Cup of Joe – September 3, 2022

President Biden warned that a Republican Party dominated and driven by his predecessor, Donald Trump, “is a threat to this country” in a prime-time address outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Washington Post reports.

“Biden repeatedly called out Trump and warned that Trump-led extremists are determined to take the nation backward, denying Americans basic rights.”

Said Biden: “History tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.”

Joe Biden was explicit in targeting Donald Trump and what he calls the MAGA Republicans. He pulled no punches, and fully embraced the midterms election as a verdict on the future of America.

Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.

But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.

MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution.

They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fanned the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.

MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live, not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies. 

And MAGA Republicans are destroying American democracy.

If this was the opening salvo in the fall election campaign, delivered on the Thursday before Labor Day, which marks the start of general election season, it leaves no question what Democrats should make this election is about.

What will be long remembered from Joe Biden’s speech last night outside Independence Hall is not what he said but that it had to be said at all. Not since the Civil War has an American president so directly confronted the specter of political violence at home.

While Biden did call out Trump and “MAGA Republicans” – for fanning the flames of violence, for embracing anger, and for the threat they pose to the Republic – the heart of the speech was an extraordinary beseeching of Americans to eschew political violence.

A president whose own rise to power was nearly blocked by an attempted coup by the man he defeated stood at the cradle of the founding of the Republic, itself forged in a spasm of revolutionary upheaval, and warned his countrymen of the perils of political violence:

Today, there are dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail. We hear – you’ve heard it – more and more talk about violence as an acceptable political tool in this country. It’s not. It can never be an acceptable tool. So, I want to say this plain and simple: There is no place for political violence in America, period, none, ever.

… history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.

On top of that, there are public figures today, yesterday and the day before predicting and all but calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets. This is inflammatory. It’s dangerous. It’s against the rule of law. And we, the people, must say this is not who we are.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American. They’re incompatible. We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country. It’s wrong. We each have to reject political violence with all the moral clarity and conviction this nation can muster now.

Joe Biden is not the American one may have envisioned to lead at this crossroads, with political violence a real threat, with a slide to authoritarianism already underway, with the upcoming election and the one after it so plainly under threat. But here we are. The optimistic view might be that this speech marked the first time Biden so completely embraced his role to stop Trump and Trumpism. At least the fight is now fully engaged.

If this was the new Joe Biden, ready to throw his lot with the defeat of Trump and Trumpism, the old Joe Biden couldn’t completely let go of the quaint and antiquated notion that there is still a good, loyal, reasonable Republican Party out there with which he can do business.

Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front. Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.

I’m inclined to toss Joe a bone on this one. He still overestimates what’s left of the non-Trump Republican Party (is there even such a thing?), but to the extent deradicalization requires offering betrayed Republicans some kind of permission structure to return to the constitutional fold, I’m fine with Joe Biden being the one to give it to them.

Jonathan Alter: “You are either with us, or with the terrorists.”

“That’s how President George W. Bush framed the challenge just after 9/11. Bush went on to make some terrible decisions, including to invade a country—Iraq—that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack on the United States. But at the time, the clarity of those words was bracing.”

“Now, 21 years later, President Biden has done something similar in response to today’s threat. He has properly framed the great political challenge of our time, not just for the 2022 and 2024 elections but through at least the middle part of the 21st Century, when Donald Trump’s cult followers will still be roaming the land.”

“Biden was basically saying, You are either with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that were written just behind me—that’s ‘us’—or you are with the political terrorists who use fear and threats of violence to get their way. There’s no middle ground.”

Philip Bump does the math and finds that about 10% of the U.S. population — plus or minus a few percentage points — favor of the positions of what President Biden called “MAGA Republicans.”

“Broadcast networks passed on carrying Joe Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, as the president cast MAGA Republicans as a threat to democracy,” Deadline reports.

“ABC ran Press Your Luck, CBS went with a Young Sheldon rerun and NBC with a Law & Order replay. CNN and MSNBC carried the address, as did news division streaming channels, but Fox News stuck with Tucker Carlson and his critique of the speech as it was happening.”

John Podhoretz: “Joe Biden has become America’s leading troll — and he’s trolling Donald Trump. The president’s supposedly grand speech in ‘defense of democracy’ under attack by ‘Trump and the MAGA Republicans’ was hardly a visionary call to renew our commitment to the Republic.”

“If it had been the highfalutin speech we were promised, Biden wouldn’t have spent ludicrous time praising himself for things like prescription-drug costs and burn-pit health coverage. No, this speech was nakedly, even comically, designed not to elevate but to offend — to poke and taunt and push his predecessor and his predecessor’s camp followers and acolytes into firing back about how evil Biden is.”

Rich Lowry: “Trump and Biden compensate for each other’s problems, and they are effectively working together to get Trump nominated — which Trump wants because it’s the necessary precondition for winning a second term and Biden wants because Trump would be the riskiest GOP candidate in a general election.”

“It’s not the most edifying relationship. Indeed, it’s a de facto partnership toward a demoralizing rerun of 2020. But neither Trump nor Biden is as likely to get where they want to go without the other.”

Politico: “Aides stressed that the speech, given just days before the unofficial Labor Day kickoff to the stretch run of the midterm campaign season, would not be overtly political.”

“But it was difficult to read it as anything other than Biden’s attempt to frame the stakes of an election once again dominated by Trump after an FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home turned up classified information and intensified talk of possible criminal charges for the former president.”

New York Times: “Sure, Mr. Biden rattled off the accomplishments of his first year and a half in office — infrastructure, gun safety, prescription drug price controls and ‘the most important climate initiative ever.’ But in his address to the nation, Mr. Biden tacitly acknowledged that his predecessor still looms over the politics of the moment, like it or not. And he took it to Mr. Trump directly, calling him out by name and seeking to differentiate between ‘the MAGA Republicans’ loyal to Mr. Trump and what he deemed reasonable Republicans who still stand by the American democratic experiment.”

“Midterm elections are usually a referendum on the party of the president in power, especially when that party also controls Congress. But Mr. Biden and the Democrats are betting that if they can make this November a choice between Democratic and Republican control, they can win, or at least keep their losses to a minimum. Mr. Biden’s speech was all about making the choice this Election Day between what he called ‘the light of truth’ and ‘the shadow of lies.’”

New York Times: “With an opposition party that has largely embraced the lie that the last election was stolen and remains in thrall to a twice-impeached and defeated former president who encouraged a mob that attacked the Capitol to stop the transfer of power, Mr. Biden’s appeals to national unity have found little traction. Some Republicans have argued that his efforts to build consensus were fainthearted at best, while some Democrats complain they were excessive.”

“Either way, they have made little difference in the national conversation. And so with the midterm congressional campaign getting underway in earnest, Mr. Biden has dispensed with the unity message, at least for now, reaching into the 2020 file cabinet and bringing out the call to win ‘a battle for the soul of this nation’ that was the cornerstone of his successful election.”

“The immediate strategy is self-evident. Rather than a referendum on his own presidency, which has been hurt by high inflation and low public morale, Mr. Biden wants to make the election a choice between ‘normal’ and an ‘extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,’ as he put it on Thursday.”

“US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Friday released a detailed inventory from the Mar-a-Lago search that the Justice Department previously filed under seal in court,” CNN reports.

“The search inventory released showed that classified documents had been mixed in with personal items and other materials in the boxes in which they were stored.”

“FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last month found empty folders marked with classified banners,” the AP reports.

“The inventory shows that 43 empty folders with classified banners were taken from a box or container at the office, along with an additional 28 empty folders labeled as ‘Return to Staff Secretary’ or military aide. Empty folders of that nature were also found in a storage closet.”

“It is not clear from the inventory list why any of the folders were empty or what might have happened to any of the documents inside.”

Peter Spiegel: “After more than a half decade of Trump scandals, those of us who follow the vicissitudes of the ex-president for a living have, I think, come to a general theory of what compels the man to transgress so spectacularly.”

“There are no grand, well-planned conspiracies, despite what many once feared. The Russia scandal that dogged the early months of Trump’s presidency, for instance, did not turn up evidence that he was some kind of Manchurian Candidate, in the direct employ of the Kremlin, doing its bidding.”

“Instead, there is mere industrial-scale venality. The man will seemingly do anything for sex (Stormy Daniels, Billy Bush); money (Deutsche Bank, Trump Foundation); or power (the Zelensky call, January 6). The Russia scandal, the Mueller report suggested, fell under the heading of ‘power’: Trump was willing to rely on the assistance of his own country’s foreign adversary if it helped him get elected. And then he tried to hide that eagerness from federal investigators.”

“If his official and political sins are tied to his outsized human vices, though, how to explain the zealousness with which he clung on to hundreds of pages of the US’s most highly-classified secrets — including, it appears, the identities of clandestine foreign sources that were feeding intelligence to the CIA? Keeping hold of those documents doesn’t immediately suggest a way to make money, or regain power, or attract women.”

“In a 24-hour period this week, former President Donald Trump posted to his social media platform, Truth Social, 88 times, amplifying one conspiracy theory after another,” the New York Times reports.

“Among his unsupported claims: A retiring F.B.I. agent was behind both the search of his Mar-a-Lago property on Aug. 8 and the investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia; a forthcoming report will prove widespread corruption against his 2016 campaign; and he should be reinstalled as president because the 2020 election was fraudulent.”

“Mr. Trump has spent more than a decade on social media attacking enemies, cozying up to far-right ideas and sharing false information… But, as his legal exposure intensifies over his handling of government documents, the former president this week crossed over to a more direct embrace of claims batted around the dark corners on the internet.”

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland about the search of former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago requesting that Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray testify in public and provide documents Republicans have requested relating to the search, as congressional GOP pressure on the Department of Justice intensifies,” CNN reports.

“House Republicans are limited in what they can do as they are currently in the minority and do not have the power to compel public testimony from Garland.”

“I think for them to take things to the current point they probably have pretty good evidence… People say this was unprecedented, well it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club.” — Former Attorney General Bill Barr, on Fox News.

“I frankly am skeptical of the claim that he declassified everything. You know, because frankly, I think it’s highly improbable… If in fact he sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them and said I hereby declassify everything in here, that would be such an abuse and — that shows such recklessness — it’s almost worse than taking the documents.” — Former Attorney General Bill Barr, on Fox News.

Jared Kushner offered up a new explanation to Sky News for why Donald Trump had top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago: “This may be a paperwork issue.”

“A federal judge has for the second time rejected Sen. Lindsey Graham’s effort to block a grand jury subpoena issued by the Atlanta-area district attorney investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies’ effort to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia,” Politico reports.

“In a 23-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that the South Carolina Republican’s claim to be immune from such questioning — thanks to the protections of the so-called speech or debate clause of the Constitution — is not as sweeping as Graham claimed it to be.”

“Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, was shocked and bewildered by the Ukraine conflict in the months before he died and psychologically crushed in recent years by Moscow’s worsening ties with Kyiv, his interpreter said on Thursday,” according to Reuters.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin is to miss the funeral of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, denying the man who failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet empire the full state honors granted to Boris Yeltsin,” Reuters reports.

“Former president Donald Trump said he would issue full pardons and a government apology to rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and violently attacked law enforcement to stop the democratic transfer of power,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “I mean full pardons with an apology to many.”

He added: “I am financially supporting people that are incredible and they were in my office actually two days ago, so they’re very much in my mind. It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to them. What they’ve done to these people is disgraceful.”

“A former New York City police officer and Marine Corps veteran, who swung a flagpole at police before tackling one officer and yanking his gas mask off during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday, the longest sentence handed down so far among the more than 860 people charged in the insurrection,” the Washington Post reports.

“Thomas Webster, 56, of Goshen, N.Y., was the first riot defendant facing the felony charge of assaulting an officer to try his luck with a jury.”

“The death of Ravil Maganov, chairman of the Russian oil giant Lukoil, at a hospital in Moscow on Thursday appears to mark the eighth time this year that a Russian energy executive has died suddenly and under unusual circumstances,” CNBC reports.

“Maganov died after falling out of the window of the capital’s Central Clinical Hospital.”

“Russia’s Gazprom said its key gas pipeline to Europe won’t reopen as planned, moving the region a step closer to blackouts, rationing and a severe recession,” Bloomberg reports.

“It’s a massive blow to Europe, which is scrambling to cut its dependency on Russian gas before winter and has been waiting for Moscow’s next steps in the energy war. As the continent tries to implement measures to get through the winter, the indefinite closure of the pipeline is an escalation that threatens more economic turmoil.”

“Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, is suing the Jan. 6 select committee, setting up a legal fight between one of the most prominent congressional investigations in recent memory and a Trump-backed candidate in a hotly contested midterm race,” Politico reports.

“The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is asking former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to voluntarily sit with its investigators, claiming he advised the Trump team in the days after the former president’s loss in the 2020 election,” The Hill reports.

Just two weeks ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recently launched Office of Elections Crimes and Security arrested 20 people for voter fraud — but it’s already “starting to fall apart,” according to the Miami Herald.

“The dollar is approaching heights not seen since 1985 as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to combat historic inflation, squeezing emerging economies that face soaring costs to service their dollar-denominated debts,” Nikkei Asia reports.

“President Biden will appoint John Podesta, a veteran Washington insider who spearheaded the Obama administration’s climate strategy, to oversee the federal investment of $370 billion in clean energy under a landmark new climate law,” the New York Times reports.

“As a senior adviser to Mr. Biden on clean energy innovation, Mr. Podesta will shape how the government disperses billions of dollars in tax credits and incentives to industries that are developing wind and solar energy, as well as to consumers who want to install solar panels, heat and cool their homes with electric heat pumps or buy electric vehicles.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports Gina McCarthy, Biden’s top domestic climate adviser, will leave the White House on September 16.

“The Biden administration on Friday asked Congress to approve more than $47 billion in new emergency funds this fall to combat the coronavirus, secure new monkeypox vaccines, bolster Ukraine’s defenses and respond to devastating floods in Kentucky,” the Washington Post reports.

“The official request sets up a fierce fight on Capitol Hill, where warring Democrats and Republicans face a looming, end-of-September deadline by which they must fund the government — or risk a catastrophic shutdown weeks before the midterm elections.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “spent the summer watching Democrats score a series of legislative victories of the sort he once swore he would thwart,” the New York Times reports.

“His party’s crop of candidate recruits has struggled to gain traction, threatening his chances of reclaiming the Senate majority. And this week, his dispute with the leader of the Republicans’ Senate campaign arm escalated into a public war.”

“As the Senate prepares to return to Washington next week for a final stint before the midterm congressional elections, Mr. McConnell is entering an autumn of discontent, a reality that looks far different from where he was expecting to be at the start of President Biden’s term.”

Charles C.W. Cooke: “It is increasingly tempting to ignore these outbursts of constitutionally illiterate election-trutherism as a distraction. Certainly, if one wishes to, one can write them off as a mere sideshow — as the detached and irrelevant ravings of an unemployed septuagenarian has-been. At this point, one might say, Trump is just another Crazy Uncle with a social-media account. And, besides, instead of parsing what he says on the Internet, shouldn’t we be focused on the FBI’s continuing self-abasement, which occasioned the flare-up in the first instance?”

“But the thing is: None of that is really true, is it? Donald Trump has been talking like this for 18 months now. He is not some Crazy Uncle; he is the most likely person to be the next Republican nominee for president — and, for that matter, the next president. And while I strongly agree that the FBI needs wholesale reform — if not outright abolition — that does not change the fact that what Trump is saying in response on his failing social-media platform is nuts.”

“Since leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump has hosted a string of admirers and associates in his personal office at Mar-a-Lago,” ABC News reports.

“From celebrities to dignitaries, many of his visitors have posed for photos and received mementos — and now, according to the Justice Department, it turns out at least some may also have been in close proximity to unsecured classified documents that the DOJ says should not have been in Trump’s possession.”

“The average life expectancy of Americans fell precipitously in 2020 and 2021, the sharpest two-year decline in nearly 100 years and a stark reminder of the toll exacted on the nation by the continuing coronavirus pandemic,” the New York Times reports.

“National test results released on Thursday showed in stark terms the pandemic’s devastating effects on American schoolchildren, with the performance of 9-year-olds in math and reading dropping to the levels from two decades ago,” the New York Times reports.

“The declines spanned almost all races and income levels and were markedly worse for the lowest-performing students. While top performers in the 90th percentile showed a modest drop — three points in math — students in the bottom 10th percentile dropped by 12 points in math, four times the impact.”

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

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