Two Cheers for Liz Cheney

Let’s not get carried away with her comments, folks. She is Dick Cheney’s daughter, after all. Her voting record is almost 100 percent conservative. But it does take something to go against the grain of the Trump fantasists, 75 percent of whom still believe the election was stolen. For her pains she is probably going to get kicked out of her House leadership job.

Several of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump have been advised that if they keep their heads down, leaders like [Kevin] McCarthy will be more likely to help them with fundraising and campaigning. That probably explains why most of them have gone quiet in recent weeks.

Liz seems morally offended by Trump’s lies about January 6th and the stolen election, calling them “poison in the bloodstream of democracy.” Said one Cheney ally, she “feels an obligation to tell the truth” about Trump. Whereas her peers certainly do not. If Liz has future political ambitions, she is keeping them confidential.

It’s truly a battle of truth against lies, as Michael Gerson sees it. Formerly George W’s chief speechwriter and prominent neoconservative, Gerson has become a neo-Democrat in his writings for the Washington Post, and I enjoy reading his literate commentaries. For instance,

The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar. And because this defining falsehood is so obviously and laughably false, we can safely assume that most Republican leaders who embrace it fall into the second category. Knowingly repeating a lie—an act of immorality—is now the evidence of Republican fidelity.

Peter Wehner, another abiding conservative, examines the crisis confronting his party and its descent into madness. Gripped by fear, Republicans became complicit in Trump’s corruptions. “The danger for the GOP is that those who hope to succeed Trump could lead the party into even more appalling places.”

Liz Cheney surely knows that, and she clearly realizes that Trump’s power over the party will be tested in next year’s elections. She and her few supporting colleagues will be in the battle of their political lives. Says Wehner,

Today Democrats enjoy a rare double-digit lead over Republicans in party favorable ratings, and a recent Gallup poll found the largest Democratic lead in party affiliation over Republicans in nearly a decade (49% compared to 40%).

This is Biden’s opportunity for winning through policy over fear. Despite the conventional wisdom, I would fight the odds by betting on him. The Republicans are setting themselves up to lose the House again.

The Fairy Tale of Bipartisanship

We do love our fairy tales, don’t we? From Aesop to the brothers Grimm, the stories have always taught us to cooperate and work together. Then came Stone Soup, which added a little guile to the mix.

Yet nobody seems to have written a fairy tale of what you do with the playground bully. How do you cooperate with someone who smacks you in the face at every turn? How do you cooperate with people who are committed to flagrant lies and, apparently, to your very extinction?

The White House is surely alive to this dilemma, yet Joe Biden’s ambitious speech to Congress could not openly affirm that bipartisanship is dead without damaging all protocol. And so the startling breadth and extent of his proposals will have to send that message. It’s a smart way to avoid breaking with convention.

The Democrats are in the precarious position of likely losing their feeble majority in the 2022 midterms. The only way they can maintain political sustainability is by rolling the legislative dice. That is what Biden is doing, while paying lip service to bipartisanship. Read this good explanation of why and how he has to “shoot for the moon.”

The roadblock of Joe Manchin on the filibuster cannot last. Biden will have to cut a deal with him. Manchin’s cooperation will have to be bought, and his bipartisan fairy tale seen for what it is. Some kind of deal will be made because the stakes are simply too high.

These things happen in politics, and we should recognize that, as one commentator put it,

The most effective Presidents are those who put forth bold policy ideas and follow through by translating those ideas into law. Doing so requires taking political risks and embracing the challenges of political leadership, which often means persuading supporters to get on board rather than simply doing what is safe.

Opinion seems to be building on the need to forego bipartisanship. Certainly, one lone senator cannot be permitted to disable the kind of prodigious reforms that Biden is putting forward. Fairy tales finally must be distinguished from real life.

Update: Ezra Klein on the folly of bipartisanship:

This is what Manchin gets wrong: A world of partisan governance is a world in which Republicans and Democrats both get to pass their best ideas into law, and the public judges them on the results. That is far better than what we have now, where neither party can routinely pass its best ideas into law, and the public is left frustrated that so much political tumult changes so little.

The Boneheads, continued

It is no news that the United States is the land of the free and the home of the bonehead. We documented a few cases here. But last week saw them coming out of the ground like cicadas. The week’s news confirmed that the species is not confined to Congress.

Mainly, these are the people who refuse to take the vaccine. A recent poll found that 49% of Republican men wouldn’t take it. Some thought it was a scam; others claimed they had natural or God-given immunity.

“I just feel that God created us, made our bodies in such a wonderful way that we can pretty much do our own immunization,” [Ron] Holloway, 75, told The Guardian. “We’re equipped to do that in most cases. I just don’t see the need for it.”

This justification sounds like the Miami Beach partiers talking about their own immunity and their God-given right to stampede and go crazy. Another bonehead, Gov. Ron DeSantis, “has bragged that the state is an ‘oasis of freedom’ during the pandemic —and the stir-crazy are flocking to the state’s restriction-free beaches and nightlife.” De Santis, no stranger to dementia, is expected to run for president in 2024.

The spa murders in Atlanta, however, evidenced something beyond dementia. I found the only way to understand such actions was to reflect on how American culture has continued to generate one violent insanity after another. It is no wonder that we have produced a population of boneheads and misfits.

Yet it was Congress that set the pace last week. You had Sen. Rand Paul arguing about masks with Dr. Fauci. “If you have immunity, they’re theater,” Paul said. “If you already have immunity you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others.” Fauci strongly disagreed, but it was like refuting the willful and repetitive ignorance of a moron.

Earlier, you had Sen. Ron Johnson claiming he felt no threat from the patriots who stormed the Capitol on January 6, but if it had been “Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.” Ron is thinking about retiring, not a bad idea. Then, in a hearing about violence toward Asian Americans, Rep. Chip Roy (R.-Tex.) defended the good old remedy of lynching to “take out the bad guys. . . . We need more justice and less thought policing.”

The Democrats were not exempt from making fools of themselves. We heard the continuing upside-down comments of Sen. Joe Manchin about the filibuster—first agreeing there might be a reason to restore the “talking filibuster,” then dismissing it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under heavy fire for repeated attempts at sexual harassment, claimed he had instituted laws to prevent sexual harassment in New York State. The New York Post encapsulated his defense: “Calm down, ladies. Let’s not get hysterical.”

And finally, we had the image of Biden stumbling and falling while hurrying up the stairs to Air Force One, eager to express youthful vigor, one presumes. Joe, I’ve got a few years on you and have learned never to take the stairs with abandon. Your youthful vigor can be expressed in how well you deal with China and Russia.

And what will the coming week bring?

What’s Next?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Biden’s Win, House Losses, and What’s Next for the Left

 It’s Time to Look Ahead. Today is a victory, but the fight is far from over.

 The 2020 Election Has Brought Progressives to the Brink of Catastrophe

Thank God this overwrought election is behind us. Joe Biden will be a good (interim?) president. Yet major trials of governing are to come, and Joe will need all the good fortune and support his prayers can provide. I’m sure he also knows he’ll need more than prayer.

The election resulted in some Democratic House losses and a split Senate. As many have pointed out, this will make governing arduous and challenging. The near 50-50 split within the country is peculiarly reflected in the split between progressives and centrists in the Democratic party. It’s not up to Joe Biden to resolve this problem; it’s up to the party.

It will be interesting to see how Democrat leadership confronts the challenge. The essence of that issue is something I and many of you have dealt with: I want all the things that Sanders, Warren and AOC have stood for in their most progressive form. You know the list—climate change, healthcare, racial equity, constitutional reform. Yet the political outlook for getting these things passed is, shall we say, grim.

The centrists counter that, particularly with a split Senate, any gains toward those ends will be problematic at best. To get legislation passed, the Democrats have to become “trimmers,” compromisers, some would say, sell-outs. The conundrum is that the essence of politics is compromise, something Mitch McConnell has yet to recognize.

As writer Camonghne Felix puts it, “community organizers and policy makers from communities who bear the brunt of these problems have been offering up policy ideas and solutions, few of which truly exist at the center.” The center has taken control of the party for too long. It “has left marginalized communities on the fringe for decades and has left them out of conversations about who we are as a country. We cannot demand that people ‘Vote for Democrats’ simply because we are not Republicans.”

On Saturday Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came on strong to The New York Times about the need for the party to move left. She made some vigorous points that without active reform the party is heading for obsolescence by taking the John Kasich approach.

If you’re not door-knocking, if you’re not on the internet, if your main points of reliance are TV and mail, then you’re not running a campaign on all cylinders. I just don’t see how anyone could be making ideological claims when they didn’t run a full-fledged campaign.

For the party, facing the challenge of a lifetime in the next four years, it is past time to get its act together. Eric Levitz talks about the structural, constitutional limitations of governing in the U.S. The Senate is the prime example.

If Democrats fail to pull off an improbable triumph in the Peach State [Georgia], then the Biden presidency will be doomed to failure before it starts. With Mitch McConnell in control of the Senate, Biden will not be allowed to appoint a Supreme Court justice, or appoint liberals to major cabinet positions, or sign his name to a major piece of progressive legislation; and that may very well mean that the U.S. government will not pass any significant climate legislation, or expansion of public health insurance, or immigration reform, or gun safety law this decade.

There are no easy ways to escape these binds. Biden’s bittersweet victory notwithstanding, the election has presented us with a bleak outlook for progressivism. Maybe AOC is right—that the party must commit to some truly progressive reforms to regain trust on the part of the electorate.

Really, I Wouldn’t Have a Beer with Either of Them

Trump at the Debate Was Like America in 2020: Not Winning

 ‘The Debates, Like Everything Else in 2020, Were a Dumpster Fire’

 Malaika Jabali: ‘A frustrating debate that ignored big issues’

Trump would be insulting and contentious; Biden would bore you with policy and his accomplishments. That’s pretty much what they did last night at the last (thank God) presidential debate.

For many of us the race has become old and hackneyed, the participants frayed. I spent this morning looking for new insights on the internet and didn’t find many.

Of course I will vote for Biden, but that doesn’t mean he’s an appealing candidate. The man needs a shot of mezcal, not a beer. In the debate he was focused but often bland and wordy. He fumbled on answers regarding the 1994 crime bill and fracking. In his debate prep he could have done more work on sharp, memorable responses, though he did get off a few. Per Susan Glasser in The New Yorker:

“He’s a very confused guy,” Biden said of Trump when the President claimed, per usual, that Biden was some sort of radical socialist pawn. “He thinks he’s running against somebody else. He’s running against Joe Biden.”

Trump babbled incoherently about Hunter Biden’s emails, overriding the moderator, and frequently going off the deep end: “Who built the cages, Joe?” John Neffinger in Politico:

Having set the bar ridiculously low in his last few appearances, President Trump impressed just by not seeming out of control Thursday night. But if he was more conversational, it made it easier to hear him clearly when he declared himself the least racist person in the room, or criticized a public option, or talked about the great care the children he orphaned get, or made fun of Joe Biden talking to Americans about their own families, or declined to answer good questions from Kristen Welker about Covid or the Talk [that Black parents must have with their children about racism].

Malaika Jabali in The Guardian was angry about what she didn’t hear:

There was no discussion about potential domestic voter suppression, less than two weeks before the election. Nothing about far-right white supremacists, who pose the deadliest terror threat in the country. Nothing about policies to reduce racial disparities in unemployment, essential work, Covid-19 deaths and cases, or small business closures.

And not much about climate change except a lot of smoke. Anyhow, as to having a drink with either of these guys, Trump, who doesn’t drink, would be most likely to get in a bar fight and Joe would most likely put one to sleep. We all need better forms of entertainment, something like the new Borat movie which shows Rudy Giuliani in a delightfully compromising position. He too would be among the last guys to have a drink with.

Trump Resignation Speech

Some misguided Democrats have said that we aren’t responding to the needs of our people. In fact, my administration already enacted $3 trillion in economic relief. It’s been very, very successful and you saw that by the numbers that were issued yesterday and the day before as to used car sales and auto production. They’ve been incredible numbers, actually. Our used car sales are way up.

This administration produces incredible numbers. But the Democrats have refused to negotiate so I took matters into my own hands and had this wonderful ceremony at Bedminster, celebrating the great sport of golf, and we’re going to take matters into our own hands now and sign into law another $400 a month for the unemployed, stop the evictions, cancel student loans and the payroll tax.

No president since Lincoln has done as much for this country. But the Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of their poorly run states. You know what states I mean. We don’t have to go through names. But they’ve been very poorly run over the years and we can’t go along with the bailout money. We’re not going to go along with that, especially since it’s not COVID-related.

I am extremely tired of fighting with these Democrat losers who will never recognize the enormous progress we’ve made fighting COVID. Joe Biden and his crew of radical lefties have left God behind and can never recognize the progress we’ve made with outdoor dining, limited indoor dining and most of the other businesses in Arizona and Texas that have remained open and very vibrant. They’re doing just incredibly well. This is an approach and it’s an approach that’s been incredibly successful.

The Democrat losers don’t recognize the importance of getting kids back to school and how vigilant we are in shielding of the elderly and those with underlying conditions. They fight with us constantly and undermine our reelection efforts at every turn. You can’t negotiate with people like this.

I have brought peace and incredible prosperity to this country, only to endure constant sniping and criticism which is affecting my health and prevailing good humor. I aced the cognitive ability test, you know. But my doctors have told me that I have cerebral palsy and must avoid unnecessary stress. Stress kills, they tell me.

So it is with great reluctance that I must resign the office of the Presidency, effective tomorrow. Is it tomorrow, Kayleigh? My poll numbers have no bearing on this decision. Jared Kushner will assist Mr. Pence until the election. Then if he survives it you’ll have four years of Joe Biden. See how you like that.