And Then There Were 13... Or 10? Or Maybe 9?

[ Posted Tuesday, August 29th, 2023 – 16:26 UTC ]

Way back in 2015, late-night television's Stephen Colbert had a ritual bit he'd run every time a presidential candidate dropped out of the race. Using the impressive ceiling in his studio, he projected an image of the also-ran candidate à la how the deaths of each "tribute" in The Hunger Games were announced. He called it the "Hungry For Power Games." Of course, earlier this year, late-night television was the first to go dark when the Hollywood writers went on strike, so we can't expect this sort of thing in the current campaign until they are all back at work (and being paid better). Which is a shame, because the Republican presidential field is already beginning to narrow. Today, the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, became the first to officially drop out of the race.

You might be thinking to yourself: "Who?" -- and you would not be alone. Suarez wasn't exactly a national name to begin with, and after spending a few months campaigning for the highest office in the land, he still isn't (not by a longshot). He was pretty obviously running to raise his own profile in Florida, perhaps to run for a higher office there one day. In other words, it was a good way to build a little home-state name recognition, even if it didn't work to any noticeable effect north of the Florida-Georgia line. Unless he goes on to bigger and brighter things one day, Francis Suarez won't even make the cut as a future answer on Jeopardy! (although he could conceivably show up in the toughest of political bar quizzes... probably as the answer to: "Which obscure Republican candidate in the 2024 race answered an interview question about China by asking: 'What's a Uyghur?' and then later in the interview exposed his ignorance even further with: 'What did you call it, a Weeble?'").

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February, Anyone?

[ Posted Monday, August 28th, 2023 – 15:51 UTC ]

Donald Trump's legal calendar for early 2024 is filling up fast. Today, the federal judge in Washington D.C. who is overseeing Trump's January 6th trial set the trial's start date for March 4th. As many have noted, this is one day before fifteen states will hold their primaries on "Super Tuesday." While some are expressing astonishment that the trial date is surprisingly early, I find myself frustrated that it is actually scheduled far too late -- because by the time it is over, Trump may well already be the de facto Republican nominee.

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Friday Talking Points -- Mugging For The Cameras

[ Posted Friday, August 25th, 2023 – 17:17 UTC ]

We will start this column (as every public speaker is taught to) with a joke. We saw two Republican spectacles this week: the first was watching all the "not-named-Trump" presidential candidates trying to verbally mug each other onstage for two hours, and the second was Donald Trump himself scowling into a jail camera for his first-ever mugshot. You might say it's been a very muggy week all around.

[Pause for audience laughter....]

Seriously, though, the week did have a rather apocalyptic feel, at least from the vantage point of California, which experienced (early in the week) what people began calling a "hurriquake." That's an earthquake happening during a very rare tropical storm hitting the Southern California deserts. "Locusts" began trending on the former Twitter. There was a feel of: "What next?!?" in the air. Sharknadoes didn't seem out of the question, to put it another way (thanks, Ted Cruz!).

What was next, of course, was the real kickoff of the Republican presidential nomination contest. Before we get to what actually happened, we do have one rather critical comment to make: It is now time for some Republican candidates to start exiting the race.

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Trump Gets Booked (Again)

[ Posted Thursday, August 24th, 2023 – 17:31 UTC ]

Donald Trump is (as I write this) inside the Fulton County Jail, being processed and booked for the fourth time. This time he's not getting quite such kid-glove treatment, from either the Georgia officials or the media. For the first time, Trump will be fingerprinted and he will have a mugshot taken. Data will be entered (but probably not verified) about Trump's weight and height. Of course, he did arrive with a police and Secret Service escort (and not at the main entrance) and he will not have to sit in a holding tank with other prisoners. The broadcast media isn't going to get much in the way of live shots, which is probably why they didn't cover Trump's flight or even his motorcade in Atlanta. NBC and CBS only cut into their programming when Trump arrived at the jail, and ABC still isn't covering it (I should add that these are just my local affiliates, other stations may have handled it differently). After Trump's three previous surrenders, the media excitement level has been dialed way down.

The other big difference between the first three and this one is that Trump will not be facing a judge today. There will be no arraignment happening. This could come later (first week of September, most likely) however it may be a low-key affair -- the laws of Georgia may allow Trump to just sign a document pleading not guilty rather than having to physically show up. Since Georgia is the only jurisdiction that will definitely have cameras in the courtroom, this means we'll have to wait a lot longer to see Trump sitting in front of a judge on live television, to put this another way.

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The First Republican Presidential Debate

[ Posted Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023 – 22:01 UTC ]

[Note: As usual, I am going to set down my reactions to the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 cycle here, before I read anyone else's analysis. Maybe we'll all be in agreement, maybe not. And as always, these quotes were hastily jotted down and might not be word-for-word accurate, so my apologies in advance for any inadvertent errors.]


Overall, tonight's first Republican debate was pretty entertaining, at least to me. These days, the entertainment value of a debate is a lot more important than scoring any kind of ideological points, so I'm using the same scale everyone else will.

There wasn't a whole lot of actual debate about differences in ideology... some, but not a lot. It was instead more of a series of one-on-one shouting matches between two of the candidates. More on those in a moment.

The truly astonishing thing tonight was that Ron DeSantis didn't took almost zero incoming flak. He only really got into it with another candidate once, towards the end, when Nikki Haley took a shot at him almost as an afterthought immediately following a dustup Haley had with Vivek Ramaswamy.

Which brings up the second most astonishing thing tonight. Instead of Ron DeSantis being everyone's punching bag, it was instead Ramaswamy who played this role. I noted ten instances of two candidates getting into it directly (plus a few where the candidates got into things with the crowd, as boos rained down on the stage). Out of those ten, Ramaswamy was involved in eight of them.

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Laying In Popcorn Supplies For Tomorrow Night

[ Posted Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023 – 16:16 UTC ]

Tomorrow night will be the true kickoff to the Republican presidential primary season, as Fox hosts the first GOP presidential debate. I should mention in advance that I will be doing my usual "snap reactions" column after the debate tomorrow night, so this is my last chance to comment on things beforehand.

I thought I would run down my impressions of all the candidates who qualified for the debate, from what I have seen and heard of them so far. Some have done a better job of getting their faces out there in the media than others, which leaves for plenty of "getting to know you" moments (for me, at any rate) tomorrow night.

Anyway, without further ado -- listed in order of the strength of their polling (which will also determine how close to the center of the stage each candidate gets to stand), here are the Republican candidates who will be on stage for tomorrow night's opening GOP presidential debate:

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Could Trump Dominate The Debate In An Unexpected Way?

[ Posted Monday, August 21st, 2023 – 15:08 UTC ]

It is already conventional wisdom that Donald Trump is going to try to steal all the thunder from the first Republican presidential debate, by counterprogramming with a Tucker Carlson interview (which will assumably air simultaneously with the debate). But I think there's going to be more to it than that -- in fact, it seems incredibly obvious to me, although so far not many others seem to have picked up on it. I think Donald Trump is going to steal the show in a different and perhaps unexpected way -- by turning himself in to be processed at the Atlanta jail either right before or during the debate.

Trump has until Friday at noon to do so. And the people who run the jail have put out an invitation for everyone to come in any time, 24/7. The jail's always open, to put it another way. So Trump could certainly arrange to show up right during primetime. And, really, why wouldn't he?

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Friday Talking Points -- Quad-Indicted?

[ Posted Friday, August 18th, 2023 – 16:54 UTC ]

Once again, the political week was dominated by news of Donald Trump. And we can all now properly identify Trump as a "twice-impeached, four-times-indicted ex-president." Sadly, the English language stops after "once... twice... thrice..." so there is no (legitimate) snappier way to say that (although we would suggest "quad-indicted," since it does seem to have a ring to it... but we digress...).

Linguistic kidding aside, Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis finally completed Trump's quartet of indictments, adding 13 more felony charges for Trump (who has now been charged with a whopping 91 felony counts in total) as well as plenty of other felonies to go around among his 18 co-defendants. Rather than take a targeted approach by just charging Trump with the easiest-to-prove-in-court charges, Willis swung for the fences and corralled all the wrongdoing within one RICO charge covering everyone. Trump and his campaign and all his legal team and even his thugs on the ground in Georgia are all now accused of being a "racketeering-influenced and corrupt organization." Sounds about right... especially after the news broke that the grand jurors who voted for the indictment have been doxxed online and are now getting threats -- just like you'd expect to see in any mob case. Trump even attempted to tamper with a witness before he even showed up to testify for the grand jury on Monday. The witness was not cowed and did testify, and very late in the evening the indictment was made public.

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Political Violence Must Be Universally Condemned

[ Posted Thursday, August 17th, 2023 – 15:19 UTC ]

Donald Trump has normalized all kinds of bizarre behavior in American politics, but the one that needs a whole lot more attention is his acceptance of the idea that violence can be used to achieve political outcomes in this country. More and more, this is becoming a mainstream idea among his MAGA followers, while his fellow Republicans either say nothing or actively join in the incitements to violence. The media has completely fallen down on the job of pressing politicians to denounce such language and pointedly ask every politician they interview whether they support such a disgraceful concept. This is a dangerous place for our country to be, and it seems like it's only going to get more dangerous over time.

President Joe Biden recently made a trip out West, with a stop in Utah. A man in Utah publicly threatened to shoot Biden with a sniper rifle. The F.B.I. went to arrest him and he reportedly pointed a .357 handgun at them. They shot and killed him. Just this week, a woman in Texas was arrested for threatening to kill the judge in one of Donald Trump's legal cases. These are treated as minor isolated incidents and are mostly ignored by the mainstream media. But they keep happening with regularity.

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...A Rare Three-Dot Wednesday...

[ Posted Wednesday, August 16th, 2023 – 15:31 UTC ]

We know it is not at all alliterative, but it seems the time has come for a three-dot Wednesday. We speak, of course, in honor of the undisputed king of all three-dot journalism, the late, great Herb Caen of San Francisco. It's the format Caen was the master of... where you just string together a whole bunch of little news or commentary snippets... without a whole lot of connection... into some sort of narrative column... using ellipses (three dots) to tie the whole thing loosely together. OK, that last sentence was a bit much, even we admit, so we'll try to only use the format in traditional Caen fashion from now on. Everybody ready? Then here we go...


...Donald Trump's fourth indictment in Atlanta, Georgia, may wind up being the best television of all of them (to date, at least). There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that this time we'll have cameras inside the courtroom, so we'll all get to see every grimace and scowl on Trump's face as a judge tells him what the deal is. We'll hear Trump plead: "Not guilty," and we'll be able to watch the entire thing live from beginning to end. Which will (to political geeks like yours truly) certainly be some "must-see TV"... which will actually be true from the get-go... because...

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