McCarthy Raju Manu
CNN reporter confronts McCarthy after he backtracks on Biden impeachment inquiry
01:40 - Source: CNN

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CNN  — 

“Troy fell … the walls of Hadrian succumbed … the Great Wall of China was futile; and … the mighty seas which are alleged to defend us can also be circumvented by a resolute and ingenious opponent,” wrote US Army General George S. Patton.

“In war, the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it.”

“Warlike soul” is an apt description of Patton himself. A vain and ambitious cigar-smoking bully who wore riding breeches, a polished helmet and boots and carried ivory-handled revolvers, he led troops on successful lightning strikes through German-held territory near the end of World War II.

Patton’s military feats could be chalked up to daring, a grasp of strategy and an ability to inspire the troops. He believed in setting an example by being a presence on the front line. Patton’s approach to warfighting was “often ridiculed by his seniors” but under Patton’s command, according to Stephen D. Sklenka, a Marine Corps major, “the Third Army delivered ten times as many enemy casualties as was inflicted upon themselves.”

But there was a dark side to Patton’s forceful approach, one that kept him from rising to the very top ranks of the military. It was made manifest by his racist and antisemitic remarks and when he slapped two soldiers he unfairly accused of faking illness in 1943. In the midst of the war, the army tried to keep the assaults secret but word eventually leaked.

Patton’s example comes to mind as the world focused last week on war and peace, along with challenges to the way we live, work and vote. The performance of leaders, from Washington to New Mexico to Detroit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east, matters more than ever and raises a host of questions:

When is “warlike” ferocity effective in the pursuit of valid goals and when does it cross over into becoming harmful or even toxic? Should a leader ever put his own views aside to bow to the dictates of his followers? And when does injustice make it essential to obey your conscience above all else?

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The two Elon Musks

In the business world, Elon Musk’s achievements have been epic, particularly in spaceflight and the manufacture and marketing of electric cars, but they’ve often been eclipsed by erratic and impulsive episodes, according to Nicole Hemmer’s review of the new book “Elon Musk” by Walter Isaacson.

After buying Twitter last year, Musk “emerged as a force of destruction, stripping the social media site of its value, its reputation and then, ultimately, its name. In recent weeks, he has been using the rebranded ‘X’ platform to attack the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights antisemitism and extremism. Musk has repeatedly been criticized for enabling and boosting antisemitic content on the platform.”

“Isaacson tries to square these two Musks. He rummages through Musk’s violent and chaotic childhood in South Africa … He dissects Musk’s many combative, combustible romantic relationships and the many children they produced, often in secret. He charts the ruptured business partnerships and dismissed employees and impossible deadlines that seemed tailor-made to increase human suffering. And Isaacson decides that this is the cost of innovation. … Musk’s apparent cruelty is at least in part an offshoot of the fact that his companies seem to be more real, more alive, to him than human beings.”

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Hemmer contends that Isaacson presents an “impoverished view of genius, one that perpetuates the ‘great man’ theory of history, in which the course of the world is shaped by a few brilliant men who thrive under the systems of their time. It overshadows genius generated through collaboration, which, though present throughout Musk’s career, takes a backseat to the force of his singular personality throughout Isaacson’s book. And it leaves little room for the transformative power of people such as racial justice and LGBTQ movement leaders who divined a new way of being in the world, which requires a sort of emotional and moral understanding absent from Musk’s career.”

A mean tweet?

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In the past week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy modeled a different kind of leadership — one that was drastically weakened in part by the 15 rounds of voting it took for him to win over enough of his party’s hard-right faction to lead the House in January.

In what was widely seen as an attempt to placate members of the House Freedom Caucus and to mollify former President Donald Trump, McCarthy launched an inquiry into the grounds for impeaching President Joe Biden. But by week’s end, it was clear that the gambit had done little to appease the extreme House Republicans who still seemed in no mood to compromise on a deal that would avert a government shutdown on October 1.

“Trump clearly seems to view impeaching Biden as payback for both his prior impeachments and his current criminal prosecutions,” wrote Norman Eisen. “In a sense, Trump is right — revenge is all it is because there is no constitutional basis for proceeding here.

Eisen, a Democrat who served as counsel to House Democrats in the first Trump impeachment, said McCarthy appeared to cave to House members who threatened to oust him from the speakership. “He recently said that he would not proceed without a formal vote on the inquiry, but there was no mention of that at all in his announcement of the inquiry Tuesday.”

“Years of searching have yet to yield any support at all for the allegation that Biden personally profited off his son’s foreign business dealings,” Eisen observed.

A conservative writer, W. James Antle III, argued that “the Biden family deserves congressional scrutiny. President Joe Biden reportedly engaged in phone calls with his son’s foreign business partners that could jeopardize the integrity of the White House and our democracy. Especially because they seem to have gone beyond the president and his aides’ claims of strict noninvolvement in Hunter Biden’s affairs.”

“There are questions about these matters that need to be asked. But an impeachment inquiry is not the place to ask them,” wrote Antle, noting that McCarthy “becomes the latest political figure to debase and erode what was once the ultimate safeguard against presidential misconduct. … Without any realistic prospect of a Senate conviction and removal from office, impeachment becomes the equivalent of a nonbinding resolution opposing the president. Soon it has little more impact than a mean tweet.”

Impeachment will backfire, predicted John Avlon. “This baseless impeachment inquiry is part of an elaborate revenge fantasy designed to blur the differences between Trump, who has been indicted four times, and Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Rather than helping Republicans politically, it will provide just the latest example of overreach leading to backlash. A tit-for-tat impeachment vote is not going to appeal to swing voters in swing districts. It will look like the hyper-partisan pantomime that it is — an exercise in putting party over country.”

For more:

Dennis Aftergut: Why Lindsey Graham wasn’t indicted

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Gun questions

A rash of shootings, including the killing of an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, prompted Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to order a 30-day suspension of open and conceal carry laws in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

The problem, according to SE Cupp: The governor’s action was “unconstitutional, unenforceable and ineffective.”

While we all share her frustration over the rise in gun violence, this isn’t a good idea, and she’s receiving a ton of backlash for it.”

“There have been rallies and protests. She’s facing several lawsuits. And, even fellow Democrats and progressive activists have been critical, warning that her attempt to curb gun violence could backfire.” On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked the governor’s order.

Firearms were also in question when Hunter Biden, the president’s son, was indicted Thursday on two counts of lying when he purchased a gun and one count of illegally possessing that gun. Biden denied that he was a drug user, when in fact, he was then addicted to crack cocaine, wrote Robert J. Spitzer.

It’s an exceedingly rare charge and as Spitzer noted, Biden’s lawyers can credibly argue that he was singled out for prosecution because of his last name. But “it would be a mistake to assume that the lack of prosecutions means that nothing serious occurred when Biden allegedly lied on his application form. The proper remedy is for the authorities to be more aggressive in cracking down on drug users who get guns. … the separation between guns and controlled substances is only more urgent given the proliferation of access to both.”

Vladimir and Kim

The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reflected badly on today’s Russia, wrote Frida Ghitis. It was a sign that Putin, with his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, “has turned what was once a mighty and respected army — and country — into one that is reduced to seeking help from an impoverished state that can hardly feed its own people. It’s a humiliating exercise for a diminished Putin, who vaingloriously compares himself to the 18th century Czar Peter the Great, and not a great look for a deeply tarnished Russia.”

It also shows how the war “is making the entire world more dangerous. More than 18 months in, Russia is now courting a regime that has assaulted its neighbor multiple times, and regularly fires all manner of dangerous missiles in the region, most recently just a few days ago; an outcast nation now likely to emerge even more menacing after negotiating with Putin.”

For more:

Sébastien Roblin: Don’t give up on Ukraine just as its counteroffensive is starting to work

Exit Romney

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) looks on during a Senate Budget Commitee hearing on Capitol Hill Feb. 15, 2023. (Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen. Mitt Romney announced Wednesday that he is not going to seek a second term in next year’s election.

Romney has carved out a role in Washington not unlike that of the late Sen. John McCain, a legislator who was unafraid to speak out even when he swam against the tide of his own party. During Trump’s first impeachment, Romney became the first senator in US history to vote to remove a president of his own party from office.

A former Romney adviser, Lanhee J. Chen, wrote that “his profound sense of decency is one of the reasons why so many people care so much about the retirement of a man who’s been in the Senate for such a short time. He has been willing to do what he believes to be right — consequences be damned.”

The differences between Romney and Trump were many. Chen noted that “Trump had what was seen by some to be an uncomfortably cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Romney, by contrast, has long insisted that Russia has been our number one ‘geopolitical opponent.’”

“The discussion reflected Romney’s interest in backing the right policies, not just the ones that were the most politically expedient. But as it turns out, his careful approach to policy often got him to the right answer — leaving even ardent Democrats to admit that he was prescient to call out Russia a decade ago.”

What’s striking in the economy

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Hollywood writers and actors remain on strike, and now the auto workers have walked off the job at select plants owned by the “Big Three” companies General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (the owner of Chrysler, Dodge and Peugeot).

“Even the United Auto Workers president acknowledged the union’s demands are  audacious,” wrote economist Kate Bahn. “The UAW is demanding that their members receive the same pay for a 32-hour work week that they once did for 40. This will automatically raise worker earnings by at least 20%, likely increase the number of workers employed at auto manufacturing plants and cut into oversized and inefficient corporate profits.”

“While a lot of the attention has been on the political calculus of such a move at the tail end of ‘hot labor summer,’ I’m focused on what this all means for our economy in the long-run,” Bahn observed. “Viewed through that lens, this simple yet significant policy change has the potential to pump the breaks on decades of increasing income inequality and a declining labor share of income, which measures how much of our economic activity, or national income, goes to workers. And curbing those trends makes good economic sense — with benefits that extend beyond the autoworkers.”

The often-predicted recession has not emerged — at least not yet. Companies have continued to hire and consumers have continued to spend even as the Federal Reserve has rapidly ramped up the cost of borrowing. Some economists think the US will skirt a recession, but Dana Peterson and Erik Lundh, economists at the Conference Board, believe it is indeed on the horizon. With wage growth slowing and personal savings dropping, “US consumers may be getting out over their skis with their buying habits…”

“Hardship withdrawals from 401(k) accounts have jumped, retail theft is spiking and retailers report that consumers are increasingly focused on discount brands.”

“None of this bodes well for future spending, nor do the mandatory student loan repayments set to resume in October.”

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Kutcher and Kunis

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher arrive for the Ninth Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 15, 2023. REUTERS/Aude Guerrucci

Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis were cast into an uncomfortable spotlight with the release of their character letters supporting Danny Masterson, their “That ‘70s Show” co-star who ended up being sentenced earlier this month to 30 years to life for raping two women in 2003.

Jill Filipovic wrote, “Kutcher and Kunis ostensibly did not expect the letters to become public, and now that they have, the couple is apologizing. … Particularly galling for critics of their apology seems to be the fact that Kutcher has positioned himself as an anti-rape activist, starting an organization to combat child sex trafficking and testifying before Congress in support of efforts to combat trafficking and sexual abuse.”

“The problem isn’t that Kutcher and Kunis asked the judge to show mercy and compassion for Masterson. It’s that they offered so little of the same to his victims.

End of the manhunt

The nearly two-week-long manhunt for Danilo Cavalcante ended Wednesday with authorities taking him back into custody, but the reverberations aren’t likely over, wrote Arick Wierson.

“Aside from the fallout from the two atrocious homicides and his wreaking a fortnight of fear across rural Pennsylvania during his time on the lam, the Cavalcante episode has managed to put egg on the face of law enforcement in two different countries, adding to already fevered rhetoric in both nations about public safety and immigration.”

“In Brazil, the indignation around the Cavalcante episode — especially how Brazilian authorities allowed a man wanted for homicide to leave the country — has reignited a debate across local media about whether the government is spending enough on public safety and if those resources expended are actually doing any good,” observed Wierson.

Apple launches

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The biggest change in the new iPhone lineup announced Tuesday is the demise of the lightning port and its replacement by USB-C chargers, a switch that had been expected after the European Union mandated it. Yet, like other introductions of evolutionary, not revolutionary, technology by Apple, the event attracted rapt attention well beyond the company’s Cupertino, California campus.

Jeff Yang asked, “What’s Apple’s secret sauce? Why has the company been able to sustain such persistent passion and loyalty?”

Part of the answer is rigorous preparation and choreography. “But ultimately, what makes Apple Events magical is this: Apple Events are purpose-built to engender wonder — yes, just like in the title of today’s event, ‘Wonderlust.’ Wonder is, simply put, ‘mystery’ plus ‘joy’ — a wholly unexpected surprise that triggers a sudden jolt of pleasure and inspiration.”

The cursed Jets

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The Boston Red Sox broke their curse in 2004.

The Chicago Cubs did it in 2016.

The New York Jets curse endures. As Julian Zelizer, a fan since the age of 8, wrote after Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury Monday, “In the world of professional sports, there are few things that compare with the heartache of being a life-long, season-ticket-holding New York Jets fan. Sitting in my regular seat last Monday night at MetLife Stadium, I saw all my hopes and dreams for this season disappear….The same old Jets. Every year the fans get excited, and every year things go terribly wrong.”

Don’t miss

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Tess Taylor: With his ignorance, Tommy Tuberville just gave poets an incredible compliment

Mahnaz AfkhamiIran will never be the same

Roxanne Jones: What adoring Coco Gauff is all about

Amanda Tyler: New Texas law deprives families of religious liberty rights

Lara Setrakian: A mountaintop enclave facing genocide. And a plan to stop it

Paul Hockenos: My 12-year-old son is cutting school… and I couldn’t be prouder

Don Lincoln: The Deep Space Network is in trouble

Sophia Nelson: Here’s how Sen. Tim Scott should answer questions about his marital status


On film

Kenneth Branagh in "A Haunting in Venice"

For fans of “cozy” detective stories, there may be no more satisfying experience than watching Agatha Christie’s bizarre Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solve a case. As Noah Berlatsky wrote of the new movie, “A Haunting in Venice,” directed by Kenneth Branagh, “Poirot’s victory speech is given with him almost literally standing on top of a pile of corpses. Though in this one, Poirot (Branagh) seems even less concerned by the death toll as he brags about his ratiocination while the luxuriant cinematography caresses the Venetian canals.”

Equally bloodthirsty, but in a different vein (sorry!), are two new movies recommended by Sara Stewart: “‘Bottoms’ is a satirical comedy about a queer-founded high school fight club, and ‘Perpetrator’ is an indie horror movie about a rebellious teen who evolves into a supernatural creature.”

“These two stories, though wildly different, have both drawn (and openly invited) comparisons to the grandmother of teen-girl satire, 1989’s ‘Heathers.’ Like that indelible Winona Ryder movie, ‘Bottoms’ and ‘Perpetrator’ use stylized riffs on high school movie tropes to delve into the challenges teenage girls are up against. Some — from the chronic threat of school shootings to toxic masculinity — are unique to our times; others — for example, wide-ranging misogyny — are timeless.”