Discover more from The Jackal
The Speaker Drama has Just Begun
A closer look at Mike Johnson.
Ahoy. This will likely be a shorter Jackal because it was a relatively slow news week. Yes, we got a new Speaker of the House, but that is actually slightly less in and of itself interesting than what it says about the GOP as a whole.
So, let’s dive in to:
The GOP Speaker resolution.
A look at Israel and Palestine.
Who is Mike Johnson?
I want to start off by absolutely roasting myself. Last week, I wrote this incredibly dumb paragraph:
I will say this: It is super encouraging to me that there were a great number of Republicans who refused to vote for Jordan because he would not say Joe Biden actually won the 2020 election. This was a major sticking point for Ken Buck, so good for him.
I also said this:
So, Jordan losing is extremely satisfying and, at the same time, somewhat encouraging. Maybe there are a few dashes of sanity left in the GOP after all, but it’s also possible that the anti-Jordan caucus is aware of political realities and wants to stay in power in 2024.
Finally, I said this:
Overall, there is a fundamental split within the GOP: There are sane, normal Republicans who do not want someone who tried to overturn the 2020 election to be put in such a high-level position. This is mostly a matter of principle, but Donald Trump pulling that person’s strings also has to be a factor.
Dumb dumb dumb. 0 for 3. Totally wrong. Not only is Johnson to the right of Jordan, he is also an election denier. In fact, Johnson worked aggressively behind the scenes to try and keep Trump in power.
Republicans in Congress know this about Johnson. They just don’t care. I made the mistake of assuming some members in the Party were still normal and rational. I don’t know how many times I have to learn this lesson before it sticks, but I’ll try to be better going forward.
That said, Johnson is a dream Speaker for Democrats. He basically checks every single box Jim Jordan did, and then throws in a few more for good measure. Here is Michael Tomasky with a round-up:
Over these last two days, we have been learning things, and they paint an unnerving picture. Just watch the short clip in this tweet and follow the logic of these words: “You remember in the late ’60s we invented things, like no-fault divorce laws. We invented the sexual revolution. We invented radical feminism. We invented legalized abortion in 1973, where the state, the government, sanctions the killing of the unborn. I mean, we know that we’re living in a completely amoral society. And so people say, ‘How can a young person go into their schoolhouse and open fire on their classmates?’ Because we’ve taught a whole generation, a couple generations now of Americans, that there is no right and wrong.”
If Johnson is still Speaker by November 2024, he will be in every ad in every swing district in the country. Democrats were already favored to take back the House next year, and Johnson will give them that extra push.
Wait…what do you mean “if” he’s Speaker?
Here is the thing about Johnson: While he was able to secure the Speakership after only one round of voting, the things that actually divide the GOP are a lot deeper. Johnson has tried to calm GOP “moderates” in the House by saying he will move forward with aid for Ukraine. But once that happens, he will start to lose members of the Nutcase Caucus like Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert.
He will lose more - like Chip Roy and Matt Rosendale - once he moves forward with a continuing resolution to keep the government open, or pumping the brakes on impeaching Joe Biden (although Johnson basically said they are going to do it anyway). In short, he faces problems from within the GOP if he opts to govern the way McCarthy did. Johnson is still being governed by McCarthy’s rules, which means a “motion to vacate” could come from any member, at any moment. If Gaetz starts fading from the news cycle, I would put money on him pulling it again.
In other words, the insanity isn’t over. One of the bigger looming issues is the ethics investigation into Gaetz. Apparently, that is going to be pretty terrible, and is the reason he is setting himself up as a hardcore, pro-Trump troublemaker. If the House chooses to expel him over the findings, or for ousting McCarthy, he has a narrative pre-written.
How to sift through misinformation.
There were a bunch of great pieces on Twitter’s downfall this week, specifically from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. All summarized how Twitter is basically hemorrhaging cash, and continuing in a downward spiral.
I also liked this piece from Ed Zitron, where he explains how Elon Musk’s two biggest bets - Twitter and Tesla’s Cyber Truck - are sinking his companies:
And what makes both the cybertruck and Twitter acquisition so unique is that they’re thoroughly, unquestionably bets that Musk himself made. Tesla’s engineers hated the cybertruck so much that they made an alternative design which Musk didn’t even look at, choosing instead to go with a design that has serious flaws and has, to quote Musk, “dug Tesla’s grave.” Tesla will (unlike the Model S, X and 3) launch the Cybertruck without any first-mover advantage. You can pick up a Rivian R1T or Ford F150 today for a fraction of the rumored $98,000 Cybertruck, and by the time Musk’s polygonal monstrosity rolls off the production line, there will be virtually no reason to own it.1
So, why am I talking about Elon Musk? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen more misinformation collected in a single place than I have recently seen on Twitter. I saw so many videos of what were allegedly Palestinian children, only to later see someone say that those videos were from Syria and were a few years old. It’s gotten so bad news outlets are now fact-checking photos from Gaza.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is ripe for misinformation. Biden sort of angered the Left recently when he said he doesn’t trust the casualty numbers coming out of Gaza. But Yasmeen Serhan has a round-up of experts basically using the same reasoning as Biden:
“Hamas has a clear propaganda incentive to inflate civilian casualties as much as possible,” Luke Baker, a former Reuters bureau chief who led the organization’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories from 2014 to 2017, said in a recent X thread. (Baker declined to comment to TIME.) Like Biden, Baker does not dispute that civilian deaths have occurred. Rather, he says that the extent of the death toll is unverifiable and that those tasked with tracking casualties in Gaza may not be able to do so freely. “Any health official stepping out of line and not giving the death tolls that Hamas wants reported to journalists risks serious consequences,” Baker said.
Will Saletan is even more explicit:
THE BIGGER PROBLEM is the ministry’s tally of deaths and injuries. Its numbers are routinely cited in news reports as though they’re reliable. In 2014, during a previous Gaza conflict, the Associated Press explained: “The initial source of information about deaths in the war has been the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.” Dr. Al-Qudra—described as “the keeper of the statistics”—boasted, “All the world uses our numbers. We are the only source.”
At that time, the main question in dispute was how many of the dead were civilians, as opposed to Hamas combatants. The AP reported that al-Qudra “uses a very broad definition of civilians, saying the term applies to anyone who has not been claimed by one of the armed groups as a member.” In a statement quoted by the Washington Post, al-Qudra asserted: “They are all civilians. . . . All the dead in all the houses, in the mosques, in the cars, in fields and the facilities for the disabled.”
I want to cite back to something I got from trying to learn about proper parenting. The “Brain State” model basically says that there are three kinds of states your brain will rotate between:
In parenting, adults get frustrated when all the planning they’ve done for how to treat their kids right runs into a brick wall. Did you read an entire book on how to get your child to stop hitting, only to watch them hit your spouse (this has never happened to us)? That could easily drive you down into your Emotional State and you basically forget all the information you processed in your Executive State.
When I see pictures of dead Palestinian children, my mind leaves the Executive State and goes straight to my Emotional State. I get furious with Israel and less sympathetic to their arguments. But the only way to sift through misinformation is to consciously try to bring yourself back up to the Executive State.
Sometimes it’s nauseating. An example: It is just physically super hard to fact-check a claim about children in Israel being beheaded by Hamas. From the jump, Palestinians and supporters of Palestine were casting doubt on Israel’s claims. But the evidence is clear that while not all of the children who were killed by Hamas were beheaded, some were. Others were burned alive with their parents.
It is super shitty that journalists have to do that sort of fact-checking, but they are ultimately the ones doing it, as opposed to people on Instagram or TikTok.
I am citing to things like brain states and emotion because I am prone to have an emotional reaction to something like the Palestinian conflict, mostly because there are kids involved. Benjamin Wittes has an incredible piece on how Israel’s actions in Gaza over the coming months with be upsetting, morally horrific, and yet completely legal:
It thus will not do to condemn the Israeli response because you hold Israel responsible for conditions in Gaza as an antecedent matter. That is as illogical as blaming the United States for responding militarily to the attack on Pearl Harbor because it never should have annexed Hawaii decades earlier. Nobody objected to the Soviet Union’s response to Operation Barbarossa on grounds that the Baltic and Polish and Ukrainian territories invaded were illegally occupied by the Soviets anyway—and that the Soviet regime was deeply objectionable and murderous.
Relatedly, it also will not do to insist that a state has no right of self-defense because it shouldn’t, in your judgment, exist. Most states don’t exist as a result of some pristine moral logic. Their existence is just a reality, often to the irritation of their critics. And they defend themselves because peoples who don’t choose governments capable of defending them tend not to last very long.
It also will not do to insist that the fact that one party is stronger than the other means that it shouldn’t respond at all or that it must somehow constrain its response to even the playing field. Sometimes, weaker parties attack stronger parties, and thus trigger the need for stronger parties to defend themselves. It seems to me quite naive to expect that they will do so only with a discounted fraction of their capabilities and powers. War and conflict are not golf, and they are not waged with handicaps.
It will be difficult over the coming weeks to figure out what claims coming from Israel and Palestine are true, and which ones are propaganda. But the clear, 1,000 foot view is this:
Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th.
They killed 1,300 people.
Israel is going to respond severely.
Civilians are going to die.
The international community will support Israel’s response only if they can show they are targeting Hamas.
Those are the foundations of the conflict. There is, of course, a longer history between Israel, Palestine, and Zionism. But those are the only facts that are relevant to the current conflict. Whether other countries in the Middle East like it or not, Israel is a real country, with a real army, and with real laws. They are sovereign and will do what they want until the international community steps back in.
OK, in lieu of “Should-Reads,” I am going to share the list of Israeli and Palestinian sources I trust. It is a huge reprieve from the misinformation I generally see on Twitter.
I will see you all next week, when we will finally talk about the economy. That Jackal may come on a Saturday, just due to the jobs report coming out that Friday.
Those are Zitron’s links, not mine, but the one he links to about the design flaws is particularly interesting.