Kamala, You Are the Flop To My Flip

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Elizabeth Nolan Brown brings the news: Kamala Harris Is a Flop. After noting her weathervane imitation on immigration policy…

The discrepancy between Harris' migration rhetoric as a candidate and as vice president contributes to the picture of her as slippery, a flip-flopper, hard to pin down. Accusations of fair-weather convictions have dogged Harris for a long time—and for good reason.

In Congress, Harris sponsored a Medicare for All bill; on the presidential campaign trail, she sometimes supported universal health care and sometimes didn't. She tried to shut down the sex work–friendly website Backpage as attorney general of California, then offered support for decriminalizing sex work at the start of her presidential campaign, then later said on a debate stage that she would still arrest men paying for sex. Running for San Francisco district attorney, Harris said she wouldn't use the state's three-strikes policy when the third strike wasn't a serious or violent felony; in office, she went back on that promise. Examples like these are numerous.

Taken together, they paint Harris as someone willing to say whatever is popular in the moment but not willing to follow through or to hold that position when winds even hint at changing.

One heartbeat, or impeachment conviction, away.

Briefly noted:

  • Charles C. W. Cooke takes apart Biden’s Most Grotesque Gun-Control Argument.

    At this point in the proceedings, President Joe Biden resembles nothing so well as a cheap, faux-interactive children’s toy from the early 1990s. Pre-loaded with a small handful of vacuous stock phrases, and programmed to repeat them at random whenever the conversation meanders onto familiar ground, Biden has become so predictable, monotonous, and dull that one occasionally wonders whether his doctor is ever tempted to search his lower back for a double-A-battery compartment and a row of rudimentary activation buttons. On the left side of the array, he might find the catchphrases: “Malarkey!” “No joke!” “Literally, folks!” etc. On the right, he might uncover some circumstance-specific clichés, which, though appearing to the uninitiated to be bespoke, are in fact involuntary staples selected from an ever-dwindling list.

    Nowhere is this tendency more evident than when the president is discussing firearms. In comes the topic, and out come the chestnuts. Button A yields the false claim that, at the time of the Founding, “You couldn’t buy a cannon.” Button B yields the line, “Deer aren’t wearing Kevlar vests out there.” Button C yields the contention that, “If you want to take on the federal government, you need some F-15s, not an AR-15.” The audience may change, the location may vary, the impetus may shift from time to time, but the bromides will remain as constant as the sun.

    I'm currently reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I was prepared to hate it, but it's surprisingly good. Although I don't know if Ms. Atwood would approve of my thoughts ever ten pages or so: "Gee, Offred would really have found a Glock useful."

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Katherine Boyle has the answer at the Free Press: It’s Time to Get Serious.

    The biggest technology story of this past year involves a fraud perpetrated by a boy. Or so the press would have us believe.

    Just months before Sam Bankman-Fried’s unraveling, Fortune Magazine referred to the billionaire as a “trading wunderkind” a latter-day Warren Buffett only with a “goofy facade” and a penchant for fidget spinners. Even after his downfall and subsequent arrest in the Bahamas, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and Axios all referred to Bankman-Fried, or SBF, as a disgraced “crypto wunderkind.”

    Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times illustrated his boyishness best when interviewing him at the Times’ DealBook Summit last November. “When you read the stories,” Sorkin said, “it sounds like a bunch of kids who were all on Adderall having a sleepover party.”

    SBF’s fate will now be decided by the Southern District of New York, but his media charade of aw-shucks interviews and congressional testimony laced with brogrammer idioms built a public persona that we’ve largely come to accept: SBF is just a kid. Indeed, he’s so young that his law school professor parents were involved in his business and political dealings. (In this, they embody the helicopter style of child-rearing favored by nearly the entire Boomer elite.)

    The reality, of course, is that SBF is a grown-ass, 30-year-old man. He is twelve years older than many of the men and women we sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Twelve years older than the adults we encourage to swallow hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt before even declaring a major. And, if we’re serious about the math, SBF is a mere eight years away from the half-life of the average adult American man, who boasts a provisional life expectancy of only 76 years, according to the CDC. At 38, SBF would have already lived most of his life on Earth.

    Maybe SBF is one of those transage folks. (I would link to Wikipedia, but looking up that term there takes you to the "Conflation with child abuse" section of their "Anti-LGBT Rhetoric" article.)

  • But, as Katherine Boyle says above, it is time to get serious. So Republicans should find this article by Brian Riedl useful: How Republicans Can Get Serious on Spending.

    The new Republican House majority is gearing up for a fight on escalating spending and deficits. This enthusiasm is commendable but early indications suggest they may repeat the same mistakes that have doomed previous attempts to rein in spending. Rather than offer a realistic plan to modestly cut spending and build momentum for larger reforms, many Republican lawmakers are making implausible demands to quickly cut trillions of dollars and balance the budget. Rather than portraying spending restraint as responsible and non-disruptive, many Republicans are threatening a debt limit showdown that will only anger voters and ultimately fail to win real reforms. Rather than do the hard work necessary to design and build support for specific reforms, many Republicans are relying on stale talking points and gimmicks totally detached from fiscal and political reality.

    As inflation rages and the economy weakens, Washington ran a staggering $7.2 trillion in budget deficits the past three years. Annual deficits are likely to surpass $2 trillion within a decade even with peace and prosperity—and approach $3 trillion if interest rates continue rising. Yet, for too long, “spending restraint” has been merely a Republican talking point. 

    It doesn't help that Republicans have been a clown show on this issue for a while:

    Recall the 2018 budget fiasco. That year, Republicans unveiled a budget resolution promising to balance the budget with $6.5 trillion in spending savings over the decade. No actual plan was ever designed to do so, and these promises were discarded as soon as the budget debate concluded. In fact, the very next day, this same unified Republican Congress voted down a rescission bill that would have trimmed $1 billion—or 0.02 percent—out of a $4.2 trillion budget that was growing by $300 billion annually. At the time, then-Sen. Richard Burr told reporters he cast the deciding vote to defeat the bill because “It cut $16 million out of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Period, end of sentence.” 

    This is why we can't have nice things.

  • Jonah Goldberg is also super cynical about the Republicans: The GOP’s Spending Fight Is More About Fighting Than Spending.

    In his struggle to become speaker, McCarthy reportedly made a commitment to hold up an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts from the Democrats. The deadline comes this week. If the limit isn’t raised, the government will start running out of cash and the prospect of a debt default will rattle the American and global economy.

    “If you had a child, you gave them a credit card, and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn’t just keep increasing it,” McCarthy said on Sunday. “You’d first see what you’re spending your money on. How can we cut items out?”

    That sounds right and I’d love it if the GOP’s gambit was successful. But the first problem with the analogy is that you’d still have to pay your credit card bill for money you already spent. The time to cut spending is when you’re spending. The second problem is that the gambit isn’t really about spending.

    Republicans—rightly!—opposed the Democrats’ lame duck massive $1.7 trillion omnibus bill last month. But in every year of Trump’s presidency, Republicans approved $1-trillion-plus omnibus spending bills. And that’s excluding all that lavish COVID spending. He paid for the MAGA agenda with America’s credit card.

    Have fun paying it off, kids.