“I am a ‘Survivor’ super fan.”
Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson revealed her fascination last weekend in a law school commencement speech at American University in Washington, DC. She made clear that she was “indeed referring to the reality TV show where people are stranded on an island and compete to become the last person standing.”
Modeled on a Swedish show, “Survivor” debuted on US television in 2000 and recently aired its 44th season. Jackson has seen every episode since the second season.
As she implied, its themes and lessons are universal – and timeless. “If you make the most of the resources you have, use your strengths to make your mark and play the long game in your interactions with others, you will not only survive – you will thrive,” Jackson told the graduates.
In a much more ominous vein, the theme of survival dominates the HBO show “Succession,” which is coming to an end Sunday. In last week’s episode, the impish Roman Roy jokingly taunts his brother Kendall for wearing sunglasses to their father’s funeral:
“Glasses, that’s smart.” The advantage, he suggests, is that you can “cry in secret, hide all your emotions — and thus emerge victorious as the winner of the funeral.” And indeed the cutthroat Roy siblings take turns competing to eulogize their tyrannical father, Logan, before church pews filled with senators and other power brokers. (HBO, like CNN, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
The family’s win/lose dynamic even hovers over a generation yet to be born. When Logan Roy’s daughter Shiv tells her family she’s pregnant, wrote Rebecca Bodenheimer, “No one congratulates Shiv or inquires about how she’s feeling, and she’s not even allowing herself to fantasize about motherhood. She’s so caught up in beating her brothers at the succession game that she can’t see this baby as anything but an obstacle.”
“Ultimately, this storyline is a perfect encapsulation of the larger tragedy that is ‘Succession,’” Bodenheimer added. “As suggested by Ewan Roy’s (James Cromwell) searing eulogy at the funeral, Logan’s true legacy is his children’s emotional inheritance of his self-isolation, selfishness, greed and lack of self-awareness, which leads them to hurt other people. Shiv Roy’s pregnancy speaks volumes about the emotional rot at the core of this family.”
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Who’s “winning” the debt ceiling fight?
According to historian Julian Zelizer, it’s Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who managed to push the Biden administration to negotiate spending cuts and policy changes in return for raising the limit on how much the US can borrow.
“What’s clear is that we now live in a world where one party can and will threaten to send the country off an economic cliff in order to get what it wants,” Zelizer observed. “If people think that this is about principle or fiscal responsibility, they should recall that the Republicans helped raise the debt ceiling three times during the Trump era without kicking up a fuss. This is about politics, pure and simple.”
“By weaponizing a procedural move that allows the government to function and by treating this kind of radical strategy as conventional, the modern GOP is destabilizing the country and making it harder to govern – a move that conveniently benefits the party that has defined itself around an anti-government philosophy.”
Wendy Edelberg: The only solution to the debt limit crisis
It’s on. The contest for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination heated up last week with the official entry of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former President Donald Trump’s strongest challenger in the polls. But his debut with Elon Musk on Twitter Spaces was “disastrous,” according to SE Cupp, and “riddled with technical issues.” The bigger question, she wondered, is what DeSantis actually stands for.
“Being unmoored from principles and riding the wave of fleeting culture wars might be a strategy to evade tough policy questions or to please the Fox News crowd, but it comes at the expense of alienating actual conservatives, moderates and independents, all of whom he’ll need to win an election.”
Scott Jennings sees DeSantis as a “formidable challenger to Trump. While polling in the GOP primary has moved decisively toward Trump in the last several months, DeSantis is light years ahead of the other GOP challengers in the primary. He has a massive war chest – over $100 million, according to Politico – and a rock solid conservative governing record.”
“While today’s politics are less dependent on adhering to any sort of policy orthodoxy, for the voters who wonder if a DeSantis presidency would be conservative, he’s got bushels of Tallahassee policy wins to prove it (universal school choice, the elimination of automatic public-employee union dues and a crackdown on ESG policies, just to name a few) – and he could easily move the party past the Trump era.”
Last summer, DeSantis suspended Hillsborough County’s elected state attorney Andrew Warren. Writing for CNN Opinion with Norm Eisen, Warren pointed out that “the suspension came soon after Warren spoke out against states passing strict abortion laws in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and signed onto a letter with prosecutors from around the country condemning harsh laws that criminalize reproductive health decisions.”
“Removing an elected prosecutor for political reasons is a stunning abuse of power, but it’s merely the latest in a litany of condemnations the governor has received from the courts, signs of his remarkable disdain for the law he is sworn to uphold. DeSantis has championed and signed into law speech-chilling legislation restricting certain discussions of race in schools, penalizing social media companies for certain conduct and criminalizing peaceful protest, all of which have been found by courts to violate the First Amendment. (Florida is appealing these cases.)”
John Avlon, who has argued that Sen. Tim Scott offers an appealing alternative to Trump’s politics, noted that the South Carolina senator entered the race last week along with DeSantis. “The presence of a half-dozen challengers to former President Donald Trump reflects a Republican Party that seems to be finding its spine, unwilling to simply roll over for a man who could have destroyed our democracy on the basis of a self-serving lie.”
“Unfortunately, the robust field is heading into a trap of Trump’s making, courtesy of his loyalists in the state parties as well as the Republican National Committee,” noted Avlon, citing a Bloomberg analysis that found the number of states that have adopted winner-takes-all delegate selection rules in the Republican primaries has increased from seven to 17, giving Trump a potential edge.
Target announced last week that it was removing some merchandise celebrating Pride month. A company spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” she said.
As Neil J. Young wrote, “Target’s announcement comes just days before the start of June’s LGBTQ Pride Month and amid a growing wave of anti-LGBTQ efforts across the nation, including escalating threats of violence. In April, CNN reported that multiple state legislatures had already proposed a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills in 2023, more than double the number put forward during the entire previous year. And White nationalists and other hate groups, sometimes bearing high-capacity firearms, have menaced gay bars and drag shows.”
“In light of such ominous developments, Target’s removal of some of its LGBTQ products may seem insignificant. (The company did not share which merchandise has been taken off its shelves, but controversy has largely centered on its ‘tuck-friendly’ swimsuits for trans women who have not had gender-affirming surgery.)”
“But when it comes to dealing with the growing forces of anti-LGBTQ hate, there is no appeasement. By attempting to prevent violence and diffuse confrontation, Target may have unwittingly encouraged the opposite. In giving up a couple of inches of store space, they have let violent bigots take a mile.”
Putin’s enemies list
The Kremlin has declared it would ban 500 Americans from entering Russia, providing a list that offers insight into President Vladimir Putin’s thinking, wrote Frida Ghitis.
“The hundreds of names are mostly members of American think tanks, along with dozens of members of Congress, current and former government officials – including former President Barack Obama – a smattering of journalists and even some comedians.”
But it also includes the special counsel investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents and other figures who have tangled with the former president, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“The former president has made it very clear that if he wins another term, US policy toward Ukraine would be sharply different,” Ghitis noted. “No matter how badly the invasion is going, Putin surely believes that accepting defeat in Ukraine could prove disastrous for him. He now seems to be betting he can outlast Biden, who has led the West’s muscular support of Ukraine.”
For more on Russia:
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Memorial Day is one of many occasions to honor those who have given their lives defending the United States. One of the more unusual remembrances is the work of Tim Taylor and Christine Dennison, who have used underwater robots to document the wrecks of submarines lost in World War II. They recently discovered the USS Mannert L. Abele, a Navy destroyer sunk by a kamikaze plane, 4,500 feet under the Pacific Ocean.
As Sébastien Roblin wrote, “Part of Taylor’s interest in undertaking the search stemmed from knowing that his father had cheated death when an explosive-laden Japanese kamikaze plane bounced off the bulwark of his own ship near the coast of Okinawa.”
“Taylor and Dennison are ensuring that more families of those lost know where their loved ones’ deep-water graves reside. They are racing against time as underwater development threatens many of these wrecks. On Memorial Day, some people remember history, but Taylor and Dennison do them one better by fighting to preserve it.”
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As Gene Seymour wrote, the news of Tina Turner’s death at 83 last week was a shock. “She just seemed so unstoppable, so indomitable that few of her devoted fans even dared to believe that all the life-threatening illnesses she’d suffered in the last decade would keep her down. It’s hard to believe that after all she overcame, death would, or even could, stop her.”
He noted how Turner owned the famous lyric, “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?’’
“Somewhere, somehow, that raspy, thunderous voice will persist as one of the most distinctive in pop music history. And the chorus of ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ – whoever else sings it – will forever belong to no one else but her.”