Our Best Stuff From the Week That 2024 Got Rolling

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the New Hampshire Republican state committee's annual meeting on January 28, 2023 in Salem, New Hampshire. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images.)

Hello and happy Saturday. If you’ve been missing the thrill of campaign season—the endless emails soliciting your donations, the commercials from candidates castigating their opponents and begging for your vote, the cable news panels breathlessly debating whether a candidate’s latest misstep is a mere blunder or absolutely fatal—this week was probably pretty exciting for you. And if you’re not that kind of person, you might have been wishing that we were like those other countries with parliaments and prime ministers where the election season lasts a couple of months, tops.

As Chris Stirewalt noted in his Friday newsletter, “the belief that somehow this would be the cycle with a slow start or how certain candidates would be exempt from the normal indignities and vicissitudes of the two-year slog in pursuit of power is revealed as a bunch of hokum.”

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is out and about hawking a new book, Ron DeSantis is launching new fronts in his war on wokism, and Donald Trump must be feeling the heat—he called for an end to federal funding for any school that teaches critical race theory or gender ideology and proposed the direct election of … school principals? Trump is also making visits to early primary states New Hampshire and South Carolina today. 

Heck, as Nick writes in Boiling Frogs (🔐), Marjorie Taylor Greene is basically running for vice president already. 

If you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Wow, that is a lot. If only there were someone who could distill all the important stuff and give me what I need to understand without all the distractions and noise,” well, have I got good  news for you.

On Monday we are launching a new newsletter with readers like you in mind. After months of focus groups and market research, we decided on a very clever name: Dispatch Politics. It will come to you twice a week at first before we ramp up as the campaign itself does. And we’ve got a pretty great team working on it. Andrew Egger has been covering the White House and campaigns since we worked together at The Weekly Standard. David M. Drucker has spent two decades covering politics for the Washington Examiner and Roll Call and is the author of In Trump’s Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP.(Check out his first piece for us, published today and summarized below.) Audrey Fahlberg has been with us since the early days, and has covered races in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington state and elsewhere.

To make sure you don’t miss anything, head to our newsletters page and sign up to receive Dispatch Politics in your inbox.

Now, we did cover a few other noteworthy events this week: Ukraine is getting some tanks, Congress is settling in to the new session, and a former senior counterintelligence officer has been arrested and charged for working with a Russian oligarch. Catch up on anything you missed below, and thanks for reading.

Nikki Haley’s Campaign-in-Waiting Starts Its Engines

Donald Trump announced his reelection campaign on November 15 and since then, exactly … no one has jumped into the pool with him. But it looks like Nikki Haley—former governor of South Carolina and Trump’s U.N. ambassador—is dipping her toes in. In his first piece for The Dispatch, David M. Drucker looks at Haley’s campaign architecture, which he calls “robust” and notes other factors that favor a quick announcement: She has a solid message and South Carolina is an early primary state. But is it enough to make it worth jumping in and making herself the sole target of Trump’s ire? “As Haley is fond of reminding naysayers, she has never lost an election,” David writes. “And they were not always easy.” 

The Pro-Life Movement Comes to a Crossroads 

For 49 years, pro-life activists at the March for Life called for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. What would they do this year now that the Supreme Court granted their wish? They didn’t just celebrate. Price reports that pro-lifers are focused on federal legislation to limit abortion access, increasing economic support for pregnant women and their children, and various state measures that address both of those issues. And they are concerned about the proliferation of abortion pills. ““The better priority is for us to address what is now the on-the-ground reality of abortion in America, which is online, no-test distribution of chemical abortion pills,” Kristi Hamrick, chief media and policy strategist at Students for Life of America, told Price. “We’re going to be focusing our efforts there rather than on a 15-week limit.”

‘If You Lose Control of the Rules Committee, You’ve Lost Control of the Floor’

Kevin McCarthy made more than a few concessions to win the House speakership earlier this month, and now he’s paying up. Three “rebellious” House Republicans were appointed to the powerful Rules Committee, while other McCarthy opponents were appointed to the Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform committees. What does that mean for the House agenda? Audrey reports that the debt ceiling fight will be … interesting. “To extend the country’s borrowing limit, House Republicans will have to cut a deal with Democrats. That’s no simple task, given the varying set of demands some conservative members have raised in recent weeks: While some are demanding heavy spending cuts to certain federal programs or balance the budget over a set period of time, others have vowed to vote against any debt ceiling increase entirely.”

The National Security Implications of Charles McGonigal’s Arrest

The FBI’s counterintelligence office in New York is the bureau’s largest field office, necessarily so, given that the city is home not only to the United Nations but a number of foreign missions and consulates. That made Monday’s announcement of the arrest of Charles McGonigal, the former special agent in charge at the New York field office,  especially disturbing. McGonigal is charged with sanctions violations and money laundering as a result of his alleged relationship with a Russian oligarch. Kevin Carroll, a former CIA and Army officer, lays out the potential implications: McGonigal could have, perhaps unwittingly, “affected Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, or aided Moscow’s assassination operations against Russian defectors in the West.” Carroll criticizes the intelligence community for its insufficient efforts in monitoring the business dealings and employment of former agents and officers.

Here’s the best of the rest:

  • In Wanderland (🔐), Kevin says that eliminating straw purchases of guns is a worthy goal, but points out that Illinois is making a hash of its attempts to do so, and he notes that prosecutors everywhere are loath to go after small-time straw purchasers.
  • Harvest loves eggs. Loves them. So she was the perfect reporter to write our article explaining why we’re paying $6, $7, or even $9 a dozen for our breakfast fix these days.  
  • In the G-File, Jonah has a bee in his bonnet over the Doomsday Clock and the scientists behind it. “Really smart experts often don’t understand that they’re not experts about stuff they’re not experts on,” he writes.
  • Keith Whittington details why DeSantis’ policies for higher education—the so-called “Stop Woke Act” and his efforts to turn New College, the state liberal arts college, into a “Hillsdale of the South”—are a legitimate threat to academic freedom. (And he discusses it a little more on The Remnant with Jonah.)
  • Germany finally relented and agreed to send some of its Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Robert Tyler argues that Chancellor Olaf Scholz is hardly deserving of praise, and bemoans the fact that Western leaders have been given too much credit for doing the bare minimum.
  • Yuki Tatsumi explains what Japan’s recently announced military buildup entails, and offers insight into the challenges Japan will face in implementing it.
  • And the pods: On the Dispatch Podcast, Jonah, Declan, and Kevin hash out the debt-ceiling and classified document kerfuffles and wonder if DeSantis’ culture warrioring is the new normal for the GOP. On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah discuss the revelation that classified documents were discovered at Mike Pence’s home. David and Curtis Chang have a deep conversation about “hinge moments”—those times in life that we’re faced with potentially big changes that can go one way or the other—on Good Faith with Dr. Michael Lindsay, who has written a book on the subject. And you won’t want to miss “one of the most brazenly nerdy Remnant episodes ever recorded.” 
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