Mark Pincus: Biden Is Even Riskier Than Trump


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‘I’m Stuck Between the Woke Left and the Nativist Right.’ Plus. . .

The Trump veepstakes. The real scandal at The Washington Post. Willie Mays, RIP. Lonely hearts. And much more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Peter Savodnik on the Republican veepstakes; Joe Nocera on the legacy of Willie Mays; Olivia Reingold on Trump’s alien policy; lonely hearts; and much more.

But first, our lead story. 

Perhaps you’ve noticed that politics is a broken enterprise. The old rules that separated the personal and the political and that made civil disagreement possible are gone. A totalitarian spirit dominates—both on the left and the right. Many of us—including many Free Pressers—call themselves politically homeless, abandoned by the left and the right. Others don’t feel abandoned, but squeezed. More than squeezed, in the case of my colleague Rupa Subramanya

During the last few months of 2023, a Hindu temple in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, erected a statue of the Hindu demigod Hanuman. The 55-foot statue, which looms over its neighborhood, was built on grounds owned by the temple, paid for with private funds, and violated no building codes.

I’m a Hindu myself—an immigrant from India who came to Canada in 1998 to attend college. I became a journalist and later a Canadian citizen, eventually gaining a reputation as a reporter and conservative-leaning commenter. Like many of my fellow conservatives, I decried government overreach on Covid-19 policy responses, criticized the government of Justin Trudeau, and covered the excesses of the progressive left. I believe passionately in property rights, the rule of law, and the importance of free expression.

So I was shocked when I saw the torrent of outrage the Hanuman statue ignited among many Canadian conservatives, some of whom I had long viewed as friends but who now said the statue was offensive to “real” Canadians. 

I had met some of these people while reporting on the 2022 truckers’ protest in Canada. Back then, I had proudly defended their right to oppose vaccine mandates. Was I no longer acceptably “Canadian” to them because I was a Hindu who had immigrated 30 years ago? Continue reading. 

The Trump campaign recently released a list of names under consideration to be the Republican candidate’s running mate. Parking for a second the question of who would want the job (poor Mike Pence is probably in daily therapy), Peter Savodnik dives into the Trump veepstakes to assess the contestants’ chances and answer questions like: Is J.D. Vance too ambitious? Is Doug Burgum too rich? Is Tom Cotton too serious? And is Tim Scott too nice? 

Here’s Peter Savodnik’s guide to the men—and woman—who hope Trump will tell them: you’re hired.

  1. Our friend Matt Labash wants to Make America Boring Again. Of today’s overexcited politics, he writes: “I’m getting bored by all the excitement. My adrenal glands are shot. My outrage-ometer is on the fritz from overuse. I’ve come to pine for our politics being boring again.” (Slack Tide

  2. Citizens in high-income nations are growing less satisfied with democracy. In 2019, 56 percent of voters in a group of 12 developed countries said they were dissatisfied with the way democracy was working in their country. This year, that figure was 64 percent. (And the better system would be. . . ?) (Pew

  3. A new report has found that Yale has received at least $15 million from Qatari entities since 2012 but publicly reported only one grant, worth $284,668. Federal laws require American universities to list all foreign gifts and contracts that exceed $250,000. (Washington Free Beacon) And for more on the Qatari money corrupting U.S. higher ed, read Eli Lake’s October report for The Free Press: “Qatar’s War for Young American Minds.”

  4. More than 1,100 STEM students have signed a pledge not to work for Google or Amazon because of the firms’ contracts with the Israeli government. Note that these students do not work for, and do not have offers from, the companies. Can you conscientiously object to something no one is asking you to do? (Wired

  5. Philip Morris has suspended online sales of Zyn, its popular nicotine pouch product, after it received a subpoena from the D.C. attorney general’s office relating to compliance with a 2022 ban on the sale of flavored tobacco in the District. Our thoughts are with the bro community at this difficult time. (NBC)

  6. The cost of severe storms in the United States has increased significantly in recent years, and many outlets have reflexively pointed the finger at climate change. Patrick T. Brown sifts through the data and finds little to support that claim. (The Liberal Patriot

  7. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s recent Free Press essay, “We Have Been Subverted,” generated a lot of discussion, including some critiques. Writing in The Bulwark, Cathy Young argued that Ayaan’s account of the subversion of the West amounted to a “conspiracy theory.” Ayaan has hit back, arguing that she is no conspiracy theorist and that “the truth is more complicated than a conspiracy.” (Restoration)

  8. Climate activists vandalized Stonehenge in England on Wednesday. Two campaigners from the group Just Stop Oil covered the monolith, which has stood for 5,000 years, in orange powder paint. A spokesperson for English Heritage called the incident “extremely upsetting.” It’s also confusing. Aren’t these the people who want us to return to the Stone Age? (BBC

  9. Today’s teens may all want to be influencers when they grow up, but the social media hustle ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Last year, 48 percent of “creator-earners” made $15,000 or less, while only 13 percent made more than $100,000. (Wall Street Journal

  10. In additional statue news, a 26-foot effigy of Marilyn Monroe, in her classic billowing-dress pose, has riven Palm Springs. The Marilyn NIMBYs’ objections are nothing if not creative. “Marilyn was a nomad,” murmured one. “So why are we anchoring her, shackling her here?” (Slate)

A Debate: Was Legalizing Weed a Mistake? 

It’s been a little over a decade since recreational cannabis was first legalized in the United States. As of today, it is legal in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and Americans have never been more pro-weed. In May, the Biden administration moved to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I, where it sits alongside heroin and LSD, to Schedule III, a category of drugs that the DEA says have a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” 

But is legal cannabis really such a no-brainer? That’s the question debated by two experts and leading advocates in the field, one for and one against, on the latest episode of Honestly

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a physician and medical cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, thinks decriminalization has worked. Kevin Sabet, a drug policy adviser for presidents Clinton, Bush II, and Obama, disagrees. 

Listen as they hash it out, below or wherever you get your podcasts.

This week’s letters page includes a response to Robert Pondiscio’s proposal for removing ideology from the classroom. An Israeli rabbi listens to a debate about the war in Gaza on Honestly—but is interrupted by rocket fire. And readers respond to our prompt at the end of Larissa Phillips’s Saturday essay on farm camp: How did you spend your childhood? And what are the lessons school simply can’t teach you? Read it all here. 

→ The real scandal at The Washington Post: If there’s one media story being gossiped about in America’s newsrooms at the moment, it’s the drama surrounding the new management at The Washington Post. The gist is that the Post’s new British publisher, Will Lewis, and a second Brit who he has hired to edit the paper starting later this year, Rob Winnett, were once hard-charging Fleet Street reporters and editors who delivered scoops by doing murky things frowned upon on this side of the Atlantic. (For a good account of the culture clash at the heart of this story, I recommend fellow Brit Tom McTague’s latest for The Atlantic. “The UK press does contain an element of unseriousness alien to most U.S. newspapers,” he writes. “As a trainee at the tabloid Daily Mirror, I dressed up in a giant yellow chicken outfit to chase Conservative politicians around London.”) 

While everyone in American media is picking through what happened in London years ago, kudos to our comrades at The Washington Free Beacon for keeping their eye on the here and now. Ever since October 7, the Post’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas war has been consistently hostile to Israel. The Beacon’s Joseph Simonson offers an explanation, reporting that “six members of the Post’s foreign desk have previously worked for Al Jazeera, the Doha-based news outlet bankrolled in part by the government of Qatar, which is now sheltering Hamas’s top leaders.” 

That’s the same Al Jazeera that used to broadcast a weekly show hosted by Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who described the Holocaust as “divine punishment” and called for the “annihilation” of Jews. But don’t let any of that distract you from those dastardly Brits trying to turn around a newspaper that has lost 50 percent of its audience since 2020 and lost $100 million last year. 

→ Willie Mays, RIP: From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, baseball’s greatest era, Willie Mays was baseball’s greatest player. That was before football and basketball began to encroach on baseball as America’s pastime, when all the best athletes were baseball players, and when all the sports-crazed kids like me couldn’t wait for the afternoon paper to arrive so that we could scour the latest baseball statistics. That golden age saw such legends as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle in the prime of their careers. 

And yet Mays, with his combination of speed, power, daring, and defensive prowess, stood above them all. If you were on social media after his death was announced, you no doubt saw grainy black-and-white video of “The Catch,” his incredible over-the-shoulder, on-the-full-run grab during the 1954 World Series. In truth, he made plays like that regularly. He had a lifetime batting average over .300—a rare feat. At his retirement, his 660 home-run count was third only to Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. He was an All-Star 24 times. For most of his career, no player was more exciting to watch, not even Robinson.

But there is another aspect of his life that I’d like to dwell on. At the age of 17, Mays made his professional debut with the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues. Having grown up in Alabama during the Jim Crow era, Mays’ working assumption was that the Negro Leagues was all he could aspire to. “I thought that’d be the highest level I’d reach,” Mays told the co-author of his biography decades later. My dad used to take me to the games, so Rickwood Field [where the Black Barons played] meant a lot to me.” 

In 1947, however, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson, finally breaking baseball’s color barrier. Mays played three seasons with the Black Barons before being signed by the Dodgers’ rival, the New York Giants, in 1950. 

There would eventually be more than 50 Negro League players who made it to the major leagues—but there were so many others who never had that chance. How would the great catcher Josh Gibson have fared in the major leagues had he been able to play? His likely dominance is so universally accepted that in 1972, he was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. (His lifetime batting average was .372.) And there were others, too, plenty of them; there is little doubt that the best Negro League teams could have held their own against major league teams. But those players played before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, so they never had the chance to show the larger world what they could do.

Today, the St. Louis Cardinals will play Willie Mays’ old team, the San Francisco Giants, at, yes, Rickwood Field. The game is meant to “pay tribute to the Negro Leagues,” according to major league commissioner Rob Manfred. It was also originally meant to honor the Black Barons’ “greatest living player,” Willie Mays. Mays’ death just days before the game will only heighten the emotional impact of the day.

“It’s sure something that it worked out this way,” Dusty Baker, Mays’ close friend and a former Giants manager, told USA Today. “Willie’s presence here will be stronger than ever.” —Joe Nocera 

→ Trump talks aliens: Most voters are clear that the economy is their top priority for this November’s presidential election. Crime, the U.S.-Mexico border, and healthcare are all close seconds. But when Donald Trump, in his continued push to court Gen Z voters, joined YouTuber-turned-wrestler Logan Paul on his podcast Impaulsive this past week, all those issues took a backseat to aliens, cryptocurrency, and AI.

As Trump hosted Paul and his sidekick, influencer Mike Majlak, in a wood-paneled room at Mar-a-Lago, the former president revealed he has “never been convinced” that there are aliens roaming the universe, but “a lot of very good, solid people believe it’s true.” 

Then: “I know there are illegal aliens out there, but those are the ones that come through the border,” he deadpanned. “We have plenty of those.” 

Trump revealed he’s an isolationist on intergalactic politics, adding that because of the supposed speed of aliens, he wasn’t “going to test them” in a second term. 

Trump’s freewheeling, almost hour-long appearance on the show stands in stark contrast to Biden’s carefully stage-managed interviews and public appearances, including last weekend’s Los Angeles fundraiser that later went viral when the commander in chief apparently froze onstage before Obama shepherded him off—not the best look for a candidate who is desperately trying to prove his acuity. 

The trio wrapped up their conversation to film Trump’s second-ever TikTok—a video of him and Paul locked in a staring contest until Trump breaks out in laughter four seconds later. After trying to ban TikTok while in office, the former president joined the platform earlier this month in a move widely seen as an effort to win the youth vote. Polls already show him rising among the cohort, with the latest New York Times/Siena numbers revealing that Biden, who won the 18–29 vote by 24 points in 2020, has now slipped to only a two-point lead for that demographic.
Olivia Reingold

→ Banned for standing up for girls’ sports: In March, our friend Jennifer Sey, the former Levi’s exec and Covid-19 lockdown critic, told us she was starting an apparel company for women athletes, and since then she’s done exactly that. Her company XX-XY Athletics has put leggings, t-shirts, tank tops, and hats on the market, with both women’s (XX) and men’s (XY) collections. XX-XY Athletics counts its mission according to Sey as “protecting women’s sports and spaces and encouraging others to do the same.” 

“If you want your daughters to have the same opportunities you had, stand up,” a recent XX-XY ad says, adding, “If you don’t think it’s fair or safe to allow men to play women’s sports, stand up.”

It turns out that this is not the sort of thing one is allowed to say on TikTok. The Chinese-owned social media platform quickly banned the ad on the grounds that it “may violate TikTok’s advertising policies by featuring offensive content.” Sey posted on X, “When you run an ad standing up for women and girls’ sports, you get banned for life from @tiktok_us.” 

Sey, who was a champion gymnast herself, told me that the ads were on TikTok for less than a week before they were taken down—and that XX-XY’s account has been suspended from posting any ads on the platform. “They offered no reason for how we violated their policies,” Sey said. “Despite the fact that I find the ad quite uplifting, it’s anodyne.” (Watch it for yourself here.) 

Sey’s team will likely appeal TikTok’s decision, which has become a critically important platform for reaching young people. “Fifty percent of people under 30 are on TikTok,” she said. “You gotta fish where the fish are.” At the very least, Sey wants an explanation of what policy she violated. —Julia Steinberg

Another week, another two Free Pressers looking for love. If they sound like your type, drop them a line! And if you want to submit your own entry, drop us a line at

James Stanesic, 27, Austin, TX

My name is James Stanesic, and I am a 27-year-old Austinite. I was born and raised in Central Texas but only recently moved back after a handful of years in Colorado.

My life is a balance of family, hobbies, projects, and work. Hobbies I am drawn to tend to be pretty active, like fitness, cycling, sand volleyball, softball, archery, and hiking. As for work, I am an aerospace engineer but am taking a short leave from the corporate life to work on monetizing an engineering project of my own.

I would love to meet a woman who matches my positive, energetic outlook on life! Ideally, someone who will spend the day moving, sweating, and having thoughtful conversations with me all to earn a night of sinking into the couch with Sour Straws and Netflix. If that’s you, email me!

Emily, 29, Atlanta, GA

Hi, Free Press men, I’m 29 and turning 30 on Christmas Day. Like Jesus, I love strappy sandals, walking outside, and animals. Unlike Jesus, I’m a vegan former art student turned tax lawyer. My friends tell me there is no one else in the country who is both vegan (or who will even tolerate dating a vegan) and voted for Trump. Help me prove them wrong!

I am looking for someone who likes chihuahuas, freedom, film, vegan food, and red wine. Even better if you like yelling about income taxes over a drink or complimenting me on my designer bags (yes, I know leather isn’t vegan, but I’m not perfect. And I prefer Prada). I want kids, but not yet. Mostly, I just want to find someone who loves me for me and wants to hear me talk too loudly about my conservative, libertarian, and anarcho-capitalist views.

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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