Will the first presidential debate change more minds?

We begin today with Dan Balz of The Washington Post wondering if Thursday’s upcoming presidential debate will move the needle of what has been a largely static presidential race.

For the better part of a year, the contest between Biden and Trump has been a flat line in the polls, with Trump holding the narrowest of advantages in national polls and a slightly larger advantage in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. This has made Democrats increasingly nervous. Why? Because Biden never trailed Trump in Washington Post-ABC News national polls in 2020.

Recently, there has been some movement in Biden’s direction. It has come since Trump was convicted of 34 felony charges in the New York trial involving hush money payments to an adult-film actress and the falsification of business records. The movement is incremental at best, leaving the two candidates still in a statistical dead heat nationally. The battleground states remain competitive, though Trump has had a narrow advantage in more of them than Biden this year.

An aggregation of national polls in June, compiled by The Post’s polling unit, currently shows Biden leading Trump in a two-way race by two-tenths of a percentage point. In March, just ahead of the president’s State of the Union address, Trump was leading by 1.2 percentage points. With third-party candidates included, the current poll average shows the two tied, compared with a Trump lead of six-tenths of a percentage point in May. Overall, a small change.

Considering the tightness of the presidential race to this point, any movement—even incremental movements in the polls— are highly significant.

Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times says that even when it comes to the shoe salesman’s authoritarianism. “lazy” is still the adjective that best fits.

There is a good chance that by the end of the year, Trump will be president-elect of the United States. And yet with less than five months left before the election, he is no more prepared for a second term than he was for a first. He may even be less prepared: less capable of organizing his thoughts, less able to speak with any coherence and less willing to do or learn anything that might help him overcome his deficiencies.

Everything that made Trump a bad president the first time around promises to make him an even worse one in a second term.

When I say “bad” here, I don’t mean the content of Trump’s agenda, as objectionable as it is, as much as I do his ability to handle the job of chief executive of the United States. In a political culture as obsessed with drama and celebrity as our own, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the presidency is an actual job — one of the most difficult in the world. […]

As Jonathan Bernstein, a political scientist, notes in a post for his Substack newsletter, Trump “utterly failed” at the “most important thing for presidents to do in order to succeed: collecting information. Trump didn’t read. He didn’t pay attention during briefings. He didn’t care about policy. He didn’t even bother, as far as anyone can tell, to learn the basic rules of the constitutional system.”

Susan Glasser of The New Yorker examines a foreign-policy “manifesto” by a former (and perhaps future) member of the Trump Administration.

A foreign-policy manifesto for another Trump Administration, released this week by Robert O’Brien, Trump’s fourth and final national-security adviser—and, it seems, an aspirant to return to high office along with him—drew less coverage by comparison, but it is, in its own way, just as sensational. Writing in Foreign Affairs, O’Brien offers an array of plans for Trump 2.0—some of which, like sending the entire Marine Corps to the Pacific, seem wildly implausible; others, such as the complete decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies, both improbable and dangerous. In a single clause in a sentence explaining how Trump’s “unpredictability” will somehow lead to a negotiated settlement with Russia, O’Brien asserts that future lethal aid to Ukraine would come not from the United States but entirely from Europe. (Europe, are you listening?)

It’s the over-all framing, though, that might be the most revealing statement about the bizarre gaslighting exercise at the heart of Trump’s 2024 campaign, with O’Brien offering a revisionist history of Trump as Ronald Reagan’s second coming and portraying Trump as a brilliant statesman who presided over an era of geopolitical calm under the banner of Reagan’s ethos of “peace through strength.” Governed by his stellar “instincts,” Trump took on the “globalist orthodoxies of recent decades,” O’Brien writes, while at the same time militarily strengthening allies and generally bringing peace to the world—in sharp contrast to Joe Biden, whom O’Brien blames for the “catastrophic mismanagement” of the Afghanistan withdrawal, the terms of which were negotiated by Trump; the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and—my favorite line coming from a former Trump official—a policy of “pageantry over substance” on China. “Building alliances will be just as important in a second Trump term as it was in the first one,” O’Brien offers, irony clearly unintended, referring to a President whose signature international move was publicly assailing America’s allies.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro of The New York Times does a long interview with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on a host of topics.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let’s talk about that era, because it was the period when you became a national figure. Very early on, you and then-President Trump were at odds, to put it mildly, and you became a symbol of what Republicans saw as draconian pandemic restrictions. You faced protests, death threats. In October 2020, 14 men ended up being arrested for plotting to kidnap you and overthrow the Michigan government. You write in the book that this was referred to in the press as a kidnapping plot, but you say that’s not accurate. Can you tell me why not?

WHITMER: Not long ago, there was a single person that showed up on Justice Kavanaugh’s lawn, and it’s been covered as an assassination attempt. It was one person. He was apprehended well before any threat really became real to Justice Kavanaugh, and I’m grateful for that. I recognize a threat against anyone, no matter who they are, what their political views are, undermines our system of democracy, and I think that it’s really important that we all call it out when it happens. The way that was covered versus how 12 to 14 people who are plotting over a series of months, who were doing exercises — they had what they called a kill house, running through scenarios about how to kidnap me and kill me. And let’s be clear, they weren’t going to keep me for ransom. Their intention was to, like a terrorist organization, have a sham trial and then execute me. It was very clear in a lot of their communications that was the plan, and it was over the series of months they staked out a vacation property that my husband and I have, on more than one occasion. They had plots to blow up bridges and kill police officers as well, to even burn down the capital locking the Legislature inside. All of that has been labeled a kidnapping plot, and it does feel like it is to discount the seriousness.

Paul Kane of The Washington Post notes that the 2024 election cycle, by and large, has been an establishment affair.

Both President Biden and ex-president Donald Trump are disliked by a majority of Americans. Barely 1 in 5 voters are satisfied with the direction of the nation. Last month just 13 percent of voters approved of the job Congress is doing, according to Gallup, the 11th straight month that measure came in below 20 percent.

And yet, with almost 30 states having held their congressional primary elections, just one lawmaker, Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), has found himself in serious trouble. He trails his opponent by about 300 votes after Tuesday’s primary, and election officials are still counting and might do a full recount.

Two self-proclaimed House progressives are facing a backlash from pro-Israel challengers, Democrats Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) and Cori Bush (Mo.), with Bowman’s primary coming up on Tuesday and Bush’s in early August. But Bowman, Bush and Good are hardly establishment figures.

All three ran four years ago as ideologically charged antiestablishment candidates. They toppled incumbents close to party leadership, only to now face their own primary challengers who are closely aligned with the establishment.

Eric Neugeboren of Nevada Independent writes that last Friday, a Clark County judge dismissed one of the cases involving the “fake electors” scheme.

At a Friday morning hearing in Clark County District Court, Judge Mary Kay Holthus said she was unconvinced by state prosecutors’ arguments that Clark County was the appropriate county in which to hear the case. The electors’ attorneys had argued a more appropriate venue would be in Carson City, where the illegitimate signing ceremony took place, or in Douglas County, where the fake elector documents were originally mailed from.

Clark County is more Democratic, meaning a jury could be less favorable to the Republican defendants.

“You have literally, in my opinion, a crime that has occurred in another jurisdiction,” Holthus said. “It’s so appropriately up north and so appropriately not here.”


The ruling marks the first time that a case related to the Trump campaign’s efforts to submit a false slate of electors has been dismissed. Similar prosecutions are taking place in four other swing states —  Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin — involved in the Trump campaign’s effort to submit a false slate of electors after he lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

Tyler Austin Harper of The Atlantic tires of the environmental activism that produces events like the vandalism that took place at Stonehenge.

A video of Wednesday’s act of vandalism, posted by an X account devoted to Stonehenge, has accumulated more than 30 million views. The camps have coalesced as you’d expect: Conservative and moderate voices have reacted with outrage, while left-leaning environmentalists have argued that critics should be more concerned about the state of the planet than a bit of plant-based coloring that was easily removed. If I have to pick a side, I’m with the gentlemen wielding the washable dye. (I am an environmental-studies professor, after all.) But the protest left me frustrated: yet another example of environmental activism that produces more rancor over its means than focus on its message.

The Stonehenge incident seems to reflect a once-fringe belief that is now creeping into the mainstream of today’s environmental movement, influenced by extreme pessimists who view our species as a terrestrial parasite poisoning the Earth, our greatest accomplishments mere trifles. These environmental misanthropes pin the blame for climate change on all of humanity. This is misguided: We should be pursuing an environmental humanism, one that wants to defend both the planet and the human estate from the predations of dirty-energy billionaires and the oil addiction they supply. […]

A climate protest the day after the Stonehenge one adopted a more productive approach: A different pair of activists used a handheld saw to cut through a fence at Stansted Airport, in London, then spray-painted streaks of orange on two private jets parked on the tarmac. Just Stop Oil claimed responsibility and posted the corresponding video on X, stating that the protesters were “demanding an emergency treaty to end fossil fuels by 2030” and claiming that Taylor Swift’s personal plane was at the airport at the time. (This has been disputed by Essex police.) Unlike the Stonehenge flour dusting, which defaced—if only temporarily—one of humanity’s most cherished relics, this second protest focused the public’s attention squarely on the celebrities and oligarchs carelessly pumping carbon into the atmosphere, leaving the world’s poor and future generations to foot the bill for their hedonism and profit-seeking.

I am certain of one thing: people should be trying to avoid the “Betty White” jinx.

Speaking of jinxes, Laura Kuenssberg of BBC News says that Labour Party officials are keeping mum abut the July 4 elections and an expected and overwhelming return to power.

Labour is not a party, or a political tribe, that is used to winning.

There is superstition, caution, maybe even a touch of paranoia, that a general election victory could slip away somehow.

As the days count down to 4 July and polling day, “you tick off the big ticket things – the debates, the manifesto launch, the candidate selections, then there are fewer and fewer things to worry about”, says one source, adding that there has been a “slight easing of tension and anxiety”.

Another insider tells me “it’s much calmer”.

At the party’s headquarters in Southwark, south London, there is, one source says, a complete vow of silence “on any discussion of anything beyond 10pm, Thursday 4th”.

“I can’t really lay on thick enough how different the atmosphere is in HQ than elsewhere, every meeting is focused on what we need to do better, polling barely gets discussed.”

Finally today, Northwestern University anthropology professor Robert Launay writes a wide-ranging essay about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that cautions both sides of the conflict against self-righteousness.

As a faculty member at an American university, I have become painfully aware that divisions over campus protests regarding Gaza will not be resolved as long as people are attuned to the hate directed at one group while shrugging off the hate directed to the other. Such one-sided empathy serves to inflame rather than to resolve disturbing outbreaks of vitriol.

I grew up in New York exposed only to one side of the issue. I was raised ethnically, if not observantly, Jewish. So many of the other students in school were Jewish that the graffiti near my high school read, “You don’t have to be Jewish to stay out on Shevuot.” “Jewish,” for me and most of my friends, was a default identity.

Still, as Jews, we were all intensely aware of the Holocaust. My parents had emigrated from France in 1938. My father had been a reserve officer in French military intelligence. A native of Strasbourg who spoke German as fluently as French, he conducted spy missions in Germany to observe army maneuvers. He correctly concluded, though none of his family or friends would believe him, that the German army was poised to invade France and that the French army was unequipped to put up an effective resistance. My parents came here to seek asylum prematurely. Though no close relatives were murdered by the Nazis during the occupation, we viscerally understood the menace of antisemitism.

Have the best possible day everyone!