Happy Monday! On Friday morning, 53-year-old Bob Salem became the fourth person to push a peanut to the top of Pikes Peak with his nose. It took seven days—mostly at night to avoid distracting questions and requests for selfies from passersby—and the peanut in question was actually about a dozen peanuts, as he lost and ate a few along the way.
There’s a lot we could say about this, but our first question is: fourth!?
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
President Joe Biden’s Middle East trip ended this weekend with several announcements: Saudi Arabia will open its airspace to civilian flights from Israel, a group of Arab financial development institutions will spend $10 billion to relieve regional food insecurity alongside a $1 billion commitment from the U.S., and the U.S. will withdraw peacekeeping forces from a Red Sea island it’s occupied for decades—allowing Saudi Arabia to develop the land. Saudi Arabia also agreed to support extending the ceasefire in Yemen. And after meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Biden announced $100 million in aid for Palestinian hospitals and stated his support for a two-state solution with agreed-upon land swaps, returning the U.S. to an Obama-era stance.
But Biden did not secure a concrete commitment from the Saudis to increase oil production, a major goal of the trip. And he garnered criticism for his meeting—and awkward fist bump—with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the U.S. holds responsible for human rights violations including the 2018 dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden said he raised Khashoggi’s killing to the prince, but he had promised on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday he had fired the country’s prosecutor general and its security service chief—a childhood friend of Zelensky’s—because he claimed more than 60 employees in their departments were collaborating with Russians in occupied territory. Zelensky said 651 treason cases have been registered against law enforcement and prosecutor’s office employees.
Mexican forces on Friday captured drug lord Rafael Caro Quinter, who has been on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list for decades for drug trafficking and his role in the 1985 murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officer. The U.S. has already requested Caro Quintero’s extradition, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland thanked Mexican authorities for making the arrest, which came at a heavy cost: Fourteen military personnel were killed when a helicopter crashed during the operation.
Eastern District of Tennessee Judge Charles Atchley on Friday temporarily blocked the Education Department’s proposed Title IX guidance—which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation—because the guidance contradicts state laws requiring transgender people to play on sports teams and use bathrooms matching their biological sex. A group of 20 Republican attorneys general had sued to block the guidance, arguing their states could lose federal funding for enforcing their laws and that requiring schools to use students’ preferred pronouns violates the First Amendment.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that U.S. retail sales rose 1 percent month-over-month in June, and that May’s decline from April was smaller than previously estimated. The statistic is not adjusted for inflation, however, so higher prices likely accounted for much of the increase. Still, stocks rose on the news, with the S&P 500 climbing 1.9 percent Friday.
The January 6 select committee subpoenaed the U.S. Secret Service on Friday for text messages and reports related to the Capitol riot, and committee members said Sunday they expect to receive them by Tuesday. Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, had accused the agency of deleting text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, after he requested them, but Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the agency simply lost some data during planned tech updates and would comply with the subpoena. The committee’s next and—at least for now—final hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has ordered another 2.5 million doses of monkeypox vaccines, which will begin arriving in the national stockpile in 2023. New York City saw cases triple last week, and U.S. officials had confirmed 1,814 cases as of July 15. “We’ve failed to contain this,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS News yesterday. “We made a lot of the same mistakes we made with COVID with this. Having a narrow case definition, not enough testing early enough, not providing a vaccine in an aggressive fashion. … While it’s not going to explode because it’s harder for the virus to spread, it will be persistent.”
The U.S. and Russian space agencies will resume sharing rocket rides to the International Space Station, starting with a trip in September, NASA said Friday. Dmitry Rogozin—then head of Russia’s Roscosmos—had previously said Russia would end space station cooperation in response to Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he was replaced last week.
A Texas House committee investigating the police response to the Uvalde shooting released a report Sunday that concluded “systemic failures” left the school vulnerable, and “egregiously poor decision-making” by law enforcement could have led to a higher death count. Most of the 21 victims would likely have died even if police had responded well, the report said, but “it is plausible that some victims could have survived if they had not had to wait” for help. Lt. Mariano Pargas—Uvalde’s acting police chief—was placed on administrative leave.
Show Me a Loser
We’ve hit a bit of a lull in the primary calendar, but it won’t last for long. Only Maryland partisans go to the polls tomorrow, but two weeks from then, August 2, features a number of races that will prove pivotal in determining control of the Senate next year—and the direction of the Republican Party.
In a piece on the site today, Andrew dives into one of the craziest races of all—the GOP Senate primary in his home state of Missouri, where establishment Republicans are conspiring to block the state’s disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens from securing the nomination.
What Greitens has been accused of is remarkably sinister.
There was the lurid scandal that drove him from office in the first place, an extramarital affair involving alleged coercion and blackmail. Greitens—admitting the affair but denying the blackmail—resigned in 2018, impeachment hot on his heels. (Greitens faced a campaign-finance scandal around the same time, but while his campaign was slapped with a six-figure fine, an ethics commission ultimately found no evidence of wrongdoing by him personally on that front.)
Since then, Greitens has somehow managed to attract still more alarming claims: His wife, Sheena, filed for divorce in 2020 and has since accused him in sworn testimony of becoming physically abusive toward her and their two children as his career unraveled.
Nevertheless, when Greitens took to Fox News last year to announce his intention to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, even his staunchest political enemies fretted he had a shot.
The shocking behavior of which Greitens was accused undoubtedly hurt his vote-share ceiling, but he still boasted a significant floor of support: the quarter or so of Missouri Republicans who accepted Greitens’ characterization of himself as the victim of a left-wing witch hunt. And the fact that he’s running a totally shameless campaign anyway has freed him up to lean in on the sort of controversy-courting antics that appear to some as “genuine MAGA outsider,” like a recent “RINO hunting” ad in which he breached a house along with a men armed with guns and flashbangs.
Greitens has used the ethics commission’s finding of no personal wrongdoing in the campaign-finance charge to trumpet that he has been “completely exonerated” of everything anybody has ever accused him of doing. He has also denounced his ex-wife as “a woman with a documented history of mental illness and emotional abusive behavior,” and his lawyer has insisted his son’s injuries were sustained while “roughhousing with his brother.”
There’s no runoff election in Missouri: In a crowded primary, with the anti-Greitens vote split two or three ways, the smart money has been that he could plausibly squeak through with the nomination.
But state Republican donors have poured money into a super PAC, Show Me Values, intended to sandbag Greitens’ chances by hammering his liabilities into the minds of state voters.
They’ve put $1.5 million into the race already on ads rehashing the scandals that lost him the governor’s job, leaning particularly hard into the allegations from Sheena Greitens, which are newest, least widely known, and most serious.
The hardest-hitting ad simply reads verbatim from an affidavit filed by Sheena Greitens in March: “I became afraid for my safety and that of our children due to Eric’s unstable and coercive behavior,” the narrator reads. “Physical violence toward our children … cuffing our then-3-year-old across the face, yanking him around by his hair. A swollen face, bleeding gums, and a loose tooth. He said ‘Dad had hit him.’”
“I wanted to protect our children,” the ad finishes, “because I was afraid of what Eric would do.”
After a few weeks of this, Show Me Values commissioned the Tarrance Group, a reputable national Republican data firm, to repoll the race. They found a significant drop-off for Greitens at only 16 percent, behind Hartzler at 24 and Schmitt at 28, with a 4-point margin of error.
Worth Your Time
Although gas prices are painful right now, it’s still peak road trip season. And if you’re feeling a little burned out from online political debates, you might find some relief hopping in the minivan, Ross Douthat writes in the New York Times. “[My kids have now] seen the Pittsburgh Zoo and the golden dome at Notre Dame (in a leg-stretching 15-minute stop), looked down at Chicago from atop a skyscraper and dunked their feet in Lake Michigan. They’ve lost hours in a Minnesota water park, wandered the prairie where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in the later ‘Little House’ books, seen Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, baked in the Badlands and dodged lightning around Devil’s Tower, bathed in hot springs and dug for dinosaur bones in Thermopolis, Wyo., observed geysers and grizzlies in Yellowstone and a particularly insouciant beaver in Glacier National Park,” Douthat writes. “The state-to-state spaciousness of this country, its complexity and diversity and simple wildness, still feels like a potential asset to be set against the claustrophobia of small-screen politics and culture wars—a release valve that not every divided society enjoys, a means of escape and reinvention that the internet constrains but, as yet, has not eliminated.”
Gulnisa Imin is a Uyghur-literature teacher and poet sentenced to 17 years in prison in China on grounds that her poetry promotes “separatism.” She’s still writing. “On April 18, 2020, [a Uyghur linguist in Norway] received a series of messages over the Chinese social-networking app WeChat from someone close to Imin (whom, for their protection, [he] declined to name),” Yasmeen Serhan reports in The Atlantic. “The messages contained photos of several poems scrawled in a notebook dating to the previous month, which [he] recognized by the handwriting and style as the work of Imin.” An excerpt from one poem, translated from Uyghur:
When you think of me, shed no tears of grief
You must not fade away for those who’ve gone
If now and then you find me in your dreams
You must not look with longing down the road
Rep. David Valadao of California is the rare Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump after January 6 and has managed (so far) to escape more or less unscathed. “Valadao also has stayed notably quiet about his vote to impeach Trump in the year-plus since casting it, mirroring the quiet approach he’s taken to other touchy issues in the conference,” Olivia Beavers reports for Politico. Valadao’s primary challenger, Chris Mathys, tried to use the incumbent’s impeachment vote against him—but Trump stayed away, and Republican voters were willing to forgive. “‘I kept my head down. I focused on running my district,’ Valadao said. He described the message to Trump from others, ‘even folks that worked in the administration before,’ as a simple one: ‘This race, this type of seat, was not an easy seat to win.’ … ‘I had a lot of folks that obviously weren’t happy about that,’ he acknowledged about his anti-Trump vote after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. ‘And some of them even have talked to the press publicly and said they weren’t going to vote for me in the primary—but would vote for me [in the] general.’ As Valadao put it, the Republicans he’s alienated and Democrats he may have won over with his stance makes for ‘a little bit of a wash.’”
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Toeing the Company Line
Democrats are taking aim at a potential enforcement gap for solar power in the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and calling out the Biden administration in the process, Haley and Harvest report in Friday’s Uphill (🔒). Plus: Lawmakers, including Democrats, questioning Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia.
It’s one thing to be genuinely, sincerely, insanely wrong, and quite another to be purposefully, cynically so, Jonah writes in Friday’s G-File. He’s referring to what some are calling the Big Lie—former President Donald Trump’s evidence-free insistence that he won the 2020 presidential election—and his followers’ patience with an unending parade of new supporting lies.
In Sunday’s French Press, David explores a crucial gulf between white and nonwhite voters in the Democratic Party—the God gap. “America may be more secular than it’s been in generations, but it is still a quite religious country,” David argues. “A party that’s culturally disconnected from (or perhaps even scornful of) traditional religious faith is going to alienate itself from tens of millions of voters it could otherwise reach.”
On the site over the weekend, Nick Mauer reviewed the Hobbesian world of The Boys, Amazon’s superhero social satire, and the power competition of celebrities, corporations, politicians, and ordinary people. Plus, Peter Meilaender dives into two books on modern autocrats.
Let Us Know
Building off of Douthat’s column, what are your favorite road trip memories?