Thursday Reads: Today’s Word Is HubrisPosted: March 14, 2019
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.”
“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.
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.”
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?