Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: That time in the cycle when the fantasy politics are beginning to end

Heather Cox Richardson/”Letters from an American” on Substack:

In the Washington Post today, Marianne LeVine, Isaac Arnsdorf, and Josh Dawsey reported that the Trump camp is eager to get people to stop focusing on Trump’s authoritarian talk, noting that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says the presidential candidate was just joking when he said he would be a dictator on the first day of a return to the White House. While the Republican base appears to like Trump’s threats against the people they have come to hate, two Trump advisers told the reporters that “recent stories about his plans for a second term are not viewed as helpful for the general election.”

Well, too bad, because they keep getting talked about.


I thought Nikki Haley was having a moment. I thought the debates changed everything.

[Narrator: debates never change anything.]

Will Bunch/Philadelphia Inquirer:

Critics celebrating the scalping of Penn’s president won’t stop there. Free speech, and college itself, are in grave danger.

Magill’s legalistic, bloodless, deer-in-the-headlights response to incessant probing by Stefanik and other lawmakers was not good — not just because she blew a chance to condemn the never-ending horror of antisemitism but also because it was a weak defense of free speech on campus. I’m not writing to express any regret over her departure. It seemed to me she governed Penn like a candle in the wind, wanting to defend academic freedom but then betraying those values, as when the university tried to ban a film presenting legitimate criticisms of Israel’s policies and then threatened to punish students for showing it anyway.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that most colleges are not Harvard, Penn or MIT. But higher ed writ large needs to be clear about what it is and what it needs to be.

From predatory student loans to antisemitism on campus, all is not right in the Groves of Academe. But the reforms the right wants ain’t it.



Gas prices sink to 2023 lows on weak demand, increased production

Prices at the pump are expected to continue declining, shaving off another $0.05 to $0.07 per gallon in the coming week, Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, said.

“We’ve seen oil prices slide over the last week, and they’re taking gasoline and diesel down with it. So across the board energy is getting cheaper for the consumer,” Lipow told Yahoo Finance.

Drivers in at least 17 states are seeing retail gasoline averages below $3 per gallon. Californians, who pay the most, are paying an average of $4.74 per gallon, down from $5.14 one month ago.


Joyce Vance/”Civil Discourse” on Substack:

Trump, Gagged Again

An explainer (long)

On Friday, the court of appeals in the District of Columbia affirmed, in part, Judge Chutkan’s gag order. The parts they affirmed are the parts that matter. Trump is prohibited from talking about witnesses in the case against him as it relates to their testimony and from impugning court personnel and prosecutors, excepting the Judge herself and Special Counsel Jack Smith.

The court offered good reasons for narrowing Judge Chutkan’s order. Even with that, it’s a big win for the prosecution. For one thing, upholding the gag order means that the gag order can be enforced if (when?) Trump violates it. And, by tightening up the order, the court of appeals has made it easier for the Supreme Court to affirm it when it hits their desks.


And in more legal news:


In a reversal, Donald Trump says he will not testify in his own defense in New York fraud trial

Trump was scheduled to take the stand Monday as the months-long $250 million civil fraud trial against him and his company enters its final week.

Trump was under no obligation to testify since it’s his own defense case. His son Eric similarly backed out of testifying this past Wednesday, which Trump said in a social media post on Tuesday night he’d directed him to do. Like his father, Eric Trump had testified as a witness in the AG’s case. “Eric has already testified, PERFECTLY,” Trump wrote, “so there is no reason to waste any more of this Crooked Court’s time on having him say the same thing, over and over again, as a witness for the defense.”

The AG’s office was scheduled to continue its cross-examination of [Accounting professor Eli Bartov] after Trump’s testimony.

The AG’s office is expected to have two rebuttal witnesses testify for their case after Bartov’s done. After that, both sides will be able to submit filings to the judge explaining why they believe they’ve proven their case, and will then return to court for closing arguments on Jan. 11.

Engoron has said he expects it will take him a few weeks to issue his ruling in the case. 

Avoid perjury. Don’t testify.



Republicans to meet allies of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán on ending Ukraine aid

Hungarian appearance at two-day event part of Orbán’s transatlantic attempt to bolster Russia’s war

According to a Republican source, some of the attendees, including Republican members of Congress, have been invited to join closed-door talks the next day.

The meeting will take place against a backdrop of tense debate in Washington over Ukraine’s future. Last week the White House warned that, without congressional action, money to buy more weapons and equipment for Kyiv will run out by the end of the year. On Wednesday Senate Republicans blocked an emergency spending bill to fund the war in Ukraine.

A diplomatic source close to the Hungarian embassy said: “Orbán is confident that the Ukraine aid will not pass in Congress. That is why he is trying to block assistance from the EU as well.”

Matt Robison and Paul Hodes interview Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings on the future of LGBTQ rights:


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