Eighth-grader recorded teacher’s seven-minute rant about vaccines and Joe Biden

An absolutely shocking story out of a middle school in Ventura, California, has me thinking back to my own days as a preteen. I attended a public school and while we were assigned debates on pre-selected issues, we weren’t really supposed to talk about the big event dominating the news at the time: invading Afghanistan. This meant (of course) that all that my classmates and I wanted to know was where our teachers stood politically. I distinctly remember essentially goading my social studies teacher into admitting, to our horror, that he backed Bush and supported invading Afghanistan (making him perhaps the least surprised of anyone who ever taught me that I ended up working at Daily Kos decades later). All of this to say: I understand teachers, like everyone, are imperfect, and I don’t necessarily think all “political” topics should be off-limits in the classroom.

But this incident out of Anacapa Middle School is so wildly inappropriate, offensive, and downright concerning, it’s not even in the same stratosphere. A history teacher at the school was recorded ranting about Hunter Biden, claiming that Biden had sex with his niece and had child pornography on his laptop. The teacher topped off the diatribe by, you guessed it, bringing up Ukraine, as reported by CBS Los Angeles. They also ranted about—you guessed it—vaccines. The teacher has not been publicly identified at the time of writing.

“People need to wake up and see the government has way too much power right now,” the teacher can be heard saying in the recording taken by a student in the classroom. The child’s parent apparently told them that if they were ever uncomfortable with what a teacher was saying, they were allowed to take out their phone and record. That’s what the student did when the incident occurred about two weeks ago, and whew, what a great thing that student did.

“Hunter Biden, for example, is doing deals with China and Ukraine where he was funneling money illegally,” the teacher says in the recording, which reportedly lasts about seven minutes. “He also had child pornography on his laptop. He was having sexual intercourse with his own niece.” Again, obviously not true, and obviously disturbingly inappropriate to say to literal children. 

Sarah Silikula, the parent of the child who recorded the teacher’s bizarre rant, said her child came home very upset and confused by the whole thing. According to Silikula, her child said: “I’m never getting vaccinated,” and declared that they’re not getting any more shots of any kind. It’s no surprise the kid is totally spooked by vaccines, given that the teacher alleged that if you have a baby in a hospital and you choose not to get vaccinated, you don’t get your baby back.

According to Silikula, her child then asked her a question that likely made her stomach drop: “Did you know Trump’s still president?” Yikes.

According to the outlet, the school district has condemned the teacher’s comments. Students in the class have been assigned to another teacher. The teacher involved in the incident is still employed at the school, and the district told the outlet it will apply its “progressive” discipline policy to handle the situation.

A strategic delay in play and the bell tolls for thee, John Eastman

It is not completely clear why the Jan. 6 committee has opted to delay—temporarily—a request for some of the records from the Trump White House that are pertinent to its investigation, but by pumping the brakes for now, the committee could be positioning itself to fight smarter, not harder.  

First reported by Politico on Wednesday, committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said that while the investigatory body is “in a hurry” to review critical information, they also “don’t want to get hung up” as the probe labors on.  

White House counsel Dana Remus has already informed National Archivist David Ferriero that President Joe Biden would not claim executive privilege over the documents since doing so, he said, failed to be “in the best interests of the United States.”

Former President Donald Trump tried his hand at asserting executive privilege over dozens of records and as he is known to do, turned to the courts to obstruct oversight of his activities. The lawsuit, filed at the D.C. District Court, claims the Biden White House’s refusal to shroud the records in executive privilege was just part and parcel of Democrats “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition.”

Common to the former president as that response may be, to his credit, his team quite shockingly did not use the term “witch hunt” once in that lawsuit.

Digressions aside, for the last few weeks the National Archives has been busy processing at least three troves of records related to Trump’s tumultuous time in office and is expected to remit its findings to the committee by Nov. 12.

The only way the National Archives would not hand those documents over is if the court intervenes to uphold Trump’s request.

As to the committee’s delay on Wednesday to postpone its request records, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Politico only that the decision was “routine” to the back-and-forth of two branches of government when it comes to highly important and sensitive matters.

Tim Mulvey, the Jan. 6 committee spokesperson, emphasized in a statement Wednesday that the committee has in no way withdrawn its request and the decision to defer will not stop the panel’s pursuit of gaining access “to all the information relevant” to the probe.

Meanwhile, the bell is apparently tolling for John Eastman. The Washington Post was first to report that a subpoena is imminent for the onetime law professor and author of a now-notorious memo that, in a nutshell, offered a strategy for how Trump could remain in power and overturn the 2020 election results despite the fact that they were overwhelmingly in favor of Joe Biden.

Eastman’s subpoena is likely to request his correspondence about the memo as well as any documentation or communication he has regarding meetings at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. in the run up to the putsch on the Capitol.

Eastman’s memo, according to The Washington Post, “served as the basis” for a Jan. 4 meeting with Trump, the one-time law professor, and then-Vice President Mike Pence.

The conservative Claremont Institute board member has publicly waffled about the intent behind the memo. Depending on who in the media asks him, Eastman has dubbed it as unviable fluff or part of something that Republicans in Washington, D.C.—or “beltway Republicans”—wouldn’t understand.

When reached for comment by Daily Kos on Wednesday, an aide to the Jan. 6 committee said Eastman has long been on the committee’s radar.

“Mr. Eastman advised the former President and others about the transition of power and the counting of the electoral votes. Our earliest record requests sought information about his role and he is a witness the Select Committee would like to hear from. Mr. Eastman has engaged with the Select Committee and has the opportunity to cooperate voluntarily, but we will use the tools at our disposal to get any information we believe is relevant to our investigation,” the aide said.

How to deal with a radical Supreme Court? 34% say abolish it

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the highest court in the land three years ago this week. (Thanks for that, Joe Manchin!). Oct. 6, 2018 stands as an inflection point in the court's move toward illegitimacy.

To be sure, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's blockade of President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, was questionable. But the subsequent nomination of Neil Gorsuch by the former guy proceeded as normal, and Gorsuch hid his rabid extremism well throughout. Kavanaugh, though, couldn't hide his essential being. The privileged white frat boy bully was on full display, and the nation woke up to the fact that even on the Supreme Court, our country's most revered government institution is open to that guy—the same guy who got the promotion over you because of his daddy and his connections.

Since Ruth Bader Ginsberg's death and the unleashing of the rabidly far-right majority with her successor, Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court’s last shreds of legitimacy are falling away. That's made abundantly clear by the latest survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Its findings—that more than one-third of Americans would consider abolishing the court if it continues to rule counter to majority opinion—demonstrate that the last hope for a court the people see as legitimate lies in its reform.

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The survey found that 34% of respondents said "it might be better to do away with the court altogether" if it "started making a lot of rulings that most Americans disagreed with." In 2007, Annenberg asked that question and fewer than 20% of respondents agreed the court could be abolished, while over 80% disagreed. Now 65% disagree with the idea of abolishing the court, dropping precipitously from about 78% in 2019.

Most Americans, for example, support abortion rights; 59% in a recent Pew poll say it "should be legal in all or most cases." Yet the Supreme Court, in a secretive and opaque shadow docket ruling, allowed almost all abortion to end in Texas. It will hear a case this fall that could end that constitutional right to an abortion for millions of Americans.

The survey also found that 38% of Americans believe that "Congress should pass legislation saying the Supreme Court can no longer rule on that issue or topic" when the Congress disagrees with the court's decisions, up about 10 points from the 2019 survey. Say, on voting rights, which the Roberts court has effectively eviscerated.

"Respect for judicial independence appears to be eroding," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), said of the findings. "The willingness of more than 1 in 3 Americans to entertain the idea of abolishing the court or stripping jurisdiction from it is alarming." The findings also aren't outliers, the APPC points out. "Gallup reported in September that the Supreme Court’s approval rating plunged to 40%, a new low, from 49% in July. A Marquette Law School Poll in September found the court’s approval rating falling to 49% from 60% in July."

Whether this erosion in trust in the court is coming from the rabid right that trusts no one but Trump, or the rest of us who have watched the court become increasingly beholden to far-right corporate interests isn't clear from the survey. What is clear is that if more than one-third of the population thinks doing away with the court is a solid idea, then the president and Congress taking on court reform by expanding it is not a particularly radical proposition.

What Elie Mystal says: "Court expansion is the preferred constitutional solution to a Court that oversteps its mandate or thumbs its nose at the will of the people." Court expansion dilutes the power of the new Federalist Society majority, appointed not for their judicial experience or integrity, but for their willingness to participate in advancing a fascist vision for the U.S.

What Mystal also says: "As the Court prepares to merrily set everything on fire this term, Democrats are looking at the constitutional fire extinguisher and thinking, It says we can only break the glass in case of an emergency, and we're not sure burning our constituents' rights at the stake qualifies." They've got to get over that, just like they have to get over thinking getting rid of the filibuster is a radical idea (which, by the way, they'll have to do to expand the court and save everything, anyway). With more than one-third of the country thinking the court is worthy of dissolution, using this option to save the institution (and the country!) is a no-brainer.

Lauren Boebert really wants to impeach Biden, but she should have hired a proofreader first

The campaign finances of Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado have been the subject of a lot of speculation. The seemingly corrupt and possibly illegal ways she has used her campaign’s finances to pay for personal items—like $20,000 worth of gasoline and rent. She’s not particularly bright, but neither are most of her colleagues. She’s petty, suspected of being tied up deeply in the Jan. 6 attempted coup d’etat, and practices a substance- and fact-free style of political theater that was employed most successfully by Donald Trump in 2015. 

On Friday, Rep. Boebert did her best impression of whatever it is the GOP think public servants look like and sent out a press release calling for the impeachment of President Joe Biden. Why? Who cares. What is Rep. Boebert offering to do for her constituents? Nothing. Did Lauren Boebert send out this news release with big capitalized signage that reads “IMEACH BIDEN”? Yes. Yes, she did. And while she has since tried to hide this glaring mistake, the internet is forever.

Let us start with a caveat: We are laughing at Lauren Boebert because she’s a crap person. People with GEDs, a group to which Boebert reportedly belongs, are not stupid.

Boebert’s issues are specific to her profession and political party. Whatever education she has had does not seem to make her any less “smart” than Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his carefully scheduled Yale legacy. It makes her no less intelligent than suspected sex trafficker and William and Mary Law School alum Rep. Matt Gaetz. And while Marjorie Taylor Greene is nine years older than Boebert, there does not seem to be much of a difference between the two when it comes to maturity.

So let’s focus on the gaffe, and avoid punching down on the millions of people with GEDs who aren’t Lauren Boebert.

Without further ado, I bring you epic typo political theater!

Lauren Boebert has sent a release calling to impeach Biden, but she has messed up the logo here pic.twitter.com/IR3m2QxNFT

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) September 24, 2021

Here’s the full piece.

Rep. Boebert confounds constituents by making a sign declaring she’s “each Biden” pic.twitter.com/in6n3BVfg2

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) September 24, 2021

And the responses are very soothing.

Lauren Boebert: "Hey Marge, mind if I copy your work?" Marjorie Taylor Greene: "Sure just don't make it obvious." Lauren Boebert: *chuckles "KAY!" pic.twitter.com/AW2OhpJYNB

— 💀DeathMetalViking💀 (@DeathMetalV) September 24, 2021

And then fun with words.

I cannot wait for her to go to rison.

— Jen Henry (@jenresisted) September 24, 2021

We cannot let her imeach the President. I meap it.

— James Gregory (@JasGregory) September 24, 2021

And here’s a joke.

Imeach is already registered by Ikea as the name of a footstool.

— Tinzien (@Tinzien) September 24, 2021

Then there is the imagery.

Lauren Boebert says that she’s ...“each Biden” . Also Lauren Boebert : pic.twitter.com/075K0YTssZ

— JFK (@JFKtheone) September 24, 2021

And some classic gaff reminders.

Lauren Boebert misspelled the word "impeach" today as "imeach." In March she misspelled her own last name. Lol. https://t.co/HZ1pl0L1v6

— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) September 24, 2021

And from the “I didn’t say it, this person did” files:

Boebert is why we have to have directions on shampoo bottles. https://t.co/qdQtCJe8FT

— Hold My PomPoms Bitches (@Scattered211) September 24, 2021

In Boebert’s filing, she wants to imeach both President Biden and Vice President Harris. If you imeach the president and vice president, the next in line is speaker of the House.  

Also, maybe this is what Boebert was going for?

I'm Joe. I'm Jill. I'm Ashley. I'm Hunter. Imeach Biden. https://t.co/kwlncxnFDe

— Yanick Saila-Ngita (@wunderkind87) September 24, 2021

And finally.

What do you expect? It is Lauren Boebert.

— Mam2902 (@madds123) September 24, 2021

Please feel free to add some ideas in the comments.

Trump is claiming executive privilege to prevent Biden from releasing documents. Trump will lose

Denied his access to Twitter, Donald Trump has taken to issuing regular missives to his supporters—almost all of which come with a link for providing donations. On Wednesday, one of those statements made clear that, even before the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 issued its first subpoenas, Trump intended to fight them using “executive privilege.”

"Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my Administration and the Patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our Nation," wrote Trump.

No one has relied more heavily on executive privilege than Trump. During his time at the White House, and especially during his first impeachment, it’s easy to determine the number of document and testimony requests that were met with a claim of executive privilege—because it was all of them. Trump even instructed members of executive branch agency to refuse to attend long-standing regulatory meetings, or refuse to provide standard information, with the idea that he might claim privilege. In almost all these instances, he didn’t actually ever make such a claim. He also didn’t provide the requested information. Under Trump, executive privilege became a black box that could be placed around any information, at any time, and because it was never really claimed, never had to defend itself in court.

But, for all the ways that Trump has applied executive privilege in the past, there is one thing he can’t do: He can’t call on it from beyond the political grave. As Rep. Jamie Raskin said in response to the missive from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s thoughts on executive privilege aren’t particularly meaningful at this point “because there’s no president involved—there’s no such thing as a former president’s executive privilege.”

The one person who decides what information gets shared now is the actual president. And no matter what the MAGA crowd might think, the actual president is Joe Biden.

Executive privilege is not a term found in the Constitution. The extent to which the executive can hold secrets, and the actions that the Congress can take to reveal them, is a balance that has always been maintained through a battle of wills occasionally moderated by the Supreme Court.

There have always been instances in which discussions in the White House were held in a high degree of secrecy, but for the most part legal protections extended only to things such as military plans or diplomatic communications that could be construed as matters of national security. Going back to disputes between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson, the Supreme Court (or to be more accurate, John Marshall) ruled that presidents have no particular protections or privileges attached to their private discussions. A quarter of a century later, Andrew Jackson refused to hand over any information to the Senate … but Jackson was an authoritarian jackass whose attitude toward the courts and law shouldn’t be taken as precedent for anyone. Somewhere in the middle of those two positions is the bounds of executive privilege. 

Though there is a lengthy list of refusals to produce information by the executive branch, the first broad application of such privilege didn’t come until Dwight Eisenhower cited executive privilege in refusing to provide information from the Defense Department during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Eisenhower’s reasoning might be fully justifiable, and his opponent wholly execrable, but it was in this exchange that the idea of executive privilege as an appropriate tool for protecting “candid advice,” rather than matters of vital national interest, originated. Eisenhower also extended the idea of privilege beyond direct communications with the executive to cover such discussions among advisers. 

Richard Nixon took that opening and ran for the end zone. Post-Nixon, Republicans have really liked them some executive privilege. Like ... a lot. Ford claimed it. The Bushes, father and son, worked it heavily. And if Donald Trump’s claim that agencies can deny requests from the Congress while waiting to see if he wants to declare privilege seemed like something new, it wasn’t. Ronald Reagan went there first. Reagan’s idea that everything should be assumed to be privileged until he said otherwise flipped the whole concept on its head. It has stayed flipped.

Democrats haven’t been immune to the executive privilege itch. Barack Obama claimed executive privilege when the Republican-led House insisted that then-Attorney General Eric Holder turn over documents about an ongoing investigation or face perjury charges. Bill Clinton claimed privilege over documents about his inappropriate White House affair … and lost that claim in court.

Over the last 50 years, the idea of executive privilege has become so ingrained that it’s often simply assumed that any exchange between White House advisers, or even officials at regulatory agencies, is shrouded by the potential of privilege being exerted. Which has made executive privilege the enemy of transparency in a way that few (except perhaps Jackson, Nixon, and Trump) would appreciate.

But none of this—zip, zero, nada—will avail Trump now. Because, as Raskin said, executive privilege is something for people who are still in office. People who are out of office are protected by something else, something called the Presidential Records Act. And how that applies is up to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The first thing that Act does is make it clear that all records of the president and vice president are public data. The next thing it does is make the incumbent president the custodian of that information, and it gives the incumbent president some very broad powers.

The president can destroy records

If information is found to “no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value” then the president can have those records chucked. However, there is a catch. First this proposal has to run past the National Archives. Records can only be disposed on a written request from the president, and with a written approval from the archivist.

The President can restrict access to records

The president can determine that there is a compelling national interest to keep records under wraps for up to 12 years. However, information is open to selected Freedom of Information requests after five years. Again, all of this happens in coordination with the National Archives.

The president can take full control of the records

For as long as the president is in office, records can be essentially taken away from the Archives and held by the White House, meaning that anyone who wants them has to request or subpoena them directly from the president.

The president can make the records fully public

The records can be turned over to the House or Senate, or to the courts as part of legal proceedings. They can also be cleared for release on any request to the National Archives.

And it’s that last thing that’s likely to happen in the case of the records that are currently on President Biden’s desk. Two collections of Trump documents that are part of the extensive request from the Select Committee have now been turned over by the National Archives to the White House. These documents may contain phone records, schedules, meeting notes, and more for Trump, Trump’s adult children, Melania Trump, members of Trump’s legal team like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and records from advisers like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. The National Archives have reportedly turned over hundreds of pages of information.

The White House is looking at those records to see if there is some reason why they shouldn’t be provided (for example, discussions of a military or diplomatic nature). However, Biden has already made it clear that he values transparency and plans to “err on the side of disclosure.” So Trump should not be expecting any protection on that front.

Despite all this, there’s little doubt that Trump will try to intervene in the release of these documents, and there might be some tiny spark of hope in the land of all you can eat shrimp. 

That spark goes back once again to Joseph McCarthy, the same McCarthy that Eisenhower used executive privilege to ignore. In 1948, the House Committee on Un-American Activities subpoenaed records “concerning the loyalty” of the director of the National Bureau of Standards. Truman responded by blocking all access to so-called “loyalty files” and held a press conference making clear he would not comply with any such request. For the next four years, Truman sparred with the Un-American Activities Committee and with the follow-up hearings. 

But once Truman was out of office, they tried again, seeking to make Truman testify himself. He refused the subpoena, and the committee allowed the matter to drop rather than fight the issue out in court, which could have generated a clear definition of what protection, if any, is provided to a former executive.

That Trump’s legal position could ultimately tie back to McCarthyism … seems entirely appropriate. But he shouldn’t get his hopes up.

Jen Psaki tells Fox News’ Doocy to stop being a part of the problem and help with the solution

The traditional media seems to have a short memory, but no one has a shorter memory than conservative media. Seizing on the decades-long foreign policy disaster that is Afghanistan, conservatives are trying their darndest to blame President Biden’s administration for being the people who finally picked up the corrupt and incompetent can that has been kicked down the road for three administrations now. The issues that the United States and its allies face now that we have withdrawn from our 20-year occupation of Afghanistan are messy. They fall at the feet of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, “architect” of the Afghanistan invasion Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

But regardless of our foreign policy’s pedigree, Joe Biden is the president now. And not unlike the South American caravans of yesteryear, conservative outlets play video of the human suffering and confusion that surrounds Afghanistan’s changing power dynamics and jack their fear and warmongering volume knobs way up. The hope is that the sounds coming from the Middle East and will drown out the wails of thousands of Americans suffering from a pandemic that has continued to rage out of control, due in no small part to conservative policy impotence. Enter Peter Doocy. Like his father Steve Doocy, the Fox News legacy hire’s job consists of coming up with undercooked headline premises and then asking a question of press secretary Jen Psaki, followed up by an even more fact-free Republican-talking point follow up that he will turn into whatever it is he’s going to report back to Fox News.

Press secretary Psaki has made it a practice to pleasantly humiliate Doocy at virtually every press briefing. Monday was no different.

Doocy began by pointing out that the images Fox News, OAN, CNN and others are showing the world right now of the Taliban include them sporting American weaponry and military clothing. Doocy and others have clearly forgotten that this move by the Biden administration is based on the deal Donald Trump cut with the Taliban. The fact that the U.S. withdrawal was very quickly followed by proof that the last 20 years didn’t seem to change anything in regard to regimes is a failure of our military, our intelligence apparatus, the administrations that allowed it to continue, and the traditional media that generates the recent mania. The last group on that list spent most of the past 20 years of our occupation not covering Afghanistan or investigating how poorly we were doing over there for two decades.

And now, after an administration begins to complete the deal the previous Republican administration struck, and after an administration tries to pick up the pieces of a disaster that was started 20 years ago by one of the worst foreign policy initiatives the planet has ever seen, conservatives want to try and pin some kind of trash ‘soft on terrorism’ label to the Biden administration’s lapel.

On Monday, Peter Doocy, doing his continuously pathetic part, attempted to angle his followup to Psaki by saying that the criticisms of President Biden were due to the fact that Americans have been “stranded” in Afghanistan. So far, the administration has estimated that there were somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan the day before the Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul. This number does not include the many more Afghans who allied themselves over the past 20 years with the U.S. forces, many of whom are also trying to leave the country fearing reprisal from the Taliban. The New York Times reported that as of Saturday, U.S. military claim they have evacuated “about 2,500 Americans” The administration says that including allied Afghans, just about 28,000 people have been flown out of the country.

On Monday, officials told NBC news that the number of people evacuated over the weekend brought up the total number to 37,000. Psaki said Doocy’s use of the term “stranded” was “irresponsible,” saying that the Biden administration has no plans to just turn around now and pretend that there aren’t people that still need to leave Afghanistan. It’s an important distinction that applies not only to Peter Doocy and Fox News but to most of the media outlets in our country. Our foreign policy can only be level-headed if we report on it with some factual and critical understanding of what is happening. 

"I am just calling you out for saying we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan when we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home. We are going to bring them home. And I think that’s important for the American public to hear,” Psaki said. You cannot have it both ways. It is fine to criticize the president for seemingly not knowing how quickly the Taliban would take control of the capital. If you want to criticize the last president for making a deal that put an accelerant on the chances for heightened bloodshed if the U.S. didn’t leave the country when Biden did, you can criticize that. If Peter Doocy wants to investigate our military and the trillions of dollars we have spent in Afghanistan setting up a government that seems to have easily been toppled, please go ahead.

But we are not trying to re-invade and occupy Afghanistan right away; and attempting to turn this transition into an instant humanitarian crisis belies not only the facts but jeopardizes countless peoples’ lives on the ground in Afghanistan.

Jen Psaki calls out Peter Doocy for falsely claiming that Biden is stranding Americans in Afghanistan, "I am calling you out for saying we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home." pic.twitter.com/HzKZSF5G0s

— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) August 23, 2021

Evacuations continue from Kabul, President Biden to address the nation on Friday

On Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden will speak to the nation on the still-unfolding situation in Afghanistan. Daily Kos will carry live coverage of Biden’s address beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

Military evacuation flights continue to shuttle Americans, allies, and Afghans seeking to leave the country out of Afghanistan. Many of these flights take evacuees to facilities in nearby countries to make as many trips into Kabul as possible.

Many U.S. flights had been directed to Doha in Qatar, but with increasing crowding at those locations, CBS News reports that the U.S. has now secured permission to begin staging evacuees at Isa Air Base in Bahrain. German planes have been evacuating people to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. At each location, military and State Department workers are scrambling to take care of those arriving from Afghanistan, getting citizens on to the next flights, and working out how to handle Afghan refugees. None of these stops are meant to be permanent destinations. 

Additional State Department diplomats headed into Afghanistan on Thursday and Friday to help coordinate those on their way out. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson remains in Kabul to work with the Taliban, if possible, to protect those still moving toward evacuation. 

U.S. forces continue to hold the military section of the Kabul airport. However, many of those seeking to leave Afghanistan report that they’ve been unable to reach the airport. CNN reported on Thursday that at least one former military translator was trapped in Kabul after spending eight hours trying to reach the airport. Even those who do arrive to the airport can be in for long waits in a facility where water and even shade are in short supply. Some Afghans have reportedly been waiting on the tarmac for over two days.

But as the media continues to play up reports of chaos in Afghanistan and to wonder how things fell apart so quickly, it’s not just the intelligence reports that are coming into question but also the media’s honesty in dealing with the situation.

As journalist and author Eric Boehlert points out, it’s not as if the networks had displayed much interest in Afghanistan until they could get nice crowd shots around the airport. When it comes to the time that the broadcast networks devoted to stories about Afghanistan—any topic in Afghanistan—the average scores since 2015 were ABC 16, NBC 16, and CBS 25. Those are in minutes per year. Not one network gave America’s ongoing war in Afghanistan one crime drama’s worth of coverage in total over a period of five years—and that’s even when rolling in uplifting stories about the women’s soccer team and female entrepreneurs in Kabul.

Naturally, newscasters are not the military or the intelligence community. They’re not responsible for the clearly failed analysis of how rapidly the Taliban would advance, or the equally flawed planning for how Americans and allies could be evacuated. However, they are the filter through which many are now seeing these events. The incredibly light attention to the situation in Afghanistan should lend a great deal of caution when listening to instant experts reporting on the scenes.

Whether reports are talking about a kinder, gentler Taliban 2.0 or about chaos in which the Taliban are beating Americans, everything coming out of Afghanistan at the moment—other than refugees—needs to be met with a degree of skepticism.

As Marcy Wheeler writes at emptywheel, journalists looking for a quick story are “getting suckered by ass-covering sources” who want to make it seem as if they, and they alone, had the insight to predict what was going to happen. As an example, Wheeler points out a Wall Street Journal article that inverts the order and nature of events to make it seem as if low-level State Department officials had an inside scoop while those above them, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, were blindsided by events. But getting there requires drawing conclusions that ignore even the content of the article itself. But the WSJ, like many media outlets, is more interested in packaging up a nice story of how the Biden administration screwed up than accurately covering events.

Wheeler notes: 

“I get that such stories—suggesting that Biden ignored warnings and so owns this collapse—will drive a lot of traffic. Biden does own this collapse, along with Trump, Obama, and (especially) George Bush. But he owns it because of stupid decisions made 18 months and 18 years ago, not the efforts he made in July to mitigate the aftermath of those earlier decisions.”

There is a stack of people, particularly on the right, rushing forward to say “I told you so” at this point, and a stack of media outlets, not necessarily on the right, eager to give them opportunities to repeat those claims. And the result is a lot of extremely sketchy claims getting extremely credulous reporting.

And, of course, there’s this.

If we leave any Americans behind, or if we leave thousands of Afghans who fought bravely alongside us behind, President Joe Biden deserves to be impeached for a High Crime and Misdemeanor of Dereliction of Duty.

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 20, 2021

This is exactly why Lindsey Graham called for the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump when he deliberately and callously abandoned Kurdish allies who had fought side by side with Americans for two decades. Except, of course, that he didn’t. 

But don’t expect Graham to be the only one. 

Republican screwups on infrastructure hurt people from Kentucky to Michigan to Mississippi to NYC

The running joke of the Trump presidency—okay, one of the running jokes—was the constant pronouncements of an upcoming “infrastructure week” or that some kind of infrastructure deal was in the offing. Nothing. Ever. Happened. Meanwhile, ask the people of Jackson, Mississippi—who watched as the government at every level failed for decades to invest in keeping their city’s water system up to date, with some residents unable to access water for weeks—to find humor in Trump’s failure to deliver. We’ll come back to that story below.

Once again, infrastructure is the word flying around Washington, D.C., and it’s no longer a joke. There are ongoing conversations in the House and the Senate. We’ve seen a bipartisan deal announced laying out the framework on funding what’s called physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), the urgent need for which will be our focus here. However, let me add that our government—with or without support from Republicans—absolutely must fund equally vital human infrastructure needs such as child and elder care, job training, and education, elements that are just as important in making our economy stronger. As President Biden pointed out in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on June 29, “the human infrastructure is intertwined with our physical infrastructure.”

Finally, the grownups are in charge.

For anyone who still needs convincing, the consulting firm McKinsey laid out the data on the benefits of serving the common good by investing in our country’s physical infrastructure: there is little doubt about the value of investing in good infrastructure. In 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that every dollar spent on infrastructure brought an economic benefit of up to $2.20. The U.S. Council of Economic Advisers has calculated that $1 billion of transportation-infrastructure investment supports 13,000 jobs for a year. Beyond the numbers, infrastructure is critical to the health and well-being of the country: the United States could not function without the roads, bridges, sewers, clean water, and airports previous generations paid for.

As you can see below, after a nice bump early in the Obama-Biden years thanks to the 2009 stimulus package, infrastructure spending dropped off and fell to generational lows under the guy who followed them.

It would be impossible to provide even a partial list of the necessary infrastructure projects across the U.S., although this article does a nice job presenting a number of the highest priorities. The Biden White House has produced fact sheets that sum up each state’s physical infrastructure needs, demonstrating what it hopes to accomplish for Americans all across the country.

Images of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan, are burned into all of our minds, but another city’s water-related tragedy may be less familiar. In Jackson, Mississippi, a city of 160,000 inhabitants, over 80% of whom are Black, the majority went without running water for weeks after a brutal mid-February storm. How brutal? An engineer at the state Department of Transportation expressed the following: “I sincerely hope that in 25 plus years from now, we are still talking about this event as the ‘worst one ever.” Even a month after the storm had passed, over 70% of people were still being told to boil their water before using it.

Why did the storm wreak such havoc in Jackson specifically? Because of a century-plus old municipal water system whose vulnerabilities were laid bare by the storm—which also pummeled Texas, killing hundreds and perhaps as many as a thousand people while knocking out that state’s power grid. Jackson residents reflected on the crisis in interviews with Good Morning America.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba specifically blamed Mississippi Republicans, who have dominated the state’s politics for decades, for failing to fund the necessary infrastructure repairs that would have mitigated damage from the storm: “I think that you find less willingness from the state to support a city like Jackson, because they don't necessarily feel that the demographics of Jackson, or even the politics of Jackson resemble the majority opinion.” In other words, they didn’t care one iota about a city full of Black Democrats.

The governor of Mississippi recently murmured something about assisting the city in looking around for low-interest loans. Yip-frickin-ee. The mayor estimated the cost of truly solving the problems faced by the city’s water system—Jackson’s water also has a lead problem rivaling that of the aforementioned Flint—at $2 billion. The Biden plan proposed to send what will hopefully be enough money to make things right for the people of Jackson.

Beyond Flint’s problems, there are dams all over Michigan that are simply falling apart. In May 2020, the Sanford and Edenville dams burst after heavy rains, flooding surrounding areas. Regarding the Edenville dam—aged 96 years—federal regulators revoked its license to generate hydropower in 2018, but the state regulators apparently dropped the ball in subsequent years. Overall, the dams failed because of “years of underfunding and neglect.”

Like in Mississippi, Michigan Republicans have controlled the purse strings for quite some time. They’ve maintained a state Senate majority since 1984, and have run the House since 2010—aided significantly by gerrymandering. From 2011 through 2019, the state’s governor was Republican Rick Snyder. While holding this trifecta of power, Michigan Republicans largely ignored the state’s infrastructure needs. In fact, Snyder, along with other members of his administration, were indicted earlier this year on criminal charges for their actions (or lack thereof) relating to Flint’s water fiasco.

On dams, the kind of flooding residents of Midland and Gladwin counties suffered is common in every part of the country. There are about 91,000 dams in the U.S. Of these, approximately 15,000-16,000 are located in spots where, if they broke, significant loss of life and property destruction would result. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials has determined that around one out of every six of those dams are “deficient.” That is a problem we need to address before the next storm.

The most infuriating, most foolish example of active Republican malfeasance originated in the time before President Caligula had made the transition from reality show buffoon to destructive demagogue. It took place at the center of the region with the largest economy of any in the U.S., and concerned its most important ground transportation hub—the one that connects the island of Manhattan to the mainland by train.

We’re also talking about a problem that Democratic President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, with the support of local officials, had actually begun fixing over a decade ago. That was before New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, doctrinaire conservative that he is, metaphorically stood athwart the train tracks yelling “STOP!” It’s a very long story, but it’s one that demonstrates how Republican ideology, Republican lies, and plain-old Republican shortsightedness put the kibosh on a project that remains just as necessary today.

There is only one train tunnel—which happens to be 110 years old—running beneath the Hudson River. For many years, we’ve known that that’s at least one tunnel too few. What was then called the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project would have built a second one, enabling twice as many trains to cross into the Big Apple. Roughly 200,000 people and 450 trains traveled through that sole, aging tunnel on a typical pre-COVID weekday. Other positive effects of the ARC project would have included: “alleviat[ing] congestion on local roads, reduc[ing] pollution, help[ing] the growth of the region’s economy and rais[ing] property values for suburban homeowners.” Oh, and it would have created 6,000 construction jobs right at the point during the Great Recession when unemployment was at its peak, at just about 10%.

The work was already underway when, in October of 2010, Gov. Christie suddenly reversed himself and cancelled the project. As late as that April, shortly after his inauguration, he had reiterated his long-standing support. Why, pray tell, did he take an action that “stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation”? Even though the federal government, along with the states of New York and New Jersey, and the Port Authority, were all contributing to the bill, Christie claimed that New Jersey would end up bearing the burden of cost overruns, and so he pulled out.

It turned out that, as per a 2012 investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Christie was, to put it charitably, incorrect in just about everything he claimed as justification for cancelling the project. Looking back, it’s clear why he did what he did, based on where the money that had been dedicated to building the ARC tunnel ended up—namely in NJ’s “near-bankrupt transportation trust fund, traditionally financed by the gasoline tax.” In other words, he took the money so he wouldn’t have to raise gas taxes, and thereby earn the ill-will of the people who put him in office. What a bozo.

As bad as that decision was at the time, it was rendered even more foolish by a little thing called Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the region in 2012. A year earlier, what had been the ARC project had been tweaked somewhat and re-proposed as the Gateway project, again centering on the building of a new Hudson River tunnel. After Sandy resulted in severe flooding, an Empire State Building-sized amount of dirty, salty water ended up in the tunnels. Repairing the damage with only one tunnel in operation would cause a nightmare for commuters.

But, after initial steps were taken during Obama’s second term that culminated in a cost-sharing agreement between the states—who together would pick up half the tab, with the federal government paying the other half—a new president took office in 2017. And he was a New Yorker, born and bred, so certainly he’d make sure the Gateway project happened. Unfortunately, The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It not only physically abandoned his Fifth Avenue penthouse—he now makes Florida his primary home—he 100% abandoned the city that made him a household name. Progress on the Gateway tunnel ground to a halt, and the funding dried up, as Trump took an “obstructionist stance.”

That brings us back to the Biden-Harris administration, which formally approved the Gateway project just over a month ago. In the last days of June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured the tunnel himself. He made clear that his boss was 100% on board, and fully understood the necessity for the whole of the American economy of the project. Shutting down even one of the two tubes in the existing tunnel for repairs without having first built the additional Gateway tunnel would mean, as the one-time Mayor Pete noted: “you would be feeling the economic impact all the way back in Indiana, where I come from.” To be more specific, a study by the non-profit Regional Plan Association found the impact could run as high as $16 billion, and cost 33,000 jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York gave thanks to the White House on behalf of the region, and took a dig at the twice impeached former Gotham-dweller: “Now we can announce that the hostage that was the Gateway tunnel under the previous administration has been freed,” and added: “We are full speed ahead to get Gateway done.” The project could begin as early as next year, or else in 2023, according to the senator. Still, Christie and Trump set the region back years—perhaps a decade. All of us are still crossing our fingers that not only will the project happen, but also that the new tunnel is completed before the old one gives out.

But of course it’s not only urban centers that have dire infrastructure needs. Martin County is in eastern Kentucky, with a population that is, incredibly, over 99% white. Since 1999, both U.S. Senate seats from Kentucky have been held by Republicans, one of them by Mitch McConnell, who has led the Republican Party in that body since 2007. In the House, Martin County has been represented by Republican Hal Rogers since 1981.

In a video produced by the Biden White House, Barbi Ann Maynard detailed what she and her neighbors don’t have, because their infrastructure is so lacking: “People talk about Eastern Kentucky is poor, and they don't really have anything. Well, how are we ever going to have anything if our government won’t invest in our infrastructure? We’re people too. We’re American citizens. And we deserve access to clean, affordable drinking water.” Running the tap at her kitchen sink, she pointed at the not at all clear liquid flowing out of it and stated simply: “this water disgusts me. I’m afraid of this water.”

Maynard described the language that has appeared “for decades” as a warning on the back of the water bills Martin County residents receive: “If you are pregnant, infant, elderly, have a compromised immune system, consult a physician before consuming this water. If consumed over many years, it causes liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and twice it says increased risk of cancer.” I drink New York City tap water every day, multiple glasses of it, without thinking twice. So while my region has its infrastructure deficiencies, folks in Eastern Kentucky have it even worse in their daily lives, right now.

Maynard continued by talking about the need for roads and bridges, which are either in disrepair or nonexistent across the county, as well as other priorities. The Nolan Toll Bridge was the only way for people in the area to get to the interstate. After being damaged badly, it was closed off rather than repaired. She lamented: “When you lose bridges, roads, you lose opportunities to grow. Businesses can’t come if they can’t get their product out,” and added “because we have [a] lack of infrastructure, that causes companies to not want to come and invest in Martin County.” Maynard has been fighting for increased infrastructure spending in her county for more than twenty years, and summarized the situation thusly: “I know what we could have. I know what it could be like. And I want that for my people.”

The Orange Julius Caesar took up shop in the Oval Office in January 2017, and his party controlled the House and the Senate. Using the reconciliation process, they could easily have passed a massive infrastructure package, or even a medium-sized one, with or without Democrats. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure on Trump’s watch in 2017, he came up with little more than some paper towels to toss the island’s way. Puerto Ricans continue to suffer from Maria’s damage as well as, for just one example among many, earthquakes that revealed serious vulnerabilities in the design of hundreds of schools across the island—another major infrastructure need.

Even after Democrats won the House in the 2018 midterms, Trump still could have accomplished something major on infrastructure. Trump blew off Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fuming about impeachment. Republicans can bleat about how they believe in infrastructure, how they support infrastructure. When the rubber met the (in dire need of repair) road, they failed to deliver.

The Biden-Harris team, along with congressional Democrats, are going to do the work of funding our country’s infrastructure needs in every region, just as they’ve done the work on so many issues—ranging from carrying out a nationwide vaccination program, to rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, to passing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, among other accomplishments. This White House knows that strengthening our physical as well as human infrastructure is good politics as well as the right thing to do for the American economy, and for the American people.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Former WH adviser Fiona Hill considered pulling a fire alarm during Helsinki Summit—to shut Trump up

I don’t know about you, but I used to feel pretty on edge whenever Donald Trump left the country. As bad as it was having him here, seeing him take overseas trips felt a bit like that scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Lecter escapes from his cage and no one can find him. What will happen? Will Trump shove Montenegro’s prime minister out of the way like an unruly child trying to get to the front of a Sno-Cone queue? Will he stand next to murderous dictators looking like Droopy Dog at the tail end of a four-day bath salts bender? Or will his diseased offal heap of a brain spin the wheel and do something truly Dadaistic, like appointing his horse to the Senate while ordering Ted Cruz to pull a wagon of turnips through Mar-a-Lago 16 hours a day with a Trump-branded bit in his mouth? 

My point is, anything could happen with this guy. And while that’s a great trait in a shock jock or a WWE wrestler, it’s not something I want to see in a man whose preternaturally stubby fingers hover over the nuclear button. But I’m just a garden-variety, standard-issue American with an ordinary interest in not dying gruesomely for no reason. Imagine how much worse it was for people on the front lines of Donald Trump’s war on reality.

Well, you don’t have to imagine. Former presidential adviser and National Security Council official Fiona Hill, who was a key witness in Trump’s first impeachment trial, has an insider’s take.

On the June 15 edition of Don Lemon Tonight, Hill recounted how truly horrifying Trump’s performance at the 2018 Helsinki Surrender Summit was. Remember? Trump took Russia President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies and looked like a beaten animal that still thought it was going to get a Trump Tower Moscow deal one day.


LEMON: “I just want to read something that you told the BBC about the Trump-Putin press conference, this is in Helsinki, and you said this. You said, ‘My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?’ I literally did have in my mind the idea of faking some kind of medical emergency and throwing myself backwards with a loud, blood-curdling scream into the media.’ I mean, of all the disastrous things that you have seen on the world stage, Fiona, where did that moment fall, and did you seriously consider that? Was it that bad?”

HILL: “I did seriously think about it. First of all, I looked around to see if there was a fire alarm, but we were in a rather grand building attached to the presidential palace … and I couldn’t see anything that resembled a fire alarm.

Look, I had exactly the same feeling that Deborah Birx had during the infamous press conference where there was the suggestion by President Trump about injecting bleach to counteract the coronavirus. It was one of those moments where, it was mortifying, frankly, and humiliating for the country. And it was also completely, I have to say, out of step with what had happened in the meeting prior to that.

The meeting itself was quite anodyne. Putin had tried to pull a fast one again. He always likes to stoke outrage. He had come up with the idea of potentially allowing the United States to interview some operatives from the Russian military intelligence services who had been just indicted for their interference in the 2016 elections, but of course he was just about to announce to the world as well that he would then like to interview a few Americans, including our former ambassador Mike McFaul and a number of State Department and other officials who he’d also got in his crosshairs, so he knew that that was going to stoke outrage.

But it was the press conference itself and the way that President Trump unfortunately handled himself which was, you know, the worst moment of all. And as I said, I just thought let’s just cut this off, let’s try to end it, but of course I couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t just add to the terrible spectacle.”

Think about that. A top presidential adviser literally thought about pulling a fire alarm to save Donald Trump, and the nation, from Donald Trump. The best idea I could ever come up with was anonymously sending him a case of Velveeta-slathered sex toys—and that was after four years of racking my brain. But pulling a fire alarm was probably a better idea. Giving him a shiny new firetruck to play with would have also been a viable option.

Fast forward to today where, if none of President Biden’s advisers thought about tackling him to the ground and bringing in an exfil team to get him away from Putin, we’re already far, far ahead of where we were as a country at this time last year. 

But none of this will convince the members of the Republican Bizarro World Caucus, better known as the entire Republican Party, except for Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, plus a smattering of other consensus-reality dead-enders. The GOP currently imagines a world where Joe Biden, who has five decades of relevant experience, somehow collapses under the weight of his own competence.

Who wants to take this one? 😂 pic.twitter.com/8PIY2wkY5j

— Jo (@JoJoFromJerz) June 16, 2021

Uh huh. Sure, Lauren. You might want to up your daily intake of gingko biloba if you really can’t remember “a more unqualified person.”

Meanwhile, Biden was busy providing us with a refreshing study in contrasts.

Who looks a beaten-down Russian dog this time around? It isn't Biden. pic.twitter.com/C2yOKtALWZ

— Dawn Got Vaccinated! (@viewsfordays) June 16, 2021

We’re also supporting our allies now, instead of humiliating the ones Putin doesn’t like.

2017 G7 vs. 2021 G7 pic.twitter.com/JG9ZuBi3ya

— The Recount (@therecount) June 11, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I feel a whole lot better about where we are today than one year ago. At the very least, there’s a much better chance of Biden bringing Putin to heel, rather than the other way around.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Trump’s cult of personality is like nothing else in our country’s history

Donald Trump really likes Andrew Jackson. “I'm a fan. I'm a big fan,” he declared about the seventh president at a 2017 event commemorating Jackson’s 250th birthday. Trump added that Jackson’s portrait “hangs proudly” up on the wall in the Oval Office—a place it had not been seen for quite some time until he put it there. Two weeks after Election Day in 2016, Trump’s campaign manager and out-and-out white nationalist Steve Bannon likened his boss’s politics to “Jackson’s populism.” After President Obama had set in motion a plan to have Jackson replaced by Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It nixed the effort, although President Biden has since revived it.

The tumultuous events surrounding Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s recent removal from the House Republican leadership provide an opportunity to compare and contrast Trump and Jackson in a very specific way—namely their influence on our system of political parties.

For better or worse—okay, in Trump’s case, there’s no question which one—both have had an overall impact on American politics exceeded by a very small number of presidents. Jackson cleaved his party in two on the basis of both ideology and support for his candidacy, while his latter-day counterpart turned his into a body defined by little other than personal loyalty to the leader—in other words, just another Trump Organization.

There are certainly strong parallels between the two—and that’s without even going into each one’s racism. (In addition to Jackson’s well-known and despicable anti-American Indian policies, he was also a virulent supporter of slavery who, as per historian Daniel Walker Howe, “expressed his loathing for the abolitionists vehemently, both in public and in private.”) In big picture terms, both were incredibly divisive personalities who defined an era—Jackson starting with his unsuccessful campaign of 1824 through 1837 when he left the White House after two terms, and Trump certainly since 2016—and who fundamentally transformed the party through which he became a national political figure.

In the 1824 presidential election, Jackson came in first in the Electoral College (and won the popular vote by about 10%), but could not garner an electoral majority as four different candidates won states. John Quincy Adams came in second, but won the support of the fourth place candidate, Henry Clay, and ultimately triumphed in the contingent election held in the House of Representatives. Adams, after being inaugurated, appointed Clay as his secretary of state—each of the last four presidents, including Adams, had served in that position. Jackson accused Adams and Clay of having conspired in a “corrupt bargain,” and slammed Clay in biblical terms: “The Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver. His end will be the same.”

Trump, on the other hand, claimed even before the 2016 election that put him in the White House despite losing the popular vote that it would be “rigged.” More recently, he has been promulgating The Big Lie about the 2020 election ever since last November. However, although both men challenged their defeats, Trump’s claims differ from those of Jackson, in that the former and his supporters literally made up wild and crazy events relating to a supposedly fraudulent voting process. One other difference: only one of them incited an insurrection to prevent the actual winner from becoming president.

The election of 1824, and Jackson’s reaction afterward, led to a fundamental shift in our country’s partisan alignment. By 1820, the so-called First Party System—in which the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists competed for power—had basically come to an end with the demise of the latter. President James Monroe ran unopposed in 1820, as the Federalists failed to put up a candidate, and these years were known as The Era of Good Feelings. All four of the major candidates in 1824 were Democratic-Republicans. After that year’s controversial election, Andrew Jackson led his followers into a new organization, which became known as the Democratic Party.

Although Jackson’s personality mattered greatly in this endeavor, there were also ideological grounds on which the old Democratic-Republicans split. He embraced the basic approach held by traditionalists within the older party, namely the Jeffersonian concept of small government that favored agrarian interests. Given the whole Liz Cheney debacle—which we’ll get to, don’t you worry—a real ideological difference seems sort of quaint, no?

The Adams-Clay alliance organized itself not just in opposition to Jackson as a person, but around their shared vision of a more active government—especially at the federal level—that aided the growth of industry and trade. They supported federal tariffs to protect domestic industries, as well as the aggressive building of canals and roads along with the continuation of the National Bank and other measures to promote economic growth—all of which Jacksonian Democrats opposed. The opponents of Jackson were briefly known as the National Republicans and then, after 1832, the Whigs, and their plan was embodied in Clay’s “American System.”

The point here is that the pro-Jackson and anti-Jackson factions developed into different parties built around real policy differences—separate from Old Hickory himself—that defined the Second Party System. Likewise, the next major realignment in the U.S. occurred when the Whigs broke apart in the years after 1850, which created the Third Party System. That shift was motivated by ideology and policy as well. It occurred largely because anti-slavery Whigs refused to stay together with pro-slavery Southern Whigs in a single party, and left in large numbers after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The anti-slavery forces came together in the new Republican Party.

We don’t yet know what the long-term impact of Donald Trump will be on our political parties and our democracy. Right now, however, there is clearly a divide—as seen in what happened with Liz Cheney. Whatever the final results of that divide turn out to be, recent events bear little resemblance to the divides either of the 1820s or the 1850s.

Rep. Cheney was drummed out of the Republican leadership for one reason, and one reason only: she continued to publicly rebuke Trump’s Big Lie—a lie that has now become a purity test for members of what can realistically be called the Trump Republican Party. There are no ideological or policy grounds that define or separate the pro- and anti-Trump factions among Republicans.

The fact that Cheney has been replaced as the House Republican Conference Chair by New York Rep. Elise Stefanik—whose voting record is significantly less supportive of Trump’s legislative agenda than Cheney’s—makes clear that this is in no way about policy. Cheney remains a hard-right conservative, as her remarks just before the vote on May 12 to remove her make clear: “After today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism.” Cheney may be toeing the fictitious party line about Joe Biden and socialism, but what matters here is that Stefanik supports The Big Lie, and that’s all that matters to the Party of Trump.

Elise Stefanik had a chance to avoid Four Pinocchios. All she had to do was admit she was wrong. instead she doubled down, even after we showed her false claim -- 140,000 suspect votes in Fulton County -- was based on a misreading of a Trump lawsuit. https://t.co/Ghu1XTBN7U

— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) May 7, 2021

Even when, at the last minute, Texas Rep. Chip Roy threw his ten-gallon hat into the ring to challenge Stefanik, it didn’t matter that he had voted for all the right conservative legislation and she hadn’t. Stefanik trounced him anyway: 134 votes to 46. Again, policy and ideology mattered not one iota. Only one issue did.

Key: Chip Roy, with a wildly conservative voting record, can't beat Elise Stefanik, with her comparatively moderate voting record because of one wrong vote. He didn't vote to overturn the 2020 election. IOW, core GOP ideology is The Big Lie. https://t.co/LvsDKsQ61W via @TPM

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 14, 2021

The twice-impeached former president made clear after Jan. 6 that he was going to demand absolute obedience not to any particular set of policies but instead to him as an individual. Republicans made their choice. They could either give it to him or he was going to take his ball and go home. Their decision was purely about what conservatives thought would help them win, nothing else.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham—one of the most notorious flip-floppers on Trump’s fitness to serve—did tell the truth when he admitted why his party continues to bend the knee to the Orange Julius Caesar: “If you tried to run him out of the party, you'd take half the party with him." Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the most prominent anti-Trump Republicans, summed up his feelings by comparing Trump to a North Korean dictator: "It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the Dear Leader or you get kicked out of the party."

To demonstrate the ideological hypocrisy of Cheney’s replacing even further, we now know that the House Republicans—whose conservatism supposedly requires them to reject such concepts as representation—mandated that a woman replace Cheney. As Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post commented, they are doing so “because the party—though it supposedly abhors identity politics—needs a skirt to hide behind as it jettisons a strong, independent-minded female colleague.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a satirical ad from the House GOP leadership under the heading: “Help Wanted – Non-Threatening Female”

A few right-wing ideologues raised objections regarding this many-layered hypocrisy, but to no avail.

Word is, congressional Republicans are pushing amnesty-shill Elise Stefanik because they want a WOMAN in leadership. Sh!t-for-brains Republicans: NO GOP WOMAN CARES ABOUT IDENTITY POLITICS!

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 12, 2021

Although Cheney has by far received the harshest punishment, the other nine House Republicans who voted to impeach the Insurrectionist-in-Chief for his crimes against our Constitution relating to the attempted coup of Jan. 6 have also been targeted by Trump partisans. They have faced censure votes and, in some cases, will likely draw primary opponents specifically running as more loyal to Trump.

Is the Republican Party going to split in two the way the Democratic-Republicans did after 1824 or the Whigs did after 1854? That’s not happening right now, although in the wake of the Cheney vote 150 prominent Republicans signed on to a “manifesto” titled “A call for American renewal.” The signatories include four former governors—ranging in ideology from tea party favorite Mark Sanford of South Carolina to centrist Bill Weld of Massachusetts—along with a former senator, 27 former House members, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, as well as some relatively high-ranking members of the Trump administration. Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld analyzed the statement in some depth here.

This group does not plan to form a new party yet, but rather, in the words of prominent Never Trumper George Conway, sees itself as “a coalition. …There is a need for people who have a conservative to moderate point-of-view and want to believe in the rule of law and … need a place to go and a place where they can organize and support candidates that are consistent with that." In other words, they are looking to create an organized anti-Trump faction within the Republican Party that can, eventually, take control of it. Good luck with that.

On a related note, a very recent study found that learning that Republicans were fighting amongst themselves over the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 victory had a significant impact among those who identify with the Republican Party, but not strongly. The favorability rating of the party expressed by such so-called “weak Republicans” fell by approximately 6% compared to that of a control group who were not given information about intra-Republican squabbling, as well as compared to another group that had been told of strife between Republicans and Democrats. Those weak Republicans’ impression of the Democratic Party improved by about the same amount. That’s even better than if they had become interested in a third party, in terms of improving Democrats’ chances of winning elections.

Republican President Ulysses S. Grant, after the disputed 1876 election that would elect his successor, proclaimed: “No man worthy of the office of President should be willing to hold it … placed there by fraud. Either party can afford to be disappointed by the result, but the country cannot afford to have the result tainted by suspicion of illegal or false returns.” Today’s head of the Republican Party clearly disagrees.

Trump is creating more of a naked cult of personality even than Jackson did. This is not to suggest that Jackson is "better" in some way than Trump. Rather, the contrast is that Jackson's cult of personality was connected to policy differences and a substantive disagreement over a vision for the country, while Trump's is essentially divorced from ideology, and based at this point on little other than fealty to The Big Lie. Likewise, Anti-Trumpists range from true moderates like Hogan and Weld to archconservatives like Cheney and Sanford, and harbor significant political disagreements. 

What Trump has wrought since the election, and especially since Jan. 6, bears little resemblance to previous political realignments or really anything that’s happened before. This kind of purely personality-driven divide is unprecedented in our country’s history.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)