Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TPM.

Josh Replies to the Slings and Arrows of Those Claiming Digital News Advertising Is Going Great!

So I was very interested to see what seemed yesterday to be a promised vivisection of, well, me, after my post last week about the collapse of programmatic advertising and how it’s affected the news business. That is the post that included the chart of rapidly declining programmatic ad revenues. Gawker alum Foster Kamer linked to a promised takedown from Ben Smith in which Kamer is quoted and calls on everyone to stop “losing their minds at the death of media” because it’s a “very dumb chart.” (That’s yours truly’s chart: cue to Josh rending his garments.) But when I looked at the Ben Smith column it basically just repeated the points I made in the original post. So having been promised that I would be flayed alive, it turned out that wasn’t the case at all. Total low-energy move basically. But the comments did raise a few other issues that I thought worth mentioning.

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Has Ol’ Man Trump Lost His Touch? Prime Badge
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I just noticed a write up on Trump stumbling into saying there’s lots you can do in terms of cutting Social Security and Medicare. The Biden campaign and other Democrats were promptly all over those comments, as you’d expect. But it raises a point that is too little discussed in the campaign dialog. Trump has two big advantages right now. The first is simply that he’s not Joe Biden and Biden’s approval has been low since the fall of 2021. The other is a general sense that things were better before the pandemic. You might say, wait, the pandemic happened on his watch and the worst of it took place during his presidency. But that’s not really the public memory. In any case, those are his two big advantages. And they could get him elected.

What this has tended to obscure, however, is that politically he is very, very rusty. Even in Trumpian terms his speeches these days are disjointed, weird, discordant. And again — not by the standard of who you might want within a mile of the Oval Office. I mean even in terms of Trumpian politics. He’s not the same.

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Biden and Netanyahu Rush to a Breach Prime Badge
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I find it very hard to make sense of what the likely outcomes are. But I wanted to point your attention to a series of developments in the Biden-Netanyahu relationship and the U.S.-Israel relationship that could escalate dramatically very soon. First there’s this article in Haartez which says the U.S. might suspend the sale of offensive weaponry to Israel by later this month. (Unfortunately the piece is paywalled.) The tripwire is a national security memorandum Biden signed last month which gives Israel until March 25th to provide the U.S. with written assurances that weapons sales from the U.S. will only be used in accord with international law and that it will pledge to facilitate and not obstruct aid deliveries into Gaza.

That’s the calendar tripwire.

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What Are They Doing At the Claremont Institute?

One of the big developments of the Trump years is the increasingly central role of a California outfit called the Claremont Institute as a kind of house think tank of Trumpism. If you haven’t had a chance yet to see our big exclusive from over the weekend (thank you, members!) you’ll want to get reading. Our Josh Kovensky got a trove of documents from the secret society planning and recruiting for a white, male, Christian government that will take over after the fall of the American “regime.” And a central player in that group is none other than the head of the Claremont Institute. Check our exclusive report out here.

Check Out This New Exclusive from TPM

I hope you have a chance to check out our new exclusive from TPM’s Josh Kovensky. Josh got access to a trove of documents from a secret society of right-wing Christian men who are on a crusade to build a Christian government-in-waiting for after the right achieves “regime change” in the United States, either through a civil war or a “national divorce.” The group goes by a fairly anodyne name, the Society for American Civic Renewal. But that belies the extremism of the program.

Of course you and your three weirdo pals can call yourself a secret society. And we’ve seen examples of militia groups or boogaloo boys saying some of the same things. What’s different here though is that these aren’t people on the fringe. They are people who present as respectable business leaders, academics, think tankers. Indeed, one of their number is the President of the Claremont Institute, which, in recent years, has functioned as a kind of brain trust of Trump campaign intellectuals. It’s fascinating, disturbing and important story and your memberships made it possible. You can read it here.

How Did Biden Do in the SOTU? Prime Badge
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With a day’s reflection my thoughts on last night’s State of the Union are pretty similar to what they were right afterwards. As I was telling my sons this morning, there are all sorts of objective standards about what counts as a good speech, good communication, good organization, etc. But those aren’t usually that relevant in a political context. It’s better to be a good public speaker than not, of course. But what’s good or not good really only has any meaning in a specific political context and as it relates to trying to achieve a certain goal.

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First Thoughts on the SOTU

I thought this was a strong speech. Strong on a few different fronts. Biden got into it a few times with House Republicans which he and his advisors clearly wanted to happen. He also got some good applause lines and clippable moments where he called out things like Republicans killing the border bill. He hit a number of policy points where Biden’s policies are just much more popular than Republican ones. State of the Unions can play a big role because they allow a President to make a key point that maybe just hasn’t broken through before. Here everyone’s watching. So a President can force the matter. There are probably ten other boxes they checked more or less well.

But a political speech is only really good or bad judged against a specific, contextual need. Bill Clinton’s SOTUs were often plodding and, for political insiders, boring. But they usually accomplished his specific political goals. In this case, Democrats have been worried. Worried about the stakes of this election. Worried about the poll numbers. They’ve been worried about whether Biden has the energy and whatever else to really do this. Can he be vigorous? Can he show up and deliver? Does he have the energy to get this done? Answering that question in the affirmative was in many ways the first, second and third goal of this speech. And on that measure he did very well.

As he had the confidence to dwell on towards the end of the speech, Biden is an old man. He’s over 80 years old. But I think people who’ve had these doubts, Democrats who have been worried … I think they will see this speech and think, “Ok, I think we can do this.”

Let’s Do This!

10:26 PM: So far, so good.

9:47 PM: In the pre-Trump era I might have thought, hey we shouldn’t have political slogans on a State of the Union night. But, that’s a bygone era. We’re in a call and response era now.

9:34 PM: Johnson’s facial expressions through the J6 stuff was remarkable. He didn’t know how to play it. He ended up shaking his head through a lot of it.

9:30 PM: Biden is clearly going to use this speech in part to try to taunt Republicas to have outbursts at completely uncontroversial things.

See our Live Blog over to the right (if you’re on the desktop site). I’ll be sharing my thoughts here in the Ed Blog.

Can This New Alabama Law Possibly Stand Judicial Scrutiny?

The whole Alabama/IVF situation is an example of the number of absurd logical culs-de-sac you get into when you start with premises that are, at least to many of us, not only absurd but which at least a number of these premises supporters don’t even entirely believe. As noted below, Alabama has now passed a law which leaves in place the idea that embryos are full people in the state but gives people immunity from prosecution or civil liability if you kill one of these people.

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Alabama Now Says You Won’t Get In Trouble If You Murder Your Embryo … If It’s for IVF Prime Badge
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No, really. That’s pretty much what the Alabama legislature just did with a new law, hastily passed and now signed by the state’s governor.

As you know, Alabama created a firestorm last month when the state’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos in IVF clinics are the legal equivalent of minor children. This ruling sent shockwaves through the United States, pushed a new dimension of the Dobbs/abortion debate to the top of the national election debate and temporarily shuttered the state’s IVF fertility clinics. In response Alabama has now passed a law which appears to have created enough legal assurance to allow the state’s clinics to reopen. This is not just a win for reproductive rights in the state. Numerous couples had their ongoing fertility treatment halted by the ruling.

But as in-state critics have made clear, the new legislation is at best a band-aid rather than a solution.

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