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Our Best Stuff From the First Week of 2024
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Our Best Stuff From the First Week of 2024

And how January 6 is going to play a huge role in the presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on January 6, 2024 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday. Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. The events of that day were a major story of the week, but it wasn’t just obligatory anniversary coverage that media outlets were reporting on. We’re seeing how the fallout from the riot at the Capitol will be a prominent feature of the 2024 election.

President Joe Biden made his first big campaign speech of the new year on Friday from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and he focused on former President Donald Trump’s actions on January 6. “Trump’s mob wasn’t a peaceful protest; it was a violent assault,” he said. “They were insurrectionists, not patriots. They weren’t there to uphold the Constitution; they were there to destroy the Constitution.”

It’s clear that Biden is anticipating that Trump will win the Republican nomination. And, as we’ve been reporting for the last year, that’s certainly what the polling would indicate. Trump is expected to easily win the Iowa caucuses on January 15, and, while Nikki Haley is certainly making things interesting in New Hampshire, she’d need a big win there on January 23 to have any kind of chance in the February 24 primary in her home state of South Carolina. 

Even if Trump does win the primary, it’s an open question as to whether his name will appear on every state’s ballot come the fall—and it looks like that question will be answered by the Supreme Court. Last month, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump was ineligible to run for office based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states:

No person shall be a Senator or representative in Congress or elector of president and vice president or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress or as an officer of the United States or as a member of any state legislature or as an executive or judicial officer of any state to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

Whether Trump is eligible to hold office depends on the answer to two key questions: Did his efforts to overturn the election amount to an insurrection? And is he an “officer of the United States”? The Colorado Supreme Court answered “yes” to both of them.

Now it’s the Supreme Court’s turn, having granted Trump’s petition for review. Oral arguments will take place on February 8. “The sweep of the court’s ruling is likely to be broad,” New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak writes. “It will probably resolve not only whether Mr. Trump may appear on the Colorado primary ballot after the state’s top court declared that he had engaged in insurrection in his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, but it will most likely also determine his eligibility to run in the general election and to hold office at all.”

We’ve covered the 14th Amendment issue extensively, in Sarah and Mike’s newsletter The Collision, and on Advisory Opinions with Sarah and David French. Jonah and Kevin have weighed in.

The Supreme Court news broke late on Friday, so expect us to have much more on what it means and what to expect in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization based in Lebanon, has thus far played a minimal role in the war between Israel and Hamas. It’s engaged in border skirmishes with the Israeli Defense Forces but has resisted the more full-scale invasion that many anticipated after October 7. Will that change after Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was assassinated in a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in Beirut, reportedly by an Israeli drone? “The Dahieh neighborhood, which is the most important stronghold of Hezbollah, is supposed to be a safe area,” Yoni Ben-Menachem, an Israel-based Arab affairs expert, told Charlotte. “Al-Arouri was a guest of Hezbollah, and he was assassinated.” Charlotte provides some important background on al-Arouri and reports on what it might say about Israel’s future plans: “The commander’s killing on Tuesday sends a powerful message—both to Hamas’ remaining leadership and to other members of Iran’s resistance network—that Israel is willing to take risks to prevent future attacks.”

Amid the drama of Kevin McCarthy losing the speakership and the chaos that followed when Republicans couldn’t decide on a replacement, Rep. Patrick McHenry provided some important stability as the speaker pro tempore. But he announced in December that he would not seek reelection in 2024. He sat down with John McCormack for an illuminating conversation about why he’s leaving and the major institutional challenges facing the House, from the broken budgeting process to a congressional calendar that not only complicates that process but is also hard on representatives with children. But McHenry remains optimistic: “By having such a terrible, awful, no good, lousy year,” he told John, “this should be the moment where my party comes back to, ‘What the hell are we about?’ And, ‘What are we here to achieve?’”

What was your reaction when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday blamed the media for not being harder on Donald Trump? Personally, the voice of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character popped into my head: “Isn’t that special?” Because, as Nick notes in Boiling Frogs, DeSantis has had plenty of chances to criticize the man he’s running against for the Republican nomination. The whole thing reminds him not of a Saturday Night Live sketch but the 2016 primary, when Ted Cruz won Iowa only to see his victory downplayed on Fox News. Nick dives deep on DeSantis’ entire media strategy and finds it wanting. “He cold-shouldered mainstream outlets, provided access to friendly right-wing platforms, and engaged in a sort of influencer ‘arms race’ with Donald Trump aimed at dominating the social media conversation on the right,” he writes. “The problem with that strategy is that it was destined to make an already unsympathetic press corps that much more unsympathetic to him.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Claudine Gay stepped down as Harvard’s president on Tuesday, and media coverage quickly took on a “conservatives pounce” vibe since it was conservative activists pushing the claims and the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon investigating them. Jonah’s having none of it in the G-File (🔒): “Sure, it’s an interesting story that conservatives were out to get Claudine Gay,” he writes. “But it’s not like Chris Rufo has a time machine that allowed him to go back to the 1990s and force her to plagiarize whole paragraphs.”
  • Nippon Steel’s acquisition of U.S. Steel sets Scott Lincicome up for a classic Capitolism (🔒), offering him the chance to remind everyone that protectionist policies have unintended consequences. He notes that U.S. Steel opted to lobby for tariffs and subsidies instead of modernizing, and those very tariffs made the company—a shadow of its former self—attractive for a takeover by a foreign company looking to set up shop here and avoid said tariffs.
  • Several Protestant denominations have struggled with divisions over gay marriage, but none to the extent of the United Methodist Church. Thousands of congregations have left the UMC, and Norman Hubbard helpfully explains how the schism came about, why conservative congregations are the ones leaving, and where they are going.
  • Are you ready for a Mickey Mouse slasher film? It’s a possibility now that the copyright has expired on “Steamboat Willie,” the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to be distributed. The Morning Dispatch (🔒) crew uses that anecdote to kick off a fascinating dive into “Public Domain Day” and the state of copyright law in the U.S.
  • And the pods! On The Dispatch Podcast roundtable, the gang is feeling a little morose about the inevitability of Trump being the GOP nominee. Jonah welcomes AEI’s Yuval Levin to The Remnant for a wide-ranging conversation about Claudine Gay’s resignation, the usefulness of the horseshoe theory, and the health (or lack thereof) of our institutions. And David and Sarah discuss a number of Supreme Court cases, including SEC v. Jarkesy and Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, on Advisory Opinions

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.