Thursday Reads: Today’s Word Is Hubris

Good Morning!!

Are you ready to vote for a young white man with minimal experience who couldn’t carrry his home state and declares, “I’m just born to do this” about running for president? I guess I’m just too old and cynical to see the appeal of this guy. Joe Hagen has a profile of Beto O’Rourke at Vanity Fair. Here’s an excerpt:

Settling into an armchair in his living room, he tries to make sense of his rise. “I honestly don’t know how much of it was me,” he says. “But there is something abnormal, super-normal, or I don’t know what the hell to call it, that we both experience when we’re out on the campaign trail.”

O’Rourke and his wife, Amy, an educator nine years his junior, both describe the moment they first witnessed the power of O’Rourke’s gift. It was in Houston, the third stop on O’Rourke’s two-year Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. “Every seat was taken, every wall, every space in the room was filled with probably a thousand people,” recalls Amy O’Rourke. “You could feel the floor moving almost. It was not totally clear that Beto was what everybody was looking for, but just like that people were so ready for something. So that was totally shocking. I mean, like, took-my-breath-away shocking.”

For O’Rourke, what followed was a near-mystical experience. “I don’t ever prepare a speech,” he says. “I don’t write out what I’m going to say. I remember driving to that, I was, like, ‘What do I say? Maybe I’ll just introduce myself. I’ll take questions.’ I got in there, and I don’t know if it’s a speech or not, but it felt amazing. Because every word was pulled out of me. Like, by some greater force, which was just the people there. Everything that I said, I was, like, watching myself, being like, How am I saying this stuff? Where is this coming from?

“There’s something that happens to me,” he says, “or that I get to be a part of in those rooms, that is not like normal life. I don’t know if that has ever happened to me before. I don’t know if that would happen again.”

So he’s supposedly a rock star, a natural. But why is he running for president and what are his qualifications?

“My sense is, following some success that I had in Congress, and working with Republicans to actually get things signed into law, including both President Obama and President Trump’s administrations, that I may have an ability to work with people who think differently than I do, come to a different conclusion that I’ve come to on a given issue, and yet find enough common ground to do something better than what we have right now.”

A few days before Trump arrives, while meeting with students at the University of Texas at El Paso, O’Rourke compares the battle against Trump to “every epic movie that you’ve ever seen, from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings. This is the moment where we’re going to win or lose everything.” O’Rourke likes to think in such mythic terms. As he quipped on the campaign trail, he named his son Ulysses because “I didn’t have the balls to call him Odysseus.” But in a private meeting with Barack Obama last November, the former president had asked Beto O’Rourke to consider if he had a clear path to the White House. Could he deliver Texas?

Michigan? Pennsylvania? Wisconsin?

“I don’t have a team counting delegates,” O’Rourke says, again invoking a politics not readily accessible by reason. “Almost no one thought there was a path in Texas, and I just knew it. I just felt it. I knew it was there, and I knew that with enough work and enough creativity and enough amazing people, if I’m able to meet them and bring them in, then we can do it.

“That’s how I feel about this,” he says. “It’s probably not the most professional thing you’ve ever heard about this, but I just feel it.”

But he lost in Texas. I guess there’s something wrong with me, but I just don’t get it. The stuff this guy says about himself makes me want to throw up.

Josh Voorhees at Slate: Beto 2020 Has No Reason to Exist: Of all the major candidates, he brings the least to the Democratic primary.

Beto O’Rourke is finally ready to end the suspense. The former Texas congressman is expected to formally kick off his presidential campaign Thursday, one day after tipping his hand to a local TV station in Texas. “I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,” O’Rourke told KTSM El Paso via text. “It’s a big part of why I’m running.” His apparent confirmation came on the heels of a new Vanity Fair cover story—complete with glossy photo shoot—in which he told the magazine that he wanted to run. “I want to be in it,” he said, after describing our current political moment as an existential fight. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.” [….]

Beto is missing one important thing, though: an actual reason to run.

O’Rourke would enter the race as a man without a clear political ideology, a signature legislative achievement, a major policy issue, or a concrete agenda for the country. Those in the know tell the Atlantic that Beto is planning to run as a candidate “offering hope that America can be better than its current partisan and hate-filled politics, and that the country can come together,” but that—brace yourself—he hasn’t yet “landed on how he’ll propose to actually make that happen.” That’s more of the same empty words Beto’s been offering in public since his loss to Cruz. “I don’t know where I am on a [political] spectrum, and I almost could care less,” he said at a recent stop in Wisconsin. “I just want to get to better things for this country.”

“Beto 2020: Better Things” would not be the worst campaign slogan I’ve ever heard, but it’s nowhere near a fully formed vision of why O’Rourke thinks he should be president, or why Democrats of any stripe should want him to be. It’s possible that he’d be able to ride to the nomination on the force of his personality alone—it’s gotten him this far—but that would be a particular shame considering he’ll face one of the deepest and most diverse primary fields. If Democrats are in the market for soaring rhetoric about bridging the partisan divide, they can get that from Joe Biden, Cory Booker, or Amy Klobuchar—all of whom can offer their own specific cases for what that bipartisanship can produce, unlike O’Rourke.

A couple more Beto reads to check out:

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Beto O’Rourke Has a Good Reason He’s Running. He Just Can’t Say It.

The Guardian: Beto O’Rourke frequently voted for Republican legislation, analysis reveals.

Meanwhile, yesterday Paul Manafort got his second sentence in federal court and shortly thereafter, he was hit with state charges in New York. I love this headline from Vanity Fair: New York Prosecutors Knee Manafort in the Balls while He’s Doubled Over Coughing up Blood, by Beth Levin.

On Wednesday morning in a D.C. courtroom, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort engaged in what we assume was, for him, a deeply humiliating act: he expressed remorse, presumably for the first time in his 69 years on earth. Or, at least, he tried to. “I am sorry for what I’ve done and all the activities that have gotten us here today,” he told Judge Amy Berman Jackson, claiming that he shouldn’t get more jail time for the copious federal crimes he committed because he is his adult wife’s “primary caretaker,” and the two of them need each other. “I know that it was my conduct that brought me here today,” Manafort added. “For that, I am remorseful. While I cannot undo the past, I can ensure that the future will be very different. . . . I can say to you with conviction that my behavior in the future will be very different.”

Judge Amy Berman Jackson

While that reasoning might have worked on Judge T.S. Ellis, who strangely argued last week that Manafort had led a “blameless life” outside of all the crime, Jackson wasn’t having it, sentencing him to an additional 43 months on federal conspiracy charges, and letting him know she saw right through his act: “Saying I’m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency.” And, somehow, it’s unlikely that that was the worst part of Manafort’s day! Because literal minutes later, this happened:

New York prosecutors Wednesday announced criminal charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, only minutes after his sentencing in a federal case. The indictment, unveiled by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, charges Manafort with 16 counts related to mortgage fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records. . . . Crucially, Trump does not have pardon power for state charges.

The indictment from New York prosecutors alleges a yearlong scheme in which Manafort doctored business records to obtain millions in loans, and reportedly grew out of an investigation that started in 2017 when prosecutors started looking into loans Manafort had received from two banks. Last week, a grand jury moved to charge the guy who ran the president’s campaign with residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records, and a handful of other crimes. If he’s convicted of the most serious charges, he could spend up to a quarter of a century in prison. (The Times could not immediately reach Manafort’s legal team for comment.)

I love that headline. Read the rest at Vanity Fair.

This morning, Roger Stone will face Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He should be shaking in his boots after the tongue-lashing Jackson gave to Manafort and his attorneys yesterday.

That should be interesting. I’ll post update as I get them.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


51 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Today’s Word Is Hubris”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. Riverbird says:

    I was happy to vote for Beto and to donate to him in his campaign against Cruz last year. Although he didn’t win, his energetic campaign meant victories for other Texas Democrats.

    I’m glad he’s running for president because I think he has a chance of winning. We need fresh faces, not the same old Sanders and Biden. Beto has less baggage than any of the other candidates. I’ll vote for Beto in the primary and I hope I get a chance to vote for him in the general.

    We *must* get the Republicans out. Beto’s intelligence and integrity will make him a good president or vice president. (Of course I’ll vote for the Democratic ticket, even if someone I can’t stand is running. Getting a Democratic administration in office is more important than who’s at the top of the ticket.)

    • bostonboomer says:

      I had no problem which his running for the Senate, and he could have done that again in 2020. He seems conservative and his qualifications are thin. I also don’t like the way he dismissed Hillary and praised Bernie. From the Vanity Fair article:

      O’Rourke drew a distinct lesson from Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016. He recalled Bernie Sanders joining Clinton for a meeting with congressional Democrats in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention, when Sanders was still withholding his delegates from Clinton and infuriating party elders. “He said it’s not enough to remind America how bad Donald Trump is, it’s just not going to do it,” O’Rourke recalls. “You’ve got to give people something to be for, it cannot be who we are against.

      “I think he was so prescient,” he continues. “That moment sticks out to me so much, because it was so dramatic. He was so hated really—it’s not too strong of a word—when he was in there, and he said the most important thing that I’d heard during that entire campaign.”

      In addition, I didn’t like that he supported Tim Ryan over Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

      Anyway, I think Kamala is a fresh face, and I’m sticking with her. I haven’t given up hope on seeing a woman president in my lifetime. I had no problem with Beto running for the Senate, and he could have done that again in 2020. I’m not into the latest great white male hope.

      • Enheduanna says:

        Melissa McEwan has a piece about Beto:

        This quote is pure Melissa:
        “I love it even more when the guy who says it also says, “I’m just born to do this.” I guess so, because you sure haven’t worked your tits off for decades to do it!”

        I’d rather see him in the Senate as well. I wish there was the same fervor for taking the Senate back as for ousting Dump in 2020.

      • RonStill4Hills says:

        I am underwhelmed as well.

        I would accept him as a second banana to a qualified woman.

        Other than that, he ain’t ready. I have had my fill of “outsider” change agents.

      • dakinikat says:

        I wonder why he passed on the Governor’s race. That seemed a logical progression and it would give him some experience not that it really improved Dubya’s performance at all.

      • dakinikat says:

      • teele says:

        I read the Guardian piece, and am not impressed with Mr. O’Rourke based on his Congressional voting record. “Hands across the aisle” is fine as long you aren’t hurting people. I will vote for any Democrat who ends up on the ticket. If my only choice is one Republican and two independents, I will be giving Mr. Expensive Coffee another look. I do not care how that sounds anymore.

        I also like Kamala, and I’m impressed with “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg. I hope you will give him a listen, BB, since you are, like me, a native Hoosier. Pete is from the town I grew up in, and while he has only known the Studebaker and Bendix plants as hulking ghosts, they were still bustling employers when I was in elementary school. When he talks about the rust belt, and how the plants are never coming back and how it is cruel to lead hopeless people down that dead-end road, and how we midwesterners need to look ahead to new ways to progress, it rings my bell. My mother and sister still live in South Bend, and sing the mayor’s praises all the time. You Tube has videos of the appearances he has made on a number of shows, but the best interview I have heard so far is the March 12 episode of Vox’s The Weeds podcast, where they interviewed him live at South by Southwest. I hope you will give it a listen.

        BTW, my dream ticket at this point would be Abrams/Buttigieg or Buttigieg/Abrams. Two incredibly smart, progressive, practical people. I know she’s not running yet, but I hope she goes for it. WTF, everybody else is!

      • Riverbird says:

        When Kamala Harris ran for San Francisco DA, I voted for her opponent because she had too much baggage. I’m impressed by her performance in the Senate, but not enough to vote for her for president.

        • dakinikat says:

          I’m totally not committed to anything but passing completely on Bernie and Biden …

        • RonStill4Hills says:

          Beto’s Baggage insignificant but Kamla’s disqualifying. Interesting.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’ve been learning more and more about O’Rourke and liking him less. He’s wealthy, conservative, voted with Republicans a lot in the House. He’s using that mantra that Obama did about working with the GOP. I don’t find his speeches inspiring and now I know that he doesn’t even plan ahead what he’ll say–it’s just stream of consciousness. Kamala had baggage even before she was DA in SF? I need more info, I guess.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh has died.

    • bostonboomer says:
      • bostonboomer says:

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      What has become of Evan Bayh? I expected he would eventually be a contender for President.

      • bostonboomer says:

        He’s corporate type, not a liberal like his dad. Birch Bayh was one of the greats. He ran for president, and would have been a good one.

  7. bostonboomer says:

  8. Pat Johnson says:

    Color me unimpressed with Beto O’Rourke. Watched him for an hour and could not get over his swinging his arms so often. Bad enough Bernie and the constant finger wagging! But 20 months of Beto and those arms waving all over the place was more than annoying.

    I am still on the fence at this point. Going from a solid Hillary supporter for years to an “undecided” as yet has placed me on the sidelines so far.

    I regretted Sherrod Brown bowing out. I liked him for years. I was concerned over the charges leveled against Amy Klobuchar as she was another favorite. I like Kamala but I haven’t seen enough so far to solidify my support. Biden and Bernie are not on my radar nor are Booker and Gilibrand. Warren is still interesting as a candidate but I am still “on hold”.

    Inslee speaks to the environment issues that interest me but I really don’t know much about Castro . But frankly, anyone is far, far better than Trump.

    I wish one of these candidates has fired up my enthusiasm but so far no one has. Maybe I spent it all in 2020 with Hillary but I am still waiting.

    I may be “looking for love” in all the wrong places.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Pat – I think we are all in the same place you are. We just need to give it some time.

      We also need to be careful not to let the press color our perceptions. The Klobuchar pieces were pure hit pieces and they’re already after Warren as “unlikeable”.

      I’m just glad I can come here and get fresh unbiased perspectives.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Oh look – Dump is already mocking Beto about the hand movements:

      • bostonboomer says:

        I admit, Beto’s hand movements get on my nerves, but Trump’s are a lot worse.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      I “WANT” Hills. But I won’t be getting her.

      I “NEED” a pro. I am done with neophytes who are “born to do this.”

      We dodged a bullet with Obama. Fortunately for us he was talented enough, smart enough, and at the end of the day humble enough to overcome his ignorance and inexperience. Largely because of talented experts like Hills.

      We got lucky. I will be the first to admit that he did a better job than I ever thought he would.

      But let gets back to electing proven experienced leaders, please.

      George Bush showed us what happens when an ignorant amateur president is lead by evil advisers, Trump is showing us what happens when an evil president is leading ignorant amateur advisers.

      Real leaders from now on. We cannot afford any more change for change sake.

      Forget draining the swamp, let’s just kill the dangerous pests and let the swamp be harmless wetlands.

  9. TokyoSand says:

    I’m paying attention to the continuing fallout of the college bribery scandal. This story is far from over.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m waiting to see rich people in orange jumpsuits. I’m getting tired of the excuse that the led an other wise “blameless” life. I’m also hoping it tears open the idea legacy thing too.

      • quixote says:

        Just a footnote to some of the talk out there about admissions practices. I’m no expert on Harvard’s admissions process, certainly not now, but I got my degree there so I have a sort of worm’s eye view of it from the inside.

        One of their big points then was that mediocre grades or SATs could be unimportant if there was some evidence of being a person with interesting qualities. So, let’s say you’d built the Kon-Tiki in high school and sailed across the Pacific, they would overweight that against mediocre SATs.

        Yes, I’m using a facetious example, but the point is real. They really did look at the whole person and try to admit more than just grade-scrounging robots. It made for some interesting people in the student body. Always exceptions, of course. The solid mass in the center was whites who went to elite schools.

        But when you read reports about somebody’s grades or SATs being pathetic and yet still getting in, at least at Harvard, and at least a million years ago, there might be more to it than just cheating.

        • bostonboomer says:

          I once had a temporary job in the Harvard admissions office, and I was shocked that they were actually throwing applications in the trash unread.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’d like to see some coverage of the men who actually ran this scam and made millions from it, but the focus is all on two women. Even their husbands aren’t being talked about.

        • Enheduanna says:

          I know – what’s up with that!? I’ve seen one picture of a very guilty-looking coach.

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. dakinikat says:

    Meet the 12 GOP senators who voted to terminate Trump’s national emergency
    Group includes conservatives worried about precedent and a moderate facing a tough re-election

    Several senators in competitive re-election races sided with the president and opposed the resolution, including Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Joni Ernst of Iowa, David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who changed his opinion after authoring an op-ed in The Washington Post two weeks ago against the emergency declaration.

    A handful of other senators with potentially competitive races voted against the resolution, including John Cornyn of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.

  14. RonStill4Hills says:

    Happy Ides of March.

    Is Trump visiting the Senate this weekend?