Hello and welcome to the glorious and god-blessed end of the week, which never seems to come soon enough! I’m Nick Gillespie, an editor at large at the libertarian Reason, subbing for the vacationing Nellie Bowles. If you don’t like what you read below, please complain directly to management. I only work here. And by work, I mean “quiet quit.”
→ Trump indicted in Florida in classified docs case: Donald Trump took to his Truth Social network last night to announce that he will appear in federal court on Tuesday in Miami. True to form, he managed to squeeze in self-congratulatory claims about his past electoral performance before proclaiming his innocence, writing, “I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our Country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!”
The indictment—which makes him the first president to be charged with a federal crime—is sealed, but Trump’s lawyer told CNN “the charges include false statements, conspiracy to obstruct and willfully retaining documents in violation of the Espionage Act.” How these new charges (and looming possible charges of election interference in Georgia) will affect the former president’s standing in relation to other Republican candidates is unclear, but if past is prologue, his polling will spike upward.
→ This time, blame Canada! As I write this from my perch in lower Manhattan, the daytime sky is an eerie, bright, funky yellow-orange and it smells like a campfire during the End Times. For once, this isn’t because of anything New Yorkers, or even Americans, have done. It’s Canada’s fault; wildfires in Ottawa and Quebec are creating atmospheric mayhem down this way that won’t vanish until the weekend at the earliest. Several Broadway shows shut down due to the air quality in New York, which is currently the worst on the planet.
After years of benefiting from mostly pleasant Canadian exports (William Shatner, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Steven Pinker, Wayne Gretzky, Molson Golden, and poutine immediately come to mind), this just doesn’t feel right. Twenty-four years ago, Matt Stone and Trey Parker released South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which featured the Oscar-nominated song “Blame Canada,” a tune surely on the lips of everyone in the affected parts of the Northeast. Here are some of the ghostly (ghastly?) images captured during the haze, with #nofilter, as they say in Instagramese:
→ Will the last Republican NOT to run for president please turn off the ice machine? In recent weeks, all manner of GOP presidential hopefuls have tossed their hats into the ring, including two-time popular vote–loser and former president Donald Trump, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (interviewed by Bari here), and current South Carolina senator Tim Scott (interviewed by Bari here).
This past week saw what Politico’s Jack Shafer referred to as the “Republican clown car” get more crowded still, especially with vocal Trump critics. Former VP and Indiana governor Mike Pence is in and so is former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (the latter is seeking the Harry Potter swing vote by likening Trump to Voldemort). But the real star of this new batch of recruits is plainly North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, the most exciting export from the “Peace Garden State” (who knew?) since Lawrence Welk bubbled his way out of the tiny town of Strasburg 100 years ago. Burgum runs a state with fewer than 800,000 residents and calls himself “a new leader for a changing economy.” But give this much to him: his state has the fourth highest per capita GDP among all states and territories, and $94,000 (see Nominal GDP per capita on the chart in the link) goes a lot further in Bismarck than in D.C., Massachusetts, or New York, the places that made the top three. Here’s his pitch:
Of course, the unknown Burgum’s upbeat persona and suspiciously white teeth will get him only so far (read: not very far at all). As Shafer points out in his Politico column, having lots and lots of similar or long-shot candidates in the race clearly benefits Trump, who remains sui generis and way, way ahead in polling so far. “The 2016 candidate pile-up made it difficult for individual candidates—other than the rambunctious provocateur Trump—to distinguish themselves,” writes Shafer, implying history might be repeating itself. New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu, who pulled the plug on a possible run, seems to agree, telling CNN that “if we do what we did in 2016, you’re gonna have somebody win this nomination with 35% of the Republican support. That’s not where we should be as a party. That’s not where anybody wants to be.”
→ Joe Biden’s popularity has fallen, and he can’t get up: In last week’s TGIF, Nellie noted that the octogenarian President Biden took a couple of serious falls in plain view. A very public collapse by Jimmy Carter during a 1979 fun run and George H. W. Bush barfing on the Japanese prime minister in 1992 helped firm up the idea that those guys should be one-termers. Biden’s tumbles and bespoke word salads certainly aren’t helping his approval ratings, which remain stuck in the low 40s. In fact, his approval ratings have been very similar throughout his term to Trump’s, and we know how that worked out for the Liege of Mar-a-Lago. It must be worrying to Biden that his main Democratic challenger, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., seems to be maintaining or even gaining traction while pushing conspiracy theories and a hardcore anti-vaccine line, including the idea that his father was not killed by convicted murderer Sirhan Sirhan. (Read Peter Savodnik’s story about RFK Jr. here.)
As a headline in The Hill puts it, “RFK Jr.’s rising profile sparks Democratic jitters.” A snippet:
“Democrats would be foolish to mock or belittle RFK Jr. Every time we make fun of those who hold fringe positions, we lose,” said Michael Ceraso, a Democratic strategist and former campaign aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The Democratic Party acting smug never works.”
→ Yet another presidential contender! It also shouldn’t comfort Team Biden that gadfly academic and hip-hop artist Cornel West, who resigned from Harvard two years ago amid a bitter tenure dispute in which he denounced “our market-driven universities,” is also running for president, promising to bring “truth and justice” to the political table.
West is running as a representative of the “People’s Party” and his agenda is cookie-cutter progressive (Medicare for All, “true democracy,” etc.). While he certainly doesn’t pose the sort of threat to Biden that RFK Jr. does, the plain fact that a public intellectual like West is running against a very liberal incumbent whose latest budget proposal would have massively increased taxes and spending is a sign that things seem more than a little unsettled. Maybe it’s all that Canadian smoke and those creepy yellow skies that have me mumbling lines from T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (“Unreal city/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn”), but the presidential election season already seems kind of apocalyptic—and the Libertarian Party is a year away from selecting its candidate!
→ CNN head severed: Chris Licht is out as the head of CNN after just a little more than a year at the helm. The boot came one week after a devastating profile of Licht by Tim Alberta in The Atlantic. “Licht’s departure capped a tumultuous year for CNN, marked by layoffs, shrinking profits, historically low ratings, the firing of two anchors, and rock-bottom employee morale.” That’s how CNN reported the news.
→ Tucker is back! Speaking of displaced persons, on June 6, Tucker Carlson released the first episode of his Twitter show, which features a diatribe against the American media’s love of Volodymyr Zelensky and, among other failings, its resolute lack of curiosity about UFOs (which have been rebranded as UAPs or “unidentified anomalous phenomena”).
Tucker’s second episode, which (I kid you not) hops, skips, and jumps from Nazis to Barack Obama’s purportedly “strange and highly creepy personal life” to the BLM demonstrations during the summer of 2020, is live here. Enjoy it while you can, as Fox News, which pulled Carlson off the air back in April, is claiming the new show is a violation of his contract. Mediaite reports that the cable giant is threatening legal action against its former star host.
→ House hearings on UFOs! Where the media is slow to act, the Republican House is quick to pounce! The House Oversight Committee, led by James Comer of Kentucky, has announced hearings in the wake of allegations by a former intelligence officer who says the government has been hiding remains of non-human aircraft for decades. And you thought the debt ceiling talks were divisive.