Sunday, July 21, 2024

Notations On Our World (Special Edition): In America As BIDEN BACKS OUT

President Biden is speaking, wearing a dark suit and striped tie.
President Biden’s announcement on Sunday that he would not continue his re-election bid injected even more uncertainty into the 2024 campaign. Yuri Gripas for The New York Times

Biden is out, and Democrats have a whole new set of questions.

It’s over.

At 1:46 p.m., with the minute hand of the clock pointed to the number of his presidency, President Biden somberly ended his untenable re-election campaign and sought to give his downtrodden party something he could no longer provide: a sense of hope.

“It is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down,” he wrote in a letter posted to X, “and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term.”

It was an earthshaking political moment many Democrats had been clamoring for — so I’m struck by how quietly it came, and with how little fanfare. Biden’s choice, made while he is at his Delaware beach house after testing positive for Covid-19, did not leak. He told some of his senior staff only a minute before he told the world, my colleague Katie Rogers reported. He did not make a speech to the public, though he said he will later this week.

His campaign’s transformation, though, starts now.

About half an hour after he withdrew, Biden endorsed his vice president, Kamala Harris. A little after 4 p.m., she made it official herself.

“My intention,” Harris said in a statement distributed by the Biden for President campaign, “is to earn and win this nomination.”

In an all-staff call, the campaign’s leaders said they were now all working for Harris for President, according to my colleague Reid Epstein.

“We’re all going to do it the same,” said Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the campaign manager.

The stunning turn of events has plunged the presidential campaign into — if you can imagine it — even more uncertainty.

No sitting president has dropped out this close to an election, with the general election just 107 days away. There is no secret, behind-the-scenes plan that we know of to line up the party immediately behind a new nominee. Nobody knows exactly where this goes from here.

Biden is betting that his stepping aside will bring new energy and unity to a divided party that had all but given up on him. But underneath the nuts-and-bolts questions about just how Democrats will go about selecting a new nominee is a larger dilemma about what kind of party it wants to be right now.

Should Democrats join Biden in, essentially, anointing Harris as their nominee? Or would doing so open the party up to criticisms, already being stoked by Republicans, that it has sidestepped a more competitive process?

Here’s what we know so far about four questions I know are on your minds.

So, is Kamala Harris going to be the nominee?

Harris is well positioned to be. But it’s too soon to be certain.

It’s up to the 4,600 delegates to the Democratic National Convention to pick a presidential nominee, and there is lots of attention right now on the rules and mechanics of what those delegates can and will do.

I am no expert on the internecine maze of rules governing this process. But one thing I know is that, right now, the bigger question is this: Is anybody other than Harris going to run?

There has been lots of talk about an “open convention.” . But the central issue is whether or not there will be a contested convention, where more than one serious candidate seeks the presidential nomination.

OK. Is anybody else running?

At this early hour, no high-profile Democrat has jumped in to challenge Harris, and there are reasons to believe that at least some of the party’s brightest stars plan to sit this out. Some, like Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, have already said they would not run against Harris; on Sunday night, he endorsed her. Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania also endorsed Harris on Sunday.

But it is also worth noting that some other governors seen as potential contenders did not immediately endorse Harris on Sunday.

On Our "Virtual Route 66" This Week (Special Edition): #RandomThoughts While In America ((As President Biden Stands Down))

 Our team was on the prowl this week as the Republican National Committee's Convention formalized the Nomination of Former President Trump and Senator JD Vance as the Republican Presidential and Vice Presidential Nominees. 

Our team pulled together a snapshot of the deliberations courtesy of the Washington Post, the New Yorker,  the Financial Times, and other valued partners:


July 18-19, 2024

By Marc Cooper

I’ve listened to Trump’s interminable, meandering, rambling, incoherent, often off topic nomination acceptance speech as I continued to stab my wrist with needles. It was so long that Fidel woke up from the grave to tell him to STFU already. The longest convention speech in modern America.

 Didn’t make me angry.  Just bored the stuffing out of me. 

This will be a relatively short Scoop as I don’t think there is much I can say about Donald Trump that you already do not know or have not read elsewhere.  As promised, he was much more subdued than usual at least until the concluding minutes when he dialed up a bit. Of course, in the best tradition of 1930’s fascists, he blamed ALL of America’s ills on what are the MAGA stand in for Jews --- “immigrants!”  Here we go again that Biden is giving them direct passage from jails, prisons, and mental hospitals so they can take your job, poison your blood line, rape your wives and spike your kid’s Jello with Fentanyl. 

A lot of people are reticent to ever draw parallels with Hitler and the Nazis.  It should not be done sparingly. That said, the MAGA rhetoric on “migrants” is IDENTICAL to that used by the Nazis in the 1930’s to whip up an entire population into believing that the  one per cent of the population that was Jewish were the mortal enemy of German civilization. Hitler knew when he came to power that most Germans just did not care as much about Jews as he did so with Goebbels he embarked on a plan to progressively vilify them. In our case, that process of vilification has been underway for years and there should be no surprise, only disgust, that the convention floor tonight was flooded with professionally printed posters reading Mass Deportations Now!    Not fascists?

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Trump gave a long, detailed, self-pitying account of his near assassination and he blatantly milked the story for every drop of political juice he could.  If anybody else puts the shooting in a political context — like Trump is the primary promoter of rhetorical political violence in America— they are immediately denounced as inappropriate ghouls.  But it’s just hunky dory that Trump totally politicizes his wounding for political gain in an extended sob story on national TV. 

He looked like hell by the way.  Puffy and sweaty and he read his speech off the Teleprompter as if he was reading it for the first time. Not a great reader.  A pretty flat and  somewhat distanced delivery.  Like, he’s bored too and just has to get through this to get back into power.

I am not going to say anything more about his speech because there is nothing more to say except it was the usual mix of lies, distortions and empty promises as always merely delivered in a lower register.  And make no mistake, even while reading, Trump still got in a whole lot of incoherent rambling…as always… and as always ignored by the media. It sounded like half the speech was improvised and it sounded like it.

If this were the first time we were seeing Trump and didn’t know his history, this speech would have been his ruin.  It was not as bad as Biden’s debate debacle but it was by any mature standard a different sort of debacle. An imbecilic old man telling long pointless stories punctuated with calls to round up migrants.  Insane.

My friends, he is totally beatable, at least if somebody actually tried to beat him! He is a small old man in decline and is not a colossus.  He is hated, appropriately, by more than half the country.  And any half way decent Democrat could beat him. As of this writing Thursday night, it seems certain that Biden will be out by Monday if not sooner.  Good.

And whatever process the Democrats come up with to replace him the choice will be Kamala Harris.  If you don’t understand that and why, read no further as your interest in politics is too superficial to follow.  Note, I am not saying she would be the best candidate. I am saying for those who understand politics she is the ineitable replacement.

Yes, Kamala is a gamble   Not our best hand.  But a stronger one that Biden.  I’m a poker player so if you play no limit this is how I would rank the strength of their respective hands.  Biden is holding 7-2 off suit.  Kamala holds J-10 suited. At the moment, and I mean this moment only, Trump has got KQ off suit.  

Let me quickly make these data points about what now looks like a coming Kamala candidacy.  We all know her weaknesses and she very well might flop. But:

n  She takes the generational issue off the table

n  She takes the impairment issue off the table

n  Yes, she’s a prosecutor.  Hang a lantern on that and go after the convicted felon

n  Her entry would re-center abortion in the race.  Be advised for the first time in history a RNC did not mention the word abortion.  It’s kryptonite.

n  She completely upends the current dynamic that has done nothing except depress the Democratic electorate.  Instead of a Strong Trump Versus Weak Biden Dynamic we could have a Feisty Smart Woman Versus and Aged Mysoginist who got Roe V Wadwe over turned and who has been adjudicated as a sexual abuser and rapist.

Cards in the air!  Let’s beat these fascists. +++

-GOP Veep candidate JD Vance in his RNC acceptance speech.
President Biden is facing unprecedented pressure to step aside. However this drama ends, the next few days look like a wild ride for the Democratic Party. 

  • President Biden’s candidacy appears beset on all sides. Big-name Democrats are maneuvering, publicly and privately, to convince him to ditch his candidacy. And yet the decision remains entirely his: Biden won the vast majority of delegates in the Democratic primary, meaning no one can force him off the ticket if he doesn’t want to go (barring a longshot, unheard-of rebellion by the delegates themselves). 
  • Top Dems are therefore attempting to pressure and persuade, after the stunning collapse in confidence that followed Biden’s disastrous debate in late June. The result is a dizzying barrage of anonymous press leaks and official statements. Last week, Biden vowed to regain momentum, hit the campaign trail and stay in the public eye to demonstrate vivacity. None of it worked. Top Democrats quoted anonymously by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett said they believe the next 3-5 days will be crucial in determining the fate of Biden’s campaign. “A change at the top of the ticket has taken on an aura of inevitability,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) told Axios.
  • People close to Biden say he has begun to accept that he may have to bow out, the New York Times reported Thursday, without naming names. One person told the paper that Biden hasn’t yet made up his mind. But another said “reality is setting in,” and that no one should be surprised if he drops out and endorses Vice President Kamala Harris. Still another described Biden as “willing to listen,” but not necessarily ready to pass the torch.
What A Day
The biggest players in the Democratic Party are reportedly deeply involved.
  • Privately, both House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have pressed the president over their concerns about his candidacy and fear of a Trump win, according to multiple reports. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), one of the most respected and formidable figures in the party, has reportedly warned Biden he could invoke losses down ballot across the country if he stays in the race.   
  • Amid all this drama, Biden remains self-isolating in his residence in Delaware after his COVID diagnosis on Wednesday. A new Emerson College poll found Biden trailing disgraced former President Trump by double digits in Arizona (46% to 36%, respectively) and more than five percentage points in Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and nationally. 
Aye, aye, aye. This could be a crazy, historic weekend. 
Vice Presidential hopeful JD Vance may be simply been taking care not to outshine his new boss. Or he might just have no charisma. Whatever the reason, he delivered a strikingly milquetoast, dud of a speech on Wednesday night, in what many observers called a wasted opportunity to use the compelling material of his personal life story to introduce himself to the biggest TV audience of his life. 
Disgraced former President Trump, of course, famously hates to be outdone, and he’ll address the Republican National Convention tonight. Still, even that reality doesn’t seem to fully explain the boring speech Vance gave. Even Trump seemed to be dozing off at times… like he did in court! 
Vance recounted stories from his upbringing in Appalachia, including the time he found an alarming number of loaded guns (19!) in his grandmother’s house, which, of course, served as a big applause line from the GOP audience. But, otherwise, the failure to use his personal narrative, which at one time won so much acclaim in his best-selling Hillbilly Elegy, was a kind of “strategic idiocy,” said Pod Save America coh-host Dan Pfeiffer
“Vance’s speech falling flat,” noted Bill Kristol, the Never Trumper-Republican, mid-speech. “But I imagine Trump’s people insisted it be flat. No competition for the Big Guy.”

There is a LOT of political news to cover, and there’s no better way to process the crazy year than with other like-minded friends of the pod, so good thing Jon, Jon, and Tommy are going on tour! The Democracy or Else Tour is headed to The Orpheum Theater in Madison, Wisconsin this Friday, July 19th, with co-host Errin Haines and guest Ben Wikler. And on the 20th, Lovett or Leave It will also be in Madison, joined by Thomas Lennon, Victoria Vincent, Former Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, & State Representative Francesca Hong at the Barrymore Theatre. Head to to grab tickets now!
The GOP is hounding Service Director Kimberley Cheatle with criticism at the RNC after the botched assassination attempt against Trump. “This is one of the greatest security failures in the history of the agency. She can run but she cannot hide,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), said in a statement.

Officials are still trying to understand the shooter’s motives, and have found out that he also searched for dates for the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Chicago in August.

Sen. Robert Menedez (NJ-D) dismissed reports that he may be planning to resign after he was federally convicted for—among other things—leveraging the power of his office for gold bars. Gotta respect this commitment to the grift.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed talks of a potential prisoner swap involving detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was baselessly accused of espionage while just doing everyday journalism. Free Evan, now! 

The Iranian government denied any involvement in the assassination attempt against Trump or any intention to target him, following reports the Biden administration informed the Secret Service of an unspecified threat against the 45th president before the Pennsylvania rally.