Ethics Potpourri, 4/5/2021, Including, I Blush To Say, An Easter Weekend Lap-Dance for God

I hate potpourri.

1. Amateur poetry ethics. This has annoyed me for a long, long time. Althouse posted a notice from a local restaurant requiring patrons to wear masks. The thing suddenly devolves into verse, and in writing that, I am being generous. Here’s a sample:

I’ve been listening to and reading crap like that since I was ten, and when I was ten, I wrote better light verse by far. Since then, I’ve written song parodies and light verse for fun and profit, and still do. It’s a skill. It takes practice, and it requires care and detail, like most tasks. OK, I know that today’s nearly useless schools don’t teach little things like rhyme, meter and the basics of verse, but if you don’t know how to do something competently, don’t do it. Is this supposed to be a Dr. Seuss parody? I can’t tell, and the first rule of parodies is that they must clearly be parodies. Dr. Seuss has famous style and meter, and this whatever it is doesn’t match it. The problem is that people who author embarrassing junk like this don’t know they are incompetent. They think everyone will think they are clever, but anyone who regard something like this—that presents “forget” and “respect”as rhymes, for example— is clever is illiterate.

2. It takes one to know one. On ABC’s “This Week,” yesterday, former NJ Governor and once-rising GOP star Chris Christie correctly characterized the Democratic attacks on the Georgia voting reform law. “It expands early voting, George, and the president said it ended it. Listen, here’s what Joe Biden’s got to live with when he wakes up this morning on Easter morning. He is doing exactly what he sat around in the campaign and the transition and accused Donald Trump of doing,” Christie said. “He is lying to cause racial divisions in this country. That’s what he accused Donald Trump of doing, and he’s a liar and a hypocrite.”

Yes he is, but who cares what Chris Christie thinks? He’s also a liar and a hypocrite; he has no followers outside of his family, and he sold his integrity to grease Donald Trump’s route to the Republican nomination. This is another example of the unethical media practice of choosing a revolting advocate for the position a news organization wants to discredit. It’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale manipulation 101: make sure the “authority” opposing the dishonest Democratic talking point is widely regarded as toxic jerk.

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Blogging Ethics: Althouse Snaps!

I’d say, all things considered, Ann Althouse runs my favorite blog. The former University of Wisconsin law prof who insists that she is “fiercely” non-partisan has a much broader range of topics on her eponymous site, many of them quirky, but she shadows ethics and legal ethics related stories that are Ethics Alarms fodder, and her commenters have become very similar in perspective to the commenters here. Her reactions to the Trump years and the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck were usually very similar to mine, so obviously she is fair, objective, and perceptive. I keep sending links her way even though she resolutely refused to give Ethics Alarms a link before she eliminated links entirely, and it appears her weird obsession with drawing cartoon rats has finally abated.

But this morning, the blogger announced that she was unhappy with her readers’ comments, which she lightly moderates, and ran a poll to get feedback as she apparently considers eliminating them altogether. I don’t know what Ann dings, but the comments I see only includes a few that Ethics Alarms wouldn’t post. The vast majority of readers polled voted for either her current moderation standards to remains as they are, or for her to moderate everything but block very little. (I voted with 14% for “Comments must go through moderation, and Althouse selects the most readable for publication.” None of the choices mirrored my approach, which is to moderate initial comments strictly and give leeway to veteran commenters while suspending or banning those who violate the Comment Policies.

Althouse is apparently upset with commenter criticism. In response to the comments on her poll, she responded in a series of comments (Althouse, unlike me, seldom enters the commenting ranks on her own posts):

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Unethical Tweet Of The Week: Matt Zoller Seitz, With An Assist From Ann Althouse, Sliming Principled Whistleblowers

Stoller tweet

Let me preface this commentary with some disjointed points:

  • When tweets are involved, I should probably call this category “Unethical Tweet Of The Hour.” Minute, even.
  • Matt Zoller Seitz is a hard-left critic and screenwriter who sometimes opines for the proudly Left-Lunatic “Daily Kos.”
  • Ann Althouse’s reaction to this—she gets the EA Pointer for finding the tweet—puts me in mind of Captain Von Trapp’s rebuke to his friend, the venal and principle-free theatrical producer Max, in “The Sound of Music” film when Max tries to rationalize the Anschluss by noting that it was “peaceful”: “You know, Max. . . . . .sometimes I don’t believe I know you.”
  • She also professed ignorance at the tweet’s reference to “the Bruenigs.” See the note immediately above: it took me ten seconds to check the reference, longer than it must have taken Ann to write that she didn’t understand it. Matt Bruenig is a Socialist pundit, and Elizabeth Bruenig is a former columnist at the Washington Post of similar ideological sympathies, now with the New York Times. The Bruenigs have a podcast called “The Bruenigs.”
  • The “tweets” Althouse refers to relates to a re-tweeter of the Seitz tweet who added this shot from a film I couldn’t identify:

Preppy assholes

Sietz is scummily implying that criticizing the now obvious turn by the American Left to totalitarian-style speech suppression and the mainstream news media’s complicity in the process is the equivalent of Fifties-style, white prep school  conservatism mocked in films like “Auntie Mame,” Animal House,” and “Trading Places.” In fact, Greenwald, Sullivan, Yglesias and, though unsmeared here, Matt Taibbi are all left-leaning journalists or pundits of long standing who have had the integrity to break with their biased and unethical employers to blow necessary whistles on their former colleagues, as mainstream journalism has abandoned any pretense of doing its job while following its own ethics rules.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/12/21: Happy Birthday, Abe!

Lincoln film

Abraham Lincoln, born on this date in 1809, has had a bad year. The Republic he struggled…and died…to save has seen its core values under attack, and for the first time since he was alive, there is reason to fear its existence as a beacon of individual liberty for the world. Statues that honored his brilliant tenure as leader of the nation when it was challenged by a multiple crises have been torn down or removed by mobs and fools. Last week, The New Yorker ran an interview with San Francisco school board President Gabriela López, the former teacher behind the recent decision by the body to remove the names of Founders and Presidents, including our two greatest, George and Abe, from schools because they had not completely absorbed 2ist century understanding of racial equality in the 18th and 19th Centuries respectively. Lincoln is “not someone I see as a hero,” this head-explodingly stupid and ignorant woman said. Meanwhile, the NeverTrump political organization that bears Lincoln’s name is in the midst of a scandal that raises questions about the group’s own values and trustworthiness. When I was a child, Lincoln’s birthday was a holiday, but government bureaucrats decided that two holidays honoring the birthdays of the Presidents most responsible for the nation’s character and existence was too much, so Abe’s day was folded in to George’s, while both of their names were stripped away. Thus, rather than honoring Lincoln today, we honor Millard Fillmore on February 22. The “This Day in History” page I see most mornings has Abe’s birth listed 12th, after the death of…Sal Mineo. #1 is the founding of the NAACP, which deliberately chose Lincoln’s birthday for the landmark. The average student in the United States, including college students, can’t tell you much of anything about Lincoln’s life or character. The ignorance, ingratitude and lack of perspective is staggering.

1. “Nothing to see here! Move along!” The Georgia State Election Board voted unanimously this week to investigate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock for his role, as board chairman of a voter registration organization founded by Stacey Abrams, in permitting the group to submit some 1,268 voter applications that did not comply with the law. Warnock’s election last month tilted control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats.

2. Nauseating grovel of the week: Rachael Kirkconnell is a contestant on “The Bachelor,” competing for the heart of Matt James, the first black “Bachelor” in the fatuous reality show’s history, which would make them the first mixed race couple on that show. Which is weird, since according to TV, about 80% of American couples are mixed race. Anyway, the social media mob went looking for something, anything, they could find to cancel Racheal, and the best they could come up with is that she attended an Old South-themed fraternity party three years ago—you know, big Scarlet O’Hara dresses, beaus in tails. The Horror. Racheal’s “Manchurian Candidate”-style apology:

At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. My age or when it happened doesn’t excuse anything,” she said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “There are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended…

Then the 24-year-old said she was ashamed”of her lack of education. Like saying “I am sorry to,” perhaps? She also encouraged others to use this as a “teachable moment” to prevent someone else from making the same mistake. You know, teachable: like intimidating and punishing anyone who doesn’t bow down to critical race theory and white guilt. “Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions,” she said

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

Jimmy Durante was born on this day in 1893 (“The Snozzola” died 87 years later, in 1980. He’s a semi-regular around here, because it’s Jimmy’s famous line from “Jumbo” (1935) (“Elephant? What elephant?”) that describes the Ethics Alarms offense of resolutely refusing to admit an ethic breach that cannot be denied.

My father was a lifetime admirer of Jimmy, and eventually I joined him: we had all of his albums, and as a stage director I often played his renditions of a ballad (like “I’ll Be Seeing You”) for singers to demonstrate the importance of phrasing and expression, both of which Durante excelled at despite having a distinctive but hardly euphonious voice. He also impressed me with his professionalism. When my father was handling marketing for a Boston banking association, he helped arrange for his organization to be one of the sponsors of Jimmy’s show, which came to the Prudential Center in Boston. The Snozz was over 70 then, but he always seemed ageless, and his energy in person was even more impressive than it was on TV (in fact, Durante had learned to tone down his enthusiasm on the small screen, because it became exhausting to watch). He made his entrance in the stage show rushing on from the wings while singing and flinging his fedora to the back of the stage, where it landed neatly on the head of his band’s bald drummer. My father managed to get our family backstage (though Jimmy was not available because he had a charity appearance right after the show) and I talked to the drummer. I asked him how often Jimmy landed the hat on his head. He replied, “He’s never missed.” He went on to say that his boss rehearsed that bit for hours every week and before every show. It was a split second grace note, but Jimmy insisted on doing it perfectly.

Durante had a stroke after a show when he was almost 80, and never fully recovered. My father, who was uncomfortable expressing emotion face to face but wrote beautiful and touching letters (I hated getting them because they always made me cry; still do), wrote Jimmy, who was then bedridden, a letter thanking him his long entertainment career and explained what his work had meant to Dad. Jimmy’s wife Margie wrote back to say she had read the letter to Jimmy, and he had mouthed the words “Thank you.”

1. Politicizing everything. UCLA’s star gymnast Nia Dennis is getting accolades for turning her floor routine into an ” exuberant and powerful celebration” of black culture. Says Slate, “This routine has everything. Dennis pays tribute to Colin Kaepernick (she kneels!), Tommie Smith and John Carlos (she raises a fist!), and Kamala Harris (like a soror, she strolls and she steps!).” That’s funny: the only way I would recognize a reference to Harris would be if Nia cackled and blathered nonsense. The routine is more dance than gymnastics, but it’s a diabolical gimmick (don’t blame Nia: she has a woke choreographer, Bjoya Das). Any judge that doesn’t give the routine the highest marks knows he or she will be cancelled as a virulent racist.

2. Then there’s the Jeep ad…I’m not going to bother with surveying the ethically dubious Super Bowl ads this year, since they all are unethical for supporting the NFL’s ongoing negligent homicide, but I can’t let Bruce Springsteen’s obnoxious Jeep ad pass. Here it is:

[Whoa! That video was pulled from YouTube shortly after I posted it! I also can’t find a link that has it.]

“To The ReUnited States Of America.” Right. Springsteen is hardly an honest advocate for “the middle,” as a vocal Democrat and anti-Trump shill. The country is supposedly “re-united” because a Democrat is President. The entire theme of the ad is a cynical exercise in Rationalization #64, “It isn’t what it is.” Donald Trump was “divisive” because Democrats decided to paint him as such. Enforcing immigration laws shouldn’t be divisive. Withdrawing from an unapproved treaty with no actual impact shouldn’t be divisive. Calling the biased news media what it is shouldn’t be divisive. Now, calling half the country racists , Nazis and morons IS divisive, and the party that just won control of Congress and the White House has been doing that for four years. Surveys show that that half of the country is more angry, alienated and distrustful than ever, and for some very good reasons, like the current unconstitutional impeachment trial. Got it, Bruce: when Republicans win a national election it’s divisive,and when Democrats win one, it’s unifying.

Update: Apparently Jeep has received so many complaints about Bruce that they decided it was a major gaffe. How can this happen? It happens when the entire company and its ad agency is so overloaded with Democrats and progressives that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

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Why Freedom Of Speech In America Is Threatened: Too Many Cowards

Coward

Oh no, not this issue again so soon.

Another prominent professional has been fired for breaching political correctness rules and annoying the totalitarian Left’s censors. His crime: speaking the taboo word “nigger” while referencing it in a discussion of racial slurs. Then, as we have seen over and over again, the exiled victim of this assault on free speech apologized. “Thank you sir, may I have another?” And, as we have also seen, it did no good.

The New York Times fired its #1 science and health reporter Donald McNeil Jr., after The Daily Beast reported that he had used racist language while on a 2019 trip with students to Peru. He did not use “racist language,” however, and there is no evidence at all that he displayed racist attitudes or opinions. What he did is to speak a word that speech censors have decided is itself forbidden, even if it is necessary in order to discuss the issue of racism, censorship or linguistics. This is, I note again, punishing or even criticizing such conduct is unethical, idiotic, juvenile, and sinister. Nonetheless, it is rapidly becoming the norm, and it is becoming the norm because so many individuals of power and influence lack the integrity and fortitude to oppose an indefensible position loudly and unequivocally.

(See the previous post. It is very relevant here.)

McNeil, formerly the Times’ top reporter on COVID-19,was fired because six students or their parents claimed he had made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip. An investigation inicated that none of his remarks were sexist or racist, but that he had used words employed by sexists or racists to talk about sexism or racism, rather than using the approved poopy/ pee-pee/woo-woo baby talk codes (n-word, b-word, c-word) demanded by language censors. Initially, the Times’ editor tried to be fair and to uphold what the Times is supposed to respect—the Bill of Rights—but eventually capitulated to his woke and anti-free speech staff, as he has before.

So here are the cowards in this nauseating drama:

Coward: Dean Baquet. The Times Executive Editor initially said McNeil should be “given another chance” (Chance to do what? Conform his speech to oppressive conformity with progressive dictates?).”I authorized an investigation and concluded his remarks were offensive and that he showed extremely poor judgment, but it did not appear to me that his intentions were hateful or malicious,” he said. But anti-white racist and liar (but Pulitzer Prize-winning racist and liar!) Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones threatened to call the parents and students on the trip to determine what McNeil had said and in what context (all of which would be hearsay, and thus unreliable except to an ideological hack like Hannah-Jones). Then a group of over a hundred staffers, mostly “of color” or female, signed a letter demanding serious sanctions.

“Our community is outraged and in pain,” the signees wrote. “Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”

Baquet, publisher A.G. Sulzberger, and Chief Executive Meredith Kopit Levien responded that they welcomed the letter, saying, “We appreciate the spirit in which it was offered and we largely agree with the message,” they wrote in masterpeice of weasel-wording. Then Baquet reversed himself and fired McNeil, saying, “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” Really? So if a news story involves a racist or sexist statement, the Times can’t write about it and use the langauge that makes the episode a story? If the Supreme Court holds that “nigger” or other words are constitutionally protected (as indeed they are), the nation’s ‘paper of record’ won’t be able to quote the opinion?

Baquet had an opportunity to take a crucial stand for freedom of expression and against the criminalizing of language and the retreat to the primitive logic of taboos. He proved himself to be more interested in Leftist agendas and his job than the principles of democracy.

Coward: Donald McNeil Jr. He could have articulately objected to the warped logic of the Times mob, and explained, as he was equipped to do, why we must never cripple expression by banning words, legally or culturally, and why this episode is a perfect example why. Instead, he wimpered an illogical and craven apology, telling the staff in part,

McNeil grovel

Well hello Galileo! He went on to say, “I am sorry. I let you all down.” He let a newspaper down by using a word in a discussion with students in Peru to examine the use of the word. He let a newspaper down by being clear and describing the matter under discussion… because at the New York Times, progressive agendas trump the truth.

Well, I guess we knew that.

Since he was going to sacked anyway, was obligated as an American to go down fighting for free speech and against the censorship of expression. Nah. That might interfere with getting his next job with an ideological indoctrinating institution or publication.

Coward: Ann Althouse. This is disappointing. She says the right things in her post on this fiasco:

In the old days, a big deal was made of the “use/mention” distinction. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Even McNeil, defendinghimself, asserts that he “used” the word.
I understand wanting to say that “intent” shouldn’t be decisive, because it presents evidentiary problems. What went on in a person’s head? Did he somehow mean well? But the “use/mention” distinction doesn’t require a trip into someone’s mind. If you have the outward statement, you can know whether the speaker/writer used the word as his own word or was referring to the word as a word. 
You don’t need to know whether I think Dean Baquet is a coward to distinguish the statement “Dean Baquet is a coward” from “I can imagine someone saying ‘Dean Baquet is a coward.'”

But there’s something oddly missing from her post. As one commenter coyly asks (and to her credit, Ann allowed it to be posted): “What word are you talking about?”

In this case, Althouse is a hypocrite as well as a coward. I can expect her to be on the sidelines with the mob when they haul me off to in the tumbrils because I write the word “nigger” when the topic is using the word “nigger.” Such reticence—I guess she’s worried her University of Wisconsin law school pals will shun her–does not help the cause of freedom of expression, which Ann knows damn well is under attack

Observations On Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s House Speech In Her Own Defense

Watch the whole speech. It’s only ten minutes long. Do not rely on media characterizations of it. For example, here is the despicable CNBC web headline: “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene expresses some regret about conspiracy claims ahead of vote to punish her.” Tell me if you think that’s a fair characterization of what she said.

1. It is a well-delivered, seemingly sincere, sympathetic and appealing and effective speech for anyone with any objectivity at all, designed to appeal to strong conservatives, and to send a message to progressives that she is not ashamed of her values and will not be intimidated into backing down from them

Good for her in that respect.

2. Her practical and ethical problem, however, is that she did not make this speech before the prospect of losing her committee assignments began looming. Why didn’t she say than that she was not a believer in the QAnon garbage? Why did she attack the messengers that revealed her other conspiratorial social media posts, rather than admitting what she had advocated and retracting it, with an explanation? This calls into question her honesty now. Yes, we now know she possesses at least one major asset for a politician: the ability to defend herself in a political crisis—like Bill Clinton. The ability to lie under pressure is another talent she might have.

3. I am troubled by the shadow of possible deceit in her choices of words. She never claimed the 9-11 attacks didn’t happen; she seemed to agree that it was “an inside job.” Saying now that the disaster happened is a non-sequitur..or just rhetorical carelessness. Her comments about school shootings are similarly ambiguous.

4. The fact, if true, that she has not met any of her Democratic colleagues is a terrible reflection on House leadership, and Nancy Pelosi in particular. How can that be defended? Not even a meet and greet for the entire freshman class? That’s rank incompetence.If you want a divided and dysfunctional body, that’s how you get one.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/21: Cold Day Reflections [Corrected]

Shining Frozen

1. Wait, what? Ann Althouse revealed this week that she doesn’t read all of the paragraphs in articles she blogs about. She was caught doing this is a post I didn’t read, since it involved her weird concern about the sounds ice makes in a glass. The law professor had asked a question that was answered in the article, but Ann didn’t read that far.

I have found that blogging inherently requires doing opinion and analysis with less than all the facts, or, in the alternative, writing only an article a day. The Ethics Scoreboard, now online, was an ethics website, not a blog, and I spent easily three times the research and consideration on each post that I do now on Ethics Alarms. I also had a webmaster who caught most typos. I eventually decided to switch to blog, because I couldn’t come close to covering the field in only a post a day (if even that), and because I wanted to have an ethics forum with participation from commenters. I sympathize with Ann: blogging is time consuming even if you write as quickly as I do. Then you have the proofing, tagging and administrative stuff. I can see why she would get in the habit of skimming articles.

But it’s still reckless, and guarantees mistakes and an erosion of trust. To her credit, she admitted that she does this in her post, but didn’t seem to say that she was about to change.

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Sunday Ethics Irony, 1/24/2021: Now Remember, It’s The Trump Voters Who Are Deplorable

In “Utopia,” the strange and violent Amazon series about a mysterious graphic novel that turns out to be both true and a coded guide to an upcoming pandemic, the diversity propaganda is so heavy-handed that it could knock out Godzilla with a left cross. Let’s see: all the good couples are mixed race. A middle -class black woman takes in troubled white children. A white husband and wife have a family including multiple black and Asian children, which you would think violates the good couples are mixed-race rule, but it’s a trick: that white couple is villainous, and their white children are too, tough the minority kids seem to be OK. A group of assassins appears to include only whites, and the main heroine is black, though her character in the graphic novel that everyone is chasing after is white. Her female mentor is white, but she is so covered in grime that she looks black. (Why isn’t that blackface?)

At what point does this become so forced and absurd that audiences object to it? None of the race obsession adds a thing to the story except weirdness, and trust me, “Utopia” needs no more of THAT.

1. Welcome to my world! Here is a submitted comment to this post: the proud idiot “RidenwithBiden” (Oooh, clever!) writes, “My God, an entire website dedicated the the sanctimonious and bottomless brainwashed hypocrisy of traitorous right wing nut jobs.”

2. Here are some Biden voters I have no sympathy with whatsoever…President Biden signed an executive order that will require institutions receiving Title IX funding to allow biological males who identify as female to compete in women’s athletic events. This should effectively kill women’s sports while making a joke out of “competition.” Women voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden, a serial sexual harasser who was accused of rape on the record by a staffer, and he was clearly going to do this. Now feminists and women’s sports advocates are whining?

Bailey tweet

What betrayal? Sorry that you weren’t paying attention, but it was always obvious that the most extreme end of the LGBTQ lobby was pulling Joe’s strings. The one who betrayed female athletes were feminist voters. Own it, ladies.

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Telling Unethical Quote Of The Week: Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal

Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address calling for unity was extravagantly praised by the news media. Were they empty words of convenience? We shall see. The first clue will be whether Democrats allow the “snap impeachment” of President Trump to continue to become the unconstitutional spite trial of citizen Donald Trump. That just might be considered divisive. The likelihood is getting stronger even as the mainstream media is reporting that the siege of the Capitol had been planned in advance, so claiming that Trump “incited a riot” is false on its face….but this is what happens when the objective is just to accuse someone without bothering to wait for a thorough investigation.

Also working against “unity”—totalitarian regimes love unity; in fact, they insist on it—is the certainty that the mainstream news media will now constantly be parading its despicable double standards before the public daily. Seldom has blogger Ann Althouse, a moderate liberal who found herself defending a President she disliked almost as much as I did over the last four years, duplicated my thoughts more exactly than she did yesterday when she wrote in part,

I’m not watching the TV, not thinking about the inauguration. I’m uninterested in hearing analysis of the speeches, the poetry, the song-belting, the executive orders, the race-and-sex firsts. Bored by social media posts about how happy this or that person I follow happens to be about all those things. …The main reason I am averting my eyes is that I don’t want exposure to all the favorable, flattering media. The media were so awful to Trump, whatever he did. The sudden shift to bathing Biden in sunlight just feels so wrong to me. It seems sappy and patronizing. But I hope Biden does well, and I’ll be giving him a chance.”

Which is more than 99% of the AUC did with President Trump.

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