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A New Chapter for The Dispatch
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A New Chapter for The Dispatch

Plus: Biden and Trump agree to presidential debates.

Happy Friday! We hope you had a better night than the House Oversight Committee, which descended into utter chaos Thursday evening with members throwing personal insults about each other’s physical appearances. What was that about members of Congress heading for the exits?

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The U.S. military completed its construction of a floating pier off the coast of Gaza to increase the flow of food and other supplies into the enclave, defense officials said Thursday. “Trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement Thursday. “The United Nations will receive the aid and coordinate its distribution into Gaza.” The World Food Program said that its food distributions in the southern city of Rafah have stopped and that it will run out of food parcels in central Gaza “within days.” 
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Beijing on Thursday as part of a two-day state visit. The pair pledged a “new era” of partnership in a lengthy joint statement that also criticized U.S. foreign policy as attempting to “violate the strategic balance.” 
  • The Justice Department on Thursday formally began the process of reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug. Attorney General Merrick Garland submitted a proposed rule to move marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug. The rulemaking process will take time, but if finalized, marijuana would be included in the same category of drugs such as Tylenol with codeine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone. 
  • Severe thunderstorms in Texas killed at least four people in Houston on Thursday. Strong winds of up to 100 mph blew out high-rise windows in the city’s downtown area, toppled trees, and left more than 1 million people without power. “Do not go to work tomorrow, unless you’re an essential worker. Stay home, take care of your children,” Houston Mayor John Whitmire urged residents yesterday evening. “Our first responders will be working around the clock.”
  • The Biden administration added 26 additional textile companies to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List on Thursday, blocking imports of goods made by the companies for their sourcing of cotton from Xinjiang—a region in northwest China where the government imprisons Uyghurs, a religious and ethnic minority, in concentration camps. “We will not allow goods produced in whole or in part through forced labor to enter the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 40,000 Thursday, setting a new record high for the index after Wednesday’s Consumer Price Index release showed easing inflation and helped boost the markets. 
  • The Biden campaign accepted an invitation from CBS News for Vice President Kamala Harris to participate in a vice presidential debate to be held on either July 23 or August 13. Former President Donald Trump has yet to pick his running mate. “We look forward to the Trump campaign accepting one of these dates so that the full debate calendar for this campaign can be set,” the Biden campaign said.

A Note From the Executive Editor on a New Chapter for The Dispatch

As we noted at the top of yesterday’s TMD, some exciting changes are coming to The Dispatch—and they’re coming soon. In fact, the next time we’re in your inbox, we’ll look quite different.
That’s because, in the wee hours of Monday morning, we’re going to rearrange some wires, connect some tubes, and transform our website from this:

To this:

We partnered with a top-of-the-line development team and designer earlier this year, and they’ve been hard at work for months building the site that we’re so excited to share with you next week. From a cleaner homepage to a revamped newsletter layout and a more intuitive comment section, we’re confident the changes we’re making will not only upgrade the user experience but also lay the foundation for us to continue to grow and do the kind of work we want to do.

Why We’re Doing This

To make a long story short, our journalists have been doing exceptional work since we launched in 2019, and it’s time for that work to be supported by an equally exceptional reader and listener experience. There’s much to love about our current “tech stack”—apologies for the industry jargon—but we’ll be straight with you: We know that it’s had some … limitations, from time to time.

You likely know us well enough by now to know that we’ll never shed our pirate skiff mentality, but we’re never going to rest on our laurels, either. We’ve grown quite a bit since those early days—and we’re nowhere near done. In the past few months, we’ve launched a new tech newsletter, brought on a new deputy managing editor, and hired a new Morning Dispatch reporter and multimedia producer. In just three weeks, our largest-ever intern class—seven on the editorial side alone—will join us in Washington, D.C. It’s time for the next chapter.

What’s Changing

The first thing you’ll probably notice on Monday is that our emails are going to look a little different:

If you click through to the website, you’ll find something like this:

Written by someone like this:

You might also jump around to other articles that catch your eye, like this one Bennett Murray reported from Ukraine a few months ago:

And if you have thoughts about that article, we hope you’ll share them with your fellow readers in the comment section:

There’s a lot more where that came from, but we have to save some surprises for Monday. 

What’s Not Changing

Things are, admittedly, going to look pretty different around here next week. But our underlying promise to you remains the same: We’re will continue producing the best reporting and analysis on politics, policy, and culture that we can, and we’re going to have fun doing it.

The newsletters will go out on the same schedule, as will our podcasts. Some of our content will still be available only for paying members, and some of it will remain unlocked for all to read. Steve will continue to razz Declan about the Chicago Bears, while Declan will once again forge ahead toward the season with the undeserved optimism of Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football.

We’ve devoted countless hours to making sure these changes next week are as seamless as possible for you—and we’ll have more information on Monday about the (minimal) steps you’ll need to take to stay signed in—but we know there will inevitably be some hiccups along the way. If you spot one—or have any other questions—please don’t hesitate to let us know:

Here We Go Again

The editors of this newsletter considered it a blessing when the general election presidential debates this cycle briefly seemed to be going the way of the dodo, thus saving your TMDers from writing another round of newsletters in the wee hours of the morning. But if the 2024 election has proven anything so far, it’s that we can’t have nice things.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both confirmed Wednesday that they had agreed to two presidential debates. The first is set for just over a month away, June 27, and will be hosted by CNN with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderating. ABC will host the second debate on September 10 with David Muir and Linsey Davis moderating. Trump said Wednesday that he’d also participate in a third debate hosted by Fox News in October. His campaign issued a memo Thursday calling for two additional debates, but the Biden team has not said the president will participate. For the bottom of the ticket, the Biden campaign announced Thursday it had accepted an invitation for Kamala Harris to participate in a vice presidential debate hosted by CBS News in July or August. The Trump campaign hasn’t yet agreed to the veep match up—the former president has yet to select his running mate. 

Both the septuagenarian and the octogenarian are now promoting the two agreed-upon contests on social media like it’s fight night. “Crooked Joe Biden is the WORST debater I have ever faced—He can’t put two sentences together,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social account Wednesday. Biden posted a video on Twitter agreeing to the debates and challenging Trump to “make my day, pal.” 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the leading independent candidate in the race, criticized Trump and Biden for “colluding” to keep him out of the debate but also said he’d make the stage. CNN’s qualifying criteria require participating candidates to have 15 percent support or above in four credible national polls and be on the ballot in enough states to have a path to victory in the electoral college—270 electoral votes. Kennedy has reached 15 percent in two national polls, his campaign said it has secured ballot access in six states, collected enough signatures to get on the ballot in eight more, and secured sufficient funding to get on the ballots of the remaining 36 states and the District of Columbia. 

But it’s unclear if a three-person debate would happen even if Kennedy does manage to meet the requirements. The Biden campaign has made clear it’s only interested in a one-on-one contest with Trump. “President Biden made his terms clear for two one-on-one debates,” Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement. “No more games. No more chaos, no more debate about debates.” Trump said on Thursday that he “would have no problem” with Kennedy joining the debate if he met the thresholds. 

Why are Trump and Biden agreeing to the debates now? The Trump team believes the debates would offer an opportunity to highlight Biden’s frailty—polling shows 86 percent of Americans think Biden is too old for a second term. The goal for Biden would be to quell concerns about his age by exceeding expectations on the debate stage, similar to his State of the Union performance, and remind voters of the chaos that follows Trump.

“Because of these questions about his capacities, Biden has a lot at stake,” David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said Wednesday. “But Trump has a lot at stake here too, because if Biden does pierce that narrative, it could change the dynamic of the race.”

Unlike in 2020 and every other presidential debate since 1988, the debates aren’t organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The campaigns have expressed frustrations with how the commission handled the debates in 2020 and criticisms of the CPD’s schedule for this cycle with three presidential debates in September and October—some would take place after early voting started. 

Dillon sent a letter to the CPD on Wednesday, outlining the reasons the Biden campaign wouldn’t be working with the commission and criticizing it for failing to enforce the agreed upon rules in the 2020 debates. “There should be firm time limits for answers, and alternate turns to speak so that the time is evenly divided, and we have an exchange of views not a spectacle of mutual interruption,” she wrote. “A candidate’s microphone should only be active when it is his turn to speak, to promote adherence to the rules and orderly proceedings.” It’s unclear if the Trump campaign or CNN have agreed to the microphone rule. 

The early timing of the first debate could redound in either candidate’s favor. Trump’s New York criminal trial is expected to be over in time for the debate, leaving him either exonerated or a convicted felon. Hunter Biden’s criminal trial on federal gun charges is set to begin on June 3, and Trump will likely try to take advantage of Hunter’s alleged wrongdoings and shady business dealings being in the news again. 

The opening debate last time around was certainly more spectacle than substance. This is what we wrote about Trump and Biden’s first debate in September 2020:

Joe Biden and Donald Trump met for the first time on the debate stage last night, and man, was it hard to watch. The 90-minute event felt like it lasted several years, with both candidates yelling over one another incomprehensibly for large swaths of it as Fox News moderator Chris Wallace tried to keep control. Despite his gamely efforts, the whole thing was a sorry spectacle, another low point in an exhausting year during which low points have become the norm.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to spend your evening watching Trump and Biden mano a mano or enjoy Season 3 of The Bear, which is conveniently scheduled to be released the night of the first debate. Either way, we’ll let you know how it goes. 

Worth Your Time

  • Writing for his substack Very Serious, Josh Barro argued that Biden is now stuck with the current state of the economy going into the election, for better or worse. “For the past nine months or so, one of my key views on the presidential race was that economic conditions were gradually improving, and that this was likely to provide a political updraft to President Biden: as inflation eased and interest rates softened, consumer sentiment would improve and voters would be more likely to vote for continuity rather than change,” he wrote. “But now it looks like we’ve gotten most or all the economic improvement we’re likely to get for a little while, and Biden may have even backslid a little in the polls over the last month. The economy is not getting worse — unemployment remains low, job growth is still solid, and inflation continues to hover in the 3-4 percent band — but the rapid disinflation that happened in the second half of 2023 has stopped and, as a result, the Federal Reserve looks unlikely to lower (or raise) interest rates in the next few months.”
  • The Atlantic showcased the winning and honored photographs in the German Society for Nature Photograph’s annual photo competition. We’re pretty partial to the Alpine ibex that took second place

Presented Without Comment 

Daily Mail Online: Jeremy Clarkson, 64, is Crowned the UK And Ireland’s Sexiest Man for the Second Year Running Beating the Likes of Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, and Idris Elba

Also Presented Without Comment

New York Times: 17 Percent of Voters Blame Biden for the End of Roe

In the Zeitgeist

The world’s No. 1 ranked golfer, Scottie Scheffler, took the last few weeks off from competition while his wife gave birth to their first child. After the time away and the sleepless nights that come with being a new dad, one could forgive Scheffler for needing to shake the rust off a bit during his opening round in the PGA Championship Thursday.

Here’s how he played his 167-yard approach shot on the first hole. 

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Mike and Sarah analyzed the Republican pilgrimages to Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial, Will explained why Congress needs to rethink its approach to broadband internet access, and Nick argued (🔒) Sen. Mitt Romney is wrong to think Biden should have pardoned Trump.
  • On the podcasts: Sarah and David hosted Judge Lee Rudofsky and Orin Kerr on Advisory Opinions to debate the role of judges in society beyond the courtroom. Plus, Sarah, Steve, and Jonah contemplate how you should think about your vote and the upcoming presidential debates on today’s Dispatch Podcast
  • On the site: Kevin explores the House report on campus antisemitism and Carl Graham explains how arms transfers to foreign allies work.

Let Us Know 

Given the candidates, do you think presidential debates would be helpful this cycle?

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Peter Gattuso is a reporter for The Morning Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2024, he interned at The Dispatch, National Review, the Cato Institute, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Peter is not helping write TMD, he is probably watching baseball, listening to music on vinyl records, or discussing the Jones Act.