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Our Best Stuff From an Extreme Week
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Our Best Stuff From an Extreme Week

Nancy Pelosi’s husband is attacked in their home by an assailant.

(Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.)

Hello and happy Saturday.  It’s a crisp, cool fall day here in Indianapolis, where I’m spending the weekend at our son’s swim meet. By all reports it’s lovely back in the Ohio bureau, too. If the sun is out and the fall color is at its peak where you are, please make sure to take advantage. 

I say that because it seems like many of us could benefit from some fresh air and a walk around the block. Put down the phone, grab the dog’s leash and a jacket, and step outside. [Editor: Should they bring the dog, too? I guess that depends on how much they worry about what the neighbors think.] A little more than a week ahead of the midterms, things are a little too heated in this country. A couple of big stories from the end of the week show just how much.

Elon Musk completed his purchase of Twitter this week, and the reaction on both ends of the political spectrum was extreme. As Nick notes in his Friday newsletter, some of those on the right who were eager for Musk’s acquisition are already pushing the boundary of what might be tolerated, and some on the left are acting like war just broke out. Literally

It’s not like we needed another reminder of the real-world danger presented by toxic online discourse, but we got an unfortunate one on Friday when news broke that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was attacked in their home by an intruder armed with a hammer. Paul Pelosi, 82, is expected to make a full recovery, but he did require surgery for a skull fracture and suffered other injuries. 

While it’s prudent to wait until law enforcement can speak more fully to the suspect’s motive before making a definitive connection, multiple sources have reported that the suspect was looking for Nancy Pelosi, and the New York Times reports authorities have discovered social media posts by a man with the same name as the suspect “that espoused antisemitism and contained an array of angry and paranoid postings, including concerns about pedophilia, anti-white racism and ‘elite’ control of the internet.”

The Washington Post published an op-ed from its editorial board that details other recent threats to politicians, officials, and justices. It mentions both the 2011 shooting of Gabbi Giffords in Arizona and the 2017 shooting at a practice for the GOP congressional baseball team that gravely wounded Steve Scalise. Those were terrifying incidents, but happened years apart. The WaPo also reminds us that in just the last few months, a man in Washington state threatened to kill Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a man turned himself into police and said he wanted to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and yet another man pleaded guilty just this week for threatening to kill an unnamed congressional representative. Threats of violence aren’t new and aren’t the domain of a single party, but they are increasing.

We’ve written ad nauseam about the toxic state of our discourse, with David particularly focused on the growing  problem. It’s hard to know what else to say (though it would be really nice if people could refrain from saying “the other side does it too, only worse”). Politics is important, yes. The decisions made by those who represent us in Washington and in statehouses and on city councils have real effects on our day-to-day lives, and those effects can be negative. But we have a mechanism by which we can hold them accountable: elections.

Now, I’m admittedly not thrilled with the options I’ll have in a lot of races on November 8. (As I mentioned last week.) But what makes a lot of candidates unattractive is that they seem to thrive off our twisted and extreme discourse. As I note below, Harvest reported this week on the number of statewide secretary of state races in which election deniers could win and find themselves with some measure of power over elections in their states. 

It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s hard to see us pulling out of it anytime soon. But individual decisions matter. So take that walk, watch a football game, take the kids to the zoo. Read a book. After you read all the great stuff I highlight below, that is. 

One note before we get to that: Due to an unfortunate error, those of you who tried to listen to Jonah’s Saturday morning solo Remnant might have been surprised to hear a rerun of Friday’s podcast, which featured Sarah interviewing  Mo Elleithee. We’ve fixed the error and uploaded the correct podcast. It’s one you won’t want to miss.

As David reminds us, the war in Ukraine is the biggest story in the world, and we should be paying careful attention to the latest development: talk of a “dirty bomb.” Russian officials have been busy warning Western powers that Ukraine is about to unleash such a bomb, which those same Western powers have taken to mean that its Russia that is considering deploying such a weapon. (The propaganda is a little too on the nose here.) After explaining what a dirty bomb is—a conventional explosive wrapped around radioactive material—David gets into the geopolitics. “We don’t know if Russia intends to escalate beyond its conventional war against Ukraine,” he writes. “But we do know this—that unless we choose to make Ukraine strong, then even Ukraine’s incredible valor may not prove to be sufficient to stop the sheer force of Russian arms.” 

You’d think Russia’s latest escalation would cause elected officials to be at least a little circumspect in their commentary about the war in Ukraine. You would be wrong. On Monday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter to the White House calling on Joe Biden to negotiate directly with the Russian aggressors and prevent a “prolonged conflict.” The letter landed with a thud. Reaction from the progressives’ own side of the aisle was both swift and harsh, and CPC leader Rep.  Pramila Jayapal withdrew the letter, in what Nick describes as “the most shambolic retreat since the Russian army ran screaming out of Kharkiv.” Nick suspects that the letter and the reaction have something to do with left’s own internal divisions, between those who are anti-war and those who are in favor of humanitarian interventions. He does see a silver lining of sorts: “Ironically, this episode may lead [Kevin] McCarthy back toward a more hawkish middle ground on Ukraine. The noisier progressives get about peace and diplomacy, the more right-wing populists will instinctively begin to question the merits of that position as redolent of sissy liberalism.”

Joe Biden won the presidency nearly two years ago, but some days it feels like we’ll never truly get past the 2020 election. Social media platforms are still full of election denial and misinformation, and there are more GOP candidates than I can count running on “restoring election integrity.” Some of them could be in a position to do real harm if they win–namely, those running for secretary of state at the state level across the country. Harvest points to a few specific candidates—Mark Finchem in Arizona and Jim Marchant in Nevada—who’ve touted election-related conspiracy theories or called our electoral system fraudulent, and writes that more than more than “a dozen non-battleground states feature Trump-aligned secretary of state candidates.” But she also explains carefully what secretaries of state can—and can’t—do. “Secretaries in some states (like Arizona) can rewrite directives to local election officials that outline processes like signature matching, vote-counting, and provisional ballots,” she writes. “Secretaries could also try to pressure election administrators to leave and fill those positions with allies instead.” And when they do? The courts can always get involved.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were writing about the awkward situation in Arizona, where it seemed like no one wanted to fund Blake Masters’ Senate campaign. Mitch McConnell’s PAC had withdrawn money planned for an ad buy, and Masters’ primary backer, Peter Thiel, was making excuses not to do more. But the winds shifting favorably in the GOP’s direction nationally have swept up Masters, and now he is within 2.5 points of incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly. Andrew headed to Phoenix to figure out what’s going on. Andrew notes that Masters has made some missteps and trails in the money race, and he points out that Arizona “has both purpled and sprouted an insurgent MAGA wing, originally as a result of Donald Trump’s hard-charging rhetoric on immigration.” So how is Masters pulling off this comeback? “National trends alone probably wouldn’t boost Masters enough to catch Kelly. But he also benefits from an unlikely political ally: Republican gubernatorial candidate and former local TV host Kari Lake.” 

Jonah’s mother, Lucianne Goldberg, passed away on Wednesday, and somehow Jonah gathered himself to write a tribute to her in his Friday G-File. Lucianne was a notable figure, an accomplished literary agent and author who famously encouraged Linda Tripp to record her conversations with one Monica Lewinsky. But you won’t find much about that in Jonah’s remembrance. It’s mostly about what an awesome mom she was. He does mention that she founded an anti-women’s lib group called the Pussycat League, but even that is tied to her parenting in his piece. “My mom’s fights with ‘women’s lib’ always struck me as strange, because she was in so many ways the most liberated woman I ever knew. … She may have been trolling when she’d say on the lecture circuit in the Pussycat League days that ‘equality is a step down’ but when it came to the woman I knew, it rang true. She wanted a career—and had several!—but she also wanted to be a mom and a wife.”   

Here’s the best of the rest:

  • However you feel abortion, you’ll probably be left unsettled by Haley’s Friday Uphill (🔒), where she shares details from Democratic Rep. Cori Bush’s memoir. Bush is frank about her two abortions, in particular the moments before her second abortion where she expressed reservation. And Bush’s first person accounts of abysmal care during two other pregnancies will leave you angry. But read Haley’s piece anyhow. 
  • We’ve run more than a few pieces on the “new right”—an amalgamation of national conservatives, populists, and big-government enthusiasts—by David as well as our reporters. This week it’s Lincicome’s turn to remind the burgeoning movement that big government is not the answer to our problems. Check out Capitolism (🔒).
  • In Wanderland (🔒), the midterm season has Kevin feeling a little grumpy about both the Republican and Democratic parties, so he checks in on what the new Forward Party is selling. Alas, he’s not buying that either.
  • Speaking of Kevin, he’s got a bonus “Econ for English Majors,” in which he explains what’s going on with Treasury bonds and why we should be worried.
  • And the pods: On Good Faith, David and Curtis tackle an important question: How should Christians think about debt?  It’s junior high but on politics on The Dispatch Podcast, as Kevin joins the gang to discuss his theory of political cooties. Get out the tissues before you listen to Jonah’s solo Remnant remembering his mom, the inestimable Lucianne Goldberg.  And on Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah do eventually get to the big upcoming Supreme Court case on affirmative action, but only after indulging in some more discussion of the cheating scandal rocking the chess world.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.