September Monthly Meeting

Let me begin by apologizing for the late notice.  I have been crazy busy with sub. teaching and there is nothing like a classroom full of 9 year olds to impress upon you just how OLD you really are!

The regular monthly meeting of the RCDP is this Wednesday, 9/27/23 at 6 p.m.  We meet at the old Denton Township Hall in Prudenville (the Stone Building).

Two items on the agenda are particularly important- filling two positions. One is on the Board of Canvassers at the County level. This member meets after elections to certify the results and in today’s environment a crucial role in fair and safe elections.

And the other role is for the role of Vice Chair of the RCDP. Our past Chair, Lynn, has sold her home in Houghton Lake and has moved away. Per by-laws this position must be gender balanced with the Chair, so it must be a female officer. To our female members, please consider filling this leadership position as we prepare for the upcoming elections.

We hope to see you there.  Consider how you might take a role to help our community and party.  If you have any questions or concerns please ask.  Thank you!

Kimm Daniels, 

RCDP Secretary

Republicans In House Of Representatives List There Demands

While House extremists are holding up efforts to pass spending bills and avert a government shutdown, House Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington (TX-19) has introduced a budget that gives us a frightening vision of what right-wing extremists want our country to look like. 

The proposed budget aims to balance the federal budget in 10 years, but it does so via $5.4 trillion in cuts to essential human needs programs over those 10 years. These cuts include:1

  • $400 billion in cuts to Medicare providers
  • $2 trillion in cuts to mandatory health spending—which is largely drastic cuts to Medicaid
  • Instituting Medicaid work reporting requirements
  • $1 trillion in cuts to economic security programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF
  • While extremists in the House Republican Caucus are planning to make families suffer even more at a time when cuts they backed caused poverty to rise, they’re demanding an extension of the Trump tax cuts from 2017, which are nothing more than a handout for the wealthy and major corporations.
  • If Congress renews the Trump tax cuts for the ultra-rich, the top 0.1%—with incomes over $4.5 million a year—would get, on average, a tax cut of $175,000 in the first year alone while households making less than $50,000 would get about 50 cents a day.2 This is neither sustainable or just. And it’s definitely not a way to move our country forward with many struggling to make ends meet.

Biden Joins Autoworkers on Picket Line in Michigan

New York Times

President Biden’s appearance was an extraordinary gesture of support to a labor union by a sitting president. Former President Donald J. Trump plans his own visit on Wednesday.

President Biden grabbed a bullhorn and joined striking autoworkers in Michigan on Tuesday, becoming the first sitting president to join a picket line in an extraordinary show of support for workers demanding better wages.

Auto companies were doing well, Mr. Biden told dozens of workers outside a General Motors facility that employs more than 200 people in Belleville, Mich., outside Detroit.

“Guess what? You should be doing just as well,” Mr. Biden told the crowd, drawing applause. He fist-bumped several members of the United Auto Workers union.

“You’ve heard me say many times: Wall Street didn’t build this country,” he said. “The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class. That’s a fact. Let’s keep going. You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you get paid now.”

The president’s 15-minute visit, held under gray skies as classic-rock songs by John Mellencamp and Aerosmith played in the background, came at the invitation of Shawn Fain, U.A.W.’s president, as Mr. Biden tries to solidify support in a key swing state.

Mr. Biden’s visit looked like a capstone for a politician who for decades has positioned himself as a champion of the middle class, but other political forces were at play as well. He joined the workers one day before his predecessor and likely 2024 rival, former President Donald J. Trump, is scheduled to visit a nearby county and deliver remarks to current and former union members.

Mr. Biden spoke for only a couple of minutes before turning the bullhorn back to Mr. Fain, who has criticized Mr. Trump’s planned visit. While the president watched, Mr. Fain railed against executives and the billionaire class.

“They think they own the world,” Mr. Fain said. “But we make it run.”

The White House has been hesitant to say whether Mr. Biden supported what U.A.W. workers were asking for, but when asked whether the workers deserved a 40 percent pay raise, he responded: “Yes. I think they should be able to bargain for that.”

Automakers, who have argued that wage increases beyond what they have already offered could damage their competitiveness as the industry shifts to embrace electric cars, did not exactly hail the president’s visit. “Our focus is not on politics but continues to be on bargaining in good faith with the U.A.W. leadership to reach an agreement as quickly as possible that rewards our work force and allows G.M. to succeed and thrive into the future,” General Motors said in a statement, adding that “nobody wins” from a strike.

Still, the White House is betting that Mr. Biden’s visit is enough to help counter Mr. Trump’s visit to the area and earn the president points with U.A.W., which backed him in 2020 but has not yet endorsed him, citing concerns over the administration’s push for a transition to electric vehicles.

It is the first time this campaign season that Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, whose political styles are as divergent as their visions for the country, will be competing in real time for a powerful bloc of working-class voters.

In one corner, Mr. Biden has argued that his clean-energy agenda — including a shift toward electric vehicles — will create new manufacturing jobs, even as companies that make batteries and other electric-vehicle parts resist unionizing their workers.

In another, Mr. Trump has channeled the growing frustration among workers who fear for the future of their jobs. “REMEMBER, HE WANTS TO TAKE YOUR JOBS AWAY AND GIVE THEM TO CHINA AND OTHER FOREIGN COUNTRIES.” Mr. Trump wrote of Mr. Biden on social media on Monday, adding, “I WILL KEEP YOUR JOBS AND MAKE YOU RICH!!!

Officials with both campaigns, of course, have pounced.

“No self-serving photo op can erase Trump’s four years of abandoning union workers and standing with his ultrarich friends,” Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign, said in a statement.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser for Mr. Trump, said the president’s visit showed he was on the defensive.

“This underscores the fact of how perilous Biden’s political footing is: a state that Democrats would have you convinced is safely blue, to talk with a constituency that Democrats would have you convinced are safely in their camp,” Mr. Miller said in an interview.

In the White House, Mr. Biden’s advisers have insisted that his visit has little to nothing to do with his predecessor’s, though they say Mr. Biden’s appearance is sure to strike a contrast with Mr. Trump’s planned visit to Drake Enterprises, a nonunion plant in Macomb County.

Michigan is seen as a critical state for Democrats in 2024. While it was one of Mr. Trump’s most surprising victories in 2016, Mr. Biden carried the state in 2020.

Mr. Trump has no plans to meet with Mr. Fain, who has publicly criticized the former president’s plans to travel to Michigan: “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class,” Mr. Fain said last week.

Still, many workers in his union have balked at the Biden administration’s proposal of the country’s most ambitious climate regulations, which would ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars are all-electric by 2032, up from 5.8 percent today.

Presidents are typically expected to be neutral arbiters between striking laborers and the companies they work for, and many modern presidents have struggled to find a middle ground.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired over 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, undermining a union effort by arguing that federal workers were in violation of an employment oath not to strike against the government. The decision traumatized the labor movement for decades and caused Democratic presidents to speak delicately about the power of unions.

Mr. Biden has stood firmly stood with U.A.W., which is calling for increased wages, shorter work hours and expanded benefits from three Detroit automakers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler.

Since the strike began on Sept. 15, Mr. Biden has been calling on companies and workers to reach an agreement that would spare a ripple effect through the economy that could raise auto prices and disrupt supply chains.

Historians said that Mr. Biden, who came of age during an era of strong unions, is returning Democrats to their roots.

”The recent Democrats have slipped a little,” said Ileen A. DeVault, a professor of labor history at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, “but I think Biden really is pro-union and pro-labor, and he really is trying to improve working conditions for workers in the United States.”

She did not see the same with Mr. Trump. “I do not see any evidence that he has done anything at all to either help unions in this country,” she said, “let alone to help ordinary people.”

The trip to Michigan is part of a gantlet of a week for Mr. Biden, who hosted a summit with Pacific island leaders on Monday before starting a three-day sprint across the country, beginning in Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden was scheduled to travel to San Francisco, where he will hold a campaign reception. On Wednesday, he will host a meeting with advisers who develop recommendations on science, technology and innovation policy.

On Thursday, he is set to deliver remarks centered on the state of democracy in Arizona, an appearance that is expected to be an implicit rebuttal to the Republican presidential debate and Mr. Trump’s campaign activities. He will also honor the legacy of John McCain, the longtime Republican senator from Arizona who died in 2018 and who was a frequent foil of Mr. Trump’s.

Before making his way to the picket line in Michigan, Mr. Biden asked what it would take to receive the U.A.W.’s endorsement.

“I’m not worried about that,” he replied.

Jack Ewing contributed reporting.

Trump = Fraud

Judge Rules Trump Committed Fraud, Stripping Control of Key Properties

The decision in a lawsuit that could go to trial next week is a major win for Attorney General Letitia James, who says former President Donald J. Trump overvalued his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion.

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald J. Trump persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties.

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron is a major victory for Attorney General Letitia James in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, effectively deciding that no trial was needed to determine that he had fraudulently secured favorable terms on loans and insurance deals.

Ms. James has argued that Mr. Trump inflated the value of his properties by as much as $2.2 billion and is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Justice Engoron wrote that the annual financial statements that Mr. Trump submitted to banks and insurance companies “clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business.”

Ms. James, in a brief statement, said, “We look forward to presenting the rest of our case at trial.”

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, indicated that he would appeal the decision, which he called “outrageous” and “completely disconnected from the facts and governing law.” He said that the judge ignored an earlier appeals court ruling and “basic legal, accounting and business principles.”

While the trial will determine the size of the penalty, Justice Engoron’s ruling granted one of the biggest punishments Ms. James sought: the cancellation of business certificates that allow some of Mr. Trump’s New York properties to operate, a move that could have major repercussions for the Trump family business.

The decision could terminate his control over a flagship commercial property at 40 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan and a family estate in Westchester County. Mr. Trump might also lose control over his other New York properties, including Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan and his golf club in Westchester.

The order will not dissolve Mr. Trump’s company, which is a collection of hundreds of entities, but the decision could nonetheless have a sweeping impact on the heart of its New York operations. If Justice Engoron’s decision is not reversed by an appeals court, it could shut down an entity that employs hundreds of people working for him in New York, effectively crushing the company.

“The decision seeks to nationalize one of the most successful corporate empires in the United States and seize control of private property,” Mr. Kise said.

While Ms. James’s civil case had been overshadowed by the four criminal indictments of the former president — which are unrelated to Ms. James’s accusations — the judge’s decision, if it stands, will represent the first punishment to emerge from a government investigation into Mr. Trump.

Justice Engoron’s decision narrows the issues that will be heard at trial, deciding that the core of Ms. James’s case was valid. It represents a major blow to Mr. Trump, whose lawyers had sought to persuade the judge to throw out many claims against the former president.

In his order, Justice Engoron wrote scathingly about Mr. Trump’s defenses, saying that the former president and the other defendants, including his two adult sons and his company, ignored reality when it suited their business needs. “In defendants’ world,” he wrote, “rent-regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air.”

“That is a fantasy world, not the real world,” he added.

The judge also levied sanctions on Mr. Trump’s lawyers for making arguments that he had previously rejected. He ordered each to pay $7,500, noting that he had previously warned them that the arguments in question bordered on being frivolous.

Repeating them was “indefensible,” Justice Engoron wrote.

Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to delay the trial, or even gut the case. Mr. Trump has sued Justice Engoron himself, and an appeals court is expected to rule this week on his lawsuit. But if the appeals court rules against him, Mr. Trump will have to fight the remainder of the case at trial.

Mr. Trump has long been his own most dedicated promoter and for years has acted as a booster for the value of his buildings and his brand. For years, the possibility that Mr. Trump was fraudulently exaggerating the value of his assets has intrigued prosecutors, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office at one point came close to indicting Mr. Trump for misrepresenting their value.

The current district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, declined to pursue that case, but later indicted the former president in connection with a hush money payment to a porn star

Ms. James started investigating Mr. Trump in March 2019 and filed a lawsuit against him last September, accusing him of “staggering” fraud in representing the value of his apartment buildings, hotels and golf clubs, among other assets. Her filings have accused Mr. Trump of using simple, duplicitous tricks to multiply the represented value of his signature properties, from Trump Tower to Mar-a-Lago.

In one noteworthy example, she accused Mr. Trump of overestimating the size of the triplex apartment in Trump Tower in which he lived for decades, saying it was 30,000 feet, rather than about 11,000. Justice Engoron seized on that, noting that Mr. Trump’s lawyers had “absurdly” suggested that the calculation of square footage was subjective and adding that good-faith measurements might vary by as much as 10 to 20 percent, but not 200 percent.

“A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud,” he wrote.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had asked Justice Engoron for a so-called summary judgment — a ruling that they were entitled to a victory before trial based on undisputed facts — seeking to toss out many claims against him. They relied heavily on an appeals court ruling from June that raised the notion that some claims against Mr. Trump might be too old to proceed to trial.

Justice Engoron denied Mr. Trump’s request, interpreting the appeals court ruling the opposite way that they had argued, while granting Ms. James’s similar bid for partial summary judgment.

Mr. Trump, a Republican, has denied all wrongdoing and accused Ms. James, a Democrat, of political persecution. His lawyers have noted that the banks that lent Mr. Trump money were hardly victims: they turned profits. They also argued that valuing property can be subjective, more art than a strict science.

“The court disregarded the viewpoint of those actually involved in the loan transactions who testified there was nothing misleading, there was no fraud, and the transactions were all highly profitable,” Mr. Kise said in his statement. He added that there was “zero evidence of any default, breach, late payment or any complaint of harm.”

But Justice Engoron, with whom Mr. Trump’s lawyers have tangled at every turn, mocked those arguments.

“The documents do not say what they say; that there is no such thing as ‘objective’ value,” the judge wrote, summarizing his take on their arguments, and adding, “Essentially, the court should not believe its own eyes.”

In a footnote, he added a line from the movie “Duck Soup” uttered by Chico Marx: “Well, who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Jonah E. Bromwich covers criminal justice in New York, with a focus on the Manhattan district attorney’s office, state criminal courts in Manhattan and New York City’s jails. More about Jonah E. Bromwich

Ben Protess is an investigative reporter covering the federal government, law enforcement and various criminal investigations into former President Trump and his allies. More about Ben Protess

An Important Look At Gerrymandering And How It Reduces Voter Impact On Policy

Heather Cox Richardson

Pundits struggle to decide whether Trump’s rise represents something new in the United States or whether it is a continuation of the growing anti-democratic politics of the Republican Party. As a card-carrying Libra, I’m going to suggest it was both.

If yesterday’s letter was about how Trump’s turn to authoritarianism is unprecedented among major party political leaders, tonight’s is about how the Republican Party prepared the way for this moment in part by rigging the system through gerrymandering so that their politicians no longer need to appeal to voters. Those extreme gerrymanders threaten to skew the 2024 election and are contributing to the Republican Party’s inability to perform the most basic functions of government.

Gerrymandering is the process of drawing legislative districts to favor a political party. The practice was named for Elbridge Gerry, an early governor of Massachusetts who signed off on such a scheme (even though he didn’t like it). Political parties can gain an advantage in elections by either “packing” or “cracking” their opponents’ voters. Packing means stuffing the opposition party’s voters into districts so their votes are not distributed more widely; cracking means dividing opponents’ voters among multiple districts so there are too few of them in any district to have a chance of winning. 

The Constitution requires the government to take a census every ten years to see where people have moved, enabling the government to draw districts that should allow us to elect politicians that represent us. Political operatives have always carved up maps to serve themselves when they could, but today’s computers allow them to draw maps with surgical precision. 

That created a big change in 2010. Before that midterm election, hoping to hamstring President Barack Obama’s ability to accomplish anything by making sure he had a hostile Congress, Republican operatives raised money from corporate donors to swamp state elections with ads and campaign literature to elect Republicans to state legislatures. This Operation REDMAP, which stood for Redistricting Majority Project, was a plan to take control of state houses across the country so that Republicans would control the redistricting maps put in place after the 2010 census. 

It worked. After the 2010 election, Republicans controlled the legislatures in the key states of Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as other, smaller states, and they redrew congressional maps using precise computer models. In the 2012 election, Democrats won the White House decisively, the Senate easily, and a majority of 1.4 million votes for House candidates. And yet Republicans came away with a thirty-three-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

The results of that effort are playing out today.

In Wisconsin the electoral districts are so gerrymandered that although the state’s population is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Republicans control nearly two thirds of the seats in the legislature and it is virtually impossible for Democrats ever to win control of the state legislature. In April, voters elected Janet Protasiewicz to the state supreme court by an astonishing margin of 11 points, in part thanks to her promise to reject the extreme gerrymandered maps. 

Protasiewicz’s election shifted the court majority away from the Republicans. Even before she was elected, one Republican senator suggested impeaching her, and now, because she has called the district maps “rigged” and said, “I don’t think you could sell to any reasonable person that the maps are fair,” Republicans are calling for her impeachment before she has even heard a case. (After saying the maps were rigged, she added: “I can’t ever tell you what I’m going to do on a particular case, but I can tell you my values, and common sense tells you that it’s wrong.”)

Voters are also evenly split in North Carolina—illustrated by the fact that a statewide race elected Democrat Roy Cooper as governor—but there, too, gerrymandering has rigged the maps for the Republicans. After a Democrat switched sides to give the Republicans a veto-proof majority in both houses of the legislature, the House of Representatives last week passed laws taking away the governor’s power to make appointments to state and local election boards and removing the tiebreaker seat the governor appointed to the state board. 

Instead, the legislature has taken over the right to make those appointments itself, meaning that election rules could become entirely partisan. At the same time, the legislature exempted its legislators from complying with the state open-records law that requires redistricting documents be public.

In Ohio, almost 75% of voters agreed to amend the state constitution in 2018 to prohibit political gerrymanders. Nonetheless, when the Republican-dominated legislature drew district maps in 2021, they gave a strong advantage to Republicans. The state supreme court struck the maps down as unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court permitted them to stay in place for the 2022 election. The court will now revisit the question, but it has moved further to the right since 2022.

In Alabama, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that the maps in place in 2022 were likely unconstitutional and must be redrawn to include a second majority-Black district. But when the state legislature drew a new map the next month, it defied the court. The court was shocked at the refusal to comply, and appointed a special master, who today offered three options. Any of them would offer the Democrats a chance to pick up another seat, and the state is challenging the new maps.

Tennessee shows what gerrymandering does at the state level. There, Republicans tend to get about 60% of the votes but control 76% of the seats in the House and 82% of the seats in the Senate. This supermajority means that the Republicans can legislate as they wish. 

Gerrymandered seats mean that politicians do not have to answer to constituents; their purpose is to raise money and fire up true believers. Although more than 70% of Tennessee residents want gun safety legislation, for example, Republican legislators, who are certain to win in their gerrymandered districts, can safely ignore them. 

Tennessee shows the effects of gerrymandering at the national level as well. Although Republican congressional candidates in Tennessee get about 65% of the vote, they control 89% of Tennessee’s congressional delegation. In the elections of 2022, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio all used maps that courts have thrown out for having rigged the system to favor Republicans. The use of those unfair maps highlights that the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives by only the slimmest of margins and explains why Republicans are determined to keep their gerrymanders.

Because their seats are safe, Republicans do not have to send particularly skilled politicians to Congress; they can send those whose roles are to raise money and push Republican ideology. That likely explains at least a part of why House Republicans are no closer to agreeing on a deal to fund the government than they have been for the past several months, even as the deadline is racing toward us, and why they are instead going to hold an impeachment hearing concerning President Joe Biden on Thursday. 

Michigan was one of the Operation REDMAP states, redistricted after the 2010 election into an extreme gerrymander designed by Republicans who bragged about stuffing “Dem garbage” into four districts so that Republicans would, as one said, stay in power for years. In 2016 a Michigan woman, Katie Fahey, started a movement to get rid of the partisan maps. In 2018, despite a Republican lawsuit to stop them, they successfully placed an initiative to create an independent redistricting commission on the ballot. It passed overwhelmingly. 

After the 2020 census the commission’s new maps still slightly favored Republicans because of the state’s demographic distribution—Democrats are concentrated in cities—but the parties were competitive. In 2022, Democrats took control of the state government, winning the House for the first time since 2008.

Trump Threatens The Joint Chief And Republicans Remain Silent

Heather Cox Richardson

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and the principal military advisor to the president, secretary of defense, and national security council. The current chairman, Army General Mark Milley, has served in the military for 44 years, deploying in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Panama, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Somalia, and the Republic of Korea. He holds a degree in political science from Princeton University, a master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University, and a master’s degree from the U.S. Naval War College in national security and strategic studies. 

Former president Trump chose Milley for that position, but on Friday night, Trump posted an attack on Milley, calling him “a Woke train wreck” and accusing him of betraying the nation when, days before the 2020 election, he reassured his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. was not going to attack China in the last days of the Trump administration, as Chinese leaders feared.  

Trump was reacting to a September 21 piece by Jeffrey Goldberg about Milley in The Atlantic, which portrays Milley as an important check on an erratic, uninformed, and dangerous president while also warning that “[i]n the American system, it is the voters, the courts, and Congress that are meant to serve as checks on a president’s behavior, not the generals.” 

Trump posted that Milley “was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States. This was an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act. To be continued!!!”

In fact, the calls were hardly rogue incidents. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, another Trump appointee, endorsed Milley’s October call, and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who replaced Esper when Trump fired him just after the election, gave permission for a similar call Milley made in January 2021. At least ten officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department were on the calls. 

Trump is suggesting that in acting within his role and through proper channels, our highest ranking military officer has committed treason and that such treason in the past would have warranted death, with the inherent suggestion that we should return to such a standard. It seems much of the country has become accustomed to Trump’s outbursts, but this threat should not pass without notice, not least because Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) echoed it today in his taxpayer-funded newsletter.

In the letter, Gosar refers to Milley as “the homosexual-promoting-BLM-activist Chairman of the military joint chiefs,” a “deviant” who “was coordinating with Nancy Pelosi to hurt President Trump, and treasonously working behind Trump’s back. In a better society,” he wrote, “quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley would be hung. He had one boss: President Trump, and instead he was secretly meeting with Pelosi and coordinating with her to hurt Trump.”

Trump chose Milley to chair the Joint Chiefs but turned on him when Milley insisted the military was loyal to the Constitution rather than to any man. Milley had been dragged into participating in Trump’s march across Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, to threaten Black Lives Matter protesters, although Milley peeled off when he recognized what was happening and later said he thought they were going to review National Guard troops. 

The day after the debacle, Milley wrote a message to the joint force reminding every member that they swore an oath to the Constitution. “This document is founded on the essential principle that all men and women are born free and equal, and should be treated with respect and dignity. It also gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly…. As members of the Joint Force—comprised of all races, colors, and creeds—you embody the ideals of our Constitution.”

“We all committed our lives to the idea that is America,” he wrote by hand on the memo. “We will stay true to that oath and the American people.” 

Milley’s appearance with Trump as they crossed Lafayette Square drew widespread condemnation from former military leaders, and in the days afterward, Milley spoke to them personally, as well as to congressional leaders, to apologize. Milley also apologized publicly. “I should not have been there,” he said to graduates at National Defense University’s commencement. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” Milley went on to defend the Black Lives Matter protesters Trump was targeting, and to say that the military must address the systematic racism that has kept people of color from the top ranks. 

Milley’s defense of the U.S. military, 43% of whom are people of color, drew not just Trump’s fury, but also that of the right wing. Then–Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson made a special effort to undermine the man he said was “not just a pig, he’s stupid!” “The Pentagon is now the Yale faculty lounge, but with cruise missiles. That should concern you,” he told his audience. As Carlson berated the military for being “woke,” his followers began to turn against the military they had previously championed. 

Trump has made it clear he intends to weaponize the government against those he perceives to be his enemies, removing those who refuse to do his bidding and replacing them with loyalists. Ominously, according to Goldberg, another area over which Trump and Milley clashed was the military’s tradition of refusing to participate in acts that are clearly immoral or illegal. Trump overrode MIlley’s advice not to intervene in the cases of three men charged with war crimes, later telling his supporters, “I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state.” 

Goldberg points out that in a second Trump administration packed with loyalists, there will be few guardrails, and he notes that Milley has told friends that if Trump is reelected, “[h]e’ll start throwing people in jail, and I’d be on the top of the list.”

But Milley told Goldberg he does not expect Trump to be reelected. “I have confidence in the American people,” he said. “The United States of America is an extraordinarily resilient country, agile and flexible, and the inherent goodness of the American people is there.” Last week, he told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that he is “confident that the United States and the democracy in this country will prevail and the rule of law will prevail…. These institutions are built to be strong, resilient and to adapt to the times, and I’m 100% confident we’ll be fine.”

Milley’s statement reflects the increasingly powerful reassertion of democratic values over the past several years. In general, the country seems to be moving beyond former president Trump, who remains locked in his ancient grievances and simmering with fear about his legal troubles—Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone recently reported he has been asking confidants about what sort of prison might be in his future—and what he has to say seems so formulaic at this point that it usually doesn’t seem worth repeating. Indeed, much of his frantic posting seems calculated to attract headlines with shock value.

But, for all that, Trump is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He has suggested that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s senior military advisor, has committed treason and that such a crime is associated with execution, and one of his loyalists in government has echoed him. 

And yet, in the face of this attack on one of our key national security institutions, an attack that other nations will certainly notice, Republican leaders remain silent.

Rupert Murdoch Turned Passion and Grievance Into Money and Power

The retiring Fox leader built a noise-and-propaganda machine by giving his people what they wanted — and sometimes by teaching them what to want.

James Poniewozik

By James Poniewozik

Sept. 21, 2023


The polite way to describe the legacy of a man like Rupert Murdoch is to leave aside whether his accomplishments were good or bad and simply focus on how big they were. It is to eulogize him like Kendall Roy memorializing his father, Logan, in “Succession,” the HBO corporate drama none too slightly based on the Murdochs, among other dynasties. Maybe he had “a terrible force,” as Kendall put it, but “he built, and he acted. … He made life happen.”

But the polite way is exactly the wrong way to assess Mr. Murdoch, who on Thursday announced his retirement from the boards of Fox and News Corporation. Mr. Murdoch achieved nothing the polite way. His style and his work were direct and blunt. Let us take his measure his way.

Rupert Murdoch’s empire used passion and grievance as fuel and turned it into money and power.

His tabloids ran on the idea of publishing for readers as they were, not according to some platonic ideal of how one wished them to be. That meant pinups and prize giveaways and blaring scandal headlines.

Stay up to date with What to Watch. A few alerts a week.

Over years and decades, Mr. Murdoch’s properties shifted their definition of “elite” away from people with more money than you and toward people with more perceived cultural capital than you, something that would be essential to nationalist politics in the 21st century and Fox’s dominance. (He did all this while living the life of a jet-setting billionaire.)

He translated this model to America in the 1970s with his acquisition of The New York Post. But that was a warm-up to his larger project of acquiring 20th Century Fox and applying his tabloid skills to the entertainment and broadcast business.

Fox gave Mr. Murdoch a movie studio and allowed him to create the Fox broadcast network in 1986; he would add publishers and more newspapers to his empire as well. But his news philosophy and his conservative politics were most fully expressed in Fox News Channel, which he launched with the former Republican consultant Roger Ailes in 1996.

Like Mr. Murdoch’s tabloids, Fox had an aesthetic that was key to its appeal. Where news programs once sought to project stability and gravitas, it had flash and energy. It had the tone and political attitude of conservative talk radio and the rah-rah spirit of TV sports (as well as the blinding graphics).

But Fox was not a style phenomenon alone. It branded itself “Fair and Balanced,” implying that other outlets were unfair and unbalanced. “We Report, You Decide,” it said, implying a they who were making the decisions for you.

Fox promised news but its cash crop was feelings. Making viewers feel — feel angry, feel betrayed, feel threatened — was vital to keeping them tuned in for hours. The particulars of Fox’s mood, and its conservatism, adapted and evolved with the eras. It was jingoistic during the wars of the George W. Bush era. As Barack Obama emerged, it fed suspicions that he was alien, other, a malign un-American force. (Its morning show, “Fox and Friends,” gave airtime to a bogus story that he had attended a madrasa.)

When conservatives were losing, Fox held an audience by appealing to their sense of siege. Winning, they could find ways to feel besieged anyway, as with “The war on Christmas,” a Fox staple.

On Fox, the news was a serial drama filled with enemies and heroes, victory and peril. But like on a long-running thriller, each new twist had to top the last. The stakes had to heighten. Bushian Republicanism gave way to the string-on-a-bulletin-board theories of Glenn Beck, until, eventually, Tucker Carlson was mainstreaming racist “replacement theory” for one of cable TV’s biggest audiences.

That is not to say that Mr. Murdoch’s creation was simple or without contradiction. The formula that Murdoch applied to his tabloids — cheap-seats entertainment combined with right-wing populism — led, in his larger media empire, to the Fox paradox. The entertainment wing of the company produced, indeed specialized in, the kind of moral offenses that the commentators of the news wing would decry.

On the Fox broadcast network, the outsider ethos and need to stand out led to brilliant inventions and tawdry disasters: “The Simpsons” and “The X-Files,” “Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?” and “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?”Entertainment TV may not have been Mr. Murdoch’s core passion, but much of Fox network’s inventiveness came from the same principle of prodding strong feelings and reactions.

Provoking reactions and sustaining attention would also define the candidacy and presidency of Donald J. Trump, Fox’s loyal viewer, longtime guest (he had a regular segment on “Fox and Friends” for years) and — if unintentionally — its most successful product.

Mr. Trump used Fox as a platform, intuited what its viewers wanted, then wrested them away by giving them a purer, more thrilling version of it than Fox itself. Fox could play footsie with Islamophobia; he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Fox had to ultimately call the results of elections that disappointed their viewers; he could declare the whole thing stolen.

If, as has been reported, Mr. Murdoch eventually came to hold Mr. Trump in disdain, it is an irony of his late career, which found Fox ensnared in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s election loss. The network paid a $787.5 million settlement for a lawsuit over its coverage of the stolen-election lies. Shortly afterward, it fired Mr. Carlson, a star turned liability, and lost many of his viewers in prime time. All the while it was under pressure from right-wing networks and platforms with an even fuller MAGA sensibility and looser relation to reality.

There is a Frankensteinian fittingness to Mr. Murdoch and his network’s losing control of the very passion, fury and sense of righteous injury that Fox News conquered the ratings by encouraging. It is one thing to stoke that flame, another thing to try to turn it down like a burner on a stove.

A man who made his fortune giving the people what they want has no business being surprised to learn what they inevitably want next: More.

James Poniewozik is The Times’s chief television critic. He writes reviews and essays with an emphasis on television as it reflects a changing culture and politics. He is also the author of “Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television and the Fracturing of America.” More about James Poniewozik

Biden Stands With Workers Demanding A Fair Share

Heather Cox Richardson

Two major stories today seem to bring together both the past and the future of the country to chart a way forward.

The first involves a historic workers’ strike. A week ago, on Friday, September 15, after workers’ four-year contracts expired, the United Auto Workers union declared a limited and targeted work stoppage in which about 13,000 workers walked off the job at three Midwestern auto plants. For the first time in history, those walkouts included all three major automakers: workers left a General Motors plant in Missouri, a Stellantis (which includes Chrysler) plant in Ohio, and a Ford plant in Michigan. 

Workers accepted major concessions in 2007, when it appeared that auto manufacturers would go under. They agreed to accept a two-tier pay system in which workers hired after 2007 would have lower pay and worse benefits than those hired before 2007. But then the industry recovered, and automakers’ profits skyrocketed: Ford, for example, made more than $10 billion in profits in 2022.

Automakers’ chief executive officers’ pay has soared—GM CEO Mary Barra made almost $29 million in 2022—but workers’ wages and benefits have not. Barra, for example, makes 362 times the median GM employee’s paycheck, while autoworkers’ pay has fallen behind inflation by 19%. 

The new UAW president, Shawn Fain, ran on a promise to demand a rollback of the 2007 concessions in this summer’s contract negotiations. He wants a cap on temporary workers, pay increases of more than 40% to match the salary increases of the CEOs, a 32-hour workweek, cost of living adjustments, and an elimination of the tier system. 

But his position is not just about autoworkers; it is about all U.S. workers. “Our fight is not just for ourselves but for every worker who is being undervalued, for every retiree who’s given their all and feels forgotten, and for every future worker who deserves a fair chance at a prosperous life,” Fain said. “[W]e are all fed up of living in a world that values profits over people. We’re all fed up with seeing the rich get richer while the rest of us continue to just scrape by. We’re all fed up with corporate greed. And together, we’re going to fight to change it.”

Fain has withheld an endorsement for President Biden out of concern that the transition to electric vehicles, which are easier to build than gas-powered vehicles, will hurt union jobs, and out of anger that the administration has offered incentives to non-union plants. That criticism created an opening for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to announce he would visit Detroit next week to show autoworkers that he has “always had their back,” in hopes of winning back the support of Rust Belt states.

But for all his talk of being pro-worker, Trump recently attacked Fain, saying “The autoworkers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump.” Autoworkers note that Trump and the justices he put on the Supreme Court have been anti-union, and that he packed the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees labor laws and union elections, with officials who reduced the power of workers to organize. Before he left office, Trump tried to burrow ten anti-labor activists into the Federal Service Impasses Panel, the panel in charge of resolving disputes between unions and federal agencies when they cannot resolve issues in negotiations. 

Fain recently said: “Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers.” 

President Biden prides himself on his pro-union credentials, and as soon as he took office, he fired Trump’s burrowed employees, prompting the head of the union representing 700,000 federal employees to thank Biden for his attempt to “restore basic fairness for federal workers.” He said, “The outgoing panel, appointed by the previous administration and stacked with transparently biased union-busters, was notorious for ignoring the law to gut workplace rights and further an extreme political agenda.”

Today, in the absence of a deal, the UAW expanded the strike to dozens more plants, and in a Facebook live stream, Fain invited “everyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line from our friends and families all the way up to the president of the United States.” Biden has generally expressed support for the UAW, saying that the automakers should share their record profits with their workers, but Fain rebuffed the president’s offer to send Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior advisor Gene Sperling to help with negotiations. 

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John Fetterman (D-PA) have both visited Michigan to meet with UAW workers, but it was nonetheless a surprise when the White House announced that the president will travel on Tuesday to Michigan, where he will, as he posted on X, “join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create. It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs.”

If President Biden is showing his support for the strong unions of the past, Vice President Kamala Harris is in charge of the future. The White House today announced the establishment of a National Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by the vice president. 

Lately, Harris has been taking the lead in embracing change and appealing to younger voters. On September 9 she hosted a celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of hip hop, and she is currently in the midst of a tour of college campuses to urge young people to vote. She has been the administration’s leading voice on issues of reproductive rights and equality before the law, issues at the top of concerns of young Americans. Now adding gun safety to that list, she is picking up yet another issue crucially important to young people. 

When 26-year-old Representative Maxwell Frost (D-FL) introduced the president today, he said that he got involved in politics because he “didn’t want to get shot in school.”

If the president and the vice president today seemed to represent the past and the future to carry the country forward, the present was also in the news today, and that story was about corruption and the parties’ different approaches to it.

ProPublica has published yet another piece about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s connections to wealthy donors. Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski reported that Thomas attended at least two donor summits hosted by the Koch family, acting as a fundraising draw for the Koch network, but did not disclose the flights he accepted, which should have been considered gifts, or the hospitality associated with the trips. His appearances were coordinated with the help of Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, who has been behind the court’s rightward swing.

The Koch family network funds a wide range of right-wing political causes. It has had interests in a number of cases before the Supreme Court during Thomas’s term, including an upcoming challenge to the government’s ability to regulate businesses—a principle the Koch enterprises oppose. 

Republicans have been defending Thomas’s behavior since these stories began to surface. 

Also in the corruption file today is Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who, along with his wife, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York on three counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion in connection with using his influence to advance the interests of Egypt. 

This is Menendez’s second legal go-round: in 2015 he was indicted on unrelated charges of bribery, trading political help for expensive plane flights and luxury vacations. Ten of the twelve members of the jury did not agree with the other two that he was guilty and after the hung jury meant a mistrial, the Department of Justice declined to retry the case. 

That the DOJ has indicted Menendez again on new charges undercuts Republicans’ insistence that the department has been weaponized to operate against them alone. And while Menendez insists he will fight the charges, he has lost his position at the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under the rules of the Democratic Conference, and New Jersey Democratic leaders have already called on him to resign.

“So a Democratic Senator is indicted on serious charges, and no Democrats attacking the Justice Department, no Democrats attacking the prosecutors, no Democrats calling for an investigation of the prosecution, and no Democrats calling to defund the Justice Department,” wrote former Republican representative from Illinois and now anti-Trump activist Joe Walsh. 

“Weird, huh?”

Biden’s Lead In New Hampshire

Simon Rosenberg

New CNN Poll in NH Has Biden Up Over Trump 52-40 – A new, large-sample CNN/University of New Hampshire poll has Biden up over Trump by 12 points, 52-40. For reference, Biden won the state in 2020 by 7 points, and Clinton won it by less than a point in 2016. It’s encouraging news, and another sign of that Democratic overperformance we’ve been seeing across the US since Dobbs. 

It’s also a reminder that in 2022 the election was not nationalized, and that there was a bluer election inside the battleground and a redder election outside. While Democrats lost ground in the national popular vote from 2020, we gained ground in many of the most important battleground states which saw ads and highly contested races – AZ, CO, GA, MI, MN, NH, PA. We got all the way up to 59% in CO, 57% in PA, 55% in MI, 54% in NH. Part of the reason so many commentators got the election wrong last time was due to this lack of nationalization. National polling just wasn’t able to capture these strong Dem gains in the battleground, something that may be happening again this year. 

In my writing I’ve argued that the battleground has gotten much harder for Trump because of our strong showing there last year. It appears to be true in this NH poll – let’s see what other states show in the coming months. Will be interesting to see if national media orgs start doing state by state general election polling given that the Republican primary appears to be largely settled. 

As of right now there are only seven 2024 Presidential battleground states – AZ, GA, MI, NC, NV, PA, WI. It’s possible the map changes as we go deeper into the election but for now this is it. It remains remarkable that in this huge country so few people will experience a full on Presidential campaign. I have long worried that the narrowness of the Presidential map has contributed to the distance many Americans feel to Washington, and to politics more broadly. It’s just not healthy that so few Americans get to really be part of the campaign to pick their President. But here we are, and this NH poll is a great way to end the week.