Senate Confirms Army, Marine Chiefs

POLITICO (“Senate confirms Army and Marine chiefs, bucking Tuberville logjam“):

The Senate overwhelmingly approved two four-star generals to lead the Army and Marine Corps Thursday, as members made a small dent in Sen. Tommy Tuberville‘s blockade of senior Pentagon nominees.

Gen. Eric Smith’s successful 96-0 confirmation vote to be the next Marine commandant followed Gen. Randy George’s approval as Army chief of staff. A day earlier, the Senate cleared Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown to be the next Joint Chiefs chair.

But the trio of confirmations does not mean Democrats are declaring victory. With 300 generals and admirals at the upper rungs of the armed forces still stranded, senators still have to find a way to maneuver around the Alabama Republican’s promotions hold, which is still in effect, in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy. Lawmakers have pledged to keep up public pressure on Tuberville to change course.

The showdown has also ensnared the nominees for Air Force chief of staff, Gen. David Allvin; the chief of naval operations, Adm. Lisa Franchetti; the head of the Missile Defense Agency, Maj. Gen. Heath Collins; and the nominee for the Pentagon’s top policy post, Derek Chollet.

Smith was the Marine Corps’ No. 2 officer and has commanded at every level, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a general, he led Marine Corps’ forces in U.S. Southern Command, as well as Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

George was the Army’s vice chief of staff and before that was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s senior military aide. He is an infantry officer who served in the 101st Airborne Division and deployed in support of the Gulf War.

George was confirmed 96-1, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) casting the sole “no” vote.

President Joe Biden nominated both generals in the spring and they each stepped into their service’s top role on an acting basis during the summer, when their predecessors retired.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for months has refused to hold standalone votes on military nominees to get around Tuberville’s hold, but reversed course Wednesday and agreed to hold votes on the three top picks after Tuberville forced Democrats’ hand by planning to force a vote on Smith.

Questions are swirling about Democrats’ strategy for getting the rest confirmed, but Schumer was tight-lipped, telling reporters only “You’ll see.” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said the onus is on Republicans to get Tuberville to relent.

While Tuberville has insisted for months he’s felt no pressure from Democrats or his own party, Democrats cast his move to advance a vote for Smith as him bowing to Republican critics, and said they seized the chance to advance all three officers.

“But there are still 300 military officers in limbo, and that’s detrimental to the United States,” Reed said. “There are so many other people like Gen. George who are suffering and their families are too … It’s solely forced by [Tuberville’s] desire to make [military] officers tokens in political battles — and it’s wrong, and we’re going to push and push and push.”

While Reed’s point is absolutely right in the main, it’s wrong in the particular. Because George and Smith are simply fleeting up from the deputy to the main job, there’s pretty minimal family impact. Smith will get to move into the Commandant’s mansion at 8th and I, so the timing for that is a little less than convenient. But I’m pretty sure his kids are out of school at this point.

My understanding is that Franchetti, who was nominated much more recently than the others, is still in committee. I expect she’ll be confirmed relatively soon. I have no idea where the other high-level nominees stand. Meanwhile, the 300-odd lower-ranking officers and their families are very much in limbo.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) called the remaining vacancies “untenable” and noted that advancing the officers will leave three new senior vacancies.

“We’re taking three steps forward and three steps backward,” said Duckworth, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “These are three very important jobs but there are 300 other jobs that are also important to our national security.”

Despite the mild irony that she placed an even wider hold three years ago—albeit for a much more discrete purpose directly tied to military promotions—she’s right. And it may be more problematic in those cases, since it’s less likely that the successor happens to be one rung down the ladder in the same office.

More than 300 senior promotions are still frozen as Tuberville refuses to allow their speedy confirmation. Tuberville has insisted Democrats can just simply hold votes on individual picks, but Democrats and the administration have noted that to do so would take hundreds of hours and totally dominate the Senate’s calendar.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a Biden ally, said more votes in groups of two or three would not be appropriate. He credited the progress on Wednesday and Thursday to Republican pressure on Tuberville and said it should continue until there’s a broader breakthrough.

“There was some modest movement — we will have confirmed just three of 300, the most significant and senior but just three,” Coons said. “And we also just had a demonstration of what would happen if we actually proceed with confirming every one of them. It would shut down the Senate for a year and we would get nothing else done.”

Not to take the onus off of Tuberville, on whose shoulders the blame squarely lies, but if the Senate would grind to a halt if they had to actually confirm these officers, it’s a pretty clear signal that the normal process is pro forma. They should simply delegate promotion authority for 3-star and below to the Secretary of Defense on a by-exception basis. If a Senator has an actual objection—as Duckworth did in the matter of Sandy Vindman—than they would still have the ability to force oversight.

Tuberville, claiming victory, said will continue to demand that each nominee be considered individually until the Pentagon policy is reversed.

“So, to be clear, my hold is still in place,” Tuberville said Wednesday. “The hold will remain in place as long as the Pentagon’s illegal abortion policy remains in place. If the Pentagon lifts the policy, then I will lift my hold. It’s as easy as that.”

While one would think the Republican leadership could inflict pain on Tuberville for this stunt, it also seems like there are other ways around the issue. The Senate could hold a standalone vote on the DOD policy and, if it votes to reverse, then it could go to the House. (Or vice-versa, since it would have a better chance of going Tuberville’s way in the Republican-controlled House.)

UAW Strikes Widen as Biden Signals Support

NPR (“UAW significantly ramps up strikes against GM and Stellantis — but not Ford“):

The United Auto Workers union will expand its strike against two of the Big Three automakers, ramping up pressure on the companies to reach deals on new contracts — with President Biden set to join the historic strike in an extraordinary move of support.

UAW workers at 38 GM and Stellantis parts distributions centers, spread across 20 states, walked off the job at 12 p.m. ET on Friday after UAW President Shawn Fain said the two companies had failed to budge on key issues in ongoing talks for a new contract.

Fain said the union would not expand its strike against Ford, citing progress on its talks with the automaker, although an existing strike at a plant in Wayne, Mich., would continue.


Fain also invited President Biden to join workers on the picket line — and Biden later confirmed he would travel to Michigan next week.

“Tuesday, I’ll go to Michigan to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create,” Biden tweeted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs.”

Former President Donald Trump – the front-runner in the GOP primary race — has also said he plans to go to Detroit next week.

Roughly 5,600 workers at GM and Stellantis distribution centers across the country will join the approximately 13,000 employees at three Midwest auto plants who were the first to walk off the job  last week, when the union’s contracts with the automakers expired.

This latest expansion will strategically hit GM and Stellantis facilities that supply car parts to dealerships. It also spotlights the two-tier wage system that the UAW is fighting to eliminate, as some workers at these parts distrubution centers have a lower maximum pay rate than workers elsewhere.

Fain’s so-called “stand up” strike strategy is intended to keep Ford, General Motors and Stellantis on their toes with sudden, targeted strikes at strategic locations, rather than having all of the nearly 150,000 UAW auto workers walk off their jobs at once.

This, naturally, raises the question of why the automakers don’t simply lock out the UAW-organized workers everywhere rather than allowing the union to do selective damage. They have, but only sporadically:

The automakers have responded with temporary layoffs, blaming the supply disruptions caused by the strikes.

General Motors has temporarily laid off  most of the approximately 2,000 unionized workers at its Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas as a result of the ongoing UAW strikes. The other two companies have also announced temporary layoffs at a smaller scale.

So far, the companies have failed to present wage offers that the union sees as adequate, though the automakers say they’ve put generous offers on the table.

POLITICO (“Biden to join the picket line in UAW strike“) expands on the President’s gesture:

His decision to stand alongside the striking workers represents perhaps the most significant display of union solidarity ever by a sitting president. Biden’s announcement comes a week after he expressed solidarity with the UAW and said he “understand[s] the workers’ frustration.”

The announcement of his trip was seen as a seismic moment within certain segments of the labor community. “Pretty hard-core,” said one union adviser, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Biden had earlier attempted to send acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling, who has been the White House’s point person throughout the negotiations, to Detroit to assist with negotiations. However, the administration subsequently stood down following conversations with the union. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier Friday it was a “mutually agreed upon decision.”

The president’s plans come as some Democrats have begun to question his response to the strike , recognizing that he needs the full backing of union workers in his presidential reelection bid.

As for Trump:

Former President Donald Trump also has plans to visit Michigan next week. Despite backlash from Fain, the leading candidate in the Republican presidential primary will visit current and former workers  next Wednesday — the same day his competitors in the field take the debate stage in California. A person familiar with Trump’s plans said that he is “unlikely to go to the picket line” but that such a stop “has not been ruled in or out.”

Jason Miller, a spokesperson for Trump, criticized Biden’s decision to go to Detroit in his own post on X.

“The only reason Biden is going to Michigan on Tuesday is because President Trump announced he is going on Wednesday,” Miller wrote.

One suspects UAW workers already have a pretty strong preference between Biden and Trump that’s unlikely to change based on these photo ops. Given that car prices are already radically higher than they were when he took office, I’m a bit surprised that Biden is doubling down in his active support for the union. There are far more voters who will be angry that they’re having to pay yet more—both because of the short-term supply issues and longer-term pass-alongs once a settlement is reached—than there are auto workers who will benefit.

The UAW demands seem absurd in the face of the larger economy, especially since the Big Three have to compete not only against foreign imports but non-union American workers in so-called right to work states. But the manufacturers have done a horrendously poor job of messaging. We know what the UAW is demanding but have no idea what the counter-offers are. Given that the strikers are already earning considerably more than comparably-skilled workers elsewhere in the economy, that seems unwise.

The Menendez Indictment (Updated)

Via NBC News: Bob Menendez’s indictment highlights: Gold bars and wads of cash .

Here are the lowlights.

Nearly half a million dollars in cash was found stuffed inside envelopes and stashed inside the pockets of clothing hanging in the closets of the Menendez’s home in Englewood Cliffs, including a big roll of bills in a jacket from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with Menendez’s name on it.

Fingerprints belonging to the driver of co-defendant Fred Daibes were found on at least one of the envelopes, as well as his DNA and his return address, prosecutors said. “Thank you,” Nadine Menendez texted Daibes around Jan. 24, 2022, according to the indictment. “Christmas in January.”


Two other co-defendants in the case — Jose Uribe and Wael Hana — bought the Mercedes-Benz for Menendez’s wife in return for the senator interfering in a state criminal prosecution of a Uribe associate charged with insurance fraud and an investigation of a family member who worked for him, according to the indictment.

“You are a miracle worker who makes dreams come true,” Nadine Menendez texted Uribe, according to the indictment. “I will always remember that.”  

Menendez also helped Hana secure military funding for Egypt in exchange for the promise of a no-show job for his wife, prosecutors said.


Two days after Menendez had a private meeting with an Egyptian official, Hana bought 22 one-ounce gold bars.

Each one has a unique serial number. And two of them were later found in the Menendez home by federal investigators, prosecutors said.

They also discovered that on Jan. 29, 2022, Menendez did a Google search for “kilo of gold price.”

Granted, I am not a lawyer and, moreover, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but this looks pretty bad to me.

Therefore, not surprisingly, via Politico, ‘This is horrifying’: Top New Jersey Democrats call on Bob Menendez to resign after his second indictment.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Democrat of Middlesex County, said the allegations against Menendez go “against everything we should believe as public servants.” He called on Menendez to step down immediately.

“We are given the public’s trust, and once that trust is broken, we cannot continue,” he said. 

Menendez stepped down from his powerful role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier Friday. 

As the piece notes, the fallout for New Jersey Democrats next November could be quote real if they are tarred with Menendez’s alleged behavior.

“This is horrifying. And anyone who doesn’t think it’s disqualifying, that’s a problem,” one influential Democratic operative told POLITICO after federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York unsealed the indictment.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) was the first public official to call for Menedez’s resignation, saying he lost confidence in the senator and that “no one is above the law.” Murphy and others soon followed.

I recognize that Menendez will almost certainly not step down, as he fears such a move would be seen as an admission of guilt. Further, it is clearly more advantageous to go into this legal battle as a US Senator, rather than a former US Senator. Still, the party has every reason to want him out, and as soon as possible.

Menendez is up for re-election next year.

So far, only one Democratic candidate is challenging Menendez in the primary: Real estate lender Kyle Jasey, the son of a New Jersey state lawmaker. But there’s a deep bench of high-profile New Jersey Democrats who are running or positioning themselves to run for governor in 2025, including U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.), U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer(D-5th Dist.), Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. State Democratic bosses, notorious for backroom deals, could look to one of them to replace Menendez on the ballot.

One would expect that unless there is some massive reversal of these allegations Menendez will be challenged by quality candidates and would not be able to be re-nominated. But, as I constantly note, that decision is almost certainly in the hands of primary voters, not of the Democratic Party apparatus. I am not sure if there is any provision of New Jersey law that would allow the party to strip his affiliation/block him from the ballot.

To be honest, the nature of these allegations is such, that I have to think that the pressure on Menendez will be such that it will be very difficult to actually run for the nomination. We shall see.

In terms of the broader American political landscape, these allegations (which are very easy for observers to understand) will just allow Trump, his political allies, and even his voters to rationalize away his indictments because see! they all do it.

Update: Politico reports, N.J. Dem leaders are meeting about yanking Menendez from the party line , which appears to semi-answer a question from above. The piece is brief and does not explain what the exact legal mechanism might be.

Should The Press Pick a Side?

New Republic editor Michael Tomasky fleshes out an argument I’ve seen alluded to many times in the comments here, “We Have Two Medias in This Country, and They’re Going to Elect Donald Trump.”

It’s often asked in my circles: Why isn’t Joe Biden getting more credit for his accomplishments? As with anything, there’s no single reason. Inflation is a factor. His age is as well. Ditto the fact that people aren’t quite yet seeing the infrastructure improvements or the lower prescription drug costs.

There is no one reason. But there is one overwhelming factor in play: the media. Or rather, the two medias. It’s very important that people understand this: We reside in a media environment that promotes—whether it intends to or not—right-wing authoritarian spectacle. At the same time, as a culture, it’s consistently obsessed with who “won the day,” while placing far less value on the fact that the civic and democratic health of the country is nurtured through practices such as deliberation, compromise, and sober governance. The result is bad for Joe Biden. But it’s potentially tragic for democracy.

So far, we’re in broad agreement. The news business has always been, first and foremost, a business. They were always in the business of selling more copies of the paper or magazine, getting more listeners or viewers, or generating more clicks—usually because it meant they could charge advertisers more. Further, the culture of the enterprise has generally been to emphasize the new (it’s right there in the name!) and novel. The combination of these things means that “Man Bites Dog” is news while “Dog Bites Man” is not. Ditto the old aphorism, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

But that’s not Tomasky’s main point.

Let me begin by discussing these two medias. The first, of course, is what we call the mainstream media: The New York Times, The Washington Post, the major (non-Fox) news networks, a handful of other newspapers and magazines. This has also been known as the “agenda-setting media,” because historically, that’s what they did: Whatever was the lead story in The New York Times that day filtered down, through the wire services and other delivery systems, to every newspaper and television and radio station in the United States.

Then there’s an avowedly right-wing propaganda network. This got cranked up in the 1970s, when conservatives, irate over what they (not incorrectly) saw as a strong liberal bias in the mainstream media, decided to build their own. Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post. In the 1980s, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon started The Washington Times. In the 1990s, right-wing talk radio exploded (enabled, in part, by a 2–1 decision by a judicial panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals making the Fairness Doctrine discretionary; those judges were Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork). Then the Fox News Channel was launched.

Back then, even with the launch of Fox, the mainstream media was much larger and more influential than the right-wing media. If the mainstream media was a beachball, the right-wing media was the size of a golf ball.

Today? They’re about the same size. In fact, the right-wing media might finally be bigger. Mainstream media audiences and newsrooms have shrunk. Consider: In 1990, newspapers reached 63 million readers ; in 2020, that number was 24 million. In 2006, newspapers employed about 75,000 people. In 2020, that figure was 31,000. The right-wing media, meanwhile, has grown and grown: Fox, One America, Newsmax, talk radio, Sinclair and all its local TV and radio news operations, and much more.

So the right-wing media today is, I’d argue, at least equal in size to the mainstream media. 

The numerical comparisons strike me as sleight-of-hand. I consume a lot more news than I did two decades ago even though I no longer subscribe to a daily newspaper, two or three newsweeklies, and two or three opinion journals. That’s because of this thing—you may have heard of it—called the Internet. (I believe it’s a series of tubes.) I’d guess that the NYT and WaPo—indeed, the New Republic itself—are actually more widely read now than they were in the olden days because it’s far easier and cheaper to gain access.

But Tomasky’s bigger point still is this one:

The right-wing media has more power to set the news agenda than the mainstream media. It’s vital to understand this fact, and why it’s so.

The success of the right-wing media is by and large due to the way they speak in lockstep, with one voice, and the way they push one very partisan agenda. They promote Republicans and conservatives, and they say nothing good ever about Democrats or liberals (exception: people who go off the reservation and willingly foul the Democratic-liberal nest, like Joe Manchin or some liberal academic or talking head who turns right, like Glenn Greenwald). Their guiding ethos is not journalistic but political: to advance one party and creed and work their readers and viewers into a constant state of agitation about the other party and creed. And in a time when the Republican Party project has little to do with policy and everything to do with fomenting culture war, no matter how trivial, the right-wing Wurlitzer is adept at ginning up a good two-minute hate against something that got tweeted or what Mr. Potato Head is wearing that week—and here, the mainstream media, chasing engagement like a child fields for candy, follows the right down into these rabbit holes.

The mainstream media, in contrast, do not speak with one very partisan voice; they speak in many voices—critically, including many non-polemical ones. Their guiding ethos is not political but journalistic. Sure, they’re “liberal,” in two senses. First, their editorial pages typically endorse Democrats. And second, they are culturally liberal, because they are mostly based in big cities and their staffs include lots of LGBTQ people, for example, and precious few evangelical Christians.

But even with all that, the mainstream media do not serve a transparent political agenda in the way the right-media do. When The New York Times or CNN or MSNBC gets a scoop about serious corruption in the Biden administration, they pursue the lead and, if verified, report it. If Fox got such a scoop about Donald Trump … well, it’s conceivable that there’s someone left there who wants to do real journalism and who might pursue it. I wish that person luck, though, in getting it on the air. And even if Fox were forced to report it, they’d quickly find ways to rebut it.

This is a reasonably strong, if overstated and somewhat convoluted, point. We should always be skeptical of arguments that take the form, “Our enemies are better organized and more ruthless than we are,” in that they surely think the same. And the news side of Fox certainly reported all manner of the Trump scandals—it’s just that the talking heads on the opinion side are more influential.

Still, it’s true that there’s a right-wing infotainment complex that’s united in their hatred of Democrats and that the mainstream press isn’t a left-wing analog. (There is a fairly substantial left-leaning press—Daily Beast, HuffPo, etc.—but it’s likely less coordinated.) So, we indeed have a normal press whose reporters and editors lean left but will nonetheless have an ethos that requires relatively balanced coverage in parallel with a partisan press that doesn’t.

Now—back to Biden and the question of credit. The right-media will never give Biden credit for anything. He could cure Alzheimer’s, and they’d lead with the fact that he failed to cure Parkinson’s. So, in their world, nothing good that happens in the economy can or will ever be credited to Biden.

And in the mainstream media? Yes, Biden gets credit for things, but the mainstream media do not speak with one voice as the right-wing media do. So, to the loud and bumptious anti-Biden chorus that blames him for everything bad, there is no equally loud and bumptious pro-Biden answering chorus speaking as one and giving him credit for everything good.

So, again, this is a category error. It’s not the job of the mainstream press to “speak with one voice.” And, frankly, they pretty much have on the matter of Donald Trump, at least going back to the first impeachment. They routinely call out his lies in a way that is really unprecedented in the era of objectivity.

And with respect to economics specifically, the imbalance is made worse by the fact that the mainstream business press, as Tim Noah pointed out  not long ago, tends to accentuate the negative and see bad news nearly always coming around the corner.

That ethos prevailed during Trump’s administration, too, no?

And that’s why today, the right-wing media have become the agenda-setting media: They set the political agenda because, on core issues, they speak with one very loud voice.

This is just a wild leap from a more-or-less reasonable setup. Even factoring in the proliferation of Sinclair-owned local stations, what percentage of the voter population is consuming the right-wing media? I’d guess it’s pretty low and self-selected.

Tomasky and I agree here:

By the way—and I want to stress this—I’m not arguing that the mainstream media should speak with one loud and liberal voice. No—the mainstream media should do journalism. Politico doesn’t exist to provide cover for Democrats, nor should it. It and other mainstream outlets should try to treat both sides equally.

But I remain skeptical of this:

Except … when they shouldn’t. There are times when it’s impossible, from a journalistic perspective, to treat both sides as equals. And the press has to get a lot better at recognizing when those moments arise.

We agree that the two sides are currently not comparable. Biden has many flaws but he’s a generally decent person who generally supports democratic principles and the rules of law. Trump, not so much. But I was able to figure that out without the mainstream press turning into a left-wing propaganda machine.

After a few paragraphs about conservative media critics working the refs for decades, making the major players bend over backward to avoid appearing to have a liberal bias, Tomasky gets to the other part of his headline:

There’s a malignant manifestation, and it’s the one that profoundly poisons our democratic well: the pursuit of “balance” in the coverage of politicians. This is what’s going to help elect Donald Trump.

How? Because media, by its nature, decontextualizes facts. That’s how news is presented. No news outlet ever tells you the full story, because the full story is long and complicated and, often, pretty boring. What’s “news,” on the other hand, is the stuff that’s interesting and that stands out. So outlets run with that, and even when they try to contextualize later, it often doesn’t matter.

Take the classified documents cases. They could hardly be more different. Trump had hundreds of documents with classified markings; Biden, about 20. Trump ignored repeated requests from the FBI to come down to Mar-a-Lago and do a search. Biden’s attorneys, upon discovering a few classified documents among his papers, immediately and voluntarily called the White House, which immediately and voluntarily notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which immediately took possession of the docs.

And yet the story, for a lot of voters, is, “They both did it.” I’m not sure what can be done about this. The right-wing press promoted that line, and of course it lied and lied and lied about Biden, using the phrase “1,850 boxes” as if that number of boxes was full of classified documents (it was the total number of boxes of papers from his Senate career). And lies, as we know, get around the world a lot faster than the truth.

So the right-wing media spread the lies, but the mainstream media were surely guilty of overhyping the Biden docs story—and, for that matter, the Mike Pence docs story. In both those cases, it’s likely that some aide made a mistake. Couldn’t be more different from Trump. Yet the media coverage in both the Biden and Pence cases for the first few days was salacious. There just has to be a way to cover things proportionally.

Granting that I’m an outlier in many ways, I read lots of mainstream press coverage of the documents cases and came away with pretty much the same conclusion as Tomasky. But maybe more casual news consumers would have lumped them all together— especially if they never got beyond headlines.

The bit about de-contextualization is reasonable enough, although I’m not sure it’s true anymore. Half a century ago, Ben Bradlee’s decision to have Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein write long stories on the Watergate scandal, constantly re-contextualizing and putting previous reportage into perspective, was extraordinary and controversial. But the digital age has made that pretty ordinary.

Again, I’m not the typical news consumer but there was more content on the documents scandals than I had time or inclination to read. Even aside from niche venues, places like NYT and WaPo now routinely provide PDFs of indictments, often with detailed annotations. Lots of news stories now link back to previous coverage, either internally or on the sidebars. Context and analysis are available in abundance for those who want it.

And this will happen between now and the election: Biden has been known from time to time to embellish stories. He used to tell a story about being arrested in South Africa some years ago because he refused to use a “whites only” door. He apparently did refuse to use that door, but he wasn’t arrested; he was detained, as he ultimately admitted. But Fox can string together a few of those, and the narrative will become, “They both lie.” What will the mainstream media do about that?

Again, this is a category error. “The mainstream media” and Fox are not analogs. It’s not their job to do something about the narratives in the partisan press. That falls to outlets like TNR.

So, no—on matters like these, both sides absolutely cannot be treated equally. One side lies all the time, and with specific intent. On the other side, lies and exaggerations are sometimes told to gain advantage or gild a lily (by the way, this used to describe the Republican Party as well as the Democrats, but no longer). But for the right, lies are a weapon. The media must recognize the difference, and they must point it out, over and over and over.

I don’t know what that looks like in practice but it sounds like editorializing, not reporting.

Simple rule: When fairness and the truth are in conflict, journalism has to choose the truth. If it doesn’t, there goes democracy—killed off, in part, by the free press that is supposed to be its frontline defender.

Fairness and truth aren’t in conflict. It doesn’t even make sense. Perhaps he means “balance,” of the both-sides variety? Because there I would tend to agree.

A media environment that doesn’t put truth above all other considerations is by definition a media environment that promotes spectacle. The right-wing media—which, again, is now the agenda-setting media—promotes spectacle intentionally. The mainstream media does it unintentionally, but it does it all the same. And we know who benefits from that. Again, another point that’s important to understand: “The media” as an entity, as a sort of self-perpetuating machine, is different from “journalists.” I have little doubt that most mainstream journalists revile Trump, either because of his politics or (if they’re not personally liberal) because he is an enemy of free speech, independent inquiry, serious discussion, and every value journalists cherish.

But that isn’t what matters here. What matters is that the mainstream media, as a machine, loves Trump. Or at least, the machine loves how useful he is. He seeks constant attention, he provokes, he’s self-centered, he’s bombastic; he and the media beast feed off each other. Biden, on the other hand, is none of those things, and he has qualities that the media beast finds uncompelling. He’s serious, knowledgeable, not flashy, not attention-seeking, and empathetic. It’s just not a fair fight.

Again, this seems patently obvious from even casual news consumption. But, yes, Trump’s ability to attract eyeballs shouldn’t lead to him being treated as a normal politician.

So that’s where we are. What should the mainstream media do? I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few thoughts.

Call a lie a lie.

Don’t seek to create false equivalencies in the name of “balance.”

Don’t be afraid to say that one side lies constantly and with the specific intent of muddying facts, while the other side lies far less frequently or maliciously.

Again, it seems to me that the major mainstream press outlets are very much doing this already and have been for some time.

Remember that we are not just in the “news” business. We’re in the information business. We’re in the preservation of the civic fabric business. And we’re in the business of people: Wherever people need the intervention of journalists, we don’t check to see how they voted first. It’s our responsibility to try to build an informed public. This means for example reminding voters of the lies Trump told as president and the norm-crushing actions he took. That’s not “news” per se, but it’s information the electorate tends to forget and will need in order to make an informed decision.

Again, this is both a violation of longstanding journalistic norms and what the mainstream outlets have been doing for quite some time now.

The right-wing media will be out there promoting Trump’s lies and telling their own lies about Biden. The mainstream media shouldn’t cover for Biden—if the law ends up having Hunter Biden dead to rights, it should of course be covered truthfully. But in addition to telling the literal, factual truth on any given issue, the mainstream media must remember that it can’t shirk the larger truth, that American democracy is under grave threat.

If that’s taking sides, well, it’s the side Abraham Lincoln took against a racist, authoritarian regime, and the side Franklin Roosevelt took against fascism. That strikes me as the side a free press, if it hopes to stay free, should want to join.

Lincoln and Roosevelt were politicians, not journalists. But, again, it’s been pretty obvious to me since at least Trump’s inauguration what side WaPo and NYT were on.

Tabs and Takes

After members of the United Auto Workers walked off the job at midnight, Twitter stripped the union of its account verification without notice, according to a UAW official. The account, as of publication time, lacked verification  — but its blue check was restored shortly after the story began circulating widely. Twitter’s verification policy  temporarily removes verification from accounts that change profile pictures, which the UAW did in conjunction with the walkout.

There are also political complexities. The region where the lithium deposit was found is sparsely populated today, but both the Paiute and the Shoshone claim it as unceded ancestral land. They lost it during the Snake War , one of the lesser-known and bloodiest conflicts of America’s westward expansion, which was partly triggered by white settlers’ dreams of mineral riches. The tribes, environmentalists, and local ranchers have all recently sued to prevent the creation of an open-pit lithium mine nearby. They’ve been unsuccessful , but litigation concerning this new deposit may unfold differently. Srinivasan stressed that the process will be unpredictable and time-consuming. If history is any indication, it could take a decade.

Republican Crazies Forcing Government Shutdown

For the umpteenth time since I began my current job a little over a decade ago, we are devoting considerable time planning for a government shutdown. By all accounts, this one is inevitable.

WaPo (“House Republicans falter on funding plans, as shutdown inches closer“):

House Republicans for the second week in a row failed to move forward on any legislation related to funding the government, stunning many in their ranks as a government shutdown looms next week.

The status of negotiations on both a short-term funding solution and long-term appropriations legislation declined so severely Thursday that lawmakers began to return home, with no votes scheduled for the rest of the week.

Republicans’ inability to pass a single funding provision since returning to Washington last week — including twice failing to start debate on a Defense Department appropriations bill — is the latest embarrassment for the conference whose direction is being dictated not by leaders but a handful of stubborn holdouts.

Unable to overcome the opposition, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has scrapped discussion of a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, significantly increasing the already high chances of a government shutdown.

In an attempt to appease the demands of the far-right members who vowed to oppose any stopgap measure — called a continuing resolution and colloquially referred to as a “CR” — until there is progress on long-term appropriations bills, McCarthy and his leadership team will focus on passing the 11 remaining individual bills.

“The CR is dead,” said one Republican aide who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.

If there is enough progress on the individual funding bills to satisfy the demands of the holdouts, Republicans could resume discussions on how to keep the government open in the short term.

“I came up here to be responsible. We’re gonna be responsible,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who is part of a group that would block a short-term funding bill and is demanding the passage of a budget and individual funding bills. “I’m going to hold firm.”

But with just more than a week until the end of the fiscal year and no votes expected in the House until Tuesday, a shutdown seems likely.

“Obviously, the timetable is very short,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.). “And you know, getting stuff out of the House and then getting agreement in the Senate and so forth doesn’t seem highly likely. But there’s a number of options that are out there.”

The Senate has been preparing to have to move first on a short-term funding plan should the House fail to act. Senators have a continuing resolution bill written, according to two people familiar with the internal workings of the chamber, but it’s not clear if or when that bill would move.

The Senate had been waiting on the House to move first to avoid any parliamentary challenges since spending bills are constitutionally required to originate in the House.

After several setbacks over the past two weeks, a majority of House Republicans believed their luck would change early Thursday after finding a solution hours earlier to end a blockade that prevented them from advancing the Defense Department appropriations bill. But in a stunning defeat that McCarthy admitted he did not foresee, two new objectors emerged and caused the typically noncontroversial procedural hurdle to fail for the second time this week .

“It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate,” McCarthy said leaving the House chamber after the failed vote. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn’t work.”

Lawmakers immediately huddled in McCarthy’s office to find a path forward that would appease numerous holdouts. Many of those holdouts said they would never vote for a short-term spending deal in protest of Republicans not passing the remaining 11 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government for a full year — which in part includes the legislation they blocked Thursday.

McCarthy may need to relent on his insistence to pass funding measures with only Republican votes, a demand made by many in the far-right HouseFreedom Caucus who say they will introduce a motion to remove him  from the speakership if he relies on Democrats to pass legislation. With only a four-vote margin, House Republicans have been — and will continue to be — tested throughout the fiscal fight.

POLITICO (“House GOP erupts as conservatives block defense bill again“) adds:

Speaker Kevin McCarthy suffered yet another stinging defeat Thursday, as a handful of conservatives tanked a key vote that was supposed to signal the way out of days of intraparty bickering.

Instead, GOP hardliners again blockaded the floor for the second time in three days — leaving McCarthy unable to call the party’s own defense spending bill to the floor. This time, though, it came as a shock to many GOP leaders, who believed they won over enough holdouts to finally bring up the Pentagon funding bill.

Perhaps more ominously, the ultraconservatives’ gambit proved what many in the GOP had already suspected: That McCarthy is essentially powerless to avert a government closure that could begin Oct. 1.

Across the conference, House Republicans erupted in fury.

“This is painful. It gives me a headache. This is a very difficult series of missteps by our conference,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told POLITICO. “If you can’t do [the defense bill], what can you do?”

Walking down the steps of the Capitol after the failed vote, battleground Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), too, vented about the hardliners.

“At this point, it seems like there are some people playing policy warfare, and I think we need to move our country forward,” he said. “We’re pretty frustrated.”

NYT (“Right-Wing Rebels Block Defense Bill Again, Rebuking McCarthy on Spending“) adds:

Right-wing House Republicans dealt another stunning rebuke to Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday, blocking a Pentagon funding bill for the second time this week in a vivid display of G.O.P. disunity on federal spending that threatens to lead to a government shutdown in nine days.


It was a major black eye for Mr. McCarthy, who has on multiple occasions admonished his members in private for taking the rare step of bringing down such measures, known as rules, proposed by their own party — a previously unheard-of tactic . And it signaled continuing right-wing resistance to funding the government, even after the speaker had capitulated Wednesday night to demands from hard-right Republicans for deeper spending cuts as part of any bill to prevent a shutdown on Oct. 1.


Democrats were left shocked at the level of dysfunction across the aisle.

“Just really a collapse,” declared Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “There really isn’t any leadership.”

Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a member of Democratic leadership, said he had never before seen a speaker lose a rule vote so many times — three times in four months, and twice this week alone — something that had not happened for two decades before Mr. McCarthy assumed the post.

“I don’t quite understand this,” Mr. Clyburn said of Mr. McCarthy’s strategy, before suggesting he consider cutting a deal with the top House Democrat that could pass both chambers and keep the government open. “My advice is, ‘Go sit down with Hakeem Jeffries.’ If he’s got a solid majority of his caucus, why wouldn’t he? This is the tail wagging the dog. That’s not the way to do it.”

But Mr. McCarthy is keenly aware that if he were to turn to Democrats for help funding the government, he would face a right-wing effort to remove him from his post.

Given that McCarthy is unable to lead this caucus, anyway, giving up the Speakership arguably isn’t even a big sacrifice. But it’s not at all clear a replacement wouldn’t be even worse.

While I understand that “right-wing” and “ultraconservative” are serving as a shorthand here, it’s really misleading in that it frames as ideological something that’s something else entirely. There’s no policy dispute here. Those are solvable. McCarthy is right: there is a faction happy just to burn the whole thing down. I suppose “hardliners” works as a description but even that suggests that they’re holding firm on an actual belief system. I went with “crazies” in the headline but that’s not exactly a political science term.

That’s not to say there aren’t policy disputes. But there’s no unity among the defectors in terms of goals.

In a sign of the complex and confounding resistance Mr. McCarthy is facing within his own party, the group of defectors on Thursday was slightly different from the five who broke with the G.O.P. to oppose the same measure two days earlier.

Ms. Greene, who has emerged as a McCarthy ally in this Congress and supported the debt ceiling bill he negotiated with President Biden, on Tuesday had voted with her party on the rule. But she said online that she voted against it on Thursday because it contained funding for the war in Ukraine.

“Our Defense bill should not fund our DOD for blood money for the Ukraine war, that’s why I’m a NO,” she wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Ms. Greene was also aligned with hard-right Republicans who made it clear they planned to stand in opposition to Mr. McCarthy’s latest stopgap funding proposal, even after he bowed to their demands for steep spending cuts that stood little chance of surviving in the Senate. The group, which included at least seven Republicans, appeared to be large enough to defeat it given the party’s tiny majority, which allows for no more than four defections if all Democrats vote in opposition.

This is a very small group. Alas, when there’s a four-vote majority and the attempts to appease this group have made the bill toxic for Democrats, seven votes is huge.