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John Light

John is TPM‘s Prime editor. His writing has also appeared at The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, UN Dispatch, Vox, Worth, and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. Before joining TPM, John was a producer for Bill Moyers and WNYC, and worked as a news writer for Grist. He grew up in New Jersey, studied history and film at Oberlin College, and got his master‘s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Articles by John

Hello TPM Members and welcome to the weekend,

Two mass shootings within a few hours of each other last weekend underscored just how insane it is that we live this way, prompting a week of wondering if anything will change this time, when it hasn’t so many times before. Here’s some of what happened in Prime.

Hello TPM Members and welcome to the weekend.

We made it through another round of Democratic debates and Rep. John Ratcliffe, who Trump announced as the next Director of National Intelligence at the start of the week, had pulled himself out of the running by the end of it.

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Elizabeth Warren distinguished herself, as usual, for her ideas. She was helped by debate moderators who seemed to like asking the other candidates to comment on Warren’s proposals. Her attack on John Delaney is likely to be talked about tomorrow: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”
After a largely unmemorable first debate, Bernie Sanders came out swinging this time, not hesitating to call out his debate-stage rivals and even the moderators. For a significant, early part of the debate, he and Warren together defended their ambitious health care plans. Notably, he and Warren did not turn on one another, as many pundits predicted.
Tim Ryan didn’t get much time, and his efforts to distinguish himself as a guy from a Trump-voting state didn’t come to the forefront. He did draw one of the many rebukes Sanders was dishing out: At one point, when he questioned whether Medicare For All would deliver certain services for senior citizens — “you don’t know that, Bernie” — Sanders replied, “I do know it, I wrote the damn bill.”
Beto O’Rourke continues to struggle to gain traction after his initial burst of attention. He did, however, seem to come prepared to talk policy on such issues as health care and reparations, perhaps in an effort to combat what some have claimed is a lack of depth.
Tonight was many viewers’ first introduction to Steve Bullock. He was given a lot of time and staked out his territory as the One Guy On The Stage Who Won Statewide In A Trump State.
Amy Klobucher stood out among the more moderate candidates, distinguishing herself with a denunciation of the NRA. She attempted to frame herself as a champion of the working class, speaking of her Iron Range upbringing
John Hickenlooper was in many ways upstaged by new entrant and fellow governor Steve Bullock. He didn’t get much time, but, with the time he got, it seemed clear he had pivoted away from attacks on Democrats to his left. He said he “respects” Warren and Sanders. What Hickenlooper had pivoted to was less clear.
John Delaney adopted the posture of debate pit bull right from the start, calling out Sanders and Warren by name. Moderators seemed to frame him as the token centrist, playing him off various candidates to his left, which had the effect of giving him the major-candidate treatment (he’s tied in the polls with de Blasio.)
Pete Buttigieg didn’t do much to help or hurt himself this time around. We noted his references to, and the question he got about, his relatively young age. (Given the opportunity by a moderator, he declined to criticize Sanders’ age.) He also, as part of a conversation about countering the gun lobby, laid out some changes he’d seek to democracy: ending the Electoral College, making Washington, D.C., a state and changing the number of seats on the Supreme Court.
After being accused of being too wacky back in June, Marianne Williamson was on firmer ground tonight. Sort of. Her self-help style wavers between a breath of fresh air on the debate stage and weird. She did get some big applause lines, notably when talking about environmental racism in Flint.

Nicole Lafond wrote last week that, for House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA), Mueller’s testimony may have been something of an audition. The President had soured on Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; he was considering replacements. He asked Nunes to give his opinion on various candidates, but, according to Politico, Nunes himself was also a candidate for the job.

He didn’t get the gig — because, it now turns out, another member of Congress was auditioning that day, and outshone him. 

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Hello TPM Members, and welcome to the weekend.

We heard from Mueller this week, though we didn’t hear much.

Looking ahead to next week, we’ve got another two-day, 20-candidate round of Democratic debates.

Here’s what happened at Prime:

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“House Democrats have spent the last two years waiting for someone else to solve the Trump conundrum,” career federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne writes for Cafe.

What became clear Wednesday is that there is no savior here, no knight in shining armor is going to ride in and save the day. It is now up to them, and to them alone, to determine whether they follow the polls or whether they follow the evidence.

Read her post at Cafe.

This week was defined by a new level of overt racism from the President, and the utter failure of the overwhelming majority of those in his party to respond to it.

Here’s what happened in Prime.

  • A reader, the child of immigrants from India, writes: “I know Trump is a bully, I know he’s trying to rally his racist supporters, I know he’s trying to distract from other issues, but at the end of the day he’s challenging my identity as an American, as someone who BELONGS in this country. That causes real pain and real trauma.”
  • The GOP adopts a herd mentality when one of their own is guilty of racism, Matt Shuham writes.
  • A reader writes in about how a New York Times article changed his opinion of his favorite candidate.
  • Documents unsealed this week show panic in Trumpworld as the deal with Stormy Daniels almost collapsed in 2016.
  • Josh Kovensky digs into the bizarre details of the NRA’s planned giving program.
  • Josh Marshall writes: “I’ve noticed a pattern accelerating in recent days by which the latest outrage from the President — whether it’s a new bad act, suspicious DOJ decision, rape accusation or racist outburst — leads Democrats not to vituperation against the President but a new round of increasingly febrile agitation and attacks against the congressional leaders of their own party.”
  • A reader responds: “What’s missing here is any kind of communication from the party leadership that they feel the same apocalyptic urgency about the threat to democracy that the base does.”
  • The backstory behind that congressional rule that says you can’t call the president racist.
  •  Newly revealed emails show a jaw-dropping level of coziness between a Trump administration political staffer and his former employer, the right-wing advocacy group Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In case you missed it, we published two remembrances of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens at TPM Cafe this week, both by prominent law professors who clerked for Stevens.

Deborah Pearlstein writes on how Stevens might respond to the Trump administration’s census shenanigans. Amanda Cohen Leiter reflects on Stevens’ propensity for writing his own opinions, even when arriving at the same conclusions as other justices, in order to preserve his thinking for posterity.

Reader AV writes:

I’ve been a reader for a very long time, I read all your stuff. I’m Prime AF, but I haven’t written in seven years. I think that part of it is that politics are very personal for me. I’ve been very close to local politics where I live, I was a Congressional staffer, and I ran for office myself, and none of that comes close to the politics of today. Today we are in a space where politics are all about who we are, all about our identity.

My parents moved from India to the US in the 70’s and my brother and I were born in the US. Neither of my parents were US citizens at the time, so maybe that makes us anchor babies. When Trump tweeted those statements about going back to where you come from, I was brought back not to India, but to my childhood. I was bullied for the color of my skin, for the language my parents spoke, for our religion, and for our food. I’ve been told to go back to where I come from or to leave this country a number of times in my life. I know Trump is a bully, I know he’s trying to rally his racist supporters, I know he’s trying to distract from other issues, but at the end of the day he’s challenging my identity as an American, as someone who BELONGS in this country. That causes real pain and real trauma.

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