Hello and happy Saturday. First off, I wanted to thank all of you who played along with my thought experiment last week and shared what you would want to see in a third-party platform. There were some great ideas and it was a very healthy conversation. Coincidentally, Sarah wrote about third parties in Permanent Campaign (🔒) this week, and she threw a small bucket of cold water on the idea: She points out that while 49 percent of Americans now identify as independents, that doesn’t mean they agree on much of anything, and, well, “as these voters have left the two major parties, their voting behavior hasn’t actually changed.” Nevertheless, I find such conversations fascinating and it’s encouraging to see smart people having reasonable discussions about issues that actually matter. (And Sarah’s got some great stuff on how and why the parties have gotten so extreme.)
The big news this week, of course, was that Fox News settled its defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million. Reaction to the settlement was mixed among those who had hoped to see Fox News personalities like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have to testify, or wanted the network to have to fork over the whole $1.6 billion Dominion sued for, or at least have to see Fox News hosts have to grovel through on-air apologies for having aired lies about the election and Dominion. But that’s still a big chunk of change, and Dominion doesn’t have to endure a long appeals process that will add to its legal fees or risk having the settlement reversed or even the verdict overturned. (I don’t normally try to send you away from The Dispatch ecosystem, but my friend Mike Pesca interviewed NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on his podcast, The Gist, and they dive into why the settlement was a smart business decision for Dominion.)
We sent Harvest to Delaware, all ready to cover the trial, but it was a short trip. Her report on how Fox settled after all of its dirty laundry aired in the leadup to the trial can be found in The Morning Dispatch. Nick was watching from home, and he shares his rollercoaster of reactions as the settlement was announced and then other details emerged. He landed on cynicism, noting that Fox News barely mentioned the settlement in its programming: “That Fox would strain so mightily to ignore and obscure the truth in its own coverage proves the point of the settlement, ironically: It’s a propaganda outlet, not a news network.” And Sarah, Jonah, and Steve offer their own reactions on The Dispatch Podcast.
As you’ll see below, the Fox settlement wasn’t the only news of the week. The 2024 campaign continues apace: Ron DeSantis was in D.C. this week trying to drum up support from congressional Republicans, Donald Trump is doing his best to avoid talking about abortion policy, and things are getting pretty ugly in Sudan. Peering into my crystal ball, I can tell you that we have another week of great stories coming up.
Thanks as always for reading and have a great weekend.
Readers of a certain age (looking at you, fellow Gen Xers) might remember the ad campaign that asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” While that seemed like an incalcuable mystery—who could possibly resist the chocolatey deliciousness of a … Tootsie Roll?—Jonah has a modern update with a timely twist: How many My Pillow ads would Fox News have to sell to cover the $787.5 million it must pay to settle Dominion Voting Services’ defamation lawsuit? This one comes with an answer, however. (Readers, I will confess this math problem had to be solved by committee.) “The Dominion settlement amounts to 78,750 30-second My Pillow ads,” Jonah writes. “That’s about 27 days of watching Mike Lindell pop out from behind the medicine cabinet to talk about Giza cotton and whatnot. For perspective, the entire run of all 745 episodes of The Simpsons—viewed back-to-back with no commercial interruptions—would take slightly more than 11 days to watch.” That’s not really the point of the Wednesay G-File (🔒), but it’s the funniest part. Read the whole thing.
It’s easy to be a pessimist these days. Inflation is slowing but still feels like it’s lingering, our politics are … frustrating, to say the least, the upcoming debt-ceiling fight could wreak all kinds of havoc, etc. If you’re feeling despair, Kevin has some great news for you: The U.S. economy, despite what you might be hearing, is in great shape. In case you’re feeling down, he would like to remind you of where things stood in 1995: “The U.S. economy was such a powerhouse that U.S. GDP accounted for almost a quarter of the economic output of the human race, about 24 percent.” So how are things now? “Today, after the rise of China as a global economic power, after the financial crisis of 2007-08, the Great Recession, and all that, U.S. GDP as a share of world economic output has fallen all the way to … the same 24 percent, as it turns out.” He cautions that we should be wary that forces on both the left and right are trying to undo the gains of capitalism for their own purposes and worries that we are a “nation of ingrates.”
As The Dispatch continues to grow, it’s time for another introduction. It was only a few months ago we welcomed senior writer David M. Drucker, to beef up our political coverage as the 2024 campaign heats up. Now I have the pleasure of introducing you to Michael Warren. I worked with Michael at The Weekly Standard, then he went on to CNN. He’s a smart reporter, a talented writer, and a gem of a human. In his first piece, he dives into how evolving public sentiment on abortion restrictions has influenced Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the issue. While just one year ago DeSantis made a big show of signing into law a 15-week abortion ban, he signed a new (post-Dobbs) six-week ban with little fanfare and his office announced it late at night. Michael spoke with various sources in the pro-life movement, all of whom were disappointed in a recent statement from Donald Trump that he believes abortion a state-level matter. They are waiting to see more from DeSantis. “Is this an issue that motivates him? I don’t know,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, told Michael.
Did Donald Trump turn over a new leaf regarding federalism when he stated that the Supreme Court got it right when it decided Dobbs and returned abortion policy to the states? Nahhhhh, Nick argues in Boiling Frogs (🔒). He just doesn’t want to put his hand on that red-hot burner. How will Trump’s stance, which makes sense for appealing to a broader swath of voters in the general, affect him in the primary? In characteristic fashion, Nick thinks through a couple different scenarios, from pro-lifers supporting DeSantis over Trump to Mike Pence entering the race and splitting the pro-life vote between DeSantis and himself to … social conservatives succumbing to the “Trump effect”: “If your beliefs conflict with his political needs, change your beliefs,” he writes. He’s pessimistic: “If evangelicals could change their outlook on the value of basic morality to smooth Trump’s path to power the first time, why wouldn’t they change their outlook on abortion—just a little—to smooth his path a second time?”
And here’s the best of the rest:
- Price reports on a bipartisan initiative to create a national paid family leave program. Oklahoma Republican Stephanie Bice and Pennsylvania Democrat Chrissy Houlahan are leading the effort and hope to draft legislation that could pass in both the House and Senate.
- Mike Pence is expected to announce a run for the White House in the next couple of months. What would his campaign look like? Does he even have a chance at the nomination? David M. Drucker reports.
- Speaking of bipartisanship, in Uphill Haley has details on a framework to raise the debt ceiling being developed by the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House as an alternative to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bill.
- In Capitolism (🔒), Scott Linciome checks in on the West Coast ports, where labor unions have pushed back against automatization, and offers both warnings and advice.
- Charlotte reports on the conflict in Sudan and notes that the two warring factions now each have outside support: the general in charge of the Sudanese military has the support of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE are behind his rival.
- Last but not least, the pods: On The Remnant, Jonah welcomes Christine Rosen, a senior AEI fellow and contributor at Commentary, to talk about anything and everything but the big settlement. David French and Sarah discuss a couple of Supreme Court cases, the Fox News thing, and how Florida has reduced the threshold for death-penalty sentences on Advisory Opinions.