Even Trump’s Pardons Are Selfish

Clemency doesn’t work when the president can’t distinguish between justice and toadyism.

Leading The Bulwark…

Even Trump’s Pardons Are Selfish

MONA CHAREN: Clemency doesn’t work when the president can’t distinguish between justice and toadyism.

🎧 On the Pods… 🎧

Bill Kristol: Why I'm Still Alarmed

On today’s Bulwark podcast, Bill Kristol joins Charlie Sykes to discuss why we should be alarmed about Trump’s 11th hour pardons, and why Jeffrey Rosen taking over for Bill Barr at DOJ concerns him.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Beg to Differ will be published tomorrow, instead of Friday.

For Bulwark+ Members… 🔐

The Next Level Holiday Spectacular 🔐

A super-sized Christmas special, featuring Trump’s Pardon Buckets! John Thune! Yesterday’s Man! And more!

The Triad: The "Law & Order President" Is a Fraud 🔓

JONATHAN V. LAST: Donald Trump's latest pardons underline the sickness at the heart of Republican politics.

Morning Shots: What Were You Thinking? 🔓

CHARLIE SYKES: Don't pretend you're surprised

We’ve unlocked JVL and Charlie’s newsletters today, so you can see what Bulwark+ members are enjoying. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider joining.

If you’re already a member, thank you. We do offer convenient, schedulable gift memberships, if you’re a late gift buyer, like me.

Give the Gift of Bulwark+

From The Bulwark Aggregator…

In Today’s Bulwark….

The Squishiness of Federal Courts’ ‘Standing’ Doctrine

KIMBERLY WEHLE: Why it led the Supreme Court to reject the Texas election lawsuit, and what it could mean for lawsuits against Biden administration programs.

The Broad Coalition Trying to Take Down Viktor Orbán

DALIBOR ROHAC: Has Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister assured his own defeat?

The Ghost of Conservatism Future

RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON: Should principled conservatives start a new party? Reform the GOP? Join with the Democrats?


Let’s talk about appropriations. Since it’s December, I’ve told you about my year-end tradition of calling people on the phone, whether they say nice things, mean things, or really, really want to tell me about their pro-se lawsuit.

I’ve typically avoided getting into Facebook or Twitter comment wars, but sometimes, especially around the holidays, I make an exception. Why is this? Well, the reason I don’t do this is because I am lucky enough to have a platform and I’d rather engage with our many members (thank you!) who are kind enough to write every afternoon shortly after I hit send on my newsletter. But the real reason is I know I am lucky to have a good education, a professional background in politics, which is its own education, and a platform to share my opinions.

Getting bogged down replying to people you don’t know, who didn’t read what you wrote, or don’t read your site is a total waste of time. But people who do? I like responding to those folks.

But on Facebook, given the veto threat of the COVIDbus (as it’s being called), a lot of my friends are saying silly things about it, and I’ve mistakenly taken the time to explain the state of play. Here’s what I wrote on one friend’s thread:

I understand your concerns with the bill, but most people don't realize this is COVID relief and the omnibus spending package combined. That's why there are things, like foreign aid, included in it.

Now, why did this happen? 12 years ago was the last time Congress passed all 12 appropriations bills. Typically, the administration submits a budget, and Congress passes its own budget, and then the various committees pass the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government.

Then, the wheels all came off. Congress stopped doing this. Power was consolidated in the various leadership offices in both chambers, and they'd push continuing resolutions and omnibus packages. And they've pretty much done a version of that every year since.

(If you want to nerd out, go here: https://crsreports.congress.gov/AppropriationsStatusTable)

I'm not saying this is a good bill. I don't think this is a good way for Congress to operate. It gives your Senators and House member less influence in funding things that are important to wherever you live, influence policy. It becomes a trench war people are faced with take-it-or-leave-it choices.

And as taxpayers, we should be pissed. But it's not going to be fixed because we still have to fund the government. If you'd like a separate trillion dollar bill just doing COVID-19 relief, they'd still have to pass the underlying omnibus.

And it is unlikely to be fixed, because just as Congress has delegated a lot of power to the administrative state to avoid having to make hard choices, the reason this has gone on so long is because members love complaining they have no voice and that the decisions are really out of their hands.

We should demand better. But we're not going to fix it until we elect people who do the same.

Look, I think even if we change the figure from $600 to $1,200 in COVID relief, it’s ham handed. Lots of people (myself included) do not need that money. The most important portions are business relief and unemployment insurance. That’s not the point, though. People are mad because it’s being billed as COVID relief and then finding out that it funds things like the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum Act on page 2,803. Or the Israeli Arab Scholarship Program, “as authorized by section 214 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993” on page 1,278.

But people are seeing Team Trump or Team Pelosi carp about it, and are picking sides when pretty much none of them know how this process works, why it got broken, and why we are where we are.

I am sad to report that 50% of my entreaties as a former congressional staffer who worked on this sort of stuff have failed. But, given how hard it is to convince people on Facebook, 50% as a success rate is actually pretty good.

You can pick this bill to death. And indeed, many are trying. Like I said in my note to my friend, this process sucks, the bill might suck, but at the end of the day, these folks work for us, and it’s incumbent upon us to demand better. And if we’re not given better, elect better people. But let’s be honest about the way Washington works, they’re not going to drown this bill and finish what typically takes from January to October, the appropriations process, and make things better by January 1.

We still have to fund the government.

Also, there’s this:

The Trump administration, I am sure you will be shocked to learn, are not good at governing. And that much of their complaints are that they are pretty much getting what they asked for is, well, just sadly entertaining.

It’s Christmastime. And preparations are in full effect at the Swift household. As I type, I hear candy-riddled children running around, a vacuum, and if I am not careful or quick, a wife asking when I am going to be done writing to you so I can help with household duties in the intervening five hours before my family arrives.

Have you heard the good news? Let’s file this under things I am glad our HOA board doesn’t have to deal with.

As much as I would have liked to become a breeder of West Highland Terriers in my sparse free time, we don’t allow chickens where I live.

The toll of conspiracy theories… Trump and Powell and Wood and Rudy’s conspiracy theories aren’t harmless. In fact, they harm real people.

Speaking of people who fail at gift giving… This thread by Mary Katherine Ham and her bad luck at surprising her husband gives me hope. (An earlier version of OVERTIME had the wrong link.)

Should you get an air fryer? Not too long ago, The New York Times poured some cold water on this. But today, during a pandemic, The Washington Post published an enjoyable item on why it can remind you of the Before Times. I just know that, despite having ample counter space, another cooking gadget would be frowned upon.

Is this bad?

Also in GA-SEN news… Loeffler’s challenger, Raphael Warnock is being questioned by the media over a dispute he has with his ex-wife.

Guns in the U.S. Capitol? In part of my house, there is a gun safe. It stores all of my long guns, and I’ve decorated it with bumper stickers I’ve acquired over the years. One of those stickers is from a now-retired Marine who was a member of the House a friend worked for. And he was 100% certain that this member had a loaded gun in his office. (First person to guess it gets a month free of Bulwark+.)

A few things: D.C. has horrible gun laws, but they should be followed. Want to change them? Great. But as rule of law Republicans, we should follow them.

Insert this report from the latest demands of the QAnon Caucus,

In the Capitol, D.C. law does not take precedence. Thus the reason why, when I worked there, cigarettes were a top seller—no local taxes. We even used to have smoking lounges!

Members of Congress or Senators are not wanded by the police when they walk in, or if they drive into a parking garage. That’s how the unmentioned former Marine member got his pistol into his office. In fact, staffers who park in the same garage could probably sneak a gun into House office buildings if they wanted to. But walking around campus, staffers still have to get wanded or go through magnetometers to get to the Capitol. Members don’t.

There is no shortage of staffers or visitors who have ignored the law and got arrested. Ask Corey Lewandowski. Or former Senator Jim Webb.

But, to even get a gun to the Congressional complex, were the US Capitol Police were to revise the policy (they won’t) incoming members like Boebert would likely be committing a felony bringing the gun there.


Without a valid CHP, carrying a loaded firearm in the district is a felony. And carrying an unloaded, locked one? Good luck there. The law states that you can’t stop as you travel through the district until you get to your final destination. Presumably a shooting range in Maryland or Virginia. And ammunition? Tightly regulated.

Expect more of this chicanery from the QAnon Caucus. They’re just looking for a fight, and hoping to get arrested.

Re: Trump’s pardons…

Jared got his courtyard in Israel… But he might be in trouble.

A conversation with Ashish Jha: The boss sits down with the dean of Brown University's School of Public Health to talk about COVID-19.

The rise and fall of the “Money Honey.” The Washington Post looks at the downfall of Maria Bartiromo:

“Ever since I started covering President Trump and covering the coup and the effort to take him down, I became the enemy of the media and the activists and the mobs,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post, again echoing his language (as well as some of his hard-wired sense of grievance). “I have an edge. I mean, I stick to my guns and I’m not easily blown off.”

That’s it for me for today. Look for Beg to Differ tomorrow in your email. Sarah Longwell is the guest and you don’t want to miss it. Stay safe, have a Merry Christmas, and we’ll see you on Monday.