Well, the January 6th Committee finally gets its prime-time moment. As chilling as the testimony was, will it matter to voters? That’s where we begin before turning to California politics, the latest on guns and tidbits.
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MURPHY: Impressive hearings last night; full of facts well-presented. I think it’s fair to say these were the biggest and most important Congressional hearings since Watergate. As the Ragin’ Cajun James Carville would say: It was a COUP, stupid! A full-throated conspiracy to thwart American democracy itself. So yes, it was big and it will have an impact. But what sort of impact, and on what? So, down the nitty gritty hacky politics. My best guess is that this process will hurt Trump, and it should. The evidence puts him right in the middle of the plot and if any reasonable person ever thought Trump should be President again, these hearings make a gold standard case why that is an unacceptable, nightmarish idea that must be stopped. But it’s politics, so let’s move on unreasonable people, no shortage of whom vote. I still think it hurts Trump. Trump is already fading and the GOP polisphere… the 2024 primary horizon is filling with no shortage of new, improved Trump Lites… they sure taste great to the grassroots and they are less filled with crazy. So, I think this is going to be a good week for the Ron DeSantis and his smaller impersonators. “But they are just as bad!” I hear you scream… Perhaps, though I think they are darkly cynical, not crazy, which is at least a grim improvement. What is not going to happen from these hearings in the clearly wished for Democratic fever dream: an incensed nation rises up to smite the evil GOP this November. Maybe it should – I sure feel that way and have for a while – but the real world hamburger helper issues of $5 gas and exploding grocery costs at the checkout line is the dominant engine of this election and far too many voters are more focused on punishing Joe Biden and the Democrats for the sharp economic pain they are feeling right now, than for the vile Trump attempted at sedition back then. That is the hard fact of it all this year. And the Democrats would be well advised to understand that and avoid midterms overreach here. Let the facts drive the music, not the insatiable, nervous drumming Democratic hunger to find a magic way out of their midterm political nightmare.
GIBBS: Murphy, as much as I always hate to admit it, I think you are very right here. First, the hearings. They were powerful. They were produced well and by that I mean they weren’t a Congressional hearing where everyone gets five minutes to ask some question and there’s no through line or narrative. Instead, this was an opening argument that was succinct, evidence-based and damning. And yes, Donald Trump is now in the middle of a coordinated plot to overturn the election and to incite violence and mayhem to get his way, even if the safety of his Vice President is the price that must be paid. Liz Cheney was great. The video was jarring. Watching it all made my stomach hurt. I doubt you could have asked for a better opening. Most of all, this hearing left the viewer wanting to see and know more, which is key here. If this hearing had fallen flat, the audience would have shrunk quickly. The audience on television alone looks like 20 million (a pretty big number for something like this), with countless more seeing it digitally over a period of days.
Now, to the politics. I think this will get Democrats even more excited and fired up to participate in November, but, as Mike wrote, it isn’t a national tide turning game changer. Frankly, that would be hard at this point. And if you needed to know why that is, simply look at what last night’s headlines are competing with just today: Inflation is as bad as it’s been in 40 years and is getting worse, not better. Consumer confidence, as measured by the highly respected University of Michigan survey, got worse last month and is at a level not seen since the lowest points of the 1980 recession. And, finally, gas prices are at an all-time high and sit just one penny from a national average of $5 a gallon. This is the environment this election will exist in for the next five months. On one side, the terrible things Trump and his band of morons did to the country on January 6th plus the Supreme Court overturning a women’s right to choose vs. a slew of awful economic data that is getting worse not better.
MURPHY: So Rick Caruso won the LA primary 42 to 37% over Karen Bass (about 20% yet to come in, but the outcome will not change). The ink-stained wretch angle is Caruso spent a lot of money, which is true. But LA is expensive and reporters tend to forget that after 20 years in Congress and the State Assembly, Karen Bass has enjoyed a line of taxpayer funded flacks as long as Johnny Depp’s legal bills. And she is the Queen Democrat in a 65% Democratic city that voted for Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden in the 2020 primary. The real question is November, where a large electorate will settle the question. Caruso is working because he is a message candidate with a good message; Enough! Results for a Change! Less Crime! Less Homeless on the Streets! Bass is betting on party demography to save her. If she’s smart she’ll soon understand she needs more than that.
GIBBS: I can think of 41 million reasons why Rick Caruso is popular. I’m fairly certain if I spent $41 million, I can probably do pretty well in a mayoral race in Los Angeles too – even if I was a Republican. How about we run Murphy for mayor of Los Angeles next?
MURPHY: I get calls all the time. But I’m backing Caruso. This time… Now Gibbs, you’re a Congressional Hack… what was interesting to you in the State’s zillions of Congressional races. I think most of the GOP incumbents look good post primary. A few Repub incumbents had nutty Trumpy challengers and all lost. The one danger spot was the San Joaquin Valley (Central CA) where Rep. David Valadao finished second and heads to a November showdown. Valadao represents a very tough swing district and fell into second place behind the leading Democratic candidate, with a Trumper coming in a close third (Valadao voted for impeachment). This race is a real toss-up.
GIBBS: There were a lot of interesting storylines in addition to the LA mayor’s race. As you said Mike, some of those GOPers who had angered Trump were able to fend off more Trumpy challengers. Normally, you wouldn’t think of California as a sort of bellwether state in politics, but the Cook Political Report shows 8 House seats ranging from toss up to Lean Dem that in a bad year environmentally (like, say this year) where a Democrat would almost be assured re-election, but instead could find themselves in a really tough re-election fight. It gives you a real sense of the really poor shape Dems are in at this point in the cycle. In LA and in San Francisco, I think the not so subtle message to everybody is that voters want shit to work. They want communities to be safe. This is especially true post-COVID. People just want things to work the way they should. They expect to be able to walk down the streets and not be harassed. They expect the streets to be safe and clean. If a confluence of challenges that we know have been present for a while, like income inequality, housing affordability and an increasing number of homeless, then get a policy and begin to fix it. But, this idea that somehow these things either have to be competing or we're not doing what needs to be done to keep people safe, for instance – you don't need a political poll to tell you it's a dead bang loser. Public safety doesn’t have to compete with equity and racial justice.
I think and hope San Francisco is at least a good wake up call for Democrats to understand this lesson, because in the last year, we've now recalled Board of Education members who were far more focused on renaming schools than they were keeping them open during COVID and recalled the District Attorney who seemed not to be focused on making sure people had a sense of safety and security. That's a wakeup call for everybody. What I don't understand is why Democrats are positioning themselves to either be for safety or progressive reforms to criminal justice. They're simply not competing interests. They're not oppositional forces. They don't need to be. They became that when some decided to make this about “defund the police” (by the way, I will say this again, when people are having to explain what defund the police means, that’s all you need to know about the success of the movement. If you're explaining your slogan, you've already lost).
GIBBS: It was pretty remarkable to watch Matthew McConaughey from the White House Briefing Room the other day. He passionately challenged both sides to do something. To me, I think the important difference from this time versus 10 years ago is that getting something done is the measure of success, rather than getting everything done. There will be the political back and forth on this just like there is on every issue, but it was an eloquent plea not just for the lives of those young children of his hometown to matter, but a heartfelt plea for two parties to set aside differences and make some progress, an important message for everybody.
I originally was worried that the big problem here would be the timeline. I think the negotiators on both sides of the political aisle seem now to feel like they're working constructively together. That’s good. So, the timeline that we've seen used as a way of running out the clock in previous episodes is not as debilitating this time as it has been in the past. I think what's being set up as a challenge and is what they’re working on to potentially pass meaningful enough for everyone to go along. Without having seen the specific outlines yet, I still think the answer is probably yes, because I think in order to break the mindset that nothing getting done is acceptable, people have to be able to vote for and pass into law some needed progress and still get reelected.
If the example is Chris Jacobs, who comes out for meaningful policy change and then a week later can't even run for reelection, is the lasting political image in this legislative skirmish, then it's going to be really, really hard to get something through Congress. Now, that having been said, I still think there has to be a significant enough bar to make this meaningful. It has to be something that we feel has the potential to make a difference and thwart what we've tragically seen become all too common on our newscasts.
MURPHY: I’ll start with Evan McMullin and Utah coming alive! McMullin, as you recall, is running as an Independent against embattled GOP Sen. Mike Lee. The Utah Democrats – sort of the Washington Generals of the West – wisely didn’t nominate a Senate candidate this year; figuring moderate conservative and Day One Never Trumper McMullin – a former clandestine CIA officer who was in the thick of things in the Middle East and is running as a pro rule of Law pragmatist calling for sensible bipartisan action on key problems – was a vast improvement over Lee (who also has a credible GOP primary challenger). Now it appears to be a close race. And McMullin should get a lot more attention and raise more money (I gave, he’s a friend and I’m proud to support him. Join me!) This could be one of the most interesting races in the country.
GIBBS: Murphy, how about Michigan? They kicked several of the GOP gubernatorial candidates in Michigan off the ballot for faulty signatures and on the eve of the January 6th hearings, another one was arrested for being at the Capitol on January 6. It seems like we are conducting the election in Michigan as a process of elimination. This is like “Survivor” where every week somebody leaves the island and, eventually, we have a GOP gubernatorial candidate. It was hard to imagine that the caricature of the Michigan Republican Party after its signature fiasco could get any worse, but the FBI arrest of Ryan Kelley seems to portend that it can.
MURPHY: Sigh. I remember when the Michigan GOP was a crack outfit. Now it’s clown shoes…
GIBBS: As we’re focused on the tragic events of January 6th and the images of gun violence, we should also acknowledge the near tragedy involving Justice Brett Kavanaugh. No matter what you think of a public servant’s politics or decisions, I think one of the no brainers is making sure that people in public life have the security that they need is important.
MURPHY: Well said, Gibbs.
Have a great weekend!
Murphy and Gibbs