Sunday, October 4, 2020

Last Call For Lindsey Faces The Graham Cracker

Sen.  Lindsey Graham's debate with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison didn't go well at all for the Republican, as Slate's Jim Newell explains:

Towards the end of Saturday night’s first Senate debate between South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and his Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison, the candidates were asked on what issues they would dissent with their parties. Graham, who’d been sticking for most of the hour to a controlled strategy of reciting warnings against what Democrats would do with power, seemed to loosen up.

“How long do you have?” Graham said. “So, Lindsey ‘Grahamnesty’ is my name on talk radio.” He spoke about how he’d worked for “over a decade to get a comprehensive immigration solution.” He’d worked on climate change, and when he voted for Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, he “got the crap beat out of me here at home by Republicans.

“When it’s talking about working with the other side, it’s not just talk with me,” he said. “And I’ve got the political scars to prove it.”

It was less self-flattery than reminiscence. Graham was waxing nostalgic about a once-prominent version of himself that hasn’t been seen in recent years. Following the 2016 election, Graham rebuilt himself from a Trump skeptic to a vocal and loyal ally of the president, and those moments of working across the aisle at significant personal risk stopped coming. He’s now a partisan warrior who broke an airtight vow against confirming a Supreme Court nominee in the last year of President Donald Trump’s first term.

Harrison had said in his opening statement that Graham would likely “scare you to vote for him.” The once freewheeling senator, indeed, had straitjacketed himself into that strategy, drawing from a grab bag of fears about the left at each opportunity.

In Graham’s own opening statement, he observed that “this is a big-choice election between me and Mr. Harrison: capitalism versus socialism, conservative judges versus liberal judges, law and order versus chaos.” This apocalyptic vision was everywhere. Responding to a question about whether teachers and students should be asked to return to an in-person, five-day school week without rapid COVID-19 testing available, Graham ended with a warning about how Democrats would pass “Medicare for All” and stack the Supreme Court. After fleshing out his position on enhanced unemployment benefits, Graham warned, again, that Democrats would pack the Supreme Court and eliminate the Electoral College. Graham said the worst thing that could happen to Myrtle Beach’s economy is a Democratic administration and Congress that would tax and regulate it.

When Harrison hammered Graham on his reversal over filling a Supreme Court seat in the final year of Trump’s term, Graham’s strategy required him to just take it.

“Senator, how good is your word when you made a promise to the American people—even more, you made a promise to the folks in South Carolina—that you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing right now?” Harrison said. “And that’s the problem that I have, the greatest heresy that you could do as a public servant is to betray the trust of the people that you took an oath to serve.

“Just be a man about it,” he said, “and stand up and say, ‘You know what? I changed my mind. I’m going to do something else.’ But don’t go back and blame it on somebody else for a flip-flop that you’re making yourself.”
I expect we'll see at least a few more polls in SC for the Senate race, and I also expect they are not going to be good numbers for Graham.  We'll see in the weeks ahead, but in case Cal Cunningham crashes and burns next door in NC, we'll need Harrison's win here in SC to help take the Senate back.


Biden, His Time, Con't

The post-debate polls are in and Biden has gotten a significant boost this week. Reuters/Ipsos now has him up by 10 points over Trump.
Democrat Joe Biden opened his widest lead in a month in the U.S. presidential race after President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, and a majority of Americans think Trump could have avoided infection if he had taken the virus more seriously, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.

The Oct. 2-3 national opinion poll gave little indication of an outpouring of support for the president beyond Trump’s core group of followers, some of whom have gathered outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where the president has been hospitalized.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the severity of the pandemic as something that would disappear on its own, chiding Biden as recently as last week for wearing a protective mask, even as the coronavirus infected millions of people and forced businesses and schools to close.

Among those adults who are expected to cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, the poll found that 51% were backing Biden, while 41% said they were voting for Trump. Another 4% were choosing a third-party candidate and another 4% said they were undecided.

Biden’s 10-point edge over Trump is 1 to 2 points higher than leads Biden posted over the past several weeks, though the increase is still within the poll’s precision limits of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Joe Biden’s national lead over President Donald Trump nearly doubled after Tuesday’s presidential debate, with voters saying by a 2-to-1 margin that Biden has the better temperament to be president, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The poll was conducted in the two days after the unruly and insult-filled Sept. 29 debate, but before Trump tested positive for Covid-19 and was hospitalized Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Democratic nominee is now ahead of Trump by 14 points among registered voters, 53 percent to 39 percent — up from his 8-point lead in the previous poll before the debate.

That 14-point advantage represents Biden’s largest lead in the NBC News/WSJ poll during the entirety of the 2020 presidential campaign; his previous high was 11 points in July.

We all know how that turned out. 30 days is a lifetime in politics.

Take nothing for granted, and vote early.


Sunday Long Read: The Watchmen, Watching

New Yorker Magazine's Patrick Radden Keefe gives us this week's Sunday Long Read, where in 2020 corporate espionage isn't about how good your spies are, it's how good your counter-spies are. The private investigator is just as much a tool of law enforcement and detective work as police and federal agents are, and their services are a lot more accessible for Americans in a digital world where analog criminology still matters.

One day in 2016, a Manhattan private investigator named Tyler Maroney went to doorstep a seasoned criminal. In this era of the ubiquitous smartphone, even an unscheduled call can feel like an intrusion; showing up unannounced at someone’s house can seem outright belligerent, and a bit antique. But Maroney, who is a careful student of human interaction, figured it’s easier to hang up on someone than it is to slam a door in his face. The man he was looking for, Bill Antoni (a pseudonym), had a rap sheet that included charges for assault, burglary, and attempted manslaughter. He had recently been released from prison, and Maroney consulted a proprietary database to find his new address. When Maroney arrived at Antoni’s apartment building, he found that the buzzer was on the fritz, so he waited until another tenant walked out, then slipped inside. As he was climbing the stairs, Maroney ran into a man who was walking out. He had tattooed arms and wore a gold chain around his neck.

“Mr. Antoni?” Maroney said.

In such encounters, some investigators adopt what is known as a “pretext,” telling a fib about the purpose of their visit, or assuming a fake identity. Occasionally, the ruse is more elaborate, involving a fictitious business, with phony business cards, e-mail addresses, and social-media accounts. But Maroney takes a dim view of such subterfuge. “I’m a private detective,” he said to Antoni. “I’m here to ask for your help on a case.”

He had rehearsed this overture, hoping to make Antoni feel enlisted, rather than antagonized. “My client is a man who spent more than ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” Maroney said. “He was a victim of police misconduct, and you may have information that can help.”

Antoni had a sideline as a police informant, and, two decades earlier, he had offered sworn testimony to help convict Maroney’s client of murder. Now the man was suing city authorities, and his attorneys hired Maroney, who runs a detective agency called QRI, to find the jailhouse snitch and see if he might recant.

Antoni invited his visitor in. A good sign. Prior to becoming a private investigator, Maroney had worked as a journalist, and he had an eye for detail. Surveying the apartment, he noticed moldings blurred by layers of accumulated paint, a CCTV camera, and, on a table, a holstered Glock. One wall was decorated with a homemade collage of J.F.K. memorabilia: photos of Jackie Kennedy, Hyannis Port, the grassy knoll. Unprompted, Antoni declared, “Kennedy was the last great American.” And, when he said that, Maroney knew: this guy was going to talk.

People talk to a detective for different reasons. Sometimes they want absolution, or credit, or justice. Sometimes they’re lonely, seduced by a sympathetic ear. Antoni revealed that he had been induced to supply fraudulent testimony in the case by crooked cops who offered him a break on his prison sentence. Maroney’s client ended up receiving nearly ten million dollars in a settlement. A third of that went to the lawyers. Maroney’s firm got seventy-five thousand dollars.

More than thirty thousand private investigators now work in the United States, Maroney reports in his new book, “The Modern Detective: How Corporate Intelligence Is Reshaping the World” (Riverhead). They engage in a dizzying variety of low-profile intrigue: tracking missing people, tailing cheating spouses, recovering looted assets, vetting job applicants and multibillion-dollar deals, spying on one corporation at the behest of another, ferreting out investment strategies for hedge funds, compiling opposition research. Contemporary private eyes, Maroney explains, are often “refugees from other industries,” including law enforcement, journalism, accounting, and academia. One hallmark of the business is discretion—like spy agencies, private eyes must often keep their greatest triumphs secret—so it is notable that Maroney would write a book like this. In a disclaimer, he says that he has had to change names and alter some details, presumably to protect client confidentiality. But “The Modern Detective” is not an exposé. It is part memoir, part how-to guide, a celebration of the analytical and interpersonal intelligence that makes a great investigator. When Maroney showed up for work at the giant detective firm Kroll, back in 2005, he e-mailed an executive to ask where that executive’s office was, hoping to introduce himself. 
“You’re an investigator now,” the man replied. “Find me.” 
Private investigators are the information warfare side of the private mercenary company mentality that corporations, the very rich, and even regular Americans can access. No matter how complex technology gets, old-fashioned detective work, psychology, and information gathering never goes out of style. And these days, the PI's world is the Wild West of intel work.

As Tom Clancy once wrote, news organizations are the real intelligence agencies of our era. 
And like everything else in 2020, it's become decentralized gig economy work.
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