Gentle readers, we have reached the point in Washington where the weather goes from inside-the-mouth-of-a-Great-Dane hot to freezer-section-pizza-roll-in-an-air-fryer hot.
One of the worst things about Congress’ schedule is that the traditional summer break is for the month of August, when the weather actually starts to let up, instead of starting in the last two weeks of July when the heat and humidity here approach levels that would make a New Orleanian wilt. But members want to be home for Fourth of July parades and then want to look busy before taking their break, thereby consigning themselves, their staffs, and the rest of us to wasting time here when it’s, to use the meteorological term, super gross.
A better Congress would leave ahead of July 4 and come back after Labor Day, but then who would hold all of the pointless, performative hearings and blabber about doomed initiatives? I’m telling you, America: Quit complaining about Congress being out of session so often. It’s not like they’re doing any good hanging around here and sweating through their shirts.
For those reasons and for the fact that we had a truly wonderful collection of reader mail this week, we’re going to have fun and lead with the Mailbag. It’s too hot to cook, so I’m ordering takeout from you.
“While I agree that Trump may not have been the politically correct choice, the fact remains that the electorate is frustrated with business as usual in Washington, D.C., and in that case it is not surprising that Trump was the preferred choice. In essence we have two issues: the paranoic focus of the illiberal progressive left on power and control, and the increasing apathy of the right. We need for people to rethink their assessment of the objectives of the tyrannical left and the right, including the average person (of all persuasions), needs to be reeducated about the basic principles of the American founding. But most of all, everybody needs to be reeducated about the concept of a Sovereign God who created everything and everybody in our Universe. Whether they believe or not the concept is not only real but even for those who don’t believe they need to rethink the reality of secularism.” —Reid Saunders, Jasper, Georgia
Certainly, the recent, steep decrease in religious faith among Americans is playing havoc with our public life. Without the unifying idea of our rights as natural or God-given, it’s hard to have a conversation about what governments should do and how they should do it. We are watching the birth of new, secular religions all around us. On the left, we see a sort of anamistic environmentalism around the climate and the development of social justice zealotry. I recommend highly the books by John McWhorter (Woke Racism) and Noah Rothman (The New Puritans). On the right, there are equally dire replacements forming up for America’s traditional civic faith from the time of the Founding—a vague, deistic sensibility that was accessible and innofensive for Christians, Jews, and other believers. “In God We Trust,” was a unifying sentiment when more than 90 percent of Americans espoused at least some belief in a higher power. But with a quarter or so of Americans opting out of religion entirely, faith has become a cause of increasing division. A lot of that has been generated by the new nationalistic faith on the right, much of which has become tangled up with the worship of power and the powerful. The shameless idolatry of Donald Trump was the most disturbing manifestation yet of the trend in which the virtues of Christianity—self-sacrifice, humility, and forgiveness—are turned on their heads to rationalize support for greed, arrogance, and cruelty. In the encounter between Evangelical Protestantism and Republican politics, it has been the church that has suffered the most grievously. I explored these questions in an interview with my own pastor for a podcast series I did last year, The Hangover. You can listen here. Rather than seeing the problem, as you put it, being “the paranoic focus of the illiberal progressive left on power and control, and the increasing apathy of the right,” I think the right is FAR from apathetic. Indeed, I think both the left and right are obsessed with power and its exercise to punish their perceived enemies and reward their friends. People on both the authoritarian right and left are looking for government to solve problems that can only be addressed by individuals in voluntary association for good and, as I believe, by a reawakening of our traditional faith.
“Each week you write ‘Holy Croakano!’ and I’d like to know how to pronounce the ‘a’ in ‘Croakano.’ Is it like ‘Taco’ or ‘Can’t’? This is the CROATOAN of our time. And if you could tell me whether it’s ‘Han’ Solo or ‘Hahn’ Solo, I’d much appreciate it.” —Dave Moore, Alcester, South Dakota
Mr. Moore, I can do you one better: It’s pronounced like the “a” in “croak.” No colonists were lost in the making of the term, which I inherited from my dad and his friends from Sangamon County, Illinois. As for the matter of the Solos, I would say “Hahn” because it is more pleasing to the ear than the hard a, but I don’t care enough about Star Wars pedantry to wonder if there is a “correct” answer or not. But I do know Han definitely shot first and was correct in so doing. Han and Chewbacca were the best part of a series that was eventually wrecked by self-serious twaddle and obsessive self-reference. Hail to the scruffy-looking nerf herders.
“If [Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker] runs for the presidential nomination, watch for the ads running his cozy telephone chat with former Illinois governor and jailbird Rod Blagojevich about filling Obama’s vacant Senate seat and the possibility of Pritzker becoming the Illinois attorney general. Then, too, there’s the delicious story of his removing the toilets from a neighboring Gold Coast mansion he bought and was renovating so that it would be classified as uninhabitable and have its property tax drastically slashed. One thing for sure, though. He clearly has the best tailor among all candidates—and needs him.” —Bob Foys, Chicago, Illinois
Mr. Foys, your hometown has never let us down yet when it comes to wild and wooly presidential campaign news, and I know this would be no exception. As a large-format male, I too admire the capacity of Pritzker’s tailor to seem slimming. But I do seriously wonder if he is too rotund to win the presidency. Trump *ahem* stretched the limits on that one, but Americans since 1908 have mostly preferred long and lean leaders.
“I’m going to ask a question about Texas, because I’m a Texan, and I promise it’s not ‘will Texas vote for a Democrat statewide this cycle?’ given Beto O’Rourke and many of the other statewide candidates seem unremarkable. I do, however, want to discuss what the likely next and current governor, Greg Abbott, has been doing. It’s obvious to anyone looking that he wants to run for president in 2024 given his aggressive efforts towards immigration, abortion, vaccine mandates, and gun rights in recent legislative sessions and executive action. However, he’s not registering in any major polls of the primary for 2024—obvious caveat that it is still two years out from the RNC. Assuming his willingness to govern with a pen and a phone from the governor’s mansion won’t be what turns over voters, when would we expect him to give up as it were and go back to just being governor?”—Rehm Maham, Austin, Texas
The bad thing about running for president is that one almost never knows their viability until one actually starts doing it. You have to reach back to Dwight Eisenhower to find a first-time candidate for president who came in as a prohibitive favorite. First-timers have often won presidential nominations since then, including: Trump, Obama, Kerry, Bush (the younger), (Bill) Clinton, Mondale, Carter, McGovern, Humphrey, Goldwater, Kennedy, and Nixon. But none of them could have been called “prohibitive” favorites. The most dominant first-time candidates had special status, too. Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Walter Mondale in 1984 had won election as vice president and Bush’s father had been president. The true insurgents were more often long shots: Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and George McGovern all looked like long-shots when they started. Only two, John Kennedy and Barry Goldwater, could be said to have been frontrunning first-timers in the true sense. Speaking of Kennedy and Goldwater, that is the race that I most wish America could have seen. The two were friends from the Senate and had already talked about flying across the country TOGETHER to hold unmoderated debates in cities across the country in the 1964 election. Lyndon Johnson, a truly awful human, was all but certain to win anyway, running on the memory of the president martyred less than a year before. Even so, Johnson ran a crummy, dishonest campaign against Goldwater at a time when the Texan could have afforded to show a little grace. Not Landslide Lyndon. That’s not to say that the Kennedys wouldn’t have had some tricks of their own, but surely that would have been an election about the future and ideas, not scaremongering. As for the current top Texan in presidential politics, if he really wants to be a candidate, he’ll have to face the same terrible truth that almost every first-timer faces: You don’t know whether you’re any good at it until after you’ve committed yourself fully to the task. He may decide to prolong his suffering or get right to the point and see if voters will bite.
“I’m not so sure about your coverage of [Washington’s 3rd Congressional District]. You’re looking at a lot of data and I’m just observing, so I can be very off base. … So, you’ve got very progressive to very conservative and everything in between in lifestyle, politics, religion, etc. in this district. And, as you know, we get the top two candidates from the primary regardless of party going to the ballot in November. I just don’t see [Republican primary challenger] Joe Kent or the new Dem being successful here. Yes, Joe Kent is getting lots of attention on Fox and has a lot of support from Lars Larson, the well-known talk show host in the region. But he seems to be flopping around like a fish out of water. …What I will say about Joe Kent is he has hustle. He is holding barbecues and the like all over the place. He shows up on the radio all the time with softball questions while [Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler] is called a RINO. I’ve even had his folks knocking on my door. JHB has been around the block. She’s had job fairs for the last 11 years. Maybe not a big deal in a year like this, but when the economy was down she made points. She’s effective at talking about the wins she has gained for various parts of the county (which covers the spectrum, not just one part). She’s held off D challengers in pretty tight elections the last few cycles. She covers the district talking to people about salmon, ag issues, the bridge, crime, etc. She’s recently talked about sponsoring bills to support small police forces, and getting infrastructure dollars for the bridge. If the top two are Kent and JHB, I’d think she’d get enough D’s and centrists to vote her in. I just don’t see Kent getting elected here with such a growing democratic base in Vancouver.
So, what about the D candidate? She’s from Skamania. Maybe someone will give her some talking points, but I don’t see her breaking through. She hasn’t done the legwork and doesn’t understand the issues of the entire district. And Skamania does not have the issues of Clark County, the biggest population center. She came out of nowhere and replaced a guy who had been doing a lot of work. But neither of them has been prominent like her previous competitor.”—Heidi Pozzo, Ridgefield, Washington
Thank you so much, Ms. Pozzo! Readers will note some ellipses above. They represent lots of very useful details about the district and the race. I agree very much with your assessment that the most likely outcome in your district. I was only answering a question from your fellow Washingtonian, Travis Morill, about the adjacent 4th District. The 3rd District is more competitive than the 4th, but will likely be a safe seat for Beutler and the GOP. But Kent is a threat Republicans will have to take seriously. But Beutler has well earned her reputation as a tough campaigner who never takes races for granted. I love getting on-the-ground insights from readers, so everyone please keep them coming! And starting now, Ms. Pozzo, you are the official Stirewaltisms Race Watcher for WA-03.
Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.
Biden job performance
Average approval: 36.8 percent
Average disapproval: 59.0 percent
Net score: -22.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 3.4 points
Change from one month ago: ↓ 6.0 points
[Average includes: Ipsos/Reuters: 39% approve-55% disapprove; Siena College/The New York Times: 33% approve-60% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 37% approve-62% disapprove; Monmouth University: 36% approve-58% disapprove; AP-NORC: 39% approve-60% disapprove]
Generic congressional ballot
Democrats: 41.8 percent
Republicans: 40.8 percent
Net advantage: Democratic Party +1.0 points
Change from one week ago: Republican Party ↓ 1.8 points
Change from one month ago: Republican Party ↓ 2.8 points
[Average includes: Siena College/The New York Times: 41% Democrat, 40% Republican; Ipsos/Reuters: 34% Democrat, 35% Republican; Monmouth University: 46% Democrat, 48% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 48% Democrat, 41% Republican; Suffolk University/USA Today: 40% Democrat, 40% Republican]
TIME OUT: WE’RE ROOTING FOR YOU, SEQUOIAS
New York Times: “California’s giant sequoias have faced particularly fierce wildfires since 2015. … The imminent threat … has prompted scientists and firefighters to take exceptional steps to save them. To protect the Grizzly Giant [one of the oldest trees in Yosemite National Park], the authorities have set up a sprinkler system that runs intermittently, pumping between 15 to 20 gallons of water per minute at the base of the tree to increase humidity, [ecologist Garrett Dickman] said. They are clearing debris from the ground, he added, as well as chopping down smaller trees that could ignite the ancient sequoias. In other recent fires, firefighters have swaddled the trees in a flame-retardant foil, pumped foam onto them and showered them in pink fire retardant. Mr. Dickman said he had also considered pointing misters into the air near at-risk trees to create a ‘wall of water.’ In other instances … arborists have climbed up the giant trees to check for embers or to lop off their burning limbs.”
SOME GREEN SHOOTS FOR THE BLUE TEAM
Forbes: “Republicans and Democrats are in dead heat for control of Congress in November, a new poll from New York Times/Siena College suggests. … Recent analyses from FiveThirtyEight and Cook Political Report suggest Republicans are highly likely to take control of the House … and are at a slight advantage for winning the Senate as well, where Cook Political report says 11 seats are strong, likely or lean Democrat, compared to 19 seats that are strong, likely or lean Republican. … Skyrocketing inflation levels, dissatisfaction with Biden and an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may make matters even worse for Democrats this year. Still, Republicans may face a much more challenging battle in the Senate. … Democrats are trying to capitalize on the Roe v. Wade decision, arguing turning out at the polls is the best way to respond. … The redistricting process has also helped Democrats somewhat, with six new Democratic-leaning seats and no new Republican-leaning seats compared to old maps.”
Dems raise record funds, credit recent social issues: Fox News: “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reports bringing in $40.7 million the past three months, including $17 million in June along, according to figures shared first with Fox News on Wednesday. The committee says the haul the past three months was their largest election year second quarter fundraising ever. The DCCC narrowly edged the rival National Republican Congressional Committee in June fundraising. The NRCC reported Tuesday night that it brought in $16.5 million last month. Officials with the DCCC say that following multiple mass shootings and the move last month by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, ‘our donors acted swiftly to reject’ what they called ‘the divisive and cruel politics House Republicans are selling.’ The DCCC highlights that they received $9 million in grassroots donations in June.”
GOP looks to Virginia for House gains: The Hill: “Recent Republican gains in Virginia are fueling excitement among the GOP and concern among some Democrats that the commonwealth could be shifting rightward. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) surprised many Democrats when he won in last year’s gubernatorial election in a state that had been seen by some in the party as trending blue. Youngkin’s win, along with those of other down-ballot Republicans, has raised questions about whether Republicans can make further inroads there in the midterm elections and possibly in 2024, especially as President Biden faces consistently low approval numbers. … The competitive Virginia districts in question this cycle are the 2nd and 7th districts, which are represented by Reps. Elaine Luria (D) and Abigail Spanberger (D), respectively. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates both races as toss-ups. … Republicans have also their sights set on incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s (D) House seat in the state’s 10th Congressional District.”
Republicans brawl in newly redrawn House district: [Hagerstown, Md.] Herald-Mail: “Maryland’s new congressional maps have made the Western Maryland congressional seat competitive again between Democrats and Republicans come November, according to pollsters. But first the July primary election will test what matters more to voters in the re-formed district: political experience or political endorsements. … Democrats have represented the 6th Congressional District for nearly a decade since then-Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley helped reshape the map for his party. But [Republican candidate Neil Parrott’s] successful lawsuit in state court gives Maryland Republicans at least a fighting chance to double their representation in Washington, D.C., analysts said. … Parrott…contrasts himself with his primary opponents as someone with political experience, having served as a state delegate since 2011… But [candidate Matthew Foldi], who, if elected, would be the state’s youngest member of Congress, has gained high profile endorsements, including from [Governor Larry Hogan]…House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy… [and] Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York…have also backed Foldi.”
Georgia Republicans not sold on Walker: Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “There’s some evidence that a bloc of voters plan to divide their votes in the state’s top races between [Raphael Warnock] and [Brian Kemp]. That dynamic is backed by public polling averages that indicate the governor is outperforming Walker by about 4 percentage points—and that Warnock is garnering more support than [Democratic rival Stacey Abrams] by roughly the same margin. Some potential split-ticket voters are Republicans who can’t stomach voting for Walker, whose history of violent behavior, pattern of false claims and mystifying comments has threatened GOP chances to win a seat that could decide control of the evenly divided Senate. … Others are Democratic voters who say they want to reward Kemp for rejecting Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia or because they’re satisfied with his performance in his first term in office.”
Abortion amendment roils Kansas races: Topeka Capital-Journal: “On both ends of the seemingly endless Kansas City metro area, opponents and supporters of a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution are trying to reach voters to state their case on the hotly debated issue. … Both sides have spent millions in television advertisements and campaign activities in recent weeks. And opponents and advocates for the amendment alike are attempting to use the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health … to motivate their supporters into turning out for the Aug. 2 vote. …The vote is on whether the Kansas Constitution confers a right to an abortion. A ‘yes’ vote would give the Legislature significantly more power to restrict or even outlaw the practice, though they would still need to vote to do so. A ‘no’ vote, meanwhile, would preserve the status quo. Kansas will be the first state in the country where voters will weigh in on abortion following the Dobbs decision.”
Trump said to be near 2024 announcement: Washington Post: “For nearly a year, a kitchen cabinet of Donald Trump confidants have told the former president not to announce his 2024 comeback candidacy before the midterms. … But Trump has continued to regularly push for an early announcement in private meetings, as potential 2024 rivals become more aggressive amid signs of weakening support among his base. Now an increasing number of allies are urging him to follow his instincts as a way to shore up his standing in the party and drive turnout to help the GOP take over the House and Senate next year. … Trump has begun talking with advisers about who should run a campaign, and his team has instructed others to have an online apparatus ready for a campaign should he announce soon. … He also has begun meeting with top donors to talk about the 2024 race, one of these people said, while on trips to various places across the country.”
Feeling midterm heat, Bennet introduces tough-on-crime bill—The Hill
Poll: Beto trails in yet another Texas election—Bloomberg
Ryan looks to attract moderates with new ad—NBC News
DeSantis hosts donors, public figures in private meeting ahead of 2024—Politico
Republicans eye Youngkin after Nebraska GOP convention—Washington Post
WITHIN EARSHOT: FROM THE MICHAELANGELO OF THE MEDIUM
“So, he’s another bull—t artist.”—Former President Donald Trump at a rally for Sarah Palin’s bid for Alaska’s at-large congressional seat talking about Elon Musk.
You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and always good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission anonymous. My colleague, the courageous Abbey Black, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!
CUTLINE CONTEST: MINISTER AND MINISTERER
This goofy-looking photo of Boris Johnson accompanied last week’s note about silly leaders, and we’ve turned to you, our devout readers, to come up with an equally goofy caption. Our winner this week is truly inspired and close to my heart:
“Gary Busey to play Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber sequal” —Alex Fordney, Chattanooga, Tennessee
“‘And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those darn kids and (enter Scooby) SCOOBY ROOOOBY ROOOOOOO!’” —Kim Schell, Lakeland, Florida
“‘My name is Boris Johnson, and this is my audition tape for MTV’s Real World London!’” —Travis Morrill, Yakima, Washington
“Now, if I were smoking a pipe, I’d do it like this.” —Jack Funke, Poplar Bluff, Missouri
“Hey, Moe, what’s wrong? Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!” —Paul Smith, Nashville, Tennessee
“‘With the thoughts you’d be thinkin’, You could be another Lincoln, If you only had a brain.’” —Blake Royal, Houston, Texas
Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!
AP: “A family’s beloved pet cat that’s been dodging airport personnel, airline employees, and animal experts since escaping from a pet carrier at Boston’s Logan International Airport about three weeks ago was finally caught Wednesday. ‘Whether out of fatigue or hunger we’ll never know, but this morning she finally let herself be caught,’ an airport spokesperson said of the cat named Rowdy in a statement. Rowdy was given a health check and will be returned to her family. ‘I’m kind of in disbelief,’ said her owner, Patty Sahli. ‘I thought, “What are the odds we’re actually going to get her back?” But I got a call this morning and I am just so shocked.’ … Rowdy herself was on the receiving end of a chase, as her getaway set off a massive search involving airport … personnel, construction workers, and animal welfare advocates, as well as the use of wildlife cameras and safe-release traps.”
Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a new book on media and politics. Abbey Black contributed to this report.