In leaked audio, Sen. Lindsey Graham calls Biden ‘maybe the best person to have’ as president

Let it be known that during a brief, ephemeral moment when Donald Trump sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham momentarily gained a conscience and understood just how horrific the Jan. 6 insurrection provoked by Trump's lies really was, even he expressed relief that Joe Biden would soon be taking office and sending Trump back to the toxic swamp from which he came.

"We'll actually come out of this thing stronger," Graham told reporter Jonathan Martin in a recording only being released by Martin now to goose publicity for his new book. "Moments like this reset. It'll take a while."

Martin probed Graham on his optimism: "And Biden will be better, right?"

"Yeah, totally," responded Graham. "He'll be maybe the best person to have, right? I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?"

Yeah, we're all just going to have to let that sit there for a while. It turns out that Lindsey Graham is just as wrong about the actions the Lindsey Graham of the future will take as he is about everything else. What followed next was indeed Graham's predicted "reset," but it was he and his closest allies who did the resetting. In the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup, numerous Republican House and Senate leaders expressed horror at the violence Trump had unleashed and privately vowed to cut him loose, or at least think real hard about cutting him loose. House minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy was among those to float either removing Trump as unfit for office or asking for his resignation.

But then Republicans "reset," and not only returned to rally around Trump but to publicly dismiss the severity of the violent coup, to near-unanimously once again support Trump during his impeachment trial, and indeed to flit to Trump's Florida crime laboratory to publicly polish his boots. (A fun thing to think about: McCarthy and all the other Republican visitors presumably not knowing, during their Mar-a-Lago trips, that inside a private room sat boxes of documents Trump had stolen from the government, some of them highly classified. Or maybe Trump was handing them out as party favors.)

And Graham bungled his prediction even worse when he supposed that nobody could get too mad at the incoming Joe Biden. Republicans quite swiftly pivoted back into lying about Biden outright, and Biden's every new proposal was met with bulging Republican eyes as lawmakers declared him to be the real "fascist."

Graham and the others weighed an attempted coup against proposals to hike corporate tax rates or speed the transition away from fossil fuels and decided that they preferred the coup. So here we are—except, now, with Republican state legislatures and Republican Party functionaries all hurriedly scribbling up new rules allowing the precise methods Trump attempted for his coup, evidence-free declarations that some communities should not have their votes counted paired with new Republican means of overturning elections if the votes do not go their way, to go forward with less resistance next time around.

In Graham's case the motives for flipping from outrage to coverup may be simpler than most. Graham himself was one of the Republicans to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to alter presidential vote totals in the state, backing the very Trump strategies that would soon consolidate into an attempted coup.

Yes, Lindsey Graham is a terrible person. Just terrible. This has been evident for years and was evident when he ditched his longtime ally Sen. John McCain to back Trumpism instead, and is evident every time he defends Republican sexual assaults, international crimes, or violent coup attempts with teary eyes and sneering contempt for the witnesses. He is a horrible, horrible, horrible person of the sort that Republicanism breeds; you cannot back Trumpism after all that has happened unless your devotion to horribleness surpasses every other ambition and personality trait.

So-called journalists who keep private these demonstrations that our elected officials lie constantly and grotesquely to us, exposing them only later when the quotes can be better monetized, aren't much better.

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How’s this for a rallying cry? If we lose the midterms, Trump will run again and (could) steal 2024

I never thought a fascist takeover of the galaxy could ever be less entertaining than the one depicted in The Phantom Menace, but here we are. One major American political party remains tethered to reality, whereas the other is a barmy cult of personality that worships at the clay feet of the worst human being I’ve ever laid eyes on outside of the port-a-potty queue at the annual Chilton, Wisconsin, Beer Festival—which is a long story, but trust me. And the line to pee in the creek is even worse. I only wish I were kidding.

Being the guileless backwoods naif that I am, I figured Donald Trump would be forced to slink away after the sound beating he received in November from the guy he kept calling a senile loser. After all, when George W. Bush left the country in a smoldering heap after his eight years of misrule, Republicans scrambled away from him like Quint trying to escape the shark on the deck of the Orca at the end of Jaws

But Trump is different. For one thing, he doesn’t have the common decency to concede an election he lost—by a lot. For another, he’s somehow mesmerized a majority of Republicans into believing he’s their bumblefuck messiah, despite having surrendered the White House and his congressional majority during his truncated tenure—and despite having incited a deadly insurrection based on corrosive lies about the integrity of our elections.

So here we are. I fully expected Republicans to dip a diffident toe or two back into consensus reality after the big dopey Dr. Zaius cosplayer was 86’d from the White House, but it looks like they’re all-in on febrile fantasy. 

The Maricopa County audit, the conspicuous (and appalling) lack of enthusiasm among Republicans for a Jan. 6 commission, the rebuke of ultraconservative but anti-Big Lie Republican Liz Cheney, polls showing that a majority of Republicans still think the election was stolen from Trump—it’s all more than a little scary. I was already freaking out about 2024 and the possibility that Donald Trump would run again instead of vanishing forever under a pile of fast food detritus after removing a load-bearing McRib box.

Then MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan welcomed Yale professor Timothy Snyder and Emory University professor Carol Anderson, both historians and experts on democracy, onto his UpFront show. He asked them a chilling hypothetical: What happens if Republicans hold Congress in 2024 and a Democrat wins the White House?

Buckle in. This gets weird.

"If the Republican candidate is running on the Big Lie, if that's their issue in 2024...the Republican candidate who loses the election will indeed be appointed by Congress to be President of the United States," Prof @TimothyDSnyder tells me tonight. Wow.pic.twitter.com/Vaj4QL5Brx

— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) May 25, 2021

Transcript!

HASAN: “Tim and Carol, I’m going to ask you both the exact same question I asked Norm Ornstein and Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the show last week. If the Republicans are in control of the House and Senate come 2024 and a Democrat wins the presidential election narrowly, do you believe a Republican Party in Congress will certify that Democratic candidate’s win in Congress? Yes or no? Tim.”

SNYDER: “I think if the Republican candidate is running on the Big Lie, if that’s their issue in ‘24 the way that it seems to be in ‘22, then the answer to your question is the Republican candidate who loses the election will indeed be appointed by Congress to be president of the United States.”

HASAN: “Wow. Carol?”

ANDERSON: “Given that we have Republicans now who refuse to back the Jan. 6 commission, which was about the overthrow of an election … a fair election, given that we have the refusal of the Republicans to go in on impeachment, and given that they’re doing all of this work to undermine democracy with voter suppression and taking over control of electoral certification, I see this as a dress rehearsal for 2024 where they will not certify.”

HASAN: “Wow. So that’s Norm, Ruth, Tim, Carol. Four experts on this show all have answered this question in a very, very depressing way, but it’s important that we have this discussion.”

Jaw ===> floor

These experts aren’t in the mold of modern-day Republican “experts.” Ornstein, a contributor to The Atlantic and The Washington Post, helped draft parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history at New York University who “writes frequently for CNN and other media outlets on threats to democracy around the world.”

None of them, as far as I know, makes a living selling mediocre pillows to donkey-brained dipshits. So that’s scary shit, indeed. But it could also be an opportunity. Why? Because Donald Trump is a coward.

Let me explain. 

In a recent Politico story on Republicans’ attitude toward a potential Trump 2024 run, Trump flunky and perduring magic toadstool hallucination Lindsey Graham said this: 

“It’s more likely than not that he does” run, Graham said. “How we do in 2022 will have a big effect on his viability. If we do well in 2022, it helps his cause. I want him to keep the option open.”

So there it is, from Hermey himself. Graham doesn’t explain why Trump’s viability as a candidate would be improved if Republicans take back Congress in 2022 and then build their momentum enough to hold onto it in 2024, but I will: It would make stealing the election a piece of cake. 

Trump is a loser. Full stop. He lost in 2020 and, if our elections are conducted in 2024 the way they always have been (i.e., with Congress’ certification of the results being taken as a mere formality), Trump would almost certainly flame out, assuming President Joe Biden isn’t handed some major crisis that he fails to get under control.

After all, Trump lost by 7 million votes last time, and that’s before he tried to shiv democracy with his stabby little Chucky doll hands. The guy’s poll numbers were underwater for all but a few days of his White House tenure. On the day he left office, his aggregate disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight, was a whopping 57.9%. Sure, the guy would likely skate through the primary process and would almost certainly be the GOP nominee if he ran, but he’d likely be dead in the water in the general election. Who (beyond his death cult) would want him back?

Most of the country has moved on and never wants to lay eyes on this sodden heap of off-brand urinal cake ever again. But Republicans—who, let’s not forget, make up less than 30% of the population—can’t get enough of the guy. Fifty-three percent of these deludenoids still think Trump is the rightful president, FFS. 

And so there’s our opportunity. Participation in midterm elections is typically far less than that of presidential elections. Voter turnout was strong in 2018—particularly in the suburbs—as many Democrats, independents, and disaffected Republicans came out to rebuke Trump and his agenda. Trump was on the ballot in 2020, and 81 million people came out to toss his ass, swamping the MAGAs’ own enthusiastic turnout.

Without a doubt, Trump can be a motivating factor, whether he’s on the ballot or not.

So here’s our motivation—and our rallying cry—for 2022.

If we lose Congress in the midterm elections, Trump will almost certainly run again, seeing his opportunity to cheat and manipulate his way to victory regardless of the actual results. If we keep Congress, Trump may finally slink away, knowing that he’d have little to no chance of pulling off another upset.

Incumbency is a huge advantage in a presidential election, and Trump won’t have that this time. His only advantage would be the likelihood—dare I say the guarantee?—of Republican treachery. But that can’t happen if there aren’t enough treacherous GOPsters in Congress to pull off an election theft.

So if you want Trump to run again—to be a major part of your waking life again—by all means, skip the midterm elections. If you don’t, show the fuck up, and make sure your friends and neighbors do, too.

That’s a rallying cry for 2022 if I’ve ever heard one. If we win in 2022, which we must, Trump will likely bugger off—finally and forever. Because he knows he can’t win, and he’s nothing if not a coward. If we lose, well, that could be the end of democracy as we know it.

Let’s win. In the face of insurmountable odds, let’s make sure we win.  

The alternative is simply too awful to consider.

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)

Prosecutors investigating Giuliani seized wider array of materials than previously disclosed

Oopsies. Looks like the investigation into personal Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is broader than what was previously reported. A court document unsealed Tuesday revealed that federal prosecutors obtained correspondence from email and iCloud accounts that appear to belong to two former Ukrainian government officials, according to CNN. Additionally, prosecutors seized a cell phone and iPad belonging to a pro-Trump Ukrainian businessman.  

CNN also accessed redacted portions of the court filing by cutting/pasting it into a new document and found that federal prosecutors obtained the "historical and prospective cell site information" of both Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, an attorney who informally advised Donald Trump and aided Giuliani's dirt digging efforts. Investigators executed a search warrant on both attorneys last month.

According to CNN, the Ukrainians involved are former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko, former head of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov, and businessman Alexander Levin.

The court filing came from Joseph Bondy, the defense lawyer for indicted former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. It contained some juicy revelations, including the fact that federal prosecutors had described materials they obtained starting in late 2019 and extending through last month. Bondy was petitioning the judge in Parnas' case for a status conference on the seized materials, which he believed to be relevant to Parnas' defense. 

But here's the juiciest part of the CNN scoop:

Bondy wrote that the evidence seized "likely includes e-mail, text, and encrypted communications" between Giuliani, Toensing, former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, "high-level members of the Justice Department, Presidential impeachment attorneys Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and others, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes and others, relating to the timing of the arrest and indictment of the defendants as a means to prevent potential disclosures to Congress in the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald. J. Trump."

Just to be clear, none of this is verified and even Bondy used the term “likely.” But wow—encrypted communications between Trump, Barr, Sekulow, Graham, and Nunes, potentially related to an effort to silence Parnas and presumably his partner, Igor Fruman, in advance of Trump's first impeachment inquiry. 

Hard to know whether Bondy is right, but any encrypted communications among that cast of characters that proved fruitful for prosecutors would certainly be interesting. 

Finally sinking in for Republicans that they blew the first major battle of Biden’s presidency

Republicans in Washington are finally starting to realize they botched the first big political battle of Joe Biden's presidency, according to Politico. That belated revelation comes as a new poll from Politico/Morning Consult showed the American Rescue Plan garnering 72% support among voters (with just 21% opposing it) and Biden notching a 62% approval rating in the survey. Over the weekend, a CBS-YouGov survey also found that 71% of Americans think the $1.9 trillion plan will help the middle class more than wealthy Americans—which is true.

In retrospect, Republicans are now wondering whether their laser-like focus on the great Seuss-silencing and Potato Head scandals of 2021 really met the political moment. Hmm.

“Whenever there is something that goes into pop culture and now all this cancel culture stuff, it is catnip for the base and the media and Republicans are going to talk about that,” GOP strategist Doug Heye told Politico.

Shocker—Republicans got caught up in a useless round of conservative media-fueled demagoguery while the rest of America reeled from the greatest public health disaster in a century. Democrats simply blew right past Republicans to answer the national need. But what confounds GOP strategists is that the Republican party really mounted no concerted effort to oppose the Democratic legislation as it gained widespread traction and was broadly embraced by voters.

That's left people like Steve Bannon crying in his coffee. “It’s a fairly popular bill that polled well because it’s been sold as a COVID relief bill with direct cash payments to Americans—what’s not to like?” Bannon said. “However, that’s not what the bill is. That’s a huge problem because 2022 has already started and you don’t see the fight here.”

The Republican National Committee, for instance, issued a meager two statements about the bill. Conservative media went down the Seuss-Potato rabbit hole. And GOP lawmakers—who helped Donald Trump crank up the national debt by $7.8 trillion—apparently felt a little squeamish about suddenly attacking pandemic-related spending. 

“Republicans lost credibility on [the deficit] issue during the Trump years, especially the first couple years when we had the power to do something about it,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a GOP consultant. “There was no interest in doing anything about it. It was just, ‘let’s not even talk about spending or the debt or deficit or anything like that.’”

Even Democrats have been baffled by the Republican whiff on such a major battle. John Anzalone, an external Biden adviser and former Biden campaign pollster, was amazed that Republicans settled on framing the package as unrelated to COVID-19 when so many Americans who will get the relief money are specifically reeling from pandemic-related illness, joblessness, and financial struggles.

“This is just really mind-boggling,” Anzalone said. “At a time that we’re going through three or four crises at once, they have basically just punted. They've completely punted.”

But the lack of a coordinated GOP campaign with only helter-skelter attempts to mount an opposition is really emblematic of a much bigger problem for the Republican party—it no longer knows what it is or what it stands for. With no core values to operate on after they spent four years surrendering the party to a completely unmoored Donald Trump, Republicans don't have any go-to plays or even messengers for that matter.

And once again, their main messenger—Trump—was so consumed with his own pity party over the lost election and impeachment that it crippled the party's ability to settle on a line of attack and prosecute it in the media.

This will be a continual problem moving forward for Republicans. It's not only a question of, “what do they stand for?” but one of, “who can even carry that message”?

People like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made feeble attempts at smearing the legislation, calling it "reparations" for Black farmers. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas skewered Democrats for not excluding inmates from getting relief. But Cotton had voted in favor of a COVID-19 package under Trump that also included payments for those very same inmates. 

The lack of both message and messenger has left Republicans hoping against hope that relief that has already started hitting bank accounts and will continue to target life-saving funds to the nation's neediest will somehow plummet in popularity.

“It’s at the peak of its popularity right now and the more it becomes unpopular we’ll pound against them,” said one GOP aide.

But who exactly will do the pounding and what in the heck will they say? No one even has a clue—least of all, Republicans.

The GOP’s Dr. Seuss distractions couldn’t be more different than 2009 stimulus derailment strategy

We’re not in 2009 anymore. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP)—which passed with only Democratic support—makes that clear. In 2009, also in the midst of a terrible crisis, we enacted a very different economic package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The differences in content between the two are stark.

The current one is more than twice as large, delivers money directly to people who need it (rather than fruitlessly seeking bipartisan support, in part by including tax cuts which are far less effective in terms of impact), and is strikingly more progressive, more so than anything proposed by a president since LBJ, according to Ezra Klein—in particular in its approach to poverty. But equally stark is the difference between the Republican response this time versus 12 years ago.

Despite newly elected President Barack Obama’s inclusion of various elements Republicans should have supported, his 2009 stimulus package faced sustained and ruthless attacks from conservative politicians and, just as importantly, the right-wing media. At the time, the “de facto leader” of the Republican Party was Rush Limbaugh, whose audience size beat that of all his radio rivals. His assaults on the Obama stimulus package are representative of those put forth by the rest of the right-wing media ecosystem.

Day after day, the host attacked Obama’s plan—at a time when the president was immensely popular, more so than Joe Biden at a comparable point in his presidency. The Obama stimulus itself was broadly popular when it was enacted on Feb. 17, 2009, although it did not garner quite as much support as Biden’s plan does right now. Conservatives like Limbaugh made it their business to turn the American people against the bill, and not just by criticizing it on the grounds of small-government ideology. They had a good deal of success, in part because of flaws in the ARRA, but also because they were laser-focused on poisoning the discourse around it.

In addition to lying about the specifics, Limbaugh race-baited his listeners by slamming the ARRA as a “welfare payment”—a racially loaded term that conservatives going back to Ronald Reagan used as a dog whistle, to evoke stereotypical images of Black people supposedly not working while being supported by the government. The host linked the Obama plan to welfare in different ways, on numerous different broadcasts, and mentioned how “civil rights coalitions” supported the push to “redistribute” money by “taking it from you” (given that his audience was overwhelmingly white, we know who “you” referred to). He went after the bill for sending money to ACORN—which advocated for low-income folks and people of color, and worked to increase voter registration—despite the fact that the group got no money from the ARRA. Limbaugh also speculated baselessly that Al Sharpton and his group got stimulus funds.

The host also lied about the ARRA giving tax credits to “illegal aliens”—which did not happen. Additionally, he characterized the Obama stimulus as an “effort to buy votes,” and then immediately played an exchange of the president talking with a Latino student. In this and other similar segments, the host’s goal was to paint the plan as seeking to help those Black and brown people whom he depicted as wanting to avoid work. As Limbaugh told it, the ARRA was another plank in a race war fueled by Obama’s “rage”—and inspired by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Bringing it all together on June 22, 2009, the host spewed the following racist claptrap: “Everything in the stimulus plan, every plan he’s got is reparations. … Redistribution of wealth, reparations … whatever you want to call it, it’s reparations.”

Although today’s Republicans are employing different tactics in opposing Biden’s plan, some habits are hard to break. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham went after a provision aimed at helping Black farmers who suffered a century of systemic discrimination after the Civil War, using the same language as Limbaugh: “In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven up to 120% of your loan if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African American … some other minority. But if you're (a) white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness! That's reparations!” House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, who hails from the same state, called Graham out: “He ought to be ashamed of himself. He knows the history in this country and he knows what has happened to Black farmers,” and added that his fellow South Carolinian ought to “go to church … Get in touch with his Christianity.”

Graham didn’t attack the overall bill in race-baiting terms, however. I’m not suggesting that’s because the 2021 version of the Republican Party has grown more enlightened on race since it fell under the sway of Donald Trump. It’s because the circumstances around the American Rescue Plan are different from those in play in 2009. Republicans haven’t stopped using racially or culturally divisive attacks as a way to distract from the unpopularity of their policy positions. It’s just that, with over half a million deaths that have affected all communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even they don’t think it’s a winning move to attack Biden’s relief bill on the same sort of race-baiting grounds, or with the same level of intensity, as they did Obama’s ARRA package.

Republicans can’t even successfully go after the ARP as “big government” overreach or for increasing the national debt, because they supported multiple COVID-19 bills last year that in total spent even more, not to mention their having busted the budget on Trump’s Rich Man’s Tax Cut in 2017. The last thing Republicans want to do is remind voters that they blew a trillion-plus dollar hole in the national debt and sent just about half of that money to the richest 5%, while Biden’s bill will put 70% of its money into the pockets of the bottom 60% of Americans by income.

Democrats must make sure voters don’t forget that. New York. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s messaging nailed it: “We should shout it from the rooftops that we are passing historic legislation that will reboot the economy and end the pandemic. They're always ready to help a big corporation or a rich person, but when a working family needs help, the Republicans tell them to drop dead.”

Even Republican mayors—32 of them in fact, from states ranging from Oklahoma to North Carolina to Indiana to Arizona to Michigan—signed on to support the Biden plan. Directly countering lies from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about “blue state bailouts,” Republican Mayor Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan, stated: “This isn't because of some gross mismanagement or some bad contracts that were signed or historic deficits. This is about addressing the needs of a global pandemic that are really (for) the same constituents they serve in D.C. that we're serving here at the local level.”

For multiple reasons, including the fact that their current leader, aka Mr. Former Guy, supported the main element—a check going out to most Americans—the Republican response to the American Rescue Plan has been “more muted” than 12 years ago, and that includes the response from Trump.

The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote (Twice) actually slammed his once and possible future ally McConnell over his opposition to those very checks. Republicans can’t seem to get on the same page when it comes to the specifics of the ARP, so it’s hard for them to condemn it in a coherent way. Sen. McTurtle has issued a few statements rebuking the relief package, but it’s nothing compared to 2009.

Rather than go hard after the ARP in the way Limbaugh had done with the ARRA a dozen years ago, Trump all but ignored it at his biggest and best opportunity: CPAC. He devoted only two sentences to the bill during a speech lasting an hour and a half, instead spending much more time talking about the election, impeachment, and those who truly demonstrated, in the words of Luca Brasi, their “ever-ending loyalty.” As for those who didn’t, they could sleep with the fishes as far as Trump—who has himself been accused of acting like a mafia boss—was concerned.

Instead, Trump and his party made a decision to attack Biden in a very incoherent way. This is not to suggest that they don’t know what they are doing, but rather that what they are doing is not going to work. They are banking on people, when they vote in 2022, somehow not remembering how bad the situation was when Biden took office, so that Republicans can then say that the ARP didn’t really do all that much, or wasn’t necessary in the first place—as Moscow Mitch just claimed on Thursday—or was just a bunch of progressive ideas (yeah, and people like those ideas). Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is actually trying to take credit for the bill, even though he (and every other Republican) voted against it. Talk about incoherence. You know their attacks are pretty weak when they sound like this one, from Texas Sen. John Cornyn: “Unfortunately, there’s going to be a sugar high because free money is very popular … So this may be temporarily popular, but it’s going to wear thin over time.”

If you have to say twice that the bill is going to be popular, then maybe you’ve got a political problem here, senator. Republicans are already trying to “pre-deny” credit for the coming boom to Biden’s policies—even as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s analysis found that the American Rescue Plan would increase economic growth in our country by an impressive 3% over previous estimates, and would add over 1% to worldwide economic growth. That’s a Big Fucking … oh, forget it, everyone else has already used that line. It is a BFD, though.

There were a couple of other echoes of 2009 coming from conservatives. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee issued a statement in early February criticizing the increased child tax credit that ended up in the final bill as “welfare assistance.” Chris Hartline, National Republican Senatorial Committee spox, went off about Democrats not caring if stimulus checks went to undocumented immigrants. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has made similar complaints, and also carped about ARP money going to incarcerated prisoners.

However, there are two problems for The Man Who Threw His Own Daughters Under The Bus: first, his proposed amendment would have blocked 2 million American citizen children from receiving stimulus checks just because their parents are undocumented. As Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the majority whip, noted: “These American kids should receive this relief just as other American kids do.” Second, the previous COVID-19 stimulus checks—the ones with the Orange Julius Caesar’s name on them—also went out to prisoners, something Cruz absolutely knew before the December COVID-19 bill was passed. Did he utter a peep about it when that bill was under discussion? I think you know the answer.

So, although conservatives have made their pro forma condemnations of the ARP, what they are actually spending the bulk of their time and energy screaming about these days reveals their fundamental strategy. Their goal is not to rile up their voters about what the president is doing—which will help just about every American—but instead distract them with totally unrelated culture war issues.

Do Fox News viewers even know about the American Rescue Act, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that passed the Senate? They might not. The network, like most right-wing media, has largely ignored the Covid-19 relief legislation, instead fixating on silly culture-war controversies involving Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss. In the days leading up to the Senate vote, the network was far more concerned with the availability of Dr. Seuss’s Scrambled Eggs Super than it was with any aspect of the bill itself.

Want to guess how many times Fox mentioned Dr. Seuss just through March 3? Not one fish, and not two fish. Try 60 times, as counted by The Washington Post. Beyond the cancel culture crap, the Party of Trump has one arena of actual policy that it seems to think is worthy of more time, attention, and vitriol than COVID-19 relief: the great danger they insist is posed by transgender athletes. To his eternal credit, Florida (Man) Rep. Matt Gaetz combined two manufactured controversies in a single bank shot when, at CPAC, he quipped: “Mr. Potato Head was America’s first transgender doll and even he got canceled.” I haven’t seen anyone get this worked up about Mr. Potato Head since this guy yelled at his little nerdy buddy.

Just look at a snapshot of Fox News’ website after the ARP passed compared to that of CNN. The latter has the vitally important piece of legislation at the top, over the entire three-column page. The former leads with the Meghan Markle/Piers Morgan clash, and its largest mention of the president is in an article about how his “handlers” are, wait for it, “hidin’ Biden.” Yep, they’re still going with that campaign calumny about the guy who trounced Trump being somehow infirm.

Anything to avoid reality.

The Fox News website is an alternative universe from what the actual top news story is. pic.twitter.com/ONv5z7JE6M

— Richard W. (@IceManNYR) March 10, 2021

Why are Republicans following this strategy? After being fed political junk food for so long—especially by the demagogue who has led their party going on five years now—it’s the only thing their voters want to imbibe. These kinds of culture war attacks “unif[y] the party but expands it into the area we need to—the suburban moms, the college educated men that we struggled with in 2020, there’s common ground with these constituencies,” according to Mercedes Schlapp, who worked for the twice-impeached president. Republican strategist Matt Gorman added that such tactics represent “a cultural touchstone for folks that shows where a party's priorities are.” Famed Republican pollster Frank Luntz thinks they are “definitely” a good way to excite the right-wing base.

Daniel Cox, a researcher at the American Enterprise institute who has done extensive research about the topic, found that "concerns about cultural influence, political power and status are really overwhelming other ideological concerns on the right. Traditional conservative principles, whether it's commitment to a strong national defense or support for limited government, do not animate Republican voters." Other Republicans offered similar opinions.

Even the recently deceased Limbaugh typically used to tie his race-baiting attacks to larger ideological questions or at least policies under discussion in the moment—not that that’s praise, mind you. Now, however, the Party of Trump can’t even bother to do that, as per POLITICO: “Today, much of the fracas doesn’t even involve Biden, or his administration, or his policy agenda. Instead, it involves things like corporate decisions around kids’ toys.”

In the end, as Ron Brownstein pointed out, Republicans were unable to “ignite a grassroots backlash” against Biden's COVID-19 relief package. One Democratic pollster, Nick Gourevitch, saw a lack of passion behind the Republican attacks on the bill: “It doesn't seem like they are even really trying.” Brownstein reported that, off the record at least, a number of Republicans agreed.

For their part, the Biden White House is more than happy to put its actual policy accomplishments up against the trash the other side is throwing out there.

Joe Biden isn’t worried about culture war attacks over Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and Neanderthals. A White House official sends over a statement for our time.https://t.co/BmihkPQuDp More, w/ the great @meridithmcgraw pic.twitter.com/jWBU2ACQTE

— Christopher Cadelago (@ccadelago) March 5, 2021

One of the criticisms leveled at Obama—including by Barack himself—was that he didn’t always do a great job advertising his own achievements to voters. The 44th president acknowledged: “We did not always think about making sure we were advertising properly what was going on,” and added that his White House should have taken more “victory laps.” His veep, now the 46th president, appears to have learned the lesson well, as evidenced by the primetime address he delivered Thursday night.

Democrats think they have a winner with the American Rescue Plan, and it looks like they know how to tell the story of what they’ve accomplished.

DNC digital team w/ a Love Actually-themed response to covid package passage. Via @Adrienne_DNC pic.twitter.com/GPGX1Lmb5z

— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) March 10, 2021

The most recent polling shows not only that the American people favor the bill, but also that there’s a significant class divide that portends even more danger for the Party of Trump. Overall, 41% of Republicans like the ARP, which is bad enough for them. However, among the quarter of Republicans who are lower income, that percentage is 63%.

Pew finds a huge gap in support for Biden's relief bill between lower income and upper income Republicans -- nearly two thirds of lower income Republicans support it. pic.twitter.com/SPpDXILKjV

— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) March 9, 2021

Here’s the analysis from Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld: “This GOP divide along class lines gives Democrats a real opening to both win back some blue-collar voters as well as remind some Trump voters why they were never sold on the Republican Party to begin with (thereby discouraging them from turning out next year).”

It’s easy to say that, come the next election, the bullshit will win out over substance. We are Democrats, after all, which means we often see the glass as half-empty when it comes to electoral politics. But that’s not always how it plays out. Republicans may hope that if they just yell and scream about other, unrelated topics, voters in 2022 will forget that Biden’s relief plan significantly helped just about every American finally get past this devastating pandemic.

It’s up to all of us to help Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the rest of the Democratic Party make sure voters remember who did that for them.

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)

GOP falls into further disarray after seven Republican senators admit Trump was 100% guilty

Donald Trump may have escaped conviction, but the Republican Party will be suffering the consequences of his abhorrent insurrection for years to come. The fact that a historic number of GOP Senate and House lawmakers joined Democrats in declaring Trump guilty of betraying the country sets up a dramatic rift in a party that already appears to be going through a tumultuous realignment

Trump's constant defender, golf partner, and sometimes election meddler Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina rushed out to the Sunday talk shows to assure Republicans they are doooooomed without Donald Trump. “Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican Party. The Trump movement is alive and well,” Graham told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. “All I can say is that the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump. We need Trump.”

The notion that a guy who just came the closest leader in American history to getting convicted of impeachment charges is the "most vibrant member" of the GOP is really a stunning admission—Graham just doesn't know it. Graham is legitimately panicked. In essence, Republicans can't win without Trump, but trying to win with him is going to weigh down the party like a bag of bricks. 

Graham panned as "wrong" a recent move by Republican Nikki Haley to try (yet again!) to distance herself from Trump as she angles for 2024. Graham also twice declared during the Fox interview, "I'm into winning," taking a swipe at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for ripping into Trump in a cynical effort to appease corporate donors who have soured on him.

But Graham did make one observation that is surely true about McConnell's oratory castigation of Trump despite the fact that he ultimately surrendered to casting an acquittal vote. "That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns,” Graham predicted. Truth. Any right-wing Trumper who emerges victorious after a bruising GOP primary will certainly hear the echo of McConnell's words slamming their general election pitch. 

McConnell knew that before he made the speech, and it also tells you just how desperate he is to keep those corporate donations flowing. He was trying to split the baby by acquitting Trump in one breath and skewering him in the next, but that’s also bound to cause some GOP collateral damage heading into 2022.

Just to truly drive home how far the GOP star has fallen, Graham declared none other than Lara Trump, the supremely uninspired beneficiary of Trump nepotism and Ivanka wannabe, the future of the Republican Party. Verbatim—not kidding.

“The biggest winner I think of this whole impeachment trial is Lara Trump,” Graham said. “If she runs, I will certainly be behind her because I think she represents the future of the Republican Party.”

Lara led Trump's "Women for Trump" initiative targeting the suburbs, which you may recall, wasn't the electoral fast ball the campaign hoped it would be.

On the other side of Graham's sycophantic appeals and McConnell's Machiavellian maneuvering was Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who seemed to grow genuinely outraged over the course of the trial by Trump's murderous riot and overt lack of remorse. After Cassidy voted to convict, he released an exceedingly simply and unapologetic statement: "Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty."

On ABC's This Week Sunday, Cassidy predicted Trump's influence over the party had peaked and was on its way down. “I think his force wanes," Cassidy said.

What's so fascinating is that both Graham and Cassidy are likely speaking shades of the truth. Trump remains the most high-profile Republican nationwide and, while he will surely continue to harness the intensity of the nativist wing of the GOP, his ability to command a broad enough coalition to win national and statewide elections has just as surely taken a hit. In essence, Trump is a short-term bandage for a gaping oozing wound within the Republican Party. The Lindsey Grahams of the world are clinging to Trump for dear life, but his epic toxicity guarantees that wound will only deepen in the months and years ahead. 

Republicans say they want an investigation into Capitol attack. How deep will they let it dig?

Forty-three Republican senators protected Donald Trump from accountability for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol when they voted to acquit in his second impeachment trial. They’re going to have a challenge protecting him—and maybe themselves—through the likely next phase of the response to the Jan. 6 attack: an investigation by a bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 commission. The question is how serious and how empowered such an investigation will be, and Democrats need to ensure that the answer is “very.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for such an investigation in early February, writing to House Democrats, “It is also clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6.” Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré is already leading a security review, but the question of protecting the U.S. Capitol as a physical building is different from understanding how Jan. 6 happened—from incitement to active planning to responses while it was underway—and not just Congress but the whole nation needs to understand that.

We need to know more about Trump’s actions. The House impeachment managers laid out his public-facing statements showing that he absolutely called his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s election win, and that he continued to encourage them even as they were breaching the Capitol. But we know there’s more. Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has described a phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump in the midst of the attack in which McCarthy asked Trump “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot,” only to have Trump tell him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy told Herrera Beutler about the call. He needs to tell investigators about it, too. 

And Herrera Beutler’s Friday statement on that call pointed out that McCarthy isn’t the only likely witness: “To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she said. That didn’t happen in time for the impeachment trial, but those people are still out there, and a bipartisan commission with subpoena power could potentially uncover some of them, along with many other facts that are necessary for ensuring this never happens again … but potentially very inconvenient for Trump and some other Republicans.

We also need to know more about failures by the Capitol Police and others tasked with protecting the Capitol. How did they miss the signs that this wasn’t going to be a peaceful free speech rally? We need to know who at the Pentagon did what with regard to National Guard deployments ahead of Jan. 6 and as the Capitol was under attack.

Lawmakers from both parties have called for a 9/11-type investigatory panel, but some of the Republicans are likely to either push for tight limits on what can be investigated or entirely back off those calls as impeachment—and the need to distract from it by acting very serious about some form of response to the attack—recedes into the past. 

“We need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday, but let’s wait to hear the series of things he doesn’t want included and witnesses he doesn’t want called in the investigation. The second item on Graham’s list is likely to become a big Republican talking point—refocusing the response from “what happened and how can we understand it” to “what physical fortifications do we need.” It’s the Republican way: guns, not accountability.

Republicans will also start screaming if, for instance, some of their own start getting called as witnesses. It would be very interesting to hear from Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, for instance, or Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But a 9/11-type commission isn’t the only investigation in the works. Graham himself could be drawn into an investigation into efforts to overturn the Georgia election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recorded the phone call in which Trump pressured him to “find 11,780 votes” because of an earlier phone call in which Graham asked him to illegally reject large numbers of ballots. That Georgia investigation obviously will focus on Trump. Trump also faces the possibility of a criminal investigation into Jan. 6. That’s a very remote possibility now, but given an empowered, detailed (the 9/11 commission investigated for 20 months) look into what happened … well, we can dream.

It’s unlikely that too many people will come out fully against an investigation into the attack on the Capitol. The thing to watch is what limits Republicans want to place on it. What questions do they think should be off limits? What witnesses do they not want called? Especially from people like Graham and Cruz and Hawley, that’s going to be a signal of where the really important information is—and both Democrats and good-faith Republicans need to be willing to pursue it.

Republicans say they want an investigation into Capitol attack. How deep will they let it dig?

Forty-three Republican senators protected Donald Trump from accountability for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol when they voted to acquit in his second impeachment trial. They’re going to have a challenge protecting him—and maybe themselves—through the likely next phase of the response to the Jan. 6 attack: an investigation by a bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 commission. The question is how serious and how empowered such an investigation will be, and Democrats need to ensure that the answer is “very.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for such an investigation in early February, writing to House Democrats, “It is also clear that we will need to establish a 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack on January 6.” Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré is already leading a security review, but the question of protecting the U.S. Capitol as a physical building is different from understanding how Jan. 6 happened—from incitement to active planning to responses while it was underway—and not just Congress but the whole nation needs to understand that.

We need to know more about Trump’s actions. The House impeachment managers laid out his public-facing statements showing that he absolutely called his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s election win, and that he continued to encourage them even as they were breaching the Capitol. But we know there’s more. Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has described a phone call between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Trump in the midst of the attack in which McCarthy asked Trump “to publicly and forcefully call off the riot,” only to have Trump tell him, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy told Herrera Beutler about the call. He needs to tell investigators about it, too. 

And Herrera Beutler’s Friday statement on that call pointed out that McCarthy isn’t the only likely witness: “To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time,” she said. That didn’t happen in time for the impeachment trial, but those people are still out there, and a bipartisan commission with subpoena power could potentially uncover some of them, along with many other facts that are necessary for ensuring this never happens again … but potentially very inconvenient for Trump and some other Republicans.

We also need to know more about failures by the Capitol Police and others tasked with protecting the Capitol. How did they miss the signs that this wasn’t going to be a peaceful free speech rally? We need to know who at the Pentagon did what with regard to National Guard deployments ahead of Jan. 6 and as the Capitol was under attack.

Lawmakers from both parties have called for a 9/11-type investigatory panel, but some of the Republicans are likely to either push for tight limits on what can be investigated or entirely back off those calls as impeachment—and the need to distract from it by acting very serious about some form of response to the attack—recedes into the past. 

“We need a 9/11 Commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again, and I want to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday, but let’s wait to hear the series of things he doesn’t want included and witnesses he doesn’t want called in the investigation. The second item on Graham’s list is likely to become a big Republican talking point—refocusing the response from “what happened and how can we understand it” to “what physical fortifications do we need.” It’s the Republican way: guns, not accountability.

Republicans will also start screaming if, for instance, some of their own start getting called as witnesses. It would be very interesting to hear from Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, for instance, or Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But a 9/11-type commission isn’t the only investigation in the works. Graham himself could be drawn into an investigation into efforts to overturn the Georgia election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recorded the phone call in which Trump pressured him to “find 11,780 votes” because of an earlier phone call in which Graham asked him to illegally reject large numbers of ballots. That Georgia investigation obviously will focus on Trump. Trump also faces the possibility of a criminal investigation into Jan. 6. That’s a very remote possibility now, but given an empowered, detailed (the 9/11 commission investigated for 20 months) look into what happened … well, we can dream.

It’s unlikely that too many people will come out fully against an investigation into the attack on the Capitol. The thing to watch is what limits Republicans want to place on it. What questions do they think should be off limits? What witnesses do they not want called? Especially from people like Graham and Cruz and Hawley, that’s going to be a signal of where the really important information is—and both Democrats and good-faith Republicans need to be willing to pursue it.

Who is Donald Trump’s most gutless toady?

The result of the latest Trump impeachment trial was a fait accompli when Mike Pence was pulled from his mother’s womb, saw his shadow, and scurried back home like a frightened baby wallaby for six more weeks of gestation.

The evidence now makes it abundantly clear that Donald Trump incited a riot, delighted in the mayhem, knew Mike Pence was in mortal danger, and not only did nothing to protect his unflinchingly loyal VP after hearing about his potential, you know, murder but actually sought to further incite the rioters by tweeting hateful lies directly at him. 

And what was Pence’s response to all this?

Crickets.

And not cool, genetically engineered murder crickets or anything—just plain old regular crickets.

Senate Republicans acquitted Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors twice. So make them pay: Donate $1 right now to each of the Democratic nominee funds targeting vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2022.

The Washington Post:

[A]fter four years of obedience as vice president, Pence has no plans to condemn Trump or to speak out during the Senate impeachment trial, people close to the former vice president said. He is still operating from a playbook of obsequiousness that became second nature — he never aired his grievances publicly and delivered his often rose-colored counsel to Trump only in private, one-on-one settings.

I wonder if there’s a literal “playbook of obsequiousness,” and if so, does Mother let him read it after bedtime?

Oh, but Pence’s continued public deference to Trump doesn’t mean his feelings weren’t hurt by Trump’s decision to let him be hanged in public so Trump wouldn’t have to give up his extra White House ice cream scoop and unlimited free airplane rides. They were. You’d just never know it from talking to him.

But the rift that emerged between Trump and Pence — after Trump encouraged a frenzied mob that later chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as it stormed through the Capitol, in search of the then vice president — is unlikely ever to fully heal, people close to Pence said.

One ally described the former vice president as frustrated with what Trump did and said it would forever change his relationship with Trump. This person added, however, that Pence does not share the animus or fury that some of his former aides have for the president.

Do Republicans feel some weird frisson of excitement when Trump brutally attacks or betrays them? Is this something we mere mortals simply can’t understand? Because if any of my bosses had ever treated me this disrespectfully, I’d have immediately FedEx’d them my company-issued gimp costume (without dry-cleaning it first!) and never spoken to them again.

But Republicans keep coming back for more.

Why?

And it’s not just Milquetoast Mike Pence. 

Trump gave out Lindsey Graham’s private cell phone number at a rally, and Graham eventually became his champion.

Trump implied Ted Cruz’s wife was ugly and that his dad had a hand in JFK’s assassination, and Ted became his gracious and loyal servant.

Kevin McCarthy was harassed and nearly killed by Trump’s mob, and Trump refused to lift a finger to protect him. Nevertheless, McCarthy still flew down to Florida three weeks later to kiss his ring.

And despite knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump is the human equivalent of dumpster sushi, Mitch McConnell gladly wolfed down every rancid, mealy bite for years.

It’s inconceivable, but it is what it is. If these guys got into a gruesome clown car accident and you had to Frankenstein them together to confect one historically awful legislator, you’d be hard-pressed to locate a spine or recover a single languorous ball.

So who do you think is the worst? Answer the poll question and find out!

”This guy is a natural. Sometimes I laugh so hard I cry." — BETTE MIDLER on author ALDOUS J. PENNYFARTHING, via TwitterNeed a thorough Trump cleanse? Thanks to Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, Dear F*cking Lunatic, Dear Pr*sident A**clown and Dear F*cking Moron, you can purge the Trump years from your soul sans the existential dread. Only laughs from here on out. Click those links, yo!