Cup of Joe – August 5, 2022

The Economist: “When Joe Biden bangs on about bipartisanship and compromising, some Democrats roll their eyes, thinking him out of touch with modern politics. But the accumulating evidence suggests he understands how to make progress better than they do.”

“That may not strengthen his political standing in the short term, but it holds out some hope for his presidency, and American governance, over the long haul.”

“After a midsummer burst of Senate affirmation, Mr Biden can point to a series of bipartisan accomplishments, now including a bill to subsidise America’s semiconductor industry on top of the first gun-safety legislation in almost 30 years and a $1.2trn infrastructure law, achievements that by definition are also a credit to Republicans. Mr Biden’s patience for talks and tolerance for compromise, not qualities associated with the previous president, have also yielded breakthroughs (for now, within his party) on fighting climate change and restraining drug costs.”

One month into his presidency, Joe Biden made clear his distaste for even naming the man he had ousted from the Oval Office, declaring, “I’m tired of talking about Trump,” the AP reports.

But now, Biden is eagerly naming and singling out the erstwhile “former guy” in prepared remarks and on social media, elevating Donald Trump in a way that Biden and White House aides didn’t do during the first 18 months of his term.

Russian prosecutors asked a judge to jail WNBA player Brittney Griner for nine and a half years on drug charges Thursday, close to the maximum, as talks between Russia and the US on a possible prisoner exchange involving the basketball star remain deadlocked, Bloomberg reports.

“The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly ratified the addition of Finland and Sweden as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a move leaders of both parties portrayed as key to American security around the world following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

The resolution passed 95-1, with only Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) voting against.

“Democrats are bracing for potentially huge changes to their party-line climate, tax and health care bill as it’s run through strict Senate rules that will determine which parts they can keep, which need makeovers and which they’ll have to chuck in the garbage,” Politico reports.

“Both Republican and Democratic aides are still consumed by an aggressive slate of meetings with the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, who will decide whether each piece of the legislation gels with rules that allow Democrats to evade a GOP filibuster of their marquee domestic bill. And so far, the rules referee has been noticeably silent as to what stays and what goes.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) “is seeking to preserve a tax break for investment managers and narrow a levy hike on large corporations in the economic package Democrats want to pass as soon as this week,” Bloomberg reports.

“The Arizona Democrat, a pivotal vote in the Senate, is asking to drop a provision from the bill that would scale back a tax break for fund managers, known as carried interest… She is also pushing to narrow the 15% domestic minimum tax on financial profits, also known as the book tax.”

Washington Post: “On both, Sinema’s exact requests are unclear, though she previously expressed some openness to a minimum corporate tax.”

Punchbowl News: “This all begs an important question: Why wasn’t Sinema involved in cutting the deal? Schumer and Manchin have made clear that these negotiations were kept very private. Sinema and Manchin – referred to as “Sinemanchin” for a big part of this Congress – have been the two hardest to get to yes on bills crafted by the Democratic leadership and White House.”

“So why would Schumer ever cut a deal that she wasn’t a part of? The fact is that Sinema has gripes that are predictable, and the substance of her gripes are likewise predictable. Sinema hasn’t offered any complaints about being left out of the discussions, yet not including her clearly could cause problems on the other side.

“Sinema has long said that her focus was on making sure that any policies adopted by Democrats don’t worsen inflation, and she’s made clear that dealing with climate change a major priority.”

“Democrats noted privately that Sinema was consulted extensively on major portions of this package, including the Medicare prescription drug pricing negotiations, during previous rounds of talks. That was until Schumer and Manchin did this final deal.”

Nate Cohn: “The Kansas vote implies that around 65 percent of voters nationwide would reject a similar initiative to roll back abortion rights, including in more than 40 of the 50 states (a few states on each side are very close to 50-50). This is a rough estimate, based on how demographic characteristics predicted the results of recent abortion referendums. But it is an evidence-based way of arriving at a fairly obvious conclusion: If abortion rights wins 59 percent support in Kansas, it’s doing even better than that nationwide.”

“It’s a tally that’s in line with recent national surveys that showed greater support for legal abortion after the court’s decision. And the high turnout, especially among Democrats, confirms that abortion is not just some wedge issue of importance to political activists. The stakes of abortion policy have become high enough that it can drive a high midterm-like turnout on its own.”

Axios: Kansas referendum boosts Democrats’ midterm focus on abortion.

“It was a quite a gut punch. Yes, I’m shocked, absolutely shocked. But regardless, I respect the process… That’s not what I was expecting, not what I was told the polling showed, and I thought it was gonna be a tight race. But it is what it is. And, again, I respect the process. I don’t have an explanation.” — Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), quoted by Politico, genuinely surprised at the decision by his state’s voters to retain abortion protections.

Several Republican senators who spoke to HuffPost on Wednesday admitted to seeing some major red flags after voters in ruby-red Kansas voted overwhelmingly to preserve abortion rights in their state’s constitution the day before.

“It’s definitely a wake-up call for us,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said.

“Kansas, which is a pretty red state―it’s hard to find the words. I think people should look at it,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said.

Washington Post: “Abortion rights supporters used conservative-sounding language about government mandates and personal freedom in their pitch to voters, and made a point of reaching out to independents, Libertarians and moderate Republicans.”

Said organizer Jae Gray: “We definitely used messaging strategies that would work regardless of party affiliation. We believe every Kansan has a right to make personal health-care decisions without government overreach — that’s obviously a conservative-friendly talking point. We were not just talking to Democrats.”

Josh Barro notes that one very effective ad that ran doesn’t even mention abortion, instead it emphasizes that the proposed constitutional amendment would lead to “a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions.”

Charlie Sykes: “Abortion rights activists did not simply appeal to their base; and they resisted the temptation to scratch their ideological id. Instead, they appealed to values that resonate across the political/cultural spectrum. They met the voters where they were; and treated centrists, conservatives, and even pro-lifers with respect. It worked.”

John Ellis: “Ever since the Roe v. Wade decision, Republicans have used the abortion issue to attract support from (mostly) white evangelical Christians and ethnic Catholics and to paint Democrats as baby-killers. It was a perfect issue in that no one ever expected the Court to reverse its decision, so Republican candidates up and down the ballot could pledge allegiance to the cause secure in the knowledge that the cause was forever lost. GOP political consultants compared the abortion issue to a dog chasing a car. The dog would bark and run and bark and run but it would never catch the car.”

“And then it did.”

“Fifty years of relentless hard work by the anti-abortion movement finally delivered a Supreme Court willing and able to reverse the Roe (and Casey) decisions. Woe betide Republican elected officials who try to “distance” themselves from the Court’s ruling. If you think the NRA is powerful in GOP primaries, you’re right. If you think the right-to-life movement is even more powerful in GOP primaries than the NRA, you are right again. Republicans who cut and run on the right-to-life movement will find themselves in a politically challenging environment. To say the least.”

“A day after Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, visited Taiwan, celebrating it as a bulwark of democracy, China launched three days of military exercises around the island, which its forces may use to press in closer than ever, honing their ability to impose a blockade,” the New York Times reports.

“A barrage of Chinese propaganda said the drills, which started at midday Thursday, would serve as punishment for Ms. Pelosi’s visit, and as a shock-and-awe deterrent against opponents of Beijing’s claims to the self-ruled island. But more than that, the six exercise zones that the People’s Liberation Army has marked out in seas off Taiwan — one nudging less than 10 miles off its southern coast — could give Chinese forces valuable practice, should they one day be ordered to encircle and attack the island.”

“After US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi captivated the world’s attention with a groundbreaking trip to Taiwan, she received far less fanfare on her next stop,” Bloomberg reports.  “South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has seen his approval rating drop to near historic depths just three months after taking office, didn’t see it necessary to greet Pelosi in person — opting for a phone call instead.”

“For years the deliberate ‘strategic ambiguity’ in Washington’s China policy has left unclear how the United States would respond to a full-scale, amphibious invasion of Taiwan,” the New York Times reports.

“But an equally hard question — maybe harder, in the minds of many senior White House and defense officials — is how to respond to a slow squeeze of the island, in which Chinese forces cut off much of the access to it, physically or digitally.”

“That question may soon be tested for the first time in a quarter of a century.”

President Biden tested positive for Covid-19 again Thursday and is still experiencing “a very occasional cough” which is “improving.” Otherwise, the President continues to feel well, according to White House physician Kevin O’Connor

“The shortage of vaccines to combat a fast-growing monkeypox outbreak was caused in part because the Department of Health and Human Services failed early on to ask that bulk stocks of the vaccine it already owned be bottled for distribution,“ the New York Times reports.

“By the time the federal government placed its orders, the vaccine’s Denmark-based manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, had booked other clients and was unable to do the work for months, officials said — even though the federal government had invested well over $1 billion in the vaccine’s development.”

“Colleges this fall are no longer treating Covid-19 as an emergency upending their operations, shifting to eliminate mask requirements and mandatory coronavirus testing and letting students who contract the virus isolate in their dorms with their roommates,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

John Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani on Inauguration Day 2021 proposing that they file more election lawsuits to try to delegitimize the results of Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoffs won by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The email was obtained by the New York Times.

Eastman’s email indicated that unlike with the presidential election, the proposal was less about undoing the runoff results and more about saving face after his voter fraud conspiracy theories were shown to be, uh, bullshit. “A lot of us have now staked our reputations on the claims of election fraud, and this would be a way to gather proof,” Eastman wrote.

Eastman also asked Giuliani to help him collect the $270,000 he claimed the Trump campaign owed him for his coup services. Trump had predictably bilked Eastman out of those legal bills, and it’s not clear how helpful Giuliani could’ve been given that he too got stiffed by his client.

A.B. Stoddard: “Today, a year and a half after January 6, Donald Trump is on his way to announce his third campaign for the presidency, 70 percent of Republicans believe the Big Lie, the Department of Justice is investigating the largest crime in history—and Senate Republicans are silent.”

“Trump corrupted our democracy because people let him. Senate Republicans were complicit in it. They absolved him twice knowing everything. They attempted to prevent the rest of the public from uncovering what they knew. And now that the public is finding everything out anyway, yet they say nothing.”

“Long after Trump is gone, their legacy will remain.”

“The Homeland Security watchdog now under scrutiny for his handling of deleted Secret Service text messages from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack previously was accused of misleading Justice Department investigators and running ‘afoul’ of ethics regulations while he was a federal agent in charge of a DOJ inspector general field office in Tucson,” the Washington Post reports.

“Donald Trump’s camp has yet to say whether he’ll try to use executive privilege to disrupt the Justice Department’s grand jury investigation into attempts to overturn the 2020 election. But if he does, it could be a very short fight,” Politico reports.

“A series of court rulings prompted by Trump’s effort to stymie the House Jan. 6 select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol sharply rejected Trump’s bid to wield the power as a former president. In fact, the Supreme Court agreed that Trump’s effort to assert privilege would have failed even if he were the sitting president, effectively granting the committee access to Trump’s White House papers.”

The ongoing trial in the Sandy Hook families’ defamation suit against Alex Jones has been nothing but a disaster for the far-right conspiracy monger so far, and said disaster took the funniest possible turn on Wednesday.

That’s when a lawyer representing the families dropped a nuclear bombshell: Jones’ very competent attorneys had mistakenly sent years worth of content on his phone to the families’ legal team, proving definitively that Jones had lied under oath when he claimed he didn’t have any texts related to Sandy Hook.

Now the House Jan. 6 Committee is ready to pounce on this golden opportunity, according to Rolling Stone: The panel began to prepare a request to the Sandy Hook families’ lawyer for the tranche of messages “within minutes” (in Rolling Stone’s words) of the lawyer revealing the texts.

“Ahead of the Israeli election in March 2020, then-President Trump wanted to publicly endorse former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and then-senior adviser at the White House, writes in his new book,” Axios reports.

“Kushner’s remarks are further evidence of how bad the relationship between the former U.S. president and the former Israeli prime minister was at the time.”

“John Kelly was secretly ‘listening to all’ of President Donald Trump’s conversations without telling him, first son-in-law Jared Kushner reveals in his forthcoming book,” according to the New York Post.

“Kushner writes that Trump was unaware that the former Marine Corps general-turned-White House chief of staff was listening to his phone calls until after Kelly’s departure was announced in late 2018.”

“The revelation so concerned Trump that after Kelly left, he issued an order to prevent any other senior White House staff from eavesdropping on his calls.”

“With Tuesday’s primary victories in Arizona and Michigan added to those in Nevada and Pennsylvania, Republicans who have disputed the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and who pose a threat to subvert the next one are on a path toward winning decisive control over how elections are run in several battleground states,” the New York Times reports.

“Each has spread falsehoods about fraud and illegitimate ballots, endorsing the failed effort to override the 2020 results and keep former President Donald Trump in power. Their history of anti-democratic impulses has prompted Democrats, democracy experts and even some fellow Republicans to question whether these officials would oversee fair elections and certify winners they didn’t support.”

“There is no question that victories by these candidates in November could lead to sweeping changes to how millions of Americans vote.”

“After months of toying with Robin Vos, who as the speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly is the most powerful Republican in state politics, former President Donald J. Trump endorsed Mr. Vos’s long-shot primary challenger on Tuesday in a futile effort to push the state’s Republicans to decertify the results of the 2020 election,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Trump backed Adam Steen, a largely unknown and underfunded far-right Republican who said he would aim to claw back the state’s 10 Electoral College votes from 2020 — a legal impossibility — and enact sweeping changes to the state’s voting laws.”

“U.S. gas prices have fallen for seven straight weeks and are approaching an average price of $4 a gallon, easing the pain of record-high fuel costs amid shrinking global demand for oil,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A new round of U.S. sanctions targeting Russian elites includes a woman named in news reports as Vladimir Putin’s longtime romantic partner,” the AP reports. “The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the government has frozen the visa of Alina Kabaeva, an Olympic gymnast in her youth and former member of the state Duma, and imposed other property restrictions.”

A Russian official claimed that Ukrainian military fighters are actually cannibals, the Daily Beast reports.

“The first trial on seditious conspiracy charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is on track to begin in Washington next month for nine members of the Oath Keepers’ militia, after a federal judge on Tuesday turned down a request by nearly all defendants to put off the courtroom showdown until next year,” Politico reports.

Former President Donald Trump’s social-media company, Truth Social, has removed or limited the visibility of users’ posts and often without explanation, Insider reports.

“The removed or limited posts included anti-Trump content about the US House investigation of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as well as posts supporting abortion rights. It also blocked content that didn’t have any clear anti-Trump or anti-conservative message.”

“Pro-Trump operatives are flooding local officials with public-records requests to seek evidence for the former president’s false stolen-election claims and to gather intelligence on voting machines and voters, adding to the chaos rocking the U.S. election system,” Reuters reports.

“The surge of requests is overwhelming staffs that oversee elections in some jurisdictions, fueling baseless voter-fraud allegations and raising concerns about the inadvertent release of information that could be used to hack voting systems.”

“The US drone which killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri in Kabul used Pakistani airspace to carry out its mission,“ the South China Morning Post reports.

“Islamabad certainly gave Washington permission, they said, and could well have provided human intelligence confirming Zawahri’s whereabouts.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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