Normal view

There are new articles available, click to refresh the page.
Today — 25 July 2024Main stream

Joe Biden’s Enormous, Contradictory, and Fragile Climate Legacy

25 July 2024 at 10:00

This story was originally published by and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The day after President Joe Biden said he would not seek reelection, his White House announced more than $4.3 billion in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency to communities to curb climate change, cut pollution, and seek environmental justice.

It’s a big announcement, but easily lost amid the thunderous presidential campaign news.

The grants will fund projects across the country that include decarbonizing freight, installing geothermal systems, and capturing fugitive methane emissions. According to the EPA, these grantees will cut US greenhouse gas emissions up to 971 million metric tons by 2050. That’s equal to the emissions of five million average homes over 25 years.

Amid all the political pandemonium, it’s remarkable that the administration is continuing to pump out new environmental initiatives. Climate has consistently been a high priority for the Biden administration, and this announcement proves a genuine commitment. Biden has the distinction of introducing the earliest bill in the Senate to address climate change, the 1986 Global Climate Protection Act. Humanity, though, has more than doubled its greenhouse gas pollution since then. As president, Biden has made dealing with global warming an even higher priority than it was during his last turn in the White House as vice president.

The United States is the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gasses and is currently second in annual output, behind China and ahead of India. So on the world stage, the US has a significant role, and activists say a responsibility, to nudge the global warming trajectory downward.

When he leaves office in January 2025, Biden will be able to credibly claim that he has done more on climate change than any other president and has been one of the most consequential decision-makers in the world for the future of the planet.

Biden’s climate change pledges aim to zero out US greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Center for American Progress

But while he’s done the most, it’s still not enough to get the US in line with Biden’s own climate change goals. Many of Biden’s environmental initiatives are still struggling to get rolling, and some activist groups are not satisfied with what he’s done.

And if Donald Trump wins in November, that progress will stall.

When Biden was one of nearly two dozen Democrats running for the top job in 2019, he proposed an extensive climate plan released in two installments that emphasized cutting greenhouse gas emissions by building up a robust US clean energy sector with $2 trillion in investment. He also laid out a legislative strategy and a list of executive actions he would take on his own, such as imposing tough methane leak restrictions on new oil and gas facilities, requiring federal government operations to procure clean energy, and imposing new efficiency regulations on appliances.

At the same time, Biden’s plan was seen as less ambitious than those of his competitors—Bernie Sanders called for $16.3 trillion in total—and he was criticized for declining to support a ban on fracking and for attending a fundraiser hosted by a natural gas company founder.

But since taking office in January 2021, Biden has demonstrated that at least part of his plan was realistic: He managed to tick many of the items on his to-do list that are directly under the president’s purview or from cabinet agencies.

He brought the US back into the 2015 Paris climate agreement, personally attended international climate talks, and committed the country to a more ambitious goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 while achieving net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050.

His administration enacted new fuel economy regulations for cars and trucks to encourage electrification. It set stringent caps on air pollution and carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants. It raised efficiency standards for stoves, refrigerators, and shower heads. It set zero-emissions targets for federal buildings, energy suppliers, and vehicle fleets, including placing orders for at least 45,000 electric mail trucks. It vastly expanded federal protections for public lands and established a Civilian Climate Corps to train workers to maintain them.

Perhaps Biden’s single most impactful climate action was signing the Kigali Amendment, an international treaty to phase out some of the most powerful greenhouse gasses. On its own, the Kigali Amendment would avert almost 1 degree Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century. On September 21, 2022, it cleared the Senate with bipartisan support, including 21 Republicans.

With Congress, Biden signed the trio of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. While climate change isn’t in their names, these laws mobilized billions of dollars in investments in clean energy, infrastructure, battery manufacturing, and building up supply chains. Together, they’re some of the largest investments in climate change mitigation in the world. Additionally, they’re structured as incentives, with no explicit penalties for carbon dioxide emissions.

Getting these laws passed was a bruising fight. Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act in its final form—with $370 billion for clean energy deployment—was a fraction of the size of the $1.75 trillion version that passed the House in 2021. The Democrats’ narrow majority in the Senate gave holdouts like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin leverage to chip away at its scope while securing more pot sweeteners for his own state. That in turn drew the ire of environmental activists who were anticipating a much more robust law.

Much of the IRA’s costs come in the form of tax breaks rather than new spending. “The IRA’s projected costs to the US federal budget are mostly reductions in taxes owed by US taxpayers or increases in federal payments to those taxpayers,” according to a Treasury Department analysis.

Still, the IRA remains the largest investment to deal with climate change in US history.

Biden has also had to navigate political rapids over the past four years and has ended up getting turned around on occasion.

For instance, Biden campaigned on banning new oil and gas development on public lands (on a page since deleted from his website), but in 2022, the Interior Department opened the door to new drilling lease sales. One example is the Willow project in northern Alaska, which the Biden administration greenlit last year, that could extract more than 600 million barrels of oil over 30 years.

Fossil fuel projects like this have led to some of Biden’s biggest climate contradictions.

On Biden’s watch, the US has become the largest oil and gas producer in history. US exports of natural gas hit a record high, especially after the administration stepped up deliveries to allies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even though the US is aiming to slash its domestic emissions, the country is on track to double liquid natural gas (LNG) exports by 2030. But Biden also imposed a pause on new liquefied natural gas export terminals 

America produces more oil than any country in history. Energy Information Administration

When desperate to tamp down inflation and smooth over supply chain disruptions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, the White House tapped the strategic petroleum reserve to help bring gasoline prices down. Biden has bragged about lowering gasoline prices. These lower prices tend to spur more driving, which in turn increases greenhouse gas emissions.

America’s fossil fuel bounties have put the Biden White House in the awkward position of taking credit for facilitating their production while simultaneously trying to curb their use.

Biden’s policies have also created friction within his climate goals.

His signature legislation, the IRA, has provisions mandating that cleantech companies build their products and supply chains in the US if they want to tap the money in the law. The provision has angered allies in places like Europe that want to sell products like solar panels and efficient appliances to US customers. Biden has also retained many of former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on foreign goods and is imposing new ones on cheap electric vehicles made in China by companies like BYD, currently vying with Tesla to be the largest pure EV maker in the world.

This protectionism for US companies raises prices for American buyers and means that the shift to clean energy is more expensive and slower than it needs to be. On the other hand, if cheaper cars and solar panels did enter the US market, they could get more Americans off of coal, oil, and natural gas at a faster pace.

The question now is whether US climate policies will continue to gain momentum, stall, or reverse. The main hinge point is who wins the next election.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, has her own history with tackling climate change as California’s attorney general. And with Biden’s endorsement, the Venn diagram of their climate policies will have a lot of overlap.

However, there are some big obstacles. Few Americans grasp how they can benefit from the programs in the IRA, and the money in the law has been slow to trickle out to build things like EV charging stations. Shortages of specialized labor and permitting issues have delayed big clean energy manufacturing projects. Energy demand is poised to grow as well, driven by population growth and technologies like artificial intelligence, and already fossil fuels are feeding some of that new appetite.

Biden’s policies are facing legal setbacks too. Republican state attorneys general are suing the White House to block new fuel efficiency regulations for cars and trucks. The Republican-led Supreme Court has also eroded the federal government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and with the recent reversal of the Chevron doctrine, agencies like the EPA will have much less leeway to craft environmental rules.

It’s also not clear voters will reward the effort. A majority of Americans support addressing climate change and deploying more clean energy, but it ranks as a much lower priority behind issues like crime and inflation. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in a survey conducted in April 2024, 37 percent of US voters consider climate change to be “very important.”

On the other hand, Trump, the Republican nominee, is openly disdainful of action on climate change. A key focus of his first turn in office was systematically undoing or blocking environmental regulations and promoting fossil fuels, going as far as removing the words “climate change” from government websites. Many of these rollbacks were stalled because they were poorly structured, blocked by courts, or undermined by bad staffing choices.

Conservative activists are working to ensure they don’t squander another opportunity in the White House to achieve their goals. The Heritage Foundation laid out a strategy for this in Project 2025, which aims to staff federal agencies with people who will reduce regulations and increase fossil fuel development. Though Trump has sought to distance himself from the plan, many alumni from his administration and campaign personnel were among the authors.

And there’s always the chance of another shock—a war, a pandemic, a depression—that could take the wind out of the sails of curbing climate change.

Despite this uncertainty, it’s increasingly clear that the turn toward cleaner energy is likely to endure. Worldwide, wind and solar are the cheapest sources of new electricity, and in some cases more cost-effective than existing fossil fuel sources. Market forces and climate policies are starting to have an effect, and according to some estimates, the world may be close to reaching peak greenhouse gas emissions, if it hasn’t already crossed this line.

Even with so many potential setbacks, some of the big changes Biden set in motion are likely to stick, as the cleaner, more efficient technologies become cheaper and more polluting sources of energy enter their final days. Even if Trump were to retake the White House, it’s likely that US emissions will continue to decline, albeit not as quickly as they would under a Democrat.

Changing this course took decades of persistent effort from scientists, engineers, leaders, and activists. Joe Biden deserves some credit for helping turn the rudder.

Joe Biden Says He Dropped Out of the Election to ‘Unite My Party’ Against Donald Trump

By: Gmaddaus
25 July 2024 at 00:42
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that while he believes his record merits a second term in office, he dropped his reelection bid to “unite my party” to confront a threat to American democracy. “Nothing can come in the way of saving our democracy. That includes personal ambition,” Biden said, before invoking a line from President […]

In Heartfelt Address, Biden Passes the Torch—and Reminds Us What’s at Stake

By: Inae Oh
25 July 2024 at 00:55

“I revere this office, but I love my country more.”

The line was perhaps the defining takeaway of President Joe Biden’s Thursday night address to the nation, his first since announcing his decision to drop out of the presidential race. Even though the president had the personal ambition to run again, he understood, with piercing clarity, that the White House carried stakes that transcended his burning conviction that he could win in the November presidential election.

“It’s been the honor of my life to serve as your president,” he said from the Oval Office, “but defending democracy, which is at stake, I think it’s more important than any title.”

“I’ve decided the best way forward is to pass the torch to a new generation.”

The remarks, heartfelt and unifying in tone, appeared to succinctly punctuate a decades-long career devoted to public office. Biden continued by praising Vice President Kamala Harris, whom he had endorsed to replace him on the presidential ticket, calling Harris “tough” and “an incredible partner.” He also framed Harris as deeply consequential to maintaining US democracy.

“We have to decide: do we still believe in honesty, decency, respect, freedom, justice, and democracy? In this moment, can we see those we disagree with not as enemies but as fellow Americans? Can we do that? Does character in public life still matter?”

The prime-time address offered a sharp contrast from the dark and menacing message Donald Trump and his allies, including his running mate JD Vance, have offered to American voters over the last week—even with Trump’s brief attempt to appear to be a more unifying character since his assassination attempt.

“The great thing about America is here, kings and dictators do not rule; the people do,” Biden said on Wednesday. “History is in your hands. The power is in your hands. The idea of America lies in your hands. We just have to keep the faith and remember who we are.”

Yesterday — 24 July 2024Main stream

“Shut Up, Asshole”: Democrats Want Delegates Frustrated by Gaza Policy to Just Fall in Line

24 July 2024 at 20:23

Last night, the Michigan Democratic Party held a call asking delegates to rally around Vice President Kamala Harris as the party’s nominee after President Joe Biden stepped out of the race. During the call, two uncommitted delegates—chosen by voters protesting against Biden’s failure to push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza—said they would not endorse Harris until they knew her policy on aid to Israel. According to a recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza, and only 36 percent are supportive.  

Delegate Abbas Alawieh, who is an organizer with the Uncommitted Movement, tried to explain his position on last night’s Michigan Democratic Party Zoom call. He says he was told to “shut up, asshole”—an incident which he says is symptomatic of anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism within the party. Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said the incident was “unacceptable,” and that “in this moment, we want to reiterate that our Arab American and Muslim brothers and sisters are welcome in this party.” 

Alawieh spoke to Mother Jones about what happened. 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What was happening on last night’s Michigan Democratic Party delegates’ call? 

I think the intention was to come out of it saying Michigan’s DNC delegates endorsed Vice President Harris. But there is the reality that 101,000 voters in Michigan voted “uncommitted.

We think this is a really important opportunity to unite the party and have Vice President Harris speak to the pain Arab American voters here in Michigan—anti-war voters here in Michigan—are experiencing. So I got on the call, and I was just trying to do my job. I feel a great responsibility to those 101,000 voters in Michigan to fulfill my end of the bargain. 

What were you trying to say, before you were interrupted? 

Chair [Lavora] Barnes, who was leading the meeting, asked if anybody had any comments. Several other people raised their hands and were recognized by the chair. I raised my hand and was recognized by the chair. 

“My hope is that our party can do better than this pattern of ridiculing fellow Democrats who are just trying to advocate for a policy that would keep people alive.”

I talked about how uncommitted voters here in Michigan are going to be a critical part of our strategy for beating Trump in November, and we need every vote we can get. That’s why, while we’re very excited about the possibility of this moment, uncommitted voters really need to hear from Vice President Harris, because as we’re talking, the bombs continue to drop on Palestinians using US tax funds. People in Michigan, especially Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in Michigan, are deeply in pain. We need to be able to re-engage them by engaging seriously with the demands that they’ve voted for.

And as I was saying that, this person, I don’t know who, unmuted.

You weren’t able to see them, you just heard their voice on Zoom? 

Yeah. Somebody unmuted, and said “shut up, asshole,” and something to the effect of “nobody cares about what you’re saying.” 

I don’t know what the latter part of the comment was, exactly, but the words “shut up” and the word “asshole” were very clear. I heard it. Everybody on the call heard it. And I was just taken aback. 

The next comment was from my fellow uncommitted delegate Rima Mohammad, who is Palestinian. She was visibly shaken up. And she was also speaking from a place of wanting to represent that we need to hear from Vice President Harris what her Gaza policy is.

What was your reaction to being interrupted like that? 

Honestly, I felt deeply disrespected. I felt hurt that there were Democratic electeds on this Zoom, people who I’ve heard speak passionately in defense of civility and respecting each other’s opinions—and nobody spoke up. That felt like a slap in the face to me. To be on the receiving end of explicitly anti-Palestinian vitriol, and to have the leaders of our party be silent about it. I guess it’s symptomatic of the larger problem of devaluing Palestinians and Palestinian life. 

My hope is that our party can do better than this pattern of ridiculing fellow Democrats who are just trying to advocate for a policy that would keep people alive. We should be able to make that case. Even if our Democratic Party leaders aren’t going to agree to stop sending bombs, the very least they can do is hear us without being completely silent when there are racist attempts to shut us down. 

News coverage this morning said that the Michigan DNC delegates “overwhelmingly” endorsed Harris. What does that “overwhelmingly” mean to you? 

“Overwhelmingly” is fair. But the two of us who are uncommitted delegates, we did not endorse Vice President Harris, because we need to hear from her first. My hope is that we can all support Vice President Harris and pivot to beating Trump. I need to hear more from her and her team about how she intends to engage with uncommitted voters. 

After the meeting, how did others react to the “shut up, asshole” incident? 

A reporter called me after the meeting, and said, “I talked to a delegate who said the uncommitted delegates hijacked the call.” That’s not what happened. I raised my hand and waited, like the other delegates. But to be accused of hijacking as an Arab American Democrat in Michigan, that’s not thinly veiled racism. It’s blatant racism.

To her credit, the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party followed up the meeting with a note to all the delegates addressing the situation, which said, “please remember that we’re a Democratic family, and all of us must be respectful of the differences within our family.” 

It sounds like you were not necessarily treated like a “member of the Democratic family” last night, though. 

I come from Dearborn, where, in the 1980s our longtime Mayor sent out campaign literature that said “let’s talk about the Arab problem.” And even today, 40-some years later, it still feels like sometimes in Democratic circles the fact that I am Arab and a Democrat is a problem. And that feels hurtful, in a moment when Arabs, Palestinians are being killed en masse. 

In my conversation with Chair Barnes after the call, she promised that she would raise our Uncommitted delegates’ request for a meeting to Vice President Harris’ team. So I’m hoping that our movement will be engaged with seriously, and not maligned or ignored.

How to Watch Joe Biden’s White House Speech Live Online

By: Atingley4
24 July 2024 at 17:00
President Joe Biden will address the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night, regarding his decision to drop out of the presidential race. Biden formally withdrew his reelection campaign and endorsed vice president Kamala Harris as the new democratic nominee on Sunday afternoon. He then announced that he would address the nation regarding the […]

The Pushback Against Netanyahu’s Visit to Congress

24 July 2024 at 14:20

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—erstwhile Philadelphian and “the worst leader in Jewish history since the Maccabean king who invited the Romans into Jerusalem over 2100 years ago,” according to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.)—is slated to address Congress today, less than a week after the International Court of Justice found Israel’s actions in the West Bank to be illegal and equivalent to apartheid, and ten months into Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, in which at least 39,000 Palestinians have been killed. 

In May, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson first floated the idea of bringing Netanyahu to speak. Johnson, who has led the passage of billions of dollars of military aid for Israel, has received over $100,000 from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

As Netanyahu comes to the US, he is facing tremendous pushback from various groups. Protesters have descended on the Capitol, with hundreds already arrested. Major unions have publicly pushed Democrats to halt aid to Israel, using the visit as leverage. And members of Congress—even the powerful Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—are skipping the address, publicly declaring a protest against Netanyahu’s refusal to end a war to which America has contributed billions of dollars.

Soon after Johnson’s announcement, the Palestinian Youth Movement and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), among others, began to call people from around the country to come to Washington DC for a massive street protest. Buses from at least a dozen cities left before dawn today.  

Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of USCPR, says that now is the time to push toward stopping the bombs. “As Israel kills a Palestinian every four minutes and escalates regional war, justice cannot wait another day,” he said. Since October, the US has sent thousands of bombs to Israel. “Americans protesting in the streets will certainly not wait for the next president while US-made bombs paid for with our tax dollars are dropping in Gaza,” he said.

Last night, rallies outside the Watergate Hotel where Netanyahu is staying called for the Israeli Prime Minister’s arrest. Protesters toted banners reading  “WAR CRIMINAL STAYS HERE” and banged pots and pans outside the hotel until late into the night. Earlier in the day, several hundred Jewish people staged a sit-in inside the Cannon Rotunda to demand an arms embargo. 

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has backed up the protesters’ demands, saying that “it is utterly disgraceful that leaders from both parties have invited him to address Congress. He should be arrested and sent to the International Criminal Court.” (Almost 40 governments and NGOs have filed requests with the ICC supporting the position that Netanyahu, along with other senior Israeli and Hamas officials, should be issued an arrest warrant.)

On Tuesday, seven labor unions, representing six million workers, signed a letter demanding that President Joe Biden stop sending weapons to Israel. 

Representatives of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), International Union of Painters (IUPAT), National Education Association (NEA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Auto Workers (UAW) and United Electrical Workers (UE), signed the letter. Between the seven unions, they speak for nearly half of all unionized workers in the US. The American Federation of Teachers was notably absent from the letter—but as of the 22nd, that union has divested from all Israel bonds, according to a release from a pro-Palestine group within AFT.

“We have spoken directly to leaders of Palestinian trade unions who told us heartwrenching stories of the conditions faced by working people in Gaza,” the seven unions’ letter said. “Large numbers of Palestinian civilians, many of them children, continue to be killed, reportedly often with US-manufactured bombs.” Stopping US military aid, the unions said, is therefore the quickest way to achieve a ceasefire. 

Some of those unions also represent graduate students. Young people who were beaten, arrested, and in some cases hit with felony charges due to their participation in Gaza Solidarity Encampments this past spring are represented by the UAW and SEIU. Members of the UAW—which called for a ceasefire in December but endorsed President Joe Biden the following month—plan to join the mass protest in the streets during Netanyahu’s address. (Editor’s note: Mother Jones workers are represented by UAW Local 2103.)

Multiple senators and congresspeople have also announced that they aren’t going to be attending Netanyahu’s speech: Sen Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will be among those finding something else to do. 58 Democrats skipped Netanyahu’s address to Congress nine years ago. Nearly 50 House and Senate Democrats have publicly stated their intention to do so this time.

Rep. Mark Pocan, who floated the idea of protesting inside the chamber during the Netanyahu speech, being coy about his plans for tomorrow. “I’m probably having a snickers bar,” he said me, when asked.

— Marc Rod (@marcrod97) July 24, 2024

Joe Biden, as he recovers from COVID, will be missing the speech, too. As will Vice President Kamala Harris, the likely Democratic nominee for president, whose staff have said she has another event scheduled in Indianapolis that she must attend. That’s not much of a break from mainstream Democratic policy. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Netanyahu should step down in March. And despite Harris’ absence from Netanyahu’s speech, she has made plans to meet privately with him that same week, as will Biden. (And, reportedly, former President Donald Trump will too.) 

A stronger signal of change than Harris’ absence from today’s speech may be her choice of advisors. The Wall Street Journal reported some Biden appointees who have guided his Gaza policy, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, aren’t likely to keep their jobs under Harris. 

Abuznaid of USCPR isn’t willing to wait for a Harris presidency to demand change. “If Vice President Kamala Harris is serious about winning the votes of the American people, who widely support a permanent ceasefire and stopping weapons to Israel, then she must prove it by taking action to push for an immediate arms embargo in her current role as vice president,” he said.

Harris, however, has not yet indicated what her own policy on Gaza will be—or whether she’ll depart from Biden’s fervent willingness to back Netanyahu in action if not always in press releases.

We are Not ‘DEI Hires’: Why Conservative Media’s Obsession With Minimizing Kamala Harris and POC’s Accomplishments Will Ultimately Fail

23 July 2024 at 22:30
Here we go again. Kamala Harris, former U.S. Senator and Attorney General of California and Vice President to Joe Biden, is the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for this year’s upcoming presidential election. She will face former president and convicted felon Donald Trump. And the best talking points conservative lawmakers, media and commentators can generate to criticize Harris is […]

Donald Trump Ridicules Kamala Harris’ Chuckle, Maybe Because He Almost Never Laughs

23 July 2024 at 22:55

“You can tell a lot by a laugh,” Donald Trump told supporters the other day, reviving a weird and arguably very sexist right-wing criticism of his new White House rival, Kamala Harris. “I call her Laughing Kamala. You ever watch her laugh?… She’s crazy. She’s nuts.”

Trump then proceeded to call Nancy Pelosi crazy, saying that “she turned on [Biden] like a dog.”

Like a dog.

But this is not a story about Trump’s deployment of specific types of insults against women (he bullies men, too), such as when he called Hillary Clinton “shrill.”

This is a story about laughter.

Shortly after Trump made his comments, his stalwart pal, the Fox News host Sean Hannity, piled on, saying on his show that voters “seem to detest” Harris on account of her readiness to laugh—or maybe because of the way she laughs? It’s hard to tell. But Hannity clearly aims to convince his viewers to detest Harris, if they don’t already.

Hannity: Here’s just one reason voters seem to detest Kamala Harris

*clips of Harris laughing*

— Acyn (@Acyn) July 22, 2024

Hearing Trump and his cronies insult Harris’ hearty chuckle—which his campaign also impugns in this anti-Biden ad—got me thinking about how I had never, ever heard Trump laugh.

It turns out I wasn’t the first journalist to have that thought. Several media colleagues have made this observation in the past, but if Trump wants to weaponize his opponent’s noteworthy laugh, we should probably talk about that. And Trump’s lack of one.

Suppose we take Trump’s statement at face value: You can tell a lot about a person from their laugh. Well, I’m just one guy, but to me Harris’ chortle suggests she’s a fun-loving individual. Is that such a terrible leadership trait?

Kamala Harris laughing compilation for 2 minutes straight

— all reaction videos (@allreactionvids) November 27, 2022

Laughter is pretty much universally seen as positive. Indeed, the list of prominent people who have spoken and written of the value of laughter is long. It includes Catherine the Great, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Robert Frost, Kahlil Gibran, Martin Luther King Jr., William Shakespeare, Gloria Steinem, Virginia Wolfe, and on and on. Perhaps more relatable to Trump would be Andrew Carnegie, who is credited as saying: “There is little success where there is little laughter.” 

Less relatable for him, perhaps, would be this quote from W.E.B. DuBois: “I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.”

“It stayed with me, that I’ve never seen him laugh. Not in public, not in private…,” James Comey said. “I never saw anything that resembled a laugh.”

What does it mean when one lacks this gift? I emailed Bandy X. Lee, an outspoken psychiatrist Mother Jones profiled in 2022 whose new book is titled, The Psychology of Trump Contagion: An Existential Threat to American Democracy and All Humankind, to get her take.

Trump’s “rigidity and lack of flexibility, deriving from a state of pathology, appear to underlie his lack of humor more than anything else,” Lee replied. “In other words, it is not just a difference in style but a defect. This may belie his ‘entertaining’ persona, through which he makes others laugh, but this is the ‘charming’ façade of a dangerous personality with predatory intent, not someone with true leisure of mind who can laugh at reality.”

Trump’s estranged niece, the psychologist Mary Trump—whose 2020 family memoir, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, was a huge best-seller—also touched on the subject of Donald’s mirthlessness in a Slate interview with journalist Virginia Heffernan. When Heffernan asked Mary whether she thought her Uncle Donald was happy, she replied:

There’s no way he could be happy because the myths that have been created about him and that he’s perpetuated and believes about himself are always in constant danger of disintegrating. On some deep level, he knows that. He’s very much always living in the moment. So how can you be happy?

And how can you be happy if you don’t laugh or appreciate humor? What that says to me, because my grandfather also didn’t laugh, is that laughing is to make yourself vulnerable, it’s to let down your guard in some way, it’s to lose a little bit of control. And that can’t happen. That is not allowed to happen.

And here’s another quote, from the acclaimed author Maya Angelou. “Don’t trust people who don’t laugh,” she once told a crowd at the University of Buffalo in New York, adding, “I don’t.”

In a 2018 interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos, the former FBI Director James Comey reflected on this unusual trait of his former boss, Donald Trump, who seems to enjoy making supporters crack up, but rarely does so himself. “I was struck by it. So struck by it, it stayed with me, that I’ve never seen him laugh. Not in public, not in private…,” Comey said. “I never saw anything that resembled a laugh.”

After Trump fired Comey, that thought stuck with him, he said, “So I went and tried to find examples of videos where he’s laughing and I could only find [what] really wasn’t a genuine laugh.

I looked around, too. Donald Trump is among the most filmed and scrutinized people on the planet, so if he laughed a lot we would know about it. But he really seldom does, publicly anyway. I could find only a small number of clips, and in most of them he only sort of laughs, or laughs briefly. There are even fewer in which his laughter seems genuine—such as this one, wherein Jimmy Fallon roasts Trump pretty hilariously, and who wouldn’t crack up in that situation?

But what seems to prompt the lion’s share of his scant public laughs should give voters pause. I’m all for inappropriate levity, but it’s problematic when so much of a powerful man’s laughter involves mocking people or laughing at someone else’s misfortunes. In this clip, he laughs when a rallygoer yells out that we should shoot migrants coming across the southern border.

I cannot vouch for the veracity of this next clip, but Trump seems to get a good laugh at an impersonator mocking President Joe Biden over his rally sound system.

In this one he appears to laugh at his supporters chanting—not of Hillary Clinton, but of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who had severe cognitive impairments—”Lock her up!”

And here is perhaps his most genuine laugh of all, a clip that takes us back to where we started: a powerful woman being equated to a dog.

But as Kat Abughazaleh, our video essayist, pointed out recently, the right doesn’t yet seem to have come up with a better line of attack on Harris than “she laughs too much.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed Maya Angelou as 86 years old. Angelou died at age 86, in 2014.

Before yesterdayMain stream

Kamala Harris Memoir Soars to Top of Charts Following Presidential Nomination

By: Atingley4
23 July 2024 at 18:55
Kamala Harris’s 2019 memoir “The Truths We Hold” has soared to the top of bestseller lists once again following her presidential nomination this week. The current vice president is now the leading Democratic nominee after Joe Biden officially withdrew his reelection campaign on Sunday afternoon. Renewed interest in political figures’ memoirs during their campaigns is […]

George Clooney Praises Joe Biden Dropping Out and Endorses Kamala Harris After Urging President to End His Campaign: ‘He Is Saving Democracy’

23 July 2024 at 12:44
George Clooney is praising Joe Biden for dropping out of the 2024 presidential race against Donald Trump. The Oscar-winning actor made headlines on July 10 for publishing an op-ed in The New York Times in which he urged Biden to end his campaign following his disastrous performance in the first 2024 presidential debate. Now, Clooney […]

Stephen Colbert Retires His ‘Late Show’ Joe Biden Age Jokes — But Promises to Repurpose Them as ‘Donald Trump Old’ Bits

23 July 2024 at 01:24
A day after President Joe Biden dropped out of the 2024 presidential race, the host behind “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” spent part of his Monday night episode’s opening monologue recounting Biden’s accomplishments in office. “I believe he has been a great president,” Colbert told his audience. “He steered this country out of a […]

Hollywood Donors Feel ‘Tremendous Enthusiasm’ for Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign, but Anger at Katzenberg Lingers Over Biden Fundraising

22 July 2024 at 22:37
Say it ain’t Joe. Over the past three-and-a-half weeks, Hollywood’s political donor class has been calling publicly and privately for President Joe Biden to step down from the top of the 2024 Democratic ticket. With his bombshell decision on Sunday, the town’s most active check-writers have their wish. But the sense of elation quickly gave […]

Nancy Pelosi Did What She’s Always Done

22 July 2024 at 17:47

In the month that followed President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate with Donald Trump, it has sometimes been hard to escape the conclusion that, for all the warnings that the Republican candidate was an existential threat to democratic governance who must be defeated in November, many of the people tasked with stopping him really didn’t seem to feel that way. You did not expect much different from Rep. Jared Golden, a Blue Dog co-chair who represents a Trump-leaning Maine district. But the lack of real fear or urgency was the unspoken, or sometimes spoken, subtext of so many stories. The sorts of ambitious Democrats who might, all things being equal, want to nudge Biden and challenge Trump themselves, were waiting until 2028. Someone described as a “senior House Democrat” told Axios, “We’ve all resigned ourselves to a second Trump presidency.” If there was one Biden comment that stung more than all the others, it was his response to a question from George Stephanopolous during his first post-debate interview about how he’d feel in January if Trump went on to win. 

“I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did as good a job as I know I can do,” Biden said, “that’s what this is about.”

But not everyone was as resigned to a Democratic loss as that senior House Democrat. While Biden’s stubbornness exacerbated liberal frustrations with the party’s gerontocracy, one of the most persistent and influential voices in persuading him to pass the torch turned out to be a Democrat who had already done so—the 84-year-old former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A Politico story on Monday offered details on the San Francisco congresswoman’s pressure campaign, which she was reportedly prepared to escalate:  

Senior Biden aides were bracing for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who’d worked behind the scenes to encourage others in the party toward the kind of collective action that might finally push the president to end his campaign, to go public this week and possibly even disclose Democratic polling clarifying Biden’s dire political straits.

“Nancy made clear that they could do this the easy way or the hard way,” said one Democrat familiar with private conversations who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “She gave them three weeks of the easy way. It was about to be the hard way.”

Pelosi’s efforts to marshal support within her caucus for a new candidate is a remarkable and fitting capstone to a career that has been spent doing some variation of what she did these last few weeks: assembling just enough of a quorum to move the party’s agenda forward.

The former speaker’s skill as a herder of cats is easiest to appreciate if you simply look at the opposition. It has been 21 years since she first became the figurehead for Democrats in the House. (She is now merely an extremely influential emerita.) In that period, Republicans have gone from Dennis Hastert to John Boehner and Eric Cantor, to Paul Ryan, to Kevin McCarthy, to Mike Johnson. I can think of three extended periods in which the caucus was struggling to decide on anyone at all. Because of the intransigent House Freedom Caucus, House Republican leadership has been largely unable to function for about a decade. Anyone who has ever watched a Republican general-election campaign ad understands that Pelosi’s longevity could be a liability too. But that was sort of the deal you got: It is hard to keep a caucus together, and no one in American politics was better at it.

Pelosi’s closest parallel is Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who first took over the Senate Republican conference in 2007, the same year Pelosi first became speaker. But where McConnell could never bring himself to meaningfully rebuke Trump—not even when the ex-president was at his political low point, following January 6—Pelosi ultimately chose to use what leverage she had to drive Biden from the race.

That Pelosi picked this fight with Biden is a testament to the fact that even on her way into the sunset, she’s still got it. But it’s also a recognition of how many legacies are at stake. Democrats spent more than a decade digging out from the wreckage of 2010. You don’t just move on from an electoral wipeout, and Pelosi’s legacy is on the line this fall too. Trump has promised to revisit the Affordable Care Act, which he was one Senate vote away from repealing in 2017. He wants to roll back the Inflation Reduction Act, which included landmark investments in climate adaptation and green energy. (Trump is particularly upset about the law’s electric-vehicle mandate.) Roe is already gone. Republicans are coming for the civil service and the administrative state. Obergefell could be on the chopping block. He is poised, in other words, to turn the Obama and Biden eras into historical footnotes and render much of Pelosi’s life’s work obsolete.

Faced with that choice, Pelosi chose to go down fighting for her legacy. And by bowing out to a younger and healthier next-in-line, Biden did too.

Joe Scarborough Says Donald Trump and Republicans Are ‘Freaking Out’ Over Joe Biden’s Withdrawal: ‘Suddenly, He’s the Oldest Guy in the Race by a Long Shot’

22 July 2024 at 11:18
In a new episode of “Morning Joe” on Monday, host Joe Scarborough shared his thoughts on Joe Biden officially dropping out of the presidential race, saying that he thinks Donald Trump and Republicans are now “freaking out.” “I’ve heard from inside the Trump campaign for some time right now that the one thing Donald Trump […]

Biden’s Exit and the 2024 Election Are Outdoing the Drama of ‘Veep’ and ‘Scandal’

21 July 2024 at 23:18
A decade or so ago, the hottest trend in television was imagining what it might look like if politics became unfathomably chaotic. From the murderous hijinks surrounding the Fitzgerald Grant administration on “Scandal” to the skullduggery that allowed Frank Underwood to climb the federal government like a ladder on “House of Cards” to the whipsawing […]

Abortion Rights Advocates See Harris as an Ideal Messenger

21 July 2024 at 22:03

On Sunday, abortion rights advocates got some rare good news. After President Joe Biden announced he would not seek reelection this November, he endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic nominee.

Harris has been the administration’s strongest defender of abortion rights post-Dobbs—direct and consistent in her support. She has taken Trump to task for the fallout of overruling Roe; she has warned of Republicans’ ability to enact a nationwide abortion ban if Trump is re-elected; and she has traveled the country on what the White House called a “reproductive freedoms tour” to highlight the harms of abortion bans—which included a stop at a Minnesota Planned Parenthood, making her the first VP known to have ever visited an abortion clinic while in office.

Harris has also spoken out about the connections between abortion restrictions and the maternal mortality crisis in America. With abortion rights now a winning issue for Democrats, reproductive rights experts say a potential Harris-led ticket could energize Democratic voters and protect the further erosion of abortion rights if Harris is elected.

While it remains to be seen whether Harris officially clinches the Democratic nomination, having a nominee who shows strong support for abortion rights could benefit the ticket. Polls show the majority of Americans support abortion access and disapprove of the Dobbs decision, and about one in eight voters say abortion is the most important issue in their vote.

“She understands that reproductive rights and justice is not simply about securing access to abortion,” Melissa Murray, NYU Law professor and leading reproductive rights scholar, told me, adding that Harris also “recognizes the way in which the assault on democracy and the assault on reproductive freedom go hand-in-hand.”

The same so-called leaders passing Trump Abortion Bans across the country have been silent on the issue of Black maternal mortality—the hypocrisy abounds.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 16, 2024

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization’s advocacy arm, said in a statement on Sunday, “we know that she will continue to fight like hell to rebuild a fundamental right that was stripped away.” Jessica Mackler, president of the group EMILYs List, the PAC that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion, said in a post on X, “This election will be fought and won on the issue of reproductive freedom, and [Harris] has been a pro-choice champion her entire career. She is well-positioned to turn out the voters we’ll need to win this election, especially women, voters of color, and young voters.” (EMILYs List also endorsed Harris on Sunday.) The advocacy group Reproductive Freedom for all said: “There is nobody who has fought as hard for abortion rights, and she is the candidate who can defeat Trump.”

Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, added that she thinks voters will also see Harris as a more effective messenger on abortion rights than Biden: “Being a woman, I think she understands and can empathize with having her bodily autonomy and those rights taken from her.”

But gender is not the only difference between Harris and Biden on abortion rights. A devout Catholic, Biden always seemed less comfortable articulating a full-throated endorsement for abortion rights, often avoiding even saying the word and instead professing to support “a woman’s right to choose.”

“I think for a lot of reasons—generational, religion—Joe Biden was a more reluctant standard-bearer for the cause of reproductive rights and justice,” Murray said, “and I don’t think Kamala Harris is reluctant at all—I think she has embraced these issues wholeheartedly and steadfastly.”

Harris has called out the threats posed by Project 2025, the initiative led by dozens of conservative groups and spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, which recommends the Department of Justice in the next conservative administration prosecute “providers and distributors of [abortion] pills.” In her first statement after Biden endorsed her as the nominee, Harris said, “I will do everything in my power to unite the Democratic Party—and unite our nation—to defeat Donald Trump and his extreme Project 2025 agenda.”

Still, some say Harris could help the Democrats go even further in her support of abortion rights if she winds up as the nominee. Rachel Rebouché, Dean of Temple Law School and a leading reproductive rights scholar, said her campaign “could address Comstock head on” and highlight the right’s threats to enshrining fetal personhood in the law and rolling back medication abortion access.

But regardless, Harris is already a stronger candidate for abortion rights advocates than Biden ever was. “She actually talks about reproductive rights,” Rebouché said, “and she’s unafraid to talk about abortion.”

Kamala Harris Launches Presidential Bid: ‘My Intention Is to Earn and Win This Nomination’

By: Gmaddaus
21 July 2024 at 20:08
Kamala Harris has launched her campaign for the White House, after President Joe Biden stepped aside Sunday under pressure from party leaders. The vice president has Biden’s endorsement, and is unchallenged as yet for the Democratic nomination, which will be formally decided at the Aug. 19 convention in Chicago. “I am honored to have the […]

Mark Hamill, Kathy Griffin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and More Hollywood Reactions to President Biden’s Decision to Drop Out: ‘He Restored Honesty’

21 July 2024 at 19:03
President Biden’s decision to step down from the 2024 presidential campaign has elicited a wave of support from Hollywood. Familiar faces from Biden’s campaign trail resurfaced to show their agreement with the President’s decision and reinforce their support of the Democratic party. Many were exceedingly vocal about their desire for him to step aside and […]

Biden Decision Surprised Most TV News Networks: How CBS, MSNBC and More Scrambled to Cover Bombshell

21 July 2024 at 19:00
Many of them knew it was coming, but not exactly when. The nation’s big TV-news outlets appear to have been caught flat-footed by President Joe Biden’s Sunday announcement that he would end his 2024 campaign for the White House, with many top anchors not visible on screen in the minutes after the president dropped his […]