Several new polls were released over the weekend and Donald Trump is still trailing Joe Biden by roughly 7 to 10 points, depending where you look. Despite Biden’s steady lead, bad takes abound in the journalism world. “Here’s what happens when a race is not particularly close on the numbers,” Sarah explains. “People in the media try to make it more interesting by finding tea leaves and little nuggets that no one else has found and then blowing those up into their own narrative.” Sarah says it’s not always that the methodology of a particular poll is bad per se, “it’s that the causal relationship between the question and the result is assumed and not actually there.”

For example, a series of polls from this weekend show that a majority of Americans oppose Trump’s decision to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat before November 3. But as Sarah points out, this is a dumb survey question for two reasons: 1) the answers break down along party lines when you look a little closer at the survey responses, and 2) it doesn’t ask survey respondents whether it will change their vote, which is the only thing that matters at this point. That leads us to the New York Timesbombshell report on Trump’s tax returns and whether it will be of any consequence during this election. David and Sarah argue that loyal Trump supporters are simply too attached to the president at this point to care about any new scandals that emerge between now and November 3. Tune in to this episode for an update on presidential polling in battleground states, electoral litigation in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and a fun conversation about our podcast hosts’ favorite new documentaries.

Why are Supreme Court vacancies more important to Republicans than they are to Democrats at the ballot box? It all goes back to conservative resistance to living constitutionalism, Judicial Crisis Network president Carrie Severino tells Steve and Sarah on today’s episode. “We know historically, it has been conservatives who are incredibly engaged by the Supreme Court,” Severino argues, because “it’s been conservatives on the receiving end of judicial activism.” In recent decades, the Supreme Court itself has made a point of constitutionalizing issues that simply aren’t in the Constitution, which can be traced to the left’s complete misunderstanding of our country’s founding charter.

Severino argues that the underlying logic of judicial activism is as follows: “If it’s constitutional it must be good, if it’s not constitutional it must be bad, and likewise, if it’s good, then it must be required by the Constitution, if it’s bad it must be forbidden by the Constitution.” Tune in for some punditry on Democrats’ religious tests for conservative Supreme Court nominees, the prudence of confirming a Supreme Court justice during an election year, and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s insistence that he won’t confirm a Supreme Court nominee who hasn’t vowed on record to overturn Roe v. Wade.

A Louisville grand jury on Wednesday indicted one officer in connection with the March 13 police raid that took Breonna Taylor’s life. The grand jury declined to charge the two officers who fired directly at Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend that evening, instead only charging the third officer, who was outside and fired indiscriminately, with wanton endangerment. David explains the basic facts leading up to Taylor’s shooting, as well as the legality surrounding police raids and the right of self-defense under Kentucky law. “You begin to see where we’ve backslidden in our commitment to key constitutional liberties,” David explains, where “decades of bad Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has empowered violent tactics even when the stakes are low.”

On today’s episode, David and Sarah also address how much the chief justice matters to the trajectory of the Supreme Court and the democratic prudence of voluntary judicial restraint. After a requisite foray into all things SCOTUS, our podcast hosts are joined by Federal Elections Commission Chairman Trey Trainor, who explains the ins and outs of election law, foreign election interference, and why the FEC is paralyzed right now. Trainor also explains how campaign finance laws like the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act have significantly weakened the national political parties while funneling money into the state parties in the process. “What’s happened is the smoke filled room has moved from Washington, D.C. to each of the 50 states.” Stick around for an inside scoop on the rise and fall of Kanye West’s presidential campaign.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday immediately kickstarted a battle among conservative pundits and politicians over the prudence of pushing through a Supreme Court nominee before November 3. The first problem is that mail-in voting is already under way, meaning Republicans would technically be advancing a nominee during an election. Republicans have also been hypocrites about this in the past with their opposition to Merrick Garland’s hearing in 2016. Steve thinks we should push through a nominee, but David, Jonah, and Sarah are more sympathetic to arguments that Trump should nominate a justice and the Senate should wait to confirm until after the election, keeping in mind Democrats’ threats to throw out the filibuster, pack the court, and add Puerto Rico and D.C. to the union if Republicans have their way with Trump’s forthcoming nominee.

David and Jonah propose a deal: If Trump wins, the Senate confirms his nominee; if Biden wins, he agrees not to pack the court. Others argue that confirming a justice during an election year is just politics, meaning whichever party is in power gets to do whatever it wants. But what about principled conservatism? “My main critique of philosophical pragmatism is we are now talking about basically saying power decides every question of principle,” Jonah says on today’s podcast. This puts Republicans and conservatives in a bind, he argues, “particularly because for the last give or take 5,000 years, one of the jobs of conservatives has been to make a distinction between things you can do and things you should do.” Tune in for a conversation about the forthcoming attacks on Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith should she be Trump’s nominee, the upcoming presidential debate next week, and the New York Times’ eagerness to rewrite its own history surrounding the 1619 Project.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, rocking the nation and setting the stage for a blistering Senate confirmation fight should the Senate Judiciary Committee go through with the hearing process before the election. Today, our podcast hosts walk us through the history of SCOTUS vacancies, reflect on the legendary friendship between Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Antonin Scalia, and offer some rank punditry about what this SCOTUS vacancy means for the future of our republic. The question on everyone’s mind is: What happens next? Will Senate Republicans go through with the Supreme Court nomination process? Should they? Sarah and David have some thoughts. What’s clear is that Trump will fight tooth and nail to get a nominee through as a last ditch effort to energize his base. “The more the Democrats threaten him, his brand is that he cannot give in to threats,” explains Sarah. “It’s the ultimate ‘owns the libs’ move to fill the Ginsburg seat and enrage the left.” But who will president Trump nominate? Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit is in the running, but 7th Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett’s cult of personality on the right—especially within the pro-life community—will likely give her the winning ticket. “If RBG is Michael Jordan,” Sarah explains, “ACB is Lebron James.” Stick around for a deep dive into the filibuster’s life expectancy, the possibility of a Democratic court packing scheme, and the likelihood of an Electoral College split this November.

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“People ask me this all the time, ‘Why the hell did you stay?’ ” explains Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security under the Trump administration and founder of the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR). “And my response is: If you saw what was happening, why the hell wouldn’t you stay if you cared about your country?” On today’s episode, Miles Taylor gives Sarah and Steve an inside scoop as to what it’s like working for a president who constantly gives you orders to break the law and who believes he has “magical powers” to do whatever he wants. The most frustrating part of his job as DHS chief of staff, he said, was watching high officials who expressed disdain for the president in private but refused to speak up when it mattered most. “There was another time that we were in [the Oval Office] and he went off on a tirade about the Mexicans,” Taylor explains, “In the conversations he said, ‘Look, Mexico is just a total hellhole, isn’t it? It’s just a total hellhole.’ And he kind of looked around the room for agreement, and he was like, ‘Right? You know I can’t say [expletive]hole countries anymore but it’s a hellhole, right?” Taylor said most people in the room—except for one official who Taylor didn’t name—laughed it off and nodded rather than standing up to the president.

Taylor said he and his colleagues went into that administration recognizing that Donald Trump was a man of pretty poor character, but there was a hope that the office itself would perhaps change the president for the better. “I really think once he had the powers of the presidency, he got drunk on the powers of the presidency and they did not have that sobering effect, they had a very inebriating effect on President Trump and magnified some of his worst impulses.” Tune in to hear Miles explain what it’s like having a Trump tweet change the trajectory of your entire day as a DHS staffer, whether Republicans should vote for Biden this election cycle, and how REPAIR hopes to fix the GOP in the post-Trump era. If anything, tune just in to hear Taylor explain why “every single day in the Donald Trump administration was a pride swallowing siege.”

After reflecting on the best and worst parts of our country’s founding document for Constitution Day, David and Sarah dive into Attorney General Bill Barr’s Constitution Day address at Hillsdale College yesterday, in which he defended political judgment in bringing prosecutions and railed against federal prosecutors’ propensity to punish as much misconduct as possible. Our podcast hosts agree with Barr that there is an effort by federal prosecutors to expand federal criminal law to an unreasonable degree. But David reminds us that federal prosecutors are not just the instrument to be wielded by the attorney general, they are charged with carrying out laws that have been passed by Congress. “Perhaps we have gone too far with civil service protections,” Sarah explains, “and that we are unable to remove anyone who is part of the permanent federal bureaucracy even for misconduct at this point really.”

Most of the news headlines referencing Barr’s speech highlighted his comparison between career federal prosecutors and preschoolers, as well as his rather distasteful comparison between coronavirus lockdowns and … slavery. “You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest,” Barr said yesterday in response to a question about the constitutionality of stay at home orders. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” Sarah suggests a new legal truism on today’s episode: If you compare anything to slavery, you’ve already lost your argument.

On Tuesday, Israel signed two historic peace agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in a major step toward greater diplomacy in the Middle East. Though the Trump administration played a crucial role in brokering both peace deals—with the signing ceremonies themselves taking place in the White House—media coverage of the deals has been scarce, begrudging, and dismissive of the president’s involvement in the negotiations. How much credit should the Trump administration get for facilitating the deal? And more importantly, will other countries follow suit in normalizing relations with Israel? “The UAE is like a beta test of the bigger deal with Saudi Arabia if it is to come,” David explains on today’s episode. “This is sort of dipping the toe in the waters.” As we inch toward November 3, will this deal be a major selling point for Trump’s re-election campaign? According to Sarah, probably not. “Our politics goes in cycles of foreign policy having domestic policy relevance, normally when we’re talking about having our people overseas,” Sarah explains, “This is not one of those elections.” Much to the Trump administration’s chagrin, this deal is simply not getting the coverage it deserves and many Americans who are more focused on domestic issues may never even hear about it at all. After a foray into the foreign policy world, our podcast hosts discuss The Big Ten’s return, the conspiratorial trajectory of American politics, many Republicans’ conviction that Joe Biden is nothing but a cardboard cutout for the progressive far-left, and … Grover Cleveland!

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For the month of August, the Biden campaign outraised the Trump campaign by a whopping $150 million. (Biden raked in $360 million last month compared to Trump’s $210 million). As stark as this fundraising difference may be, is there any reason to believe it will be meaningful in the long run?A lot of this money will go toward television ads at this point, but campaign money starts diminishing in value once people start voting by mail. In other words … now. Not to mention that the fundraising difference doesn’t matter so long as each candidate meets a certain threshold. On today’s campaign update episode, our podcast hosts discuss these fundraising efforts while dissecting Trump’s surprising lead with Hispanic voters as well as the usefulness of yard signs, door knocking, and phone banking to a campaign’s overall success. Rather than waste time putting up yard signs or trying to persuade voters to vote with ideologically charged Facebook posts, Sarah argues that the most important—and statistically effective—thing you can do to boost voter turnout is text your closest friends and remind them to vote. As David points out, “It fits in with the sort of general reality that we have a large amount of influence over a small amount of people and a small amount of influence over a large number of people.” Stick around for a discussion about the newest additions to Trump’s Supreme Court list—also known as Sarah’s close friends list—as well as David’s latest Sunday French Press newsletter on the use and abuse of critical race theory.

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It’s the 19th anniversary of September 11, 2001, one of the most harrowing historical events in living memory. Today, our podcast hosts reflect on their personal memories of the day as a launching point into a discussion about the United States’ current understanding of al-Qaeda nearly two decades later. In reality, we don’t talk about al-Qaeda much anymore other than within the context of Trump’s “endless wars” rhetoric. Just this week, the Trump administration announced that troops in Iraq will be reduced to 3,000. What’s more, peace negotiations are taking place with Taliban representatives, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and representatives of the Afghan government this weekend. So as Steve points out, “You’d be forgiven for thinking this is all over.” But as Dispatch Podcast guest Tom Joscelyn reminds us on today’s episode, “Al-Qaeda is still very much alive.” Though Tom concedes that there’s a lot you can criticize about U.S. military intervention post-9/11, “It’s much more common, in my experience, that people who are against the U.S. using military force or U.S. military action to play disconnect the dots than it is for some sort of a so-called hawk to overconnect the dots.” On today’s episode, Tom, Sarah, and Steve discuss American intelligence officials’ current misunderstanding of al-Qaeda, the UAE and Bahrain’s plans to normalize their relationship with Israel, and the real and imagined foreign threats to the upcoming election.

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Last week, President Trump encouraged North Carolina voters to test their state’s election security. David and Sarah discuss how, exactly, someone commits voter fraud, and what voters need to know as we close in on this November’s election. But that’s not all: Sarah gives us the latest on the state of the race and how the Trump campaign lost its cash advantage. Plus, David has some thoughts on Tenet.

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News broke overnight of President Trump’s plans to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, less than a week after Jeffrey Goldberg’s bombshell article in The Atlantic highlighted anonymous accusations of the president’s poor conduct toward American veterans. Sarah, Steve, and Jonah tackle some of the move’s political implications for Trump’s re-election campaign before launching into a lively debate over the ethics of using anonymous sources in journalism. “It is the case that reporters can pick and choose their anonymous sources to tell the story that their predetermined narrative would have them tell,” said Steve. “But I think you judge anonymous sources to a certain extent based on the amount of credence you give to the particular reporter who’s using them.”

The Dispatch Podcast also covers curveballs that could upset current polling favoring a handed Joe Biden victory—namely, the Hispanic vote and presidential debates. New data out of Florida reveals that the former VP might not have the Hispanic vote locked down, but as our hosts point out, assuming that a diverse group of people will vote as a monolithic bloc has always been a dangerous oversimplification. Steve, Sarah and Jonah also chat about the upcoming debates and how possible Biden blunders could either hurt him or paint him as a sympathetic figure, depending on how the president chooses to respond.

Erick Erickson, host of 95.5 WSB’s Atlanta’s Evening News and creator of The Resurgent, joins Sarah and Steve on the latest Dispatch Podcast to state the case for the president’s re-election, despite his own wide-ranging reservations about Trumpism and the future of the Republican party. To Erickson, Trump represents the lesser of two evils—acting on the better judgement of behind-the-scenes administration officials to move forward beneficial policies like the Israel-UAE deal, the Trump Tax Reform Plan, and economic deregulation.

When pressed about dangerous outgrowths of the populist right, like the QAnon conspiracy theory, Erickson contends that the misinformation crisis coincided with the country’s lost faith in the media. He says that when journalists for self-described nonpartisan mainstream news sources publicly exposed their biases on verified Twitter accounts, many Americans abandoned orthodox news sources in favor of word-of-mouth and alternative media. “All of this plays into more and more people tuning out of media and tuning into their friends on Facebook, and not being able to distinguish truth from fiction,” Erickson said.

There’s a bit of post-2016 election PTSD among American political strategists, where any slight uptick in Trump’s polling numbers is perceived as an emergency situation for the Biden campaign. But despite the almost constant news cycle turbulence in American politics that would have caused big swings in a normal presidential election, the polls have remained relatively stable over the past few months. Biden remains in a clear and comfortable lead over Trump on practically every policy issue except for the economy. Why? According to Sarah, “It’s because of the referendum effect, and it’s because of the wild partisanship moment we’re in right now.” How stable are these divisions that have emerged? Hyper-partisanship isn’t going anywhere as we approach the presidential election, and as David reminds us in today’s episode, “these identities are cementing at the state level as well.” After going deep into the weeds on the latest presidential polls, our podcast hosts delve into the temperamental differences between city life and suburbia, the president’s memorandum on combating lawlessness in America’s cities, and a primer on time, place, and manner restrictions on the First Amendment.

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On the campaign trail and throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has painted himself as a law and order candidate. We’re now three years into Donald Trump’s America and waves of violence and racial unrest are sweeping across America, most recently in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Do the riots and looting in Kenosha benefit Trump electorally? It’s hard to say whether the rioters and Antifa supporters—who are burning down small businesses and hitting innocent bystanders with concrete water bottles—are supporting Biden’s campaign or even voting at all. But if everyone thinks that the left is a monolithic movement—as alleged by Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump—that’s a bad look for the Biden campaign. “If you can get successfully tagged as the party of people who are setting fire to Korean grocery stores,” Jonah warns, “You’ve got a huge problem.” Listen to today’s episode for some thoughts on the way our preferred media outlets warp our worldview, ongoing Senate races nationwide, and an update on election meddling from foreign actors as we approach November 3.

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Ever since its humble beginnings in March 2016, The Babylon Bee—a Christian, conservative version of The Onion—has been a godsend for Americans who have become worn out by news outlets that take themselves too seriously. From its theological inside jokes about the prosperity gospel to its long-standing feuds with Snopes and CNN, the Bee has made its mark in the world of satire. On today’s episode, David and Sarah are joined by the Babylon Bee’s editor-in-chief, Kyle Mann, who tells us about the challenges of satire writing in a cultural moment when it’s not always easy to determine fact from fiction. “There is an element where it’s not that our articles are too close to reality, it’s that reality is too close to satire,” Mann explains. “It’s what makes it so hard to write because you write something that you think is so goofy and over the top and then people believe it because reality is so crazy.” Listen to today’s episode for a conversation about C.S. Lewis’ best books, Kyle’s joke-writing process, and a tell-all about why Twitter’s decision to temporarily deplatform and demonetize the Babylon Bee was ironically “the best thing that could happen” to the team. Today’s episode would be incomplete without its requisite dose of legal nerdery. Tune in to hear David and Sarah discuss the never-ending saga with Michael Flynn, the McGahn case, and Sarah Palin’s defamation case against the New York Times.

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The Democratic and Republican conventions are finally over but most of the major credible pollsters are waiting for the dust to settle before tracking public opinion of both presidential candidates. The critical message pushed by the RNC this week was that Trump kept the promises he made to voters, but is that a real policy agenda moving into his second term? Is Biden’s “nice guy,” “Build Back Better” strategy winning over wobbly Republican voters? Do conventions even affect voters’ perceptions of candidates all that much? “I don’t know that anything unexpected or dramatic came out of the last two weeks, and I doubt that to the extent there are persuadable voters, a lot of them are spending eight hours of their life in front of the tv each week watching this,” said Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson on today’s episode. “I would highly suspect you had more hardcore Democrats hate-watching the Republican Convention than you did genuinely persuadable voters in the middle.” Tune in to hear Sarah and Steve chat with Anderson—co-founder of Echelon Insights and columnist at the Washington Examiner—for a conversation about the historical importance of conventions in moving the needle for presidential candidates in the polls.

Violent riots escalated quicky in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. . On Wednesday, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree homicide for the shooting deaths of two people in Kenosha on Tuesday evening. Sarah and David break down what we know and don’t know about the Jacob Blake shooting on today’s episode of Advisory Opinions and talk through the legality of vigilante justice during times of unrest. “These really traumatic events are playing out in front of all of us,” David says on today’s episode. In one sense they’re playing out in a way that’s quite transparent because you can see the actual shootings on tape. “But there’s still a disturbing amount of fog around all of the incidents,” he adds. As Sarah explains, “We’re never talking about black and white cases but then everyone treats them like they’re black and white cases.” From a legal standpoint, law enforcement officials will have to fill in those gaps before they can render a clear legal judgment in all of these shootings. Sarah and David also take a walk down memory lane by revisiting Bush v. Gore, while also diving into the recent TikTok lawsuit and a fun conversation about our podcast hosts’ favorite parts of adulthood.

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Widespread destruction of businesses and private property has devastated Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the wake of the police shooting of a Jacob Blake last week. As we explained in today’s Morning Dispatch, “Blake was airlifted to a hospital, underwent surgery, and is still alive, but reportedly paralyzed from the waist down.” The details leading up to Blake’s shooting are still murky, but protests, riots, and looting have ravaged the city for days in response. “Suppressing civil unrest is one of the most difficult things that any law enforcement agency can do,” David says on today’s episode. But still, we should expect leaders to draw brightline distinctions between constitutionally protected expression and violent protest. There has been a predictably partisan reaction to the riots: Democrats have been reluctant to condemn the violence in fear that doing so will alienate young voters. Republicans, on the other hand, have been quick to ridicule even peaceful protesters. When it comes to quelling the violence, there is also a difference, David adds, between “overwhelming force, which can be often extremely counterproductive and inflame further violence, and overwhelming and prudently deployed presence.” Beyond the events in Wisconsin, tune in for some punditry about the Democratic and Republican conventions, the GOP’s non-platform, and comparisons between the presidential elections of 2020 and 1988.

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Today our hosts are joined by Phill Drobnick, head coach of the Olympic curling team, for some hot takes about the sport that inspired Sarah’s new campaign newsletter The Sweep. Listeners who are unfamiliar with this sport, which gets even passing national coverage only during Winter Olympics years, might be wondering about curling’s origins. “It started in Scotland, like every goofy sport that involves beer,” explains Drobnick on today’s episode. The sport then took off in Canada and then around the world. When people watch curling during the Olympics, they become armchair referees who don’t realize how much strategy is at play behind the scenes. How similar is curling to golf and hockey? Do sweepers make or break the game? Is there a culture of collegiality or trash talk in the professional curling universe? Coach Drobnick has got answers. Tune in to today’s show to hear Sarah and David also discuss the partisan skew in absentee voting, the increasing likelihood of another Bush v. Gore-style debacle over mail-in voting, and the RNC’s nonexistent platform moving into this week’s convention.

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