Putin, Kim Jong Un, & Trump – What A Threesome

Heather Cox Richardson

First, a follow-up to last night’s letter on foreign affairs: Russian president Vladimir Putin visited North Korea today for a meeting with leader Kim Jong Un, who greeted his visitor personally as he got off the plane. Putin is looking for more weapons for his war on Ukraine. U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby expressed concern about “the deepening relationship between these two countries.”

At home, news broke on Saturday that Paul Pressler, a major leader of the Southern Baptist Convention and a key Republican activist, died on June 7 at age 94. In 1967, Pressler, a Texas judge, and Paige Patterson, a seminary student, met in New Orleans to plan a takeover of the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., to rid it of liberals, purging those who believed in abortion rights, women’s rights, and gay rights. By 1979 their candidate was elected head of the organization, and in the 1980s, Southern Baptists, who then numbered about 15 million people, were active in politics and were staunch supporters of the Republican Party. 

In Robert Downen’s obituary of Pressler for the Texas Tribune, he notes that as Pressler’s influence in the Republican Party grew, he also allegedly groped, solicited, or raped at least six men, including one who said he was 14 when Pressler first sexually abused him. Pressler denied the allegations, but he and the Southern Baptist Convention settled a lawsuit brought by that accuser just last December. A 2019 investigation by the Houston Chronicleand San Antonio Express-News inspired by that lawsuit found more than 400 Southern Baptist church leaders or volunteers had been charged with sex crimes since 2000.

In March 2021 the hugely popular leader Beth Moore, herself a survivor of sexual assault, left the church, saying, “You have betrayed your women.” That May, Russell Moore (no relation to Ms. Moore) left the church leadership and then, the following month, left the church itself over its handling of sexual abuse allegations and racism. A 2022 report on the church and sex abuse was so damning that Russell Moore wrote: “I was wrong to call sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention…a crisis. Crisis is too small a word. It is an apocalypse.” The investigation, he says, “uncovers a reality far more evil and systematic than I imagined it could be.” 

The patriarchal model of society embraced by the Republican Party in the 1980s enabled the sorts of abuse uncovered in the Southern Baptist Convention, but Pressler’s death suggests that the era might be ending. Today, Robert Morris, the pastor of Texas megachurch Gateway Church, resigned after news broke on Friday that a woman has accused him of sexually abusing her for several years in the 1980s beginning when she was 12. 

The Reagan Republican model started from the proposition that the best way to serve the public good was to slash taxes and regulations because that would enable the very wealthy to accumulate capital that they would then invest more efficiently in the economy, making it grow faster than it ever could when government investments warped markets. Theoretically, this would help everyone.

Former president Trump and MAGA Republicans are still advancing that plan. Trump has promised to cut taxes yet again if he is reelected and has suggested replacing them with tariffs, which are essentially taxes levied on imported goods and then passed on to the consumer. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation, which is the major organization behind Project 2025, has called for raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits because of future shortfalls in the program’s financing. 

But in 2024 the media is noting ahead of time that Trump’s vow to abolish the income tax and replace it with higher tariffs would raise taxes for a typical American family by $5,000 while raising the incomes of the wealthiest Americans.

And while the Heritage Foundation dismisses out of hand the idea of raising taxes, the Biden administration has noted that we are on the cusp of a generational opportunity to reorient the U.S. tax system. 

Yesterday, National Economic Council Deputy Director Daniel Hornung used the Trump tax cuts to skewer the larger argument that tax cuts help everyone. He pointed out that the 2017 Trump tax cuts failed on their own terms. Proponents of those cuts said they would benefit mainly ordinary Americans; instead, the bill gave those in the top 1% a tax cut more than 50 times higher than the cut that fell to middle-income households. Meanwhile, corporations used their tax savings on stock buybacks, dividends, and executive pay. No wage gains trickled down to the bottom 90% of workers.

Furthermore, the proponents of the Trump tax cuts said they would double or triple the economic growth rate. Instead, real GDP and fixed investment stayed at about the same rate as they had been before the tax cuts. Similarly, those behind the bill said it would increase revenues and pay for itself; instead, revenues fell and the deficit increased. 

Hornung notes that Republicans want to continue this system, but the Biden administration wants to scrap it in favor of a system that would be “more fair, promoting economic opportunity and work and eliminating preferences for wealth,” and that would raise enough revenue to fund critical national priorities, like Social Security. 

The administration would like to see higher taxes on the less than 5% of American households with an income of more than $400,000 a year and on corporations. In addition, it is calling for using the tax code to support middle-class families and those in need, including by restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit, which cut child poverty nearly in half in 2021. 

Yesterday, officials from the Treasury Department said they were cracking down on the ability of businesses and the wealthy to manipulate the value of their assets to lower their taxes. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo estimated that the crackdown should yield about $50 billion in the next decade. 

The struggle to resurrect a government that works for ordinary people rather than concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few was on display in President Biden’s announcement today that, in the absence of congressional legislation, he is trying to streamline the process of applying for U.S. citizenship for certain undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens, allowing them to apply for legal permanent residency without leaving the country. 

Two weeks ago, Biden announced executive actions to bar undocumented immigrants from claiming asylum when the seven-day average of undocumented crossings is above 2,500 people. At the same time the administration is trying to stop undocumented immigration, it is also trying to make getting permanent residency easier for legal immigrants. 

Currently, in order to apply for legal residency, an undocumented person has to leave the United States, leaving jobs and family, and to hope for a chance to come back in. Now people who have lived in the U.S. for at least ten years and are legally married to a U.S. citizen can apply without leaving first. So can those who were brought here as children who have earned a degree at an accredited U.S. institution of higher learning in the United States and who have received a job offer from a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree. 

This rule will affect about 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens and about 50,000 noncitizen children under the age of 21 whose parent is married to a U.S. citizen. It will affect 50,000 to 100,000 “Dreamers.” 

“We’re a nation of immigrants,” Biden said as he announced the order. “That’s who we are.”

Happy Juneteenth

Similar n Rosenberg

Reflections on Freedom And The Conflict We Are In – As Juneteenth is still a new holiday, I’m not sure I’ve given it the reflection and study it so clearly deserves. So let me speak to this profound holiday by sharing my close to our most recent gathering of Hopium paid subscribers. It is video above. In it I talk about FDR’s establishment of freedom as the founding value of the modern world, and of the modern Democratic Party; and how this ongoing struggle between freedom and dominion over another has become once again the defining struggle of our time. 

I also reflect this morning, sorrowfully, on the Party of Lincoln’s historic choice to respond to the Civil Rights era in the 1960s by abandoning it’s central mission of racial reconciliation and adopting a politics of exploitation of white racial fear. That decision, the purposeful adoption of what became known as the Southern Strategy, is, in retrospect, one of the great tragedies in American history. 

So while we celebrate freedom and Juneteenth today, we also must mourn the loss of the Party of Lincoln to some of the most virulent racists and xenophobes in American history. As I discuss in my talk above, we are here now, in an extraordinary fight for freedom against forces who champion dominion, and we all understand that victory is our only option. That’s why we are here at Hopium, why we do the work. For the stakes are high, and simply, freedom must once again prevail. 

The Complexity Of Foreign Policy Is On Display At The G-7 Summit

Heather Cox Richardson

Leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) met for their fiftieth summit in Italy from June 13 to June 15. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States formed the G7 in 1975 as a forum for democracies with advanced economies to talk about political and economic issues. The European Union is also part of the forum, and this June, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky also attended.

This summit was a particularly fraught one. When it took office, the Biden-Harris administration, along with the State Department under Secretary of State Antony Blinken, set out to reshape global power structures not only in light of Trump’s attempt to abandon international alliances and replace them with transactional deals, but also in light of a larger change in international affairs. 

In a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in September 2023, Blinken explained that the end of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had promised a new era of peace and stability, with more international cooperation and political freedom. But while that period did, in fact, lift more than a billion people out of poverty, eradicate deadly diseases, and create historic lows in conflicts between state actors, it also gave rise to authoritarians determined to overthrow the international rules-based order. 

At the same time, non-state actors—international corporations; non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that provide services to hundreds of millions of people across the globe; terrorists who can inflict catastrophic harm; and transnational criminal organizations that traffic illegal drugs, weapons, and human beings—have growing influence.

Forging international cooperation has become more and more complex, Blinken explained, at the same time that global problems are growing: the climate crisis, food insecurity, mass migration and mass displacement of populations, as well as the potential for new pandemics. In the midst of all this pressure, “many countries are hedging their bets.” 

They have lost faith in the international economic order, as a handful of governments have distorted the markets to gain unfair advantage while technology and globalization have hollowed out communities and inequality has skyrocketed. “Between 1980 and 2020,” Blinken noted, “the richest .1 percent accumulated the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent.” Those who feel the system is unfair are exacerbating the other drivers of political polarization. 

These developments have undermined the post–Cold War political order, Blinken said. “One era is ending, a new one is beginning, and the decisions that we make now will shape the future for decades to come.”

In his inaugural address on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden vowed to “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.” Saying that “America’s alliances are our greatest asset” just weeks later at the State Department, the president and officers in the administration set out to rebuild alliances that had fallen into disrepair under Trump. They reinforced the international bodies that upheld a rules-based international order, bodies like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) organized in 1947 to stand against Soviet aggression and now a bulwark against Russian aggression. They began the process of rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, both of which Trump had abandoned. 

Officials also worked to make international bodies more representative by, for example, welcoming into partnerships the African Union and Indonesia. They also broadened cooperation, as Blinken said, to “work with any country—including those with whom we disagree on important issues—so long as they want to deliver for their citizens, contribute to solving shared challenges, and uphold the international norms that we built together.”

At home, they worked to erase the “bright line” between foreign and domestic policy, investing in policies to bring jobs back to the U.S. both to restore the economic fairness they identified as important to democracy and to stabilize the supply chains that the pandemic had revealed to be a big national security threat. 

On April 28, 2021, in his first address to a joint session of Congress,  President Biden said he had told world leaders that “America is back.” But they responded: “[F]or how long?”  

That question was the backdrop to the G7 summit. Trump has said he will abandon international alliances, including NATO, in favor of a transactional foreign policy. He supports Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attempt to replace the rules-based international order with the idea that might makes right and that any strong country can grab the land of weaker states. 

Earlier this month, Biden used the occasion of the commemoration ceremonies around the 80th anniversary of D-Day to reinforce the international rules-based order and U.S. leadership in that system. On June 4, before Biden left for France, Massimo Calabresi published an interview with Biden in Time magazine in which Calabresi noted that the past 40 months have tested Biden’s vision. Russia reinvaded Ukraine in February 2022, and Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023. Putin is trying to create “an axis of autocrats,” as Calabresi puts it, including the leaders of China and Iran, the state that is backing the non-state actors Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis of Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon in order to destabilize Israel and the Arab states. China is threatening Taiwan. 

Calabresi pointed out that Biden has responded to these threats by shoring up NATO and welcoming to it Finland and Sweden, with their powerful militaries. His support has enabled Ukraine to decimate the Russian military, which has lost at least 87% of the 360,000 troops it had when it attacked Ukraine in February 2022, thus dramatically weakening a nation seen as a key foe in 2021. He has kept the war in Gaza from spreading into a regional conflict and has forced Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, although the Palestinian death toll has continued to mount as Netanyahu has backed devastating attacks on Gaza. Biden’s comprehensive deal in the Middle East—an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages held by Hamas, a big increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza, and an enduring end to the crisis with the security of both Israelis and Palestinians assured—has yet to materialize.

In Italy the leaders at the G7 summit stood firm behind Biden’s articulated vision, saying that the G7 “is grounded in a shared commitment to respect the U.N. Charter, promote international peace and security, and uphold the free and open rules-based international order.” On hot-button issues, the G7 backed Biden’s Middle East deal and support for Ukraine, agreeing to transfer $50 billion to Ukraine from the interest earned on Russian assets frozen in the European Union and elsewhere. 

The Biden administration announced additional economic sanctions to isolate Russia even more from the international financial system. At the summit, on June 13, 2024, Presidents Biden and Zelensky signed a ten-year bilateral security agreement that commits the U.S. to supporting Ukraine with a wide range of military assistance but, unlike the NATO membership Ukraine wants, does not require that the U.S. send troops. The agreement is legally binding, but it is not a treaty ratified by the Senate. If he is reelected, Trump could end the agreement.

Immediately after the G7 summit, world leaders met in Switzerland for the Summit on Peace in Ukraine, held on June 15 and 16. Ukraine called the summit in hopes of persuading major countries from the global south to join and isolate Russia, but the group had to be content with demonstrating their own support for Ukraine. Vice President Kamala Harris, who attended the summit, today posted: “The more than 90 nations that gathered at the Summit on Peace in Ukraine hold a diverse range of views on global challenges and opportunities. We don’t always agree. But when it comes to Putin’s unprovoked, unjustified war—there is unity and solidarity in support of Ukraine and international rules and norms.”

Earlier this month, Finnish software and methodologies company Check First released a report exposing “a large-scale, cross-country, multi-platform disinformation campaign designed to spread pro-Russian propaganda in the West, with clear indicators of foreign interference and information manipulation.” The primary goal of “Operation Overload” is to overwhelm newsrooms and fact-checkers and spread “the Kremlin’s political agenda.” 

Foreign affairs journalist Anne Applebaum told Bill Kristol of The Bulwark that China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea do not share an ideology, but “they do share a common interest, and the common interest is undermining…America, Europe, the liberal world, the democratic world.” They do this, she said, because the oppositions in their own countries are inspired by and use the democratic language of freedom and liberty and rights and rule of law, and leaders need to undermine that language to hold onto power. They also recognize that chaos and uncertainty give them business opportunities in the West. Disrupting democracies by feeding radicalism makes the democratic world lose its sense of community and solidarity.

When it does that, Applebaum notes, it loses its ability to stand up to autocrats. 

Tough New Biden Ad, My Interview With Anderson Clayton, Check and Checkmate

The 1st Debate Is 10 Days Away, Early Voting Begin in 3 Months – Let’s Make June Count! 

SIMON ROSENBERG

JUN 17

Happy Monday all. Got a few things for you today: 

Tough New Biden Ad – The Biden-Harris campaign has launched a powerful new ad in the battlegrounds, “Character Matters.” Please watch, and share aggressively through your networks: 

From the campaign’s press release this morning: 

Today, Team Biden-Harris is announcing a historic $50 million paid media campaign targeting voters in battleground states for the month of June alone, as part of its aggressive and comprehensive efforts to engage and activate the voters who will decide this election. The campaign includes historic, seven-figure investments into reaching Black, Latino, and AANHPI voters – the largest investments to date.

Just over a week before the first presidential debate, the campaign is releasing a new ad that lays out the choice Americans will see on the debate stage on June 27 between President Biden, who is fighting for the American people every day, and convicted felon Donald Trump who is fighting for himself.

Character Matters,” reminds voters who Donald Trump is: a criminal convicted on 34 felony counts and found liable for sexual assault and financial fraud. The ad makes clear that Trump’s status as a convicted felon isn’t just a label – it’s a reflection of a spiraling and unhinged man who will do anything for power, revenge, and retribution. “Character Matters” draws a sharp and startling contrast to President Biden who is focused on improving the lives of hardworking Americans, lowering costs, and taking on corporate greed, forcing big corporations to pay their fair share.

As a part of the June $50 million paid media campaign, “Character Matters” will run on general market television and Connected TV in all battleground states and on national cable.

“Trump approaches the first debate as a convicted felon who continues to prove that he will do anything and harm anyone if it means more power and vengeance for Donald Trump,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Communications Director Michael Tyler. “That’s why he was convicted, that’s why he encouraged a violent mob to storm the Capitol on January 6, and it’s why his entire campaign is an exercise in revenge and retribution; because that man is blind to the people a president should be serving and will do absolutely anything for his own personal gain and for his own power.

“Character matters, and the President of the United States should be someone who understands that the highest office in the land is about you and your family – not a vehicle to enrich yourself. That is the ethos Joe Biden puts into the job every day: to fight for safer communities, for the middle class, and to ensure that corporations are paying their fair share. It’s a stark contrast, and it’s one that matters deeply to the American people. And it’s why we will make sure that every single day we are reminding voters about how Joe Biden is fighting for them, while Donald Trump runs a campaign focused on one man and one man only: himself.”

It’s great to see the campaign leaning into “The Choice” we’ve been discussing here, and fighting to make this critical month of June, when so many people are beginning to tune into the election, count. To recap, we had a good week last week.  As I wrote Thursday there is evidence now the election may be turning bluer – 5 credible national polls in the past week showed movement of 2-4 points for Biden. We also had another strong Dem overperformance in a House special election, and thankfully the European right dramatically underperformed public polls last week, as our right has been doing for several years now. The jobs report a week ago blew past expectations, and last week we learned that inflation was zero in May and prices of many items are falling. Joe Biden is a good President, the country is clearly better off today. 

Finally, the impulsive Idiot in Chief acted all crazy and blew his meeting with CEOs, and trashed the city in the battleground state where Republicans are having their convention in a few weeks. Great work Donald!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We had a good week last week. Let’s make this one even better.

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Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media – In a NYT Op-ed today, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for warning labels on social media. As someone who has written frequently about our “degraded information environment” I enthusiastically endorse this proposal and will be encouraging Congress to act upon on it in the coming days.

One of the most important lessons I learned in medical school was that in an emergency, you don’t have the luxury to wait for perfect information. You assess the available facts, you use your best judgment, and you act quickly.

The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency — and social media has emerged as an important contributor. Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms, and the average daily use in this age group, as of the summer of 2023, was 4.8 hours. Additionally, nearly half of adolescents say social media makes them feel worse about their bodies.

It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents. A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe. Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior. When asked if a warning from the surgeon general would prompt them to limit or monitor their children’s social media use, 76 percent of people in one recent survey of Latino parents said yes.

To be clear, a warning label would not, on its own, make social media safe for young people. The advisory I issued a year ago about social media and young people’s mental health included specific recommendations for policymakers, platforms and the public to make social media safer for kids. Such measures, which already have strong bipartisan support, remain the priority.

Legislation from Congress should shield young people from online harassment, abuse and exploitation and from exposure to extreme violence and sexual content that too often appears in algorithm-driven feeds. The measures should prevent platforms from collecting sensitive data from children and should restrict the use of features like push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll, which prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.

For more on my thoughts about the “degraded information environment” and the need to have a clear national strategy to restore greater information integrity to our discourse, listen to this really compelling new Deep State Radio podcast with me, Tara McGowan and David Rothkopf. 

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Making June Count – My Interview With Anderson Clayton, The Dynamic, Inspiring Chair of the NC Democratic Party – Today I am re-releasing the interview I did with the great Anderson Clayton a few months ago. It is above. I had never entered it into the new Substack video system, something I needed to do to make it easier for you to watch and share. So if you haven’t watched, please do. Anderson is a very important new leader for Democrats, and I am really happy with the early and aggressive support we’ve provided her and the NC Dems this year. As part of that support I’ll be heading to Raleigh on July 20th for the big NC Dem Unity Dinner. More details on that soon. 

As of this morning, we’ve now raised over $500,000 for our Hopium-backed candidates and states in just the past 4 weeks. It’s amazing, impressive, huge! Thank you all. Together, we are making a real difference in this election, and for our country.

Watch our new interviews with Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane KleebJanelle Bynum (OR-5) and George Whitesides (CA-27). Learn more about the “Check and Checkmate”strategy driving these recommendations. We are making serious progress towards our June 30th make June count fundraising goals. Note that in just a few weeks we’ve already blown past our original Winning The House goal and are now shooting for a new $400,000 stretch goal: 

Thank you all! Our community of proud patriots and information warriors just keeps bringing it day after day after day. So inspired by your passion, grit, determination and willingness to leave it all out there on the playing field for this great country. 

10% Off Annual Hopium Membership in June – As a token of my gratitude for all that you are doing, I’m now offering a 10% discount on annual paid subscriptions for new subscribers through the end of the month. Click on this link to subscribe today. On that link you can also purchase gift or group subscriptions for others you’d like bring into the Hopium community. If you signed up as a paid subscriber in the first half of last year and want to make sure your paid subscription is current and up to date check be sure to visit here

My stretch goal is to get to 10,000 paid subscribers by June 30th – we are over 9,350 today – which will put Hopium in a financial place to close this election strong. Thanks to all of you who have stepped up and become a paid subscriber in recent days – you are making June count! 

June Events, Hopium Hits The Road – I’ve added some new events to the schedule – check ‘em out! Note there is an “Upcoming Events” tab on the Hopium website’s navigation bar where you can always find our latest schedule.

  • Wed, June 19th, 1pm ET – With Democrats, Things Get Better – Register here. Hopium’s signature presentation, a 25 minuet deep dive on American politics since the Cold War ended and a new age of globalization began. It tells a simple but powerful story – when Democrats are in the White House, things get better in America. When Republicans are we get recessions, higher deficits and American decline.
  • Thur, June 20, 5pm CT – I’ll be in Madison, Wisconsin for an in-person at a Wisconsin Democratic Party Fundraising event with the great WI Dem Chair Ben Wikler. Please register and donate here. Excited to be heading back into the 2024 battlegrounds, and looking forward to seeing members of the Hopium community too!
  • Tues, June 25, 730pm ET – The monthly Zoom gathering of the entire Hopium Chronicles community – Register here.
  • Thur, June 27 – 1st Presidential Debate on CNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Sat, June 29 – I’ll be speaking in person at Network NOVA’s 8th Annual Women’s Summit in Tyson’s Corner, VA – More info, register. One of my favorite events of the year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Port of Baltimore Opens Thanks To The Biden Administration While Trump Seeks Revenge For His Corrupt Behavior

Heather Cox Richardson

The Port of Baltimore reopened yesterday, fewer than 100 days after a container ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, collapsing it into the channel. The port is a major shipping hub, especially for imports and exports of cars and light trucks—about 750,000 vehicles went through it in 2022. It is also the nation’s second-biggest exporter of coal. In 2023 it moved a record-breaking $80 billion worth of foreign cargo. 

After the crash, the administration rushed support to the site, likely in part to emphasize that under Democrats, government really can get things done efficiently, as Democratic Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro demonstrated in June 2023 when he oversaw the reopening of a collapsed section of I-95 in just 12 days. Reopening the Port of Baltimore required salvage workers, divers, crane operators, and mariners to clear more than 50,000 tons of steel.

Yesterday, at the reopening, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg noted the “whole of government” response. State leadership under Maryland governor Wes Moore worked with those brought together by the Unified Command set up under the National Response System to coordinate the responses of the local government, state government, federal government, and those responsible for the crisis to make them as effective and efficient as possible; the Coast Guard; the Army Corps of Engineers; the first responders; and the port workers. 

Buttigieg noted that the response team had engaged all the stakeholders in the process, including truck drivers and trucking companies, trade associations, and agricultural producers. He gave credit for that ability to the administration’s establishment of the White House Supply Chains Disruptions Task Force, which, he said, “put us in a strong place to mitigate the disruptions to our supply chain and economy.”  

Clearing the channel was possible thanks to an immediate down payment of $60 million from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The department estimates that rebuilding the bridge will cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion. President Joe Biden has said he wants the federal government to fund that rebuilding as it quickly did in 2007, when a bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed. Within a week of that collapse, Congress unanimously passed a measure to fund rebuilding the bridge, and President George W. Bush signed it into law. But now some Republicans are balking at Biden’s request, saying that lawmakers should simply take the money that has been appropriated for things like electric vehicles, or wait until insurance money comes in from the shipping companies. 

Meanwhile, former president Trump traveled to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the January 6, 2021, riots. Passing protesters holding signs that said things like “Democracy Forever, Trump Never,” Trump met first with Republican lawmakers from the House and then with Republican senators, who, according to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), gave him “a lot of standing ovations.” Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called it “bring your felon to work day.” 

Republicans billed the visit as a brainstorming session about Trump’s 2025 agenda, but no discussions of plans have emerged, only generalities and the sort of cheery grandstanding McConnell provided. The meeting, along with a press appearance at which Trump made a short speech but did not take questions before shaking a lot of Republican hands, appeared to be an attempt to overwrite the news of his conviction by indicating he is popular in Congress.

The news that has gotten traction is Trump’s statement that Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Republicans are holding their convention in July, is a “horrible city.” Republicans are trying hard to spin this comment as a misunderstanding, but their many different attempts to explain it away—as meaning crime, or elections, or Pere Marquette Park (!)—seem more likely to reinforce the comment than distract from it. 

Indeed, it’s possible that the agenda had more to do with Trump than with the nation. Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets reported today that Trump’s political operation spent more than $20 million on lawyers in the first four months of 2024, and Rachel Bade of Politico reported hours before the House meeting that Trump has been obsessed with using the powers of Congress to fight for him and to, as she puts it, “go to war against the Democrats he accuses of ‘weaponizing’ the justice system against him.” 

Bade said that after his May 30 conviction by a unanimous jury on 34 criminal counts, Trump immediately called House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), insisting in a profanity-laden rant that “We have to overturn this.” Johnson is sympathetic but has too slim a House majority to deliver as much fire as both would like, especially since vulnerable Republicans aren’t eager to weaponize the nation’s lawmaking body for Trump. 

As David Kurtz of Talking Points Memoexplained this morning, House Republicans “are already advancing Trump’s campaign of retribution.” Yesterday they voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress and recommended his prosecution for refusing to hand over an audio recording of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden. Biden, who was not charged over his retention of classified documents as vice president, has provided a transcript of the interview but has exerted executive privilege over the recording.

The demand for the audio is particularly galling, considering that Biden voluntarily testified while Trump refused to be interviewed by either special counsel Robert Mueller or special counsel Jack Smith. But Biden has a well-known stutter, and having hours of testimony in his own voice might offer something that could be chopped up for political ads. 

Indeed, former Republican representative Ken Buck (R-CO) acknowledged that Republicans are “just looking for something for political purposes,” and House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) sent out a fundraising appeal promising that the audio recording “could be the final blow to Biden with swing voters across the country.” 

White House Counsel Edward Siskel wrote to Comer and Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) saying that the administration “has sought to work in good faith with Congress.” It released Hur’s long report editorializing on Biden’s mental acuity without redacting it, allowed Hur to testify publicly for more than five hours, and provided transcripts, emails, and documents. “The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal,” Siskel wrote, “to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes.”

The attack on Garland, journalist Kurtz notes, continues the steady stream of disinformation the House Republicans have been producing through their “investigations” and impeachment hearings and press conferences. 

In the Senate, six MAGA Republicans demonstrated their support for Trump by threatening to block Biden’s key nominees in protest of the New York jury’s conviction of Trump, although they are trying to frame the convictions as “the current administration’s persecution of” Trump. The senators are J. D. Vance (R-OH), Mike Lee (R-UT), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Eric Schmitt (R-MO). 

While MAGA Republicans show their reverence for Trump, Democrats are working to get them on the record on issues the American people care about. 

Today, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a vote on whether to advance a bill that would provide federal protection for in vitro fertilization (IVF), an infertility treatment in which a human egg is fertilized outside the body and then placed in a human uterus for gestation. IVF is popular: a March poll by CBS News/YouGov found that 86% of Americans think it should be legal, while only 14% think it should be illegal. But the white evangelical Christians who make up the Republicans’ base are increasingly demanding that the nation’s laws recognize “fetal personhood,” the idea that a fertilized egg has the full rights of a living human. This would end all abortion, of course, as well as birth control that prevents implantation, such as IUDs and Plan B. And, if fertilized eggs are fully human, it would also end IVF because the procedure often results in some fertilized eggs being damaged or discarded. 

This is a vote Republicans did not want to take because voting to protect IVF will infuriate their base and voting to end it will infuriate the 86% of Americans who support it. So they tried to get around it by signing a statement noting that IVF is legal and that they “strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF.” While it is true that IVF is currently legal, the Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that frozen embryos should be considered unborn children and their destruction could be prosecuted under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. In the wake of that decision, two of Alabama’s eight fertility clinics paused their IVF treatments. 

In today’s vote, all but three Republicans voted against taking up the bill protecting IVF. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in favor of it; Eric Schmitt of Missouri did not vote. All the Democrats voted in favor, although Schumer changed his vote to a “no” so he could bring the vote up again later. 

Regarding the difference between the statement and the votes, Leah Greenberg of Indivisible posted: “Who are you gonna believe, me or my voting record?”

In another window onto the future of reproductive rights, the Supreme Court today unanimously decided that the antiabortion groups trying to get the drug mifepristone banned did not have standing to bring the case. This preserves access to mifepristone, commonly used to induce medical abortions, but as legal observers point out, the court ruled only on standing, meaning that others, who do have standing, could bring a similar case. 

This afternoon, Biden posted: “Kamala and I stand with the majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. And our commitment to you is that we will not back down from ensuring women in every state get the care they need.”

And so, going into the 2024 election, the question of abortion is on the table

Revenge Culture Promoted By Trump And His Tribe

Timothy Snyder

Yale History Professor

Modern revenge culture, explained by Mrs. and Mr. Alito

We have the rule of law so as not to have a culture of revenge.

For much of human history, it was an eye for an eye, as we read in the Bible. In a revenge culture, a chieftain decides who is to blame, and the shamans explain how the blood and chaos is just and necessary.

In the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus and Euripides, the grand problem is escaping from reciprocal violence within and among families. In early discussions of European law, in Icelandic sagas or in the Primary Chronicle of Kyivan Rus, an incipient government regulates revenge, so that it does not continue indefintely. 

The rule of law is a solution: if we are all equal subjects of law, then we plead our case before a court, rather than seek after blood. A constitution, like ours, gives flesh to this conception. It might not be perfect: when it is not, we interpret it in the spirit of equality and non-violence rather than grievance and violence. No one can be above the law, and no one can be the judge in their own case. A constitutional order will depend upon judges who understands these fundamental ideas.

The other day, Mrs. Alito gave us a good exhibition of revenge culture: “I’m German. I’m German. My heritage is German. You come after me, I’m going to give it back to you. And there will be a way. It doesn’t have to be now. But there will be a way – they will know.” Those remarks about the delights of revenge related to her choice to fly an insurrectionist flag after Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow American constitutional order in January 2021.

The political theory of Trump’s coup attempt is that all that matters is the chieftain. He does not have to win an election, because the chieftain has the right to rule simply because he is the chieftain. Requiring Trump to win an election is thus a provocation. The claim that he should leave office when he loses an election justifies revenge. And of course retribution is Trump’s platform.

The legal theory of Trump’s coup attempt, made explicit in argument before the Supreme Court, is that the chieftain is immune to law. There is magic around the chieftain’s person, such that he need respond only to himself. The words “presidential immunity” are an incantation directed to directed to people in black robes, summoning them to act as the chieftain’s shamans and confirm his magical status.

Some of the people in black robes, Supreme Court justices, like being shamans. Our shamans are allowed to take bribes from those who support the chieftain, and also allowed to claim that as magicians, people unlike others, they are unaffected by them. If there is any doubt, our shamans tell us, they can be trusted to be judges in their own case.

Shamans thus installed will protect their chieftain, and surround him with their magical aura. Unlike other courts, the Supreme Court can make things up as it goes along, and there has been a good deal of that lately, especially on the part of Mr. Alito. Its members can claim fidelity to the words of the Constitution, then cast all that aside when the chieftain is threatened.

To contemplate “presidential immunity,” as the shamans are now doing, is to cast aside the rule of law and summon up the ghost of revenge culture. It is constitutionally ridiculous to say that the person whose responsibility is to execute the laws is above them. 

But the problem is deeper than that. If any individual is untouched by law, that individual can be expected to shift the entire society back towards revenge. Trump openly affirms this. His entire platform is retribution — retribution against others for the crime that he himself committed. Once we replace law with revenge, there will be no way to hold him back. And, as we know from experience, revenge culture quickly spreads. As we know from history, it takes on a certain political form.

Mrs. Alito affirmed revenge culture as a German way of doing things. The context was America’s Reichstag fire, Trump’s attempted coup of January 2021. She flew the insurrectionist flag, defending the chieftain’s Big Lie, and his magical claim to keep power regardless of reality and constitutional order.

The fascist attitude towards law was a modernization of the notion that the chieftain, the shamans, and the enemy who is to be attacked for our own crimes. For the Nazis, this was the natural order to be restored. Because a constitutional order already existed, part of the restoration of revenge culture had to be carried out by the judges themselves.

Nazi legal theorists argued that politics was a matter of defining the enemy and choosing a side. The rule of law was to yield to a special sort unrule, in which the chieftain defined politics by choosing an enemy to be blamed for his own crimes. Law would be whatever shielded the chieftain as he divided society, in what the Nazi legal theorists would then describe as a natural struggle for power.

Following the Nazi logic, sitting judges would reverse their previous role in a constitutional order, covering up the transformation with legalistic language. They would accept their role by warping law so that it served the chieftain, defining an us-and-them, rather than protecting everyone.

As a judge put it: “one side or the other is going to win.”

That was Mr. Alito.

Strong Economy

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON

JUN 12

“We’re producing more energy than ever before in this nation. We have the strongest economy in the world, and we are beating China for the first time in decades. More people went to work this morning in America than at any other time in our nation’s history. So I’ve got a message to Donald Trump and all his negativity and his whining: Stop sh*t talking America. This is the greatest country on earth, and it’s time that we all start acting like it.”

Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro’s words to Jen Psaki on MSNBC yesterday illustrated that Democrats are flipping the script on the MAGA Republicans. 

Since he decided to run for president in 2015, almost exactly nine years ago, Trump’s narrative has been that the United States is in terrible decline and that only he can “make America great again.” In his speech announcing his candidacy on that June day in 2015, he claimed that “our country is in serious trouble” and complained that China, Japan, and Mexico were all “beating” the U.S. and “laughing at us, at our stupidity…. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” he said before launching into the idea that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists across the border. “Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger…, and we as a country are getting weaker,” he said. “Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.”

Trump claimed—falsely—that the nation’s gross domestic product was below zero, that the labor participation rate was “the worst since 1978,” that unemployment was between 18 and 20 percent, and that while Obamacare was “amazingly destructive,” he would replace it with something cheaper and better. 

Trump continued this theme of decline and what he called “American carnage” in his inaugural address. He described “[m]others and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our Nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

Trump initially seemed to blame inept politicians and bureaucrats for what he claimed was America’s decline, assuring the audience at his 2015 campaign announcement: “Well, you need somebody, because politicians are all talk, no action. Nothing’s gonna get done. They will not bring us—believe me—to the promised land. They will not.” But when then–FBI director James Comey refused to drop the investigation into the relationship between Russian operatives and the 2016 Trump campaign, Trump and his loyalists began to warn of a secretive “deep state” that was working to undermine Trump and, with him, the nation. 

Trump’s narrative that he is the true defender of the United States, under attack by dark forces, maps beautifully over white evangelical narratives of religious decline. Trump continued that storyline even after voters turned him out of the White House, insisting that a nefarious conspiracy of Democrats, undocumented immigrants, and foreigners stole the election from him. 

The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol estimated that Trump raised $250 million in donations from supporters for an “election defense fund” to pay the legal fees to overturn the results of the 2020 election. But the Trump team never actually set up that fund. Instead, the money went to the Save America political action committee founded and controlled by Trump, and from there the money went to Trump loyalists and pro-Trump organizations.

And therein lies a key reason for Trump’s story of an apocalyptic America: describing the nation as a hellhole that only he can fix also maps over a common pattern of American grifters. So long as supporters send him money, he claims, they will be able to defend the country against dark forces: communists, Marxists, atheists, immigrants, pedophiles, feminists—just what the dark forces are matters far less than that they are a foil for the grifter. 

When Trump made that argument in 2015, it was not all that far-fetched. Economists estimate that the supply-side economics of the past 40 years had shifted $50 trillion dollars from the bottom 90% of Americans to the top 1%, hollowing out the middle class. Schools had been chronically underfunded, and the opioid epidemic, which began in 1999, was claiming more than 10,000 Americans a year (a number that has continued to rise ever since). And by weaponizing the filibuster and gerrymandering states, Republicans had made it extraordinarily difficult for Congress to accomplish anything that would address these issues.

When Biden took office, he was in the unusual position of signing executive orders to establish policies that were not unpopular, like Trump‘s, but that were extraordinarily popular. This began the process of showing that the government could, in fact, represent the people. 

Then, thanks to the election of Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in a runoff election on January 6, 2021—that was the seismic shift of January 6, 2021, that is often forgotten—the Democrats continued to demonstrate that the government could work for the people. They passed the American Rescue Plan to shore up the U.S. economy after the pandemic shutdowns, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to rebuild roads and bridges and improve broadband access, the CHIPS and Science Act to promote semiconductor manufacturing, the Inflation Reduction Act to invest in climate change mitigation and permit the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices, and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to close loopholes in gun purchases.  

Those changes have created a roaring economy with an unemployment rate that has just last month ticked up to 4% after 27 months below that number, with wages growing faster than the inflation that plagued the U.S.—and the world—after the pandemic eased. The highest wage growth has gone to the lowest earners, helping to cut the nation’s extreme wealth inequality.

That booming economy might be partly what’s behind another significant change: for all that Trump and MAGA Republicans still talk about Democratic cities as hellholes, the FBI yesterday released a report showing that violent crime in fact dropped by more than 15% in the U.S. during the first three months of 2024.  As Jim Sciutto of CNN pointed out today, “Murders fell 26.4% and rapes decreased by 25.7%. Aggravated assaults decreased by 12.5%, according to the data, robberies fell 17.8%.” In his own assessment, Biden attributed those dropping numbers to “putting more cops on the beat, holding violent criminals accountable, and getting illegal guns off the street.” 

On June 1, top sports talk host Colin Cowherd anticipated Shapiro’s pro-American stance when he pushed back on the Republican idea that the country is a dystopian nightmare. “[Trump’s] trying to sell me an America that doesn’t exist,” he said. “Stop trying to sell me on ‘everything’s rigged, the country’s falling into the sea, the economy’s terrible,’” he continued. “The America that I live in is imperfect. But compared to the rest of the world, I think we’re doing okay.”

Today, Biden pointedly illustrated one more difference between Trump and the real world. In the wake of his own conviction on 34 criminal counts, Trump has amped up his insistence that the Department of Justice is rigged against him and must be purged of nonpartisan civil servants and repopulated with his own loyalists. Biden today underscored his own respect for the rule of law. 

This afternoon a jury found Biden’s 54-year-old son Hunter Biden guilty on three charges of lying on a form required to purchase a gun in 2018 when he checked the “no” box that asked if he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to,” drugs. That lie permitted him to buy the gun that he owned for 11 days. His lawyer argued that he did not consider himself an addict because he was trying at the time to end his drug dependence. 

The news made the Trump team rush back to their narrative. “This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine,” Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said. Echoing the false allegations MAGA Republicans have made about President Biden, she added: “Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit.”

But there is no Biden family business, and Hunter Biden is not in the administration. President Biden has kept his distance from the case. Today he said, “I am the president, but I am also a dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery. As I…said last week, I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal. Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that.”

Inflation Was Zero In May, Another Dem Overperformance, Josh Shapiro Brings It

Let’s keep doing more and worrying less and making June count!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JUN 12

Happy Wednesday all. Starting my day in Seattle so coming to you a little late today. Was great to see members of the Hopium community yesterday afternoon – in person! More on that in coming days. Now, let’s get to it: 

Another Dem Overperformance Last Night – From Politico Playbook this morning: 

TODAY’S SPECIAL — If last night’s election returns were going to provide any surprises, they weren’t supposed to come out of Ohio’s 6th Congressional District.

In a special election race that got basically zero national attention, Republican state Sen. MICHAEL RULLI was thought certain to rout Democrat MICHAEL KRIPCHAK, a former Air Force officer and once-aspiring actor who quit a Youngstown-area restaurant job to run for Congress.

DONALD TRUMP, after all, had won the blue-collar, mostly rural district previously represented by GOP Rep. BILL JOHNSON by 29 points in 2022. Furthermore, Rulli raised nearly 30 times more than Kripchak’s shoestring budget.

Rulli, in the end, managed only a not-quite-10-point victory over Kripchak — a roughly 20-point swing toward Democrats versus Trump’s 2020 showing. More from AP

With early returns putting the raceeven closer, our minds immediately turned to SIMON ROSENBERG, the Democratic high priest of hopium, who has counseled anxious Democrats for going on three years now to pay less attention to polls and more attention to how voters actually vote. It paid off big time in 2022, when he was one of the few punditsto predict a GOP midterm fizzle.

We figured this relative Republican bust couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the nervous nellies of the left, who have watched President JOE BIDEN’s poll numbers stagnate for months despite effort after effort to turn things around. So we called Rosenberg up, and he did not disappoint.

“There has been a fairly consistent pattern where Democrats have overperformed expectations, overperformed public polling,” he said. “The single most powerful force in our politics is fear and opposition to MAGA. When the choice of MAGA and other alternatives are presented to voters, MAGA underperforms public polling.”

So expect to hear a lot about thatfrom Democrats today….

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Inflation Was Zero in May, Good Economic News Just Keeps Coming – From CNN this morning

Inflation cooled more than expected in May, new data showed Wednesday, delivering a welcome piece of news just hours before the Federal Reserve is set to make its latest announcement on interest rates.

Consumer prices rose 3.3% from a year earlier, slowing from April’s 3.4% rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Consumer Price Index report released Wednesday.

On a monthly basis, prices were flat, a slower pace from April’s 0.3% gain.

It’s the first time since July 2022 that CPI did not rise on a monthly basis.

“This is the best news we could’ve gotten this morning,” Philip T. Powell, executive director of the Indiana Business Research Center and clinical associate professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, told CNN. “The Federal Reserve has been watching to make sure this [monthly] number came in below 0.2%.”

“If it did, that means inflation is going to come down, which means [the Fed] could lower interest rates,” he added.

Economists were expecting a 0.1% monthly increase and an annual gain of 3.4%, according to FactSet consensus estimates.

Helping to slow inflation in May were falling gas prices, which dropped 3.6% from April. They’re still up 2.2% for the year. Grocery prices were flat and overall food prices went up by 0.1%, lifted by a slight acceleration in inflation at the restaurant level.

Last month inflation was lower than expected, and far more jobs were created than expected. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow tracker has q2 GDP growth over 3% right now (a big, strong number) and their wage growth tracker has wages growing at just below 5% right now, way above inflation (another big strong number). Here’s a new Washington Post story on the World Bank revising global growth projections upward due to the strong US economy, “Suprising US economy is powering better global outlook:”

The World Bank upgraded its outlook for the global economy Tuesday, estimating that it will expand 2.6% this year on the strength of sustained growth in the United States.

The bank’s latest outlook marks an increase from the 2.4% growth for 2024 it had predicted in January. And it would match the global economy’s 2.6% expansion in 2023.

But the agency cautioned that global growth remains sluggish by past standards, that the poorest countries are struggling under the weight of heavy debts and high interest rates and that increased trade barriers endanger prosperity worldwide. The brutal wars in Ukraine and Gaza are inflicting further pressures on regional economies.

Stronger-than-expected growth in the United States — the world’s biggest economy — accounted for 80% of the World Bank’s upgraded outlook. The agency now expects the U.S. economy to expand 2.5% in 2024, the same as in 2023 but up sharply from the 1.6% the bank had predicted in January.

“U.S. growth is exceptional,’’ Ayhan Kose, the bank’s deputy chief economist, told The Associated Press ahead of the release of its latest Global Economic Prospects report.

As we discussed yesterday, Joe Biden is a good President. The country is better off. Things were hard in America under Trump but they are much better now. We need to be loud and proud about all this people. 

Listen to Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro bringing it on MSNBC: 

As I wrote a few months back in this post, The American Economy Is Strong. Period. Stop The Bullshit, I think it is time that we stop saying that Americans are down on the economy or not feeling the recovery. If people believe things are better in their states, better for them and their families, if life satisfaction, income satisfaction, job satisfaction rates are higher today, then how you can say people are down on the economy? Let’s return to the chart I’ve been sharing here a lot lately: 

Are people in the battleground states down on the economy? No. They aren’t. They be down one measure of how we understand the economy, but if they feel this way – like things are good where I am, my own finances and prospects are good – then they are not down on the economy. This is what Josh Shapiro is getting at in his comments, and something we talk about here a lot. There is a vast propaganda machine in America working really hard, every day, to convince the American people that things are worse then they appear – that red waves are coming; that crime is rising when it is falling; that gas prices are soaring when they are dropping; that all these elections wins we’ve had across the country since Dobbs means we are losing not winning; that the economy is terrible when it is booming; that immigrants are poisoning the blood of America when their hard work, grit and ingenuity is making the US economy the “envy of the world;” that Republicans are strong, when they are biggest and most dangerous shitshow we’ve ever seen; that a man who wears more make up than a drag queen and who betrayed his country is somehow a “strong man.”

Here’s how the brilliant author and historian Anne Applebaum explained greater MAGA’s strategy recently in the Atlantic: 

In the 20th Century, Communist Party propaganda was overwhelming and inspiring, or at least it was meant to be. The future it portrayed was shiny and idealized, a vision of clean factories, abundant produce, and healthy tractor drivers with large muscles and square jaws.

In the 21st century, authoritarian propaganda, whether coming from Russia, China, or the American far-right, has a very different goal: to create fear, cynicism, nihilism, and apathy. The point is to convince Americans that their democracy is degenerate, their elections illegitimate, their civilization dying. This story is told not only by Russian and Chinese bots and anonymous trolls, but by leading members of the Republican party, including the presidential candidate himself.

That’s the subject of my June cover story, “The New Propaganda War,” an article that is partially excerpted from my forthcoming book, Autocracy Inc.

Here’s how I talked about all this in my very first Hopium post

I am calling it Hopium Chronicles because I want this to be a journey guided by hope and optimism, of belief in ourselves, in love of country and a clear understanding of the nature of the conflict we are in. I have become convinced that part of Greater MAGA’s strategy is to intentionally poison our discourse with negative sentiment every day. They want us to feel bad about America, our democracy, our leaders, our institutions, our success, each other, ourselves. We cannot let them do that any more. While they talk American down every day, we need to talk it up. While they spread lies, we respond with truth and data. Hopium is a rejection of the darkness they are trying to spread. It is a way of standing up for our great country and its remarkable people. It is the key to how we win.

As I discussed yesterday, this is why it is so essential that we describe America as a successful nation, and Joe Biden a successful President. To achieve their radical overhaul of the country, MAGA needs the American people to believe our country, our current system and our political leadership has failed. It hasn’t failed. America is successful. Joe Biden is successful. The Democratic Party is successful, raising tons of money and winning elections all over the country. The country is better off. Americans are getting ahead, something they themselves understand…..

In the last few weeks we’ve gotten repeated confirmation of the success of the Biden Presidency – inflation is down, food prices are down, crime and murder rates are way down, gas prices are down, the flow to the border is down. We’ve had the strongest economic recovery of any advanced economy in the world, the best job market since the 1960s, the lowest uninsured rate in American history, the deficit is trillions less, the Dow has broken 40,000 and all three indices continue hover in record territory, and domestic oil, gas and renewable production continue to be at all time highs leaving America more energy independent than it has been in decades. Consumer sentiment surged last month. The Wall Street Journal called the American economy the “envy of the world,” and the Economist just wrote about the unprecedented start up boom America is experiencing right now. Biden’s big three investment bills have dramatically accelerated the energy transition necessary to combat climate change and will be creating opportunities and jobs for our workers for decades to come.

Proud of my county, proud of my party, proud of my President and proud to be in this fight with all of you. 

While they talk American down every day, we need to talk it up. While they spread lies, we respond with truth and data. Hopium is a rejection of the darkness they are trying to spread. It is a way of standing up for our great country and its remarkable people. It is the key to how we win.

Making June Count/Do More, Worry Less – The Hopium community is bringing it and making June count! Together we’ve raised over $460,000 for our candidates and states in the last three weeks! Incredible stuff, thank you all.

Here’s a fundraising update with our progress toward our June 30th goals:

This is a huge month and we just need to leave it all out there on the playing field – thank you, everyone!

10% Off Annual Hopium Membership in June – As a token of my gratitude for all that you are doing, I am now offering a 10% discount on annual paid subscriptions for new subscribers through the end of the month. Click on this link to subscribe today. On that link you can also purchase gift or group subscriptions for others you’d like bring into the Hopium community. 

I hope we will get to 10,000 paid subscribers by June 30th – we are over 9,200 today – which will put Hopium in a financial place to close this election strong.

Keep working hard all – Simon

Republicans Stopping Bi-Partisan Immigration Bill And Taking Credit For Projects They Voted Against

Heather Cox Richardson

Former president Trump met with a New York City probation officer today for a pre-sentencing interview. They met over video for a first step in the sentencing process, in which an officer assesses the convicted criminal’s living situation, finances, mental health, addiction, and criminal record. Trump was expected to have his lawyer, Todd Blanche, with him when he linked in from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Judge Juan Merchan will take the information from the interview into account when he sentences Trump. He will also consider that Trump was held in contempt 10 times during the trial for violating the gag order designed to stop him from attacking witnesses and court personnel and their families.

Ever since a New York jury unanimously found the former president guilty of 34 felonies on Thursday, May 30, he and his supporters have tried to assert that he is, in fact, in a strong position for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and for the November election itself. First, they insisted that his convictions made him more popular than ever, an assertion undermined by their own desperate avoidance of other trials and the demands of both Trump and House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to have the Supreme Court somehow step in to overturn a conviction by a state court.

Trump has also tried to reassert dominance by insisting in at least five interviews that he will seek “revenge” on Democrats for prosecuting him, and MAGA loyalists have echoed this threat. But as Greg Sargent pointed out today, this, too, is spin. 

There is a big difference between a prosecution advancing on the basis of evidence gathered by law enforcement, evidence that prompted grand juries to indict Trump, and his own threats to prosecute President Joe Biden and other Democrats simply because he had to endure a prosecution, not because there is any evidence that they have committed crimes. The first serves the rule of law, the second shatters it.

Since the conviction, as political analyst Simon Rosenberg points out, the right-wing Murdoch media empire “has gone into hyperdrive.” That empire, which includes the Fox News Channel, supports Trump and knowingly lied that the 2020 election had been stolen. On June 4, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal printed a story saying that “behind closed doors, Biden shows signs of slipping,” but the piece quoted only former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who previously had hammered Biden in public but privately assured colleagues he was mentally sharp.

One of the authors of the piece sparked outrage in October 2021 by tweeting that Biden, who was visiting the graves of his dead children and wife, “goes to church and walks through a graveyard in Wilmington as his legislative agenda is dying in Washington.” 

In November 2021, Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. In June 2022 he signed into law the Safer Communities Act, a gun safety law. In August 2022 he signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act that invested billions in semiconductor manufacturing and science, and the Inflation Reduction Act that provided record funding for addressing climate change and permitted Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices. Together, those legislative accomplishments rival those of Presidents Lyndon Baines Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose congressional majorities were far stronger than Biden’s.

The Republicans’ frantic pushback on Trump’s conviction reveals both that it has hurt him badly, and that without Trump projecting the dominance of a strongman, they have little to fall back on except for personal attacks on Biden. 

Trump had counted on using immigration against Biden and ordered his loyalists to scuttle the bipartisan immigration measure the Senate hammered out in February in order to keep the issue alive. Swing voters took notice: in March a focus group showed that 9 out of 13 Wisconsin swing voters blamed Trump for killing the bill.

As soon as that measure failed, the administration began to talk of what Biden could do through an executive order, despite believing that such an order would be challenged in the courts. At the same time, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continued their pressure on the Mexican government to increase its own immigration enforcement. That process worked, and undocumented migration has dropped sharply at the southern border. Meanwhile, the administration’s parole program for people from Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba has cut undocumented migration from those countries by almost 90%. 

Then on Tuesday, June 4, likely trying to get ahead of the usual summer rise in immigration, and after Senate Republicans once again killed the bipartisan border measure,  Biden issued an executive order permitting him to seal the southern border temporarily when undocumented crossings surge to more than 2,500 a day, a restriction stricter than that negotiated in the Senate measure Trump scuttled. This order looks more like Trump’s effort to curb migration—one that courts blocked—at least in part because without legislation, there is no new funding to provide the additional courts the administration wants in order to move asylum cases faster. 

As predicted, the order is likely to face legal challenges. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who worked with Senator James Lankford (R-OK) on the Senate immigration bill, wrote in a statement: “I am sympathetic to the position the administration is in, but I am skeptical [that] the executive branch has the legal authority to shut down asylum processing between ports of entry on its own. Meaningful asylum reform requires a bipartisan solution in Congress.” 

Nonetheless, while Trump continues to demagogue immigration issues, the charge that Biden wants “open borders”—which was always disinformation—is now harder to make. 

Meanwhile, the measures Democrats advocate are so popular that Republican legislators are taking credit for projects funded by them even though they voted against the laws themselves. Katherine Tully-McManus of Politico pointed out today that Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will deliver nearly $470 million to her district. She has attended a highway ribbon cutting and boasted of the modernization of locks and dams on the Mississippi River in her district despite her “no” vote.

Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) called the infrastructure law a “socialist wish list” and a “fiasco” but nonetheless celebrated a federal grant for nearly $26 million to invest in public transit in her district. 

This credit-taking is widespread among those who opposed the law. Just this weekend, Trump falsely asserted that it was he, not Biden, who lowered the cost of insulin to $35 a month. In fact, it was Biden who signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act that made such negotiations possible.

There is little else for Trump to stand on. The Republicans’ position on abortion is so unpopular that when Trump spoke today to the Danbury Institute, which calls for abortion to be “eradicated entirely,” he never mentioned the word abortion. Instead of delivering a keynote address, he spoke for less than two minutes and said that the attendees “can’t vote Democrat” because “[t]hey’re against religion.” 

Democrats pushed back on the Wall Street Journal’s article attacking Biden, calling it a “hit piece” and noting that their own quotations did not make the cut. Observers pointed out that reporters jump on Biden’s speech while Trump’s jumbled and offensive statements—like his crazy hash of MIT, electric batteries, boats, and sharks yesterday—rarely get reproduced.

The Biden campaign is addressing that lack with a new ad campaign, one that deliberately punctures the idea of Trump as a strongman. One ad shows foreign leaders laughing at Trump’s statements, and another, directed at Latino voters, shows Trump last week kissing former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned after his conviction related to racial profiling. Another ad from the Biden campaign in the wake of the 80th anniversary of D-Day focuses on Trump’s quotations mocking the military as suckers and losers and quoting some of his other offensive statements about those who serve. 

Finally, the Biden team rushed to produce an ad today using Trump’s own words from a rally this weekend in the broiling Nevada desert in which he said he didn’t want people to keel over because: “We need every voter. I don’t care about you. I just want your vote. I don’t care.”

The Future Of The US Is At Stake With The Right Wing Plans If Christian Nationalists Gain Control Through Trump

Heather Cox Richardson

Yesterday the Washington Postpublished an article by Beth Reinhard examining the philosophy and the power of Russell Vought, the hard-right Christian nationalist who is drafting plans for a second Trump term. Vought was the director of the Office of Management and Budget from July 2020 to January 2021 during the Trump administration. In January 2021 he founded the Center for Renewing America, a pro-Trump think tank, and he was a key player in the construction of Project 2025, the plan to gut the nonpartisan federal government and replace it with a dominant president and a team of loyalists who will impose religious rule on the United States. 

When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2023, Vought advised the far right, calling for draconian cuts to government agencies, student loans, and housing, health care, and food assistance. He called for $2 trillion in cuts to Medicaid over ten years, more than $600 billion in cuts to the Affordable Care Act, more than $400 billion in cuts to food assistance, and so on. 

Last month the Republican National Committee (RNC), now dominated by Trump loyalists, named Vought policy director of the RNC platform committee, the group that will draft a political platform for the Republicans this year. In 2020 the Republican Party did not write a platform, simply saying that it “enthusiastically” supported Trump and his agenda. With Vought at the head of policy, it is reasonable to think that the party’s 2024 platform will skew toward the policies Vought has advanced elsewhere.

Vought argues that the United States is in a “post constitutional moment” that “pays only lip service to the old Constitution.” He attributes that crisis to “the Left,” which he says “quietly adopted a strategy of institutional change,” by which he appears to mean the growth of the federal government to protect individual Americans. He attributes that change to the presidency of President Woodrow Wilson beginning in 1913. Vought calls for what he calls “Radical Constitutionalism” to destroy the power of the modern administrative state and instead elevate the president to supreme authority.

There are historical problems with this assessment, not least that it attributes to “the Left” a practical and popular change in the U.S. government to adjust it to the modern industrial world, as if somehow that change was a fringe stealth campaign. 

While it has been popular among the radical right to bash Democratic president Woodrow Wilson for the 1913 Revenue Act that established the modern income tax, suggesting that it was this moment that began the creation of the modern state, the recasting of government in fact took place under Republican Theodore Roosevelt a decade before Wilson took office, and it was popular without regard to partisanship. 

The liberalism on which the United States was founded in the late 1700s came from the notion—radical at the time—that individuals have rights and that the government generally must not intrude on those rights. This idea was central to the thinking of the Founders who wrote the Declaration of Independence, who put into the form of a mathematical constant—“we hold these truths to be self-evident”—the idea that “all men are created equal” and that they have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as well as the right to live under a government of their own choosing. 

To keep the government from crushing those individual rights, the Constitution’s Framers wrote the Bill of Rights. Those first ten amendments to the Constitution hold back the federal government by, among other things, prohibiting Congress from making laws that would establish a national religion or prohibit the free exercise of religion, limit freedom of speech or of the press, or hamper people’s right to assemble peacefully or to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

The belief that liberalism depended on a small government dominated the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but the rise of industry in the late nineteenth century shifted the relationship between individuals and the government. Was everyone really equal when industrialists were worth millions and commanded state legislatures and Congress, while workers, consumers, and children had little leverage to protect themselves? 

The majority of Americans said no, and Theodore Roosevelt agreed. The danger for individuals in their era was not that the government would crush them, but that industrialists would. In order for the government truly to protect the people, Roosevelt argued, it must regulate businesses and support the ability of ordinary Americans to prosper. A true liberal government, one that protected the rights of individuals, must be big enough and strong enough to act as a referee between workers, consumers, and businessmen. 

Roosevelt actually loathed Wilson, in part because Wilson ran for office in 1912 with the argument that as soon as the government broke up big corporations, the country could revert back to a small government. To Roosevelt, this made no sense. Unless the conditions of the modern economy were changed—and he believed they could not be, because the trend was always toward bigger and bigger enterprises—industry would always concentrate. Only a big government could stop those corporations from taking over the country.

Tearing apart the modern state, as those like Vought advocate, would take us back to the world Roosevelt recognized as being antithetical to the rights of individuals promised by the Declaration of Independence. 

A key argument for a strong administrative state was that it could break the power of a few men to control the nation. It is no accident that those arguing for a return to a system without a strong administrative state are eager to impose their religion on the American majority, who have rejected their principles and policies. Americans support abortion rights, women’s rights, LBGTQ+ rights, minority rights: the equal rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence. 

And therein lies the second historical problem with Vought’s “Radical Constitutionalism.” James Madison, the key thinker behind the Constitution, explained why a democracy cannot be based on religion. As a young man, Madison had watched officials in his home state of Virginia arrest itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by 1773 he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices, but he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience. 

In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights on which our own Bill of Rights would be based. It reads: “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” Madison explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants. 

Journalist Reinhard points out that Trump strategist Steve Bannon recently praised Vought and his colleagues as “madmen” who are going to destroy the U.S. government. “We’re going to rip and shred the federal government apart, and if you don’t like it, you can lump it,” Bannon said. 

In July 2022 a jury found Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress for his defiance of a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, and that October, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, sentenced him to four months in prison. Bannon fought the conviction, but in May 2024 a federal appeals court upheld it. 

On June 6, Judge Nichols ordered him to report to prison by July 1.