Frantic Friday Reads: Political Chaos Edition

warrior snail
Pontifical of Guillaume Durand, Avignon, before 1390

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I just replaced my TV in the season of political infighting and maudlin Crassmas shows. At least I don’t have to fight any Black Friday Crowds in actual stores. I’m not sure I’d survive that.  Even Medieval Warrior Snails have more guts to face an oncoming crowd than me.  My nice Amazon delivery guy is coming with it sometime next week within a 6-day window, even with Prime.  I bumped into the busy season but was waiting for my check from Hollywood South for enduring a few weekends of having my block shut down for that AMC series shoot. I bet a Warrior Snail could deliver it faster.

You know that Senator John Kennedy is known for saying some pretty outrageous things.  He appears to be gearing up to run for governor despite his runaway reelection in the midterms.  He always makes these weird references to pop culture, which always goes awry. I don’t think he cares he’s the butt of many memes. Try this one reported by Politico.

It’s not every day that a senator quotes a famous mob movie to describe the state of his political party after a week of infighting.

“You’ve gotta have a war every five or 10 years to get rid of the bad blood,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said, paraphrasing a line from “The Godfather” to paint a picture of Senate Republicans. “And then you start over.”

Tension built within the Senate GOP for nearly two years, from former President Donald Trump’s post-insurrection impeachment through a host of bipartisan Biden-era deals that many Republicans opposed. And after the party’s midterm election losses, those cracks turned into a chasm.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) mounted a challenge to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that embodied the conservative griping about the Kentuckian’s leadership style. As GOP senators spent roughly 10 hours in private meetings this week that at times grew highly contentious, the conference cleaved over a same-sex marriage bill that most of them opposed.

When McConnell defeated Scott, 37-10 (a tally that some Republican senators still won’t talk about) the intraparty whispers and rumors of opposition to the tight-gripped leader finally got quantified on paper. The GOP now hopes that its factions — or warring families, as Mario Puzo would put it — are at peace.

That McConnell faced his first contested leadership race in nearly 16 years atop the conference marked a turning point in the GOP. He’s held the post longer than anyone else in his party, and soon enough will break the Senate’s overall record. Despite that rarefied air, it’s clear that he was pushing for every single vote he could lock in

A snail-cat, depicted in the Maastricht Hours – an illuminated devotional manuscript produced in the Netherlands during the early 1300s

I’m not sure he realizes that calling the Republican party something akin to Mafiosi is strangely true and probably not a label they want. It does appear that both the Senate and House contingents have a lot of group infighting.  They’re doing some strange things for a party that’s always seen its role as the top ass kisser for American Business. This is also from Politico under the headline: “GOP plans to punish ‘woke’ Wall Street. GOP lawmakers are singling out major asset managers as likely targets because of climate investing practices they see as hostile to oil, gas and coal.”  I will use Digby’s take on it since it came with popcorn.

This should be super fun to watch:

Wall Street loves Republican tax cuts and deregulation. It’s going to hate the GOP’s plans for 2023.

Republican lawmakers, who will be in the House majority come January, are pressing party leaders to send a message to big financial firms: Stop appeasing the left with “woke” business practices, keep financing fossil fuels and cut ties with China. Republicans will have committee gavels and subpoena powers to back that up.

GOP lawmakers are singling out major asset managers and their Washington trade groups as targets because of climate investing practices they see as hostile to oil, gas and coal. Some Republicans want to continue hauling in big bank CEOs to publicly testify — a tradition established by liberal Democrats. GOP senators are already demanding that law firms preserve documents related to how they advise clients on environmental and social initiatives, signaling a potential investigation. Wall Street firms and Washington lobbyists are preparing for subpoenas.

Caught in the middle are Republican committee leaders who are facing pressure from their rank-and-file to adopt a populist tact toward big business.

“My members are intent on sending a message that you can’t kowtow to a far-left agenda and still have Republicans fighting the good fight on behalf of free markets and a marketplace that would benefit these companies,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who is poised to chair the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview. “This is a complicated factor for sure.”

Uhm yeah. It’s a complicated factor for sure. Free markets as long as you do what we tell you may not be a big winner with the Big Money Boyz.

Knight v Snail II: Battle in the Margins (from the Gorleston Psalter, England (Suffolk), 1310-1324, Add MS 49622, f. 193v

Well, DeSantis certainly showed Disney (not!), so this can only signal that some of the troops are already taking on the DeSantis mantel.  However, it still reminds me of the Smithsonian’s age-old question, “Why Were Medieval Knights Always Fighting Snails?” 

I will mention that Josh Hawley has taken to ranting on the Washington Post OpEd page today about Republicans being out of touch with Working Americans.  I’m not going to bother with that, but here’s another headline with a twist. “Ron DeSantis has reached a perilous point: Inevitability. Can you recall another politician who seemed like an Inevitable Candidate for their party and time? Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Gary Hart, Thomas Dewey, Robert A. Taft …”

“If the Florida governor ever intends to wrest control of the GOP from Trump, now is his moment,” read the headline on an Atlantic article by David Frum last week.

If he runs “he will be a formidable candidate,” Jeb Bush told Neil Cavuto in October.

Jeb Bush was also an Inevitable. Hillary Clinton was an Inevitable (twice!). Neither’s inevitability yielded the presidency. That’s the tricky thing about being an Inevitable.

“What voters will be looking for a year from now, or two years, is very unpredictable,” says Alex Conant, who was communications director for the presidential campaigns of Marco Rubio (once an Inevitable) and Tim Pawlenty (never an Inevitable). “So that candidate who looks perfect for the current moment might not be what they want later. Jeb and Trump are the perfect examples.”

Knight v Snail III: Extreme Jousting (from Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, France (Picardy), c. 1315-1325, Yates Thompson MS 19, f. 65r)

And yet, the Insurrection is not disappearing from the news even as low-energy Donald announced his 3rd bid for the Presidency. This is from Kyle Cheney at Politico, “‘Do not become numb’: Prosecutors close seditious conspiracy case against Oath Keepers. After a grinding eight-week trial, prosecutors pleaded with jurors to consider the weight of leader Stewart Rhodes’ words in the lead-up to Jan. 6.”

“These defendants repeatedly called for the violent overthrow of the United States government and they followed those words with action,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said in her closing statements. “Please do not become numb to these statements. Think about what is actually being called for in these statements.”

To prosecutors, the case is clear: Rhodes was the “architect” of a plan to overthrow the government by force unless Trump took direct action to seize a second term he didn’t win. As Jan. 6 approached, Rhodes grew increasingly frustrated at Trump’s inaction and assembled a team — including co-defendants Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson of Florida, Jessica Watkins of Ohio and Thomas Caldwell of Virginia. They coordinated to amass an arsenal of heavy weapons at a Comfort Inn in nearby Arlington, Va., and developed land and water routes to ferry them to Oath Keepers if violence erupted.

Two dozen Oath Keepers entered the Capitol after other rioters breached it and migrated toward the House and Senate chambers before they were repelled by police. Later, they met Rhodes outside the Capitol. Prosecutors say the group celebrated their actions and prepared to continue their efforts to oppose the government even after authorities regained control of the Capitol.

After closing arguments Friday, jurors will begin deliberating on the most significant charge — seditious conspiracy — as well as a slew of other charges lodged against the Oath Keeper leaders, including obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of property at the Capitol.

The January 6th Committee is also working on finishing up before Republicans take a very weak hold on the House.  NBC News reports that “Jan. 6 committee interviews former Trump Secret Service agent Bobby Engel. Engel, the lead Secret Service agent for Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, could provide information former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony.”  Representative Zoe Lofgren was on Nicole Wallace yesterday but didn’t provide any conclusions reached if any.

The House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday interviewed Bobby Engel, who was the lead Secret Service agent for then-President Donald Trump when the insurrection took place, three sources familiar with the session said.

Engel could provide key testimony related to information shared by Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a top aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She delivered bombshell testimony before the committee at a public hearing this summer.

Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump tried to grab the steering wheel in an armored SUV and lunged toward his security detail when he learned he would not be taken to the Capitol after his rally on Jan. 6.

Hutchinson said Tony Ornato, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, told her about the incident. She also said Engel had not disputed Ornato’s account. Ornato and Engel both testified before the committee before Hutchinson.

Detail from The Gorleston Psalter

Now, to the goods news on the other side of the aisle.  From the Washington Post, “Rep. Lauren Boebert race too close to call, with margin inside recount threshold. ”  This will likely require very buttery popcorn too.  And from CNN, “Democrat Katie Porter will win reelection in California, CNN projects .  Whew, that’s a relief.

And as one historically significant and powerful Leader of the House retires, another one will become the Minority Leader, in line for the big position.  This is reported by NBC News, “Rep. Hakeem Jeffries announces bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader. If elected, Jeffries, 52, would become the first Black leader of a congressional caucus. Reps. Katherine Clark, 59, and Pete Aguilar, 43, are seeking to join Jeffries in Democrats’ top three.”

 New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, said Friday that he will run to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the party’s leader after Republicans took back control of the chamber in last week’s midterm elections.

His announcement in a letter to colleagues came a day after Pelosi said in a powerful floor speech that she is stepping down after a two-decade reign as the top leader of House Democrats.

If Jeffries is successful, it would represent a historic passing of the torch: Pelosi made history as the first female speaker of the House, while Jeffries, the current Democratic Caucus chairman, would become the first Black leader of a congressional caucus and highest-ranking Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill. If Democrats were to retake control of the House — a real possibility with Republicans having such a narrow majority — Jeffries would be in line to be the first Black speaker in the nation’s history.

The ascension of the 52-year-old Jeffries to minority leader would also represent generational change. Pelosi and her top two deputies — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. — are all in their 80s and are receiving from within the party for “new blood” in leadership; Hoyer will not seek another leadership post while Clyburn plans to stay on and work with the next generation.

Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., are seeking to round out the new leadership team, announcing Friday that they will run for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in leadership. Clark, 59, announced a bid for Democratic Whip, while Aguilar, 43, is running for Democratic Caucus Chair.

It does make me wonder who the Republicans will demonize once Leader Pelosi steps down. However, I’m enjoying those praising her, a lot. This is from Time Magazine and a likely precursor to her becoming Time’s Person of the Year. Won’t that just send the head Mafiosa into an orange rage burble that no one will care about? “Nancy Pelosi Reflects On the Not-Quite-End of An Era.” 

For two decades, it has been in every congressional Democrat’s interest to stay in Pelosi’s good graces. Since winning her first leadership position in 2001, she has ruled the House Democratic caucus with an iron fist and a velvet glove, keeping her fractious party in near-lockstep during historically tumultuous times. From the Iraq War to the financial crisis, through health-care reform and government shutdowns, through two presidential impeachments, a pandemic and an insurrection attempt, she has been a constant force and consummate operator. No national politician of her era can match her combination of legislative prowess, vote-counting savvy, negotiating skill, and fundraising ability.

On Thursday, it was finally time to move on—sort of. Shortly after noon, she gave a brief speech on the House floor, announcing that she would not seek re-election as leader of the House Democrats. It was time, she said, “for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.” Yet she couldn’t bring herself to step away completely: she owed it to her constituents in San Francisco, she said, to stay on as a rank-and-file member of Congress and finish her two-year term. Like the man who fakes his own death and then sneaks into the funeral, she would stick around to see how her people tried to get along without her.

Just after her speech, the 82-year-old House Speaker sat at a white-clothed table in a small, ornate room off the House floor known as the Board of Education, a hidden chamber where former Democratic Speaker Sam Rayburn used to hole up and relax. Then-vice president Harry Truman was playing cards with Rayburn here in 1945 when he learned that FDR had died and he would become President. One wall Rayburn had painted with a Texas seal; on two others, Pelosi recently added her own touches: a painting of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a tribute to women’s suffrage.

I was fortunate to meet and hear Speaker Pelosi speak at Tulane University a few years ago. I was invited by my then Congressman Cedric Richmond.  She spoke to a group of young women on how to become the political leaders of the future.  She was funny, gracious, and serious about getting everyone’s voice to the District.  It’s great to go out on the top even though she will be sorely missed.

So, I’ve posted this youtube as one explanation of the Knights vs. Snail Battles. Maybe JJ will chime in with some theories of her own.   Here’s a gory explanation from the Old Testment.

For Digital MedievalistLisa Spangenberg floated another idea. She says that “the armored snail fighting the armored knight is a reminder of the inevitability of death,” a sentiment captured in Psalm 58 of the bible: “Like a snail that melteth away into slime, they shall be taken away; like a dead-born child, they shall not see the sun.”

I kind of like this modern take on it.

“The snail may leave a trail of slime behind him, but a little slime will do a man no harm, while if you dance with dragons, you must expect to burn.”

― George R.R. Martin, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

I view it as a Revenge Tale painted by Nerds.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


18 Comments on “Frantic Friday Reads: Political Chaos Edition”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Those snail images are wild! I hope JJ has a theory about them.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Video of people trying to leave Trump’s announcement speech. Security wouldn’t let them out! LOL!

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to decide whether Trump should be charged with crimes.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former federal and international war-crimes prosecutor as special counsel on Friday to oversee Justice Department investigations into former President Donald Trump.

      Jack Smith, who once led the Justice Department unit that investigates public corruption and since 2018 was the chief prosecutor at The Hague investigating war crimes in Kosovo, will be the third special counsel in five years to examine issues involving Mr. Trump.

      He will lead both the probe into the handling of classified documents at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and oversee key aspects of the sprawling Justice Department investigation into efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss.

      “The Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” Mr. Garland said in a brief memo naming Mr. Smith to the post.

      The memo said Mr. Smith’s remit doesn’t include cases against those who were physically present at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. Prosecutors have already charged more than 900 alleged rioters to date, around half of whom have pleaded guilty.

      • quixote says:

        He sounds promising. Now all he needs to do is call a news conference and come in carrying one hundredth of the evidence against the ambulatory orange hamburger storage, staggering under just that weight, and say there’s plenty there to start charging him next week.

        (The whole kid gloves agonizing over AOHS, unlike anyone else who commits micro versions of his crimes, sends me straight into endless screaming.)