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Believe in Free Speech? Let's Talk

Real Clear Politics -

For perhaps the first time in America's history, you can't express a difference of opinion without fear of being shunned by your friends, disowned by your family, let go from your job, and canceled on social media. I learned in grade school how great our country was, because here you can voice your disapproval of government, talk about your religious beliefs, and read and write what you want. It is these freedoms that our grandfathers fought and died for.

Biden notches wins in Europe — as challenges pile up at home

Politico -

MADRID — For nearly a week, President Joe Biden was the star attraction at a pair of European summits, hailed as a steadfast ally while he espoused the vital need for democracies to band together against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But once Air Force One touches down in Washington later Thursday, Biden returns to a starkly different political reality.

The days Biden spent at the G-7 gathering in Germany and the NATO summit in Spain provided a brief oasis for the president, who must confront soaring inflation, surging gas prices, questions about his political future and a rage from his own party about a series of Supreme Court rulings. Despite the domestic turmoil, and dismal poll numbers, Biden rejected the notion that the nation was being doubted on the world stage.

“You haven't found one person, one world leader, to say America is going backwards. America is better positioned to lead the world than we ever have been,” Biden told reporters at the conclusion of the NATO summit in Madrid. “The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States on overruling not only Roe v. Wade, but essentially challenging the right to privacy.”

But the trouble Biden left behind across the Atlantic was what dominated the news conference he held at the end of the trip. The summits had undeniable successes — including an agreement to admit two new members to NATO — yet they struggled to break through a domestic news cycle back home.

White House aides have long conceded that Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine, no matter how vital to global security, will win the president and his party few votes back home. And there is growing concern that patience for sustaining the war effort — both among European allies and American voters — could fade if the conflict stretches into next year, exacerbating record inflation by sending energy and food prices soaring.

But for this week, there was no doubting the worthiness of the cause, with the United States once again the indispensable nation. In the stunning Bavarian Alps, Biden led the leaders of the six wealthiest democracies to push for a measure to cap Russian oil prices while also unveiling a global infrastructure plan meant to pull some of the developing world out from the influence of another authoritarian regime, China. And in sun-splashed Madrid, Biden publicly declared the U.S. would stand with Ukraine while he worked behind the scenes to assuage Turkey’s concerns to pave the way for both Finland and Sweden to join NATO.

Biden declared the alliance would defy Vladimir Putin’s war effort “for as long as it takes,” even if it meant spending billions more on weapons for Ukraine.

“Putin thought he could break the trans-Atlantic Alliance. He tried to weaken us. He expected our resolve to fracture,” Biden said. “But he's getting exactly what he did not want.”

Not every item on the summits’ wish list was fulfilled, as talk of fighting climate change took a back seat to trying to bolster fossil fuel production. And when asked at the news conference about oil prices, Biden struggled to justify his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, a nation he once deemed a “pariah.” But progress was made, experts said.

“NATO enlargement and plans to increase and move forces is a significant plus,” said Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations. “When it comes to backing Ukraine economically and militarily, it will all depend on what is actually done.”

But Haass warned that the political morass back home “dilutes his ability to lead as they raise questions about both his ability to deliver and the long-term political direction of the United States.”

While Biden was in Europe, anger grew among Democrats who believed he wasn’t doing enough to support a woman’s right to choose. He then made headlines Thursday when he announced, for the first time, that he would support a carveout to the Senate filibuster","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/30/biden-supports-filibuster-carveout-abortion-rights-00043409","_id":"00000181-b640-db17-adc5-b756d8e60000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-b640-db17-adc5-b756d8e60001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">he would support a carveout to the Senate filibuster to protect privacy rights, which includes codifying Roe v. Wade.

“Any president contending with a Supreme Court that is making decisions largely antithetical to most Americans, along with a Senate gridlocked by the filibuster, would face a challenging political landscape. What matters is how you deal with it,” said Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist who advised Biden’s transition. “His announcement today that he supports getting rid of the filibuster for privacy issues was smart, timely and has ignited an extra flame under an already fired-up Democratic base.”

But it seemed unlikely the Senate would move on the suggestion, and Biden’s ability to protect abortion rights through executive action was inherently limited. And the court didn’t stop there in its efforts to hinder the president’s priorities.

Days before Biden left for Europe, it issued a decision to weaken gun control laws. Then, just moments after Biden condemned the court on Thursday, the Supreme Court released another ruling viewed as a crushing blow to efforts at combating climate change.

And while the White House has pushed more Democrats to vote in this fall’s midterms, to contribute to larger Democratic margins in Congress, many Americans have been frustrated by the lack of progress from a party that controls that White House and both chambers of Congress.

And though Biden downplayed worries among his international peers, many heads of state openly condemned the Supreme Court’s abortion decision while privately whispering in both Bavaria and Madrid as to whether America would remain a reliable partner after its next series of elections.

“The world knows that we are trouble. Americans know that we are trouble, too,” said Eddie Glaude, professor at Princeton University. “And, to be honest, President Biden best put political calculus aside and fight like hell for a democracy that seems to be in need of life support.”

The Supreme Court Just Rolled Democracy Back. You Can Measure How Much.

Politico -

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade will have immense consequences for the lives and healthcare of Americans. But if you’ve followed the shifts in how American democracy works over the past few decades, the decision also signals another big wave coming for the nation: It’s likely to turbocharge the trend toward greater polarization in state policies, with significant consequences for American democracy.

The Supreme Court on Friday pushed authority over one of the most controversial national issues from Washington back down to state government, a place where more and more of America’s contentious issues have been landing.

For the past 30 years, Democrats and Republicans have been increasingly fighting their national battles through subnational institutions — state governments — because with such dysfunction in Washington, that's where they can make headway. State governments have become increasingly important policymakers, with liberal and conservative states implementing increasingly distinct policies.

One significant result is easy to see on maps: The United States is becoming more polarized, with a “red America” and “blue America” clearly emerging.

But my research also shows another, more worrisome dynamic beneath that split: This version of America is also becoming less democratic.

“Anti-democratic” is often in the eye of the beholder, a term used to label any outcome a critic happens to disagree with. But in political science, one important component of democracy is a measurable number: How many Americans are living under policies they believe in? In a working majoritarian democracy, the answer should be “most.” If citizens don’t like policies, they can, and should, be able to vote to change them.

With Roe v. Wade being overturned, however, we are heading into a world where that is no longer true.

After the Dobbs decision was first disclosed by POLITICO in May, I decided to look at how Americans view abortion, and how that lines up with their local policies. Following the polling data and analytical techniques of Devin Caughey and Chris Warshaw, I found that about 61 percent of Americans support continuing to make abortions legal. For context, the right to obtain a legal abortion is even more popular than same-sex marriage was when the Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015.

In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson, state governments are likely to now have the discretion to fully ban abortion, and many are poised to do so. Thirteen states had trigger laws in place to ban abortion if Roe was overturned, a handful of which have already gone into effect. According to the Guttmacher Institute, another 13 states are likely to severely limit the availability of legal abortions in the coming months.

As a result, many Americans will find themselves out of step with the new abortion bans in their state.

The easy, and positive, way to think about state-by-state differences like this is that conservatives get to live under conservative policies, while liberals can live under more progressive ones. In some cases, with abortion, this holds up: Majorities of voters in some conservative states have consistently opposed abortion rights. Some red states, such as Louisiana and Utah, will see their state policies come in line with anti-abortion majorities. Thus, in the language of political science, the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling could enhance political representation in those states.

But there are other states in which a clear majority of citizens favor abortion, but the legislature is likely to ban it. Citizens in in states with impending abortion bans, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and even Iowa, support abortion rights.

Notably, this imbalance only runs one direction: There are no states with where the citizenry supports an abortion ban but the state government does not.

My analysis of polling data suggests that after this decision, and after the laws it triggers, 14 million fewer Americans will live under their preferred abortion policy than they do now. While this Supreme Court decision is being framed as handing power back to voters, it is actually moving policy away from what voters want.

Democracy is, of course, more than just following the will of the majority. It also involves civil rights and liberties (including, potentially, reproductive rights). But on the basic question of whether the government is responsive to the people, the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling moves the country backward. Democratic representation, after Roe, will be degraded. America will be less of a democracy, at least in the way we understand that word.

How did we get here? One important reason is the weakening of democratic institutions in the states. State election maps are key. As my new book, “Laboratories against Democracy: How National Parties Transformed State Politics,” describes, gerrymandering makes it harder for majorities of voters to select a majority of state legislative seats. Republican state legislative majorities in states like Wisconsin, where partisan gerrymandering empowers conservative rural voters over more liberal urban voters, will be electorally insulated from a backlash to an abortion ban.

Gerrymandering makes it harder for majorities of voters to elect a majority of state legislative seats. In several purple states likely to ban abortion, gerrymandered legislative maps have bolstered Republicans’ state legislative majorities. In the 2018 election in Wisconsin, for instance, Democratic state legislative candidates won 190,000 more votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans won 63 of the 99 legislative seats. As a result, in states like Wisconsin, Florida and Missouri, an anti-abortion minority of voters can set the majority of the state legislature.

Gerrymandering also insulates state legislators from a backlash to state-level abortion bans: Partisan lawmakers occupy highly secure seats, rather than having to forge compromise positions that appeal to a majority of state residents.

As state governments start to play an increasingly influential role in the lives of Americans, this imbalance will become only more important, not just on abortion but on issues like taxes and state services, access to guns or organizing labor unions.

In the longer term, if reproductive rights follows the trend of previous controversial policies, many purple states might eventually fall into step with the views of voters in their states and liberalize their abortion laws. If pro-choice activists and voter majorities sufficiently mobilize, bans on abortion in these states could be short-lived. But those changes will be contentious, argumentative and messy—all to restore the basic shape of a majority-rule democracy.

What's Going On With Our Commercial Airlines?

Real Clear Politics -

Every night, I hear a report on the network news announcing the number of flights canceled. If it's a slow news day, reporters might interview a couple of irritated, stranded travelers. Thousands of flights are axed on any given day. Many more ...

Hochul administration moves to shut gas powered cryptocurrency plant

Politico -

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration on Thursday denied a key permit for a gas powered cryptocurrency mining operation in the Finger Lakes, saying the facility spews too much planet-warming pollution to be allowed under the state’s climate law.

The decision by the state Department of Environmental Conservation on the Greenidge gas plant is the latest step in New York to curb the pollution from cryptocurrency mining facilities that have started to proliferate across upstate New York for the growing industry.

“We are applying a new law to a new operation which had significant increases in emissions — almost tripling emissions,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told POLITICO in an interview Thursday. “The company itself was unable to demonstrate that it could come into compliance with the law.”

Hochul faced political pressure to deny the permit, but delayed it until after Tuesday's gubernatorial primary that she convincingly won. She is also being pushed to sign a measure to put a moratorium on any other new fossil powered cryptocurrency mining projects in New York.

The 106 MW Greenidge gas plant hosts a large-scale Bitcoin mining facility, with about 17,000 miners. The plant has faced aggressive opposition from many local residents, lawmakers and winemakers in the region.

Greenidge Generation Holdings Inc., ","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://greenidge.com/","_id":"00000181-b640-db17-adc5-b756d8fb0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-b640-db17-adc5-b756d8fb0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">Greenidge Generation Holdings Inc., the company running the plant that employs about 50 people, said they plan to appeal the decision and that it will keep operating as usual while the process plays out in a statement Thursday.

“We believe there is no credible legal basis whatsoever for a denial of this application because there is no actual threat to the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) from our renewed permit," the company said in a statement.

"This is a standard air permit renewal governing emissions levels for a facility operating in full compliance with its existing permit today. It is not, and cannot be transformed into, a politically charged ‘cryptocurrency permit’."

Environmental advocates and other opponents of the project argue the increased emissions from the cryptocurrency mining threaten achievement of New York’s sweeping Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The measure requires emissions to be slashed 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050.

DEC agreed in a letter explaining the decision to deny a renewal of the plant’s Title V emissions permit. The agency also said the company failed to provide any justification for a reliability or other need for the project given that it would interfere with the state’s climate goals, and that the purpose of the plant had changed significantly since the original permit was issued in 2016 for the plant.

“Any increase in emissions at this point makes it challenging for us to hit our targets which are very ambitious,” Seggos said. “As a slice of total emissions, this is but one operation but we are looking economywide … and we need to begin putting in place these strategies to reduce emissions as quickly as possible.”

Advocates who had pushed for the denial of the renewed permit praised the decision.

"Governor Hochul and the DEC stood with science and the people, and sent a message to outside speculators: New York's former fossil fuel-burning plants are not yours to re-open as gas-guzzling Bitcoin mining cancers on our communities," said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian in a statement.

Greenidge has 30 days to pursue an administrative appeal of the permit denial. If it does not appeal, operations at the plant, which employs about 50 people, would have to cease.

The decision has significant implications for the state’s efforts to enforce the climate law, and may also alarm manufacturers, hospitals, universities, power companies and other businesses looking to renew their Title V permits. Seggos said the decision was narrowly tailored to the new cryptocurrency mining taking place at the plant.

DEC previously rejected two air permits to repower fossil fuel plants, building new gas turbines. The Greenidge plant was not seeking to build any new power generation, but instead sought to keep running the existing turbine at higher levels than in previous years while keeping emissions within previously permitted limits.

DEC’s decision letter notes that the actual emissions have increased since 2016, when the original permit was issued, and 2020, when the climate law was passed. That increase is because “Greenidge substantially altered the primary purpose” of the plant. A renewal would enable the company to continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions “for the benefit of its own behind-the-meter operations,” the letter states.

The DEC rejected arguments from Greenidge that the plant is only a fraction of the state’s total emissions and that a permit expiring before 2030 can’t interfere with the state’s 2030 emissions goals.

“Achieving the Statewide GHG emission limits will require substantial action prior to 2030, including to transition the energy sector away from its reliance on fossil fuels,” the letter states. “Even during the permit term, the Facility’s continued operation for the purpose of providing energy behind-the-meter to its cryptocurrency mining operations would make achievement of the Statewide GHG emission limits more difficult.”

The crypto mining now uses about 45 megawatts of the capacity of the 106 MW gas plant. When it runs, the plant is consistently selling power to the grid as well.

Greenidge was built in the late 1930s as a coal plant. It went out of service in 2011 and the new owners received state subsidies to convert to gas in 2017 when natural gas power was viewed as a “bridge” rather than a dead end for the planet. They then turned to Bitcoin to increase profits in 2020. The plant is owned by publicly traded Greenidge Generation Holdings, which also has digital currency mining operations in South Carolina.

The DEC had delayed the decision on a renewed permit again in March, citing a high volume of comments and an offer from Greenidge. Greenidge offered to cut its emissions 40 percent from current permitted levels by 2025 and be a zero emissions facility by 2035. That’s ahead of deadlines in the state’s climate law.

But those proposals are not sufficient, and the company failed to justify a need for the project, the department found.

Greenidge said the department did not engage on that proposal.

"They chose to pass up the opportunity to materially improve the environment, choosing instead to burden New York taxpayers with the expense of funding a lengthy administrative and judicial battle that could have easily been avoided," the company said in the statement.

Greenidge has increased the amount of pollution it spews into the air and the water it sucks in from the lake and dumps at a higher temperature into a trout stream since it began mining cryptocurrency in 2020.

Greenidge expected its actual, on-site carbon dioxide emissions in 2022 and beyond to be 520,386 metric tons annually, according to filings. Emissions in 2019 were 65,607 metric tons and lower than 200,000 in the two prior years.

Environmental groups have also raised concerns about the water quality and aquatic life impacts. Like many combustion plants located on shorelines, Greenidge sucks up water for cooling and dumps it back at an elevated temperature.

Confessions of a Republican Campaign Hit Man

Politico -

The post-Trump era has produced a library’s worth of books from people who had access to the rooms where decisions were made but kept quiet about the rotten things they witnessed. The volumes mostly read as after-the-fact justifications for morally debatable behavior spiced up with a few damning anecdotes that feel too-little-too-late.

Tim Miller’s Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell is not one of those books.

Before he became a committed Never Trump contributor to The Bulwark and MSNBC, before he was even a top aide to Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign, Miller was a self-described GOP “hit man” for the Republican National Committee and an opposition research firm he helped start. Along the way he got quite comfortable operating within the trollish zero-sum norms of “the Game,” inflaming voters who weren’t in on the joke.

What distinguishes Miller’s book from many other insider accounts is his willingness to put his own behavior under the microscope, specifically how as a closeted gay man he was able to ignore the sometimes-explicit homophobia of his clients to help push the parts of their agenda he found more palatable. It made him, he says, a “championship-level” compartmentalizer. But this confessional tone gives the book its distinctive oomph and affords Miller the license to dissect with mordant wit the many varieties of rationalization that his colleagues in the GOP employed to justify their fealty, even servility, to Trump.

The dish he doles out about Lindsey Graham, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Josh Holmes, Elise Stefanik and more feels less like drive-by scuttlebutt and more face-to-face personal. Because in several cases he did get face-to-face personal. Miller is both confessor and priest, albeit one with an open bar tab. The meeting in Georgetown with Alyssa Farah — where the daughter of a longtime boss of a far-right website attempts to explain her evolution from not voting for Trump in 2016 to working in his administration to now vowing to do everything she can to make sure he doesn’t return to the White House — makes the book worth the read. So, definitely, does the tequila-fueled coda in Santa Monica with Caroline Wren, his good friend turned Trump fundraiser turned “VIP Advisor” for the rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that led to the ransacking at the Capitol.

“Caroline was one of me,” Miller told me. “I felt like we were the same. And for her to go full Trump to such a degree that she was organizing the rally on January 6, and for me to go where I went, I had to understand what happened.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Michael Kruse: “America never would’ve gotten into this mess if it weren’t for me and my friends.” That’s the first sentence. It’s a great first sentence. For those who have not yet read this book, what do you mean by that?

Tim Miller: I meant that the people in the Republican consulting class, the Republican establishment in the conservative media ecosystem were necessary if not sufficient for Donald Trump to take over the party, for the degradation of our political discourse, and for this very tumultuous political world that we live in. I do not mean it like inflation is our fault, or that any discrete policy outcome was our fault, but the political environment that Donald Trump rose from wouldn’t have happened had we not behaved the way we did.

Kruse: So, because of that, did you have to write this book?

Miller: I felt like I had to write the first part of the book, which was: What was my responsibility? There was a temptation to write the kind of book that was … the 10 douchiest MAGA grifters, you know? Just a jeremiad against the party. Obviously, I’ve had various degrees of distance with the party for five years, six years now, so I just really felt like that would not have addressed the real desire within me to fully account for what my role was, and what my friends’ roles were, and where we parted ways, and what might have been a counterfactual history where I would’ve been as complicit as them.

As I say in the book, the first half is really kind of a look back at what I did and what people I worked with did to lay the groundwork for Trump, and then kind of the second half is my explanation of why I think most of the people that I worked with stuck around when I bailed. And so I guess in short that’s why I had to do a full accounting of my own actions to feel good about writing a book that judged other people’s actions.

Kruse: When did you know you had to engage in this sort of full accounting? As far back as early 2016? After November of 2016?

Miller: It was closer to 2020, honestly. To use a sports cliche, I felt like I left it all on the field in 2016 — I did my part, a lot of people I looked up to let me down, the country let me down, and that I fought the good fight. And I kind of pivoted from that into basically a depression after the 2016 election where I didn’t know what to do with myself. And that period went on for a little while where I was still kind of doing some [anti-Trump] stuff — but also still kind of getting up to my old skullduggery ways and also trying to maybe think about separating from the party. And I moved to California and I started a family. So, after the election, I was really kind of searching for what I felt like I should do in response to what happened in 2016. It wasn’t really until we got close to the re-elect in 2020 when I felt like I had this deep need for atonement — that the view that I had in 2016 was wrong, that I hadn’t left it all on the field, that I needed to do my part to atone for how we had gotten here. And that it wasn’t just my obligation to fight Trump politically. It was also my obligation to myself to be honest about how I contributed to his rise.

Kruse: You quote Tara Westover, the author of the memoir Educated — “vindication has no power over guilt.” And you say: “That is something that resonated with me while I was writing this. I don’t know that I’ll ever fully shake my guilt, but I have to admit that little vindications do bring me some pleasure.” We can talk about the vindications, but honestly I’m more interested in the guilt. What in your estimation is the extent of your guilt for what happened in 2015 and ‘16? What are you most ashamed about with respect to your role in working to create the toxic sociopolitical environment which we’re all in right now?

Miller: There’s a lot of therapy themes in here, so I’ll define our words. Guilt is feeling bad about something that you did, and shame is feeling like you’re bad at the core, right? And navigating through all of that has been something that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about over the last five years. The guilt — which I think is the precise word here — I feel is not, “Oh, there was this one opposition research pitch that I sent out that was a lie or unfair or an exaggeration,” or “There was this one kind of dog whistle that kind of contributed to the racial inflammation of the country.” The thing I feel most guilty about is that my life’s work, frankly, was a net drag on the country and on our society. This whole notion that there should be someone who is a specialist in defaming their political foes in the media is not something I look back on with any pride.

A guy that I barely even know wrote on my Facebook page about how I was degrading the discourse, and all my friends were talking about how big of a jerk he was. This was when I started America Rising, which is an opposition research firm. And I sit here now and look at it, and that guy was exactly right. You can’t look at America Rising or any of the affiliated organizations that just specialize in trashing political foes and think that it’s anything but degrading the discourse. Donald Trump really just supercharged this game of smearing people and bad-faith attacks on opponents and tongue-in-cheek attacks on opponents where the voters and the readers aren’t in on the joke. I was doing all of that. Just not to the same degree as he was.

My other main guilt I try to deal with in this book is that I dealt with a lot of very unsavory people. And this book is about kind of the gray areas, the humans that are making choices in the gray. This book is not about the sociopaths and the bigots who love the cruel part of Trumpism. There are other people — who see the cruel part of Trumpism and go along with it anyway. I look back at my dealings with the Steve Bannons, the Chuck Johnsons of the world, and how I was favor-trading, with a lot of guilt. Because at the time I felt like I was leveraging them. It came to be very obvious that they were leveraging me and that they were corrupting me. And I think that that happened in various degrees to a lot of people over the last six years.

Kruse: Let me play devil’s advocate. What is actually wrong with “oppo” [research]? You are working to educate voters about political aspirants who happen to be opponents of the person you’re working for.

Miller: Sure, there’s nothing inherently wrong with public relations. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing research about political foes, particularly ones you have genuine disagreements with. But when your whole career and your whole job is centered on smearing people and creating negative news that inflames the passions of the voters, how can you then be surprised when people become very inflamed and come to think of the other side as evil?

Let’s say I got a call from one of Andrew Cuomo’s victims of abuse and I worked with a newspaper to write a story about that. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about that. But creating an entire organization that is dedicated to smearing Andrew Cuomo for all crimes, real, imagined and exaggerated, without any care or consideration for context or basic fairness or decency — I just think that that’s a different thing. I don’t think that every oppo researcher that reads this interview should say, “I’m a bad person inside.” I just think we should be thinking consciously about the structure of the political game we’ve created and what the incentives are. I created a lot of incentives that were net harmful and not net educational.

Kruse: You cite This Town by Mark Leibovich. It came out in hardcover in 2013 and paperback in 2014, and Trump, of course, came down the escalator in 2015. You told me the other day in a text that you reread Mark’s book before writing your book because there are “some relevant themes.” But you also said, “It seemed less amusing on reread.” What are those relevant themes? And why was the reread less amusing?

Miller: The notion of politics as this “game” — that the two sides are playing, but they’re really at some level on the same team, because they all are continuing to succeed and rise the meritocratic ladder, and they’re just kind of participating in this sort of blood sport for people’s amusement —was a theme of Mark’s book. I think another theme was how this was getting out of control, and how people were becoming enamored with the celebrity associated with it. I think this really came during my time.

There have always been a handful of political svengalis who are famous, but the kind of fame that came from the movie “Game Change” to Steve Schmidt and folks, the kind of fame that the Obama staffers got even — there’s a category difference from that old kind of fame. These people are getting stopped at airports asking for selfies. And that can become intoxicating. I think these two elements were working in concert with each other — that the participants were obsessed with winning and the gamesmanship more than they were obsessed with: “Is this outcome going to actually help the people that we’re here to serve?” They became caught up in their own niche version of fame — not real fame, but Twitter fame. I think it led to a lot of choices that created a disconnect from voters that inflamed voters, that rewarded behavior that was not in service of what people actually wanted. Should we be surprised that a game show host was able to manipulate a system such as this?

Kruse: Right.

Miller: Obviously Donald Trump was going to be better at this than “insert dorky political strategist here.” Obviously, there are other elements that caused Trump’s rise. Nationalism, globalism — there have been other books about this — but I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we did not admit that there was a direct line between kind of the stuff that we mocked, that was mocked in This Town, and Trump. I think Mark did a wonderful job with his book, but I think it’s telling that a sequel, which he’s writing, is going to be very different.

To write that book now would not make any sense because of what has been wrought by it. And so some of the stuff that felt very frivolous and maybe worthy of mockery but also kind of funny and enlightening and invigorating when I first read it when I read it this time was cringe-inducing at best. I kind of wanted to be in This Town. I was kind of sad I wasn’t, despite the fact that he was mocking people, and that goes to show you how warped my mindset was in 2013. To be mentioned, to be talked about, was an end unto itself, even if there was a hint of mockery to it. That is a very corrupting culture.

Kruse: I actually went back and looked at how the publisher publicized it. “Washington D.C. might be loathed from every corner of the nation, yet these are fun and buzzy days at this nexus of big politics, big money, big media, and big vanity. There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation’s capital, just millionaires …” I mean, that’s not even 10 years ago.

Miller: And, by the way, that was how I felt then. I mean, I look at that with judgment on myself, not on that publicist. They were “fun and buzzy days.” I loved the White House Correspondents Dinner parties in 2013, you know? You’re seeing kind of quasi-celebrities and I’m the RNC’s hit man and so I’m joking with the Obama people and we’re having kind of this friendly repartee that was all kayfabe. It was all bullshit. It was all just a show. There are plenty of people who care about their specific niche issues, but the campaign set, the people who became famous, there was no deep sense of like, “We’re doing this in service to some greater good that’s going to help people.” There was some earnestness about that on the Democratic side. But among the Republican consultant class? Come on.

Kruse: You also mentioned to me that Losers, the lesser-known book by Michael Lewis about presidential candidates in 1996 who didn’t win, was maybe even more of an inspiration for you than This Town. How so?

Miller: Losers is a really harsh critique of the political class, in a very Michael Lewis jocular style, of the people who are working these campaigns, who really don’t actually care about the impact on voters. And he was critiquing both the Clinton and Dole staffs and how, like, they’re practically interchangeable as far as their beliefs. He called us “rented strangers,” and talked about these rented strangers who are more impressed with their putative strategies and clever tactics than they are with what’s going to actually help the American people. I just thought that he, not being a political reporter, had a clarity of just how debased that culture was that political reporters sometimes give a pass to — because they’re a part of it at a certain level.

And if you’re not concerned in the least about what your own voters think, you’re only concerned about tearing down the other guy, the voters are going to sense that, right? And two things are going to happen. One, they’re going to grow to really hate the other guy, and negative partisanship’s going to rise, which we’ve seen, more than they actually care about what positive changes they’re delivering to you; and two, eventually, they’re going to overthrow you.

It was inevitable that this political class was going to get overthrown by a mad electorate whose needs weren’t being responded to. It’s the one area where I’m the most sympathetic to the genuine MAGAs—there aren’t that many of them—but, like, they were right about us. Trump had our number on that. He knew how weak the Republican establishment was as evidenced by how much they ended up going along with him. And they, and he, knew how phony we were. Could there have been a less painful political disruption had, like, the Republican political class actually been responsive to what the voters were saying about Iraq, about globalism, about all these other things, rather than feeding them Ground Zero mosque bullshit and the Clinton death list or whatever?

Kruse: The people who come off the worst in your book are not “the genuine MAGAs,” as you put it. It’s not the red hats. It’s not even actually Trump. It’s the political class that birthed him. The political class that enabled him.

Miller: My favorite anecdote? The guy and I were on background when he said it to me, so he was anonymous, but the Republican staffer who said he had never voted for a Republican for president in his life.

Kruse: Amazing.

Miller: That’s how phony it is. This is a person that’s my age and voted for Obama and Clinton and Biden and is still prominent in the party.

Kruse: In what way did being gay, and specifically having been closeted for as long as you were, make you perhaps particularly able to see and to diagnose what Trump was doing to the Republican Party as he was doing it—and why people, your friends and ex-friends, were letting him do it?

Miller: I really tried to get into my own mindset because I’m trying to understand their mindset, and so I wanted to look back on my own flaws, and I think being gay impacted my perspective on this in two ways.

This is maybe going to sound self-aggrandizing — it’s not meant to — but I think you gain a sense of empathy for other people when you go through something as traumatic as being rejected because of your sexuality or fear that you’re going to be rejected by your loved ones because of your sexuality. And so I felt like it gave me a level of empathy, looking towards the people that Trump was being cruel to that maybe some of my peers dismissed, because they’d never been on the receiving end of that. I was an obnoxious, all-boys-school, high-school-Republican, contrarian son-of-a-bitch before I came to terms with my sexuality. And I think it's really easy to look back at 20-year-old me and think that guy kind of would’ve liked the skill with which Trump tears people down, you know? And so I kind of understand that there are people who separate the impact of him from, like, enjoying the show. And there are some characters in the book that fit that description.

Then the other thing that I think that being gay gave me perspective on is I had to really look back and reckon with: Why did I work for people who wanted to deny me the most important things in my life? Like my husband and my daughter. I had multiple candidates, multiple clients, that I worked for that were explicitly in favor of banning gay marriage, banning gay adoption. The most extreme example, Ken Cuccinelli, had said just hateful, derisive things about gays. How did I convince myself that it was OK to work for those people? I knew what I would say to people, which was like, “Well, it’s just one issue, right? And I like him more on taxes and abortion and foreign policy.” That was kind of the story I was telling myself to make myself comfortable keeping the job.

If I was able to compartmentalize, like, the most important things in my life, in a little box in this corner of my brain, to work for somebody, then all of a sudden it’s really easy to imagine how somebody could compartmentalize, you know, evil that does not impact them, or that Trump’s policies aren’t that bad.

Kruse: Is it possible though, that you would’ve gone on with it, you would not have seen Trump for what he was, you would not have responded the way you started to respond, had you not gone through that process of having to stop basically lying to yourself?

Miller: Yeah. Thank God I’m gay. I don’t have to know the answer to that, but I’m really scared that the answer is: It’s possible. And this is the part that’s always a challenge for me. Trump was so far away from the line. But I might have gotten there for Cruz. The Cruz people knew me. They liked me because I was Never Trump. I was helping him, essentially, in the primary. I would’ve been a diversity hire to a certain degree. Had Cruz become the president, they might have asked me to be White House communications director. I don’t think that’s totally crazy to imagine that that could have happened.

Kruse: And you might very well have taken that call and you might very well have worked in the Ted Cruz White House.

Miller: I might have. I don’t know. I think that my husband might have divorced me. So being gay might have saved me on that. I certainly could imagine the situation where I would’ve done it. And that helps me understand why they did it.

Kruse: Not everybody is faced with these decisions quite so starkly, but everybody’s faced with some version of these decisions all the time: What am I willing to put up with, what am I willing to do to get ahead?

Miller: I felt like if this book turned out well that there would be an element of universality to it. I was trying to get at that, that some of these calls were kind of gray, and that we all have this ability to rationalize going along with bad things — because, you know, we might be the good one, or because we could nudge it the right direction, or just purely financial. Maybe it will help somebody who’s dealing with that kind of decision to re-wire their brain a little bit and think: “Well, why am I doing this?” And I think that a lot of my colleagues didn’t do that self-reflection.

Kruse: Before we even get to that place where people had to actually make those decisions, you essentially described yourself, and many others like you, as basically drug dealers, and the base of the Republican Party as addicts. What’s the drug, and how were you pushing it?

Miller: Rage juice is the drug — hate of your perceived enemies and people that aren’t like you. I think that it is very similar to drug use, especially in the digital age. I talked a lot about like how I was very central in the conservative media ecosystem kind of feeding little doses of rage juice to my friends at various conservative media outlets. Any reader of this who has a family member or friend who has gotten hooked on conservative media will know what I’m talking about. You want the latest fix. Every time you open your computer on Facebook, you want to get mad at what those other guys are doing to you, you want to be outraged at how they’re trying to take something away from you that you want. You want to feel righteous about the fact that your evil fellow countrymen are doing something that goes against your worldview, your moral framework.

The incestuous relationship between Republican campaigns, right-wing media sites, Fox news, the emails and texts that get sent to people — there’s just no way to look at it as a news environment. This is not like, “Oh, we’re trying to provide people with news but just from a more conservative vantage point.” That’s the pitch, but that’s not what it is. It is a completely interconnected delivery device of rage juice. I wanted to kind of pull back the curtain for people on how that works, to also help explain why I felt complicit in it. It’s not just this one little item that I look back on and say, “Oh, I shouldn’t have sent that to IJ Review, this thing that is a little bigoted or whatever.” It’s not that. It’s that this whole culture was turning people crazy. And I was a central cog in it.

Kruse: Is there any comparable way in which voters on the left also are addicts? They’re just going to a different set of dealers?

Miller: I hope that Democrats who read this book, and I think there’ll be a lot of Democrats who read it, see some maybe diet-version parallels. I don’t think that there is anything on the left that is an exact replica or even really close, but I think that there’s some elements to the culture that got corrupted on the right that have parallels on the left. Anybody who is plugged into “resistance Twitter” can certainly see this sort of addiction element to it, this fix of wanting to be reminded of their righteousness, to be reminded the other side’s evil, not wanting to get information that conflicts with their priors. Over time that can build and create this rage that bubbles over, especially in individuals. A couple weeks ago, there was a guy with a gun at [Justice Brett] Kavanaugh’s house. But especially now that we’ve sorted by education, there are a variety of reasons why the Democratic base is fundamentally different from the Republican base. There are some other flaws with liberal media, but if you looked at, for example, liberal magazines, they are much more policy focused and much less clickbait-y. There are obviously examples of bad actors, but if you look at Mother Jones and Slate and the New Republic’s Twitter feed compared to Breitbart’s Twitter feed, there are some clear differences.

Kruse: How do we overcome this tribal trap we seem to be stuck in right now?

Miller: You sound like a publisher. Usually, these books have a last chapter, which is recommendations for going forward. I was, like, “That chapter’s not going to be in this book. That’s not what this book is.”

Kruse: Because that chapter can’t be written, or because you don’t know, or what?

Miller: The solutions offered would seem very minor in the face of the problems that were presented in the previous 17 chapters. It’s hard to rewire. Just to beat our drug analogy to death here, rehab’s hard. There’s not, like a magic fix or silver bullet for unwiring decades of a brain that has become addicted to something.

I think trying to untangle identity from “blue team” and “red team” is really important, because identity is so powerful. This is the other thing that I try to talk about. For gay people, coming out of the closet is hard because of this change of your identity. It’s not only how you look at yourself, but how other people look at you. People you love — your dad, your high school bestie — you’re worried that they’re going to now see you differently because your identity is changed in their eyes. And so if the red team becomes like skin color, like sexuality, untangling that is a lifetime of work, and it’s therapy. And we really should think about it like that. It’s not like there’s this switch that we can turn that’s going to get people to shed something that has become so central to how they view themselves. Untangling that is going to also take decades. It’s not going to be 2024.

Kruse: But you are a person who’s now done this in some sense twice. You were in the closet and you came out. And then you essentially shifted your identity from a certain kind of Republican operative affiliated with people like Jeb Bush to now Tim Miller of MSNBC and the Bulwark.

Miller: The two best things I ever did in my life were changing those identities — coming out of the closet and quitting being a Republican hatchet man are the two best decisions. They allowed me the freedom to be much more honest with myself, to see the world in different ways, in the former instance to meet my husband, to have a child. My message to people is that we don’t need to be scared of this, right?

We should embrace the nuance. We should embrace having the old ways we view things being challenged because what comes of it can be good. And I know that a lot of times we feel that we’re in a time of entropy where everything’s getting worse and worse. That’s not really true. There are a lot of ways in which society’s changed for the better, and there’s some very discrete ways in which they changed for the worse, sort of tied to the very issues that we’re talking about. I hope more people can embrace that. And I hope that this book in a way will let people see themselves in some of these characters who I think are less happy than me. The Republican consultant types who stayed the course, they’re richer, they have a boat and a beach house, but they seem less happy than me.

Kruse: Even Elise Stefanik?

Miller: No. Maybe not Elise.

One thing I’ve learned throughout this process is that there will always be some bad people who get rewarded for doing bad things. That doesn’t mean that you should do bad things too. So Elise seems pretty happy, even though she wouldn’t talk to me for the book, which was sad because of our former collegiality. She represents the most kind of base justification that politicians have for doing any bad thing, which is just striving for power. The shamelessness with which Elise did it has paid off for her to a level that I truly believe that she will be one of the most likely people to be named vice president if Donald Trump runs again.

Kruse: As we toggle back and forth between notes of optimism and notes of pessimism, this book is an effort to answer a question. You write: “Why in the fuck did the vast, vast, vast majority of seemingly normal, decent people whom I worked with go along with the most abnormal, indecent of men?” And the answer based on my read, boiled down, is we tell ourselves stories, which is a nice way of saying we’re fucking liars. We lie to others. But more importantly, we lie to ourselves, to make ourselves OK with the stuff that we do. And so my question is: How are we still lying to ourselves as a country in 2022?

Miller: Boy, that’s a huge question. I would say, for starters, it’s really hard to not lie to yourself, in little ways and big ways, right? We all lie to ourselves. This is not something that is unique to the Republican consulting class of 1996 to 2016.

Kruse: Totally.

Miller: And I acknowledge that some people will probably read it and say, “Well, you’re still lying yourself to justify just being on a different team.” I think about that and grapple with that every day.

Kruse: I’m glad you brought that up. Aren’t you still in the game? You’re just wearing the Bulwark and the MSNBC ball cap now?

Miller: My answer to that question is that the best we can do is look at our choices and ask: Is what I’m doing in service of my integrity? Am I being honest with why I’m making the choices that I make? At times, you know, politics is still a sport. At times, people are going to answer those questions and say, “Yeah, I’m acting with my integrity. And I think that the best thing to do is, uh, run this smear ad against my opponent.” This is not a book that says, “All politics is bad.” But I think a lot of people in the Republican consulting class, in positions of power in elite institutions throughout the country, are not even asking themselves those questions. And I think that if they did the world would look a lot different. I don’t think that’s going to happen overnight.

Kruse: It won’t happen overnight, but will it happen before our democracy turns into ... not a democracy?

Miller: It’s hard to say yes. By the way, all of these guys are all doing the same things that I wrote about in this book. Nothing, literally nothing, has changed since 2016, or since Michael Lewis for that matter. Since Trump came down the escalator, nothing has changed. They’re all doing the exact same things, even after the Capitol was stormed. I knew on January 7, when there was all this “hopium” about how, “Oh, this will be the moment that Mitch McConnell sees the light.” I knew that they wouldn’t that day. And I said on the Bulwark podcast, I was like, Lindsey Graham will be back at Mar-a-Lago golfing by Valentine’s Day. And I was too optimistic. He was down there by mid-January.

Kruse: What happens if 2024 is a Trump-Biden rematch? What does the country do to itself?

Miller: Are you ready for this?

Kruse: Hit me.

Miller: I actually think it’s worse than what people imagine. For one, it’s impossible to imagine a situation where the loser of that election would accept the result. Joe Biden is a man of decency, and so he would accept the result. But the Democratic base? And in this case, you know, for good reason, right? This man had been impeached twice and tried a coup. And obviously we know the Trump base wouldn’t accept a loss and that Donald Trump himself wouldn’t accept a loss. 2024 is a powder keg.

Slugfest at Arizona GOP Governor Debate

Real Clear Politics -

PHOENIX, Ariz.-There was a flash of lightning in the darkened sky as Kari Lake hustled into a television studio at Arizona State University with a few staffers for a political debate that will help set the course of the state's Republican Party.

5 lessons from the NATO summit

Politico -

MADRID — NATO came together in a rare wartime meeting this week and showed a united front on arming and supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia, naming China as an economic and diplomatic threat — that is also rapidly building up its military — and trying to make the alliance better able to respond to any Russian incursions.

And let's not forget Turkey’s last-second agreement to approve allowing Finland and Sweden into the alliance.

All of that and more was packed into about 48 hours of closed-door meetings, news conferences, sideline chats, dinners and pledges to remain united against Russia both militarily and economically, as gas and agricultural prices continue to rise.

Hold the line, and deny Russia

NATO is clearly and definitively not ignoring the threat presented by an unpredictable and brutally violent Russia. The alliance’s new Strategic Concept paper — a guide for alliance strategy updated for the first time in over a decade — warns it “cannot discount the possibility of an attack against Allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity” by the Kremlin, and Eastern European and Baltic alliance members were clear: They are worried.

That view was echoed by leaders from big powers like the U.S. and U.K. to small nations like Estonia, all of which genuinely appear to be on the same page about Russia. During the summit, Ukraine was held up as a frontier separating the West from Russian aggression. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that if Russia wins in Ukraine, “Putin will be in a position to commit further acts of aggression against other parts of the former Soviet Union more or less with impunity.”

One NATO military official told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that before the invasion, “what we underestimated was Russia’s intent” in Ukraine, and that’s not a mistake they plan to make again.

Beijing is on the agenda, but vaguely

China is a problem, but not yet a threat. “China is not our adversary,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, unveiling the new document on Wednesday, “but we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents.”

Still, NATO invited the leaders of Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia to the summit for the first time to engage in consultations, a clear sign that Brussels is looking further than Russia when cataloging military and economic threats.

In Madrid, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese drew some parallels between Russia and China to drive home the issues he’s dealing with on the other side of the world. “Just as Russia seeks to recreate a Russian or Soviet empire, the Chinese government is seeking friends, whether it be through economic support, to build up alliances to undermine what has historically been the Western alliance in places like the Indo-Pacific.”

Friends forever, at least for today

Turkey was absolutely against Finland and Sweden joining NATO, until it wasn’t. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did the grin-and-grip with President Joe Biden on Wednesday after the Turkish leader surprised just about everyone by becoming the 30th and final alliance member to greenlight the ascension of the two Nordic countries to the NATO family.

The costs of the agreement appear to be minimal. Sweden and Finland agree to shun the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group fighting Turkish forces for independence, and pledged to drop the military sanctions slapped on Turkey for its invasion of Syria. The White House also publicly backed selling Turkey F-16 modernization kits, a deal that has been on the rocks for months.

Biden backed the potential F-16 deal on Thursday, telling reporters that he has supported the sale for months. “As I said back in December, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well. … I indicated to them I have not changed my position at all since December, there was no quid pro quo with that but I need congressional approval in order to do that, and I think I can get that.”

Move fast … in a couple years or so

The alliance’s vaunted NATO Reaction Force, a 40,000-strong unit that can deploy within 30 days, is bound for the dustbin of history. We’re just not sure when. On Monday, Stoltenberg kicked off the summit with major news: 300,000 troops across the continent and beyond would be placed on high readiness as part of the “biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”

He and his staffers spent the rest of the event clarifying what he meant, after several alliance members shrugged their shoulders when asked what the chief meant.

Meeting with reporters Thursday, two NATO officials said the force will be made up of “tiers” with the first being about 100,000 troops ready to fight in 0-10 days, 300,000 troops ready in 30 days, and 500,000 ready in 180 days. It’s still not clear when the planning for these ready forces will be ready, but one official suggested it could be as far out as 2028.

Russian started it and Trump finished it

The leadership in Brussels is still worried about the arms control agreements the U.S. walked away from under the Trump administration, but it’s blaming Russia.

“The erosion of the arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation architecture has negatively impacted strategic stability,” the new Strategic Concept paper says. “The Russian Federation’s violations and selective implementation of its arms control obligations and commitments have contributed to the deterioration of the broader security landscape.”

Russia had been violating the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, for years, quietly testing the banned ground-launched cruise missiles that could fly between 310 and 3,400 miles. The Trump administration left the pact in 2019, which drew criticism from Europe, who saw echoes of their exposure to such missiles at the height of the Cold War before the deal was struck in 1987.

In 2020, the administration then left the Open Skies Treaty, a 34-nation agreement that allowed the U.S., Russia and other countries to fly their aircraft over each other's territory to confirm military activities and maintain some transparency. Russia had long denied airspace over its Kaliningrad exclave and near its border with Georgia, leading to the U.S. withdrawal. Russia formally left the agreement in 2021.

Satirical Amendment Cited in False Claims About Kentucky Abortion Law

FactCheck -

Quick Take

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, allowing laws banning abortion in several states, including Kentucky, to take effect. But social media posts falsely claim Kentucky is considering a law requiring all women of childbearing age to undergo monthly pregnancy testing. The claim stemmed from a lawmaker’s satirical amendment.

Full Story

Three years before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Kentucky passed what’s known as a trigger law that set up an abortion ban to take effect whenever the landmark decision legalizing abortion nationwide was reversed.

Kentucky state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian was so strongly opposed to the proposed law that she submitted a spoof amendment satirizing it. She told a local newspaper at the time that she hoped the stunt would draw attention to the bill, which she believed was unnecessary and intrusive.

“It’s none of our business, to interfere in personal and private decisions of women,” Marzian said.

Despite her protest, the bill passed the state House by a vote of 69-20 and later passed the Senate. The governor signed it into law on March 26, 2019.

It took effect on June 24, 2022 — the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade as part of its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson, a case about a Mississippi law prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Kentucky law makes it a felony to perform an abortion except for cases in which a doctor has determined “that such a procedure is necessary to protect the life of a pregnant mother,” according to a memo issued by the state’s attorney general.

Marzian’s amendment — which was designed to be criticism rather than serious legislation — didn’t become part of that law.

But, following the Supreme Court’s recent decision, social media users have shared the text of the satirical amendment as though it’s a currently proposed bill.

The amendment was featured in a viral video on TikTok and has been spreading on Facebook and Twitter, where people have shared screenshots of the amendment with messages expressing concern about the impact it would have.

The satirical amendment said, in part, “All women who are Kentucky residents, and of child bearing age, shall acquire a signed and notarized statement from a practitioner licensed pursuant to this chapter each month that states whether she is pregnant or not pregnant. … Any woman who is pregnant and fails to provide this monthly signed and notarized statement to the cabinet will be fitted with an ankle monitor for the duration of the pregnancy in addition to any arrest and fines.”

When copies of her proposal started circulating on social media recently, Marzian took to Twitter to explain her intention.

“Since Friday’s horrendous US Supreme Court ruling on abortion, I have seen several references to a satirical amendment I filed in 2019, when the General Assembly passed the trigger law that immediately stopped elective abortions once the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was made,” she wrote on June 27.

“I vehemently opposed that law and in protest filed an amendment that would have required all women to undergo monthly pregnancy checks by the state,” she explained. “I of course never intended it to become law, and it was never considered (although I worry we’re getting closer to that reality).”

So, the claims that Kentucky is considering state-mandated pregnancy checks are based on a political lampoon from 2019.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Kiely, Eugene and Lori Robertson. “What Happens if Roe v. Wade Is Overturned?” FactCheck.org. Updated 24 Jun 2022.

Kentucky General Assembly. “H.B. 148, AN ACT relating to abortion.” As passed 26 Mar 2029.

Marzian, Mary Lou. Amend printed copy of HB 148/HCS 1. Accessed 28 Jun 2022.

Cameron, Daniel. Kentucky Attorney General. “Attorney General Advisory: The effect and scope of the Human Life Protection Act in light of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.” 24 Jun 2022.

Marzian, Mary Lou (@MaryLouMarzian). “Since Friday’s horrendous US Supreme Court ruling on abortion, I have seen several references to a satirical amendment I filed in 2019, when the General Assembly passed the trigger law that immediately stopped elective abortions once the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was made.” (1/5) Twitter. 27 Jun 2022.

The post Satirical Amendment Cited in False Claims About Kentucky Abortion Law appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in to Supreme Court

Politico -

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in on Thursday, the culmination of her historic ascension as the first black woman to claim a seat on the nation's highest court.

"I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation. I extend my sincerest thanks to all of my new colleagues for their warm and gracious welcome," Jackson said in a statement, in which she also thanked Chief Justice John Roberts and now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer.

Jackson was sworn in by Roberts, who administered the constitutional oath, and Breyer, the justice for whom Jackson once clerked and whose seat on the bench she has taken over. Jackson, nominated last February by President Joe Biden to replace Breyer, was confirmed by the Senate with on a 53-47 vote in April.

"I am glad for America," Breyer, a 1994 appointee of President Bill Clinton, wrote in a statement congratulating Jackson. "Ketanji will interpret the law wisely and fairly, helping that law to work better for the American people."

The newest associate justice assumes her role in the wake of a string of high-profile, controversial decisions issued by the court, including one ruling that dismantled federal abortion rights and another that struck down a New York law that limited carrying firearms outside the home.

Jackson's placement on the court will have no impact on its ideological tilt. Justices appointed by Republican president still outnumber their Democrat-appointed colleagues by a 6-3 margin.

Her ceremony Thursday was small and brief, attended by a small group that included her husband and daughters. A larger formal ceremony, or investiture, is expected at a later date.

Jackson's oaths allow her to begin her judicial duties, Roberts said during the ceremony. "She's been anxious to get to them without any further delay," the chief justice said.

Clarence Thomas cites claim that Covid vaccines are ‘developed using cell lines derived from aborted children’

Politico -

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissenting opinion Thursday cited claims that Covid-19 vaccines were “developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.”

The conservative justice’s statement came in a dissenting opinion on a case in which the Supreme Court declined to hear a religious liberty challenge to New York’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate from 16 health care workers. The state requires that all health care workers show proof of vaccination.

“They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children,” Thomas said of the petitioners.

None of the Covid-19 vaccines in the United States contain the cells of aborted fetuses. Cells obtained from elective abortions decades ago were used in research during the development of the Covid vaccine, a practice that is common in vaccine research.

A group of doctors, nurses and other health care workers brought the case, suing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in an objection to the state’s vaccine mandate on religious grounds. The district court issued a preliminary injunction, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed it and the Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the challenge on Thursday.

The court instead left in place the lower court ruling rejecting petitioners’ claim that New York’s mandate violates the First Amendment right against religious discrimination. All 16 health care workers were either fired, resigned, lost hospital admitting privileges or decided to receive the vaccine.

Democrats called attention to Thomas’ comments after a new conservative Supreme Court supermajority delivered several groundbreaking decisions this term, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But some Thomas defenders argued that he was simply reciting the allegations made by those refusing to get the vaccine on religious grounds.

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in his dissenting opinion.

Thomas argues in the opinion that the court should have granted a petition to open for full deliberation the question of whether a mandate like New York’s can ever be neutral or generally applicable if it doesn’t exempt religious conduct but does permit secular conduct — such as medical exemptions.

The state allows a narrow medical exemption for those who are highly allergic to the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Because I would address this issue now in the ordinary course, before the next crisis forces us again to decide complex legal issues in an emergency posture, I respectfully dissent,” Thomas writes.

Clarence Thomas suggests Covid vaccines are derived from the cells of ‘aborted children’

Politico -

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissenting opinion Thursday suggested that Covid-19 vaccines were developed using the cells of “aborted children.”

The conservative justice’s statement came in a dissenting opinion on a case in which the Supreme Court declined to hear a religious liberty challenge to New York’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate from 16 health care workers. The state requires that all health care workers show proof of vaccination.

“They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children,” Thomas said of the petitioners.

None of the Covid-19 vaccines in the United States contain the cells of aborted fetuses. Cells obtained from elective abortions decades ago were used in testing during the Covid vaccine development process, a practice that is common in vaccine testing — including for the rubella and chickenpox vaccinations.

A group of doctors, nurses and other health care workers brought the case, suing the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in an objection to the state’s vaccine mandate on religious grounds. The district court issued a preliminary injunction, but the Court of Appeals reversed it and the Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the challenge on Thursday.

The Court instead left in place the lower court ruling rejecting petitioners’ claim that New York’s mandate violates the First Amendment right against religious discrimination. All 16 health care workers were either fired, resigned, lost hospital admitting privileges or decided to receive the vaccine.

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined Thomas in his dissenting opinion. And some Thomas defenders noted that he was simply reciting the allegations made by those refusing to get the vaccine.

Thomas argues in the opinion that the court should have granted a petition to open for full deliberation the question of whether a mandate like New York’s can ever be neutral or generally applicable if it doesn’t exempt religious conduct but does permit secular conduct — such as medical exemptions.

The state allows a narrow medical exemption for those who are highly allergic to the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Because I would address this issue now in the ordinary course, before the next crisis forces us again to decide complex legal issues in an emergency posture, I respectfully dissent,” Thomas writes.

Florida's new abortion law halted as DeSantis vows to fight on

Politico -

In a stinging defeat for Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature, a Florida judge said Thursday he will temporarily block a new law that would prohibit all abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The law, which provides no exceptions for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking, was approved by legislators and signed into law by DeSantis in April. It is scheduled to take effect on Friday.

The judge’s decision comes as the nation grapples with how to move forward with reproductive rights in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

But the ruling by Circuit Judge John C. Cooper will be based entirely on whether the law ran afoul of a provision in the state Constitution that bars the government from intruding on people’s personal lives. Cooper, who announced his decision from the bench, said he plans to make it official by early next week.

Cooper’s decision is just the opening round of a legal battle that is expected to eventually reach the Florida Supreme Court, which has previously blocked abortion restrictions because of the state’s privacy amendment. That court, however, has been completely remade by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In a statement, the governor’s office said that “the Florida Supreme Court previously misinterpreted Florida’s right to privacy as including a right to an abortion. We reject this interpretation because the Florida Constitution does not include–and has never included–a right to kill an innocent unborn child. We will appeal today’s ruling and ask the Florida Supreme Court to reverse its existing precedent regarding Florida’s right to privacy. The struggle for life is not over.

Cooper acknowledged that the state Supreme Court could revisit its past decisions, but he said that “I do think this law complies with the present state of the law in Florida.”

Planned Parenthood of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state earlier this month to stop the law, claiming it violates an amendment in the state Constitution that bars the government from intruding on people’s personal lives.

That privacy amendment had been cited by the state Supreme Court in overturning previous restrictive abortion laws, including one requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions. The makeup of the Florida Supreme Court, however, has shifted to the right in recent and abortions rights advocates fear the conservative-majority state high court could interpret that privacy right differently.

Last year, almost 80,000 women received abortions in Florida from one of the 55 providers. Thousands of women also travel to Florida for abortions, including from neighboring Alabama and Georgia. In 2021, more than 4,800 women from out of state received abortions in Florida, the third-most populous state in the nation. Only New York and Illinois have higher rates of abortion.

Florida’s abortion law is modeled on Mississippi’s, which bans the procedure at 15 weeks and was at the heart of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark 1973 Roe decision. After the Supreme Court struck down Roe, DeSantis praised the ruling and stated he will “will work to expand pro-life protections” but did not provide details.

Before Florida lawmakers approved the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the state prohibited abortions after 24 weeks.

Voters in 1980 adopted Florida’s current privacy clause and the state Supreme Court nine years later ruled that the amendment clearly covered abortion restrictions. The court made that decision in a ruling that struck down a law requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions.

Planned Parenthood of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union cited the privacy clause when it sued his month to stop the new abortion law.


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