The Era Of Political Shamelessness

[ Posted Tuesday, May 21st, 2024 – 16:25 UTC ]

Donald Trump has broken many parts of the American political system. His supporters revel in this destruction, lumping it all in with Trump's battle to "drain the swamp" or fight back against a supposed "Deep State." His opponents decry Trump's shattering of political norms and conventions and rules (both written and unwritten) as a direct and existential threat to American democracy. But whatever you think, one thing seems more and more obvious. A lot of Trump's bull-in-a-china-shop destruction will outlive his time on the national political stage. And one of the biggest of these might be called "the death of shame."

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Program Note

[ Posted Monday, May 20th, 2024 – 15:51 UTC ]

Sorry, there will be no column today. I forgot I had an appointment at the eye doctor, and after getting my eyes dilated I can barely see the computer screen, much less type. So even posting a re-run column today is an impossibility. Mea culpa and regular columns will resume tomorrow. (Maybe I'll write one next week for Memorial Day, to make up for it....)

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Friday Talking Points -- Hannibal Lecter Makes A Campaign Appearance

[ Posted Friday, May 17th, 2024 – 18:17 UTC ]

Presidential debate announcements, Michael Cohen testifying, and The Jerry Springer Show breaking out in a House committee -- it's been an eventful political week all around, folks!

But we have to begin today with a very sobering piece of data, just to put everything in some perspective. We (rather obviously) personally live and breathe the political scene, and it is a fair assumption that anyone who regularly reads this column all the way to the end (a weekly marathon, 'tis true...) is also pretty plugged in to the follies of the everyday political landscape as well. We all pay attention, in other words. Not just to the large and meaningful events, but also to the small and amusing. But it cannot be repeated enough: this is not exactly normal. Most Americans just don't pay all that much attention to politics. Like, at all.

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Debates Confirmed

[ Posted Friday, May 17th, 2024 – 14:08 UTC ]

[Editor's Note: for some unfathomable reason, this didn't seem to get properly posted on Wednesday. I guess I just forgot to hit the "Publish" button at the end of the editing process? Well, for whatever the reason, mea culpa maxima and here is the column that should have appeared two days ago, and our apologies for the delay.]


So it's now official: the presidential debates are on! Well, two of them at any rate -- and a lot earlier than normal. On June 27th, before the two men are even officially nominated by their respective parties' national conventions, President Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate on CNN. Then on September 10th, they will meet again with ABC hosting. There will also be an additional vice-presidential debate, but as of yet no date has been announced for it. And Biden has already indicated that two will be the limit -- there won't be a third or fourth debate, these two will be it for this campaign season.

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New Schedule III Marijuana Rule Submitted

[ Posted Thursday, May 16th, 2024 – 16:07 UTC ]

Today saw a historic step taken on the road to finally ending the federal War On Weed. The Biden administration has now submitted a new federal rule on marijuana classification to the Federal Register, which will kick off a 60-day public commentary period. The new rule won't take effect for a while, in other words, but the clock has begun ticking at least.

You'll have to forgive me for writing about this again (after doing so only a few weeks ago), but I personally have been waiting for this day my whole life. Not so much: "waiting for the day a rule would be published in the Federal Register," but more like: "waiting for a United States president to speak out on the subject while admitting reality."

President Joe Biden did so today.

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Watching Maryland

[ Posted Tuesday, May 14th, 2024 – 15:39 UTC ]

Today my eyes have turned towards Maryland, and not just to watch the video clips of the explosive demolition of part of the Francis Scott Key Bridge (which was indeed fascinating to see). The plans to fully reopen the port seem to be moving forward on schedule, which is doubtlessly some very welcome news for both the city and the whole state. But tonight I'll be watching Maryland for a different reason, since they are holding their primary election today.

The big race worth watching here is who will win the Democratic primary for an open Senate seat. The Republican primary became a foregone conclusion with the entry of the state's former governor, Larry Hogan. Which Democrat will face him could be crucial to control of the Senate this November, though.

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Michael Cohen Takes The Stand

[ Posted Monday, May 13th, 2024 – 16:50 UTC ]

Today was probably the key day of the prosecution's testimony in the trial of Donald Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump's former "fixer," became the prosecution's star witness as he took the stand, since he is the one who can best tie together all the threads of the case introduced so far. Tomorrow will continue to be key, as the prosecution is likely to finish their direct questions and the defense will begin Cohen's cross-examination. The entire case could very well hinge on how the jury reacts to his testimony these two days, and whether or not they find him believable.

Cohen, of course, is a total sleazebag. Everyone admits this, even the other witnesses in the case (one of whom called him "a jerk," and all of whom testified how hard it was to interact with Cohen). He's the ultimate New York City skeezy lawyer -- almost a walking, talking Jungian archetype. You wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that Fat Tony of The Simpsons had hired Cohen to "take care of" a problem or two, to put it a little more colorfully.

The problem for Trump's defense team is that while it will indeed be pretty easy to paint Cohen as a reprehensible character, doing so might not be anywhere near enough to convince the jury of Trump's innocence. After all, Trump's pretty sleazy himself. And he isn't exactly giving his lawyers much to work with.

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Friday Talking Points -- Not Unlike Mr. Trump

[ Posted Friday, May 10th, 2024 – 17:40 UTC ]

This week saw a real climax in the criminal court case against Donald Trump...

(No wait... sorry about that... let's try again, shall we?)

Donald Trump's trial coverage finally had a big "money shot" during this week's testimony...

(OK, we sincerely apologize, but we just couldn't resist!)

You'll have to forgive us, but nobody really has any experience with this sort of thing -- an adult film actress/director testifying under oath in a criminal trial about a sexual encounter with a man who would go on to become president. Even Bill Clinton's got to be shaking his head in disbelief somewhere, one assumes.

Stormy Daniels spent the better part of two days testifying in a New York City courtroom, and from all accounts she did an outstanding job of it. She faced a withering cross-examination from Donald Trump's lawyers, but she weathered the storm (so to speak) and didn't back down. Trump's lawyers have been put in the impossible position of arguing that the sexual encounter simply didn't happen, and therefore Daniels made the whole thing up -- which precisely nobody believes. They tired to discredit Daniels as some sort of money-grubbing grifter who was profiting off of the whole thing, which (again) is a pretty impossible thing to plausibly argue when your client is the biggest grifter to trod the planet since P. T. Barnum. The high point of her testimony, for us, was when Trump's lawyer asked her: "You're celebrating the indictment by selling things from your store?" to which she replied with perfect aplomb: "Not unlike Mr. Trump."

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The Split-Screen That Wasn't

[ Posted Thursday, May 9th, 2024 – 16:21 UTC ]

What we should all really be seeing, at this point, is a drawn-out split-screen moment. Call it a "split-screen couple of weeks," maybe. However, this hasn't really been the case, for two reasons. The first is that cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom of the first criminal trial of an ex-president in American history. So even following the trial at home is a once-removed experience: following along with the New York Times liveblog (who seems to have the most comprehensive coverage of all the newsfeeds I have sampled) as they document each development in the case, whether monumental or simply mundane. Snippets of what is going on in the courtroom appear all day long, from the jousting of the lawyers and the witnesses to the reactions of the judge and jury to whether Donald Trump seems to have fallen asleep again or not. Fascinating stuff, but not exactly the same as it would have been on live television.

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Greene Plows Ahead, Fails To Remove Johnson

[ Posted Wednesday, May 8th, 2024 – 16:55 UTC ]

When you're wrong, you're wrong. Yesterday, I was wrong. I certainly wasn't the only one in the political media to be wrong, but I've learned to admit your mistakes as they happen and try to move on.

In a surprise move today, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene forced a vote in the House of Representatives on her "motion to vacate the chair," which (if successful) would have ousted Speaker Mike Johnson from his leadership role. Only yesterday it seemed she had accepted defeat and would not be forcing the issue, but (as we said yesterday, in our defense): "With Greene, you never really know what she'll do next...."

Today, Greene decided to perform her stunt even knowing full well it was going to fail. And it did fail -- spectacularly. A preliminary vote was held on a motion to "table" (or "ignore," essentially) Greene's motion. If the preliminary vote had failed, the House would have then moved to vote on Greene's motion to vacate the chair. But the preliminary vote was overwhelmingly in favor of ignoring Greene and for keeping Johnson as speaker. In the end, only 11 Republicans voted against Johnson, which is not much of an uprising. The final tally was 359 to 43, with 196 Republicans voting to table the motion along with a whopping 163 Democrats. Only 32 Democrats voted against tabling the motion, while seven Democrats merely voted: "Present."

This is absolutely unprecedented, it bears mentioning. A majority of the House Democrats just voted to save a Republican speaker. Without their support, Johnson would have faced the same fate that befell Kevin McCarthy last year -- the first time a speaker had ever been deposed.

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