Please note the following thoughts courtesy @SethMeyers & @Colbert:
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Monday, May 10, 2021
Saturday, May 8, 2021
We present a snapshot of discourse throughout in the week on the week that was in America on this Mothers' Day Week-End in America. Happy Mothers Day to all the Wonderful Mothers':
When Senator Joseph McCarthy was caught on national television pressing a case built on falsehoods against the supposed threat of communism in the U.S. Army, it was his breaking point.
Edward R. Murrow gave voice to a frustrated public as it awoke to the bamboozling, and McCarthy’s political career was done.
When President Donald Trump perpetrated the false narrative that his re-election had been stolen from him, leading his supporters into what became a fatal attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he was booted from Twitter and Facebook. But he didn’t lose most of his support.
And for the Republican Party’s rank-and-file, whose modern-day Murrow is Tucker Carlson, that falsehood is still the dominant narrative.
That fact is hitting home hard today for Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, whose refusal to bow to Trump’s lies has put her on the brink of being purged from G.O.P. leadership. In a tweet on Monday, Cheney called out Trump and anyone promoting his stolen election narrative for “spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
For House Republicans in thrall to a Trump-loyalist base, and who just weeks earlier had voted down an attempt to depose her, Cheney’s challenge to the story line was a bridge too far. The effort to remove her regained momentum, and today Representative Steve Scalise, the Republican whip, became the highest-ranking member of his party to publicly support Cheney’s ouster.
Cheney has not shied from the fight: Late this afternoon, she published an op-ed in The Washington Post entreating her fellow Republicans to respect “the rule of law,” and to be mindful of the eyes of history. “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” she wrote.
In the process, they will decide on her fate: House Republicans are expected to hold a vote as early as next week on whether to relieve her of her leadership post.
“This is not good for the party, certainly not good for a party that has had problems with suburban women, educated women — to go at somebody because they’re speaking what most of them know is the truth,” said Barbara Comstock, a former Republican congresswoman who represented a district in suburban Virginia until she was swept out by the anti-Trump blue wave in 2018. “Ronald Reagan, who is why I became a Republican, certainly allowed for dissent in his own party, and for people to be critical. I think it’s a very disturbing development.”
Representative Elise Stefanik, who hails from an upstate New York district, has emerged as the party’s choice to replace Cheney, and her own history works as a metaphor for what’s going on with the G.O.P. more broadly.
Stefanik flipped her district red in 2014, and she had amassed a relatively moderate record until her aggressive questioning of Democratic witnesses during Trump’s first impeachment trial, which earned her direct praise from him. She took his endorsement and ran with it, and in the past year-plus has become a staunch ally to his cause. She disputed the election results in Pennsylvania in a House vote on Jan. 6, and she later voted against impeaching him.
Her policies, of course, are another thing entirely. The 36-year-old Stefanik actually voted with Trump less often during his four years as president than Cheney did. Notably, she voted against his signature tax cut bill, which Republicans are now hastening to defend.
But the line that’s being drawn in the Republican sand isn’t about policy. It’s about loyalty to a narrative of Trump’s creation, and in G.O.P. primaries across the country, contravening can be fatal.
“The challenge is that members don’t want to be primaried,” said Glen Bolger, a veteran Republican pollster. “These seats are mostly drawn as Democratic or Republican seats, so the way to lose isn’t in November, it’s in a primary.”
Still, he added, “the difference between being a majority or a minority is decided in November. But politicians, understandably so, think of themselves first, and what’s good for me is good for the party.”
In Texas, a primary election last weekend in a suburban House district set up a confrontation between the two wings of the party. A Trump-backed Republican, Susan Wright, won nearly 20 percent of the vote, while Jake Ellzey, a Republican who has the endorsement of former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, came in second place. The two candidates now advance to a runoff, and here’s the rub: All the district’s voters will be eligible to participate, not just Republicans.
In the Senate, most Republican lawmakers have done their best to look away from the 211-car pileup taking place in the House Republican Conference, and have mostly moved on from discussions of the 2020 election. But there’s far less willingness to do so among House Republicans, whose every-two-year election cycle keeps them in closer conversation with the party’s base.
And a flamboyant coterie of relatively young Republican lawmakers in the House has begun to emerge, led in part by Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a frequent presence on Fox News and prominent Trump ally, who has helped put Stefanik in position for her ascent.
Just a month ago, Cheney seemed to have survived the attempt on her political life; her allies in the Wyoming state legislature beat back an effort to change election rules that would have imperiled her in the 2022 primary. The former Republican speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner committed to helping her fund-raise.
Cheney had decided against a run for Senate last year because she saw an auspicious future in the House leadership, possibly even as speaker.
But now she finds herself at odds with a party whose leader is silent in the press but still a fan favorite among the party faithful. “A guy who got 47 percent is not the future of our party,” Comstock said, referring to Trump’s total in the 2020 election. “The toxic personality divided our country and is now dividing our party.”
A Facebook board upholds the platform’s ban of Trump.
By Mike Isaac
A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers on Wednesday upheld the social network’s ban of Donald Trump, ending any immediate return by the former president to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.
Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court over the company’s content decisions, ruled that the social network was right to bar Trump after the insurrection in Washington in January, saying he “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.” The panel said that ongoing risk “justified” the move.
But the board also kicked the case back to Facebook and its top executives. It said that an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate” because it was not a penalty defined in Facebook’s policies and that the company should apply a standard punishment, such as a time-bound suspension or a permanent ban. The board gave Facebook six months to make a final decision on Trump’s account status.
“Our sole job is to hold this extremely powerful organization, Facebook, accountable,” Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, said on a call with reporters. The ban on Trump “did not meet these standards,” he said.
The decision adds difficulties to Trump’s attempts to rejoin mainstream social media, a key source of his clout that he used during his White House years to directly cajole his tens of millions of followers, exploit their grievances, set policy and criticize opponents. Twitter and YouTube had also cut off Trump in January after the insurrection at the Capitol, saying the risk and potential for violence that he created were too great.
But while Trump’s Facebook account remains suspended, he may be able to return to the social network once the company reviews its action. Trump still holds tremendous sway over Republicans, with his false claims of a stolen election continuing to reverberate.
In a statement, Trump did not directly address the board’s ruling. But he slammed Facebook, Google and Twitter — some of which have been major fund-raising platforms for him — and called them corrupt.
“Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” he said.
Trump’s continued Facebook suspension gave Republicans, who have accused social media companies of suppressing conservative voices, new fuel against the platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has testified in Congress several times about whether the social network has shown bias against conservative political views. He has denied it.
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With help from Myah Ward
AFTER CHENEY — Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) seemingly imminent ouster from her spot as the No. 3 Republican in House leadership will reverberate inside the GOP in 2021 and beyond.
Her probable successor, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, made her reputation when she defended Trump during his first impeachment hearing. But Stefanik wasn’t always a Trump loyalist. How might she help shape the Republican Party’s future? Nightly chatted with campaign editor and Ithaca native Scott Bland , who covered her first campaign for the House, in 2014, over Slack today about his fellow upstate New Yorker’s rise. This conversation has been edited.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) | Anna Moneymaker/Pool via Getty Images
How is Stefanik seen in New York State?
She came into Congress in 2014 with this kind of moderate, new-ideas sheen about her. At the time, she was the youngest woman ever elected to the House.
Still, there wasn’t anything particularly striking about her. She was a pretty conventional Republican at the time, and she had a deep Republican résumé in Washington to go with her upbringing in the area. She was a staffer in the Bush White House and the Romney-Ryan 2012 campaign, among other things, before she moved home to run for Congress. And when she did, she got a lot of support from D.C., including from Ryan and a big super PAC.
How did she vault her way from that to House leadership?
Before she became nationally known as a Trump defender, she was seen as a rising star among a smaller group of Washington Republicans. She certainly wasn’t a big Trump fan in 2016 — she was, for a time, one of those Republican officeholders who would say “I plan to support the nominee” without explicitly saying his name. But, without getting into motivations or anything like that, it’s clear that coming around on Trump has been good for business for Stefanik.
Something I thought was really interesting while thinking about Stefanik’s rise was the evolution of her district, which is basically the northeast corner of New York State. When she first won it, Barack Obama had just carried it twice — and he actually improved his performance slightly in 2012 compared to 2008, even though his overall national vote share declined.
That seems to me like kind of an indictment of the traditional Republican Party that she was aligned with at that point, and specifically of the Romney-Ryan campaign. But Trump carried the district by double digits since then. It’s an Obama-Trump district.
Are you surprised to see her star take off?
Ha, I wouldn’t say surprised. This doesn’t really crack the list of the most surprising things that have happened since Stefanik broke into Congress. It’s always been clear that she’s talented.
But this situation, specifically, is just such a surprising way to rise, isn’t it? Liz Cheney just defeated an effort to remove her from leadership pretty resoundingly a few months ago, and now here we are. That’s the surprising part to me.
Totally. What does it say about where the GOP is headed?
Trump is obviously still a huge factor in every little piece of internal party politics. You can see this in everything from contests for state and local party chair positions to the upper echelons of Congress. I know it’s a basic fact of life right now, but it still is worthwhile to sit back and think about how remarkable that is, considering he just became the first president to lose reelection since 1992.
Thursday, May 6, 2021
Monday, May 3, 2021
It was International Workers Day Around the World. Our team curated a few #RandomThoughts On Workers Day (May Day) and on the week that was as we look forward to the privilege to serve:
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Presented by NextEra Energy
With help from Allie Bice and Daniel Payne
Welcome to POLITICO’s 2021 Transition Playbook, your guide to the first 100 days of the Biden administration
The Biden White House has a message for congressional Democrats and allies: eating the rich is popular — so act like it.
In a memo exclusively obtained by Transition Playbook that is set to be sent to fellow Democrats this evening, senior adviser ANITA DUNN argues that “we need to restore basic fairness to the tax code, and in the process generate revenues to invest in our competitiveness, children, and economy. And, the American people agree.”
The memo — entitled “The American People Support President Biden’s Tax Proposals” — spotlights several recent polls showing majority support for raising capital gain taxes on those who make over $1 million per year and for raising corporate taxes. President JOE BIDEN has already called for raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to help pay for his infrastructure package; he’s expected to pitch raising capital gains taxes on Wednesday night in his first joint address to Congress.
“If critics want to turn this into a debate over taxing the wealthy and big corporations to pay for investments in the middle class, we’re happy to have that fight,” said one White House official. “The American public is squarely on our side – it’s not even close.”
A fight over raising corporate taxes could put some Republicans in an awkward spot as many GOP leaders are trying to rebrand as the “working class” party and build on the inroads DONALD TRUMP made with those voters. They’ve also been threatening corporations for weighing in on cultural issues and voting rights legislation in several states. But while congressional Republicans are likely united in their opposition to Biden raising any taxes, there are some divisions about how much the party should focus on the issue as they try to fight Biden’s proposals.
"I don’t think you will see Republicans advocate for higher taxes but the enthusiasm to oppose them has waned considerably in recent years,” said a senior aide to a high-ranking GOP House member. “Why should Republicans continue to do the bidding of corporations when they don’t have the best interest of voters in mind?”
That echoes Biden’s pollster JOHN ANZALONE who has also been urging Democrats to go on the offensive when it comes to talking tax hikes, as Axios reported.
It’s not clear how much Biden himself will lean into the fight during his speech. And while Dunn’s memo frames taxing the wealthy as a political winner, there appear to be some places on that front where the White House won’t go. The president will not call for raising the estate tax to pay for his infrastructure and care initiatives, as first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Transition Playbook.
Biden ran on raising taxes, but he shied away from some of the more aggressive rhetoric of BERNIE SANDERS (who introduced a tax bill with the acronym of “STOP BEZOS”) or ELIZABETH WARREN who sold “Billionaire Tears” mugs.
While that line got all the press, it was Biden’s next sentence that was more revealing: “When you have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution.” That focus carried over into the transition with longtime Biden aide TED KAUFMAN making a commitment to fighting income equality something of a litmus test for members of the economic team.
The Biden team also looks poised to keep its tax plans focused on the ultra-wealthy. Dunn argued that Americans are against hiking the gas tax to pay for infrastructure, citing a recent poll conducted by Data for Progress and Invest in America that found 59 percent of voters (including 68 percent of Republicans) “oppose gas taxes to fund increased investment.” (The gas tax, of course, affects millions of Americans making less than $400,000 a year, whom Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on.)
Trade groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Trucking Associations have lobbied in favor of raising the gas tax as a way to pay for the infrastructure spending.
The Chamber has argued that while voters might say they back raising the corporate tax rate, they don’t realize that corporations might pass increased costs onto them.
“When you tell somebody, ‘Hey, would you want corporations to pay for infrastructure?’ everyone says yes,” said ED MORTIMER, the Chamber’s vice president for transportation and infrastructure.
But it’s the customer “that is going to end up paying for any potential corporate tax increase,” he added.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus also pitched raising the gas tax, which isn’t indexed to inflation and hasn’t been hiked since 1993, in a report on Friday. But Rep. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-N.J.), the group’s Democratic co-chair, immediately disavowed the recommendation.
“Personally, I'm against raising the federal gas tax,” he tweeted.
The White House has also thrown cold water on the idea, due to the tax being regressive. “We don't believe that the cost [of the infrastructure bill] should be on the backs of the American people,” White House press secretary JEN PSAKI told reporters earlier this month. “We believe that corporations should be able to bear the brunt for investing in America's workers.”
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With help from Allie Bice and Daniel Payne
Welcome to POLITICO’s 2021 Transition Playbook, your guide to the first 100 days of the Biden administration
Through the course of JOE BIDEN’s presidential campaign, SARAH MORGENTHAU, an attorney and former Obama administration official, was both a public and behind-the-scenes force.
She was national co-chair of Lawyers for Biden, a prolific fundraiser and a volunteer on national security policy groups for the campaign. She served as a surrogate who was frequently quoted in national publications about the trajectory of the race or the temperature of donors.
At the same time, Morgenthau was having discussions with TONY BLINKEN (now secretary of State) and BRIAN McKEON (now deputy secretary of State for management) about a century-old ethnic cleansing campaign that a U.S. president had yet to formally recognize: the Armenian genocide.
Morgenthau has a powerful connection to the tragedy, one that dates back more than 100 years and is intimately entwined with her family history.
She is the great-granddaughter of HENRY MORGENTHAU SR., the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who in 1915 documented systematic atrocities against Armenians.
On Saturday, Biden became the first U.S. president to call the mass killings a genocide, a designation Turkey had actively lobbied against for decades. In the sea of coverage over the weekend, Morgenthau Sr.’s role and his standing in the Armenian community were repeatedly highlighted.
Among the Armenian diaspora, he is an exalted figure, a hero for sounding the alarms and dispatching detailed, contemporaneous accounts of "a campaign of race extermination,” as his cable to the State Department on July 16, 1915, said.
“Joseph Biden's recognition of the Armenian Genocide is the affirmation of a legacy of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau,” said ROUBEN ADALIAN, director of the Armenian National Institute. “Effectively, he was the very first person in the world to alert humankind, that part of it was being subjected to genocide. That’s how important and historic a figure he really is.”
While Morgenthau Sr.’s efforts to aid the Armenians in modern-day Turkey failed, he made it his mission to tell the world what was happening and successfully urged a philanthropist friend and other New Yorkers to start the Armenian Atrocities Committee (which later became the Near East Foundation) credited with bringing life-saving relief, including basic food, shelter, and clothing, to hundreds of thousands of Armenians who were scattered across the Middle East.
In addition to serving as U.S. ambassador to Turkey under President WOODROW WILSON, Morgenthau Sr. led the Democratic National Committee’s finance committee. His offspring have continued to be a major presence with Democratic politics for more than a century. HENRY MORGENTHAU JR. was a close friend of President FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT and served as his Treasury secretary for more than a decade.
“The family legacy repeats itself when his son becomes the man who notifies Franklin Roosevelt about the Holocaust in a formal manner,” Adalian said.
During FDR’s tenure, ELINOR MORGENTHAU, Morgenthau Jr.’s wife, and ELEANOR ROOSEVELT were close. The then-first lady famously resigned from the Colony Club of New York in protest over its refusal to admit Elinor because she was Jewish.
One of Henry Morgenthau Jr.’s sons, ROBERT MORGENTHAU, raced sailboats with JOHN F. KENNEDY as a young man. When Kennedy was elected president, he tapped Morgenthau as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a post he used to go after Wall Street and organized crime. Robert Morgenthau became an icon in the legal world, going on to serve for more than 35 years as “Gotham’s aristocratic Mr. District Attorney,” as his New York Times obituary put it. He also helped found the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
Through the decades, the Morgenthau family and the Armenian-American community have been connected-- from travel to electioneering to philanthropy.
“From a very young age, I got this real sense of wanting to be engaged, wanting to serve, wanting to help in whatever small ways that I could,” Sarah Morgenthau said. Under Obama, she served as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a senior political appointee at the U.S. Peace Corps. In her talks with the Biden campaign, she added her voice to those advocating for Armenian issues.
Sarah’s brother, HENRY MORGENTHAU IV (who goes by Ben), has planted trees in Armenia, and attended Armenian weddings and Red Sox games with Armenian Americans. He visited Armenia twice, once with his late father in 1999.
“I remember distinctly walking down the streets of Yerevan and people coming up to my father in tears and saying, ‘Thank you.’ It wasn’t my father who they really wanted to thank. They were thanking the ambassador,” he said. “The emotional response has always been incredible. It speaks to the depth of the wound. I feel pride in our country for finally doing it.”
MEA CULPA: Wednesday’s newsletter on VINAY REDDY prompted an unprecedented amount of feedback. And we want you to know that we hear you: University of Miami is not Miami University. We regret the error so please stop emailing us about it. Reddy went to Miami University (Ohio).