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Our Best Stuff on the Debt Ceiling, the Heritage Foundation, and Infrastructure
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Our Best Stuff on the Debt Ceiling, the Heritage Foundation, and Infrastructure

Plus, more on Tucker Carlson.

Speaker of the House Rep. Kevin McCarthy addresses the media at the U.S. Capitol on April 26, 2023 in Washington, D.C., after the House voted and passed a bill raising the nation's debt ceiling. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Hello! I hope you’re having a good weekend. Longtime readers know I don’t delve into hot political topics too often here—I prefer to leave that to the experts—but a couple stories from this past week disturbed me enough that I can’t not talk about them. 

First, Tucker Carlson. Fox News did not explain why it parted ways with Carlson last week, prompting speculation. Was it because he welcomed guests who spread lies about the 2020 election while privately calling some of the claims “absurd,” showing that he knew he was airing falsehoods? Was it because of disparaging comments he made about colleagues and Fox News leadership that came out in the discovery process of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit? Or was it a different lawsuit altogether?

Abby Grossberg, a former Fox News employee who worked as a booker for Tucker Carlson Tonight, sued the network in March, claiming the network’s lawyers coerced her into making false statements in the deposition she gave in the Dominion case. But she also claimed that “she endured a hostile and discriminatory office culture at the network,” as Harvest notes in a report on the suit. How hostile? 

During her first full day on Carlson’s show, Grossberg was greeted with “large and blown-up photographs of Nancy Pelosi in a plunging bathing suit revealing her cleavage” on her computer and elsewhere in the office. The next day, Grossberg says she was called to the office of Senior Executive Producer Justin Wells, who she said asked if her former boss, Bartiromo, was having sex with then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Sigh. Sadly, that’s not even the most disturbing story about a prominent right-wing media figure. Those of you who have the good sense to stay off Twitter might have missed the other one. Steven Crowder is a right-wing commentator with nearly 6 million YouTube subscribers whose show, Louder With Crowder, aired on Blaze TV until earlier this year. Yashar Ali, an independent journalist, earlier this week published an exposé on Crowder, sharing Ring camera footage from Crowder’s home showing him berating his eight-months pregnant wife  for wanting to take their car to run errands because it would leave him without a vehicle in case he wanted it, and suggesting she take an Uber. It’s hard to convey his abusive tone in words, though I can’t heartily recommend viewing the video yourself unless you prefer your blood to approach a slow boil.) Ali’s story includes a statement from his wife’s family claiming years of abuse, and he notes that Crowder wasn’t present for the birth of his children in August 2021. The couple is getting divorced, for which, in light of the news coming out, Crowder is blaming his wife. “My then wife decided she didn’t want to be married anymore. And in the State of Texas, that is completely permitted. She simply wanted out, and the law says that is how it works.” 

It must be said that the allegations against Carlson are just that—allegations. And we are seeing only one side of the story about the Crowder divorce (though the video is pretty damning). And I’m not here to conduct a women’s studies seminar on feminism.  

But let’s be pragmatic for a second. In the year 2024, a time when women make up about half the workforce and close to 60 percent of college students, when when women run companies and serve as governors and senators and make up nearly half of the Supreme Court, how can you have a successful political movement when prominent figures within that movement treat women with so little regard and so much disrespect? 

We’ve seen what effect Donald Trump has had on the Republican Party. The GOP had been losing women for a long time before he came along, but Trump—accused of impropriety or worse by more than 20 women, infamous for the the Access Hollywood tape, and currently facing criminal charges for covering up hush-money payments to a porn actress with whom whe allegedly cheated on his third wife—accelerated that trend. Carlson and Crowder aren’t elected officials, but Carlson long had a reputation as a serious conservative writer and commentator. While it’s easy to argue Crowder is nothing more than a modern-day shock jock with a YouTube channel instead of a drive-time slot on AM radio, he has a huge audience and overwhelming influence on a certain part of the right—namely, young men.

I can already hear in my mind liberals commenting, “Are you really surprised? Conservatives have always been anti-woman!” It’s a critique I’ve heard for years, and I always hated it. Not every woman supports liberal policy positions, and it’s a different kind of sexism to assume that we should want a limitless right to abortion or socialized medicine or universal pre-K just because we’re women. 

But just because women agree with conservative positions on small government or low taxes or a strong national defense or hold more traditional social values doesn’t mean we want to endure juvenile sexist behavior in the workplace or tolerate men who think their wives exist to serve them. 

I would like to be encouraged that Fox News got rid of Tucker, for whatever reason. But Donald Trump—whose treatment of women doesn’t even top the list of reasons he shouldn’t be the head of the Republican Party—is currently running away from all challengers in polls for the 2024 GOP primary. And Tucker might no longer have a prime-time slot on a leading network, but figures like Crowder have shown you don’t need one: There is always YouTube, or Rumble, or he could easily launch a podcast. 

The conservative movement has a problem, one that I’m not sure it’s in a good position to address. But it can’t be ignored any longer. On that cheery note, thank you for reading and enjoy your weekend.

Is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy feuding with his No. 2., Majority Leader Steve Scalise? Speculation about tension between the two arose during the push for McCarthy’s debt-ceiling legislation, with news reports on internal negotiations barely mentioning Scalise. While both sides denied there is any conflict in statements to The Dispatch, Michael Warren explains that even the speculation hints at McCarthy’s challenges. Among the concessions McCarthy made to his critics during his 15-vote journey to the speakership was a rule stating that only one member of the conference was needed to call for a vote to remove the speaker. So McCarthy is in a precarious position, and Scalise would be a natural replacement for him. “In 2014, with McCarthy moving up to the majority leader role, Scalise made the leap into conference leadership by running and winning the race for whip, a position he held for more than eight years—making him the longest-serving House Republican whip in 50 years,” Michael writes. “With that pedigree, the case for Scalise as next-in-line for speaker is more compelling than it was in 2015—which makes him, whether intended or not, a threat to McCarthy.”

For decades, the Heritage Foundation has been “the foremost champion of the three-legged fusionist stool that first showed its electoral prowess with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980: a free-market, free-trade economic agenda; a muscular foreign policy; and a traditionalist stance on social issues,” the Dispatch Politics team noted on Monday. But as the influential think tank turns 50, it’s experiencing a midlife crisis of sorts, adopting more Trumpian and populist views. At a gathering marking the anniversary, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance complained about U.S. support for Ukraine and another speaker applauded Heritage for taking a tougher stance on trade with China. And a more troubling sign about Heritage’s future is its sponsorship of another summit held in D.C. last weekend, by the Bull Moose Project, which is known for its heated rhetoric and ties to white nationalists.

While a new survey shows that the majority of Americans still describe themselves as “pretty happy,” the number calling themselves “very happy” is way down and “not too happy” is way up. And a different study shows that 40 percent of Americans find politics to be a “significant source of anxiety,” Chris Stirewalt writes. So how do people engage in politics and stay happy? He has some ideas. He shares the story of a woman who was one of the “very happy” respondents and who says she stays active in her community but “understands the difference between engagement and anxiety.” As Chris writes, “In the end, all we can really control is what we do—how we respond to this broken, beautiful world we get to live in. Your party or ideology does not dictate your happiness or unhappiness, but whether you can engage with those things in constructive ways certainly does.” 

Our country has great infrastructure needs, and, well, in late 2021 Congress passed and Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. So how’s that working out? Not well, Kevin argues. A bunch of money was supposed to improve conditions at our ports, but that is mostly going toward achieving climate goals:  “replacing diesel forklifts and tractors with battery-powered ones and building charging stations.” Meanwhile the roads around our ports are in disrepair. The other focus of the infrastructure bill was supposed to be energy, but environmentalists and the Biden administration are doing their best to keep any improvements on that front from happening, even as Americans deal with gas shortages and suffer through blackouts when hackers shut down pipelines or bad guys with guns shoot up a power station. “The country needs a great deal of real investment in energy and transportation, two critical areas that can be mutually reinforcing but that also impose their vulnerabilities on one another,” Kevin writes. “On the other side, we have union bosses willing to hold key transit hubs hostage and utopian environmentalists who believe that the economy can be run on happy thoughts and good intentions—two interest groups whose economic interests may not always match up exactly but who share a political vehicle.” 

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • Republicans in the Ohio statehouse are trying to raise the threshold for amending the state constitution via ballot initiative. That’s not necessarily a bad idea on the merits, Nick notes in Boiling Frogs (🔒), but he’s not too impressed with why they’re doing it. Read to find out! 
  • Alvin Bragg will always be known as the first prosecutor to indict a former president, but when he took office in Manhattan in January 2022, he also got attention for vowing not to enforce certain laws and directing his assistants to use their judgment when considering charges against people who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse or homelessness. Jacob Becker explains what “prosecutorial nullification” is and why it’s a threat to the separation of powers.
  • What good is an aid program if it doesn’t reach the families it’s designed to reach? Not much. Leah Libresco Sargeant explains how convoluted application processes and other barriers make aid programs ineffective and suggests ways to fix the problem.
  • In Permanent Campaign (🔒), Sarah explains why, for better or worse, it makes perfect sense that Donald Trump would want to skip the two announced GOP primary debates. (As it turns out, people who want to be president are kinda risk averse.)
  • On the pods: Former Vice President Mike Pence isn’t (yet) a candidate for the 2024 GOP nomination, but he can add Dispatch Podcast guest to his résumé. Check out his conversation with Steve and Sarah. Big Tech is going to be a big part of the Supreme Court docket for the next few years. Sarah and David French explain why on Advisory Opinions. And on The Remnant, Jonah welcomes Jack Butler, his former research assistant at AEI, to figure out what’s up with young (and very online) conservatives these days.

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.