• Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Democratic Challenger Says the Congresswoman Is Not “Attractive Enough” To Hold Office

    Former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels poses at his home in Minneapolis earlier this month.Steve Karnowski/AP

    Former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels, one of the primary challengers to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), mentioned a reason he thinks she’s unfit for office: Omar is allegedly “not cute enough.”

    During his appearance last week on “The Break Down,” a weekly politics podcast, one of the co-hosts asked Samuels to elaborate on his critiques of Omar’s alleged “lack of town halls [and] constituent services” (you can hear the question start at about the 22-minute mark). Here’s how he responded:

    To see government not be responsive like that, to the people that pay them, it is offensive to me. And to not be responsive and available to those people, to meet with them and find out what their concerns are and to answer their tough questions? To not get back to people on the phone? Who do you think you are? And who do you think you’re working for? You’re not cute enough, you don’t dress well enough, nothing about you is attractive enough to overcome that deficit.

    Omar responded to Samuels’ comments in a post on X, calling them “beneath the dignity of any adult, let alone someone seeking public office” and “reminiscent of the worst kinds of lies and misogyny that we are hearing from people like Donald Trump, who think they can say anything about women and get away with it.”

    Omar’s senior advisor also disputed Samuels’ claim about her alleged lack of town halls, writing on X that the congressperson “has held multiple town halls every quarter this year.” (An Eventbrite page advertising Omar’s town halls appears to show she has held six this year, five of which were in person.) 

    In a statement provided to Mother Jones, Samuels—who nearly ousted the three-term congresswoman as the Democratic House nominee in the 2022 primary, coming up just about 2,500 votes short in the primary—said Omar’s repost mischaracterized his comments, which he claims weren’t about her specifically but were instead about “politicians who talk the talk versus walk the walk.”

    “In listening to my full answer, it’s abundantly clear that I’m talking broadly about politicians who value their own celebrity over the needs of their constituents,” Samuels added. “We shouldn’t be surprised Rep. Ilhan Omar saw herself in my response.”

    When he announced his challenge to Omar earlier this month, Samuels—who has also come out swinging against Omar’s critiques of U.S. support for Israel and policing in Minneapolis—pointed to last year’s contest, claiming that that race “laid the foundation for a rematch that holds the promise of a better future for our district.” But that was also before he insinuated that the incumbent’s appearance shapes her ability to govern.

    Sexism isn’t a rarity in politics, nor is it a partisan problem: Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was accused of misogyny earlier this month after dismissing former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels” at the last Republican debate. Whether sexism is enough to shape an election’s outcome, though, is another question: Trump, of course, was still elected after a leaked tape showed him bragging about sexual assault.

  • Union Autoworkers Have Officially Finalized Their Deal With General Motors

    Paul Sancya/AP

    The United Auto Workers union, in a closely watched vote, has officially ratified its deal with General Motors, bringing the months-long saga of history-making strikes to a close. On Thursday, the union posted the final results, showing that approximately 55 percent of the 36,000 GM union members voted in favor of the deal, according to Forbes.

    Since September, union members, under the leadership of President Shawn Fain, have been mobilizing against the nation’s three largest automakers—Ford, GM, and Stellantis—to demand better pay and working conditions. It’s the first time such an extensive labor action has upended the centuries-old industry. With GM being the final automaker to agree to a new a deal, the end of this chapter in the monumental fight for labor rights is now on the horizon.

    The final contract for General Motors’ employees includes 25 percent pay increases over the next four years, cost of living adjustments to combat inflation, and organizing opportunities for other non-unionized automakers in the US, according to a UAW statement from October. While the votes on the remaining contracts with Ford and Stellantis are still pending, they are expected to pass, according to CNBC

    Editor’s note: The author of this post and other Mother Jones workers are represented by UAW Local 2103.

  • Obama, Warren, Sanders: Former Staffers Are Calling on Their Bosses to Demand a Ceasefire

    More than 130 former Obama campaign staffers and political appointees are begging the former president to "leverage" his influence to call for a ceasefire.Scott Olson/Getty

    More than 130 former Obama campaign staffers and political appointees have sent the ex-president a letter demanding he “leverage” his influence with President Joe Biden and other elected officials to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and broker the return of hostages, the Intercept reported Tuesday. 

    “You always called on us to be courageous in reaching our hands high to help bend the arc toward justice,” the letter says. “Today, we call on you to stand with us, to do the same.”

    The signatories—who signed the letter with their former or current titles, not their names—referenced Obama’s own words. In a Medium post last month, Obama wrote that Palestinians “continue to be forcibly displaced by a settler movement that too often has received tacit or explicit support from the Israeli government.” In Jerusalem a decade ago, the staffers pointed out, the former president said: “Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.” 

    Representatives for the Obamas and the Obama Foundation didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The Obama letter is part of a growing trend of onetime campaign staffers using their former bosses’ words to implore political figures to call for a ceasefire. More than 500 former Biden campaign staffers sent him a letter last week demanding he call for a ceasefire, among other measures, noting: “As you have said, silence in the face of human rights violations is tantamount to complicity.” (Biden has said there is “no possibility” of a ceasefire.)

    More than 400 former staffers for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign sent her a letter last month requesting she “demand an immediate ceasefire in Palestine and the return of Israeli hostages, and take concrete steps to end Israeli occupation,” explaining that “one of your last calls to action for us at the end of your presidential campaign was to ‘always choose to fight righteous fights.'” Warren said she respects her former staffers and that they’re “doing exactly what I have always encouraged them to do—stand up and fight for what they believe in,” Politico reported.

    Over 400 former staffers for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns sent him a letter—five days after Warren’s former staffers sent theirs—asking the Vermont senator to introduce a companion bill to the House resolution calling for a ceasefire, work to end US military funding to Israel, and facilitate more humanitarian aid to Gaza.

    “Many of us, your former staff, are Muslim and/or Arab, and were inspired to support your campaign because of your calls to end the ‘Forever Wars’ waged against people who look like us and worship like us,” they wrote.

    Sanders doesn’t appear to have directly responded to the letter, but told the Washington Post that the “tragic reality” is that Hamas wants “permanent war and the destruction of Israel” and wouldn’t abide by a ceasefire. Sanders thinks Israel should enact an “extended” humanitarian pause.

    “I wish there was a simple solution,” he told the paper. “There isn’t.”

    Federal officials are also calling on their current bosses to support a ceasefire: as I reported yesterday, dozens of State Department employees and hundreds of USAID staffers have voiced dissent internally and called for the administration to support a ceasefire. And more than 400 officials anonymously sent Biden a letter yesterday protesting his support for Israel and demanding he call for an immediate ceasefire, according to a New York Times report.

    The White House doesn’t appear to have publicly commented on the letter—but a White House spokesperson pointed Mother Jones to a letter that more than 115 former officials signed in support of Biden’s policy toward Israel, as first reported by CNN yesterday.

    The letter, which includes the names of signatories, praises Biden’s “moral clarity, courageous leadership, and staunch support of Israel, one of our nation’s strongest allies, in the aftermath of the worst massacre of Jewish people in a single day since the Holocaust.” It also says that “a ceasefire is not possible at this time” and that a more than two-year ceasefire had been in effect when Hamas carried out its attacks on Oct. 7.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shares that perspective, writing in the Atlantic yesterday that a full ceasefire “would give Hamas a chance to re-arm and perpetuate the cycle of violence” and “would leave the people of Gaza living in a besieged enclave under the domination of terrorists and leave Israelis vulnerable to continued attacks.”

    Not everyone supports the public shaming of elected officials. According to New York columnist Jonathan Chait, the staffers protesting their current bosses should either quit or accept their cog-in-the-machine status: 

    If an elected official hires you to look out for their interests, and instead you attend rallies and sign petitions labelling that elected official a moral monster, I’d say your professional credibility is very much in doubt. Indeed, that behavior indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of the job of congressional staffer.

    What that seems to ignore is that getting on the federal payroll—or that of a onetime presidential campaign—doesn’t mean that staffers can’t dissent from their bosses or the candidates they once supported, particularly on an issue the majority of American voters agree with them on and that has left thousands of children dead, injured, and traumatized. 

    As the letters show, the signatories are simply asking the politicians to live up to the ethical stances—or the “professional credibility”—they’ve campaigned and governed on. And they might even be helping make sure that Democrats can keep getting elected: a new poll conducted by Marist, NPR, and PBS shows that 56 percent of Democrats—and nearly half of people under 45—think Israel’s response to the Hamas attack went “too far.”  

    With Biden facing tough headwinds against former President Donald Trump going into an election year—and with presidential campaigns notoriously relying on the grueling labor of young people—that poll isn’t promising for the Biden campaign. As Juliana Amin, a former official on Warren’s campaign, told Vox, the letter signers are “the people who do the work that campaigns need, that wins elections, that uplift people and their platforms, and I know a lot of people who aren’t willing to do that work anymore if Democrats continue to enable genocide.”

    Not only that, but with Biden’s original promise of student loan relief being struck down by the Supreme Court in June, he has a tough road ahead if he wants to win the votes of young people. Biden has long cast Trump as a threat to democracy, and himself as the saner alternative. But as long as he’s backing this war, all signs point to a vote for him being harder for young Democrats to justify next November.

    As a Democratic strategist told my colleague Noah Lanard, Biden’s response to the war could “absolutely” cost him the election. 

    Correction, November 15: This post has been updated to better reflect who signed a letter urging Obama to call for a ceasefire.

  • Mike Johnson Has Ties to a Christian Movement That Played a Key Role in Spreading Trump’s Big Lie

    Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the U.S. Capitol before a news conference

    Tom Williams/AP

    Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) became Speaker of the House less than a month ago. Since then, a national audience has become aware of a slew of questionable remarks, associations, and policy positions: The congressman has been criticized for blaming school shootings on no-fault divorces; he has been critiqued for working hand-in-hand with legislators like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to gut gender-affirming care for teens; it has been mentioned that Johnson even claimed that if people gave birth to more “able-bodied workers,” then Republicans wouldn’t need to cut Social Security and Medicaid.

    Where could he get such ideas? There has been extensive reporting on Johnson’s connections to Christian nationalist organizations, too. Now, another troubling fact about the House’s most powerful man has surfaced.

    On Wednesday, NPR reported that the speaker has ties to the New Apostolic Reformation, an extreme far-right Christian movement seeking to dissolve the US’s separation between church and state by “any means necessary.” Johnson reportedly has fostered relationships with several NAR leaders, including Pastor Jim Garlow, who has hosted online prayer sessions for “U.S. election integrity”

    “I’m so grateful for the ministry and your faithfulness,” said Johnson during an August interview on Garlow’s radio show. “It’s a great encouragement to me and others who are serving in these sometimes rocky corners of the Lord’s vineyard.” But, the NAR isn’t your average conservative Christian cohort. Unlike other believers, they have wholeheartedly embraced and led an effort to spread Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election results. As my former colleague, Emily Hofstaedter, wrote:

    NAR adherents share goals with other conservative Christians—outlawing abortion, fighting marriage equality—and were especially instrumental in the movement to keep a defeated Trump in power. In his audio documentary Charismatic Revival Fury, Matthew Taylor, a scholar at Baltimore’s Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies, explains how 15 charismatic leaders met with high-level Trump administration officials in the lead-up to January 6 to discuss “spiritual warfare strategies”; of the six protest permits issued that day, four went to NAR-affiliated charismatic church groups. “A lot of NAR people just embrace the Big Lie,” says [André] Gagné, propelled by the claims of their prophets: “‘It’s not true, and God showed us.’”

    Johnson’s bonds with this movement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s even faintly familiar with his rhetoric. The Louisiana legislator has spent nearly two decades trying to cram religion into secular spaces under the guise of “religious freedom,” with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerful conservative organization where he spent years as a spokesperson and an attorney.

  • Dissent Is Growing: US Officials Sign Letter Protesting Biden’s Israel Policies

    President Biden meets with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia in the Oval Office on Nov. 13, 2023.Al Drago/Pool CNP/Zuma

    More than 400 federal officials sent President Joe Biden a letter today protesting his support for Israel and demanding he call for an immediate ceasefire, according to a report in the New York Times.

    The letter, obtained by the Times, was anonymously signed by officials of various faith backgrounds representing 40 government agencies, including the National Security Council, the FBI, and the Justice Department. The document begins by denouncing the Oct. 7 attack on Israelis carried out by Hamas and implores the president to facilitate moving more aid into Gaza, the newspaper reported.

    “We call on President Biden to urgently demand a cease-fire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” the letter says, according to the Times

    It also notes that Biden’s approach to supporting Israel is unpopular among voters, linking to a poll from the progressive think tank Data for Progress, issued last month, showing that 66 percent of voters—and 80 percent of Democrats—agree that the US should call for a ceasefire in Gaza. As my colleague Noah Lanard has reported, young progressives in particular are disgusted with Biden over the support he has shown for Israel—a reality that Democratic strategists say could cost him the election.

    According to the Times, the letter adds that “Americans do not want the U.S. military to be drawn into another costly and senseless war in the Middle East.”

    The White House hasn’t yet publicly responded to the letter and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones on Tuesday morning—but Biden said last week that there’s “no possibility” of a ceasefire, noting instead that he had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement daily four-hour pauses to allow civilians to flee, which Israel’s military has agreed to.

    The letter comes as the latest example of growing dissent within the Biden administration over its support for Israel: the Times reported yesterday that dozens of State Department employees sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken three internal “dissent” memos urging Biden to call for a ceasefire. Blinken responded in an email to State Department employees, obtained by the Times, saying he’s aware “some people in the department may disagree with approaches we are taking or have views on what we can do better” and that officials are “listening” to these concerns. 

    State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Monday that Blinken “encourages people to provide feedback” and “to speak up if they disagree.”

    “It doesn’t mean that we’re going to change our policy based on their disagreements,” Miller added. “He is going to take their recommendations and make ultimately what he thinks is the best judgment and make his recommendations to the president about what we ought to do.”

    Hundreds of USAID officials also signed a letter calling on the Biden administration to push for a ceasefire, Foreign Policy reported last Friday.

    USAID Spokesperson Jessica Jennings said in a statement provided to Mother Jones on Tuesday that the agency “will continue to work with our trusted partner organizations to help meet urgent needs in Gaza for medical commodities, shelter, access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and food.” Jennings added that “agency leadership has held numerous listening sessions with staff to offer appreciation for their work and hear their concerns.” 

    Instead of a ceasefire, the Biden administration has requested $14 billion in aid for Israel, while bundling an aid request for Palestinians into a $9 billion request for humanitarian aid for Israel, Palestine, and Ukraine as a group—without specifying how much of it would actually go towards Palestinians.

    According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war.

    On Sunday, the World Health Organization said Sunday that 521 people—including 16 healthcare workers—had been killed in “attacks on healthcare” in Gaza, and that hospitals lack adequate food, water, and fuel. Human Rights Watch said today that Israel’s attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel should be investigated as war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

    This story has been updated with statements from the State Department and USAID.

  • The Irony of Jewish Activists Facing Anti-LGBTQ Backlash for Supporting Palestinians

    A person with a rainbow yarmulke raises their right fist to a banner that says "Palestinians Should Be Free."

    Protesters from Jewish Voice for Peace demand a ceasefire in Grand Central Station on October 27th, inspired by the ACT UP demonstration against the Gulf War. Michaal Nigro/AP

    “Mr. President, you care about Jewish people. As a rabbi, I need you to call for a cease-fire right now,” called Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg last week, interrupting Biden at a campaign reception in Minneapolis.

    Biden responded with “I think we need a pause.” It was the first time Biden had wavered from his unconditional support for Israel, though he clarified that “a pause means give time to get the prisoners out. Give time.”

    Rosenberg, a Reconstructionist rabbi, author, and organizer, is a member of the rabbinical council of Jewish Voice for Peace, a large coalition of anti-zionist Jewish Americans calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Organizers say that JVP protestors’ mass arrests in recent weeks are the largest scale arrests of Jews for civil disobedience in US history.

    The internet quickly caught on to Rosenberg’s comments. While many voiced support, hate against Rosenberg, an LGBTQ+ woman, also exploded on social media. Some was from the expected sources, like conservative talk show host Megyn Kelly, who said she “was a man pretending to be a woman” who may be “pretending to be a rabbi too.” Kelly emphasized that Rosenberg has a beard (5-10 percent of cisgender women in the United State naturally grow beards). 

    “I’m so proud to be a queer and visibly gender non conforming femme woman who could take that action,” Rosenberg says about her appearance and her confrontation with Biden. “Let all, especially SWANA and Jewish bearded femmes see ourselves in power and unafraid.” (SWANA refers to Southwest Asia and North Africa, the region commonly referred to as the Middle East.)

    Such transphobic, nasty comments are not surprising from Kelly. But she wasn’t the only one: Stella Inger, a Jewish news anchor from the One America News Network, tweeted a video of Rosenberg’s comments, calling her a “biological man.” Local Brooklyn politician Yaakov Kaplan, highlight headshots of Rosenberg to question her legitimacy as a woman, Jew, and Rabbi. In a different incident, a feud unfolded online between two queer, Jewish content creators. One of them, Michael Valdes, supports Israel, and made a halloween costume meme of Matt Bernstein, who he described as a “Self-hating Jew” and “Queer for Palestine” with a “lack knowledge of Jewish history” and “desires to be wanted by the ‘wokes’.”

    This vocal transphobia from supporters of Israel is telling, considering how so many defend the country as a bastion of safety for LGBTQ+ people in the Middle East. On October 29th, Israel’s official Twitter account posted: “Looking forward to seeing Hamas raise the rainbow flag across Gaza.” After the October 7 attacks, David Kilmnick, founder of the LGBT Network, wondered why more LGBTQ+ people hadn’t come out in support of Israel considering it is the “only country [that] protects LGBT people from discrimination and violence.” Mark Segal, a Jewish LGBTQ+ activist and journalist who participated in Stonewall, wrote an op-ed “Hamas hates you as well,” directed at the Pro-Palestine queer community. 

    In reality, things in Israel are more complicated, and critics of the country have long accused it of “pinkwashing,” a term created by Palestinian activists. For example, Israel doesn’t allow same sex marriage or adoption. 

    For Rosenberg,  support of justice in Palestine is directly related to her queer and Jewish identity. “Supporters of Israel say, ‘This is being done for your safety,'” explains Rosenberg. “As a queer person and as a Jew, my bodily autonomy and safety is very visceral. The idea that somehow LGBTQ identity can be safeguarded by a military occupation and displacement of people is just absurd. What kind of freedom is that?”

    Jay Saper, a lead organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace, explains that the dynamic of receiving anti-LGBTQ+ hate from supporters of Israel is not new. “The most deeply homophobic and transphobic remarks that I personally have received are from Zionists,” says Saper, “but we’re going to continue to speak up and to take action like never before, to work to bring about a ceasefire and justice for Palestinians.”

  • Sen. Joe Manchin Won’t Seek Reelection in 2024

    Stefani Reynolds/Getty

    Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will not run for reelection next year. 

    The conservative Democrat called the choice—which he shared the news of in a video he posted to X—”one of the toughest decisions of my life.” Instead of running for Senate, Manchin said he would be “traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.” 

    If you think that sounds insufficiently vague…I agree. Which is why I reached out to Manchin’s press team in a bid to get some clarity. And specifically, to ask: Is he running for president?

    No word yet. (Though, I’m not quite holding my breath: after my colleague David Corn reported a Manchin scoop back in 2021—that he was considering leaving the Democratic party and formulating an exit plan if the Build Back Better plan wasn’t dramatically cut down to his liking—the senator denigrated the Mother Jones story as “bullshit.” We stand by the story.)

    In the meantime, NBC News reports that a person “with direct knowledge” of the politician’s future plans said “nothing is off the table” and “no specific decisions have been made other than a commitment to find a way to change the country’s political dialogue.”

    Manchin essentially said the same thing on “Fox News Sunday” back in June, claiming (after some prodding) that he was “not ruling anything in, not ruling anything out.” During the same appearance, Manchin also discussed what sounded like his admiration for the centrist nonpartisan group No Labels—which the New York Times reported in May is seeking to put a third-party candidate on the ballot, with Manchin at the top of their list—saying that they’ve been “making common-sense decisions.” 

    Manchin has been a longtime headache for Democrats in the Senate, casting the only Democratic vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, opposing filibuster reform, standing in the way of retaining the expanded child tax credit, and threatening to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which he helped negotiate, just by way of a few examples. 

    The race to fill Manchin’s seat has already been heating up in West Virginia—a red state where Manchin was, for years, the only Democratic elected to statewide office—with Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Trump-backed GOP Rep. Alex Mooney in the race. As the Associated Press notes, Manchin’s decision means Democrats will have to fight to keep 23 seats—including three held by Independents—while Republicans will only need to fight to keep ten. Senate Republicans are celebrating what Manchin’s decision may mean for those odds: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines issued a statement saying, “We like our odds in West Virginia.”

  • Abortion Rights Keep Winning Elections. But Republican Candidates Tip-Toed Around It.

    Republican presidential candidates faced off at a presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News.Rebecca Blackwell/AP

    It took the GOP presidential candidates more than 90 minutes to address abortion rights during Wednesday night’s televised debate—even though they were gathering just one day after Ohio became the latest state to enshrine a constitutional right to access abortion. 

    The candidates were forced to acknowledge that voters have resoundingly endorsed abortion rights on the state level all over the country—including in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana—after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade last year.

    South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott was the only candidate on the debate stage who said he would endorse a 15-week federal ban—a position that has become increasingly rare as the Republican candidates reassess their stances in the face of political headwinds, with the front-runner, former President Donald Trump (who, once again, skipped the debate), also refusing to say whether he’d support a federal ban. While running for president the first time, Trump said, “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who received illegal abortions—a statement he later walked back, stating that “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”

    The other four candidates seemed to implicitly concede to the reality that, as polls show, Americans overwhelmingly support abortion access. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who during the second debate said he would sign a 15-week ban, appeared to evade reiterating that position, saying instead that he stands “for a culture of life.” (He signed a six-week abortion ban into law in his state earlier this year.) 

    “At the same time, I understand some of these states are doing it a little bit different,” he continued, adding that Republicans “have been caught flat-footed on these referenda, and they have been losing on these referenda.”

    Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—who said earlier this year he wouldn’t support a federal ban—took a similar position, calling abortion “an issue that should be decided in each state.”

    “I trust the people in each country, state-by-state, to make the call for themselves.” 

    Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who previously pledged to sign a federal ban, focused instead on emphasizing that “no Republican president can ban abortions” alone, noting it would also take the support of Congress. When pressed, she said she “would support anything that would pass.”

    She said that while she’s “unapologetically pro-life,” she doesn’t “judge anyone for being pro-choice and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life.” 

    And, as usual, Vivek Ramaswamy zigged when others zagged—calling for “sexual responsibility for men,” which he characterized as “the missing ingredient in this movement.” (He has said he’s against a federal ban…but supports six-week state bans.) 

  • “You’re Just Scum”: GOP Debate Melts Down in TikTok Melee

    Republican presidential candidates (L-R), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) are introduced during the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate in Miami.Alexander Tamargo/AP

    Five GOP presidential candidates sparred at the third Republican debate Wednesday night, and one of the most contentious issues was…TikTok. 

    The Chinese-owned video app has long been a boogeyman for lawmakers who fear the Chinese government could use it to obtain Americans’ data. The NBC News debate moderators asked the candidates if they would “ban or force the sale of TikTok” if they became president, referencing an essay by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) about, in Gallagher’s words, “pro-Hamas propaganda” allegedly proliferating on the app.

    “TikTok is not only spyware—it is polluting the minds of American young people all throughout this country, and they’re doing it intentionally,” former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, adding he’d ban the app in his first week in the Oval Office.

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also pledged to ban TikTok, calling it part of a “full-spectrum approach to be able to fend China off.” (He has signed legislation to restrict the app as governor.)

    After moderator Hugh Hewitt asked Vivek Ramaswamy how he’d ban TikTok given that Ramaswamy actually uses it, the candidate got personal. He said that while former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had previously criticized him for using the app, Haley’s own daughter—25-year-old Rena Haley—uses it, too.

    “You might want to take care of your family first,” Ramaswamy said to Haley.

    “Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley replied. (NBC News reported that Haley’s daughter was actually in the debate audience Wednesday, and she appeared on stage at the end of the night.) 

    Ramaswamy’s barb garnered boos from the crowd—and another sharp rebuke from Haley. “You’re just scum,” she muttered.

  • Glenn Youngkin Spent Millions and Republicans Still Lost in Virginia

    David McNew/Getty

    After months of interviews, TV appearances, and hype, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin—and his vision of himself as the new standard bearer of how to win as a Republican—ran into a problem: He lost. On Tuesday, Youngkin’s dreams of helping bring about a GOP-led General Assembly were crushed. The state’s Democrats secured the majority in both the House of Delegates and the state senate. The loss thwarted the GOP’s effort at complete legislative control and potentially finished Youngkin’s presidential aspirations. In the process, millions of dollars in PAC donations were flushed down the toilet.

    “The emperor has no clothes except for a red sweater vest,” Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told the Virginia Mercury as the election results were announced. With all 140 legislative seats up for grabs, Democratic candidates flipped the Republican’s previous 52-48 majority in the House and maintained their control in the Senate, according to unofficial elections results. 

    As my colleague Ari Berman, reported, this year’s election cycle was a particularly critical one. Virginia’s previously divided government prevented Youngkin, and the formerly Republican House, from passing contested pieces of legislation, including a 15-week abortion ban. The governor spent a good chunk of 2023 touring the Old Dominion state to change that. And his political action committee, Spirit of Virginia, was reportedly one of the largest spenders in this election cycle, which was already poised to be notably costly compared to others. As my colleague Abby Vesoulis noted, The Spirit of Virginia poured $7.7 million into this year’s legislative candidates. Youngkin, a former CEO for a major private equity company, even included $500,000 of his own cash towards their election efforts, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). None of it mattered. He lost.

    Virginia voters sent a very clear message by resoundingly embracing inclusion, equity, and civil rights at the ballot box,” said Del. Marcia Price (D) in a statement to Mother Jones. “They rejected fear-mongering and destructive culture wars. Not even the Republican’s dog whistles and scare tactics could suppress the people’s support for the common sense solutions that Democrats prioritize.”

    During the lead-up to these elections, there was plenty of talk about how a Republican win could propel Youngkin, who’s been candid about a potential bid for the presidency, into the 2024 Republican candidate lineup. Well, good luck trying that now.

  • “Parents’ Rights”—Especially Moms for Liberty—Lost Big in Elections Last Night

    FILE - Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin addresses the crowd during an early voting rally Sept. 21, 2023, in Petersburg, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)Associated Press

    In 2021, the so-called “parents’ rights” conservative movement was ascendant. Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin ran on a platform based almost entirely on opposing the teaching of anti-racism and LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in schools, marshaling the support of a group of self-proclaimed “Mama Bears” to propel him to victory. But last night, Democrat Schuyler VanValkenburg defeated Youngkin’s hopeful successor, Republican state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, who appeared eager to continue Youngkin’s parents’ rights crusade. In campaign ads, VanValkenberg positioned himself squarely against the parents’ rights crowd, decrying book bans and talking up “the difference one book can make for a child.”

    Parents rights crusaders lost many other key races last night. The most influential force in the movement has been, without a doubt, Moms for Liberty, a national group founded in 2021 by two conservative Florida moms. In just two years, the group has amassed 115,000 members in 285 chapters across 45 states. Though Moms for Liberty claims to be a grassroots coalition of parents, as I have reported, it has strong ties to conservative powerhouse groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the Leadership Institute.

    Moms for Liberty crows about its success in helping its chosen candidates win their elections; of the 500 right-wing candidates the group endorsed for school board last year, three-quarters of whom had never before run, 275 won their races.

    But this year, Moms for Liberty’s luck appears to be running out—last night, many of the group’s favored candidates lost. Here is a non-exhaustive list of results, as of Wednesday morning, in a few places where there were candidates endorsed or recommended by Moms for Liberty:

    • In Pennsylvania, the group recommended (but didn’t officially endorse) candidates in five districts. In Central Bucks, five parents’ rights candidates lost their seats to Democrats, as did another five in the Pennridge
    • In Iowa, the group endorsed 13 candidates. Just one won.

    • In Virginia’s Loudoun County, so far, it appeared that three Moms for Liberty-backed candidates had lost their races.
    • In North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education, a Moms for Liberty-backed candidate lost to a Democrat.
    • In Minnesota’s Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District all four of the Moms for Liberty candidates were defeated.

    On social media, Moms for Liberty supporters are bemoaning last night’s results. Here’s anti-trans activist and Moms for Liberty conference speaker January Littlejohn on an Ohio referendum that would have barred gender-affirming care:

    Meanwhile, Moms for Liberty’s critics are cheering—this one references that one time a Moms for Liberty chapter leader quoted Hitler in a newsletter:

  • Another Reason to Quit Twitter/X: More Tucker Carlson

    Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson speaks at Turning Point USA's AmericaFest 2022.Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press Wire

    Since getting fired from Fox News in April, Tucker Carlson has been slowly rebuilding his media empire. Last month, the conservative talk show host reportedly signed a revenue-sharing deal with X (formerly Twitter) that will mean a whole lot more Carlson content on Elon Musk’s dying platform. Then, in late October, Carlson signed his first advertising deal since leaving Fox with Public Square, an online marketplace company backed by Donald Trump Jr. that claims to promote “patriotic small businesses” as an alternative to “woke” corporations with socially conscious investment policies or diversity and inclusion policies.

    Starting this month, Public Square will be advertising on Carlson’s website, and his X show will include product placements for Public Square and its products. As Carlson turns his media company into a right-wing home shopping network, I wondered what sorts of ads viewers might expect while watching his show.

    Naturally, I first checked to see whether Public Square offers any red-light equipment for consumers interested in tanning their balls, given Carlson’s promotion of the practice in his documentary End of Men. Alas, that gear must be made in China, as the only patriotic tanning products I found were high-waisted bikinis and self-tanning lotions. A search for “testicle” did turn up an expensive supplement that promised “enhanced libido” and the potential of bigger balls. The website claims that rats fed the stuff show an increase in testicle size of as much as 15 percent! 

    Other Public Square offerings Carlson might soon be plugging include pro-life baby products; “Carnivore Snax” and various meat products (no soy boys here!); tactical gear for “moms who carry,” plus body armor, ammo, and laser sights for concealed weapons. But Carlson will be able to cover all the bases: Not only does Public Square feature a wide variety of mass-shooter accessories, it also offers a range of triage and medical equipment marketed to people who are either wounded in a mass shooting or responding to one.

    For $1,599, TacMed™ offers its “Critical Event Response System,” which includes tourniquets, occlusive dressings for chest wounds, and of course, more body armor. I was reminded that Kyle Rittenhouse was carrying a medical kit like this when he shot three people during the racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020. Rittenhouse went on Carlson’s Fox show as soon as he was acquitted of murder charges. Perhaps he will make a repeat visit to help Carlson peddle tourniquets on his X program.

    Indeed, Carlson will need to find a special sort synergy to work such things as body armor and testosterone into a show about politics. But perhaps Public Square does at least offer him a bigger range of advertising products than what he had at the end of his tenure at Fox. After years of promoting white nationalists and attacking immigrants and generally alienating most mainstream businesses, by 2021, Carlson’s biggest advertiser was Mike Lindell’s MyPillow, which doesn’t seem to sell on Public Square. The rest of the ads on his show were from a variety of obscure companies touting ear wax removal or toenail fungus abatement products, the sort of things found in popup spam at the end of a New York Post story.

    With his new deals with X and Public Square, Carlson has a chance to reboot. And Musk clearly hopes he will also revive the ailing social media site as he does so. But the promise of a lot more Tucker content on X, larded with product plugs for dodgy supplements and American flag socks, may also be the last straw for millions of users who were already leaning toward quitting the platform altogether.

  • Bernie Sanders on the Israel-Hamas War: “We Have Got to Stop the Bombing Now”

    Courtesy CNN

    In an interview Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that while “Israel has a right to defend itself,” its bombing campaign in the Gaza needs to come to an end immediately.

    As he told host Dana Bash:

    I think it’s clear to most people what Hamas did—and Hamas is an awful terrorist organization—is they slaughtered 1,400 people in cold blood. Israel has a right to defend itself. What Israel does not, in my view, have a right to do is to kill thousands and thousands of innocent men, women, and children who had nothing to do with that attack. So the immediate concern, Dana, to my mind is we’ve got to stop the bombing now.

    Sanders said the United States should use military aid as a leverage to force the Israel’s hand. “If you want this money,” he said when asked about a potential Israeli aid package that could come before the Senate, “you’ve got to change your military strategy.”

    When asked about the video Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) released on Friday criticizing President Joe Biden for “supporting the genocide of the Palestinian people,” Sanders turned his focus to the Republican response. “What’s happening right now is a horror show—we don’t have to quibble about words,” he said. “One of the things that concerns me, Dana, is there’s not been enough talk about what right-wing Republicans are doing right now. They don’t want any aid to go to the Palestinians. Somebody should be talking about that. Somebody should be talking about how Trump wants to expel Palestinians from this country.

    “You can disagree with Joe Biden, but on his worst day he’ll be a hundred times better than where Trump and right-wing Republicans are coming from.”

  • Dick Durbin Is the First Senator to Demand a Ceasefire in Gaza

    Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Committee Chair, during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Bureau of Prisons, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, September 13, 2023.

    Graeme Sloan/ AP

    Nearly a month into a non-stop airstrike campaign by Israeli forces on the Gaza Strip, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has officially become the first member of the Senate to call for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Since the October 7 attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, the nation’s military has reportedly killed more than 9,000 Palestinian people in the territory. In an interview with CNN, Durbin urged the immediate release of Hamas’ hundreds of hostages and the expansion of conversations between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

    “Let’s face it, this has gone on for decades,” said Durbin. “Whatever the rationale for the beginning, it has now reached an intolerable level. We need to have a resolution in the Middle East that gives some promise for the future.” 

    Many other politicians, while offering flimsy calls for peace, have avoided the term “ceasefire”—including President Joe Biden, who recently called for a “pause” for the first time since the war began. Durbin is the first senator to use direct language objecting to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, a stance he’s reportedly held for several years.

    Other legislators, primarily Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), have also called for a ceasefire. Last week, Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) attempted to censure Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American in Congress, for engaging in “antisemitic activity” after she expressed concern over the United States’ role in supplying Israel with weapons. Greene also falsely accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection” for reportedly attending a pro-Palestine demonstration organized by a Jewish advocacy group. The House rejected the censure on Wednesday.

    “Achieving a just and lasting peace where Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights and freedoms,” Tlaib said in a statement, “and where no person lives in fear for their safety, requires ending the blockade, occupation, and dehumanizing system of apartheid.”

  • Obama Jumps Into Virginia’s High-Stakes Elections With Robocalls

    President Barack Obama waves as he returns to the the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012

    Susan Walsh/ AP

    Live in a key battleground district in Virginia? Then look out for a call from Barack Obama—or at least his pre-recorded voice. Politico reports the former president has taped two robocalls reminding voters to head to the polls ahead of the state’s critical legislative elections next week.

    “The people we elect in the state Senate and House of Delegates will make decisions that affect your everyday life,” Obama reportedly says in one call, “Now is the time to make our voices heard.”

    The former president’s involvement, which will come as a much-needed boost to the state’s Democratic candidates, underscores the major stakes at play in Virginia’s elections, where all 140 legislative seats are up for grabs. Critical issues, including abortion and voting rights, are also on the ballot. My colleague Ari Berman recently looked into the fight for control of state government: 

    Divided government has prevented Youngkin, who won a surprise victory in 2021 by emphasizing culture war issues like attacking Critical Race Theory, from enacting a sweeping conservative agenda. But if Republicans capture the legislature and take full control of state government for the first time since 2013, they will be able to put in place harsh limits on ballot access and other measures to limit democracy, following the blueprint adopted by Republicans in other states.

    While Obama reportedly does not mention any of the issues on Virginians’ ballots in his calls, it’s still notable that he’s dipping his toe into this state election, especially one that’s been mired with chaos during the voting process. As I wrote earlier this week, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration recently admitted to wrongfully removing more than 3,000 Virginians from the state’s voter rolls. The state’s Department of Elections claims to have restored rights to those mistakenly removed. But voting rights advocates report that the damage has already been done.

    “It’s a chilling effect on voting,” Joan Porte, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, told Mother Jones. “It’s a disenfranchisement that should never have been even considered. And it’s just another sad piece of Virginia’s already terrible history.” 

  • House GOP’s Israel Bill, With IRS Cuts, Would Add $27 Billion to the Deficit

    Francis Chung/AP

    A bill introduced by House Republicans on Monday would provide $14 billion in funding for Israel, but do it in a way that helps the rich avoid taxes. As a result, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now predicts the proposal would add nearly $27 billion to the national debt. 

    As my colleague Julianne McShane wrote, House Republicans are proposing to pay for the Israel aid by clawing back the same amount from the IRS. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act had provided the tax agency with $80 billion over 10 years—money intended to restore its ability to audit wealthy individuals and corporate partnerships, and to pursue wealthy deadbeats. (Even some Republican lawmakers are critical of tying foreign aid to IRS funding.)  

    McShane writes:

    The thought of—as my colleague David Corn put it in Mother Jones‘ internal Slack channel—”letting billionaires cheat to pay for bombs to drop on civilians” is jarring, particularly given the more than 3,500 children that Gaza health authorities say have been killed by the Israeli airstrikes; heartbreaking photos and videos have shown kids covered in blood and dust and collapsing while coping with living through the trauma of war and losing loved ones. 

    The CBO specifically calculated that the Israel proposal will result in a ten-year, $26.8 billion revenue decline, of which nearly half comes come from the GOP’s hit on the taxman’s collection capabilities. Read the full report here.

  • Mike Pence Becomes the First Major Republican Candidate To Drop Out of 2024 Race

    Former Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit in Washington last month. Shawn Thew/Zuma

    Former Vice President Mike Pence announced on Saturday that he is dropping his bid to become president after difficulty fundraising and not catching momentum in polls.

    “After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today,” Pence said at the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press. “We always knew this would be an uphill battle, but I have no regrets,” he said.

    Pence is the first major Republican candidate to drop out of the race. Nine other candidates remain in the race, though none have been able to overtake former President Trump’s substantial lead in the polls. Florida Gov. Ron Desantis is the only other candidate to consistently reach double digit support in GOP primary polls, and his numbers, which hover around 11, are still much lower than Trump’s.

    In dropping out, Pence implored his fellow party members to resist the “siren song of populism”, according to the New York Times. “It’s become clear to me that this is not my time.”

  • The Bush Boys Are Back

    Bush listens to Benjamin Netanyahu as he speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Thursday, May 15, 2008.Susan Walsh/AP

    The Bush boys are back to argue, once more, for war.

    President Biden visited Israel this week to reaffirm his unwavering support while cautioning against a military response “consumed by rage.” Though far from the ceasefire many progressives had hoped Biden would publicly urge for during the visit, the warning was a tacit acknowledgment of the horrific conditions in Gaza wrought by Israel’s airstrikes. But even the mere act of calling for cooler heads as a ground invasion draws closer has brought back the old architects and explainers of the Iraq war.

    Here’s Ari Fleischer, on Fox News:

    When he said that Israelis should not be consumed by rage. Who the hell does he think he is? I sat in on every single summit meeting with foreign leaders when they came to the United States after September 11th and met with President Bush. Not a one of them, not one said to President Bush, the Americans shouldn’t be consumed with rage. Instead, they just came to support us. So President Biden, who said some good things, never should lecture Israel about how to react like that.

    Shaking off mass death might be easy for the former White House press secretary under George W. Bush. But it’s Fleischer’s desire to peacock his front-row seat to one of the most tragic chapters of US foreign policy as a badge of expertise that, once again, underscores his persistent shamelessness. How ironic, obscene in fact, it is that the man who helped the Bush administration lie its way to war, is now hawking on national TV to justify acts of blind vengeance, when there is no clear path of what happens after.

    It would be one thing if this was an aberration. But Fleischer’s comments only echo those made by George W. Bush himself last week. The former president’s remarks, as reported by Axios.

    “It’s not going to take long for people [to say]: ‘It’s gone on too long. Surely, there’s a way to settle this through negotiations. Both sides are guilty,'” Bush, 77, said on Tuesday at a private event near Santa Barbara, Calif.

    “My view is: One side is guilty. And it’s not Israel.”

    It’s no surprise that the former president who launched us into unending immoral wars is still very much a bad person. But with these remarks, Bush has once again permanently secured his footing as a blood-thirsty warmonger who, in the clearest terms, cannot comprehend arguments against mass death. In fact, for Bush, in the same crude fashion of abusive men, it appears that more bloodshed is demonstrative of one’s power.

    “We’ll find out what he’s made out of,” the former president said of Netanyahu at the same event.

    Is this what it boils down to? Behind all the fancy talk, do people like Bush believe that a simplistic, pseudo-heroic faith in brute power, and by extension, manly power, will overcome complex geopolitics? Perhaps one of the better examples of how this rationale played out in the lead-up to Iraq comes from Netanyahu himself, a former Bush boy too. Here he was in 2002 appearing before Congress to explain why an Iraq invasion would be worthwhile.

    “I think the choice of Iraq is a good choice, it’s the right choice,” Netanyahu, as a private citizen, said.

    “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,” he continued. “And I think that people sitting right next door in Iran, young people, and many others, will say the time of such regimes, of such despots is gone.”

    It’s far from coincidence that the same ghoulish cast, newly dusted as they often are, has returned to make the case for war. But it strikes as especially vile that men who have shown the world the precise dangers of acting out of sheer vengeance feel comfortable mouthing off in public as scenes of catastrophe play to no end. That they feel comfortable pointing to September 11th as a point of reference is even more galling.

    Once again they clamor for revenge, whatever the long-term consequences.

  • Here Are Some Amazing Images of the “Ring of Fire” Solar Eclipse

    Thousands of spectators viewed the "ring of fire" at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.Katie Oyan/AP

    A solar eclipse formed a “ring of fire” on Saturday on a trail from Oregon to Texas before moving down to Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Brazil. 

    Crowds gathered along a 125-mile wide path to watch the “moment of annularity,” when the moon was directly in front of the sun, leaving a halo of light. Annular eclipses happen when the moon is at its farthest point from the earth. During these moments—which lasted more than four minutes in some places—the light dims and the air cools.

    Unfortunately, some parts of the country were overcast when the eclipse took place, but nonetheless, here are some of our favorite photos and videos:

  • RFK Jr. Is Officially Running as an Independent—Prompting Siblings to Once Again Disavow Him

    Jessica Kourkounis/Getty

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the prominent conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxer, is officially running as an independent. On Monday, the Kennedy scion, who has been politically disowned by much of his family, announced that he was ditching his longshot efforts to defeat Joe Biden in the Democratic primary.

    The announcement prompted more family disavowal. Kennedy’s sister, Kerry Kennedy, posted a message to social media:

    The move follows a presidential campaign that has been mired in controversy, particularly after Kennedy was caught airing anti-semitic conspiracy theories. And of course, as the founder of the anti-vaccine group Children’s Health Defense, Kennedy has been widely condemned for promoting anti-vaccine views on the campaign trail. As my colleague David Corn reported, GOP and Trump PAC donors have actively supported Kennedy’s White House ambitions.

    Kennedy’s announcement on Monday comes as Democrats become increasingly concerned that third-party candidates could throw the 2024 election to Donald Trump.