Friday, July 5, 2024

In America As America Celebrated Independence


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Celebrate July 4th! 

10 Unusual Ways To Celebrate July 4th

Independence Day is supposed to be about tradition. Good ol' John Adams himself thought the day ought to be celebrated with "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

At's SpouseBuzz, we are all about the traditional fireworks, parades, and adorable children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. But what can you do to give the usual stuff a little twist? What is something that can juice up your usual patriotism? 
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Military Trivia Answer!

A: The first fireworks were used as early as 200 BC. The tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. Ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” That same night, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over Boston Common.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Notations On Our World (Special Edition): Out & About in America and The World ((An Snapshot of The Discourse))

President Kamala Harris

It's coming. The question is: Should she run as Biden’s vice president or as the incumbent president?


From the ashes, she rises. (Composite / Photos: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images / Shutterstock)

1. Skating, Pucks

I am now convinced that President Biden will step aside as his party’s nominee. This isn’t a value judgment, just an analysis of reality.¹ As I explained on Monday, if that happens, Kamala Harris is—far and away—the most likely replacement.

If this happens, we will immediately be confronted with a new question: Should Biden resign his office and elevate Harris to the presidency?

For starters, it will depend on Biden’s condition. If/when he withdraws his candidacy, some reason will be given. Does that reason center on his health or his cognitive functioning?²

If it’s just a question of health and general frailty, then resignation becomes a judgment call. If the president is mentally compromised, then he may have no choice but to resign.

For the sake of today’s discussion, though, let’s pretend that Biden’s ability to carry out his office for the next six months is not substantially affected and so the decision of whether or not to resign becomes purely (meaning politically) prudential. What then?

Let me paint a picture of what a post-Biden world looks like:

  • Kamala Harris is the focus of more attention than anyone in politics, including Trump. She will be able to pack stadiums and arenas instantly. It will be an unprecedented hand-off to the next generation of Democrats combined with a high degree of uncertainty as to whether or not she can deliver the goods. If she nails the handoff, there will be an immediate bump for her in the polls and public interest will build.

  • Republicans will spend every day arguing that Biden should be removed via the 25th Amendment and Harris will have to answer that charge every time she talks to the media. And she will do a lot of media. The only way this works is if she turns the handoff into a blitzkrieg and sprints all the way through to Election Day.

  • Meanwhile the real world continues. Maybe Israel opens up a shooting war with Hezbollah. Maybe there’s a terrorist attack in the United States. Maybe the border gets out of control. Maybe a hurricane hits a major American city.

There are upsides and downsides to having Harris as the incumbent president in this environment.

The case for Harris running as the incumbent president.

For starters, having President Harris traveling on Air Force One and standing behind the presidential seal would instantly solidify her gravitas. It would create even more attention for her and give her the ability to dominate pretty much every news cycle from here to the election. Everything about her candidacy becomes even more historic and exciting.

It also evens the playing field between Harris and Trump. Trump gets to run as both an insurgent and an incumbent. Vice President Harris would be neither, trapped in a sour spot of being on the hook for everything voters dislike about the Biden administration without the benefits of being battle tested. If Harris is running as the sitting president, she will have demonstrated that she can do the job. People will have seen her—literally—in the big chair.

It is possible that some Americans might have trouble picturing a black woman as commander in chief. If Harris is the sitting president, then they will see it in reality and if she does a satisfactory job for then it might allay their concerns.

Finally, Trump would plotz every time he heard Harris referred to as Madame President. This is not nothing.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

On Our "Virtual Route 66" Around The World With this Special Quarter-End Edition


Playbook PM



This morning was dominated by the post-debate question whether President JOE BIDEN is up to the task of taking on DONALD TRUMP, with lawmakers, pundits and other Democratic officials coming to terms with the incumbent’s dismal performance in Atlanta.

In his first opportunity to quiet the murmurs, at a rally moments ago in Raleigh, North Carolina, Biden confronted the concerns swirling around him.

President Joe Biden, right, and first lady Jill Biden, left, walk to the stage to speak at a campaign rally, joined in background by Eric Fitts, Friday, June 28, 2024, in Raleigh, N.C.

First lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden arrive at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Friday, June 28. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” Biden said in a more vigorous tone than at the debate. “I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. And I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. And I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down you get back up.”

Those are not the words, needless to say, of a candidate who is contemplating an emergency evacuation from the race. But they didn’t do much to answer the key question: What the hell happened last night?

Journalists await decisions outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in Washington.

The Supreme Court handed down two major decisions this morning. | Alex Brandon/AP

Still, the most momentous news of the morning might have been made back in Washington, where the Supreme Court snuck in some major decisions in cases as the justices race to finish up their term.

Although the court handed down rulings on some of the heavy-hitters left on the docket this morning, the justices once again held off on DONALD TRUMP’s immunity bid. Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS said the court’s final day for rulings would be on Monday.

Here’s what unfolded today …

— Major Jan. 6 move: In an opinion that could have major implications for the current and future prosecution of Jan. 6 riot participants, the court narrowed the scope of a federal law used to bring charges of obstructing Congress, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein write. The decision may force federal prosecutors to reconsider charges in dozens of pending cases and could even require judges to resentence some defendants already sent to prison. But the early read is that Trump, who has been charged with the same crime by special counsel JACK SMITH, might still be prosecutable under the court’s new standard.

Notably, the 6-3 ruling split the justices along their usual ideological lines, with the two newest justices to join the bench continuing to be the most interesting to follow. Liberal Justice KETANJI BROWN JACKSON joined Roberts’ majority ruling, while conservative AMY CONEY BARRETT joined the dissent with the two other liberals. Read the ruling 

— Major blow to the administrative state: Another one of the far-reaching decisions came down today when the justices decided to torch “Chevron deference,” a once-obscure RONALD REAGAN-era legal doctrine, in a ruling “will remake one of the most fundamental aspects of power in Washington — and hobble presidents pursuing aggressive policies on anything from abortion to student debt relief,” our colleagues write in a stepback look at all of the policy areas that the ruling could impact.

“Defanging the White House this way frees up judges to reach their own conclusions about what lawmakers meant, but it comes with a daunting consequence: From now on, Congress will be expected to sort out the intricacies of issues like housing finance, greenhouse gas emissions and artificial intelligence, at a time when it’s already struggling to legislate on big issues.”

— Major win for govs and mayors: The conservative majority on the court also “handed Democratic leaders like California Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM a major win Friday by allowing them to remove tent encampments as homelessness has become a top concern of voters,” Dustin Gardiner writes. “The 6-3 decision reversed a lower court ruling that severely limited how local leaders can respond as tents pitched in parks, under freeways and across sidewalks became increasingly ubiquitous symbols of the crisis.”

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Researchers prepare to weigh Chang'e 6 lunar samples stored in a sealed container.

China worked with the European Space Agency, France, Italy and Pakistan on a mission that retrieved the first-ever samples from the far side of the moon this week. | Jin Liwang/Xinhua via AP

With help from Miles J. Herszenhorn, Joe Gould and Alex Ward

Subscribe here | Email Matt | Email Eric

Beijing is making major advancements in space exploration — and while other countries stand to benefit from the progress, Washington isn’t getting in on the action.

China worked with the European Space Agency, France, Italy and Pakistan on a mission that retrieved the first-ever samples from the far side of the moon this week. NASA wasn’t invited to take part in the moon probe, agency spokesperson FAITH McKIE told NatSec Daily.

NASA also didn't get “any direct invitation” to study China’s moon rocks, McKie said, after China welcomed all scientists from around the world to apply to study them. It’s unclear if China specifically invited any countries, but those who took part in the probe will likely study the rocks — which could help countries better understand the lunar surface that Washington and Beijing have been trying to develop.

The U.S. has long warned China’s rapidly growing space program is tied too closely to its military and neither side is eager to work with the other.

One reason the U.S. wasn’t invited to the party is likely because of a law in Congress that hinders any potential galactic relationship with Beijing. Prompted by concerns over Beijing’s history of stealing intellectual property, using technology developed by other nations or companies to bolster its military and violating human rights, Congress in 2011 passed the 2011 Wolf Amendment, which requires NASA to seek a specific exception from the FBI if it wants to work with China.

If the U.S. wants to promote cooperation with China in space, “it must take practical measures to remove these obstacles,” Chinese space official BIAN ZHIGANG told reporters on Thursday, in the first public comments since the samples landed. He added that Washington can’t stop Beijing's “giant steps” in space.

There would be advantages to China and the U.S. working together — or at least communicating more about space, several U.S. analysts told NatSec Daily.

“We have to accept that even if there are countries that we have uncomfortable relationships with, we should look for ways to coordinate activities to ensure we don't accidentally impede each other's work,” VICTORIA SAMSON, Washington Office Director at the Secure World Foundation think tank, told NatSec Daily.

Other experts argue that Washington is so far ahead of Beijing in space that it shouldn’t worry about China gaining some ground — and work on its own U.S. space priorities.

“Our focus is rightly on our own science and exploration programs and building a broad coalition of nations through the Artemis Accords to go back to the moon with us,” said TODD HARRISON, an expert on space policy at the American Enterprise Institute. He was referring to the international agreement led by the U.S. to create a set of norms for space exploration.

While China’s space program is growing (it has launched large numbers of satellites in the past few years and is developing equipment to possibly prepare for conflict in space), TORY BRUNO, CEO of aerospace giant United Launch Alliance, emphasized that it is also particularly costly for Beijing. The Chinese space program employs three times the number of employees as the U.S. and uses many more launch sites than the United States.

“What you’re seeing is a brute force approach,” Bruno told NatSec Daily. If the economy isn’t thriving, “then this easily falls back, because it's so inefficient.”


FOR PIER’S SAKE: Rough seas have forced the U.S. military to pull its pier to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza to protect it — and the U.S. is considering not reinstalling it while aid piles up on the coast, The Associated Press’ TARA COPP and LOLITA C. BALDOR report.

Millions of pounds of aid have been delivered via the pier in recent weeks, Pentagon officials say, but most of it is sitting in a storage yard because agencies have had trouble moving it to parts of Gaza where it is needed most.

The storage area is now almost full and rough seas have recently damaged the pier. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have ramped up their criticism of the pier this week, calling on the administration to pull the project entirely.

WEST BANK DEAL: Israel tentatively agreed to release some frozen funds to the embattled Palestinian Authority, in exchange for bolstering Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, The New York Times’ AARON BOXERMAN and ADAM RASGON report.

Far-right Finance Minister BEZALEL SMOTRICH has long withheld hundreds of millions to the PA, which administers parts of the West Bank, and believes Israel should fully rule the territory. His stance has concerned the Biden administration, which wants the PA to play a role in governing Gaza after the war and worries an economic crash in the West Bank could lead to violence.

“To mollify Mr. Smotrich, cabinet ministers agreed in a late-night meeting Thursday to measures including retroactively authorizing five Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank that had been built illegally, according to Mr. Smotrich’s office and two other Israeli officials,” the Times writes.

Smotrich would then agree to releasing funds for the authority and extend a banking waiverֿֿ that protects Israeli banks that deal with Palestinian ones. Even with the temporary measure in place, the finance minister could demand more concessions in the future.

BLACK SEA SPAT: Russia is warning that it’s preparing for a “response” following U.S. drone flights over the Black Sea, accusing the flights of aiding Ukraine’s war efforts.

The flights show “an increased involvement of the U.S. and other NATO countries in the conflict in Ukraine” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement today. The drones “conduct intelligence and targeting for precision weapons supplied to the Ukrainian military by Western countries for strikes on Russian facilities.”

The drone flights significantly raise the risk for direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, the ministry added, saying that NATO will bear the responsibility for the flights. A new clash would fuel tensions between Moscow and Washington, following last year’s Black Sea dispute.

DRINKS WITH NATSEC DAILY: At the end of every long, hard week, we like to highlight how a prominent member of the national security scene prefers to unwind with a drink.

Today we’re featuring JAKOV MILATOVIĆ, the president of Montenegro, who our own ALEX WARD ran into at the NATO Youth Summit in Miami last month.

Milatović likes to enjoy a glass of fine white wine with his wife on the Montenegro coastline, “with Europe’s most beautiful views of the Mediterranean.” Cue the awwwws, what a romantic.

We hear, however, that the Med has nothing on the Potomac this time of year. (That’s what we tell ourselves, crying on the inside and sipping a $17 cocktail at some rooftop bar at the Wharf.)

Živjeli, Mr. President!

IT’S FRIDAY. WELCOME TO THE WEEKEND: Thanks for tuning in to NatSec Daily! This space is reserved for the top U.S. and foreign officials, the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the experts and the people like you who care about how the natsec sausage gets made. Aim your tips and comments at and, and follow us on X at @mattberg33 and @ebazaileimil.

While you’re at it, follow the rest of POLITICO’s national security team: @alexbward@nahaltoosi@PhelimKine@laraseligman@connorobrienNH@paulmcleary@leehudson@magmill95@johnnysaks130@ErinBanco@reporterjoe@JGedeon1 and @mherszenhorn.


Understand 2024’s big impacts with Pro’s extensive Campaign Races Dashboard, exclusive insights, and key coverage of federal- and state-level debates. Focus on policy. Learn more.


ABOUT THAT DEBATE…: You know things are bad when the Polish foreign minister appears to link your debate performance with the decline of the Roman empire, adding that “it’s important to manage one’s ride into the sunset.”

President JOE BIDEN is fielding international criticism today for his lackluster showing last night against DONALD TRUMP, which has also spurred panicky speculation among Democrats about who could — or should — replace the oldest sitting president in history.

It wasn’t entirely bad for Biden: “Enormous lies by Trump,” one Western diplomat told our colleagues late last night. But the person continued, “On the other hand, at least we understood what he says.”

International officials and diplomats hoped Biden would present as stronger and more vigorous, but some were questioning whether either was fit to lead by the end of the debate: “Internationally this isn’t a great look for America, at the risk of stating the obvious,” a European diplomat texted our colleagues.

Meanwhile, Putin allegedly snored through the debate.

Drama and speculation aside, our long-held hypothesis that this is a foreign policy election held strong last night. Here’s your roundup of our live feed:

Afghanistan: Biden brings up one of his weak spots — totally unprovoked

Israel-Hamas war: Biden and Trump talk about Israel-Hamas war

Russia: Trump says he wouldn't accept Putin's terms

World War III: World War III has come up quite a few times...


RUSSIANS IN THE EMAILS: Microsoft informed customers that Russian hackers stole emails from its customers, Reuters’ ZEBA SIDDIQUI reported late Thursday.

The tech giant disclosed six months ago that Russian hackers had entered into its systems and stolen emails from its employees. In a statement to Reuters, the company said “we are continuing notifications to customers who corresponded with Microsoft corporate email accounts that were exfiltrated by the Midnight Blizzard threat actor.”

The company did not say how many customers were impacted or how many emails were stolen, but has previously stated the hackers were specifically targeting cybersecurity researchers looking into Midnight Blizzard’s activities.

Coop Scoop: Debate Post-Mortem

Please mop up all the blood.


June 28, 2024

By Marc Cooper

I don’t know about you, but I had not had more fun watching the presidential debate Thursday since I drove an Isuzu Trooper into a cattle truck on an oil slicked dirt road in the Amazon, destroying both vehicles, breaking an arm and watching a dozen cows fly off the truck and into the bush.

Take your choice. Disastrous? Catastrophic? Cataclysmic?  How about all of ‘em?

I think my old friend and former Nation colleague David Corn summed the whole mess up in the headline to his newsletter tonight. “We Got The Trump We Knew. We Got The Biden We Feared.”

I see no reason to use this space to paw through the gory details. You have seen them with your own eyes or you have already ten other political obits like this. So I will restrain myself to just a few comments about the general contours and consequences of this smoking black hole.

No defense of Biden’s abysmal performance, but I think it appropriate to say that presidential debates are always a farce and never reveal any of the attributes needed for the job.  Prior to the inaugural Kennedy-Nixon debate, 34 prior American presidents were elected without having to ace a TV audition.  When Lincoln and Douglas debated they spent hours at a time. Days at a time in exhaustive policy detail, not limited to wisecracks, lies, canned zingers and good haircuts squeezed into 90 second segments.

Some credit must be given to CNN for making this one of the most useless debates among all the other useless ones in history.  Not that Jake Tapper and Dana Bush are some duo of journalism bull dogs but preventing them from “fact-checking” was a terrible idea.  Of course, checking every lie Trump told would eat up the whole show.  But with more leeway from their bosses and more imagination on their part, Bash and Tapper could have loaded up some very tough and legit questions for Trump that would have short circuited at least some of the mendacity.  But…no.  Instead we got two potted plants with a microphone and a gag.

CNN also prevented the candidates from conferring with staff and advisers during the breaks as if this were some sort of stamina reality show.  In real life, presidents are always in the presence of advisors and staff and rely upon them as they well should.  What’s the point of the isolation?

I did not expect a sterling performance from Biden but have to admit I was dismayed about how god damn awful he was.  The worse moments were the missed opportunities: when Trump crowed about his response to COVID and brushed on abortion, these were golden set up moments for Biden to smash him. Instead he totally whiffed. Biden’s reply about Roe was frightful, descending into an unintelligible and incomplete sentences that merely evaporated.

You already know all the negative stuff. It was right in our face for 90 minutes.  Anything good to say?  A smidgen.

Trump did a great job of making Biden cower but he did a piss poor job of winning over any moderates or the so called Nikki Voters.  Biden standing on stage like a frightened ghost probably distracted many of us from the gross and now standard incoherence in Trump’s rambling falsehoods and lies and distortions. I detected nothing in his replies that would appeal to the moderate suburbanites he needs to win.  OTOH Biden no doubt turned off some portion of his already depressed base by his frightful performance. So, polling wise, this might be a wash.

Biden, however, needed a jump start. At best he’s slightly behind in the key swing states and if nothing changes for the better for him he is a long shot to survive.  And tonight was a dumpster fire not a running start.

Will Biden now be replaced as the candidate with only 7 weeks to go?  Don’t ask me because only Biden can release his delegates to the convention and I believe he believes he is the only Democrat who can beat Trump.  That notion, nevertheless, is now already under active discussion by big wig Democrats and big money donors. Far be it from me to say whether or not there is a winning candidate in waiting. It’s easy to ring out names like Whitmer or Newsome it’s quite another to vet them, background them, make them make them household names and gear up appropriate campaign infrastructure.

And, yes, you would need Biden to stand aside. And Kamala as well. And pushing her out could set off a party civil war. 

In short, we got fugged tonight.  Anyway you cut it, Donald Trump inched closer to a November victory. That’s not set in stone but this debate was a whopping setback for the Dems. I’ve said it many times before and I will say it again.  I could not care less about the individual political fate of the Democrats.  If they want to go down in flames, be my guest.  Just don’t take the rest of us down with you. ++