Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down

M.C. Escher Election

Our Eye Candy du Jour is from Robert F. Graboyes' substack article A Cynic's Garden of Political Perversities. And don't worry, unlike most of the images I grab off the web, Graboyes urges his readers to "feel free to share this illustration as widely as you like." Done!

He was inspired (if that's the right word) by one of his readers' comments on a previous article:

“This is looking like it’s going to be the third M.C. Escher Presidential election in a row … the only choice worse than the Republican is the Democrat and the only choice worse than the Democrat is the Republican. We are definitely in a kakistocracy.”

The definition of "kakistocracy" is at the article; if you don't know it, try to guess before you look. (I imagined it was derived from "ca-ca", but … no.)

His article is a compendium of cynicism, and I urge you to check out the whole thing. But I'll quote another one of his quotes, from Blahous’ Laws of Politics:

  1. “The strongest concerns about the federal deficit are expressed by the political party opposing the president.”

  2. “The political party opposing the president is more skeptical of military intervention.”

  3. “Presidents tend to favor free trade more than members of Congress do.”

  4. “Expertise and honesty do not confer objectivity.”

  5. “The more sympathetic the constituency, the worse the policy.”

  6. “What initially appears as venality is usually incompetence.”

  7. “Political attacks often reveal more about the attacker than the attacked.”

  8. “Political advice nearly always tracks the adviser’s policy preferences.”

  9. “When Americans express opposition to a policy, those in government will reconsider their messaging strategy before reconsidering the policy.”

  10. “When politicians justify their positions in terms of their popularity, they are probably embracing bad policy.”

At NR, Christian Schneider asks, plaintively: What If This Is Just the Beginning? He's on the same wavelength as Graboyes, and he's writing in response to a David French column in the NYT that optimistically claims "“This era of American politics will end, one way or the other." Oh yeah?

But what exactly is the evidence that this era of American politics will eventually end?

Sure, someday Donald Trump is going to shuffle off this mortal coil (he’d better not have Alina Habba making his case before Saint Peter), but the incentive for politicians to behave like energy-drink-swigging gremlins isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Trump has unlocked a style of politics in which Congress is a safe home for psychotics like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz but not dignified conservatives like Liz Cheney.

And the sanity in politics is continuing to trend downward. This week, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington decided, joining other fed-up Republicans such as Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Kay Granger of Texas, to wash her hands of it. Utah senator Mitt Romney, realizing that urging his colleagues to behave with dignity was like telling a Tyrannosaurus rex to go vegan, will similarly call it quits at the end of the year.

The latest wagering from the oddsmakers, our usual Sunday feature, doesn't bode well either:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 50.0% -1.0%
Joe Biden 31.9% +0.9%
Michelle Obama 6.3% -0.8%
Gavin Newsom 3.4% -0.6%
Other 8.4% +1.5%

The only bright spot here is that "Other" seems to have made the biggest gain in the past week.

Also of note:

  • I have made no secret that Nikki's my favorite. But she's getting pretty close to being the female version of Fred Gort:

    I still get, multiple times a day, mail from her optimistic campaign, but here's what the NYPost thinks: Nikki Haley gearing up for last stand against Trump in South Carolina.

    Nikki Haley is preparing for what might be her last stand in her home state.

    The former Palmetto State governor is gearing up for the GOP presidential primary in South Carolina on Feb. 24, facing off against former President Trump, who has so far dominated the race and already dispatched other formidable rivals Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

    Trump, 77, has beaten Haley, 52, in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada by double-digit margins, but her campaign has soldiered on — much to the annoyance of Team Trump.

    “We don’t think much about her. This is like asking what does Taylor Swift think of a crazy stalker getting arrested. Haley is polling down 30 points in her home state, and at this point it’s kind of sad,” sniffed one Trump insider.

    “Her attacks have been featured many times now in the Biden Campaign’s Twitter. She sound like the Lincoln Project frankly. It doesn’t seem clear that she wants to help Republicans take back the White House. So it’s not clear what she’s doing. She is like an MSNBC pundit at this point.”

    MSNBC pundit? Now that's a low blow.

  • Via Ann Althouse, analysis from Elie Honig ("a former federal and state prosecutor") in New York magazine's "Intelligencer" column:

    It’s not the “feeble old man” part that matters most in the incendiary report by special counsel Robert Hur. It’s that Joe Biden knew he had highly classified documents in his home, kept them for a reason, and held on to them for years. He knew, all along. He arguably broke the law, and he definitely misled the American public.

    That should be the vital takeaway from Hur’s investigation — more than the report’s headline-stealing description of Biden’s advanced age and creaky memory.

    For anyone howling about Hur’s report, let’s recognize, first, that he had to write it. Federal regulations require that, at the end of the investigation, the special counsel must create a report “explaining the prosecution or declination decisions.” Now, one could fairly take issue with how Hur wrote the report. We don’t want prosecutors flaming people they don’t indict, after all, and Hur drafted a 300-plus page tome that included damaging revelations (at times with excessive flourishes) about Biden and others around him. I’ll allow that objection on one condition: You also must be on record condemning another special counsel, Robert Mueller, who wrote a 400-plus page report excoriating Donald Trump without recommending indictment. It’s entirely fair to argue that prosecutors should either charge or stay as mum as possible, or that the special counsel rules are a mess — but it has to work both ways.

    Elie, most of our nation's pundits don't want it to "work both ways."

  • In other legal news… Jacob Sullum observes: Alvin Bragg Is Trying to Punish Trump for Something That Is Not a Crime. I Am Not A Lawyer, but even I can understand this:

    The idea of converting the Daniels hush money into a state crime was so unpromising that Bragg's predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., rejected it after lengthy consideration. When Bragg revived the idea after taking office in 2022, leading to a March 2023 indictment charging Trump with 34 felonies, many people, including the former president's critics, thought the case reeked of political desperation.

    Bragg does not claim that paying off Daniels was itself a crime, because it obviously was not. The indictment instead alleges that Trump violated a New York law that makes it a misdemeanor to falsify business records "with intent to defraud." Trump allegedly did that by misrepresenting his reimbursement of Cohen as payment for legal services under a nonexistent retainer agreement. The 34 counts in the indictment are based on invoices, checks, check stubs, and ledger entries, each of which allegedly helped Trump conceal the hush payment.

    This stacking of charges based on the same course of conduct already looks like a vendetta. But why are they felonies? It is not exactly clear.

    Falsifying business records becomes a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison, when the defendant's "intent to defraud" includes "an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof." What was the other crime? Bragg claims Trump "violated election laws" when he instructed Cohen to pay Daniels. Which election laws? Bragg so far has refused to say. "The indictment doesn't specify them because the law does not so require," he told reporters last year.

    Don't worry, Trump-haters: one of those other cases will probably work out.

  • The Michelle Scenario. Michelle Obama has been in our table for weeks, but serious commentary about her prospects is scarce. But here's Heather Huggins speculating on The September Surprise. After noting Biden's poor polling and obvious mental decline:

    Salvation lies in the DNC rules. Remember the New Jersey “Switcheroo” way back in 2002, when Democrats turned a sure loss of a Senate seat into a win by swapping out their losing candidate at the last minute, overriding a state law that said it was too late in the cycle for such a switch?

    Bet on Democrats to pull the same “switcheroo,” but at an even higher level – and even later than you expect – possibly at but more likely about two weeks after their convention, giving us a “September Surprise.” Joe Biden is a placeholder quelling current competition for a much better bet – Michelle Obama – just in time to turn a sure loss in 2024 into a surprise potential victory.

    “Tosh!” you say. “She’s said she hates politics, she doesn’t want to run.” Ah, she made every one of those statements before she got to see Biden redefining the job and expectations for the presidency. Now she knows that when the media wants a president in place, a four-day workweek, consisting of one social obligation per day, and everything else delegated, will suffice. And that’s without a highly experienced First Gentleman.

    Huggins gets down and dirty with election laws, party rules, and MSM cynicism. All too credible.

Last Modified 2024-02-19 4:53 AM EDT