Democracy May Not Die in Darkness, But…

It Sure Gets Messy

We don't usually do Breaking News here at Pun Salad, but I wandered over to the Stossel/Lott Election Betting Odds site this morning, and noticed that President Dotard's win probability took another significant hit last night, roughly between 9pm and 10pm. (The site updates odds every minute.) Small compared to the drop observed during the debate, but very noticeable.

What happened last night? I think 'twas this story from NBC News: Biden turns to family on his path forward after his disastrous debate: 'It's a mess'. The story dropped at 8:24pm, updated at 9:30pm.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to discuss the future of his re-election campaign with family at Camp David on Sunday, following a nationally televised debate Thursday that left many fellow Democrats worried about his ability to beat former President Donald Trump in November, according to five people familiar with the matter.

There are a lot of on-the-record quotes from top Democrats expressing "full confidence" and "firm support".

And a number of off-the record quotes saying …

Despite delivering a rousing speech at a rally in North Carolina on Friday that calmed some of his allies, Biden was described by one person familiar with his mood as humiliated, devoid of confidence and painfully aware that the physical images of him at the debate — eyes staring into the distance, mouth agape — will live beyond his presidency, along with a performance that at times was meandering, incoherent and difficult to hear.

“It’s a mess,” this person said.

Another person familiar with the dynamics said Biden will ultimately listen to only one adviser.

“The only person who has ultimate influence with him is the first lady,” this person said. “If she decides there should be a change of course, there will be a change of course.”

So things might be shaking up soon. Or not. Yes, we don't go out on limbs here at Pun Salad.

Not again, anyway.

That said, here are the as-I-type probabilities:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 57.4% +3.8%
Joe Biden 20.1% -17.5%
Gavin Newsom 7.6% +5.1%
Kamala Harris 5.8% ---
Michelle Obama 5.0% +1.9%
Other 4.1% +0.9%

I'll point out the obvious about the week's shifts:

  • Biden's win-probability cratered by 17.5 percentage points. (And it wasn't that great last Sunday.)
  • But Trump's increase in win-probability wasn't close to comparable.
  • Instead, the wagering community seems to have turned its lonely eyes to other Democrats: Gavin, Kamala, and (even) Michelle.
  • And "Other" improved too.

And (of course) all this could change later today, maybe before you even read this. I realize you may have a life apart from obsessively reading Pun Salad.

Also of note:

  • Why Baby Why? Andrew C. McCarthy asks Why Joe Biden? And answers:

    Because Democrats want to stay in power and propping him up, as impossible as that has now become, seemed to be the best plan. Sadly, it may yet be. That, if I may repeat myself, doesn’t change the basic fact: The nation has to have a president who is not mentally incapacitated.

    Sorry, I'm out of NR gifted links for June. I encourage you to subscribe.

    (And this item's Classic—literally classic—reference.)

  • I'm going with "Not", George. Mr. Will has an open mind on his burning question: The nation deserves better than that debate. Or does it?

    Jaundiced voters have defined adequacy so far down that they surely were not expecting Thursday evening to feature witty badinage, or even a few stray facts about the nation’s condition or policies for improving it. Rather, such voters wondered: Would Donald Trump temper his loutishness? Could President Biden sustain semi-acuity for 90 minutes? Their questions were answered: no, and no.

    Trump, who is never as jolly as Father Christmas, was as constantly cranky as usual. His fleeting moments of semisobriety perhaps only seemed to be such because they contrasted with his adversary’s struggles. Biden mostly resembled someone who has forgotten not where the car keys are but what they are for.

    Perhaps the nation is by now in a torpor, resigned to the spectacle of, as the phrase goes, two bald men fighting over a comb. Perhaps, however, Thursday night — the campaign’s nadir (so far) — was for the best. The Democratic Party might yet give a thought to the national interest. Persisting with Biden’s candidacy, which is as sad as it is scary, rather than nominating a plausible four-year president, would rank as the most reckless — and cruel — act ever by a U.S. party.

    I suppose we can blame the "Democratic Party". But you know who really put us here? Voters. Jaundiced, perhaps, as GFW concedes, but that's a lousy excuse.

    Yes, party leaders are reckless and cruel. But they are (probably accurately) going on their judgment of public sentiment.

    And the media have indulged in partisan hackery, covering up and apologizing for the manifest sins of the front-runners, instead of reporting them fairly and honestly. But (once again) they are (probably accurately) going on their judgment of their customers. I.e., us.

  • The debate wasn't all incoherent rambling. Alex Demas was Fact-Checking the Biden-Trump CNN Debate. And when the candidates managed to achieve coherence, what came out was false or misleading. My favorite is a long-debunked talking point:

    Biden also claimed that billionaires pay significantly less in taxes than average Americans. “[Billionaires are] in a situation where they, in fact, pay 8.2 percent,” Biden said. This is not the first time Biden has made such a claim, but it is false, as The Dispatch Fact Check noted in March:

    Biden’s 8.2 percent figure comes from an estimate made in September 2021 by Greg Leiserson, a senior economist in the Council of Economic Affairs, and Danny Yagan, chief economist of the Office of Management and Budget. Leiserson and Yagan measured income by looking at changes in estimated net worth among those listed in the Forbes 400—a ranking of the 400 richest Americans. They then compare these changes to IRS data on total income taxes paid by those on the Forbes list to calculate an effective average federal tax rate.

    This calculation, however, includes unrealized capital gains (i.e., the change in the value of an asset such as a stock or bond that has not yet been sold) as part of a person’s income. Capital gains—which are not included in conventional measures of income—are typically taxed only after an asset is sold and are generally subjected to a 20 percent rate for high earners, not standard income tax rates.

    Estimates by the Treasury Department and the Tax Policy Center in 2020 and 2021, respectively, which don’t include unrealized capital gains, estimated that the average federal income tax for the highest-income families in America was 23 and 25 percent.

    The Tax Foundation has a sober article on the dreadful idea of taxing urealized capital gains here.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    We need a leash! Maybe also a muzzle! Bruce Bawer reviews a book that could become even more relevant Real Soon Now: Newsom Unleashed: The Progressive Lust for Unbridled Power by Ellie Gardey Holmes, Amazon link at your right.

    I’ve been appalled by Gavin Newsom for years, but to read Ellie Gardey Holmes’s powerful and unflinching new book Newsom Unleashed: The Progressive Lust for Unbridled Power is to find one’s contempt for this hideous creature skyrocketing. If he has any redeeming qualities, any special gifts, any attributes that might illuminate an admirable and recognizably human side, there’s no sign of them here. This is a man who, despite having no discernible talent for governance or anything else, was lucky enough to be born into one well-off family – his great-grandfather co-founded the Bank of Italy, which later became the Bank of America – and to be, from earliest childhood, a sort of honorary member of an even richer family, the Gettys, his father being best friends with oil magnate Gordon Getty, who was like a second father to young Gavin.

    Both men, his biological father and his second father, used their considerable influence from the beginning to help Gavin rise to power. Indeed, as surely as any Kennedy or Bush, Gavin Newsom was born into a political machine and bred to be a politician. After he and Getty played a big role in helping Willie Brown to get elected mayor of San Francisco, Brown named Newsom to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission. Soon he was promoted to the Board of Supervisors, a post he held from 1997 to 2004. “Because of his lack of qualifications,” writes Gardey Holmes, “Newsom entered office entirely indebted to Willie Brown.” Observers referred to him, in fact, as “an appendage of Willie Brown.” Quick sidebar in the midst of this tale of political advancement: when his mother was dying, Gavin was pretty much AWOL, although he was present when she underwent assisted suicide – which, at the time, was illegal in California. Others had been prosecuted for their participation in such actions; Gavin was not, a foreshadowing of many other occasions on which he would be treated as exempt from the rules governing the behavior of ordinary mortals.

    And, yes, the French Laundry is mentioned.

  • Sad but probably true. Elizabeth Nolan Brown claims, plausibly: Kamala Harris Was the Real Winner of [Thursday]'s Presidential Debate.

    Look, nobody wants to see Vice President Kamala Harris as president. She's a cop in a past life, a flop as vice president, and as phony as they come, with enough political baggage to fill a few Acela trains. Her presidential campaign four years ago was an unmitigated dud, parlayed into the vice presidency only by the unique demands of 2020. But after last night's debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, Harris' chances of soon holding top office—or at least getting the opportunity to battle Trump for it—skyrocketed.


    Harris has name recognition and all the surface-level attributes Democrats want. And her slippery-but-vibrant style might actually hold up well against Trump in debates. It's hard to pin down what Harris believes beyond what will be politically advantageous in the moment. But at least Harris can deliver the politically advantageous lines with a modicum of confidence, some coherence, and believability.

    She has her own style problems—word salads, inappropriately timed laughter, a certain cringe factor when she tries to appear relatable—but they pale in comparison to the style apocalypse we saw from Biden last night.

    On substance, it's hard to know what we would get from a Harris campaign or presidency. Again and again, she's proven herself willing to blow with the political winds. "Harris has no political core, having swung without rhyme or reason between the persona of a tough centrist prosecutor and that of a leftist agitator raring to take on the white supremacist power structure," as Yascha Mounk at Persuasion writes.

    It's hard to believe voters would fall for Kamala. On the other hand, they've been falling for phonies for a long time. Would Kamala really be a stretch?