Tim Alberta/The Atlantic:
INSIDE THE MELTDOWN AT CNN
CEO Chris Licht felt he was on a mission to restore the network’s reputation for serious journalism. How did it all go wrong?
As I’d settled into my seat in the Saint Anselm auditorium, however, I had been startled by my surroundings. This was no ordinary collection of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, as CNN had claimed it would be. Most of them were diehards, fanboys, political zealots who were likelier to show up at a rally with a MAGA flag than come to a coffee shop with a policy question. These folks hadn’t turned out to participate in some good-faith civic ritual. They were there to celebrate Trump’s continued assault on the media.
Licht’s theory of CNN—what had gone wrong, how to fix it, and why doing so could lift the entire industry—made a lot of sense. The execution of that theory? Another story. Every move he made, big programming decisions and small tactical maneuvers alike, seemed to backfire. By most metrics, the network under Licht’s leadership had reached its historic nadir. In my conversations with nearly 100 employees at CNN, it was clear that Licht needed a win—a big win—to keep the place from falling apart. The Trump town hall was supposed to be that win. It had to be that win. And yet, once again, the execution had failed.
Thomas Zimmer/Democracy Americana:
The Fascistic Myth of Trump’s Special Connection to “Real America”
The mainstream political discourse needs to stop perpetuating ideas that form the bedrock of the extremist ethno-religious movement that has galvanized behind Trump
I wrote last week about how justifications for CNN’s Trump town hall reveal the deeper pathologies and fallacies that have characterized the Trump discourse since 2016: The steady normalization of extremism, misleading myths of liberal “echo chambers,” and the perpetuation of ethno-religious “real Americanism.” I have more to say about that last point, the ideology of “real Americanism,” as it provides the foundation for the anti-democratic radicalization of the Right, forms the basis of its constant normalization in the mainstream political discourse, and helps explain why the institutions tasked with defending democracy have such a hard time mounting an effective counter against the authoritarian threat.
“While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story,” Chris Licht said in the editorial call, “because the people in that audience represent a large swath of America. And the mistake the media made in the past is ignoring that those people exist. Just like you cannot ignore that President Trump exists.”
There is a lot to unpack here. By “the people in that audience,” Licht referred to those who were all in on Trump, who cheered him on – representatives of the conservative base, Trump’s power bloc on the Right. Since the Republican primaries in 2015/16, these people have been unwavering in their support for and personal loyalty to Trump. Licht wants us to believe they speak for “a large swath of America” – a sizable portion, maybe even a majority, that is otherwise ignored, forgotten, due to the ignorance and arrogance of educated, mostly liberal elites in coastal urban centers. In this view, the MAGA movement is comprised of “regular folks” – a loaded term – to which Trump has a special connection. Therefore, the mainstream media has a duty to provide a prominent platform to Trump and his base because Trump embodies and gives voice to a populist uprising of “real America.”
Peggy Noonan/Wall Street Journal:
Chris Christie and the Republican Party’s Peril
In some ways he’s a match for Trump, whose third nomination would mark the end of the GOP.
Whether you approved or disapproved, tearing the party off its deep-dug tracks in 2016—away from things it had stood for since 1980, away from the sort of candidates it had generally put forward—was a wrench, for some a trauma. But the party proved itself able and elastic. There was “a great deal of ruin” in it, as Adam Smith said. It had enough give to absorb and endure.
But a third Trump nomination? The third time it breaks.
Put another way, once is what you did (made a mistake, as people and parties do). Twice is what you did (almost out of loyalty to the first mistake). But a third time—that isn’t what you did, it’s who you are.
Hopium springs eternal. Maybe it’s not who they are, Noonan thinks. But no. It absolutely is.
The House GOP’s Antagonism Caucus
They’re not a loyal opposition. They’re a thoughtless—and dangerous—opposition.
THIS CLUSTER of Republicans—what I call the antagonism caucus—is a subset of the House Freedom Caucus. On Tuesday, at a Freedom Caucus press conference to oppose the debt-limit bill, Rep. Andy Biggs—who chaired the Freedom Caucus in the last Congress—worried that Democrats were suspiciously untroubled by the bill’s “pay-go” provision, which was supposed to constrain spending. “There’s a reason that the Biden administration has no concern over this provision,” he warned. If Democrats were okay with the bill, he suggested, then Republicans shouldn’t be.
That phrase—there’s a reason—is a common refrain in the antagonism caucus. It expresses the assumption that anything Democrats favor, or even accept, must be bad. “There is a reason why 100 Democrats, none of which voted for our initial bill, [are] now for” the compromise debt-ceiling bill, Rep. Ralph Norman surmised at the Tuesday press conference. “It’s because they got what they wanted,” said Norman. “It’s time for us to say no.”
Jonathan V. Last/Bulwark:
You Are Who You Hate
This tension mirrors the tension inherent in the entire MAGA project.
MAGA contains multitudes and many of its constituent groups are in tension with one another.
We have both Evangelical MAGA, which views Catholicism with suspicion, and Trad Cath MAGA, which wants a Catholic theocracy. There are both Libertarian Von Mises MAGA, which wants no government, and Orbánist MAGA, which wants to use the power of the state to punish its enemies.
And then there’s the Hawley version of MAGA, which is against porn and video games and wants American men to be responsible grownups. But there’s also the Barstool Sports branch of MAGA, which revels in men’s adolescent pursuits. And the Manosphere branch of MAGA, which wants men to dominate women.
What holds all of these disparate groups together?
Just one thing: A shared hatred.
More than anything else, they all hate “the left.”
The trick is that they have conjured a world in which “the left,” as a matter of policy/ideology, means both everything and nothing.
“The left” is godless atheists, but also black churches. “The left” is namby-pamby weakness, but also aggressive, assertive foreign policy. “The left” is pajama-clad hipster layabouts, but also the credentialed, striving elites. “The left” is a bunch of socialists, but also the globalists who worship the free market over the “common good.” “The left” is a bunch of lawless, BLM rioters who don’t respect cops, but also the FBI and various prosecutors, district attorneys, and AUSAs.
We have neoliberals. They have”the left”. And while each has an actual constituency, it’s too easy to misuse it to define what you simply dislike. Same as ”woke.” Guard against it.
David Rothkopf/Daily Beast:
Call It the Biden Two-Step: How to Stumble, and Grow Stronger
The real issue, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, is not whether Biden is too old, but that time and time again his opponents appear too callow and inexperienced to keep up with him.
Given the outcomes we have seen this week, isn’t the real issue, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, not whether Biden is too old, but that time and time again his opponents appear too callow and inexperienced to keep up with him.
As a momentous week for Biden draws to a close, it is fair to ask what is a bigger story—a momentary incident when someone left a sandbag in the president’s path or is it the fact that Biden surefootedly handled a debt crisis that had the entire world on edge? Is it the silly gotcha mentality of Fox News or is the fact that Biden in a tough negotiation once again turned out to lead the process as deftly and elegantly as Fred Astaire? (Could Fred Astaire have shown the grace Biden did in complimenting the man who caused the crisis, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy?)
Is it more significant that everyone expected, yet again, that Biden would take the fall for the financial hostage crisis manufactured by the GOP, or that the tough-talking MAGA right ended up wondering what hit them, proven impotent in the face of bipartisan agreement to take a more sensible course?
Or turn to a story that is even bigger than the debt showdown in the United States. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a speech in Helsinki, Finland that made it clear that the underestimated Biden had executed a pirouette in U.S. foreign policy that left vaunted master strategist Vladimir Putin flat on his ass.
Josh Chafetz/New York Times:
The First Name of a Supreme Court Justice Is Not Justice
Over roughly the past 15 years, the justices have seized for themselves more and more of the national governing agenda, overriding other decision makers with startling frequency. And they have done so in language that drips with contempt for other governing institutions and in a way that elevates the judicial role above all others.
The result has been a judicial power grab.
Judges have long portrayed themselves as neutral, apolitical conduits of the law, in contrast to the sordid political branches. This portrayal serves to obscure the institution of the judiciary and to foreground the abstract, disembodied concept of the law. In turn, it serves to empower judges, who present themselves not as one type of political actor but rather as the voice of the majestic principles of the law.
But Mr. Roberts’s judiciary has increasingly taken subtext and made it text. Here are three thematic examples out of many.
An interactive guide to rights the Supreme Court has established — and could take away.
To get a better sense of which rights may be at risk — in whole or in part — ProPublica scoured judicial opinions, academic articles and public remarks by sitting justices. Some justices, like Clarence Thomas, have had decadeslong careers and lengthy paper trails. By contrast, Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest justice, has almost no prior record. We found dozens of rights that at least one sitting justice has questioned. Below, you can explore these rights and the objections levied against them. We include federal legislation that’s been introduced to protect a given right, as well as lawsuits active in lower courts that could become vehicles for the justices to revisit existing rights in the future.
Added from Cliff Schecter: