Biden calls for impeachment

First up today, former Vice President Joe Biden has formally called for President Trump to be impeached. Now, you might say, hey, I thought Biden was already onboard with that—well, kind of. Prior to last night, Biden supported a Congressional inquiry, but he didn’t call it impeachment. Now he’s calling it impeachment and even invoked an infamous Nazi propagandist while doing so.

In a speech last night in Rochester, New Hampshire, Biden started by talking about morality. He praised several politicians present in the room, including Senator Chris Coons, and talked about his secret to political success. He said, “There’s one secret. The secret is, have you figured out what’s worth losing over? Have you figured out what is worth losing over? That you will not compromise on certain things that are of deep, abiding, consequence to you.”

And then he went on to give a barn-burner of a speech. There’s a link to the whole video in the show notes, and it runs about half an hour. It’s in a relatively small room, and within that room multiple times Biden got standing ovations for his comments. So I’m going to run through a few clips here to give you the actual audio of what Biden said, and the context in which he calls for impeachment. I think that context really matters.

Prior to this first clip, Biden started by talking about the phrase “Live Free or Die” which is now the state motto of New Hampshire. He goes all way back to the founding of our country to begin his case. Listen in:

[CLIP-BIDEN-EMOLUMENTS]

Okay, so Biden sets out the stakes and brings this all the way back to 1700s. He explains in simple language what the Emoluments Clause is, and why it matters. And in this next clip, Biden makes the argument that President Trump has clearly violated that clause, in public, over and over. Listen in:

[CLIP-BIDEN-INDICTED-HIMSELF]

In this next bit, Biden reminds us that withholding military aide from Ukraine is not a small thing. There is a war going on. This, again, is vitally important context to understanding why withholding that military aid and asking for a favor can kill people. Listen in:

[CLIP-BIDEN-MILITARY-AID]

Okay, and we’re gonna do one last clip here. In this one, I want you to listen to the core argument—this idea that by using the presidential platform to lie, Trump is in fact devaluing the very concept of truth. And keep an ear out for the mention of Goebbels, which I will explain afterward. All right, listen in:

[CLIP-BIDEN-GOEBBELS]

Yeah, so Joseph Goebbels was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. And he is associated with the concept of the Big Lie, which was a rhetorical tactic employed by Hitler himself. The key idea of the Big Lie is that if you say something extremely outrageous, that is itself clearly a lie, but you just keep repeating it, then the fundamental nature of truth becomes distorted. And as long as you can maintain that lie without consequences to your people, no problem. It might as well be true.

There is a famous quote that’s attributed to Goebbels, though it is super-unclear whether he actually said or wrote it. I do think it’s worth reading here, though, as it’s what Biden was referring to in that brief mention.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

So, here we have Biden’s case for impeachment. He says in plain language that this scenario is actually something that the founders of our country foresaw—and that’s why we have a clause about it in the Constitution. He also says, plainly and repeatedly, that our president is a liar. And what’s more, he says the president has, “indicted himself,” Biden is saying, by doing all this stuff in public, with such flagrant disregard for the truth or the Constitution, the case is open and shut.

And while he’s at it, Biden does position himself as the likely Democratic nominee and suggests that Trump is doing some of this because he’s afraid to go head-to-head with Biden in the general election.

But, that aside, this really is a shift from Biden, and this is an important moment in this election. It’s the day that Biden clearly articulated his case for impeachment. He has been reticent to call for impeachment explicitly, but he has now crossed that line. Remember this day. This day matters.

Now what happens next? Well, your guess is as good as mine.

Gabbard threatens to boycott next week’s debate

In a surprise move, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who is slated to appear in Tuesday’s DNC debate, is now saying…maybe she won’t. Gabbard says she is considering boycotting the debate. She posted a video explaining her rationale on Twitter this morning. Listen in:

[CLIP-GABBARD-BOYCOTT]

This is part of an ongoing disagreement that multiple candidates have had with the DNC over its treatment of the debates. Another notable candidate who has called out the DNC is Senator Michael Bennet. He wrote an open letter to DNC Chair Tom Perez asking a series of pointed questions about the debate qualifications, whether they were developed in coordination with leading campaigns, and plenty of other stuff. But having said that, Bennet didn’t qualify for the upcoming debate. Gabbard did. So if she opts not to show up, that is a huge deal.

On Twitter, Edward-Isaac Dovere summed up much of the political reporting on this issue in a series of three tweets. He wrote:

“[Tulsi Gabbard] makes the bet that there’s more attention to be gotten from “seriously considering” boycotting the debate on Tuesday, and maybe even following through, than being 1 of 12 on stage
Gabbard’s point about the debates being like reality show TV is one that most candidates & campaigns agree with — and her complaints about the polling/donor thresholds are widely shared as well
But Gabbard has now gone from complaining about the thresholds keeping her from the September debate stage to clearing the thresholds and complaining about them to the point of threatening to keep herself from the October debate stage.”

Regardless of what happens here, I think Dovere is onto something about the media implications of this. Announcing that you might, maybe boycott something is itself a media strategy—and the fact that I’m talking about it proves that it can work.

It is newsworthy that somebody who has qualified is apparently considering not showing up. We’ll have to see whether Gabbard in fact follows through with that boycott—which, as Dovere said, might in fact be BETTER than being on the edge of that super-crowded stage.

Klobuchar asks for social media political ads to have the same standards TV ads do

Next up, Senator Amy Klobuchar is asking for social media advertising about politics to have the same level of disclosure that TV advertising does. In a letter yesterday to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, Klobuchar wrote:

“Yesterday, the Intelligence Committee published a second report (volume II) on its bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, you know better than most that the Committee's investigation and the associated reports have been conducted in a bipartisan fashion with the goal of getting to the bottom of how Russia attacked our democracy so that we can prevent future attacks. The report specifically addresses how the Russian government attacked our democracy by working to exploit social media platforms to spread misinformation, sow division, and undermine our political system.
In addition to providing information on how Russia carried out its attack, the Report makes a series of recommendations for how Congress can work to combat the spread of disinformation. Specifically, the Report urges Congress to "examine legislative approaches to ensuring Americans know the sources of online political advertisements." Page 80 of the report contains the following recommendation:
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 requires political advertisements on television, radio and satellite to disclose the sponsor of the advertisement. The same requirements should apply online. This will also help to ensure that the IRA or any similarly situated actors cannot use paid advertisements for purposes of foreign interference.
I agree with the Committee's recommendation and have introduced bipartisan legislation, the Honest Ads Act, with Vice-Chairman Warner and Chairman Graham. Our legislation would ensure political and issue ads sold online have the same transparency and disclosure requirements as ads sold on [TV], radio, and satellite. The Honest Ads Act has broad support from non-partisan experts on disinformation campaigns and transparency in political advertising. [...]”

She goes on to note that social media advertising can often reach MORE people than TV, so it ought to subject to at least the same kind of disclosure. She’s asking for Blunt to schedule a markup of the Honest Ads Act, which would be a first step in committee before voting on it. At press time, I have not yet heard a response from Blunt, but I will keep you posted.

Debate Bingo is here

Last up today, Debate Bingo is here and ready for you to download. Now, it DOES assume that Gabbard is going to be in the debate, and if she’s not, then, well, fewer Bingos for all us, I guess.

So, for all the new listeners, here’s the deal. Debate Bingo is a simple way to increase engagement with the debate for people who will be in the room with you, but not be super-interested. Like, you know, kids…or in-laws…or anybody you’re dragging into this for the first time.

OR, on the other hand, it’s a way for super-fans—which I know a lot of y’all are—to add even more interest to the many hours of debate, listening for key phrases that may or may not be spoken by various candidates. Oh yeah, and there is a handy podium lineup thing at the top that shows you who is standing where. It’s tiny this time, because there are twelve people, but it is a handy reference for lots of folks who haven’t always connected these faces to their names.

I’ll talk more about Debate Bingo tomorrow and Monday, but for now, it’s the first link in the show notes. It’s a PDF this time containing THIRTY randomized cards, because I keep getting so many requests for people running Debate Bingo in theaters and bars and stuff. So, I hope 30 is enough, and if your party is smaller—mine sure will be—just print fewer pages.