Thursday, March 25, 2021

BTRTN: Cuomo Next Step... Investigation, Resignation, or Just Be Judged Like a Republican?

At one level, it’s an open and shut case: Cuomo should resign. But in a world of situational ethics, here’s the situation: Republicans have no ethics. Democrats care more about the higher moral ground than winning, Republicans act on precisely the opposite notion. Steve thinks the Cuomo situation has Democrats debating the virtue of virtue.    

The big question with Governor Andrew Cuomo is the next step: should he resign, be afforded the opportunity to remain in office until an investigation is completed, and/or should the state legislative branch proceed with impeachment? They are not mutually exclusive: an investigation could to lead to impeachment, and a resignation would not obviate the need for an investigation.

The situation in Albany is particularly fraught, because – for starters – there is not just one issue on the table. For most people, the key allegation facing Cuomo is that he has created a toxic workplace environment in which young female staffers have felt pressured to discuss their private lives and sexuality with the Governor. There are additional allegations of inappropriate touching that the Governor adamantly denies. Wholly separate from the issue of sexual misconduct are allegations that the Governor’s administration was deceptive in reporting COVID nursing home deaths, and accusations that Cuomo verbally abused and threatened reporter Susanne Craig and legislator Ron Kim.

Fraught, further, because the Governor has made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of resigning, even as a wide swath of state leaders, including both U.S. Senators and a majority of the state’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, have already concluded he must do so.

Where other politicians might have been buried under such an avalanche of allegation and condemnation, Andrew Cuomo has, thus far, taken the incoming and remained not merely afloat but rather buoyant. The Governor is drawing on the mighty reservoir of good will he accumulated when he stepped into the role of de facto President of the United States during the worst of the initial pandemic panic. While Donald Trump was urging us all to inject ourselves with Lysol, Cuomo was the daily voice of vital accurate information, urging utmost caution while remaining calm, and humanizing the suffering and fears as the pandemic raged unchecked.

The result? Even as U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and others call for his resignation, the citizens of the state Cuomo leads are not so sure. A poll conducted by Siena College completed on March 12 reveals that a full 50% of New York State voters say that Cuomo should not resign, while only 35% believe he should. That kind of data is certain to make the Cuomo feel insulated in the near term.  Some point out that Cuomo’s favorability rating has plummeted due to the scandals… all the way to 43%. Note the irony that Cuomo’s approval nadir is pretty much exactly the number Trump maintained for his entire Presidency.

Given popular support and the notion that Cuomo is owed his day in court – if only the court of public opinion -- it seems reasonable to hold off demands for resignation until the completion of an investigation.

But the problem is that in all the posturing coming out of the Governor’s office these days, we see an attempt to create a narrow definition of sexually inappropriate behavior that he believes would exonerate him. It seems as if every statement on this topic from the Governor’s office includes the strident assertion that at no time did Cuomo ever “touch anyone inappropriately.”

Hey, try to operate a business in New York State and claim that the only definition of sexual misconduct that counts is when a boss physically forces himself (sure, or herself, but it’s usually himself) on a subordinate.

Newsflash: Governor Cuomo does not get to define what constitutes “sexually inappropriate behavior” or a “hostile work environment.”

Forget, for a moment, the things he adamantly denies having done. Just read what he admits to:

“I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business. I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge that some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent that anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.  To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.”

Wow. Just try making that your defense when you are hauled in for a deposition by counsel for an employee suing your company for sexual harassment in the workplace. Concede that you said a bunch of highly inappropriate things that appear to have made subordinates in your organization extremely uncomfortable, and then blame them for failing to realize that you are really a sweet guy who didn’t mean anything untoward.

Based on the allegations of those in Cuomo’s employ, the Governor’s statement would seem to imply that ogling, offering opinions on wardrobe, asking prying questions about personal relationships and sexual preferences is all ok. It’s just how our office works. Cuomo seems to be saying that he may have occasionally asked a question or two about a young woman’s personal relationships and perspectives on attraction and intimacy, but that’s all part of building good working relationships and esprit de corps. Caring bosses care about the gestalt of their employee’s lives, motivations, and happiness, right?

The problem is not “unproven accusations.” It is that Cuomo is pleading “nolo contendere” to the charges of women who have accused him of using the power of his office to create an environment in which he felt free to express his own sexual interests and curiosities, and that he expected his openness to be reciprocated.

Geez, Governor Cuomo, if we have stated your position reasonably accurately, just take out the damn pen, sign the resignation, and let’s get this whole mess behind us.

But here’s the funny thing.

Behind closed doors, any number of very progressive types – people who might agree with everything just said – are pausing. Some are quietly musing whether it really is wise in our highly polarized world of politics for Democrats to force Cuomo out, if only because that could raise the small but existent possibility that the Republicans could use the scandal to take the Governorship in 2022. Some simply feel that Cuomo should not resign without the completion of a full inquiry, if only to create a precedent for Democratic politics going forward. Finally, some wonder whether Democrats continue to damage themselves by holding themselves to a set of moral and ethical standards, while Republicans brazenly ignore fact and principle to maintain a vice-like grip on power.

Sooner or later, every discussion of sexual misconduct in politics finds its way back to Al Franken. His case is viewed by many to have been a wrongful rush to judgment that denied a man who may well have been unfairly accused the opportunity to clear his name.

In 2018, Al Franken succumbed to intense bipartisan calls for his resignation for reports of sexual misconduct. It began with an accusation by a conservative talk show host about Franken’s behavior during a 2006 U.S.O. Tour, long before Franken entered public service. Subsequently, a number of reports surfaced, many anonymously, and the nature of the complaints ranged from inappropriate touching during photo ops to more serious charges of unwanted and unsolicited efforts by Franken to kiss women.

Franken, in his defense, resorted to some standard lines – perhaps not all that different from Cuomo -- about being a “warm person, I hug people,” apologized to any and all who claimed to have been a victim, but was firm in stating that his recollections of the incidents were different from those of his accusers. Franken himself called for an investigation, but before it could begin, he was abandoned by Democratic colleagues and given little choice but to resign. In the months that followed, a number of Senators who had called for his resignation publicly announced that they felt regret about their actions, and that Franken’s case should have been investigated before action was taken.

There was no good place to stand on the Franken controversy. There’s never dignity in words to the effect of “well, that sexually inappropriate behavior wasn’t all that bad.” People can talk about different standards in different eras and different careers, but it sounds hollow.

The sturdier line of defense in the Franken case was that there was a great deal of question about the legitimacy of some of the accusations, particularly when it was learned that Republican Dirty Trickster Roger Stone was pumping the stories in Right wing news media.

Let’s be clear on where the Franken and Cuomo cases differ. For all of the swirl of accusations about Franken, no one was accusing him of using the power of his office to extract sexual gratification in any form from persons who were his subordinates. The allegations about Franken largely dated back to a period far before he was in public office, and the small number of claims about inappropriate touching during photo ops on campaign events – none ever fully investigated, let alone with proven malign intent – cannot be equated with actions taken with paid employees on one’s own staff, while in office.

A dispassionate look at Franken's case will then, in turn, circle back to the elephants in the other room. Donald Trump, then the sitting President of the United States, was already the subject of over two dozen accusations of physical assault by women willing to go on the record, and Trump had been quoted on videotape bragging that his role in a reality tv show gave him permission to crudely force himself on women. No Republicans called for Trump to resign. No Republicans felt there was any need for investigations. Indeed, Republicans attempted to dismiss ethical and moral questions as irrelevant, asserting that the voters who elected him President knew of the allegations and voted for him anyway. This, mind you, was simply an early manifestation of the Republican notion that reality and objective facts are now matters of opinion and can be voted on. 

Let’s be clear on one point: no one is saying that questionable or inappropriate sexual conduct is an exclusively Republican issue. That would be, uh, malarky, as there is all too much video of the current Democratic President rubbing too many shoulders in his long career. But take a look at Biden’s two-minute April, 2019 video in which he squarely addresses the issue of allegations about his past behavior before announcing his candidacy. He is sincere, he offers an explanation for what he perceived to be a style of interaction with constituents, voters, human beings. Compare Biden's stance to Trump's relentlessly belligerent, dismissive, and threatening reactions to his vast array of accusers.

The question is not whether such behaviors exist on both sides. It is how the two parties react to and deal with such behaviors by their respective elected officials, and the degree to which one party actually gains political advantage from its utter abdication of ethical principle and its moral bankruptcy.

Silly, naïve me. Here I am, getting worked up about the nuances of how Democrats attempt to deal with the very real issues of sexual misconduct, when Republicans don’t even bother.

Everything that you have just read is based on a quaint notion that we still live in a world where there are objective notions of right and wrong. There are principles.

And this is where Andrew Cuomo appears to be way ahead of me.

In his reaction to this scandal, Cuomo is simply embracing the Republican playbook: deny, stall, wait it out until the next news cycle brings a fresh atrocity that blows your scandal off the front page.

Geez, Trump took it farther: Trump would actively create the next scandal in order to cool down the reaction to his previous one.

What Cuomo has realized is that our post-factual world is also a post-ethical world. So many of the decisions we see in government appear to be pure political calculation and zero moral principle. We have lived so long in a world of situational ethics that we now discover that there is no situation for ethics. How else can we explain why anyone would ever bother to listen to Lindsey Graham? The man literally says the precise opposite of what he said in the past, and then thinks you’re the stupid one if you wouldn’t do the same thing he did.

Andrew Cuomo believes that he can just run out the clock, content to avoid the humiliation of resignation, and he’s making the bet that when a final report is issued in three months, all this will be ancient history. He will not be impeached or removed from office. Today's big scandal will end up as a paragraph on his Wikipedia page.

He is just rope-a-doping until the public turns its attention to the more egregious shock du jour, and boy, is he right about that. Incredibly, in the mere weeks since Cuomo issued his formal statement on the allegations of his sexual misconduct, there have been two horrific mass shootings in the United States.

Why should Andrew Cuomo resign? It’s so much easier to play it the way Republicans do. 

“He said, she said” is what Republicans said about Brett Kavanagh. It’s what they said about Clarence Thomas. Republicans were fine running Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate after three women had accused him of sexual assault. Two of the women were minors at the time of the incident. 

Republicans live in a world where no sexual misconduct – nothing – ever rises to the level that a Republican should be held the least bit to account, let alone resign.

And, yes, Republicans are the people who thought it was fine when Donald Trump ridiculed the physical appearance of Carly Fiorina (“look at that face!”) and Heidi Cruz. Republicans were fine with Trump bragging to Billy Bush that he could “grab women by the pussy.” Republicans were fine with Donald Trump entering the locker rooms of his beauty pageants while contestants were changing. Republicans were fine that 26 woman have come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. Mind you, the vast majority of these allegations are not about “hostile work environments” or verbal abuses – horrid as those things are – these allegations were about physical assault: Trump actually forcing himself upon women with inappropriate touching, unwelcome kissing, and, yes, there is one accusation of rape.

None of this caused Republicans to demand that Trump resign, and – as we all well know – a full seventy million people wanted to re-elect him.

So here’s the lesson in morality and ethics that we teach our children.

We have on the one hand, Al Franken, who, in the face of an accusation, expressed remorse for unintended hurt, apologized for any and all inappropriate action, and who only sought to clear his name through an investigation into incidents remembered differently. We demanded his resignation without any investigation.

On the other, we have any number of Republican leaders, people who label their accusers as liars, announce that they will sue them, deny any wrongdoing, even in the face of repeated incidents, and who refuse to even consider resigning, certain that the opposing party lacks the will or mechanism to do anything about it. 

The issue is this: Democrats still believe that we must hold their elected officials accountable for inappropriate sexual conduct, even as that risks weakening our political might to accomplish the things we believe in. Republicans believe that preserving their political power in order to implement their agenda is vastly more important than punishing or even acknowledging corruption, deceit, or sexually inappropriate behavior.

And the real issue for Democrats is that today, the most accurate descriptor of Andrew Cuomo is “Republican.”


If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at


Sunday, March 14, 2021

BTRTN Presents The (Lindsey) Grahammy Awards: The Year's Best in Republican Hypocrisy

No doubt many of you will tune in to see The Grammy Awards tonight, but today is also the big day when Steve hosts our celebration of a stunning year of Republican Hypocrisy with our "Grahammy" Awards.


Good evening, ladies and gentleman! Live from Born To Run The, we are awarding our first ever Grahammy Awards, the coveted statuettes that symbolize the most epic moments in Republican hypocrisy in the past year.

The Grahammy Awards are named, of course, for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a man who has sacrificed the tiny, tattered remnants of his reputation in order to live the life of perfect sycophancy as principle primping poodle for Donald Trump. Graham has dedicated the later years of his life to a full embrace of the hypocritical oath, and executes it with such an utter lack of shame that we marvel that so much moral corruption could be crammed into such an unimposing wee burrowing creature.

Many people have asked us why we decided to name our hypocrisy awards for Lindsey Graham when we had so many worthy Republicans to choose from.  But the simple fact is that the Senator from South Carolina is one of the few people on earth to have executed two astonishing full triple axels of hypocrisy in Olympic-level competition, sticking the landing both times. Breathtaking stuff.

It was in 2016 that Lindsey Graham justified his opposition to Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court by publicly declaring that it was a matter of principle, and that he was perfectly willing to be held accountable to it:

"I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, 'Let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.'"

Graham, of course, never dreamed that such a quirk of circumstance might actually come to pass. Sure enough, when Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away in the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency, Lindsey managed to completely, totally, and unabashedly abandon his “principled” position of 2016, thoroughly endorsing Trump’s right to ram through a new court appointee.

But here is the amazing third loop in Graham’s “Triple Axel.” When called on his hypocrisy, Graham justified his flip-flop by accusing everyone else of being equally lacking in moral fiber. “I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same.”

Well, that, my friends, is what separates a garden-variety hypocrite from somebody who deserves a statue named for him.  First, Graham feigns a lofty principle, abandons it literally the very next moment it must be applied, and then justifies his actions by announcing that everyone else is as morally bankrupt and cowardly as he is! You know what, Lindsey? Your inability to understand that some people operate on the basis of character, principle, and reputation is the very reason you so richly deserve to have these awards named for you!

Graham’s second “triple axel?” Watch the man spin over the last two months on Donald Trump’s “big lie.” Graham was so supportive of Trump’s “big lie” that he not only publicly advocated for it, but even attempted to intercede by placing calls to Georgia’s election officials. Then, on the night of January 6, a supposedly “principled” Graham is seen shouting to the Congress, acknowledges that Biden and Harris were the “lawfully elected President and Vice President.” And yet – again, a third spin around – once Graham realized that Trump still held the most power in the Republican Party, he was back to supplicant, reconfirming his complete fealty to Trump.

Why, if we claim to be in a position to hand out awards for hypocrisy, and we don’t name them after this spineless little weasel, well – we would be being hypocritical!

Now, ladies and gentleman, everyone grab a glass of extremely white whine, because the Grahammy Awards are about to begin!

The first envelope, please, is for the outstanding performance by an emerging hypocrite – a guy who you’d never heard of until he exploded on to the scene with a singular gift for double talk. 

This “Grahammy” goes to Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, a rookie who hit one out of the park just this last week! Wicker sent a text alerting his constituents about the benefits coming their way as a result of Joe Biden’s history-making COVID 19 stimulus bill.  But get this! Wicker’s tweet failed to mention one little detail – he voted against it!

Yes folks, Senator Wicker has shown us a brilliant example of Republican hypocrisy – take credit for something that you opposed, figuring your constituents will be too stupid to notice! Well played, Senator Wicker!

Our next category is “Greatest Hypocrisy in a Leading Role,” and there is no one on earth who is more deserving of this accolade than Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

What distinguishes Mitch McConnell from Lindsey Graham is his demand to be taken seriously. Graham seems aware that he is a weak, frightened fool, reminding us of Peter Lorre’s “Ugarte” character in Casablanca, who asks Humphrey Bogart’s Rick if he despises him. Rick pauses and says, “If I gave you any thought, I probably would.”

McConnell, though, leans into his hypocrisy with a sturdy sense of purpose and resolve, and usually takes the time to find some thin reed of explanation for why the thing that he said today is not the polar opposite of what he said yesterday. As we have already lauded Senator Graham for his sickening hypocrisy on the Merrick Garland nomination, we must tip our cap to McConnell's more central role in that fiasco, as he was the one who actually exerted the power to withhold the Garland nomination and speed through Coney-Barrett proceedings.

But that sordid hypocrisy still did not match what Mitch McConnell achieved with a head-spinning quintuple flip-flop executed in three short weeks in January and February of 2021. It began when the House passed its second impeachment of Donald Trump on January 13. McConnell falsely declared that it was impossible to begin a Senate iimpeachment trial until after Trump had left office. Then, after January 20th, McConnell took the position that the Senate had no standing to conduct an impeachment trial because Trump was no longer in office! What an implausible, impeccable pirouette! Talk about gall – Mitch McConnell has a pair of gall stones!

But wait, there’s more!!!

The Senate has the sole power to make rules about impeachment proceedings. And the majority of Senators disagreed with McConnell, formally establishing that the Senate most certainly did have the right to conduct the impeachment trial of a former President. Indeed, the Senators noted that there was clear precedent for the Senate conducting an impeachment trial of a government official no longer in office. So what does McConnell do? He votes to acquit, and announces that the basis for his vote is the claim that the Senate did not have standing to conduct the trial… essentially invoking a rationale that does not exist to avoid holding Trump accountable for the insurrection. That’s spin #3.

What does Mitch do after the aquittal? He rises to the Senate floor, and gives a sizzling indictment of Trump that unambiguously holds Trump accountable for the insurrection: “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” With this turn, McConnell has now publicly stated that Trump was guilty of the charges in the impeachment motion, but McConnell voted to acquit Trump of the charge because of a reason that the Senate declared was not a valid reason for acquittal. Ok, now we are up to four flips… but don’t pull your head out of the spin cycle yet, because there is still more.

You see, you’re playing checkers and Mitch is playing 3-D hypocrisy with a ten second timer. Asked on Fox News if he would support Trump should he win the nomination in 2024, our boy Mitch did not hesitate. “Absolutely.”

Whoa, baby, that’s not just serial hypocrisy or flip-flopping on steroids, that is cartwheeling the length of a football field while giving a real-time changes of opinion on each landing. Give the man the statuette for proving himself to be one of the most craven, unprincipled men ever to serve in government.

Now we know you folks are eager to get to our two big awards of the night – our “Grand Grahammy” for outstanding hypocrisy in the past year, and our “Lifetime Achievement Grahammy.” But first, we need to announce the winners in two of our “Technical Hypocrisy” categories.

First, is Maine Senator Susan Collins in the audience? Oh, there you are, Senator! Won’t you stand up for a moment, please? There you go, now we all can see where you stand – which is pretty darn rare! You know, Senator, one way we measure hypocrisy is by the degree to which people present themselves as persons of high character and integrity. Nobody gets terribly upset when Lindsey Graham is hypocritical, because it is the defining component of his brand. You expect it, so you’re not surprised when you get it.

But when someone walks around behaving as if he or she operates on the highest moral and ethical principles and is revealed to be just another two-bit con artist, that person qualifies for a Grahammy in the category of “Hypocritical Posturing.”

And, yes, Senator, after Donald Trump’s 2020 impeachment, you rationalized your vote to acquit by saying that simply having been impeached taught Donald Trump “a pretty big lesson.” So you avoided alienating Trump supporters by voting to acquit him, and you tried to mollify your state’s centrists by asserting that having been impeached would cause Trump to mend his ways.

Now tell the audience, Senator, because we are all want to know! Today, do you feel like a naïve, foolish, easily manipulated, intellectual lightweight, or are you just one of those people who routinely tries to disguise a turd of hypocrisy in the fancy clothing of high-minded morality? We think it’s the latter, and that’s why you win tonight’s technical achievement in “Hypocritical Posturing!”

How about Nikki Haley? There you are! Hey, Nikki, you were pretty forceful in your denunciation of Donald Trump in your interview with Politico on February 12. "We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn't have, and we shouldn't have followed him, and we shouldn't have listened to him. And we can't let that ever happen again." You pretty much flushed Trump down the toilet as a player in the party’s future when you said, "I don't think he's going to be in the picture. I don't think he can. He's fallen so far."

Sounds great, Nikki! Tough, strong, honest, independent… What’s that, Nikki? Can’t hear you! You say that your big talk went down with the Republican base like a power grid in a Texas ice storm? You discovered that you now have one of those “toxic waste” warnings plastered on the back of your campaign bus? 

So you called Trump in Mar-a-Lago to arrange a one-on-one meeting to clear the air, and Trump blew you off like just so many leftover packing peanuts in a used Amazon box?

Step right up, Governor Haley, and take your statuette for Technical Hypocritical Achievement in what we call “Yes, I Will Back Down.”

Ok, ok, the crowd is stirring! You can feel the tension in the air! It is time for the “Grand Grahammy” for the year, the singular crowning moment of Republican hypocrisy.

Now, the judges had to consider so many examples of egregious Republican deceit to reach this moment, and we do need to remind you of the rules. When Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin reads a wingnut conspiracy theorist’s account of January 6 into the Congressional Record, or demands that the entire Biden Coronavirus Stimulus Bill be read out loud in Congress, that is clearly not hypocrisy. It is shameless, epic stupidity and ignorance… but remember: Ron Johnson is a very stupid and ignorant man! There is simply no hypocrisy when a stupid man says stupid things.

Now when a smart man intentionally lies to manipulate the voters, that’s getting much closer. Say, when Stanford and Yale educated Josh Hawley pretends that he believes there was rampant voter fraud in order to grease his way into the embrace of the Proud Boys, QAnon, the Oath Keepers, and the rest of Trump Nation, you are talking about a serious candidate for the “Grand Grahammy.”

But when all the votes were in, who could possibly deny that this year’s “Grand Grahammy” belongs in the sniveling, smarmy, unctuous, groveling, pompous, posturing hands of the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

At the precise moments when millions of the citizens in his home state were freezing, starving, without electricity, dealing with frozen pipes and lack of potable water, Ted Cruz decided to go on vacation at a Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cancun, Mexico.

Now again, remember our rules: this alone would merely be evidence of an utterly degraded human soul, a man so impervious to the suffering of others that he must – seriously – be viewed to be a borderline sociopath.

But there are totally different awards for sociopaths… here at the Grahammy Awards, we focus on hypocrisy. And that is where Ted Cruz’s magic dazzles.

Ted Cruz tried to blame his decision to take a vacation in Mexico on his daughters. He tried to say that they wanted a vacation, and he was just trying to be a “good dad.” Yes, Ted Cruz tried to explain that he went to Mexico for a vacation while fellow Texans were literally freezing to death because he is such a good, caring guy.

That, my friends, is the stuff of legendary hypocrisy.

It almost didn’t matter that he was proven to be lying about that, too. Texts from Heidi Cruz planning the holiday escape did not mention at any point that the Cruz daughters were the ones asking for the trip.

Cruz would later claim that he realized the trip was a bad idea “when he sat down in the airplane,” as if he himself had suddenly brought his ethical reasoning to bear on the matter. Far, far more likely: Cruz’s sudden epiphany was engendered by the realization that his escape to Cancun was roaring across social media in a Mount St. Helen’s grade eruption of disbelief and outrage.

Ted, take the damn Statuette. Nobody can touch you in your chosen field. You are the Hercules of hypocrisy, you are the Picasso of pretenders, the doyenne of double standards. Accept our award, and then turn humbly to our audience and tell them that, aw, shucks, folks, you are not really worthy of this high honor. Because that is exactly what the perfect hypocrite would say.

And now, for our last award of the evening, it is time to announce The Grahammy Awards “Lifetime Achievement Statuette.”

The judges would first like to take a moment and thank Google for producing 9,720,000 references to this man’s hypocrisy is .52 seconds. We simply do not have the space or time to individually credit each and every source.

The epic scope of this man’s hypocrisy truly defies measure. He refuses to miss a single plausible opportunity to bring disingenuous deceit to bear on the topic at hand.

From the seeming low-grade stuff…

… Savagely criticizing Barack Obama for spending time on the golf course, only to exponentially more time golfing than Obama himself.

… Demanding to see Obama’s college grades, only to threaten to sue his college if it released a transcript of his academic record.

… Promising that he really wanted to share his beautiful tax records with everybody, but he couldn’t because of an audit… a completely unfounded statement.

This is a man who has created a structured, discipline approach to effortlessly manufacturing hypocrisy at a moment’s notice, a man for whom hypocrisy is a performance art. Present him with evidence of failure, deficiency, or lack of success on any topic under the sun and watch him pivot into full hypocrisy mode.

“Well, you’re fake news. Many people are saying that they can’t believe what an incredible a job we are doing on (fill in the topic under question here). We’re doing more than anyone has ever done. You should have seen the complete disgrace on (topic) that we inherited from the Obama administration. Many people are saying that they’ve never seen anybody who’s ever been able to accomplish what we’ve accomplished, and that my administration has accomplished more in (1,2,3,4) years on (topic) than any administration every accomplished. They wouldn’t have believed what we were able to do but we did it.”

Call it the hypocrisy-olator. It takes any single piece of factual information and inverts it into complete self-serving hypocrisy in a matter of moments.

Yes, friends, our “Golden Grahammy” for lifetime achievement goes to the man who stands at the outer, most egregious frontier of hypocrisy…

…The man who graded his administration with an A+ for his handling of a pandemic that has killed over a half million Americans.

…The man who demanded the unflinching loyalty of his Vice-President -- a Vice President who kept toeing the line through every policy disaster, every incident corruption, and every loathsome betrayal of his office – and then unleashed a lynch mob on a search-and-destroy mission to hang him. 

…The man who claimed to have done more for Black Americans than any President, with the “possible exception of Abraham Lincoln,” and yet encouraged a white supremacist mob to stampede into the U.S. Capitol.

…The man who swore on oath with his hand on the Bible to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and proceeded to do everything in his power to ignore it, undermine it, and destroy it.

Ladies and gentleman, the winner of the “Golden Grahammy” for Lifetime Achievement in Hypocrisy is… oh, never mind. We won’t make you read that name one more time.

That’s our show for tonight, folks. Be sure to tune in next year, because while we have no idea what the coming year will bring, we know one thing for sure… Republicans will be hypocrites about it.

If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at


Thursday, March 11, 2021

BTRTN: Democrats Oppose Republicans, But Republicans Oppose Democracy

Last week Tom wrote a wonderful, optimistic, and upbeat analysis of Joe Biden’s brilliant debut as President. Today, Steve is compelled to write a companion essay about the dark side that Joe Biden is up against: a Republican Party that is not simply the opposition party for Democrats, but now the opposition party to democracy itself.

If you were to ask Americans to summarize the essential narrative of the European theater in World War II, the response would probably go something like this: the United States and Britain joined forces to liberate France and conquer Nazi Germany. Oh, and yeah, Russia helped, too.

Most people tend to overlook a critical point: that in defeating Hitler’s Nazi war machine, the Allied forces also liberated the German people. For over a decade, the once democratic German republic had been overtaken and subjugated by a political party led by a brutal authoritarian dictator.  When the Nazis initiated hostile aggressive military actions against sovereign nations, the Allied forces joined to defeat Germany, freeing conquered nations, but also freeing the German people from the authoritarian tyranny of their own government.  And now, seventy years later, the German government is one of the most stable democracies in the world.

Which brings us to today’s question: who, exactly, is going to rescue the United States of America from the next Republican authoritarian to gain the White House? Spoiler alert: the answer is nobody. Our only choice is to prevent it from ever happening.

It's a simple but alarming point: what’s become clear in the months following Donald Trump’s election defeat is that the Republican Party is now a party committed to authoritarian rule. It is a party that remains loyal to Donald Trump, and it is a party that is in the main committed to Trump’s efforts to undermine our democracy. That work not only continues, but it dominates the theory and practice of the party, and has – if anything – grown in fervor.

If the Republicans regain the White House, we must accept the uncomfortable truth that they – either Trump himself, or (perhaps worse) a smarter follower -- intend to finish the work Donald Trump started. In gaining the White House, the goal will be to undermine the mechanisms of democracy that could force them out of power, as happened in 2020. For the ever shrinking Republican Party, the only clear way to seize and maintain power is to curtail voting rights, try to win the White House in 2024, and – if successful -- continue Trump’s effort to weaken or destroy the democratic institutions preserve our democracy.

We must begin to view Trump’s Republican Party as an existential threat to our democracy, and act accordingly.

Sure, Democrats look at Donald Trump as a failed President whose lack-of-skill set included managerial incompetence, heightening societal polarization, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, using public office for private gain, and plutonium-grade deceit.

But Donald Trump’s focus as President was never on policy or principle. He never thought for five minutes about the pandemic, healthcare, global relations, or even on building the border wall that was so central to his campaign.

The focus of his Presidency was a trial and error process of learning how to undermine the institutions of our democracy so that he could retain the power of the Presidency, all for the apparent purposes of lining his pockets, building his brand, and (last but by no means least) keeping himself and his family out of jail. But the playbook he authored to that purpose could well become the game plan that the next – and likely more competent – Trump wannabee uses to secure the Republican nomination, retake the White House, and succeed where Trump failed in destroying our democracy to seize permanent control.

Trump’s playbook for destroying our democracy was not all that complicated, resting on these principles: 

1. Use the power of the right wing media and twitter to create a false version of reality that aggressively reinforces the fears, suspicions, resentments of a broad segment of the population, thereby winning their ferocious loyalty.

2. Leverage this grip on this voting segment to terrify his party’s office holders into a rare case of institutional Patty Hearst Syndrome, in which a once independent-thinking class of grown men and women acquiesce in humiliating supplication before their dear leader.  

3. Place extreme loyalists in critical positions, often by relying on the Presidential power to make “interim” appointments that do not require Congressional approval, and empower those persons to use the machinery of government for flagrantly personal and political purposes. By trial and error, Trump achieved ever-increasing control of the Department of Justice. Imagine if he had four more years and could replicate that process with the United States military.

4. Demonize the institutions that provide checks and balances on Presidential power. The nation’s intelligence apparatus was branded the “deep state,” and the independent media were branded as “fake news,” all with the intent of impugning motives and thereby diminishing the credibility of organizations that would challenge the White House.

5. Ignore any and all forms of Congressional oversight. Trump realized that Congress has no ability to enforce subpoenas or elicit testimony, so he just ignored all of it.

6. Undermine our elections, and the perception that our elections are free and fair, thereby empowering people to believe that the results of our elections are not legitimate and, therefore, can be ignored.

Hey, you can say that Trump botched the pandemic big time, but he couldn’t care less about that. He was completely and totally focused on figuring out how to rip control of the government from the people it serves… and he damn near succeeded.

For a brief period, many centrist and left leaning people breathed a huge sigh of relief that Donald Trump had been beaten, only to discover that his dominance of the Republican Party remains unquestioned. A scant six weeks after inciting a murderous mob to attack the U.S. Capitol, Trump won the straw poll as the person CPAC attendees would most like to see as the Republican candidate in 2024.

There is a slightly different way to look at that CPAC poll, which is arguably more worrisome. In fact, only 68% of the CPAC attendees said that they wanted Trump to run again. And in the candidate preference poll, Trump was the preferred candidate of only 55% of the attendees. However, a full 95% of CPAC attendees wanted to the Republican Party to “advance Trump’s policies and agenda.”

Now, I must admit that I struggle mightily to understand exactly what “policies and agenda” the folks at CPAC were gushing about. For starters, the biggest hint that the Trump Administration was short on "policies and agenda" was the fact that the Republicans did not even bother to write a party platform for their 2020 convention. This was probably wise, as the only language that would have made sense for that platform would have been “we stand for whatever Donald Trump said last week and hasn’t yet changed his mind about.” 

As best as I can recall, Trump’s vision of leadership was largely a bunch of applause lines at MAGA rallies. There was something about a wall that never got built that was going to be paid for by a country that never wrote a check. I vividly remember the part about torturing children on our southern border. There was a huge effort to pretend the pandemic was not real, but a real effort to undermine the efforts of people who were fighting a very real pandemic. There was a stunning unwillingness to confront countries that undermined our elections, hacked our computer systems, and paid bounties to terrorists who killed our soldiers. There was a no holds barred effort to undermine our free elections. There were coddling winks at white supremacists and vulgar damnation of oppressed minorities. Oh, yes, and there were huge tax cuts for the rich… but the overall state of the economy after four years of Donald Trump? Far worse than what he inherited.

Taken in their full measure, Donald Trump’s “policies and agenda” appeared to be a random porridge of rants that were snidely anti-Federal government, weirdly pro-pandemic, fiercely anti-minority, hostile to fact and science, naively isolationist, and all underpinned by an epic power-grab in the executive branch of government and a steady determination to devalue the validity of our elections. It was an “agenda” that placed the preservation of the privileges of white (and largely male) entitlement above all. Small  wonder that Trump’s presidency ended with the spectacle of white-supremacist militias storming the U.S. Capitol in a final frenzied attempt to kill the people who would ensure the transfer of power to a newly elected President.

So there you have it. Help me, CPAC, to understand what it is that makes Trump’s “policies and agenda” even more enthralling than Trump himself.  

One reasonable interpretation of all of this is that CPAC is simply hungry for a more competent and more marketable Trump. It is as if CPAC already views Trump himself as “Plan B,” a fallback in the event that Republicans cannot find a person wholly devoted to Trump’s causes, eager to embrace his strong-arm tactics, and absent the baggage of having failed to win the election, keep the House, hold the Senate, or mount a successful insurrection. The next four years are going to be open auditions for the Trump who can actually pull off what Trump only imagined.

Perhaps you think that we are making too much of CPAC, which, after all, is merely a long-simmering reduction of the most crazed arch-conservatives. We hasten to remind you that a Quinnipiac poll showed that 77% of Republicans believe that there was “widespread voter fraud in the presidential election,” and that a Newsweek poll taken immediately after 1/6 found that 45% of Republicans supported storming the U.S. Capitol building.

No, it is not just CPAC. This is a major political party that is heavily inclined toward armed rebellion, fully accepting Trump propaganda as gospel, and – far from chastened by the shame of Trump’s insurrection – is ostracizing party leaders who condemned him.

If anything, the competition to out-Trump Trump is growing more ferocious.

Consider the punctually stupid governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who announced that he was re-opening Texas for all commerce while simultaneously eliminating the state’s mask mandate in a week when the state’s COVID cases were up 20%. Let’s just accept for sake of argument that the Governor passionately believes that the economic suffering of his citizens can only be alleviated by removing every last COVID-19-based restriction that limits commerce. Would it not seem that the single best way to mitigate the COVID risk in a fully opened commercial economy would be to double-down on the need for masks? I could almost understand that posture: we can open fully for business if we strenuously adhere to mask mandates. But no, the Governor of the state that cannot reliably transmit electricity or provide potable water is now optimizing conditions for the transmission of a deadly virus.

Good for Joe Biden, who labeled Abbott’s thinking “Neanderthal,” although there will no doubt be blowback from the Neanderthal community that has enough branding problems without having their intellectual capacity equated to Greg Abbott’s.

However, the far, far greater manifestation of metastasizing Trump-ism is the wildfire of Republican legislation intent on voter suppression. Yes, the Big Lie is back, bigger than ever, a fully-weaponized Cruz missile aimed at the heart of our democracy.

Somewhere from the depths of the ninth circle, Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda for Nazi Germany, is gazing in awe at what the Republican Party is currently doing to promote voter suppression legislation in dozens of state capitols around the country. You see, the Republicans are now arguing that there is an urgent need to tighten qualifications for voting, because so many Americans no longer trust the validity of our elections. Of course, the mistrust that now exists among Republicans is the result of Donald Trump’s relentless claims that widespread voter fraud was the reason that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him.

To be clear: everyone from Trump’s own Attorney General to the head of the FBI to the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia has insisted that there was no evidence of any sort of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

And yet Trump succeeded in creating doubt, and now that very doubt is being used as the excuse to enact laws that will suppress voting specifically among the minority populations that skew heavily Democratic.

Is there a suitable analogy? This may be a little crazy, but imagine, if you will, that a governor of a huge state where COVID cases are increasing 20% for the week were to announce that the coronavirus pandemic is now completely “under control,” and then said that a large number of people in his state think the pandemic is “under control,” and so the governor uses the utterly incorrect opinion of a segment of the population as the rationale for re-opening a state for commerce and declaring that there is no longer a need to wear masks. I mean, just how stupid would that be?

But voter suppression fever is the focus of all Republican legislators who are not reading Dr. Seuss books in what they apparently consider to be a clever attack on “cancel culture.” Someone needs to get the word out that photos of the House Minority leader reading “Green Eggs and Ham” is merely reinforcing long-held speculation about his reading level.

In a February report by the Brennan Center notes that “as of February 19, 2021, state lawmakers have carried over, pre-filed, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states.” To be clear: there are actually more bills that are actually intended to expand voter access. Count me among those who believe that making it easier for citizens to vote is a good thing.

The Brennan Center notes that level of legislation designed to suppress voting is three to four times higher than the number of bills introduced for that purpose just one year ago.  

My favorite voter suppression quote of the week was from one Mike Dugan, the state senator from Georgia who sponsored the grotesque legislation now wending its way through Georgia’s legislative process. Mike overtly acknowledged that Georgia did not have a problem with voter fraud when he said “You don’t wait until you have wholesale issues until you try to meet the need. You do it beforehand.” By this logic, we suspect that Mike’s next bills will focus on reducing the number of kangaroos in Savannah and developing a ready-plan for defending against Martian landings in Valdosta. Hey, you gotta do the planning beforehand.

Aha!! Perhaps we have finally found the “policy and agenda” of the Trump administration that CPAC so thoroughly endorses! Yes, that’s it – try to win elections not by offering innovative and beneficial policies and programs… but by limiting the right to vote to those people on the right!

Perhaps it is as simple as this: the Republican Party knows that it had already been shrinking due to changing American demographics, and now its mandatory pledge of loyalty to the Donald is alienating centrists. As the party gets smaller, its only hope for long-term power is to radically truncate access to the vote among traditional Democratic voting groups, win in 2024, and then use the machinery of government to crush the institutions of democracy.

Yes, the fundamental problem in our country right now is that the Democratic Party believes that their opposition is the Republican Party, but the Republican Party believes that its opponent is democracy itself.

Indeed, the Republican Party is not so much a political party – a grouping of people who share philosophies of governance, economic policy, global diplomacy, and social programs – it is an affiliation of angry white people threatened by the diversity that America has become, fearful of the inevitable globalism of a digital world, and desperately clinging to promises that they can bring back a world that once revolved around them. 

I agree with my brother that Joe Biden has done a magnificent job in this first weeks in the White House. Indeed, a year ago I wondered whether he was good enough for the job, and now my only question is whether we are good enough for him.

But I quibble with Joe Biden on one point.

He centered his campaign on the idea that we were in a fight for the “soul of America.”

Mr. President, it is more than that.

We are in a fight for our democracy. We are in a fight for the idea that we decide the direction of our country based on what the majority of our people want.

It’s not the soul of our nation…it is a fight for the single most central idea that we, the people, decide on our future at the ballot box.

One party embraces that idea.

The other party? Right now, it seems like its only objective is to limit the number of people who get to make the decision.

I hate to say it, folks, but it only took a marginal intellect like Donald Trump four years to figure out how to become Putin-by-the-Potomac, and if he – or Cruz, Hawley, Pompeo, of Don Jr. -- manages to secure the White House for another four years, they now know how to finish the job.

In 2020, we beat Trump.

Now for the bigger fight: we must soundly and thoroughly defeat Trumpism. We cannot let another Republican near the White House until the cancer of Trumpism has been eradicated.

Because if that happens, there is no United States of America out there to save us.



If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

BTRTN: Biden Back Better – The Political Maturation of Joe Biden

Tom with the BTRTN February 2021 Month in Review.

There were countless times in the 2020 election cycle – particularly in 2019 – when one had to wonder whether Joe Biden was through as a politician.  The archetypal 20th century pol, the back-slapping, glad-handing, square-jawed, touch-too-much, loosed-lipped white male, Biden seemed woefully out of place in the early campaign months.  And it showed, particularly at the ballot box – if Biden could not crack the top three in the hallowed grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the whitest states in the country, how could he possibly have what it takes in these spectacularly diverse times?

Even after Jim Clyburn stuck his neck out for Biden, delivering a huge win in South Carolina, and propelling Biden to the nomination, the doubts continued.  Bernie Sanders attacked Biden from the left, and Donald Trump made much of Biden’s supposed cognitive decline, a falsehood that was nevertheless reinforced by the traces of Biden’s lifelong stuttering problem and his inability to inspire anything beyond faint praise.  The most powerful argument for Biden was that he was inoffensive in the Midwest.

But the Joe Biden who is now the President of the United States is not that man.  Rather, Biden is making a stunning case for the lifelong potential for personal growth.  It turns out that Joe Biden, at 78, is not past his prime at all – he is in it.  In his first 40 days in office, Biden has met the moment with a sure-footed display of empathy, pragmatism and outright leadership that has been breathtaking to watch. 

And what a moment!  Biden was faced with a dismal platter, unlike any faced by a predecessor since FDR.  A nation ravaged by COVID, with a new peak in cases and deaths in the very month he was inaugurated.  A briefly buoyed economy now backsliding under the weight of that surge.  A nation more divided than at any point since at least Vietnam, but more likely since 1865.  And a country traumatized by an attack on our Capitol inspired by Biden’s predecessor, who promulgated the most dangerous, destabilizing, democracy-threatening lies (including The Big Lie) ever uttered by a President – ever.

Biden has met each of these crises head on and, while not without a blemish or two, his efforts have been not only gaffe-free but extraordinarily effective.  The worst thing that has happened to date have involved neither words nor actions, but rather in his goal-setting.  He arguably set the bar too low with respect to vaccine distribution, and too high with respect to school re-openings.  That, and a failure in one cabinet nomination (Neera Tanden for Budget), is it.  Far from the image of Uncle Joe, Biden has been graceful and adroit, appearing to be unfazed and in control, even while expressing humility in the face of his challenges.

On the policy front, Biden has danced rather nimbly on a tightrope, with impatient progressives on one end, arch conservatives on the other and, with a 50/50 split in the Senate, absolutely no margin for error.  How could Biden possibly thread that needle?  The first big test – the crown jewel of his first 100 days – has been his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the “American Rescue Plan,” which passed the House last week and is now with the Senate.  The package includes extensions of jobless benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans crushed by a COVID-ravaged economy, $1,400 checks for those eligible, aid for state and local governments and small businesses, increased support for COVID testing and vaccinations, and much more. 

Biden’s playbook has included, on the one hand, an outreach to the GOP, and on the other, engagement  with the left, particularly in their push for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour (the current minimum was of $7.25 was last set in 2009).  Biden rather artfully met in the Oval Office with a set of more moderate Republicans, 10 of them who supported a far smaller ($600 billion) package, ten being the number of GOP votes required, with 50 Democrats, to pass the package without either a filibuster or using the partisan-busting reconciliation method.  When that proved to be a futile exercise -- Biden had no interest in going small -- Biden moved on to the reconciliation method, and simply redefined “bipartisan” not in terms of GOP congressional support, but rather with the general public, as polling indicated that roughly two-thirds of Americans supported his package, including anywhere from a third to half of the GOP.

For the left, Biden signaled early that while he supported the minimum wage increase, he had doubts it would make the final package.  The bottom line is that with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona opposed to the $15 level, the provision simply did not have the votes.  And here Biden received some cover from the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled the minimum wage could not be raised via reconciliation.  This type of jostling is in Biden’s wheelhouse, and he should emerge with his signature on this bill on March 14, which would become his first major victory.

New COVID cases and COVID deaths dropped sharply in February, the former by 63%, from 5.6 million in January to 2.1 million in February, the latter down 35% from 104,000 to 68,000.  Perhaps Biden’s call for greater mask-wearing vigilance found a willing audience after months of dramatic and deadly surging.  Biden gave his team of professionals freedom to tout the science and develop new plans for mitigation and vaccine distribution.  As of now, we are well on the way to exceeding Biden’s rather low bar goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office (in 40 days, we are now at 75 million doses).  The bill, of course, is his main COVID bid, but he has pushed hard to increase and improve vaccination distribution, and a deal his Administration brokered to have pharmaceutical giant Merck, shut out of the vaccine game, begin to manufacture J&J’s vaccine, and is an example of his resourcefulness.

Biden’s approach to foreign policy has been slightly nuanced.  The most visible of his early actions were simple teardowns of Trump policies (which in turn were rather mindless teardowns of Obama/Biden actions).  This included reinstating U.S. participation in the Paris climate accords, reaffirming U.S. commitment to NATO, and an attempt to reinvent the U.S./Iran nuclear deal.  More broadly, Biden has talked up the importance of our longstanding European alliances, and has taken a far harder line with Russia. 

But Biden has also largely supported Trump’s tough stance on China, though he will likely differ on tactics.  A prime example of the Biden approach are the positions he has taken with Saudi Arabia.  He quickly scuttled Trump’s arms deals with the Saudi’s and withdrew U.S. support of the Saudi war on Yemen.  But, like Trump, he refused to punish the Saudi’s for de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman’s role in approving the killing of U.S. journalist Jamal Khoshoggi.  

First and foremost, Biden wants to pursue a cautious foreign policy, renouncing Trump’s “America First” approach and reinstating America’s primacy in the world, but not setting off any fireworks so that he can rightly focus on his massive domestic priorities.  One aspect of this is Biden’s inclination to reduce focus on the Middle East, which was a massive, dominant sphere in both the Bush and Obama administrations – an unpredictable one at best, and a quagmire at worst.  

Some Democrats have chafed at the pace of confirmations of the Biden Cabinet, which has lagged those of his predecessors.  Those critics have seemed to have forgotten the delaying effects of the unexpected Georgia Senate wins, the disorder of the Trump transition, and the impact of the Trump trial on Senate business.  Biden had to pull the Neera Tanden nomination, but he just might get the rest, a record certainly in line with his predecessors, accomplished in a far more contentious times with that 50/50 Senate.  If the Tanden defeat – a classic “inside the Beltway” drama that has little import or impact beyond the DC zip code – makes the “worst” list for Biden, he is doing well indeed.

Biden has shown a sure hand in assuming the mantel of “empathizer-in-chief” for the nation, a role that fits him as well as it ill-suited Trump.  Building on the memorial in the Mall on the night before his Inaugural, Biden led another memorial when the death toll from COVID reached half a million Americans.  This was beautifully staged on the Southern Portico of the White House, bedecked with 500 candles lining the stairs, one candle for every 1,000 Americans who have died from COVID.  This was, of course, the very setting where Trump cynically ripped off his mask after returning from Walter Reed Hospital while recovering from his bout of COVID. 

Biden’s words carried the depth of feeling that only a fellow survivor could share:  “I know all too well. I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens.  I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands, as they look in your eye and they slip away. That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it.”  For all of Trump’s love for spectacle, the Biden White House has shown an incredible facility for staging wonderful events.  And with his moving words, Biden did well in his first full month in maintaining some of the poetry while naturally also transitioning to policy prose.

Perhaps our narrowed world does indeed suit Biden perfectly, as it did in the general election campaign, limiting his exposure, focusing his messages, minimizing the opportunities for him to make off-script mistakes.  But while that may be true, the feeling here is that his performance is better explained as Biden simply rising to the moment, with the breadth of his life and political experiences coming together at this harrowing time – a man whose life has been shaped by decades of personal pain and face-to-face negotiations here and abroad.  Biden is ready, and he is moving at the just the right pace.  It is a sign of his sure-handedness that nobody is completely happy, yet everyone is following his lead.

Biden’s ascendency, for better or worse, was bound to shove Trump to the sidelines, and Trump has been decidedly quiet, even accounting for his eviction from mainstream social media.  But there are too many storylines related to Trump, including his continued dominance of the GOP, his pending legal troubles and, of course, this last month, his impeachment, for him to disappear.

The impeachment trial found American politics at its most cynical, which is quite a statement.  Unlike Trump’s first impeachment, which involved backroom dealing that deeply offended, essentially, diplomatic norms, this impeachment was a front-and-center assault on our democracy with plenty of visual evidence.  The House managers did an extraordinary job making the case that, from beginning to end.  They clearly proved that Trump was guilty not merely of inciting the attack, but also of laying the groundwork for it, first with The Big Lie but also, specifically, in convening the faithful in Washington on January 6, the certification date.  And, perhaps most damning, they showed how, once the insurrection was underway, Trump not only took no steps to stop it, expressed no concern for the safety and welfare of Mike Pence, or members of Congress, or the various police forces on the front lines – he actively took joy in the efforts of his thugs. 

But GOP Senators simply relied on an argument that was not only disproven – that an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional – while either dodging the merits or agreeing that Trump was guilty on them.  The unconstitutional argument had three easy retorts:  there was a clear precedent for dealing with someone who had left office (the Belknap case in 1985); the matter was hardly moot, given that Trump’s future was on the line given that after a conviction, the Senate could (and almost certainly would) vote to permanently bar him from office; and the matter of the “January Exception,” that any president could do what they wanted in their last month in office if they had no fear of impeachment.

But only seven GOP Senators joined with the Democrats, in and of itself an impressive, if insufficient tally.  Others, notably Mitch McConnell, excoriated Trump even while voting to acquit him.  McConnell’s actions perhaps defined Washington at its most cynical.  He essentially said he agreed that Trump was guilty, but believed the Senate had no role to play given his “former president” status, while blithely overlooking the fact that McConnell himself could have begun the trial while Trump was still in office, but instead kicked the can down the road to post-Inauguration.

With his acquittal, Trump began his comeback.  The wing of the party that is fighting to get past Trump, the McConnell/Lynn Cheney/Mitt Romney/John Kasich faction, could not leverage the moment into an all-out break, but they remain defiant and of material size and influence.  Trump’s primary enablers, led by Kevin McCarthy, are likely going to find that Trump is far more interested in punishing his GOP defectors in Congress than winning battleground seats held by Democrats.  Indeed, if Trump is successful in primarying his GOP enemies with more conservative Trumpsters, his involvement may actually backfire, as centrist districts may prefer Democrats.  But that is down the road.

For now, with his CPAC speech on Sunday, Trump is back, lashing out at this enemies, ripping Biden’s policies, hinting broadly at his 2024 plans.  His embrace by CPAC and the many 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls there – plus most of the others in the party – clearly demonstrates that the GOP remains deeply committed to Trump at its core.  This is a strategy that lost them the House, Senate and White House in four short years.  But that seems to be understood only by McConnell, Cheney and a few others.

Almost certainly will come a slew of Trump rallies across red state America.

But he better schedule those rallies carefully, because the courts beckon.  Trump is facing a dizzying array of legal battles that will compete with his Vengeance Tour for time and attention.  There is New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance both poking at his finally-fully-released tax records, looking for fraud, inflated valuations for securing loans while devaluing the same assets for tax purposes.  James’ case is a civil one, while Vance’s is a criminal one, and could be broarder.  There is Georgia Attorney General investigating Trump’s role in defrauding Georgia voters, with Exhibit A being Trump’s phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding, under threat of lawsuits, that he find enough votes to overturn the Georgia outcome.  And, of course, there are also potential charges related to Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection.

Biden has basically ignored Trump.  He took no position in the Senate trial, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki makes it clear that the “former president” and his critiques are of no interest to the White House.  Biden himself referred to Trump as the “former guy,” a sentiment that was expressed in a “Biden Back Better” moment.



Trump has left office but we have decided to keep our BTRTN “Monthly Madness” feature because there are just too many opportunities to pass up.  This month was easy:  Ted Cruz heading off for a quick vacation with his family in Cancun while his fellow Texans suffered brutally due to a shutdown of Texas’s private power grid.  This resulted in no electricity and no water for millions.  Cruz was caught by the social media brigade on the flight to Cancun, forcing him to scurry back and make a series of, firstly, pitiful defenses and then, finally, some mea culpas.

The surprise here is not the lack of empathy and humanity exhibited by Cruz.  That is to be expected from Cruz, a man who zealously licks the boots of a man, Trump, who savaged his wife for her looks and implicated his father falsely in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy. 

What is surprising is Cruz’s lack of political savvy in seeing that his flight from Texas was bound to be discovered and would play very poorly in his state (and elsewhere).  Cruz obviously cuddles up to Trump for political expediency – he wants to inherit Trump’s base – and thus has long exhibited a finely-tuned, self-interested political antennae.   How it failed him in CancunGate is a mystery.



Joe Biden maintained his 55% approval rating in February, though his disapproval rating rose (and thus his net shrank) a bit. 



















The same dynamic was at work with the public view of how Biden is handling COVID-19.  But his approval rating on this measure was even stronger than overall, and his negatives even less.

















In these early days of the Biden Administration, it is too soon to see his full impact on the economy.  The “Bidenometer” was at zero at month’s end, unchanged from when Trump left.

As a reminder, this measure is designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  We reset the Bidenometer at this Inaugural to zero, to better demonstrate whether the economy performs better or worse under Biden than what he inherited from the Trump Administration.

This exclusive BTRTN measure is comprised of five indicative data points:  the unemployment rate, Consumer Confidence, the price of gasoline, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and the U.S. GDP.  The measure is calculated by averaging the percentage change in each measure from one period to another.

Thus far, we are 40 days in, and there has been only modest changes on all the measures.  The slight downturn in the Dow and rise in gas prices have been offset by a rise in consumer confidence and a dip in the unemployment rate.  These have offset, and thus the needle has not moved.  Obviously, more time will have to pass before we can take the measure seriously as a determinant of the economy’s performance under Biden’s stewardship.

Using January 20, 2021 as a baseline measure of zero, you can see from the chart below that under Clinton the measure ended at 55.  It declined from 55 to 8 under Bush, who presided over the Great Recession at the end of his term, then rose from 8 to 33 under Obama’s recovery.  Under Trump, it fell again, from 33 to 0, driven by COVID-19.  Now we will see how it does under Biden.


Presidents >>>






Measures (all as of last day of term, except GDP which is rolling last 12 months)

End Clinton  1/20/2001

End Bush 1/20/2009

End Obama 1/20/2017

End Trump 1/20/2021 (base = 0)

Biden February 2021

Bidenometer (Now) >>>












  Unemployment Rate






  Consumer Confidence






  Price of Gas






  Dow Jones






  GDP (last 12 months)







If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Biden Inaugural on January 20, 2021, on an average percentage change basis. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.