How is Joe Biden losing to the I-Can-Commit-Murder guy?

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 5

How is Joe Biden losing to the I-Can-Commit-Murder guy?

Executive Powerlessness

THIS MORNING, IN a hearing at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a lawyer for former president Donald Trump argued that Trump's vision of presidential immunity, under the protection of official action, extended to all the way to murder. "Could a president order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival?" Judge Florence Pan had asked. "That's an official act, an order to SEAL Team 6."

"He would have to be and would speedily be impeached and convicted," the attorney, D. John Sauer replied, "before the criminal prosecution."

Pan circled back, to clear up the “have to be” part: "I asked you a yes or no question. Could a president who ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, who was not impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?"

"If he were impeached and convicted first," Sauer said.

The non-hypothetical version of the question already had blood on it. Pan and her fellow judges were there to hear Trump's argument that the federal case against him for his attempt to overturn the 2020 election should be thrown out, because his actions as president were inherently immune to prosecution. By the Trump legal team's account, Congressional Republicans had kept that immunity in place when they refused to convict him in his second impeachment trial. The Trump presidency was outside the reach of criminal law.

Roughly six hours later, the Detroit News reported that Trump held an eight-point lead over Joe Biden in its latest poll of likely voters about the presumptive 2024 presidential matchup in Michigan, 47 percent to 39 percent. Asked if Biden deserved reelection, the News wrote, only 17 percent of the respondents said yes, "a low for a major public officeholder in modern Michigan political history." Seventy-seven percent said they wanted someone else.

The poll respondents didn't like Trump, either. Only 33 percent of them said Trump deserved to be elected, and 62 percent wanted someone else. But in what seems to be the available matchup, he was ahead.

Trump led an insurrection to try to steal an election—specifically focused on stealing the result in Michigan, among other states. Since leaving office, he has been found legally liable for corporate fraud and sexual assault. His theory of executive power is explicitly dictatorial, and his declared agenda for a new term is built around the deliberate abuse of the presidency. As far as the voters in the poll were concerned, he's a viable choice this coming fall.

Joe Biden's current polling unpopularity is so deep that it seems to be beyond any single rational explanation. There's room to attach whatever belief system you want to it—the public mood has been driven into unreality by inflation hype and bogus crime-panic coverage; the public mood is sincerely reflecting the bone-deep precarity of American life; the public mood is fed up with runaway wokeness; the public mood is disgusted with the failure to implement a proper European-style social-welfare system.

Personally, on my own hobbyhorse, I suspect the public mood is traumatized by the ongoing, unexamined long-term devastation of the Covid pandemic. I also think it should be self-evident to anyone who's been in the same room as a TV playing cable news, or in an Uber with the radio on, that Biden is being hammered by a universal and relentless propaganda campaign telling people—despite spectacularly good employment numbers, and probably because workers are in their strongest bargaining position in generations—that we're living in historically hard times, economically, and it's the president's fault, and everyone else is blaming the president for it.

But does any of that add up to being 60 points underwater on approval in a state that not only voted against Trump but swept Republicans out of the state capital afterward? Behind the specific and arguable complaints about Biden is a larger reality, which is that people want to be able to complain about the president. They want to vote for the president based on how they feel about the price of eggs or gasoline. They want to be able to hold someone responsible, even if their beliefs about that responsibility happen wrong.

What the public wants, that is, is to participate in a political story about what's happening in our own lives and what could happen in our future. Instead, we're trapped in a loop of being ordered to defend democracy itself, in a rear-guard action. We can't use democracy to vote for other things, because the institutions that are supposed to keep that system working have failed. Now it's our job to be voting on whether Donald Trump committed insurrection three years ago, and on how the Insurrection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment should be applied.

How many questions can be squeezed on one ballot line? Lots of people have opinions about how old the president should be, but the choices on offer, unless the power of age itself intervenes, will be to stick with the 81-year-old or go back to the 78-year-old. The great promise of Joe Biden, the reason to rally around him in 2020, was that he was the person who could get rid of Donald Trump and move on. Whatever else Biden may have delivered or not delivered, four years later, we're right back where we were.


New York City, January 8, 2024

★★★★ It took a half an hour past sunrise before direct light came into view on the east-facing buildings. Once the sun got up into the sky, though, it filled it. The coat could hang unzipped in the radiant warmth, even as one spot of tire-crushed slush still lay in the shade near the curb. A cardinal had gone over from chirping into full-flowing song. Leaves stood upright in the subway grate. The grassy slopes stretching down to the Pool were glowing. Up atop the Great Hill, the tangled shadows of branches cut green diamond and triangle shapes out of the lawn. The budding crowns of two adjacent trees traced a single curve, one rising from left to right to meet the symmetrical arch of the other. A complex of gray-shaded white clouds shaped like Eurasia drifted slowly toward the sun. Squirrels chattered and chased one another over the rustling ground and up and around the trees—two, then three, then five of them. The asphalt path back down, skimmed by the low light, was a relief map of mountains underfoot.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 194: A minuscule minority.

Tom Scocca • Jan 9, 2024


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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of sandwiches from Lutheran Aid Recipes, compiled by The Ladies of Trinity Lutheran Church, Abilene, Kansas. Published in 1928, now certified Public Domain Mark 1.0 Universal, these recipes and more are available at for the delectation of all.

Thin peanut butter with cream so it will spread easily. Grind seedless raisins, mix peanut butter. Use more cream if needed.
—Phyllis Dentzer

Finely chop celery, add half the quantity of finely chopped apples and half that quantity of nut meats, finely chopped, moisten with mayonnaise, and spread on thin buttered bread.
—Dorris Duckwall

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to


The second printing of 19 FOLK TALES is now available for belated Holiday gift-giving and personal perusal! Huddle up against the cold with a cozy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read within the snowy part of a wintry-mix storm.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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