunk of the US population and have, albeit for very different reasons, a deep devotion to Israel. This fact came to the fore earlier this month, during the inter-communal violence in Israel and the fighting in Gaza, when Ron Dermer, former Ambassador to the US, said Israel should prioritize evangelicals over American Jews as the anchor of its relationship to the US. American Jews, Dermer reasoned, were in any case “disproportionately among our critics.”

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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28:  Rudy Giuliani attends the game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on May 28, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City.MLB players across the league are wearing special uniforms to commemorate Memorial Day.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Where Things Stand: Sicknick’s Mom Requests Meetings With Every Single Senate GOPer Prime Badge
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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 3: A U.S. Capitol Police Officer holds a program for the ceremony memorializing U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, 42, as he lies in honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. Officer Sicknick was responding to the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, when he was fatally injured while physically engaging with the mob. Members of Congress will pay tribute to the officer on Wednesday morning before his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post/POOL)

The mother of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol police officer who died after the insurrection, is trying to pressure Senate Republicans to take the Jan. 6 commission bill seriously.

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More on GOP/Proud Boy Fusion Party in Nevada Prime Badge

Here’s a bit more on the situation in the Clark County, Nevada GOP.

Yesterday, Jon Ralston – the dean of Nevada political reporters – riffed on my post below. He also added some additional context that wasn’t clear to me.

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