On the day after Republicans lost pivotal races in Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene offered a diagnosis for her party’s ills. “There’s multiple problems,” the Georgia representative said to CNN’s Manu Raju. “One of them being that I think Republicans are weak. They never come through on the promises that they give to their voters.”
Actually, that is the opposite of the problem Republicans currently face. When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
And he was true to his word. Mexico didn’t pay for the wall, but Trump did nominate three hard-right conservatives who were instrumental in tossing out Roe in June 2022.
The problem for Republicans is that the Supreme Court’s action was hugely unpopular: roughly two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the move, and voters have made that apparent, even in red states. On Tuesday, Ohio voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that guarantees abortion rights.
The disconnect may or may not cost Trump votes in 2024, but it’s hurting Republicans up and down the ballot. “In Virginia,” wrote Kate Bedingfield, President Joe Biden’s former White House communications director, “Gov. Youngkin tried to take the Republicans’ abortion problem head on, claiming that he had articulated a ‘reasonable’ position on the issue that would net Republicans control of both houses of the state legislature. In fact, Virginians didn’t view rolling back existing protections in the state and instituting a new ban as ‘reasonable,’ and Democrats wound up taking the House of Delegates and growing their margin in the State Senate.”
Bedingfield radiated confidence, convinced that Democrats will prevail in 2024, despite last week’s polls showing Biden trailing Trump in five out of six swing states. “Democrats will win in 2024 by making the election a choice, not just a referendum on Biden’s performance in office. They’ll win re-election to the White House and clinch victories across the country by keeping Republicans squarely on the defensive about the most extreme pieces of their agenda.”
Historian Julian Zelizer raised questions about whether voters will turn out for Biden just because they agree with his stance on issues like abortion. And “even if Biden can get a bump from voters who are passionate about defending abortion rights,” he wrote, “polling also shows that core constituencies, such as Black and Latino voters, are having serious doubts about him. A number of Muslim and Arab voters in key states like Michigan have also voiced their dismay over Biden’s strong backing of Israel in its war with Hamas, though the lasting effect isn’t yet clear.”
Republican Lanhee Chen was unfazed by the defeats dealt to his party. “For those looking to extrapolate Tuesday night’s results to what might happen next November, a piece of advice — don’t. Odd-year elections tend to be, well, odd.” The electorate which turns out in a presidential election year is different and the issues that dominate races tend to vary, Chen wrote.
“Finally, none of Tuesday night’s significant elections took place in the states that will likely decide the 2024 presidential elections, or even control of Congress. The lack of reliable election data from voters in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona means that we should be careful to extrapolate what results in states like Kentucky and Mississippi — or even Ohio, where abortion was directly on the ballot — might mean for results in the swing states that will decide who wins the White House next year.”
Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California, Davis who studies the anti-abortion movement, argued that “these defeats aren’t the seismic victory for abortion rights that Democrats may wish they were. Just because Republicans don’t seem to know how to win over voters doesn’t mean the GOP and the anti-abortion movement don’t know where to go next. They do.”
“The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a presidential transition plan vetted and crafted by more than 70 conservative and pro-life groups, details an abortion policy focused almost entirely on the operations of the Department of Justice in a second Trump term. Project 2025 outlines how to stop enforcement of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which would make it easier for protesters to block and intimidate patients entering clinics.”
“More centrally, Project 2025 insists that there is already a de facto federal ban on abortion, whether voters like it or not: the Comstock Act, a 19th-century anti-vice law that conservatives argue makes it a federal felony to mail or receive items intended, designed, or adapted for abortion.”
While Trump, the leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination, spent the week testifying in a civil fraud case against his company and rallying his supporters in Florida, his rivals took part in a more standard election ritual: a debate in Miami.
In the spotlight was former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, whose debate performances have propelled her candidacy forward. Ana Marie Cox wrote, “I don’t agree with much she has to say, but I bristled in solidarity when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dismissed the female politician’s cordial correspondence with a Chinese official as a ‘love letter’ and when Vivek Ramaswamy employed gendered insults by referring to her (and, I think, DeSantis) as ‘Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.’ Haley later noted that her shoes are five inches and qualify as ammunition, which is certainly one way to make them more acceptable attire for men.”
“At one point, Haley flushed dark purple when Ramaswamy branded her a hypocrite for wanting to crack down on TikTok even though her own daughter has an account. ‘You’re just scum,’ she breathed with the quiet rage usually reserved for horror movie final girls. I have never come closer to cheering anyone for anything at a Republican debate.”
On abortion, Haley “continued her realist approach to the issue, again pointing out that a federal 15-week abortion ban — the goal of many pro-life advocacy groups — would stand almost no chance of passing without a dramatic change in the composition of the US Senate,” Patrick T. Brown observed.
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was out to prove,” Roxanne Jones noted “that Florida belongs to him, which was no easy task with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump just down the road in Hialeah, Florida, hosting his own rowdy rally telling the world that Florida is Trump territory.”
Todd Graham: The debate underdog who surprised us all
Tuesday marked one month since Hamas launched a terror attack in southern Israel and sparked an ongoing war in Gaza.
“Hamas’ massive, brutal attacks and kidnappings perpetrated against Israelis on October 7 violated humanity’s most fundamental international legal principles,” wrote Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law expert at the University of Notre Dame. “Those same principles govern Israel’s right of response, and they are best fulfilled through an immediate ceasefire by all parties, not an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza. … The protections to which civilians have a right under international law during armed conflict are almost impossible to respect in anti-terror wars, as Israel’s bombing of densely populated Gaza shows.”
“If there is any doubt about whether people are civilians or not, the presumption is that they have civilian status. Denial of food, water, medicine and other necessities to the civilian population is never permissible.”
“Hamas militants know they are putting innocent lives at risk and have as much responsibility as Israel to end their resort to force. They have a clear duty to release hostages. The cost to civilians in this conflict is so high that the principle of humanity demands an end to all fighting.”
John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point, argued that from what he’s seen, Israel is following the laws of war and attempting to minimize civilian casualties.
“There is no escaping that pursuing a terrorist organization touches off a nightmarish landscape of war. The visually repulsive imagery in Gaza essentially recreates the same scenes that unfolded under American and allied campaigns fighting Al Qaeda, ISIS and other terror groups, because that is what it looks like when you are forced to uproot a sadistic terror organization embedded in an urban area. Sadly, successful US-led or supported campaigns in places such as Mosul and Raqqa caused billions of dollars in damage and killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians; that is the hellish reality of defeating terrorism.”
Hani Almadhoun: Do Palestinian lives matter to the world?
Suzanne Nossel: Why college presidents seem flummoxed
Frida Ghitis: What drives Biden’s wholehearted support of Israel?
Trump on the stand
The media coverage was intense as Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump testified last week in a Manhattan courtroom, but as Elliot Williams wrote, “the allegations in the case are far less splashy than others in which the former president is currently a defendant.” The court proceedings had nothing to do with the four criminal cases in which the former president has been charged with 91 felony counts (and has argued he did no wrong).
“In contrast, the central issue in the current trial, initiated by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, is a straightforward question of corporate law: did a real estate entity improperly inflate the values of properties in appraisals in order to secure favorable loan and tax treatment? Despite fireworks from Trump and two of his sons on the witness stand earlier in the trial, the case is as uncontroversial (or, dare I say, boring) as they come.”
But the potential penalty is eye-catching, Williams noted, as the judge could strip the Trump Organization of its ability to conduct business in the state. “Trump the business came long before Trump the president. Losing that would be cataclysmic for Trump on every level. No amount of bluster on the campaign trail can change that,” Williams wrote.
Even the iconic Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue — where he came down the famous escalator to announce his candidacy for president and the site of his gold-laden triplex apartment — could be wrested from the former president’s control.
In “Masters of War,” a 1963 jeremiad that excoriated arms manufacturers and dealers, Bob Dylan sang of “the worst fear that can ever be hurled”: “Fear to bring children into the world.” For different reasons, that fear haunts a new generation today.
Anna Lee, a senior at the College of the Holy Cross and an intern at CNN Opinion, wrote, “If temperatures weren’t rising, I’d choose the name Athena for a girl. If the rivers were safe, I’d choose William for a boy. If I could breathe clean air on my morning commute, I’d paint the nursery a warm yellow. If I could see hope for a sustainable future on this planet, I wouldn’t be spending time mourning the children I’ll probably never have.”
“If things were different, I’d be honored to become a parent — indeed, I think there is no greater privilege or responsibility. But each day, the current state of the world dissuades me more and more from having children. Like many folks in Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), my main concern is climate change. And, as climate catastrophes are already well in motion (coupled with a host of related socioeconomic and equality issues), I feel as if I would be doing an increasingly irreparable injustice to any children I would bring into this world with my inability to offer them a future.“
In a new book, “The Big Fail,” Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera critically examine the policy choices officials made during the Covid-19 pandemic. A New York Magazine excerpt was headlined: “Covid Lockdowns were a Giant Experiment. It was a Failure.”
Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious disease expert, took issue with that conclusion. He wrote that the book’s “authors make some good points: The lockdown dislocated students from schools and customers from places of business. Medical care was delayed for some (though needed surgeries continued when hospital beds were available). And, most dramatically, young students lost the educational and social advantage of a physical classroom… “
But was the lockdown worth it? “You bet it was worth it,” Sepkowitz argued.
“Yes, lockdown was a blunt instrument that caused a great deal of collateral damage. The difference between my view and theirs, I think, is that they consider the lockdown a single activity stretched across the entire pandemic; in contrast, I would distinguish the initial lockdown, which was crucial, from the off-and-on lockdowns as therapies, vaccines and overall care improved. There is an argument to be made that these were not anywhere near as effective.”
“I consider the ‘short-term benefits’ to be absolutely critical in allowing the medical world to steady itself and gain a much firmer grasp of the task at hand. One only had to work in health care in New York City to see the difference between early 2020, when the explosion of cases overwhelmed the city, versus later in 2020 when an effective therapy had been identified, supplies and diagnostic testing had been greatly improved (though still completely inadequate) and the makeshift ICUs and emergency rooms had been set in place.”
Corey Mintz: DoorDash doesn’t understand the definition of a tip
Jade McGlynn: Who a ‘stalemate’ in Ukraine really benefits
Sara Stewart: The moment ‘Priscilla’ turned into a horror movie for me
People who need people who have fun
Promoting her memoir of nearly a thousand pages, Barbra Streisand lamented in an interview with the BBC: “I haven’t had much fun in my life, to tell you the truth.”
As Holly Thomas wrote, “This is the legend who kicked off her singing career by winning a talent contest at a gay bar in Greenwich Village. She enjoys pancakes in bed with her husband James Brolin, and her basement contains an entire street of antique ‘shops’ (minus cash registers) to house her treasures. If Barbra’s not having fun, who on earth is?”
But maybe there’s a lesson in this for everyone. “We, and the world, feel more fragile than we ever have before,” noted Thomas, who pointed out that the oft-predicted revival of the “Roaring 20s” hasn’t materialized.
Apart from worries about war and the climate crisis, “the more individualized stressors of work, mental illness and the rest, requires stamina to cope. Blowing off steam 1920s-style feels harder to legitimize when we’re all acutely aware of the adverse effects of booze, cigarettes and under-sleeping. Instead, the 21st-century obsession is self-care. And while no one’s arguing the benefits of hydration and a solid eight hours, neither offers the high of a night spent dancing with abandon.”
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com