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Ramaswamy Brings Insults and ‘Inside Job’ Conspiracies to Fourth GOP Debate

Longshot presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has displayed an abrasive personality in previous debates. But in the NewsNation event in Alabama on  Wednesday night, he took his act even higher, calling Nikki Haley a “neocon fascist” and declaring the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was “likely an inside job” by the government.

“The only conspiracy theory Vivek didn’t endorse on stage was ‘Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer,’” a Republican strategist said after the debate.

Ramaswamy’s polls have been trending downward for the last two months. He never broke out of single digits and is currently hovering around 5 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average. As a result, he was able to play spoiler, launching attacks on traditional Republicans like Haley and Chris Christie.

On the other hand, Haley has emerged as the most likely serious challenger to Donald Trump. Her support has steadily increased over the past two months, and many observers expected her to be the night’s top target from her fellow competitors.

They didn’t disappoint. Ramaswamy and Gov. Ron DeSantis attacked Haley for receiving support from “rich, Wall Street donors” who, DeSantis said, would influence Haley’s decision-making.

“Nikki will cave to those big donors when it counts,” DeSantis said, to which Haley replied: “He’s mad because those Wall Street donors used to support him, and now they support me.”

Ramaswamy repeatedly insisted Haley is “corrupt,” at one point holding up a handmade sign on the notepad provided reading “Haley = Corrupt.” The audience booed in response.

Ramaswamy also called Haley a “fascist” several times, at one point saying, “You can put lipstick on a Dick Cheney — it is still a fascist neocon.”

The debate took its strangest turn when Ramaswamy reached into the Alex Jones playbook.

“Why am I the only person on the stage who can say that January 6th now does look like it was an inside job?” Ramaswamy said. “That the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11? That the Great Replacement Theory is not some grand, right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform? That the 2020 election was indeed stolen by Big Tech?”

Polls show most Americans consider Jan. 6 a disaster and a threat to democracy, and few believe the 2020 election was stolen. The “Great Replacement Theory” — the idea that America’s White, European population is being intentionally replaced by foreigners — inspired the chants of “Jews will not replace us” by White supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Ramaswamy’s antics came during what many observers considered DeSantis’ best performance. The Florida governor had some effective hits against Haley, particularly on her record of addressing transgender issues in school and her call to end anonymity on social media.

Haley had to backtrack from a previous call for “every person on social media (to) be verified by their name,” but DeSantis kept pressing.

“You can roll the tape. She said, ‘I want your name,’” DeSantis said. “She got massive blowback, and rightfully so.”

DeSantis also had another good moment when Christie, a former governor of New Jersey, laid out his reasons for opposing a ban on transgender surgeries for minors. Christie said he opposed the ban in the name of parental rights. “The minute you start to take those rights away from parents, you know, that’s a slippery slope,” Christie said. “What rights are going to be taken away next?”

DeSantis got a roar of approval from the crowd when he responded, “As a parent, you do not have the right to abuse your kids.”

There were more attacks and insults, like when Ramaswamy told Christie to “just walk yourself off that stage. Enjoy a nice meal, and get the hell out of this race.”

But the consensus is that nothing happened in the fourth debate to change the conditions since the first: Donald Trump has a big lead, and nobody is close to catching him.

“Christie was the adult in the room, but it doesn’t matter because he’s got no market,” said GOP strategist Pat Griffin. “Haley was the night’s punching bag, as expected. She handled herself well. DeSantis had the best night he’s had so far — but is that really a significant compliment? And despite the noise, Vivek was a non-factor. So nothing changes in the poll position.”

University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said he thought Christie’s straight talk about Trump and the rest of the field’s unwillingness to take Trump on helped him with voters who want an alternative to the former president. But that’s not necessarily good for the “Stop Trump” movement.

“Christie reminded Never Trump voters that he is the real deal. And that hurts Nikki Haley,” Scala said.

And he agreed DeSantis had a good night, too — for what it was worth.

“It’s a funny sort of debate when the two candidates with the least chance of becoming the nominee are the most dominant,” Scala said.

A GOP insider, speaking on background, told InsideSources the debate was a “dumpster fire” for the Republican Party, “bringing the brand to a new low.”

“It’s another step in Trump’s march to winning the party’s nomination in a landslide.”

Tucker-ed Out: What Carlson’s Departure From Fox Means for 2024

When Donald Trump, the GOP’s presidential frontrunner, gave his first post-indictment interview, it was to Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

When Vivek Ramaswamy announced his candidacy earlier this year, it was on Tucker’s show.

And when Russia first invaded Ukraine, support for arming Kiev against Putin’s assault was the same among Republicans and Democrats. Then Carlson began speaking out against Ukraine and America’s support for the Zelenskyy government. “I don’t care what Putin does in Ukraine,” Carlson said.

After a year of Carlson’s messaging, Republican support for backing Ukraine has plunged.

Monday’s news that Fox News dropped Carlson in the wake of a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems is technically a media story. But because of the 53-year-old TV host’s influence on the GOP base, it is as much a story about politics as it is about ratings.

In the big picture, Carlson’s reach via Fox was relatively small. While he had the top-rated cable news show –indeed, he holds the record for highest cable news viewership of all time — his 3 million or so nightly viewers represent one percent of America’s population. (By comparison, CBS’s show “FBI” has about 8.5 million weekly viewers.)

But among Republican voters, particularly Trump-friendly activists, Carlson’s influence was massive. He turned news topics into political issues GOP candidates had to confront, and he focused the party’s base on policies like Critical Race Theory and ballot security.

“Tucker was the mainstay of the populist voice over at Fox,” former Trump advisor Steve Bannon said after the news broke. “With his departure, I don’t know why anybody needs to watch anything on the Murdoch empire.”

And Donald Trump, Jr. told right-wing radio host, Charlie Kirk, “It changes things permanently.”

Those changes are likely to be felt in the First in the Nation GOP presidential primary.

“Tucker leaving FOX means that maybe candidates can be themselves, rather than twisting themselves in knots in hopes of making Tucker happy, like DeSantis’ twists and turns on Ukraine,” former Republican National Committee political director Mike DuHaime told NHJournal.

Gail Huff Brown is a veteran news broadcaster who ran in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District GOP primary last year. She’s also the wife of former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.

“I don’t know yet why Tucker Carlson was fired, but I have to admit it was a surprise since he’s a big fish in the Fox pond,” Huff Brown told NHJournal. “I do not think it will have a negative impact on Trump’s popularity in New Hampshire because Tucker will find a way to get his opinions out to his fan base via social media.

“Without Fox management having a say in Carlson’s opinions, he may be able to help Trump even more,” she added.

Radio talk host Jack Heath is a fixture in New Hampshire political media and a former news director at WMUR-TV. “I’m not sure Tucker Carlson’s absence on FOX will have a big impact, if any, on 2024 and the presidential race,” Heath said. “I think FOX has lost some overall punch as a news organization and viewership for a bunch of reasons which go beyond one host’s nightly show. But they are not alone. CNN seems lost these days, and I’m sure their numbers show it. People are tuning out to TV news across the country.”

On the stock market, Fox Corporation stocks fell three percent Monday, a sign of Carlson’s value to advertisers. But Granite State political strategist Perikilis Karoutas says he doesn’t expect a major shift in how GOP primary voters get their news, particularly here in New Hampshire.

“We have a larger share of older voters than most states, and it’s hard to change people’s behavior. People who watch Fox News every night after dinner aren’t going to stop because Tucker’s not there. It’s their habit,” Karoutas said.

Which is why, says veteran NHGOP consultant David Carney, the impact of Tucker’s departure “will depend on how they replace him. Yes, cable news is still huge with primary voters. Those other formats — social media, podcasts, Substack — are really one way and don’t have the visual impact of TV.”

And with or without Fox News, Carney said, “Tucker Carlson will still be loud and proud.”

Mastriano Disputes Report Trump Dissed His Possible Senate Bid

No Republicans have announced they are taking on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey next year. Yet former President Donald Trump is already talking about the upcoming campaign.

According to Politico, the prospect that state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) might enter the Senate primary is “inducing panic among GOP officials,” including Trump himself. “The former president has privately told Republicans he fears that Mastriano would hurt him in a general election if they were on the top of the ticket together next year,” Politico reports.

Mastriano told DVJournal it’s fake news.

“Politico got this wrong,” Mastriano said. “Forty-five has said nothing about this odd story to me. He has my cell number.” The number 45 is shorthand for Trump, the 45th president.

Multiple advisors with Trump’s 2024 campaign did not respond to questions about the statement.

Mastriano won a multi-candidate primary for governor last year in the face of criticism that his extreme views on abortion and cultural issues would make him a weak general election candidate. It was a view shared by Pennsylvania Democrats, who bought TV ads boosting his candidacy in the GOP primary.

In the final days of the primary, Trump endorsed Mastriano, who went on to lose the governor’s race to then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro by 15 points.

In addition to Politico’s reporting, national Republican leadership has responded cooly to reports of Mastriano’s candidacy. “We need somebody who can win a primary and a general election. His last race demonstrated he can’t win a general,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines.

On the other hand, a Public Policy Polling survey in March found strong 2024 support for both Trump and Mastriano among Pennsylvania Republicans.

Mastriano posted a Facebook video last Thursday strongly hinting he plans to enter the race.

“We’ll talk about this U.S. Senate seat that so many are speculating about me running for. The polls do have me walking away with it, hands down,” Mastriano said, dismissing his naysayers as “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only) and announcing that he and his wife Rebbie have already made a decision.

“I really don’t care about their opinion,” Mastriano said of his Republican critics. “They cannot win a primary or the general election without the base. We are the base.

“We already have a decision, have had this decision for a few weeks now, and we’ll let you know.”

If Mastriano moves to challenge Casey, who has announced he is seeking a fourth term, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

Casey is the longest-serving Democratic senator in Pennsylvania history. In his previous Senate elections, he beat two Republican challengers by double-digit percentage points and one by just under 10 percentage points.

Republican insiders are putting their hopes on David McCormick, who narrowly lost last year’s Senate primary to celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz. Like Mastriano, Oz had the backing of Trump and performed poorly in the general election.

In the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll, Casey leads Mastriano by 16 points (47-31 percent) in a theoretical head-to-head contest but leads McCormick by just seven points (42-35 percent).

“Taking on any incumbent is challenging,” Mastriano told DVJournal earlier this month. “Casey’s challenge is that other than running on his dad’s name, he’s an unremarkable senator who’s more interested in being a lackey for the radical left than fighting for Pennsylvania.”

HOLY COW! HISTORY: Another Ex-President’s Brush With the Law

The airwaves are consumed with talk of former president Donald Trump’s possible arrest. Seventy years ago, another ex-chief executive had an encounter with a cop. Though the two situations were far from similar, it’s worth revisiting.

You’ve just wrapped up the world’s most demanding job. You used the atomic bomb for the first time, helped create the United Nations, and stood up to communist aggression in Korea. What do you do next?

You hit the road, of course.

Except for being a politician, Harry Truman was one of us. A down-to-earth middle-class guy who struggled to pay his bills, cherished his wife and daughter, and enjoyed a snort of Kentucky bourbon and a friendly game of poker.

And like many of us, Harry loved cars. He especially had a thing for Chrysler products.

When folks at the Chrysler Corp. heard about Harry’s remarkable customer loyalty, they gave him a new 1953 Chrysler New Yorker in appreciation. (Believing a former president shouldn’t be beholden to a corporate giant, Harry insisted on paying $1 so it wouldn’t be a gift.)

That big, shiny sedan had Harry itching to hit the road, and he knew just how to persuade wife Bess to go with him. They could drive it to visit their daughter Margaret in New York City. What mom could say no to that?

Harry was up at his usual 5:30 a.m. on Friday, June 19, 1953, at their Independence, Mo., home. Not long after sunrise, he loaded 11 suitcases into the trunk, scooped Bess into the passenger seat, and headed east. There were no Secret Service agents tagging along (they wouldn’t be assigned to ex-presidents until after JFK’s assassination a decade later). Just a former president, a former first lady, a full tank of gas, and highway maps in the glove compartment.

They were like any married couple on the road. Harry had a lead foot, Bess scolded him to slow down, and he silently fumed. (It must have been hard for a guy who had negotiated with Churchill and Stalin to have the Missus constantly harping to drive slower.)

The first stop was a diner in Hannibal, Mo., where they had fruit plates and iced tea. Congress wouldn’t grant former presidents a pension for several years, so Harry had to count pennies. They were no-frills travelers anyway. In Indianapolis, they spent the night with friends. Imagine young Claire McKinney’s surprise when trying to tiptoe inside without getting caught after staying out late she found Harry playing the family piano in the living room.

Harry and Bess went whole hog at Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, Md. —two chicken dinners for $1.40, plus tip. When word got out that the Trumans were eating there (a plaque now marks their booth), the place quickly filled up. Harry later said, “I had been there before, but in those days they didn’t make such a fuss over me. I was just a senator then.”

Stopping at a gas station for a fill-up and a soft drink, the owner asked him to give his mechanic a hard time for being a Republican. Harry replied, “It’s too hot to give anybody hell.”

His return to Washington, where Harry was finally a private citizen again after 18 years as senator, vice president and president, was a triumph.

It was nothing compared to the Big Apple. Harry and Bess painted the town red. A suite at the Waldorf Towers, two Broadway shows, and even dinner at trendy nightclub 21, where the maître d’hôtel pulled off a geographic miracle by seating them far away from Gov. Thomas Dewey, the man Truman had kept out of the White House.

The trip’s highlight came on July 5 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Harry was for once obeying Bess’ scolding and driving 55 miles per hour, her preferred speed. The problem was the Turnpike’s speed limit was higher, and Harry was poking along in the left lane, forcing a line of cars to build up behind him.

Without knowing who was driving, state trooper Manley Stampler motioned for Harry to pull over. (Pennsylvania’s state cop cars didn’t have flashing lights at the time.) Imagine Stampler’s shock when he saw who was behind the wheel. He recalled, “I told him what he had done wrong and he said he didn’t realize it — that it wasn’t intentional. Then, I told him how dangerous the turnpike is and … wouldn’t he please be more careful. He was very nice about it and promised to be more careful.” 

Bess chimed in, saying, “Don’t worry, Trooper, I’ll watch him.” Stampler added the two-minute encounter “seemed to last a long time.”

The press found out about it and had a field day. Harry shrugged it off, claiming the trooper pulled him over just to shake hands.

Nineteen days and 2,500 miles later, the trip ended where it began. Once again, Harry carried all 11 suitcases inside himself. A simple reminder of a different time and a different type of president that we’ll likely never see again.

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VALYO: What We Learned in 2022

2022 will be a year remembered for many things in Pennsylvania – the Phillies made an unlikely run to the World Series, the Eagles look ready to return to the Super Bowl, and voters in Pennsylvania bucked a century of political election trends to reject extremism in a historic way.

All of these achievements embody the spirit of Pennsylvania – we are a commonwealth of honest, passionate, hard-working people. We don’t have any unreasonable or lofty expectations of our elected officials, but we do expect that they too will be honest, hard-working, passionate advocates for us and put the needs of Pennsylvanians over partisan political interests.

My most important learning in 2022 is that this is still true, and that a commitment to truth, civility, and reason remains deeply embedded in Chester County and across the commonwealth. People in Pennsylvania were presented with two very different paths in the election this year. One was a path paved with hate, extremism and conspiratorial lies, and the other was paved with hope, vision, and leadership.

The message sent by voters was clear and one better heeded by Republicans across Pennsylvania, than by me. For the sake of our democracy, I hope that my Republican friends also see the lesson here and recognize that it is time to turn the page on the era of Trump and Trumpian impersonators, but early signs in Harrisburg aren’t promising.

I hope they see the lesson that Josh Shapiro, running on a message of bipartisanship and working for all Pennsylvanians, wins elections in a landslide. I hope they see the lesson that John Fetterman, running on a message of authenticity and honesty, was able to overcome horrible personal attacks to flip the 51st Senate seat to the Democrats.

And most of all, I hope they see the lesson that spending time attacking abortion rights, LGBTQ+ children, and our democratic process is not what the people want, but helped flip the State House to the Democrats for the first time in over a decade. The last few years were incredibly difficult for many people and 2022 was no exception. But Pennsylvanians have spoken decisively and I am excited for what lies ahead. Let’s all take the lessons that we were given and work together to make 2023 a fantastic year for Pennsylvania and the entire country.

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BROOKS: Wild’s Speech Is an Unprecedented Attack on a Scholar

From Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society speech, notable leaders have employed university podiums to communicate ideas, to inspire or to warn us. Most use the opportunity to encourage a society falling on hard times, while some of our current leaders are instead failing in hard times.

On May 15, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild delivered the George Washington Law School’s 2022 commencement.  She chose this moment to attack a one of the prestigious school’s renowned professors. Though Wild did not state his name, anyone who follows Beltway legal matters knew she was referring to Professor Jonathan Turley. Wild conceded Turley “is without question well versed in constitutional law”. She then claimed that Turley had taken to “cable news and social media . . . [,] undermining his own past well-documented scholarship”.

What triggered her ire? Turley, a recognized authority on impeachment law, testified at both Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearing (1998) and Donald Trump’s (2019), and Wild found displeasure in Turley’s legal interpretations.

Dipping her toes into the cesspool of the partisan hatedom without diving in head-first, Wild claimed: “A law professor who at one time strenuously advocated that a president need not commit an indictable offense to be impeached, just this past year argued the opposite for a president more to his liking. A president no less who instigated an insurrection and a bloody assault on our democratic process and the rule of law.”

According to Turley’s Trump impeachment hearings testimony, not only did the professor vote for Presidents Clinton and Obama; he also voted against Trump in 2016 and has been publicly critical of Trump’s “policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns.”

As Turley put it, “one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president. To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump.” Turley continued, “We have never impeached a president solely or even largely on the basis of a non-criminal abuse of power allegation.”

The important point that Wild’s rationale seems to exclude is that Bill Clinton committed perjury, a felony. As articles for the Clinton  impeachment state, our 42nd president “willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury.” Sex was the cause for Clinton to lie but was not the legal grounds for impeachment.

Wild’s talk stands out for doing something other commencement speeches by governmental leaders did not. No other attacked a faculty member of the institution at which the speaker was speaking. Sure, other speakers have taken digs at other politicians. But Wild – a guest – dedicated over a minute to bashing Turley at the professor’s workplace, unduly politicizing and detracting from an otherwise inspiring speech.

Wild’s speech started in the same manner as George W. Bush’s 2001 Yale commencement speech, where he joked: “Those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say well done. And, to the C students, I say, you too can be president.” Wild’s academic record at law school seems to have fit the same, as her “grades in law school were decent, but were nothing that were going to open doors for me.” Humble, and her rise despite that can be an inspiration, as could be Bush’s more self-deprecating quip.

If one juxtaposes the humanity of a speech like Bush’s to Wild’s gratuitous dig at Turley, one should see the point even more. Indeed, the more memorable commencement speeches are both uplifting and informative. Some use a sentence or two to point out a political opponent’s gaffs. But spending paragraphs to attack the intellectually defensible position of a seasoned scholar is out of bounds. As an attorney, Wild should realize that a corruption or bending of truth is hardly a desired outcome.

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WATERGATE at 50: Dirty Tricks Have Just Gotten More Sophisticated

All this week, Delaware Valley Journal will be publishing stories about the impact of Watergate on American politics and culture, leading up to the 50th anniversary of the break-in on Friday, June 17th.


June 17 marks the 50th anniversary of the night when D.C. police arrested five men breaking into the Watergate hotel/office/apartment complex. The burglars were operatives of President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. Their mission: to tap phones and steal documents from the Democratic National Committee, which had its headquarters in the Watergate.

The operation was planned and supervised by G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent who was the general counsel of the president’s campaign. He financed the caper with campaign funds. Liddy and the burglars were criminally charged and convicted. Others who participated in the subsequent cover-up orchestrated by the White House, including John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s adviser for domestic affairs.

The investigation of the attempted Watergate break-in by a select committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina eventually led to the White House audiotapes, the infamous 18-minute gap, and House Judiciary Committee approval of three articles of impeachment. Nixon resigned August 8, 1974, to avoid a vote by the House and a potential impeachment trial in the Senate.

A month later, President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, saying his action was intended to end a “long national nightmare” and a disruptive scandal that had polarized the public. He feared that potential litigation against the former president would arouse “ugly passions” and challenge the “credibility of our free institutions of government … at home and abroad.”

So, have things gotten better since then? Liddy and his fellow co-conspirators were driven by political objectives — to find out everything they could about what the Democratic Party was doing and to get information that they could use to sabotage George McGovern’s presidential campaign. But they got caught because of their ineptness.

Compare that to what we now know happened in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign — using campaign lawyers, an opposition research firm and allies in the press — orchestrated a smear campaign against Donald Trump. The concocted hoax about his supposed collusion with the Russian government continued well into his presidency.

The Clinton campaign didn’t have to engage bumbling burglars for a risky wiretapping scheme. Instead, as the special counsel, the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the John Durham investigation have revealed, they created a salacious “dossier” rife with phony claims. They also enlisted the help of a technology executive and university researchers with government cybersecurity contracts to secretly scoop up internet communications data from Trump both during the campaign and from the White House itself after he became president. The sophistication of this conspiracy makes Gordon Liddy look like an amateur.

Even the FBI got entangled in this dirty political trick, leading the nation’s most powerful law enforcement agency to abuse its authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on people connected to the opposition presidential campaign. This, in turn, led to the expensive, unjustified two-year investigation by Special Counsel Bob Mueller that baselessly hampered Trump (and his advisers) in carrying out his presidential duties.

In 1972, Nixon’s dirty trick failed, and Liddy and his co-conspirators all went to prison. The Clinton campaign’s dirty trick failed to win the election. Still, it succeeded in hobbling the Trump presidency and corrupting the Justice Department. Yet no one has gone to prison as a result of what happened in 2016. The cover-up was so successful that we didn’t even know about the illegal spying and politicization of Justice until well after it occurred and the dirty deed was done.

So, what have we learned in the 50 years since Watergate? Dirty tricksters in politics have become more adept at hiding what they are doing, abusing advances in technology to further their dishonest ends, weaponizing federal law enforcement agencies against their political opponents, and using their friends in the media to ensure they are successful.

Americans deserve better. And unfortunately, the dirty tricks in the last presidential campaign have done precisely what Gerald Ford feared: raised “ugly passions,” polarized the electorate, and damaged the “credibility of our free institutions of government … at home and abroad.”

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