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Our Best Stuff on Trump’s Trial and the War in Gaza
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Our Best Stuff on Trump’s Trial and the War in Gaza

Plus: How the pandemic radicalized so many Americans.

President Joe Biden makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on May 11, 2024. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Hello and happy Sunday! And happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the audience. I hope you’re reading this with your feet up and enjoying a much-deserved moment of peace and quiet.

If I ever have to explain this week’s news to future generations over Mother’s Day brunch, they are going to think I spent it at an ayahuasca retreat. Let’s see: On Tuesday, adult film star Stormy Daniels testified in graphic detail about her alleged liaison with Donald Trump in 2006. Then the New York Times reported Wednesday that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed in a 2012 deposition that a parasite had eaten part of his brain. 

All of this had Jonah craving some sanity. “When normal Americans said they wanted an alternative to choosing between a doddering and indecisive incumbent president and a decadent and deceitful one with a fondness for despots,” he writes in his Wednesday G-File (🔒), “what they didn’t have in mind was a loony conspiracy theorist recovering from a bad—and not entirely metaphorical—case of brain worms.”

You’d assume that with one opponent sitting in court listening as explicit and embarrassing details of his personal life come out and another being a well-known conspiracy theorist with an actual brain worm, incumbent President Joe Biden would be breathing easy about his reelection chances. But not only has Trump held a steady lead in the polls for months, Biden is trying to handle a thorny challenge that has serious implications for world events, America’s foreign policy, and his campaign.

On Tuesday, Biden delivered the kind of powerful speech decrying antisemitism that supporters of Israel have been waiting for. Speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Day of Remembrance, he addressed the horrors of October 7 and lamented the “ferocious surge of antisemitism in America and around the world” that it prompted. “It’s absolutely despicable,” he said. “And it must stop.” 

On Wednesday, however, the president announced that he would halt the shipment of some weapons to Israel if it carried out a full-scale invasion of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians had been sheltering—though reports indicate that 300,000 have evacuated

If the president—and presumptive Democratic nominee—thought those moves would show that he was trying to address the concerns of supporters on each side of the conflict, he was mistaken. In his newsletter on Saturday, Chris Stirewalt described the tactic as the “bad umpire” approach: “How else could a Democratic president be subject to these two accurate headlines on the same day: ‘Inside Biden’s Broken Relationship With Muslim and Arab American Leaders’ and ‘Biden’s Israel Threat Slammed by Pro-Israel Lawmakers, Mainstream Jewish Groups.’”

Nick went deep into the electoral challenge the war in Gaza presents for Biden—don’t miss the summary down below.

I feel confident that the next six months are going to offer the same hodgepodge of serious, outlandish, and farcical developments on the way to Election Day. But have no fear: We’re here for you. In The Collision, Sarah and Michael will be sorting through court filings and following hearings in the multiple jurisdictions in which Trump is facing charges. The Dispatch Politics team will be out on the campaign trail, and Nick will be keeping track of the daily goings-on in Boiling Frogs. Jonah is probably crafting some more brain worm jokes as I write this.

If you’re not one of our paid members, you’re going to be missing out on a great deal. There’s never been a better time to join if you’re looking for some sanity amid the craziness. Give us a shot: We’ll be grateful, and you’ll be more informed. (Also, if you’re like my kids and reading this served as a reminder that—oops!— it’s Mother’s Day, you can solve that problem quickly with a gift membership.)

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

“Some people would like to forget the COVID era. Some people still can think of little else. The pandemic really was a radicalizing experience for a large number of Americans.” So says Kevin in this analytical piece on how events like the pandemic—and before that, 9/11 and the 2007-08 financial crisis—have transformed people on both the left and the right in different ways. The events of 9/11 pushed the right toward culture-war issues and the left to conspiracy theories. The Great Recession gave us the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. “The right adopted a more libertarian critique of many institutions and practices and then rallied behind an autocratic would-be caudillo with a distinctly etatist approach to economic policy,” he writes. “The left, meanwhile, has adopted a more radically egalitarian rhetoric even as the Democratic Party got very comfortable with its new role as the party of moneyed professionals and urban elites. Strange times, indeed.” 

To give you a little peek behind the curtain, I can usually tell when Nick is going to file an especially good Boiling Frogs. Pondering his potential topics for the day, he’ll say something like, “I feel like I have to weigh in, even if I have no idea how I can get 2,000 words out of that.” And so it was Thursday, when he might have spent more time pondering the strategic—policy-wise and politics-wise—pros and cons of President Biden’s threat to withhold offensive weapons from Israel than the administration itself did. He understands Biden is in a pickle: A full-scale invasion of Rafah would involve frighteningly many civilian casualties, and he can’t afford to lose support from pro-Palestinian progressives. But … delaying the invasion could prolong the war and create more civilian casualties, and withdrawing support for Israel now both makes America look like an unreliable partner to allies and risks alienating traditional conservatives who might pick Biden over Donald Trump. “It’s in America’s interest to see the war in Gaza end as quickly and peacefully as possible,” he writes. “Thwarting the Rafah incursion cuts against all of those interests. Even so, this foolishness might be worth it to the White House if it meaningfully improved Biden’s odds of a second term. But it won’t.”

David Drucker interviewed Donald Trump in May 2021, at a time when the former president acknowledged that the events at the Capitol on January 6 were problematic: “I think if I did go down there, I would have stopped the people from doing anything bad,” he said then. That’s obviously not how he feels today. Drucker tracks Trump’s statements over time, from saying it was a “lovefest” between the Capitol Police and rioters to calling those imprisoned “hostages,” up to and including his recent comments to Time that he would “absolutely” consider pardoning the defendants who were charged for their actions that day. One Trump critic with whom David spoke has a theory about the journey. “He’s trying to justify his own behavior and that of his followers on January 6,” a GOP operative who opposes the former president said. “He thinks the behavior was okay because they bought into his fantasy that he won 2020.”

And here’s the best of the rest:

  • We’re all feeling pain at the grocery store, but as Scott notes in Capitolism (🔒), bad government policy makes food more expensive even before economy-wide inflation takes its toll. He details some of the tariffs that the U.S. levies on beef, shrimp, and tomatoes and how much they cost Americans.
  • Former Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio calls attention to a little-noticed provision of the recent Ukraine aid package that requires the Biden administration to submit an assessment of what Ukraine needs to win the war. He runs through a list of the planes, tanks, systems, and munitions that will get the job done, and encourages the president to get moving.
  • The Friday edition of Dispatch Politics checks in with Nikki Haley supporters who are open to supporting Biden in November and looks at what the White House is (and isn’t) doing to win them over.
  • What happens if Donald Trump is jailed, either for contempt of court or following a conviction in Manhattan? No one is quite sure, but Mark Stobbe tries to navigate these uncharted waters by looking back at history and also explaining relevant New York state law.
  • In The Collision, Michael and Sarah note that we’re learning quite a bit about how Donald Trump operates thanks to the testimony in his Manhattan trial. They also cover the latest from Trump’s classified documents case and explain why there have been so many delays.
  • On the pods: On The Dispatch Podcast, Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle joins Sarah and Jonah to talk about all things Stormy Daniels, discuss whether Burgumentum is a thing, and weigh in on the man v. bear TikTok debate. Over on Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David French invite 11th Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom to provide a tutorial on jurisdiction stripping. And on The Remnant, our Kevin (Williamson) joins Jonah for a wide-ranging discussion on U.S.-Israel relations, the role of conservative writers, and life as a parent of triplets.

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.