Quick hits

1) Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern does an excellent job of explaining how the Supreme Court taking a the Louisiana abortion case (at clear odds with it’s recent decision in Whole Women’s Health)almost surely presages a dramatic reduction in legal abortion rights:

Given that Whole Woman’s Health obviously bars Louisiana’s law, the Supreme Court should have issued a summary reversal in June Medical Services. Roberts could have joined the liberal justices once again to remind the 5th Circuit that it must still adhere to abortion precedent in a post-Kennedy world. The fact that he did not suggests that he is not prepared to reverse the 5th Circuit. Indeed, it raises the strong possibility that the chief justice is eager to overturn Whole Woman’s Health altogether…

If the majority takes that leap, it is only another short step toward overturning Roe altogether. If states can close every abortion clinic within their borders under the pretext of safety regulations, the right to abortion will exist in theory, not fact. Most if not all red states will promptly pass pseudo–health laws that make it impossible for doctors to perform legal abortions. Once abortion is effectively outlawed in much of the country, the conservative majority can conclude that abortion precedent is unworkable and unjustifiable and formally eradicate the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. We may soon remember June Medical Services as the beginning of the end of Roe.

2) Frum on Pence, who is in this up to his eyeballs:

Indeed, Pence seems to have been involved up to the eyeballs in the Ukraine plot. His team’s messagingYes, he pressed the Ukrainians to investigate corruption, but he never appreciated that Trump’s true purpose was to pursue the Bidens—fails the laugh test. Pence’s taint presents a political problem for him, but raises a much graver question for the country. If the Senate ever could muster the integrity to remove Trump from office, there would be no Ford to put in his place, only a vice president who participated in Trump’s dirty schemes, from staying at a remote resort to direct government funds to Trump’s failing Irish golf course to extorting an invaded country to fabricate political dirt to help Trump’s reelection.

Trump’s compromised attorney general remains on the job, as does his apparently compromised secretary of state. As the text messages from Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, confirm, the corruption permeates Trump’s second- and third-level appointments, too.

Not only is this scandal worse than Watergate—the break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices did not betray the national-security interests of the United States—but the outlook for the country is worse, too. There is no easy exit from the scandal by removing the president. Nixon’s party broke with him after the release of the “smoking gun” tape in August 1974 removed any possibility of honest belief in Nixon’s innocence. Trump’s guilt has now passed that point—and Trump’s party protects him anyway…

The political scientists can explain the structural reasons why the Republican Party has submitted to Trump, but structures are inhabited by people who make moral choices. The country needed Pence to keep himself clean, as Ford did, and instead—whether out of raw ambition or some weak personal impulse to subservience—Pence plunged into the deepest ooze of the mud. Maybe he struggled to keep his distance, maybe he obeyed only reluctantly, or maybe he eagerly volunteered to ingratiate himself with his crooked boss. That part of the story will all come out.

For now, all we need to say is that Pence betrayed his most important duty as vice president: Be ready to step into the nation’s highest office should the need arise. He’s as much a part of the problem as Trump is, and Pence’s personal choices ensure that the scandal of the century will continue to rip apart U.S. politics even if the impeachment process somehow succeeds.

3) I think Drum is absolutely right on the Democratic focus:

I have a related but similar complaint about the widespread belief on the left that the quid pro quo doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Trump asked Ukraine for help investigating a political opponent. The fact that he offered something in return is neither here nor there.

Legally, that might be right. Politically, it’s dead wrong, and impeachment is a political process. It’s absolutely critical that Trump is shown to have withheld vital military aid to an ally unless they agreed to help Trump in his reelection campaign. [emphasis mine] And like AM, I agree it’s the military assistance that’s key. No one really cares about visits to the White House, which are widely viewed as political favors in the first place.

Obviously the news is coming down on us like a firehose these days, and there are lots of things to report. That’s fine. All of them are worth following up. But underneath it all, we should all be focused 24/7 on one key issue: Donald Trump withheld military aid from an ally unless they would help him smear a political opponent in order to gain a leg up in his reelection campaign.

4) Sean Trende with a great discussion on the politics of impeachment.  I think this nugget is noteworthy:

Keep an eye on the president’s job approval. A theme running through the observations above is that impeachment is, at its core, a political proceeding, rather than a legal one. To this end, we should keep a close watch on the president’s job approval.  If it were to collapse, as Nixon’s did, Republicans in otherwise-safe districts may begin to feel that the upsides to voting to convict outweigh the potential primary threat.  Because of this, the most significant impeachment survey question from the past week is Quinnipiac’s job approval measurement, which was toward the high end of that pollster’s measurements; the recent Monmouth poll shows no change in the president’s job approval.

5) Good stuff from Perry Bacon Jr on Black voters:

So here are a few explanations for why black voters have tended to side with the establishment wing of the Democratic Party…

2. Black voters are pragmatic

White Democrats are significantly more likely than black Democrats to describe themselves as liberal. Perhaps that’s the simple explanation for why most black voters eschew more liberal candidates. But scholars of black voters argue that the liberal-moderate-conservative framework does not apply well to predicting the actual policy positions and voting behavior of black Americans.

In other words, it’s not clear that “moderate” black Democrats are moderate in the way that the word is most often invoked in white-dominated, elite settings, such as cable news and Twitter. They’re not demanding David Brooks-style centrism on economic and cultural policy. If, for instance, Biden endorsed Medicare for All and the elimination of most private insurance plans — the position of Sanders and Warren — I think it’s likely that black voters who like Biden would begin to feel more favorable about Medicare for All rather than breaking with Biden to find an anti-Medicare-for All candidate. Similarly, if Biden were out of the race, I’m skeptical that much of his support among black voters would go to Mayor Pete Buttigieg or Sen. Amy Klobuchar who are also positioning themselves as centrists on policy issues.

“The fact that blacks describe themselves as moderate or conservative on these measures is virtually meaningless, and results mostly from the fact that these ideological labels carry such little currency among black voters,” Hakeem Jefferson, a political scientist at Stanford University who studies black political attitudes, told me.

Instead, in interviews with black Democrats in 2016 and 2020, I’ve seen more pragmatism than moderation. In 2016, black primary voters were very fearful of Trump getting elected and felt Clinton was the best person to face him in a general election. They were skeptical that the broader electorate would like Sanders’s farther-reaching ideas, and even more doubtful Sanders could execute them if elected. During the 2020 cycle, black voters have regularly told reporters that they like Sen. Kamala Harris and other Democratic candidates but view Biden as the person most likely to defeat Trump.

Why would black Democrats be more pragmatic than white Democratic voters? In interviews, black voters often suggest they have a lot to lose if a Republican takes office. They don’t necessarily say this explicitly, but the implication is that they have more to lose than white voters, making them more risk-averse. That’s at least partially true. A higher percentage of black Americans (compared to white Americans) use government programs like Medicaid, for example, so cuts to those programs by Republicans are more likely to affect blacks than whites.

6) College students want books and a place to study.  Colleges want to spend multi-millions on fancy libraries.

7) Will Wilkinson with a good impeachment take:

“I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020,” Beto O’Rourke said in March, neatly expressing prevailing Democratic opinion on the question of impeaching President Trump, “and perhaps that’s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.”

This is no longer a tenable position. The president’s bungled bid to coerce Ukraine’s leader into helping the Trump 2020 re-election campaign smear a rival struck “decide it at the ballot box” off the menu of reasonable opinion forever. Mr. Trump’s brazen attempt to cheat his way into a second term stands so scandalously exposed that there can be no assurance of a fair election if he’s allowed to stay in office. Resolving the question of the president’s fitness at the ballot box isn’t really an option, much less the best option, when the question boils down to whether the ballot box will be stuffed.

Impeachment is therefore imperative, not only to protect the integrity of next year’s elections but to secure America’s continued democratic existence. If the House does its job, it will fall to Senate Republicans to reveal, in their decision to convict (or not), their preferred flavor of republic: constitutional or banana.

8) Laurence Tribe with a good take:

“Impeachment,” wrote British historian and ambassador Viscount James Bryce, “is the heaviest piece of artillery in the congressional arsenal, but because it is so heavy it is unfit for ordinary use. It is like a hundred-ton gun which needs complex machinery to bring it into position, an enormous charge of powder to fire it, and a large mark to aim at.”

The House has rolled out the hundred-ton gun. An extraordinary measure, befitting extraordinary circumstances. President Donald Trump has long shown manifest unfitness for office, but the Ukraine scandal stands apart. Last week we learned of Trump’s Mafioso-like conditioning of foreign military aid on help criminally investigating a political rival. We will continue learning more as details trickle out, especially if congressman Adam Schiff succeeds in persuading the still-anonymous whistleblower to testify. But it would be a mistake to imagine that Schiff’s success in getting that testimony is vital: We already know enough to say that Trump has betrayed his country and endangered national security.

But that knowledge only begins the inquiry. Impeachment is a fearsome power, and our Constitution demands careful inquiry before its deployment. The goal of impeachment, after all, is not merely shortening an abusive leader’s time in office. The goal is safeguarding American democracy. An impeachment proceeding, even when successful, rips asunder the national fabric and leaves lasting scars on our already-fragile public psyche. Those costs are real and serious.

Yet there remain circumstances in which impeachment is absolutely necessary despite its costs. Impeachment is fraught with peril, but so too is non-impeachment: The long-term damage to our nation from tolerating the intolerable counts, too. We must take seriously both sets of costs.

Given these complexities, responsible discussions of impeachment must consider three questions. First, has the president engaged in conduct that warrants his removal under the Constitution? Second, is the effort to remove him likely to make a positive impact—or will impeachment be a mere quixotic quest? And third, would impeachment be worth the resulting rupturing of our national fabric? …

Yes, impeachment would be perilous. But not nearly as perilous as the alternative. Inaction is no longer an option. It’s time for the hundred-ton gun.  [emphasis mine]

9) And Rick Hasen’s take:

What Democrats need, then, is a clean impeachment strategy laser-focused on the Ukraine allegations. The allegation is easy to understand and does not require a Carrie Mathison corkboard connecting the cast of characters with yarn. Trump solicited a foreign government to provide dirt, perhaps manufactured, on one of his political rivals, Joe Biden, whom he may face in the 2020 presidential election. Trump did so while the United States was withholding crucial financial aid from the Ukraine, reportedly at his behest alone. Trump professed a concern about “corruption,” but so far as we know the only supposed corruption he has ever expressed any concern about involved generally unsubstantiated allegations about Biden’s family or other personal political and legal foes.

The story is clear, whether we hear from the whistleblower directly or not. The president has admitted the conduct; he disputes only its wrongfulness, describing his call as “very legal and very good.” And already today there is enough for the House to conclude that the president has abused his power and is worthy of impeachment. That’s true whether or not the solicitation of foreign opposition research is a campaign finance crime—I believe it is and special counsel Robert Mueller suggested it could be illegal as well, even as he raised what he considered to be First Amendment issues—and it is true whether or not Trump’s conduct as reported in the partial summary of the conversation with Ukraine’s president amounted to the crime of extortion or bribery. The Mafia-like shakedown by Trump—along the lines of: That’s a really nice country you have; it would be a shame if something happened to it—needs to be condemned whether it amounted to a technical violation of the law or not.

10) Enjoyed this from Chait, “Trump Recommends Many Books But Never Says He Actually Read Them”

11) Good stuff from Lee Drutman:

Rather, it’s rank-and-file Republican senators up for reelection in solidly red states, like Bill Cassidy from Louisiana or Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, whom you should watch. If they waver, that will signal that Trump’s days are numbered. Of course, the rub is that neither have spoken out against Trump — in fact, they’ve stuck by him — but that’s the point. If Republicans do abandon Trump over impeachment, it will be because of the senators least likely to strike out against Trump balked.

Each new development potentially changes the calculus, too. For instance, last Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the Trump administration to release the whistleblower complaint that alleged the president had tried to coerce the Ukranian president to investigate Democratic front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden. The resolution signaled a surprising bipartisan willingness to let more information out. But by Thursday, after the whistleblower’s complaint went public, most Republicans had already rallied around talking points that questioned the motivations and veracity of the whistleblower, instead of criticizing Trump. The short-lived moment for a cascade passed almost as quickly as it had come.

But if you’re looking for another moment when Republicans might break with Trump, look for an event like last Tuesday. Moments like that can create uncertainty and situations where the ground can shift quickly. For most congressional Republicans, this is no doubt a frustrating state of affairs. Few presumably relish defending Trump against the increasingly indefensible. But this is where the party is currently stuck.

Even if most Republicans believe Trump is bad for the long-term health of the party, they have a major here-to-there problem. Turning against Trump seriously jeopardizes their immediate political fortunes. So all signs point to Republicans sticking it out with Trump. That means they’ll continue to find new ways to dance and dodge, and eventually, they’ll probably even vote to exonerate him in a Senate impeachment trial, if things come to that. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in particular, has no incentive to break from Trump. After all, his plan for grinding out partisan victories with Trump in the White House involves the same zero-sum attack politics as the president uses. Not to mention, McConnell is also among those red-state Republicans up for election in 2020.

If there is a Republican cascade against Trump, in retrospect, it will look inevitable, as if the steady drip of revelations and testimony was always destined to reach that final dramatic tipping point. But a note to future historians: As of this moment, it does not look inevitable at all.

12) I kind of love the Fox News guy fired for saying Democrats worship Moloch.  Especially, because, metaphorically, Republicans actually do.

13) Thanks to my years of medical training (or the fact, that I just love reading about medicine) I actually proposed to my class this week that Bernie Sanders had a heart attack before I eve read this Slate article.  And long before his campaign confirmed it.

14) Honestly, this story of a girl claiming that mean white boys in her Christian private school held her down and cut off her dreadlocks sounded a bit too much like a liberal, anti-racist fantasy circa 2019 when I first about it.  And, it was not true.  Also, school is in my hometown.

15) Just in case you missed the bit about alligator moats and shooting border crossers in the legs.  Good Fresh Air on it, too.

16) I like Drum’s take on the latest red meat news:

I date the start of the modern nutrition research frenzy to the Framingham study, which showed that saturated fat didn’t really have much effect on anything. However, in a portent of things to come, the public was somehow told exactly the opposite: that saturated fat was a deadly killer. It’s been downhill since: not just fat, but salt, cholesterol, eggs, palm oil, and nearly anything else you can think of spent the next 50 years in the barrel. It’s only in the last couple of decades that a few researchers have been brave enough to raise their hands and suggest that the evidence behind all this was crap.

In a way, there’s nothing wrong with that. Nutritional research is really hard, and it’s not surprising that a lot of it has turned out to be either wrong or at least questionable. But the nutrition community has never been satisfied to present their findings with the humility they deserve. They accept nothing less than the most apocalyptic interpretation of every study that even faintly supports their prior beliefs, and have shown virtually no willingness to accept new evidence that points in the other direction.

The plain fact is that we know squat about nutrition. Sure, you should eat a reasonably balanced diet and not do obviously stupid things—and for my money, I’d cut back on refined sugar.  Beyond that, listen to your doctor if you have a specific condition.

If you want to eliminate or cut back on meat for other reasons—animal welfare, climate change, etc.—that’s fine. It might even make you feel better. Who knows? But if you want to be healthier, I recommend brisk exercise daily and pretty much whatever diet you feel like stuffing into your gullet.

17) Yeah, I know he’s a complete after-thought, now, but still like Cory Booker.  Very impressed by his thoughtful responses in this interview.

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