Friday, June 18, 2021

BTRTN: McCarthyism 2.0... Kevin's is Far More Dangerous than the Original

Steve thinks Kevin McCarthy would be a joke if his weakness as a human being did not jeopardize us all.

In the 1950s, “McCarthyism” drew its name from a Republican Senator who spewed vicious, unsupported allegations of Communist Party affiliations in order to destroy the reputations of innocent people.

History records this as a period of disgraceful vigilantism, ultimately brought down by Edward R. Murrow, and sealed with the words of lawyer Joseph Welch, who confronted Joseph McCarthy on national television: "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness… Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"

But there is a new McCarthyism in Washington, D.C., and the variant is far more dangerous than the original strain.

In the new McCarthyism, it is the leadership of the Republican party that is on a crusade, spewing vicious, unsupported allegations that are designed to aid and abet the very people who are undermining our government.

And one of the most senior elected officials in the United States is leading the charge, even as it is shockingly obvious that he knows full well that he is lying.  

The new McCarthyism takes its name and essential meaning from House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a man who has broken dangerous new ground in the Republican war on democracy and on truth itself: he appears to be keenly and openly aware of the deceit and inconsistency of his own positions, and yet he sallies forth, untroubled even as he flip-flops faster that a fish freshly hooked and reeled into the Chris Craft. It’s one thing to gradually modify positions over the course of a long career. It’s quite another to do so several times a month.

Oh, we get it all right: Kevin McCarthy wants to be Speaker of the House. Right after the insurrection, McCarthy could have easily thrown his weight behind Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell and helped bring a whole bunch of silent mainstream GOP reps and Senators along with them, breaking Donald Trump’s hold on the party. But no… for McCarthy, personal ambition took precedence, and he saw a better chance of becoming Speaker by courting Trump.

This new strain of McCarthyism was on full display yesterday when the House Minority Leader issued this tweet about the Biden/Putin summit:

“President Biden should have used yesterday’s summit to show that the United States will hold Russia accountable for its long list of transgressions. Instead, he gave Vladimir Putin a pass. We need real leadership that puts the American people first again.”


Kevin McCarthy thinks Biden gave Putin a pass?? He thinks Biden should have held Putin accountable? What planet was Kevin McCarthy living on from 2016 to 2020?

Did Kevin somehow forget the sycophancy suck-fest in Helsinki when Donald Trump not only “gave Putin a pass” on interference in U.S. elections, but actually publicly agreed with Putin, dismissing the position of his own intelligence community?

Here’s the best part of all: CNN quickly pointed out that in 2015, Kevin McCarthy was heard on a recording saying that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” This recording was verified by The Washington Post. Kevin McCarthy actually said out loud that he thought Donald Trump was literally on the take from Putin. That is what he really thinks.

That, folks, is the New McCarthyism. It is simply the latest example of a breathtaking past six months in which Kevin McCarthy has proven himself to be one of the weakest, most easily and thoroughly intimidated, and most cravenly usurped men of his era. 

Some men fold in the face of intimidation. When confronted by Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy tucks, pleats, creases, and folds in more ways than an Origami butterfly.

McCarthy is a whole new breed of Hessian soldier in Trump’s war on truth.  It’s fair to speculate as to whether Louis Gomert could actually be every bit as stupid as he appears, and we know Mitch McConnell is savvy enough to avoid owning up to the purely political nature of his motives. But Kevin McCarthy reveals that he is fully aware of what is true, and that he is actively and consciously ignoring it.

When someone openly tells you that they know the right thing to do, but they insist on doing the wrong thing, we have entered an entirely new and frightening chapter in our journey toward the dissolution of our democracy.

We got an early glimpse of the new McCarthyism back in the first days of Kevin McCarthy’s entry into the national consciousness.

That was back in 2015, when McCarthy bragged to Sean Hannity about how he wounded Hillary Clinton in the run up to the 2016 election. "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought."

Yes, there was Kevin McCarthy actually admitting on national television that the Republicans had ginned up an official House Investigation of Hillary Clinton for the sole purpose of damaging her candidacy. It takes a special breed of weasel to be so forthcoming about authoring a corrupt political hatchet job. Mitch McConnell would have taken pains to say that such an investigation was justified based on the people’s need to understand the truth and blah blah blah. But Kevin McCarthy insisted – on national television -- that the rationale for the House Benghazi probe was to damage Hillary Clinton politically.

Flash forward to January 6, 2021: Kevin McCarthy was reported to have been on a heated phone call with Donald Trump smack in the middle of the insurrection, demanding that action be taken to protect the Capitol from rioters. At one point, Kevin McCarthy is reported to have yelled into the telephone to the President of the United States, “Who the f—k do you think you are talking to?” Hey, you gotta like a guy who drops an f-bomb on the sitting President. Sure doesn’t sound like the language of an obsequious, sniveling toadie.

Trump, in turn, delivered the single most damning piece of evidence of his own allegiance in the insurrection when he replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

In the following days, Kevin McCarthy made perfectly clear exactly what he knew, understood, and believed about the insurrection. Speaking before the House, McCarthy said, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump." He went on to say that Trump must “accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-Elect Joe Biden is able to successfully begin his term.” For good measure, McCarthy added “Some say the riots were caused by Antifa. There is absolutely no evidence of that. Conservatives should be the first to say so.”

There you have it. Who caused it, who was responsible for it, who was not. McCarthy nailed it. He knew exactly what was going on.

By January 22 – less than a week later – McCarthy was singing a new song. ““I don’t believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally.” Then McCarthy came to realize that his honest assessment of January 6 had infuriated Trump, and he asked for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago to “talk strategy” about winning the House back in 2022. “Talk strategy” is apparently a well-worn Washington euphemism for genuflecting and kissing the ring.

A photo from the meeting shows the two men standing side by side. McCarthy looks eager to please. Trump appears to be laughing.

When Liz Cheney brazenly broke from Trump loyalists and voted for impeachment, her position as Republican Conference Chairman was immediately challenged. Back in February, McCarthy supported her, helping her retain her third-in-command post in the Republican House minority. But when she continued her increasingly lonely quest, infuriating Trump, McCarthy did what he does best: publicly flip-flopping and urging his House colleagues to dump Cheney.

The key point: Cheney was not saying anything different prior to the first vote and the second vote. The only difference was that Trump made clear Cheney had to go… and Kevin McCarthy knuckled under.

In May, Republicans and Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee agreed on a proposal for a bi-partisan commission modeled off the highly regarded 9/11 Commission to fully investigate the January 6 insurrection.

Kevin McCarthy refused to support the proposed bipartisan commission that had been negotiated and supported by the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security, John Katko of New York. McCarthy claimed that he did not support the bipartisan inquiry because it did not include an investigation into “political violence” of the prior summer. Katko – a Republican – countered that there was no limitation on the proposed Commission’s purview, and that investigation of McCarthy’s “political violence” was never precluded.

In fact, the real issue behind McCarthy’s opposition is that he would very likely be subpoenaed to testify about his conversation with Trump on January 6, and – having already reported on the substance of his phone call to numerous colleagues – he would have risked perjury if he did not provide damning first hand evidence about Trump’s state of mind.

Which, of course, would be the end of Kevin McCarthy’s career. Have any doubt? Have you heard from one Mike Pence recently?

And then there is Marjorie Taylor Green.

On Thursday, May 20, Green was interviewed by David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network on a show called “The Water Cooler,” and equated Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mask policy with the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis: 

"You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about."

Actually, Representative Green, requiring that masks be worn in the House chamber is not ”exactly” the same as the slaughter of millions of innocent human beings. Right, Kevin McCarthy?

Where’s Kevin?

Turns out McCarthy had to think about this one, because he did not say a word about it on Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. Or Monday.

Still thinking about that equivalency, Kevin?

Then, on Tuesday, McCarthy finally concluded that Green’s equivalence was incorrect:

“Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling. The Holocaust is the greatest atrocity committed in history. The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling. Americans must stand together to defeat anti-Semitism and any attempt to diminish the history of the Holocaust. Let me be clear: the House Republican Conference condemns this language.”

It took Kevin McCarthy five days to decide that the murder of six million Jews was not really the same as requiring members of the House of Representatives to wear a mask if they are not vaccinated.

Five days.

And, yes, he called her “Marjorie.” You know, a nice informality… just the way you’d refer to a close friend. A pal.

That’s just how pathetic Kevin McCarthy is: he is afraid to alienate the followers of a QAnon nutjob who worries about Jewish Space lasers.

Here’s the best one of all. On the day of the vote that had resulted in the ouster of Liz Cheney, Kevin McCarthy actually said “"I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election." Those words actually came out of his mouth.

Three weeks later, Donald Trump would address the North Carolina Republican Party and announce that “the 2020 presidential election… was by far the most corrupt election in the history of our country… a third-world election, like we’ve never seen before.”

The amazing thing about Kevin McCarthy is that he never learned what most kids learn on playgrounds by third grade. If you kneel before a bully, they own you. They realize you are one of the few people who are weaker than they are, so you become the go-to bozo they use to prove how tough they are. They keep going back to victimize you. The more they bully you, the more you exhibit weakness, the more they shame you, the more they own you.

Can I take this moment to offer just two syllables to Kevin McCarthy on the subject of loyalty to Donald Trump? Mike Pence. Yeah, you don’t hear too much from Mike Pence these days. He has long since realized that is career is over, and now all he wants is the political equivalent of the witness protection program so the 1/6ers won’t come to finish the job.

That’s what blind loyalty to Donald Trump buys you.

And yet there are men like Kevin McCarthy who can’t see just how blatantly they reveal their own fears and inadequacy. Who cannot see how frightened, weak, and intimidated they look to us all as they kneel before a scumbag like Donald Trump. When we see that a prominent leader in our government would rather sell his soul than surrender his fancy title, we are debased as a nation.

What Donald Trump’s presidency taught us is that our blind faith in the institutions of our government was astonishingly naïve. We used to believe that our brilliant forefathers created a government of laws, and that meant that the checks, balances, and institutions of government would protect us from malevolent actors who would attempt to destroy our democracy.

Now we know the truth: those institutions are only as good as the people we entrust them to.

Right now, in virtually every critical leadership position in the Republican party, we have either malevolent actors or compromised and intimidated weaklings like Kevin McCarthy.

The New McCarthyism is the blind ambition that causes a man to pretend that he sees no evil. It is to have enough power to enable a would-be tyrant, but not enough strength of character to defy him.

Yes, there is a new breed of McCarthyism in the Republican Party. Sorry, Edward R. Murrow, this McCarthyism is worse than the original. It is the use of Congressional leadership positions to overtly sanction actions and speech intended to undermine the government.

Right now, we are acutely vulnerable to this new McCarthyism. We have been emotionally drained to empty by a global pandemic, and all we want to do is meet our friends at a bar for a drink so we can remember what noses and smiles actually look like. 

We are happy with Joe Biden, a man who says – and means – all the right things when he describes America the way it is supposed to be.

But the promise of a post-pandemic prosperity and the perception of a political panacea have eroded our resolve. As much as we like Joe Biden, he is wrong about one thing. Joe Biden wants to believe that America is the country that it is supposed to be… where what we have in common is greater than what divides us, where country is bigger than party, and where we accept the will of the people and move on. It is supposed to be a country where we would rather deal with the hard truths and bad news head on, rather than hide from reality, shielded in a bubble created by media tyrants and political losers who coax the weak with the fantasy that what they want to believe is really true. 

Out there in the real world, the new McCarthyism is real, and it is a massive, growing threat that could easily bring about the end of democracy in America.

"Until this moment, Mr. McCarthy, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"



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Friday, June 4, 2021

BTRTN: “Democracy Itself is in Peril”

Tom with the BTRTN 2021 May Month in Review.

On Memorial Day, Joe Biden delivered the defining statement of our times:  “Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world.”  He chose to impart that message while honoring those who sacrificed their lives to protect democracy, a group that would have shuddered had they been able to hear his stark words.

In the month of May, it became abundantly clear that Donald Trump had decisively won the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.  Trumpism did not die with his electoral defeat; indeed, that defeat – or rather his refusal to accept it, the “Big Lie” – instead became the defining litmus test for the party.  The question was called: to be a member of the GOP in good standing, you had to be with Trump, otherwise you were on the outs.  Various votes – referenda on Trumpism -- were held, and in the end, it was not even close.  And thus the peril to our democracy became even more apparent than ever, because, quite simply, the bedrock of our democracy – free and fair elections – is now at stake.

The GOP has had plenty of chances to rid itself of Trump, beginning, of course, with the opportunities afforded by the Big Lie itself, the January 6 insurrection and the second Trump impeachment.  In each case, they backed Trump, but the cracks in Trumpism were exposed, and some powerful voices – heretofore aligned with Trump – began to emerge.  GOP stalwarts Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell broke with Trump in various ways.  These were highly visible defections, because they came from leaders in the GOP, and resided in deep red states.

Their voices gave rise to some hope – certainly within mainstream GOP circles – that they could lead at least a good-sized chunk of the GOP rank and file away from Trump and back to bedrock conservative principles – limited government, strong defense, low taxes -- that could define a new era.  But in the month of May, with four decision points, that dreamed was shattered.

The first decision point was the fate of Liz Cheney.  Cheney is a brand in conservative circles, the daughter of the former Vice President, a formidable and ambitious GOP leader, ranked third in the House leadership after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise.  Cheney made the transition from Dick Cheney-style conservatism to Trumpism with ease, voting with Trump 93% of the time and, early on, supporting his right to question the 2020 election results. 

But the Big Lie and the Insurrection proved a bridge too far for Cheney, and she made that abundantly clear in a principled stand against Trump.  There was a time when the GOP would have tolerated minority points of view within the party; McCarthy supported Cheney the first time the far right tried to oust her from her position as Chair of the Republican Party Conference, in February.  But when she continued to bash Trump in the most straightforward terms, McCarthy dropped his opposition and she was gone in a simple voice vote.  The most stunning sign of the times was that she was replaced by moderate Ellen Stefanik of New York, who voted with Trump far less often than Cheney but was a vocal supporter of Trump and proponent of the Big Lie.  And, in the end, that was all that mattered.

The second decision point was the attempt to create a joint commission to investigate the January 6 Insurrection, a step that seemed assured in the aftermath of the impeachment vote.  After all, 10 GOP representatives voted to impeach Trump, six GOP Senators voted to convict him of that impeachment, and McConnell, even while eschewing a conviction vote, excoriated Trump for promulgating the Big Lie and the Insurrection.  That the Insurrection was inflicted directly on members of both houses of Congress while in session – including Vice President Mike Pence, a target of the mob -- seemed to ensure that a proper investigation, by an independent body modeled on the 9/11 Commission, would be a given. 

In structuring the commission, Pelosi bent over backwards to ensure it was a credibly bipartisan body. When McCarthy made demands to ensure such an outcome, Pelosi surprised him by accepting them in their entirety.  McCarthy’s designated negotiator, GOP Representative John Kasko of New York, then finalized the final deal on those terms.  Except…Donald Trump spoke, and McCarthy simply threw Kasko under the bus, and reneged.  The bill passed the Pelosi-controlled House anyway, with 35 GOP votes, but then was killed in a filibuster by the Senate when McConnell, essentially crawling back to Trump, lobbied intensively against the bill.  GOP Senators barely hid that the rationale behind killing the commission was that the investigation would reflect poorly on them and adversely impact the midterms.

Then came more bizarre antics from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who equated Pelosi’s mask mandate with the horrors the Nazis inflicted on Jews in the Holocaust, a sickening and stupefying analogy.  McCarthy had many options before him to punish Greene, a Trump favorite, including censure and/or and expulsion from the GOP caucus.  Instead he chose the mildest of punishments, a simple denunciation of her statements, and it took him an unconscionable six days to even muster the appetite to do that.  Once again, McCarthy chose to follow Trump.

And then came Texas.  In the aftermath of the Big Lie, and citing it for justification, roughly a dozen states had passed highly restrictive voting suppression laws.  Their legislative session had already passed laws to virtually eliminate whatever gun control laws remained on the books and ban abortions after six weeks, when many women do not even know they are pregnant.  The voting law was blocked by a clever walkout among Democrats to prevent the quorum required to pass such legislation.  But it will be back, and the Democrats do not have enough votes, or parliamentary tricks, to stop it.

Conservative dogma has become passé within the GOP.  The only thing that matters is Trump.  The votes were clear:  Liz Cheney is out, Ellen Stefanik is in.  Liz Cheney is reviled as an outcast, Marjorie Taylor Greene is slapped on the wrist but still a valued member of the team.  The Big Lie is the only “principle” the GOP recognizes now, and despite that fact that GOP election officials in many states, including Texas, have testified under oath that their 2020 elections were smoothly run without any semblance of fraud, that lie is the basis for a monstrous wave of voter suppression.

But perhaps more alarming than these decisions by McCarthy and the GOP leadership is what they reflect – the increasingly bizarre and surreal views of their constituency. We have often reflected that politicians are the most rational, if hardly the most courageous, beings on the planet.  They are heat-seeking missiles in taking actions they perceive will secure their next election, and it is a rare politician of either party who can make a crucial decision using any other lens.  And thus they rarely exhibit any true leadership, they simply follow their political instincts, what they think their supporters want.

A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute has thus drawn plenty of attention. The only conclusion one can reach from the poll is that roughly one-quarter of the Republican Party is certifiably insane.  One might smile to hear that 28% of Republicans believe that “a storm is coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”  And one might be truly amazed that 23% think that “the government, media and financial worlds are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global sex trafficking operation.”

But what should truly alarm you is that 28% believe that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”  We are talking about roughly 30 million Americans who hold these views.  These are QAnon true believers.  They not only are larger in size that most organized religious sects, but they also have a communication network via the web, and access to enough military-style weapons to create a good-sized army.  This is not a “fringe group” to be mocked, it is a giant threat that must be contained.

When I was a college senior, in the immediate post-Watergate era, I did my senior thesis on “political trust in America,” and concluded, using survey data, that while Americans’ basic trust in government had eroded dramatically, there was no threat to our democracy as a consequence.  In fact, in some ways, our faith in our institutions was deepened, since Nixon had been removed and the press, Congress and the courts all asserted their proper authority to contain his excesses.

One cannot make the same statement today.  When a large swath of our adult population takes on absurdist positions, egged on by quasi-respectable figures such as General Michael Flynn and, of course, Trump himself, and our GOP leadership refuses to denounce it, but rather enables and supports it, our democracy is indeed in peril.  What we are learning – way too slowly -- is that the Trump “movement” has completed the takeover of the Republican Party.  Trump has inflicted far more damage in losing, by undermining the sacred transition of power and faith on our electoral process, he managed in his four years in office. 

With the lines thus drawn, the battlefield is clear: voting rights.  The Trumpsters’ best weapon is their control of many state legislatures and state houses, and their ability to use their power there to pass restrictive anti-voting legislation and draw ridiculously gerrymandered districts.  These are the tools of oppression and they have been wielded before, in the Jim Crow era, and they are being wielded now for the same reason – to keep persons of color, who are largely Democrats, from voting.

The Democrats’ best weapons are policies that appeal to the majority of Americans, an energized voting base that recognizes the magnitude of the threat, and demographic trends that are inexorably in their favor.  But there is one more weapon they could use, and it is a massive one, and that is the ability to end the 60-vote cloture requirement in the Senate, thereby enabling, in theory, passage of national voting laws that would render local suppression laws invalid.  If the Democrats went this route, they could far more easily carry future elections and thus limit the risk of losing power back to the GOP (where they could then reverse the progressive agenda and do much worse).   It is both a giant club and a giant risk.

As of now, Biden has been cool to the idea, given his loyalty to the Senate after 36 years there mastering its ins and outs.  Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have also expressed opposition to killing the filibuster, and the Democrats need every single vote to make it happen, all 50 in their caucus plus Vice President Kamala Harris.  But if the January 6 commission vote was not a tipping for the doubters, it came close.  And if they GOP continues to strip Americans of their basic voting rights, and support the Big Lie, the time may very well come. 

One halfway measure that we hear little about is keeping cloture but reducing the requirement from 60 votes to 55.  Not many people realize that the cloture requirement was not conceived by the Founding Fathers and was not written into the Constitution.  Nor do they know that until 1972 cloture required 67 votes; it was reduced to 60 then due to growing polarization.  If only 55 votes had been required to stop a filibuster, the January 6 commission might have passed, since six Republicans voted for cloture and would likely have supported the measure once it came to a vote.  There are clearly a subset of “moderate” Republicans Senators who either oppose Trump or are willing to part with his wishes selectively.  It is highly doubtful they would support the new voting law, but it might be a useful compromise, one that would also protect Democrats’ minority power down the road someday.

The month of May was consequential on many other fronts. 

·        COVID cases continued to drop significantly, from 1.7 million cases in April to only 800,000 in May.  As the country reopened with varying degrees of caution, the CDC bungled its revised guidance, declaring that a mask-free world was safe for the vaccinated, without seeming to recognize that this gave license to the non-vaccinated to go mask free as well, without fear of reprisal.  But clearly the country reached a new phase in the COVID drama, as full vaccinations topped 40% of the population, even while the virus raged in India and the Delta variant reversed promising trends in the UK.

·        An ugly war broke out between Israel and Palestine, the first since 2014, only this time the cease fire that seems to be holding was reached after only 11 days of fighting, rather than 50 back then.  Biden’s tack was to let others (France, Egypt and Oman) take the lead in public negotiations while working on Netanyahu privately, leveraging a decades-long relationship.  With Democratic progressives openly critiquing Israel for inhuman treatment of the Palestinians, this was a delicate dance for Biden, but one he seems to have weathered.  And at this writing, Netanyahu’s reign could be merely days from ending, as an unlikely coalition in Israel decided it agreed on one thing:  Bibi had to go. 

·        Actual negotiations are underway on Biden’s $1.9 trillion infrastructure bill, a.k.a. the American Jobs Plan.  While progress is at a snail’s pace and the gaps are still wide, the subtext is that Biden needs to demonstrate that he went full-out for a bipartisan deal in order to bring Manchin and Sinema along on a reconciliation deal.  That is what his prolonged efforts with the GOP are all about.  Whether Biden gets a smaller bipartisan deal focused on “hard” infrastructure remains to be seen, but either way he will ultimately need a reconciliation-driven process, and all 50 Democratic votes, including Manchin’s and Sinema’s, to get the job done. 

·        It is a sign of the times that a mass shooting in San Jose more or less came and went without even the ritualistic hue and cry from the left (for gun control) and the right (to protect gun rights by hiding behind the “mental health” issue).  Biden may have said “enough,” but there was no sign that the outcome of this violence, and many other mass killings in the month, would move the political process forward one inch. 

·        And the various investigations into Donald Trump took a significant turn with the combining of New York City (criminal) and state (civil) investigations, and the empanelment of a grand jury in the city to determine whether indictments should be handed down to Trump, his family and associates and his business.  It is expected that the jury will render its verdict by year end.



After Kevin McCarthy withdrew his support of Cheney, at Trump’s behest, he met with reporters and said the following, or should we say he actually said this with a straight face: “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.”  Oh, really, Kevin, aren’t you forgetting at least one person?


Joe Biden’s approval rating remained in the same range in May that he has carried through his young presidency.  He remains at a +11 net rating, which while declining steadily is nevertheless impressive.  Trump never once was a positive net in his four years in office. 


Biden is getting high marks across the board for his handling of the two largest issues on his plate, COVID and the economy.  He is outperforming Trump’s final measure by 21 points on COVID management, is ahead of Trump on foreign policy by 7 points, and is even with Trump on the economy, which was Trump’s strongest suit by far.

The nation has responded to Biden’s leadership with a steady increase in those who feel the country is on the right track, more than doubling where Trump left it in the aftermath of the January 6 Insurrection and the Big Lie that inspired it.


The “Bidenometer” was virtually unchanged in the month, moving from +63 to +62.  An uptick in the Dow offset a slight increase in the unemployment rate and a sharper increase in the price of gas.

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, so that we better demonstrate whether the economy performs better (a positive number) or worse (a negative number) under Biden than what he inherited from the Trump Administration.

With a Bidenometer of +62, the economy is clearly performing much better since Biden took over.

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 the inaugural to the present time.

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 only +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 the shock of COVID-19 and Trump’s mismanagement of it.  Now we have seen it move upward to +62 under Biden. 

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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 Bidenometer 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 Biden took over the office from Trump.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.