Nikki Haley is trying to occupy that as-yet unobtainable sweet spot in female GOP electoral Venn diagram where strong, motherly and fascist intersect

The New York Times, being “respectable,” isn’t putting it quite that way. NYT is calling it “the treacherous road for GOP women.”


The early days of Ms. Haley’s campaign, which she announced on Tuesday, quickly illustrated the challenges facing Republican women. For decades, female leaders in both parties have struggled with what political scientists call the double bind — the difficulty of proving one’s strength and competence, while meeting voters’ expectations of warmth, or of being “likable enough,” as former President Barack Obama once said of Hillary Clinton during a 2008 primary debate.

But for Republican women, that double bind comes with a twist. There are conservative voters who harbor traditional views about femininity while expecting their candidates to seem “tough.” Several strategists suggested Republican primary voters would have little patience if a female candidate were to level accusations of sexism toward another Republican. And Mr. Trump, who remains a powerful figure in the party and is running again, has already attacked Ms. Haley with criticism some view as gendered.

Even before she entered the race, Mr. Trump dismissed Ms. Haley as “overly ambitious,” which struck some observers as sexist. And soon after her official announcement, he suggested her appointment as U.N. ambassador was less a reflection of her credentials than of his desire to see her male lieutenant governor take over as governor. She also confronted a male CNN anchor, who asserted that Ms. Haley and women her age — 51, decades younger than Mr. Trump or President Biden — were past their “prime.”

Ms. Haley, who could be joined by other female contenders, including Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, is operating within a G.O.P. that has often dismissed debate about identity as the purview of the left, and has, in many corners, increasingly lambasted discussions of gender and race as “wokeness.”

What the dynamic has turned out to be, of course, is that GOP women — Elise Stefanik, Kari Lake, Nikki Haley — need to out-fascist the male fascists to have any chance whatsoever.

It’s been weird to watch as competent Republican women, whom I long ago fantasized as the would-be saviors who get fed up with the nonsense and eventually wrest control from the male Tea Party fanatics, are all turning out to be the kinds of people who would have been goose-stepping down the Champs-Élysées in 1940 marveling at the manliness and leadership qualities of Monsieur Hitler.

GOP consultant writes Times op-ed trashing Nikki Haley

The problem with a piece like this is that it singles out Haley for a lack of standards and morals that is pervasive in the GOP right now. Why pick on her for something most of them are doing?

I remember the first time I saw Nikki Haley. It was in a high school gym before the 2012 South Carolina Republican presidential primary. Tim Scott, who was then a congressman, was holding a raucous town hall, and Ms. Haley was there to cheer him on. The first woman governor of South Carolina, the first Indian American ever elected to statewide office there, the youngest governor in the country. Whatever that “thing” is that talented politicians possess, Ms. Haley had it. People liked her, and more important, she seemed to like people. She talked with you, not to you, and made routine conversations feel special and important. She seemed to have unlimited potential.

Then she threw it all away.

No political figure better illustrates the tragic collapse of the modern Republican Party than Nikki Haley. There was a time not very long ago when she was everything the party thought it needed to win. She was a woman when the party needed more women, a daughter of immigrants when the party needed more immigrants, a young change maker when the party needed younger voters and a symbol of tolerance who took down the Confederate flag when the party needed more people of color and educated suburbanites.

When Donald Trump ran in the 2016 Republican primary, Ms. Haley stood next to Senator Marco Rubio, the candidate she had endorsed, and eviscerated Mr. Trump as a racist the party must reject: “I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we want as president.” She was courageous, fighting on principle, a warrior who would never back down. Until she did.

The politician who saw herself as a role model for women and immigrants transformed herself into everything she claimed to oppose: By 2021, Ms. Haley was openly embracing her inner MAGA with comments like, “Thank goodness for Donald Trump or we never would have gotten Kamala Harris to the border.” In one sentence, she managed to attack women and immigrants while praising the man she had vowed never to stop fighting. She had gone from saying “I have to tell you, Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten” to “I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”

I suppose Republican in-fighting is a good thing no matter what.

How one leader in the FBI, now under criminal indictment, may have been compromising the bureau’s investigation of Russian influence on Trump

Craig Unger is described on Wikipedia as “an American journalist and writer. He has served as deputy editor of The New York Observer and was editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine. He has written about George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush for The New Yorker, Esquire Magazine, and Vanity Fair.” That is all accurate, but it’s an understatement.

Unger is one of the most fearless, uncompromising journalists around. To give but one example, he was one of the few writers who meaningfully followed up on questions about why President George W. Bush arranged for members of the Saudi royal family and their entourages to leave the United States on secret flights in the aftermath of 9/11.

Unger has also been relentless in following up on the many ways that Donald Trump and his family have likely been used (and probably blackmailed) by the Russians, and how Trump over the years has assiduously cultivated ties to the FBI in New York and Washington — and how those circumstances have now likely led to an FBI scandal of mammoth proportions:

In the course of writing two books on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the same question occurred to me again and again: How is it possible that I knew all sorts of stuff about Donald Trump, and the FBI didn’t seem to have a clue? Or if they did, why weren’t they doing anything with it?

Specifically, I knew that:

Starting in 1980, an alleged “spotter agent” for the KGB began cultivating Trump as a new asset for Soviet intelligence.

The Russian mafia laundered millions of dollars through Donald Trump’s real estate by purchasing condos in all-cash transactions through anonymous corporations that did not disclose real ownership.

Trump Tower was a home away from home for Vyacheslav Ivankov, one of the most brutal leaders of the Russian mafia, and at least 13 people with known or alleged links to the mafia held the deeds to, lived in, or ran alleged criminal operations out of Trump Tower in New York or other Trump properties.
Trump was some $4 billion in debt when the Russians came to bail him out via the Bayrock Group, a real estate firm that was largely staffed, owned, and financed by Soviet émigrés who had ties to Russian intelligence and/or organized crime.

Much of my material came from FBI documents. A lot came from open-source databases. It made no sense. There was an astounding amount of data on the public record. The FBI had launched enormous investigations of the Russian mafia in the 1980s. They had staked out a New York electronics store that was a haven for KGB officers. They knew that’s where the Trump Organization bought hundreds of TV sets. They had their eyes on Ivankov and other Russian mobsters who were denizens of Trump’s casinos and bought and sold his condos through shell companies.

They had to know that Trump laundered money for and provided a base of operations for the Russian mafia, which was, after all, a de facto state actor tied to Russian intelligence. They had to know that the Russians repeatedly bailed Trump out when he was bankrupt. They had to know that Russia owned him.

I’m well aware of the strict secrecy that accompanies ongoing investigations as a matter of procedure. But once the Mueller Report was finally released, it became crystal clear that Robert Mueller’s investigation dealt only with criminal matters, not counterintelligence. Trump had been thoroughly compromised by Russia and was a grave threat to national security. But the FBI wasn’t doing anything about it!

One reason for that may have been that on far too many occasions, FBI men in sensitive positions ended up on the take from the very people they were supposed to be investigating. And on January 23, a bomb dropped: We learned that the latest of these is Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI in New York, who ended up working for billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a major target in the Trump Russia investigation. McGonigal was indicted in Manhattan on charges of money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions, and other counts relating to his alleged ties to Deripaska. He was also indicted in Washington, where he was accused of concealing $225,000 he allegedly received from a New Jersey man employed long ago by Albanian intelligence.

Unger adds:

Nevertheless, Trump appears to have gotten exactly what he sought. As it happens, Kallstrom worked closely with McGonigal and cultivated friendships not just with Trump but also with Rudy Giuliani. Together, they are suspected of being party to an internal campaign just before the 2016 election that spurred FBI Director James Comey to publicly announce he was reopening his investigation into Clinton’s emails.

Ultimately, of course, America found out that none of Hillary’s emails were classified. The Times story on the subject was misleading at best. The “reopened” investigation was short-lived and appeared to reflect the wishful thinking of the pro-Trump leaker in the bureau, whether it was McGonigal or someone else. Likewise, the Times headline declaring “no link” between Trump and Russia seemed to reflect wishful thinking on the parts of Kallstrom, Giuliani, and McGonigal—not reality.

But the damage had already been done. When voters cast their ballots on November 8, they thought that the FBI had given Trump a clean bill of health but was still investigating Hillary. McGonigal and company may well have made the difference in tipping the election to Trump.

Republicans have used the alleged lack of an indictment in the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation as proof that the Democrats’ suspicions about Trump are unfounded and politically-motivated, Now it turns out that the FBI investigation may have been derailed by an FBI leader who has a vested interest in making sure that Trump’s unsavory connections to Russia never saw the light of day.

Let’s hope the government re-opens the investigations of Trump’s Russia entanglements since it’s clear the ones conducted by the FBI thus far were likely compromised by the Russians themselves.

Sports humorist takes on Trump and his habit of cheating at everything

I have played golf once in my life, at a junior golf course in my hometown when I was, like, 11.

Probably needless to say, I do not read Golf Magazine. But there is an interesting interview (or, at least parts of the interview) in it with “sports humorist” Rick Reilly, author of a new book called “Commander In Cheat” in which he talks about the former President Orange Menace’s habit of cheating at golf:

Golf Magazine: You seem to firmly believe that golf is a game of honor.

Reilly: Yes. And Trump doesn’t offend me so much as a voter as he does as a golfer. We don’t cheat each other. The way I learned the game was to call your own penalties. If you cheat, then you despoil the game. Nobody should be able to say I shot 68 when they didn’t even break 80. I get lying about politics, but golf, you should never get to lie about golf.

Are you ready for the book to be called “fake news” by him?

I’m hoping.

What was playing with him like?

Well, he took a gimme chip-in, which I had never heard of. People say, Okay, so he cheats at golf. Well, yeah, but it goes deeper. If you’re going to cheat at golf, you’re probably going to cheat at business. And if you cheat at golf, you’re probably going to cheat on your wife. And if you cheat at golf, you’re probably going to cheat on your taxes. Tom Watson said he saw Gary Player bend back a weed at the Skins game and he never spoke to him again.

By all accounts, Trump is a pretty good golfer. So why lie and exaggerate?

Exactly. He has a good swing. He’s probably an 8 or a 9. That’s pretty good for 72 years old! Why do you have to cheat? I tried to make this book apolitical, I tried to make it about golf. He’s wrecking it. He’s leaving a big, wet orange stain on the game I love.

LOL at the “wet orange stain.” Also: eeew!

A picture of Trump cheating at golf. How do we know he’s cheating at golf in this picture? Because, as one sports humorist writes, Trump cheats at everything all the time. It a natural state of being for him, whether it be in sports or politics.

Elon is not that complicated; he’s like Trump in every way

Eric Levitz, senior writer for Intelligencer feature at New York Magazine, has a well-written piece up that examines the question: Is Elon a conservative or a liberal or somewhere in-between?

Leivitz points out that this is a settled question:

Elon Musk believes that a “woke mind virus” has infected the body politic. He thinks that COVID containment policies were “fascist,” that the New York Times is a “lobbying firm for far left politicians,” that trans people asking others to use their preferred pronouns is “neither good nor kind,” and that Anthony Fauci should be prosecuted. He encouraged his followers to vote Republican in this year’s midterms and has endorsed Ron DeSantis for president in 2024.

Yet he “continues to defy easy political categorization.” Or so the New York Times reports.

The paper published this assessment in a “news analysis” (a fancy name for a tendentious opinion piece that lacks any normative content) by Jeremy Peters. Headlined “Critics Say Musk Has Revealed Himself As a Conservative. It’s Not So Simple,” the piece seems to exist primarily to defend the honor of a previous Peters dispatch; last April, the reporter declared that Musk’s politics were “elusive” and did not “fit neatly into this country’s binary, left-right political framework.” It may seem like this take has aged as poorly as Tesla’s stock over the past nine months. But in reality, Peters reports, he is actually still right.

Peters is not alone in characterizing Musk as “a bundle of contradictions and inconsistencies” whose politics are “tricky to pin down.” Several other reporters have puzzled over Musk’s apparent transformation from politically taciturn Obama donor to compulsive sharer of cringe-inducing conservative memes. Musk himself maintains that his politics are “neither conventionally right nor left.”

Nevertheless, neither Musk’s political trajectory nor his present orientation seem all that difficult to comprehend or categorize. Musk is not only an identifiable political type but a familiar one. In many respects, he is a conservative in the mold of Donald Trump.

Levitz goes on to point out that, just as with Donald Trump, Elon Musk leans politically based on what makes him money, what helps him to keep more of his money, and what stances most allow him to get back at those who dare to cross him:

But one’s politics are rarely determined by material interests alone. And Trump and Musk are not merely businessmen who desire public subsidies, low taxes, and docile workers. They are also, by all appearances, thin-skinned narcissists with insatiable appetites for attention and public adoration.

Here, I admit, I’m veering into the inherently speculative terrain of long-distance psychology. Yet it seems uncontroversial to say that both Musk and Trump harbor grandiose conceptions of their personal significance (the former openly styles himself as the human species’ would-be savior, the latter as the greatest president in American history), suffer from compulsive and often self-destructive social-media addictions, and do not take kindly to perceived slights. Now, if you are a white male billionaire with a taste for womanizing and longing for plaudits on social media, then you’re bound to experience social-justice politics as a problem. In its emphasis on the unearned advantages that accrue to individuals with Trump’s and Musk’s phenotypes and class backgrounds, and its broader insistence on the centrality of luck to success in the marketplace, contemporary liberalism is an unfavorable ideology for rich white businessmen who wish for their net worth to be read as gauges of their brilliance and social value.

It’s unclear exactly why Trump made the transition from nonpartisan reactionary libertine to conservative demagogue during the early Obama years. But there’s reason to think he was radicalized in the same way that many other graying boomers were; namely, by offsetting the heightened social isolation of old age with compulsive spectatorship of Fox News. In any event, once Trump developed an interest in joining a community of cable-news obsessives — and specifically, one in which he would be recognized as a great businessman and commentator — he could only find what he was looking for on the right. Given the mogul’s inveterate political incorrectness, and his serial business failures, he was never going to enjoy a fawning reception in blue America. The right, on the other hand, does not demand propriety from its pundits or genuine business acumen from its star entrepreneurs (since mainstream media documentation of the latter’s failures can be summarily dismissed).

In short, Trump found that he could give the conservative base what it wanted (e.g., racist conspiracy theories about Barack Obama) and that it could give him what he wanted (unqualified admiration). This led Trump to spend more and more time in the right-wing-media ecosystem. And as he did, he came to share its preoccupations, resentments, and truth claims.

A similar process seems to have sped Musk’s path to conservatism. Granted, the billionaire’s rightward turn can be partly ascribed to contingent events. The pandemic heightened the contradictions between Musk’s business interests and liberal governance. Tesla’s CEO was an adamant opponent of COVID containment policies, who predicted in March 2020 that there would be “close to zero new cases in US too by end of April.” He therefore did not take kindly to California’s relatively heavy-handed approach to the pandemic, which involved shutting down production at Tesla’s factory in Fremont. Musk derided these policies as “fascist” and threatened to relocate his company to Texas to escape them.

Of course, any compulsive Twitter user who took this point of view in 2020 was liable to earn applause from the right and jeers from the left. And over the ensuing two years, Musk found himself attracting slights from liberals on several other fronts.

In August 2021, the Biden administration convened a summit on electric vehicles and declined to send Tesla an invitation. At a tech conference the following month, Musk complained that Biden “didn’t mention Tesla once and praised GM and Ford for leading the EV revolution. Does that sound maybe a little biased?” before adding, “Not the friendliest administration, seems to be controlled by unions.” Shortly thereafter, Warren published her call for hiking Musk’s income taxes, so that he would stop “freeloading off everyone else.”

It’s an enjoyable, informative piece.

Elon Musk with a bad hair day
There is never not a good reason to run this Bad Hair Day photo of Elon Musk.

A picture worth a thousand words

The police officer heroes of Jan. 6 were receiving the Congressional Gold Medal Dec. 6 in Washington. Former Officer Michael Fanone, who nearly lost his life in the Trump-inspired attempt to overthrow the government, was heckled during the event by some of his fellow police officers.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, the liberal boogeyman, and Fanone shared a moment. (see pic).

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone.

It doesn’t matter that Rupert Murdoch and Mike Pompeo have had enough of Trump

Some sycophants formerly stuck in Trump’s orbit are starting to turn on him, which has some of the never-Trumpers (Lincoln Project, etc.) excited that the tide may be turning against Trump ahead of what looks to be (at this point, anyway) his planned Tuesday announcement about a 2024 presidential candidacy.

However, The Atlantic‘s David A. Graham has a good piece up which says everyone should just cool their jets because Trump will not be out of the game until a substantial portion of his base turns on, or tires of, him. And that has not happened any previous time the GOP mainstream (or what passes for it these days) thought they could push Trump out:

One theory about the Republican Party and Trump is that if enough of its movers and shakers had turned on him simultaneously, they could have cast him out. But going back to the 2016 GOP primary, members of the establishment never liked or wanted him. They worried he couldn’t win, and they worried he didn’t agree with their core beliefs on issues such as trade and foreign policy. The problem was that voters did like Trump—although only a plurality in the primary—and didn’t like his rivals. One reason the establishment couldn’t effectively rally around one of his opponents is that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and the rest all had weaknesses that a unified media front couldn’t erase.

They tried, though. The high-water mark was the January 2016 “Against Trump” issue of National Review, the flagship movement magazine, which gathered a host of writers from across the right to try to stall the inevitable. It didn’t work. (Some of the contributors remained Never Trumpers, others embraced him, and a third group settled on anti-anti-Trumpism as a compromise.)

The collective-action theory got another test in October 2016, when The Washington Post published a recording of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. Many Republicans and conservative pundits abandoned him, but once it became clear that there was no alternative and that GOP voters were still on board, many of them quietly slunk back too.

This pattern has held over and over. After the white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017; after the 2018 Helsinki summit; after the attempted extortion of Ukraine; after Trump lost the 2020 election; and then again after the January 6 insurrection, swaths of conservatives prepared to make a dramatic break and then either changed their mind or held back when they realized that voters were still with Trump. After the election loss, Murdoch’s properties briefly soured on Trump, but when their competitors started to gain market share, Fox and friends had second thoughts.

I’m with the people who think Trump is going to announce he will run because that is the only possible way he has left to try and slow down all the investigations against him, his family and enablers.

Whether enough of his base has tired of him — the only metric that matters — will be a mystery until the first GOP presidential primaries.

Incidentally, Michael Tomasky of The New Republic has a piece up that says many of the same things the Atlantic piece says. You can find it here.

Christ Christie. left, may have finally had enough of Donald Trump, but that won’t matter until Trump starts losing primaries.

GOP candidate who impersonated a black, gay man loses his state senate race in PA

You may recall that Pennsylvania “social and fiscal conservative Christian” Dan Browning was running as a Republican for a PA state senate seat.

You might also recall that Browning, a straight white guy, sent the following tweet under his real name when he meant to tweet it under a fake account:

“I’m a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me, my life only changed a little bit and it was for the worse. Everything is so much better under Trump though. I feel respected – which I never do when democrats are involved.”

People noticed. A lot of people noticed.

Browning tried to delete the tweet but it was too late.

Then he tried to explain it away by saying he was quoting a black, gay friend and Browning just failed to make that clear in his tweet in which he claimed to be black and gay.

Anyway, the good news is that Browning lost to a progressive Democrat.

The bad news is that, even after being exposed as a major fraud and liar, Browning still got 46.7% of the vote.

There is simply does not exist a non-Jesus-like behavior that MAGA politicians can engage in which will cost them support with the MAGA faithful.

Lie, cheat, steal, beat your wife and kids, and as long as you say you hate liberals and Hillary Clinton, you’re as good as gold with those people. It’s crazy that we’ve reached a point where the loudest alleged Christians are the least like Jesus these days.

The Fetterman family in hoodies and shorts at his victory party in PA is giving Republicans the vapors

It’s an amusing thing that the rich people of the Republican Party — the talking heads and columnists and Fox analysts and Claremont think-tankers — are getting all snobby about the Fetterman family showing up in hoodies and shorts on-stage at his PA victory party Tuesday night after he knocked off medical charlatan Mehmet Oz.

I mean, the Trumpiest base of the GOP is primarily people with broken down cars and washing machines in the front yards of their double-wides, and the GOP’s millionaire spokespeople are approaching fainting spells over some gym shorts.


Republicans just appeal to their own horrible weirdos who would vote for them anyway, and the “normie” swing voters find it all a bit confusing. That 40% of the country are assholes is probably true, but it’s still only 40%.

The Republican extended universe is actually quite weird. Because of the way political journalism is, it all sounds “normal” but actually [MAGA] are the weirdos! Enough people are like “what the fucking fuck” when you claim kids are shitting in litterboxes in schools because of pronouns.

Atrios at Eschaton blog, on why the GOP did historically bad in the mid-term elections