Excellent Read: “Mitch McConnell: The Man Who Sold America”

Further proof of my assumption that ‘Moscow Mitch’ is for rent by anyone — he just hates the moniker because he resents the brand-damaging implication that his loyalty is linked to any ideology beyond ‘Mitch McConnell deserves to be Majority Leader for life’. Bob Moser, for Rolling Stone:

Fittingly enough, it was hot as blazes in Kentucky when Mitch McConnell slunk back home for Congress’ annual summer recess. One week earlier, Robert Mueller had testified that Russia was meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, responded by shooting down Democrats’ efforts to bring two election-security bills to a vote — bills that McConnell, in his familiar fashion, had previously sentenced to quiet deaths after they passed the House. In the hailstorm of opprobrium that followed, McConnell had been tagged by “Morning Joe” Scarborough with the indelible nickname “Moscow Mitch.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank called him a “Russian asset.” Twitter couldn’t decide whether he was #putinsbitch or #trumpsbitch. The Kentucky Democratic Party was selling red “Just Say Nyet to Moscow Mitch” T-shirts, emblazoned with an image of the senator’s jowly visage in a Cossack hat, as fast as they could print them up.

McConnell would undoubtedly have preferred to cool his heels in his Louisville home and let the storm subside. But he couldn’t afford that luxury. The biggest political event of the year in Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic, happens on the first Saturday every August, and McConnell knew he had to show his face and speak. Fancy Farm, a 139-year tradition in the tiny western Kentucky town (population 458) it’s named for, is simultaneously one of America’s most charming political gatherings and one of its most brutal…

… Under a big corrugated shelter, hooting and hollering Republican partisans assemble on the right, Democrats on the left, and candidates for office — joined, almost always, by McConnell — enter to cheers and jeers and seat themselves on a makeshift platform while trying to remember their most cutting quips about their opponents. Speakers at Fancy Farm aren’t supposed to persuade or inform; here, they’re expected to demonstrate, in the finest tradition of old-style Southern politics, that they can deliver zingers that cut the opposition down to size. Heather Henry, the Democrats’ candidate for secretary of state this year, puts it aptly when it’s her turn to face the mob: “It is no coincidence that Fancy Farm happens during Shark Week.”

It’s McConnell’s kind of event, in other words, and he’s done his part over the years to ramp up the partisan rancor…

This year, it was no use. Even before “Moscow Mitch” became a thing, Kentucky Democrats were smelling blood. McConnell has been unpopular in his home state for years, but his approval rating plunged in one poll to a rock-bottom 18 percent — with a re-election campaign looming in 2020. In January, he had raised red flags among Republicans and Democrats alike when he took a key role in lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin ally under FBI investigation for his involvement in 2016 election-meddling; three months later, Deripaska’s aluminum company, Rusal, announced a $200 million investment in Kentucky. A billboard funded by a -liberal group was subsequently erected on a busy stretch of I-75: “Russian mob money . . . really, Mitch?” …
Read more








Israel’s 2019 National Election Part 2: The Revenge of the Son of the Update

I really don’t think a whole lot more is going to happen between now and daylight tomorrow. At least not anything that’s going to happen in public. As of 9:10 PM EDT, they’d counted 10% of the ballots cast. So the vote counting has a long way to go. The exit polls, as they stand right now, are:

Kahol Lavan – Average: 32 seats; Channel 11: 32 seats; Chanel 12: 32 seats; Channel 13: 32 seats

Likud – Average: 31 seats, Channel 11: 31 seats; Channel 12: 32 seats; Channel 13: 30 seats

Joint List – Average: 14 seats; Channel 11: 13 seats; Channel 12: 13 seats; Channel 13: 15 seats

Yisrael Beitenu – Average: 9 seats; Channel 11: 9 seats; Channel 12: 9 seats; Channel 13: 8 seats

Shas – Average: 9 seats; Channel 11: 9 seats; Channel 12: 9 seats; Channel 13: 9 seats

UTJ – Average: 8 seats; Channel 11: 8 seats; Channel: 7 seats; Channel 13: 8 seats

Yamina – Average: 7 seats: Channel 11: 7 seats; Channel 12: 7 seats; Channel 13: 6 seats

Labor – Average – 6 seats; Channel 11 – 6 seats; Channel 12: 6 seats; Channel 13 – 6 seats

Democratic Union – Average: 5 seats; Channel 11: 5 seats; Channel 12: 5 seats; Channel 13: 6 seats

Otzma Yehudit – Average: 0 seats; Channel 11: 0 seats, Channel 12: 0 seats; Channel 13: 0 seats

So while Kahol Lavan maintains a slight lead in taking the most seats, the issue now will be how the actual vote tabulation turns out and who will be able to form a viable coalition. Using the averages, right now Gantz can potentially put together a 57 seat coalition if he can get the Joint List, Labor, and the Democratic Union to support him. Bibi can potentially put together a 55 seat coalition by partnering with Shas, UTJ, and Yamina. This leaves Yisrael Beitenu, and more specifically, Avigdor Liberman as the king maker. The Joint List, which is a combination of Israeli Arab and left of center pro-peace Israeli Jewish parties, also has tremendous leverage. In April they made it clear they would not enter into a coalition government. Hopefully, they recognize that they have leverage right now and should use it in negotiating with Gantz. Regardless, neither Bibi nor Gantz can meet the 61 seat threshold until/unless Liberman makes his play.

In his speech tonight Bibi stated he’d form a Zionist, anti-terror coalition to form the next government. According to reporting Gantz has also begun working the phones. Tomorrow will tell us whether Bibi can once again eke out victory from defeat either by pulling enough seats from Yisrael Beitunu despite Liberman’s seeming opposition to him or by repeating what he did in April when neither he nor Gantz were able to assemble a 61 seat governing coalition. Vacating the election and calling for a third try is his back up play. It allows him to stay in place as the prime minister over a caretaker government for five or six more months and both maneuver to increase his chances and bide his time looking for an opportunity to solidify his position. Remember, Gantz would like to be prime minister. For Bibi, however, it is existential. He either stays on as prime minister or he faces prosecution and potentially prison.

Updates at 11:15 PM EDT

The Times of Israel is reporting in its live blog of the election and vote counting that:

Channel 12: Unofficial tally of 85% of votes shows Knesset deadlocked

Channel 12 is reporting results it says it has received from inside sources in the Central Elections Committee, which the news channel claims reflect around 85% of the national vote.

According to those unofficial results, Likud and Blue and White are tied at 32 seats; next is the Joint List with 12 seats; Shas and Yisrael Beytenu have 9 seats each; United Torah Judaism has 8; Yamina has 7; Labor-Gesher is at 6; and the Democratic Camp has 5.

The right-wing bloc has a total of 56 seats, the center-left has 55 and Liberman has 9.

Channel 12 explains its data on the fact that a large majority of votes have already been counted, but due to increased scrutiny, the CEC is doing recounts in order to ensure the information it puts out is accurate.

Also, Noga Tarnopolsky’s and Barak Ravid’s reporting from Bibi’s speech at the Likud election party is disturbing:

My take on this is that if Bibi does come up short, he will try to make the claim that a Kahol Lavan coalition that includes the Joint Lists’ Arab parties and Israeli Arab members is somehow illegitimate. And then try to leverage that to remain in power. That’s right in his wheel house.

Open thread.








PHRASING! Open Thread: “Water Sports”

Not the Onion:

Proximate excuse cause:

A veritable who’s who of right-wing con artists, alt-right media hounds, and outright racists apparently plan to hold some sort of Art Basel for Grifters conference in Miami this month. An avalanche of some of the worst pundits online — including at least one fascist — say they’ll hold a “Demand Free Speech” rally Saturday, September 28, on an undisclosed yacht somewhere in the Magic City.

The event’s top billing? Serial con artist Jacob Wohl, who is charged in California with a felony for unlawfully selling investments in a company called Montgomery Assets, will apparently debate Nick Fuentes, a self-described “American nationalist” who has appeared on white-nationalist programs and at one point was recorded going on an anti-Semitic rant about a fellow conservative blogger by calling him a “race traitor” and saying he “worked for Jews.” It’s unclear what Wohl and Fuentes might actually debate, but the event seems designed more to generate protests and controversy than to conduct intellectual discussions…

… [T]ickets are being sold on the website 1776.shop, which is run by Enrique Tarrio, a Miami native who leads the neofascist Proud Boys group. “Early-bird” VIP tickets cost $150 for whatever reason. Among the other guests, the group says Zoe Sozo, an ambassador for the campus conservative group Turning Point USA, will also attend…

My personal bet would be that these clowns haven’t so much as charted a boat — once enough ‘VIP tickets’ have been sold, they’ll announce that ‘the (((globalists))) have forced us to reschedule to an as-yet-to-be-determined date, for the safety of our supporters’. And as proof: Secret Service agents on jetskies!








Israel’s 2019 National Election Part 2: Update

The polls closed in Israel two hours ago. While we wait for actual results to be tallied, we do have exit poll results.

With caveats that Israel’s exit polls aren’t always correct, what does this mean? It means that Likud has not won the largest plurality and therefore Benny Gantz should be given the chance to form the next Israeli government under Israel’s electoral laws and rules. Gantz’s plurality is razor thin and Bibi has ignored this rule before. Back in 2009, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party won the larger plurality in that year’s election. Despite Livni being entitled to try to build a coalition and form the next government, Bibi just ignored the actual Israeli election rules, went ahead and formed a government, effectively daring anyone to do something about it. No one did. It is entirely possible that he’ll try to do the same thing again. Remember, for Bibi, it is either reelection as Prime Minister or prosecution with the possibility of prison, there is no third option for him at this point.

What happens now is that election results will be tallied, but the jockeying to form a coalition will already have begun. Bibi, despite the outcome, will be working the phones to line up more than 61 members of Knesset to form a majority regardless of how many more seats Kahol Lavon won and to try to block Gantz from being able to form a new government. Benny Gantz will be trying to do the same thing in order to ensure that his plurality can ensure Kahol Lavan having a large enough coalition to form the next government. It is important to remember that Bibi has a long history of “winning” by the time the day after the actual election results are announced regardless of what the results were. So regardless of what the exit polls indicate, or what the actual election results are, you cannot count him out. He’s cornered now. His life going forward and potentially his freedom are on the line. This isn’t about the principles of Revisionist Zionism or annexing the West Bank or defeating Iran for Bibi anymore. It is solely about Bibi not being held accountable for his crimes and not going to prison. That’s what today’s Israeli election is really all about.

Here’s Bibi’s biographer, Anshel Pfeffer’s take:

Barring an absolutely catastrophic polling mistake from all three of Israel’s main television channels, Benjamin Netanyahu will not command a majority in the 22nd Knesset and Likud is likely to be only the second largest party there. We have seen exit polls fail before, but the unanimous 10 P.M. call is unlikely to change.

It was Netanyahu who dragged Israel into an unnecessary second election in 2019. It was Netanyahu who set the bar at 61 seats for his bloc of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. It was Netanyahu who threw everything he had at this election, going on air for hours and hours until the polls closed. Israeli voters doubled down on their verdict of the last election and denied him victory.

Netanyahu is going nowhere. His rival, Kahol Lavan head Benny Gantz, is nowhere near reaching a majority of his own as things stand. But one thing seems certain: Unless that miraculous turnaround between the exit polls and the actual results happens – the Netanyahu magic has been broken.

The politician who made it his business to win elections, who did it better than anyone else because he worked harder and always came up with a new strategy, has run out of dirty tricks. And the Israeli electorate has run out of patience.

This isn’t a victory for the “peace camp” or the left, or even for the center-left. This victory was won together with the votes of ultranationalists supporting Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, and Gantz’s Kahol Lavan is at best a center-right party. This is a personal defeat for Netanyahu. The winners have yet to be determined.

But with Netanyahu’s defeat comes an end to the spell he has cast on an entire political establishment. Israel is in for another period of political deadlock and while President Reuven Rivlin is now likely to give Gantz the mandate to form a government, he will struggle and Netanyahu – still in office as caretaker prime minister and still controlling a large minority in the Knesset – will fight him every step of the way and try to run down the clock on Gantz’s mandate. After all, he did the unthinkable by dissolving the Knesset six weeks after it was sworn in, and he has already spent a large part of the now-ended campaign sowing doubt as to the validity of the election result and accusing the left, and particularly Israel’s Arab citizens, of trying to “steal the election.”

Much more at the link.

Now we wait to see if Netanyahu’s spell has actually been broken. And he’ll use every tool at his disposable to not cede power to anyone else. Because today’s election presented Israelis with two electoral choices: another term for Netanyahu as prime minister or Netanyahu being prosecuted and potentially going to prison. The choice was never between Netanyahu and Gantz or Likud’s vision versus Kahol Lavan’s, it was Bibi for prime minister or Bibi for prosecution and possibly prison. Bibi really, really, really, really doesn’t want to go to prison.

I’ll be back later tonight with actual election results as they’re reported.

Open thread.








Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Partisanship

Elsewhere…

GALIVANTS FERRY, S.C. (AP) — Four Democratic presidential candidates descended on South Carolina on Monday for what organizers call the oldest traditional campaign speech event in the country, taking an opportunity to continue to make their cases ahead of the first Southern vote of 2020.

On Monday, Joe Biden, Bill de Blasio, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar spoke at the Galivants Ferry Stump, a biennial Democratic event that takes place in a rural portion of northeastern South Carolina. One by one, they addressed a crowd of about 2,500 gathered in the unincorporated community of Galivants Ferry along the banks of the Little Pee Dee River…

A common stop for South Carolina’s Democrats, this year’s event is the first organized specifically for presidential hopefuls. One of them, Biden, has been here before, introduced to speak at the 2006 event by longtime friend and Senate colleague Fritz Hollings as Biden considered a 2008 presidential bid. This year, Biden was the first confirmed attendee.

Republicans are always invited to attend the stump but aren’t allowed to speak. One of them, former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford, worked the crowd as he mounts his longshot bid to challenge President Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination…

Democratic White House hopefuls have been flooding South Carolina for nearly a year, taking opportunities to get to know and campaign to the state’s heavily African American electorate, which plays a key role in its first-in-the-South primary and reflects those in other Southern states that follow quickly on the nominating calendar, offering candidates a proving ground to test their message. The stump meeting draws thousands of attendees from across the state, but Horry County, in which Galivants Ferry sits, is more than 80% white…

Former Romney political strategist: