Saturday, April 23, 2022

BTRTN: Kevin McCarthy, Mariupol, and the Demise of Principle in American Government

Kevin McCarthy probably has no sense of the shame he should feel when reporters from The New York Times finally laid bare his hypocrisy, his weakness, and his lack of an ethical compass. At least we can still find examples of the best of human character and principle in brave soldiers in Mariupol.

There are times when two news stories hit the front pages on the same day and create a jarring juxtaposition… a stark contrast of two simultaneous events that put an issue in sharp relief.

Consider this amazing example: on February 10, 2015, two stories appeared on the front page of The New York Times. One reported that Brian Williams was suspended without pay by NBC for exaggerating his exposure to danger while on a combat assignment. The other announced that Jon Stewart was leaving The Daily Show after turning it “into an influential platform for news and media commentary, both in the United States and around the world.” The “real news anchor” was leaving in disgrace for lying about his reporting exploits, while the “fake newsman comedian” was exiting a hero, lionized for his gutsy, uncompromising truth. Epic irony, geometrically multiplied when it arrived in our newsfeed on the same day.

Flash forward to this past week. CNN shows video clips made inside the steel mill in Mariupol that has become the Alamo of Ukraine, the astonishing last stand in which hopelessly out-manned and outgunned Ukrainian soldiers refuse to surrender to the barbarian Russian butchers who have invaded their homeland. The Ukrainians display steely resolve to see the mission through, at whatever cost.

In that very same week, we learn from a new book written by reporters from The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, that Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell were keenly aware in the days following the January 6 insurrection that Donald Trump's actions warranted that he be removed from the Presidency immediately. Initially they appear full of resolve to take Trump on, but soon assess that the course of action they advocate would put their own careers and power at risk. They cower, retreat, spin on a dime, and abandon their efforts to effectively rebuke Trump. 

In the very same week, we see, on the one hand, ordinary Ukrainian soldiers in imminent grave risk, yet are ready to die to protect their homeland's freedom and democracy.

And, on the other, the most senior leaders in the Republican Party, revealed to be frightened, easily intimidated, and unwilling to defend our freedom and our democracy lest it come at a cost to their power and ambitions.

The book, “This Will Not Pass,” goes on sale May 3, but the tidbits released in advance interviews alone are explosive. Reporters Martin and Burns assert that McCarthy said that he intended to go to Trump and suggest that Trump should resign. They report that McCarthy discussed the twenty-fifth amendment with Liz Cheney, and that Mitch McConnell said “if this isn’t an impeachable offense, I don’t know what is.” The reporters say that McCarthy claimed that he had spoken to Trump and that Trump himself had acknowledged being responsible in some measure for the insurrection.

Any of these bombshells in isolation is shocking. Taken together, they are an open-and-shut case that the two top Republicans in Congress thought Trump should not be allowed to remain in office even for the scant days that remained in his administration.

But here’s where it gets just too perfect. Immediately after the story about the new book broke this week, Kevin McCarthy claimed that the reporting was “totally false and wrong,” and his spokesman announced that “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”

The two Times reporters then immediately produced a recording of McCarthy saying exactly that, simultaneously letting it be known that have plenty of delicious audio recordings still under lock and key. These guys knew McCarthy’s MO – lie, deny, pivot, and accuse -- so well that they baited their trap brilliantly. They initially only released the written quote, and then waited for the predictable McCarthy to lie about its veracity. Then, boom! The reporters immediately produced the audio recording, instantly cementing their credibility and revealing McCarthy to be a brazen liar.

There is no doubt that McCarthy, Fox News, and the Republican Party will scramble to discredit this reporting, but those darn audio tapes will make that task daunting.  Do we believe The New York Times and its reporters? Uh, yeah.  The New York Times understands that if it lied or distorted the truth, its income stream would evaporate, just as surely as Fox News knows that its income stream would evaporate if it ever started to tell the truth. 

The bottom line is simple: Kevin McCarthy’s initial reaction to the January 6 insurrection was exactly right. In his public statements following the insurrection, 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.”

Now, we learn that in private, McCarthy was even more adamant about Trump’s malfeasance. Here are some particular juicies: “What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it.” “I’ve had it with this guy.” Again, in private, Mitch McConnell appeared still more outraged by Trump’s behavior, saying “the Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us.”

And yet, in the days that followed, McCarthy and McConnell rapidly came to understand that their outrage and eagerness to dissociate themselves and their party from Trump was not playing well among the party faithful. They suddenly realized they were holding a losing hand. So they quit. 

Rather than stand up, stick to their guns, and lead based on their own understanding of the gravity of Trump’s actions, they cowered, retreated, and completely abandoned any notion of principle, any recognition that now was their moment to stand up and defend American Democracy against an act that McConnell openly acknowledged was a certain impeachable offense.

Threatened with a loss of standing in their party, they ran for cover. McCarthy famously made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump’s ring, which ended with an embarrassing photo op in which Trump appears to be laughing at McCarthy's obsequiousness.

It is a startling contrast to Ukrainian soldiers stand unflinchingly at their posts, facing death, but refusing to capitulate.

What happens to our nation when the people making the decisions that either protect or weaken our democracy are themselves weak, frightened people who run from “principle” the moment it threatens to cost them something?

That last phrasing was intended to invoke the one of the most astute comments about the concept of principle, made by the great advertising man, Bill Bernbach. The creative legend who founded the great Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency once observed that “a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.” Indeed, I once had the opportunity to personally experience exactly what Mr. Bernbach meant.

Back when I was in the advertising business, our biggest client dropped us due to a merger, and the loss of that revenue threatened the viability of our company. It seemed entirely possible that we would go out of business. Several days later, we got a call from a cigarette company inviting us to compete for their account, which would have instantly replaced all the lost revenue and then some. My business partner and I turned the offer down flat without a moment’s thought. We would rather not have a company than have one that hawked a deadly product to vulnerable people.

Sure, that principle cost us money, and it could have even cost us our company and our jobs (it didn’t, we scrambled and survived). But it was an easy decision. There are times and situations when it is better to get fired, better to resign in protest, better to accept the risk of defeat in the next election than to abandon an important principle. And -- to paraphrase Mitch McConnell -- if defending our Constitution, our democracy, and our freedom aren't important principles, then I don’t know what is.  

You see, Kevin McCarthy, it is actually better to lose your job than to lose your soul.

We are once again reminded of the immensely powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Am I saying that Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are “good people?” Well, yes, in this narrow sense: the recordings  prove that these two Republicans know right from wrong. They totally understand what Trump was trying to do, and they vigorously condemned it. So they qualify as “good” in Dr. King’s usage simply in the fact that they truly did understand that Trump’s behavior was reckless, destructive, and worthy of impeachment or forced resignation.

But – to Dr. King’s point -- they cowered from acting on their knowledge, preferring to hide in “the silence of the good people.”

What are we doing wrong as a country that we are producing so many unprincipled leaders?

It used to be that liars like McConnell and McCarthy would pay for their weakness. When Ben Franklin said “honesty is the best policy,” he was actually not making a statement about ethics or morals. It is simply practical advice – honesty is simply a better policy, let alone a better philosophy. If you develop a reputation for being a liar and a cheater, people don’t trust you, and you lose value as a human being… as someone to hire, as someone to trust with an important task, or as a friend, and as a spouse. You are devalued. Old Ben was simply saying that it makes no sense to be revealed as a chronic, inveterate liar.

Today, however, developing a reputation as an efficient and effective liar earns you regular gigs on Fox News. Today, millions of Americans tune in at 8:00 to hear the freshest, best lies on the market.

Of course, Kevin McCarthy is not a particularly adept or intelligent liar. The recordings now in the possession of The New York Times reporters were of conference phone calls attended by many Republican lawmakers. McCarthy is apparently just stupid and naïve enough to have failed to realize that in the era of the iPhone, everything is recorded.

McCarthy is living proof of the veracity of Ben Franklin’s adage. It's a fair bet that once the book and the rest of the quotable quotes are released by the Times reporters, McCarthy will be the walking dead even in his own party... scorned by the vengeful Trump, viewed as a traitor by the right wing of his party, worthless to his own constituents, and not much to look at in the mirror.

In fairness, it must be said that this level of ethical depravity is not unique to the Republican Party. It was the Democrats who nominated weapons-grade philanderer John Edwards for the Vice Presidency in 2004. And the parade of allegations stamping Democratic New York Governor Mario Cuomo as a sexual predator prove that repugnant misogynistic behavior and abuse of power are among of the few remaining bipartisan practices in our government.  Yet in defense of Democrats: they took their own bad guy down. Once upon a time, Republicans took down Nixon. Now they destroy people like Liz Cheney, who have the guts to speak the truth.  

It is certainly time to ask how we expect each succeeding American generation to maintain a sense of morality and ethics when so many of the major politicians in positions of power are so transparently hypocritical and so lacking in principle. How do we teach young people that lying is wrong when lying is the overtly obvious behavior of leading Republican contender for Speaker of the House of Representatives?

How do we teach young people that there are such things as matters of principle? That there are decisions to be made that can come with a cost, but that cost is worth paying in order to preserve our sense of integrity, our dignity, and peace in our soul?

It is certainly time to ask our institutions of higher learning to examine how they manage to hand out fancy degrees to people who clearly lack any sense of morality, ethics, or conscience. Hey, Harvard and Princeton – would you like to stand up and take credit for Ted Cruz? Yale and Stanford, you both had a crack at Josh Hawley.  Perhaps our vaunted institutions of higher education should evaluate what steps they are taking to ensure that their graduates are grounded in ethics, principle, and human decency, because for every Barack Obama Harvard claims credit for, they have unleashed a Mark Zuckerberg and a Ron DeSantis as Johnny Appleseeds of the new American hyper-hypocrisy.   

Maybe the real answer, Harvard, is to invite guest lecturers from a steel factory in Mariupol.

If, God willing, they live to tell the tale.

Yes, a twenty-five-year-old Ukrainian soldier knows more -- and understands more -- about principle, about democracy, and about freedom than the man who could well be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress.

Maybe that’s why the Ukrainians are shocking the world with their ferocious defense against an overwhelmingly well-armed authoritarian thug.

And maybe that is why the United States is sinking ever closer to the risk of authoritarian rule.

All of you who wonder whether Joe Biden was the right choice for President, or who somehow feel disappointed in his administration, or who worry about his age and his physical stamina should understand one thing: the only good news in this whole story is that in 2020, the man of character and principle won.

Given all that we knew, it was far too close, but in the end the American people opted for the man of principle over the charlatan huckster whose core skill set is ignorance, deceit, and moral depravity.

Whether than remains true in 2024? Well, that could well be our Mariupol.

Our battle to fight to the end, with our freedom and our democracy on the line.

But here's the good news, Democrats. We can beat a party of ethically rudderless people like Kevin McCarthy,

All we have to do is be as ferociously principled as the brave Ukrainians in a steel factory in Mariupol.



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, April 3, 2022

BTRTN Announces Winners of the “Lindsey Grahammys” for the Worst in Republican Hypocrisy

Steve is back with a repeat of last year’s popular feature: on the day of the “Grammy” awards, BTRTN provides a summary of the past year’s low points in human character on display in the GOP.


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Before you tune into that “other” Grammys show tonight, we welcome you to the Lindsey Grahammys, BTRTN’s annual awards for the most epic displays of Republican hypocrisy, disingenuousness, unawareness of irony, and occasional moments of well-deserved unintended consequences.

Many people have asked us why we decided to name our hypocrisy awards for Lindsey Graham when there are so many worthy Republicans to choose from. The answer? The Senator from South Carolina simply executes more pristine hypocrisies than any of his peers. Consider this gem: in 2016 that 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.'"

Sure enough, that exact circumstance came to pass. 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.

Then, 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.” Lindsey Graham not only operates in an ethical vacuum -- he thinks we all are as morally bankrupt as he is!

“Republican hypocrisy,” you say? Isn’t that sort of, well, redundant?

Yes, the post-factual Trump Party has become a confab of contortionists, a breeding ground for slimy mutated creatures with large vocal chords but lacking spines, memories, and dignity. Republicans declare that what they believe today is the thing Donald Trump said yesterday. Where once the identifying traits of Republicanism were fiscal responsibility, global obligation, limited government, and rugged individualism, today’s GOP is a pander-fest of wobbly, weak-kneed sycophants whose every action is determined by fear of reprisal from Donald Trump.

Our awards celebrate the most temerity in insincerity, the great distinctions in disingenuousness, and the fanciest of sycophancy.

We have nominated three Republican productions for this year’s “Greatest Achievement in Hypocrisy.” They are: “The Big Lie, Part Deux: Don’t Stop Misbelieving!” I Didn’t See No Stinkin’ Insurrection,” and “Black Female Nominees for the Supreme Court Go Easy on Child Porn.”

Let’s begin with the first nominated Republican production, “The Big Lie, Part Deux: Don’t Stop Misbelieving!”

Rare is the sequel that equals the original! But as 2022 unfolded, the “Big Lie” just got bigger! The tiny handful of Republicans who said out loud that Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election were ostracized by the party. Our awards go to those sleazebags who knew exactly what happened but refused to say it out loud, and indeed, advocated for Trump’s Big Lie.

Due to the diligence of the House January 6 Committee, we have learned in the past year about mind-blowing hypocrisy leading up to and following the Capitol Insurrection.

Our first Lindsey Grahammy goes to Fox News host Sean Hannity, who, we now know, was frantically texting to the White House in the days leading up to and following the insurrection, urging Mark Meadows and others to tell Trump to abandon his attempt to label the election as fraudulent:

"Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can't mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say, and I don't like not knowing if it's truly understood. Ideas?"

Hannity did not express this opinion on his television show. In fact, Hannity and other Fox News evening anchors had busied themselves since the election boosting allegations of voter fraud and faulty voting machines. The texts to the White House demonstrate that Hannity knew that “the Big Lie” was a very big lie, but he played along. Take the statuette, Sean, and shove it where it belongs!

Our Second Grahammy for the “The Big Lie” goes to Ted Cruz, who -- we have learned through the work of the January 6 Committee -- went to extraordinary lengths to concoct a legal theory that could enable Trump to remain as President. Cruz sought to delay the certification of the election, and intended to delay the inauguration in order to give states more time to reverse election results. Cruz’s rationale for the delay and the special commission was that:

“We right now have a substantial chunk of our country that has real doubts about the integrity of the election, and if we had had a credible electoral commission do an emergency audit, it would have enhanced faith in democracy.”

This is hypocrisy gold! First, spend two months sowing doubt in the population about whether the election accurately reflected the will of the voters, and then claim a need for an audit of the election because of widespread voter doubt! Then, use the delay caused by the audit to have State legislatures negate the real vote, so that the revised outcome of the election actually does not reflect the will of the voters!

What is even more galling is that Cruz graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law. He knew perfectly well what the Constitution allowed and did not allow… and yet he aggressively advocated for a brazenly unconstitutional scheme.

Our third statuette for “The Big Lie, Part Deux” is awarded for a “The Year’s Most Dazzling Failure to See Irony in One’s Action,” which is considered a truly rarified air of hypocrisy. This award goes to the individuals responsible for turning over documents requested by the House January 6 Committee, who provided a call log of the President’s phone records for January 6, which had a seven-hour gap. This is truly breathtaking in that it is already a matter of public record that Trump spoke directly with Kevin McCarthy and Tommy Tuberville during this period. Then there is the added soupçon that Trump may have been using “burner phones” but pretended to not know what a “burner phone” is... a contention rapidly rebutted by John Bolton.

The lesson to all wannabe Republican hypocrites: when trying to avoid disturbing parallels to past Presidential malfeasance, it’s probably best not to create such an unmistakable – and more grandiose – echo of Richard Nixon’s 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes. 

It is our sad duty to hand out a smaller trophy for “The Big Lie, Part Deux,” which goes to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. Back in February of 2020, Grassley said "President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn't back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count.... There's no doubt in my mind that President Trump's language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible."

But by October, 2021, Grassley cowered from such language. The Iowa Senator, wanting Trump’s endorsement for re-election, stood meekly by at a rally as Trump thundered about election fraud in three states. When asked why he allowed himself to essentially be a prop as Trump continued his stolen election rhetoric, Grassley whimpered, “He's a private citizen. He can say anything he wants to."

This is what the GOP has come to… senior, experienced officers of government with decades of service to their country, perfectly willing to condone a coup in order to keep their jobs. Grassley knows better. Give the man his statue. He has sunk low enough to deserve it.

The next nominated Republican production is titled “I Didn’t See No Stinkin’ Insurrection,” which features a series of Republicans who can’t understand why people are making such a fuss about January 6, and can’t understand what on the earth the Democrats seem to think needs investigating.

Let’s open our first envelope, in the category of “Best Attempt to Rewrite an Actual Historical Event,” and – you betcha! It goes to Georgia Republican Andrew Clyde, a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, who was quoted in a video saying:

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Magnificent! You would actually think that, unless you actually think, which Representative Clyde apparently does not do!

We saw the video. We saw the carnage, the violence against the police, the bloodshed, the breaking down of doors and windows, the blood-curdling threats to Nancy Pelosi, the actual chant of “Hang Mike Pence.” To attempt to equate those videos with a “normal tourist visit” is to practice a sort of sorcerer’s hypocrisy, as if reality can be whisked away with a spell. Give the man his trophy. Then run. Fast.

But the true magic of “I Didn’t See No Stinkin’ Insurrection” is not in the random outlier hallucination of a Congressman from Georgia. It lies in watching the actual Republican leadership in Congress attempt to whitewash the insurrection by claiming that it does not even rise to the level of concern that it should merit an investigation.

Our Lindsey Grahammy goes to the ensemble cast of Republicans who have taken precisely the opposite view of investigating Donald Trump for egregious transgressions against the Constitution than the positions they took on investigating Hillary Clinton when no malfeasance was ever established.

We’re here tonight to talk about hypocrisy, so take a big bite of this: there were – count’em – at least ten different Congressional investigations into Hillary Clinton’s handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Unfathomable as this is to believe, the Congress spent more time investigating Benghazi than they did on the September 11 attacks. Republicans felt it was absolutely critical to get to the bottom of who was to blame for the attack, and yet, investigation after investigation found no wrongdoing on Clinton’s part.

And yet when time came to investigate the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2020, Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan panel modeled on the 9/11 commission. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell labeled it a “purely political exercise.” This, after that very same Mitch McConnell had publicly declared that “"There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day."

There has been, of course, the stonewalling by Republicans who refuse to comply with legitimate Congressional subpoenas. There have been court fights to withhold the release of documents to the January 6 Committee. There are the reports that Donald Trump would flush documents down the White House toilet. There is the fact that top secret government documents were taken to Mar-a-Lago. All this from the party that had the blood-curdling chant of “lock her up” because Hillary Clinton used a private email server for government documents.   

McConnell’s hypocrisy in failing to create a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6 did, however, have the delicious effect of triggering the “law of unintended consequences,” an all-too-common outcome of flagrant hypocrisy. After seeing the Bipartisan commission bill collapse, Nancy Pelosi created the House January 6 Committee. When Pelosi refused to seat two Republicans who flagrantly opposed any investigation into January 6, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy boycotted the committee entirely.

Now, unimpeded by any Republican interference, stalling, or posturing, the House January 6 Committee is  unearthing mountains of evidence that Donald Trump was intent on staging a coup of the United States government. Nice work, Kevin.

The third major Republican production this year was entitled “Black Female Nominees for the Supreme Court Go Easy on Child Porn,” a farce that was written, produced, and performed largely by The Dunces of the Confederacy, Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Lindsey Graham.  

Our first award is for “Egregious False Equivalency.” Much was written about the Republican need to seek “vengeance” for what it viewed to be excessively harsh questioning of Donald Trump’s beer-pong nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. “There is this need to punch back,” observed Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. So the Republican approach was to treat Judge Brown-Jackson savagely for her sentencing in sexual crimes, because Brett Kavanaugh was grilled aggressively because he was accused of a sexual crime. Sort of the same thing? Maybe? Kinda? Uh, not.

Our second award goes to Missouri Senator and man born with a genetic absence of human decency, Josh Hawley, for “Extraordinary Achievement in Fiction.” If vengeance was indeed being sought for the Democratic attack on accused sexual predator Kavanaugh, Hawley decided to try to tarnish Jackson with an egregious form of sexual innuendo. Prior to the hearings, Hawley tweeted that Judge Jackson “has a pattern of letting child pornographers off the hook.” However, Democrats were able to demonstrate that Jackson’s record in this area was no different from conservative judges that committee Republicans had supported. Busted.

Our third statuette goes for “Outstanding Posturing in a Supporting Role.” We award this to Ted Cruz, the unctuous, smarmy, festering boil of a human being, the very crude oil of Texas incarnate, who introduced a perversely irrelevant discussion of critical race theory into the hearings, apparently wanting to coax a few Facebook “likes” from the racists back home.

Our fourth statue goes to the man himself, for still one more of the flawless flip-flops that made us want to name our Awards after him. Never one to disappoint, Senator Lindsey Graham announced just this week that he would vote against the appointment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson after voting for her position on the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court just a year ago. "I now know why Judge Jackson was the favorite of the radical left and I will vote no," Graham explained. Uh, Lindsey, the only thing you know now that you didn’t know then is that everyone in your party is paying attention to your vote this time.  

We now turn to our final three awards… our fan favorites.

First, we will announce the winner of the Golden Cherry Tree, which goes to the Republican who tries very hard to be disingenuous, but is caught “Accidentally Telling the Truth.”

Our award for “Accidental Truth Telling” goes to perennial hypocrisy powerhouse Mitch McConnell. The Senate Minority leader was asked this past January if the failure to ratify the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act might cause Black Americans to be concerned about whether they would be able to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. 'Well, the concern is misplaced because, if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.” Uh, wha? Thank you so much, Senator McConnell, for helping us understand that you believe that “Black Americans” are actually a different category than “Americans.”

And now, it is the solemn moment when we hand out our “Richard Milhouse Nixon Lifetime Achievement in Hypocrisy Award” … and this year, it goes to – wait for it! House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy!!! Oh, my, what well-earned recognition for a career of spinelessness!

In fairness, Kevin McCarthy has a thankless job, in that pretty much no one is thanking him for the job he is doing.

McCarthy secured his lifetime achievement award in the days immediately following January 6, 2020, when he 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 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.

It was McCarthy, of course, who sulked when Nancy Pelosi rejected his candidates for the House January 6 Investigation Committee. In “protest,” McCarthy opted to put no one on the committee. With that terribly flawed decision, McCarthy has lost any control he may have wielded over it. Had he simply named more acceptable alternatives, he would have eyes and ears in the committee, and his chosen representatives could be doing plenty to gunk up the committee’s progress. No wonder Republicans hate Nancy Pelosi… it must be wearying to watch how effortless she outfoxes the twenty-watt McCarthy.  

McCarthy kicked life-long rock of conservatism Liz Cheney out of her position of power in the party caucus, but finds himself unwilling and unable to cope with the sexual appetites of Matt Gaetz and the incendiary musings of Marjorie Taylor Greene. McCarthy is terrified of confronting one of the party’s most potent fundraisers, so he allows Greene to rant about Jewish space lasers and Nancy Pelosi’s “Gazpacho Police.”

Finally, however, Kevin McCarthy decided to pick on someone his own size. When 26 year-old wingnut Representative Madison Cawthorn raged that he had witnessed Republicans in Congress snorting lines and engaged in carnal free-for-alls, McCarthy stepped in and lowered the boom.

Let us sum up Kevin McCarthy’s career: “This Minority Leader will tolerate blatantly false allegations about stolen elections, Jewish space lasers, wild goose chases about Benghazi… but when a 26 year-old accuses us of having sex and drugs, well, somebody has crossed a line!”

Give the man the statue. And send a check to the Dem in the contested House seat in your area, so this bloviating gas bag doesn’t end up as Speaker of the House.

Finally, ladies and gentleman, we are ready to hand out The Golden Blowhard, the highest and most cherished honor among Republicans.  May I have the envelope please?

YES! Ladies and gentlemen, HE DID IT AGAIN!  For the second straight year, the award goes to Bloviator-in-Chief, Donald Trump!

This year, the judges marveled at the fact that Trump once again practiced his special magic of deceit – but this time, he is bent on the destruction of his own team.  

You see, Donald Trump tells Republicans that he is the Party, that his endorsement is absolutely essential, and that he defines what is and what is not dogma in the new GOP. In his view, what is good for the Party is what is good for Trump, and what is good for Trump is what is good for the Party.

Except that this is not true.

Donald Trump could not care less about the Republican Party.

He cares about himself. And all he cares about is the narrative that is absolutely essential to preserving his psychic health: that he is not a “loser,” and that he did not “lose” the 2020 election.

But it is his very obsession with re-litigating the 2020 election that is widely viewed among Republicans as a fruitless, pointless platform for the 2022 midterms and beyond. Most Republicans want to talk about Biden, inflation, Afghanistan, excessive spending, COVID mandates, and CRT. Trump only wants to talk about the 2020 election.

Moreover, Trump’s litmus test is that Republican candidates must sign on to both the “Big Lie” and downplaying the insurrection. The result is likely to lead the GOP to ever more fringe, less-electable candidates.

Yes, the biggest hypocrisy in 2022 is Donald Trump’s Stockholm Syndrome over the Republican Party. He is dragging it down, and yet they all cannot get enough of it. Those who can see it cannot do anything about it. Indeed, they see what is happening, but they play along.

It is time that Republicans begin to understand the cost of all the hypocrisy… now that they have a clear view of the hypocrisy within.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The finest in Republican cynicism, hypocrisy, and deceit.

Be sure to tune in again next year… at the rate we are going, we can pretty much promise that it is going to be another amazing show.


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

Saturday, April 2, 2022

BTRTN: High Marks for Biden on Ukraine War Management

Tom with the BTRTN March 2022 Month in Review.

Few presidents have ever entered office with heavier burdens than those assumed by Joe Biden – perhaps only Lincoln and FDR, with a nod to Obama as well.  But unlike any of them, Biden faced epic crises on two fronts.  The first was the COVID pandemic; Biden came to office in the midst of a huge surge of cases from the Alpha variant, with vaccines at the ready but a miserable non-plan for distributing them, and an economy ravaged by the pandemic.  The second mega-crisis was that, unlike all of his predecessors, he lacked, essentially, the consent of the governed, his claim to office viewed as illegitimate due to widespread acceptance that his election was tainted, based on the lies of his predecessor.

While much progress has been made on the virus and the economy – notably in distributing vaccines and driving down unemployment -- more work remains with the threat of new variants and the spiking inflation caused by supply and labor shortages.  The legitimacy issue sadly remains, as a huge swath of the electorate continues to believe The Big Lie.  And to these two enormous burdens has been added a third – the largest threat to world stability since World War II (or perhaps the Cuban Missile Crisis), with the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine and the threat of superpower confrontation and potential nuclear war.

Last month, in February, prior to the actual invasion, Biden and his administration performed exceptionally.  They warned clearly, continually and, ultimately accurately, of the gravity of the threat.  They telegraphed each Russian move before it happened.  Their forecast that Russia was intent on invading the entirety of Ukraine, and not just making a show of force or, perhaps, seeking only to expand in the Donbas provinces, turned out to be dead-on.  With this month, March, came the full of weight of managing the war.

That story begins with the Ukrainians, who have risen spectacularly to the challenge.  What was initially viewed as a two-day walkover by the Russian army, culminating in the “decapitation” of the Ukraine government, has been anything but.  The Ukraine army and its citizenry (armed with Molotov cocktails) stopped the Russian advance in Kyiv suburbs miles away from the inner city, preventing its encirclement (and thereby disabling the newer Russian strategy of laying siege to Kyiv and slowly strangling it).  They yielded only one major city to the Russians, Kherson – and then fought on, wresting it back from Russian control.  One southern city, Mariupol’, has been largely reduced to rubble, and yet the Ukrainians fight on, refusing to abandon it.  Almost 25% of the country has been displaced, with roughly half of those leaving the country entirely – and yet they fight on.  The Russian army, demoralized and undersupplied, has been reduced to engaging in the most despicable warfare possible -- long-range missiles targeting civilian locations – for which Putin richly deserves the label “war criminal.”

At this juncture, the Ukraine defense has been so effective that they are now launching counterattacks on Russian positions outside of Kyiv, in some instances pushing them out even further from the city’s parameter.  The Russians have announced that they intend to reduce their position in Kyiv (and other cities) considerably, to re-focus their efforts on the Donbas – though to date there has been little evidence on the ground that this strategy is being implemented.

For the Biden Administration, managing the Ukraine invasion has been yet another balancing act in a presidency already full of them.   Biden has had to navigate, with mixed success, between progressive and moderates within his own party, on his Build Back Better legislation.  He has sought to gain a few GOP votes to ensure bipartisan support of at least some of his agenda, without losing necessary progressive votes.  His economic program – and that now of the Fed – is wedged between the Scylla and Charybdis of growth and jobs versus spiking inflation.  And now he and his western allies are balancing the most delicate and riskiest high wire act of them all -- supporting Ukraine enough to fend off, and even defeat the Russians, while avoiding direct war with Russia, including the prospect of nuclear war.

On this, Biden deserves extraordinarily high marks.  This is the Joe Biden we sought on foreign affairs, balanced and nuanced, tough yet empathetic, and strategically savvy.  Biden has had critics all the way along:  Republicans who called for sanctions even before the invasion; Democrats and Republicans imploring him to establish a no-fly zone and effect a deal to help Polish planes find their way to the Ukraine; and still others who, moved by compassion but blind to the lessons of history and the geopolitical realities, have begged for American troops on the ground to help the tormented and undermanned Ukrainians.

He has resisted all this and still led an exceptionally unified global response – far in excess of anyone’s expectations in scope --that has succeeded in ravaging the Russian economy and Putin’s reputation.  The latter has resorted to putting a virtual iron curtain around global communications so that the Russian people can only hear state-sponsored propaganda on the progress of the war.  Putin has largely reversed his prior success on one of his most cherished goals – one he brilliantly manipulated through the vessel of Donald Trump – to de-unify the West.  Instead, the US and its NATO and other western allies are completely unified, stronger than ever.

Biden – personally – deserves much of the credit.  Without US support – inconceivable under Putin-sycophant Trump – the global response could not possible have been as pronounced and devastating.  The west has supplied economic support, military weaponry and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as helped train its troops and benefit from shared intelligence, and all have been integral to the success, thus far, of the Ukraine stand. 

Biden’s latest triumph was a whirlwind visit to Europe, a NATO summit to discuss the Ukraine crisis, along with special sessions of the European Council and the G7.  The trip underscored NATO solidarity while also serving as a forum for substantive discussion on the western response to potential Russian use of chemical and/or nuclear weapons, escalation steps the Russians were refusing to rule out categorically.

The European tour culminated with a trip to Poland, which occurred at Biden’s insistence.  The Poles have been shouldering the largest burden of the Ukraine refugee burden, by virtue of a 330-mile shared border.  Poland, of course, has long been a contested territory in East/West conflicts, prized by Russian for its strategic position, and the Polish people have long suffered as pawns of war.  Coming to Poland was a special statement for Biden, and he used the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to the integrity of their sovereignty and borders, and support for their refugee efforts.

He ended that speech with an off-script ad lib, a special message to the Russian people, these now famous nine words:  “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”  Unscripted?  Yes. Unplanned?  Doubtful.  Biden is too experienced – even with his gaffe-machine history – to have not thought through this moment.  Those words were pure Biden, a visceral, heartfelt response to Putin’s terror and war, one that could not be mistaken. 

His administration swiftly and dutifully walked back the apparent change in U.S. policy to effect regime change in Moscow, but Biden himself doubled down on his message, refusing to walk it back on a “personal” level.  There is little likelihood that Putin was shocked by the message, as he has long assumed that Biden and the West indeed craves regime change.  Of course they do.  Thoughts that these nine words will somehow result in an even more stubborn and vindictive Putin are likely off-base (or, as Biden might put it, malarkey.)

More likely, those nine words will shore up Biden’s standing in the U.S.  Americans seem to prefer toughness over subtlety, and the echo of Ronald Reagan’s ringing “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was unmistakable.  Biden essentially could end up having his cake and eating it too. 

What Americans truly crave, however, is the type of leadership exhibited by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zellenskyy, who looks like JFK and talks like Churchill, standards that Joe Biden could never hope to approach.  But Americans elected Joe Biden for a reason, and part of it was his humanity, the one political weapon in his arsenal where he can outshine the aloof JFK and aristocratic Churchill (though Churchill, given to deep emotion, even tears, connected astonishingly well with the British everyman). Planned or not, gaffe or otherwise, those nine words were Biden through-and-through, and authenticity is usually a very good thing in a leader. 

The rest of the month saw further progress on COVID, albeit with many holding their breath over the extent of the presumed pending Omicron BA.2 surge.  Biden’s management of such a surge is highly dependent on Congress passing more COVID relief measures, which at this moment is still in negotiation.

Another 431,000 jobs were added to the books in March, driving unemployment down to 3.6%, fully back to pre-pandemic levels.  But inflation continued to soar, driven by record gas prices, and that one measure may well define the Democrats midterm prospects.  The Russian invasion has resulted in a shock to world energy markets, driving up oil prices, and with them gas prices, which will be sticky on the downside as oil companies squeeze profits from their windfall.  Biden can do little – even his opening of the strategic reserve is of limited value – except hope that the Fed’s planned series of rate increases will both reduce inflation and not induce a recession – a tightrope that usually cannot be successfully traversed.



This was a busy month for Trump, who is almost always the star of our “Madness” section.  The January 6 commission identified a 7-hour plus gap in his White House phone log of that day that makes Nixon’s 18-minute gap look positively tame.  A federal district judge determined that Trump and lawyer John Eastman were likely guilty of felony obstruction of Congress in his ruling that Eastman must hand over his emails to the commission.  And in a bizarre and astonishingly-timed echo of the tactics that got him impeached the first time, Trump called on Putin to release any damning information he has on Biden.

But for sheer folly, it is hard to top this exchange.  On March 10, Trump was interviewed on a podcast called “Full Send.”  Trump spoke with the host, Kyle Forgeard, for nearly an hour, and the conversation included this interchange on the Russia/Ukraine crisis. 

Forgeard: "What do you see happening next then? 'Cause it seems like the tensions are high. How does this all end? Is this going to be like a long-term thing? How do you see it unfolding?

Trump: "Well, and I said this a long time ago, if this happens, we are playing right into their hands. Green energy. The windmills. They don't work. They're too expensive. They kill all the birds. They ruin your landscapes. And yet the environmentalists love the windmills. And I've been preaching this for years. The windmills. And I had them way down. But the windmills are the most expensive energy you can have. And they don't work. And by the way, they last a period of 10 years and by the time they start rusting and rotting all over the place, nobody ever takes them down. They just go on to the next piece of prairie or land and destroy that."

For those of you who may be confused, yes, the windmill answer was in response to a direct question about the Ukraine invasion and where it might go, and what it might mean long-term.  It was a complete non-sequitor.



Joe Biden’s approval rating for the month of March remained at 43%, and a net negative of -8 percentage points.


Biden’s ratings showed material improvement on both COVID management and foreign policy, which makes sense in light of the events of the month.  But the economy remains the key issue of the day, and inflation trends are clearing holding Biden back overall, and there has been little movement in evaluations of his management of the economy for six months now. 



In March polling, on average the GOP continues to lead the Democrats on the generic ballot by a single point.  Using BTRTN’s proprietary models (which have been extremely accurate in midterm elections), if this lead was still in place on Election Day in 2022, the GOP would pick up about 20 seats and take over the House with some room to spare, though hardly in the magnitude of the losses experienced by Bill Clinton in his first midterms (-54 seats) or Barack Obama (-63), or even Donald Trump (-40).





The “Bidenometer” fell slightly from February to March, from 65 to 60, driven mostly by the sharp rise in gas prices brought on by the Ukraine war and the sanctions on Russia.  That rise was partially offset by the drop in the unemployment rate and the rise of the stock market.  Consumer confidence dipped slightly.

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.

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.

The +65 means that, on average, the five measures are 68% higher than they were when Biden was inaugurated (see the chart below).  With a Bidenometer of +60, the economy is clearly performing much better under Biden compared to its condition when Trump left office.  Unemployment is much lower, the GDP is now roaring, the Dow is much higher, as is consumer confidence.  Only gas prices have moved in the wrong direction under Biden.

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 +60 under Biden.


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 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 Trump left office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.