Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: How the ‘need for chaos’ keeps Trump in the running

Brian Beutler/”Off Message” on Substack:

Will Democrats Really Shrug Off The GOP’s Latest, Biggest Betrayal?

Republicans teamed up with Russian intelligence to smear Joe Biden; they inflicted serious political damage on him over YEARS; Democrats can’t let bygones be bygones

To recap quickly: Last week, David Weiss, the Trump-appointed prosecutor who has investigated, charged, and jerked around Hunter Biden, indicted Alexander Smirnov, the one witness who claimed to have evidence that the younger Biden really was trotting the globe soliciting bribes on behalf of his father. Turns out, Smirnov made it all up!

That development, taken in isolation and at face value, was a huge, embarrassing blow to Weiss and to congressional Republicans, who have plastered Smirnov’s allegations all over the media and used them to justify a decision they’d already made, at Donald Trump’s behest, to impeach Joe Biden.

But that wasn’t the end of it. DOJ then took the surprising step of trying to keep Smirnov confined before trial, and when a judge got in the way, prosecutors revealed that Smirnov’s lies stemmed from his work as a Russian intelligence agent. It’s not just that Republicans (in DOJ and on Capitol Hill) tried to frame Biden based on lies. It’s that the lies were part of a familiar Russian operation, encouraged and abetted by Trump himself for nearly a decade now, to slime his opponents ahead of elections.

Today it’s the 2024 election, but Smirnov first seeded his lies ahead of the 2020 election, when DOJ was controlled by Trump, and his corrupt attorney general Bill Barr.

Somehow Smirnov’s Russian intelligence contacts eluded all of these Republicans for four years. Unless of course they didn’t.

Smirnov, via a California judge, is back in custody. This, after a Nevada judge temporarily freed him.

A bit of advice:

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Running for election makes you do interesting things. But once you win …?

Dan Froomkin/Press Watch:

The Hunter Biden story has done a total 180 but the MSM is in denial

The real story is that the ludicrous Republican impeachment investigation has now been exposed as a Russian intelligence op. This, even as Republicans do Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding by blocking support for Ukraine and only a few short years after Trump aides welcomed Russian moves to help the Trump campaign in 2016.

But the political reporters at our most esteemed newsrooms who went to great lengths to portray the Biden impeachment investigation as a serious inquiry seem unable to change gears.

I’m not surprised. It  would require them to admit they were wrong. They don’t do that.

POLITICO:

Biden impeachment effort on the brink of collapse

A wide swath of House Republicans are acknowledging they likely won’t have the votes, especially given their struggle to recommend booting Alejandro Mayorkas.

The House GOP’s push to impeach Joe Biden appears close to stalling out for good.

First, the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas scraped through on the narrowest of margins — and took two tries, raising serious doubts about Republicans’ appetite for an even bigger impeachment fight. Then, a high-profile informant making bribery allegations against the Biden family was not only indicted, but has now linked some of his information to Russian intelligence.

See also Axios: House Republicans see Biden impeachment slipping out of reach

Some musings about what SCOTUS could be up to when it comes to Donald Trump’s presidential immunity claim:

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Derek Thompson/The Atlantic:

The Americans Who Need Chaos

They’re embracing nihilism and upending politics.

The researchers came up with a term to describe the motivation behind these all-purpose conspiracy mongers. They called it the “need for chaos,” which they defined as “a mindset to gain status” by destroying the established order. In their study, nearly a third of respondents demonstrated a need for chaos, Petersen said. And for about 5 percent of voters, old-fashioned party allegiances to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party melted away and were replaced by a desire to see the entire political elite destroyed—even without a plan to build something better in the ashes.

“These [need-for-chaos] individuals are not idealists seeking to tear down the established order so that they can build a better society for everyone,” the authors wrote in their conclusion. “Rather, they indiscriminately share hostile political rumors as a way to unleash chaos and mobilize individuals against the established order that fails to accord them the respect that they feel they personally deserve.” To sum up their worldview, Petersen quoted a famous line from the film The Dark Knight: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Conor Sen/Bloomberg:

Boy, This Economy Is Hard to Read. Mea Culpa.

I’m now sorry that I described recent signs of recovery as akin to a “dead cat bounce” that would eventually be swamped by high interest rates.

The catalyst is the growing confidence among consumers and businesses alike, ironically driven by the slowdown in inflation the Fed has been working to engineer. Monetary policy remains tight — look no further than the struggles in the automobile and commercial property sectors or affordability challenges for homebuyers — but, for now, there are too many industries showing signs of resilience or acceleration to believe that the central bank’s stance will cause the labor market or economy to unravel.

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Daniel Nichanian/Bolts magazine:

Judges Play Musical Chairs on Arkansas’ Highest Court

Four members of the state supreme court are trying to jump to different seats on the bench, a situation that could empower the conservative governor by granting her more appointments.

The only two candidates not already on the court face tough odds, crushed by their opponents’ name recognition and fundraising. Each told Bolts that they’re concerned about the prospect of the governor shaping the court’s membership when justices are supposed to be chosen by voters.

Many states select justices via elections, but then stretch the spirit of that approach. Justices in other states routinely resign before their term is up, enabling governors to name a replacement; in Minnesota, for instance, all current justices owe their seat to an appointment despite the state’s election system. As Bolts has reported, a loophole in Georgia law has even allowed state justices and other officials to maneuver to outright cancel some judicial elections.

In Arkansas, the reasons for this situation are very different across the two elections. One of the two open supreme court races this year is to replace Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, who is retiring rather than seek a new term. Three of the court’s associate justices—Karen Baker, Barbara Webb, and Rhonda Wood—are running for the open chief justice position, which is akin to seeking a promotion, since the chief justice has broad responsibilities over supervising the state’s judicial system.

Ryan Burge/”Graphs About Religion” on Substack:

Has Christian Nationalism Intensified or Faded?

Comparing Survey Data from 2007 and 2021

It’s all happened so fast that it’s hard to get our arms around a pretty basic question in the discussion about Christian Nationalism – are those sentiments increasing or decreasing in the general public? Well, now I can answer that with a great deal of specificity.

If one is looking for the empirical foundations of the Christian Nationalism debate, it’s in a series of statements that were posed to respondents in the Baylor Religion Survey back in 2007 – Wave II. They are as follows:

  1. The federal government should advocate Christian values
  2. The federal government should allow prayer in public schools
  3. The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces
  4. The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation
  5. The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state
  6. The success of the United States is part of God’s plan.

Response options ranged from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The middle option is undecided. I know that there’s a lively debate about defining Christian Nationalism and whether these questions are tapping that concept accurately. I am going to sidestep that discussion entirely here. The authors I mentioned above are much more well-versed in those debates than I am. My focus here is narrow – I just want to see how responses to those questions have changed over time….

I think it’s fair to say that the results point to the fact that Christian Nationalism is fading in the general population. That’s evident in a number of these statements. For instance, in 2007, 55% of folks said that the government should advocate Christian values. In 2021, that share had dropped to just 38%. That’s substantial.

My argument would be that extremism makes things less popular with the general public. Same with scandals, same with overreaching.

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Cliff Schecter on Lindsey Graham:

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