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Nikki Haley speaks at a town hall campaign event at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire, on December 28, 2023. (Joseph Prezioso via Getty Images)

TGIF: Take Me to Our Leaders

Nikki Haley’s slavery slip-up. Maine bans Trump from the ballot. Elizabeth Warren has a yen for YIMBYs. Plus, Casey DeSantis for president.

My big update is that more and more I’ve been encountering readers in real life as my family and friends discover this newsletter, which is alarming. How did they find this? How much have they seen? This is my private time. Anyway, Happy New Year! This is a shorter one, since there’s not a ton of news, which is good.

Biden really doesn’t want to get into a war with Iran: And Iran is testing out how serious that commitment is by lobbing a pitter-patter of attacks on American forces around the world. On Christmas Day, an Iran-backed militia attacked an American air base in Erbil, Iraq. In response, America did small, “necessary and proportionate strikes” on that militia’s facilities in Iraq. The Biden administration is trying to keep this low-key. Remember, Iran is our friend in the Obama-Biden doctrine, which is why we need to unfreeze their assets and probably let them build just a few nukes. That’s the new red line. 

An article from November counts at least 151 attacks on Americans in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed proxies this year alone. Now Iran is threatening to shut down shipping through the Mediterranean Sea unless America adheres to their demands. This would be a major disruption to global commerce, which no doubt will be met by necessary and proportionate strongly worded letters from the White House. 

→ What Chinese spy balloon? Remember the Chinese spy balloon floating across America? Remember how quickly it fell out of coverage? It was a little weird, sure. Great meme material, but not much else. 

Well, thanks to a new NBC News investigation, we now know that the Biden administration actually tried to keep the balloon secret—from the American public of course (I respect that), but also from Congress. From NBC: “Administration officials at first hoped to conceal the balloon’s existence from the public, and from Congress, according to multiple former and current administration and congressional officials.” The spy balloon was apparently designed to blow up after it finished reconnaissance, so America was even doing China a favor by shooting it down rather than capturing it. I get wanting to avoid unnecessary wars, but I’m not sure if allowing ourselves to be bullied this much by Iran and China is the way. All I can say is if my War Queen Hillary was in office, which I genuinely pine for daily, things wouldn’t be like this (i.e., I’d be drafted to go neutralize the spy balloon and immediately get killed). 

→ Trumpo kicked off another ballot: Maine election officials have banned former president Donald J. Trump from appearing on the Republican primary ballot, joining Colorado in protecting voters from democracy. Both states cite the Fourteenth Amendment, which bans someone who’s engaged in an insurrection from running for office. I guess the debate is just over the definition of insurrection. January 6 was a lot of things. It was terrible and strange. It was a riot. But the idea that it was a formal attempt to gain control of the U.S. government is crazy to me. Anyway, now we wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in. When Trump was president, there was a lot of panicked talk about “unprecedented” things and “norms” being violated. I gotta say, banning the leading opposition candidate from the ballot is pretty norm-breaking and unprecedented. . . 

→ Families stuck at the airport will embrace peace: How can you possibly celebrate Christmas this year when there is a war between Israel and Hamas? Also, maybe if I prevent you from flying home, you’ll like my cause more? Those are the questions asked by the pro-Palestine protesters who blocked Christmas travel at LAX, JFK, and Chicago’s ORD for a few hours this year. They gathered en masse in these cities, marched into the road, and stopped cars on the way to Departures, holding up signs calling for “Peace in Gaza” and “Ceasefire Now” (apropos of nothing, Hamas again rejected a cease-fire deal from Israel this week, since it didn’t include the actual demand here: Israelis self-deporting from the Middle East). Anyway, eventually police pulled the protesters off the roads. But not before a bunch of people dragging their luggage, saddled with tote bags and car seats, had to abandon their Ubers, swat away the banners, and hop the median to try and make it to their flights. Taken at its most generous, these folks want to call attention to the extraordinarily sad situation in Gaza and the toll this war is taking on civilians there. I’m just really not sure how this action gets closer to that. As a woman who just flew with a toddler—really, I’m no hero, I’m just like you, only braver—every second of air travel I am in a heightened, anxious, and yes, warlike state. If you made me miss my flight, you’d need to really #prayforpeace. My clogs are solid wood and I know what to do with them. 

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