Plus, a reader asks what good Donald Trump did for America.
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”
Today's read: 11 minutes.
Every week, we publish Friday editions for our 11,000+ Tangle members (Tangle is free Monday through Thursday, but paying members get additional content and features like the Friday newsletter). Tomorrow, I'm publishing a piece that I'm nervous about. Let's just say I'm trusting you to read the whole thing and approach it with an open mind. Pieces that make me nervous to write but feel true to my views are my favorite and least favorite kind of writing, all at once. So, keep an eye out for it, and be sure to pass it around and send in some feedback when it's up.
- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced he will not seek re-election next year. The 76-year-old Romney cited his age as a reason for deciding to step down. (The decision)
- The contract between 150,000 autoworkers and three U.S. carmakers expires at midnight tonight. Without a deal, strikes across the auto industry are expected to begin this weekend. (The strike)
- Hunter Biden's attorneys are suing former Trump aide Garrett Ziegler for publishing private photos and emails that came from a hard drive belonging to Hunter. (The lawsuit)
- A federal judge in Texas ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unconstitutional, but did not order an immediate end to the program. (The ruling)
- The Census Bureau released its annual review of income in the U.S., and reported a decrease in real (inflation-adjusted) median household income from $76,300 in 2021 to $74,600 in 2022. (The numbers)
New Mexico's gun ban. On Wednesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked a ban on carrying guns in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the state’s largest city. The order, put in place by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), has stirred up national attention and controversy across the state.
New Mexico, which is an "open-carry" state, has faced a spate of gun violence this year, headlined by 76 homicides in Albuquerque. It was one of the top three states with the highest gun mortality rates in 2021, and over the last few weeks several children were killed there by gun violence. Lujan Grisham said gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in her state.
In response, Lujan Grisham tasked state police with enforcing a 30-day ban on the right to carry open or concealed firearms in public, punishable by fines of up to $5,000. The ban was imposed as an emergency public health order, which Lujan Grisham framed as a "cooling off" period to slow down the recent spike in gun crime. It applied to all cities or counties "averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year since 2021," according to FBI data, or more than 90 firearm-related emergency department visits per 100,000 residents since last summer. In effect, the order banned open carry in the Albuquerque area.
The announcement immediately sparked a string of lawsuits, along with pushback from both Republicans and Democrats in her own state saying it violates precedent from the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen, a Democrat, openly defied Lujan Grisham, saying he wouldn't enforce an unconstitutional law. "This order will not do anything to curb gun violence other than punish law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right to self-defense," Allen said at a news conference. "It’s unconstitutional. So there’s no way we could enforce that order."
Lujan Grisham responded by calling on Allen and the police to do more to help her stop gun violence.
"We’ve passed common-sense gun legislation, including red flag laws, domestic violence protections, a ban on straw purchases, and safe storage laws; dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to a fund specifically to help law enforcement hire and retain officers; increased penalties for violent offenders and provided massive support to intervention programs," she said. "We’ve given you the tools, Sheriff Allen — now stop being squeamish about using them. I will not back down from doing what’s right and I will always put the safety of the people of New Mexico first.”
Along with the gun order, Lujan Grisham also promised to increase state police presence in Bernalillo County, arrest anyone with outstanding warrants, and expand capacity to deal with addiction and homelessness.
The ruling to strike down the order was handed down by U.S. District Judge David Urias, a Biden appointee, who said he understood Lujan Grisham's desire to combat gun violence but was tasked with deciding the simple question of whether her order was constitutional. Urias’ temporary restraining order lasts until another hearing scheduled for October.
However, Urias did leave in place other parts of the order, including directives for monthly inspections of firearms dealers, wastewater testing for illicit substances, and reports on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals. Republicans, meanwhile, have called for impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Today, we're going to take a look at some reactions to the order from the left and right, then my take.
Many writers on the left and right agree that this order isn't constitutional and represents a misstep by the governor. While the left is sympathetic to her position and supports drastic action on gun violence, the right is much more critical of the move and calls for punishment for the governor.
What the left is saying.
- The left worries that the order is fatally flawed in its execution, even though it seeks to address a real crisis in gun violence.
- Some question the move’s legality in light of recent Supreme Court rulings.
- Others say Lujan Grisham is ignoring more effective means at her disposal to reduce gun violence.
In the Santa Fe New Mexican, Milan Simonich said Lujan Grisham is right to focus on curbing gun violence but has “picked a fight she cannot win” with this order.
"Republicans eager to snipe at the governor have an easy avenue. They say her order is unconstitutional, and odds are good they can prove their contention in a courtroom. With her overreach, Lujan Grisham also has alienated people who otherwise support her efforts to beef up policing and drug treatment programs. Because the governor acknowledges thugs, thieves and drug dealers will continue carrying guns, her order theoretically applies only to people who obey laws,” Simonich said.
Ultimately, the governor’s prohibition on guns “brought her a wave of national publicity, but it diverts attention from workable ways of curbing crime and violence.” Lujan Grisham “committed this unforced error while sitting in an advantageous position,” as the state is “flush with billions in new revenue” that could be put toward smarter ways to address gun violence. “Lujan Grisham has the charisma and passion to rally the public behind those efforts. But by persisting with a blanket order banning firearms, she has created a sideshow.”
In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake said the order is of “dubious constitutionality” and “hard to reconcile” with recent Supreme Court rulings.
“The move builds upon a growing tendency in American politics for governors to test the limits of their authority and effectively dare the courts to stop them,” Blake said. “Obama late in his presidency sought to defer deportations of undocumented immigrants, despite having said he couldn’t do such things because he was not a ‘king’ or ‘the emperor.’ Biden last year sought to cancel student loan debt despite fellow Democrats like then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) having said he couldn’t do that.” Now, Lujan Grisham is making a similar effort.
“Grisham has maintained more firmly that she has the authority on the gun restriction. But she has also cast the situation as just too serious not to try something. Her order notably comes after the Democratic-controlled New Mexico legislature struggled this year to pass new gun laws post-Bruen,” Blake wrote. Now, politicians and experts on the left are calling into question the legality of the move, noting that the Supreme Court decision in Bruen “undercuts Grisham’s proposed justification. That’s because it didn’t allow courts to take into account the kind of compelling government interests that Grisham cited (reducing gun violence, for example) and instead focused on historical precedents.”
In MSNBC, Dennis Aftergut acknowledged the governor's efforts to address the “desperate problem” of gun violence but said “her solution will backfire.”
“Anyone who values public safety can appreciate [Lujan Grisham’s] desire to protect people from gun violence. Public order and safety are, after all, primary purposes of the law. But in issuing the order, Lujan Grisham may have tripped over the rule of law herself. One cannot stand up for the legal order while at risk of violating its first principle. An executive official who uses a laudable end to justify means of questionable constitutionality sets a precedent that could easily come back to haunt us all,” Aftergut said.
We saw this play out on January 6, when President Trump reportedly considered declaring an emergency and invoking the Insurrection Act “‘to use the militia or the armed forces’ to suppress rebellions.” The governor has said that she felt compelled to act. “But there is a better way to resolve legal uncertainty that doesn’t involve an executive’s declaring a suspension of rights: Go to court and seek an emergency judicial declaration that the exigent public need justifies it. Instead, Lujan Grisham simply aimed and fired.”
What the right is saying.
- The right is opposed to the order, calling it a political ploy that’s unconstitutional and destined to fail.
- Some wonder if this move is the beginning of a broader strategy by Democratic leaders to ignore Supreme Court rulings that they dislike.
- Others say it’s an example of how the emergency powers that many states invoked during the pandemic can be abused.
The Albuquerque Journal editorial board said Lujan Grisham “shouldn't break the law” to fight crime.
“It’s not often the ACLU of New Mexico and the Republican Party of New Mexico agree on something,” and “it’s also not often that law enforcement leaders openly defy a governor.” But Lujan Grisham has “accomplished both, abusing the emergency public health powers granted to the governor’s administration by state lawmakers in the wake of 9/11. And it’s not going over so well, even among members of her own political party.” Already, law enforcement leaders like the Bernalillo County sheriff have “vowed not to enforce it, calling it unconstitutional.”
“The unilateral decree from the governor’s administration has some good elements,” like sending additional New Mexico State Police officers to fight crime, allowing police to book juveniles into jail without social services’ permission, and monthly inspections of licensed gun dealers. “But the gun ban overshadows everything else in the emergency public health order,” the board said. “Lujan Grisham has dug herself into a legal and political hole from which she cannot emerge successfully.”
In the Washington Post, Henry Olsen said Lujan Grisham “seems to think it’s okay to ignore the Supreme Court.”
“Lujan Grisham’s order flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which held that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to carry a weapon in public for self-defense,” Olsen wrote. Her rationale about gun violence constituting a public health emergency is “twisted on its face,” because it “says increased threats of bodily harm eliminates the means that residents would use to protect their safety. Talk about Orwellian logic.”
“Still, the governor is no dummy. She has held appointed or elected office for nearly 20 years. She couldn’t possibly be so naive to think her order would be uncontroversial even among Democrats. So what was the real intention behind her order?” Olsen asked. “It could be that, like many ambitious politicians, she simply wants attention.” Alternatively, she could be “playing an even longer game” and attempting “a much more serious challenge to the Supreme Court’s authority” to circumvent rulings Democrats resent.
In Reason, Jacob Sullum called the order a “blatantly unconstitutional” edict that demonstrates the “hazards of emergency powers.”
“Grisham’s stunt was widely condemned as blatantly unconstitutional,” but it also “underlined the perils posed by the sweeping emergency powers that legislators in many states have granted governors—a problem that was abundantly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sullum said. “Unlike gun violence, COVID-19 was a literal epidemic. But Grisham thinks both threats empower her to act like a dictator for however long she deems necessary.”
Her strategy is unlikely to succeed, though, as “two gun rights groups immediately challenged Grisham's order in federal court, noting that it defies last year's Supreme Court decision upholding the Second Amendment right to possess guns in public for self-defense.” The governor also “admitted that her order was unlikely to survive legal challenges,” Sullum said. “But if it encourages legislators to reconsider the wisdom of letting governors rule by decree based on open-ended emergencies that they themselves declare, it will have served a useful purpose.”
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- It’s unconstitutional and counterproductive.
- Gun violence issues in the U.S. are not monocausal, but we have to acknowledge that our gun problem is globally unique.
- Regardless, there are other things Lujan Grisham could be doing, and instead she chose a path that makes everything worse.
This one isn't too difficult: Lujan Grisham screwed up. Badly.
The fallacy of what she tried to do was neatly wrapped up in an exchange she had with a reporter, who asked if she believed her 30-day prohibition would be obeyed by criminals. "No," she said, before adding that she hoped it would still send a "resounding message" to others in the community to report gun crimes. So, she doesn't expect this to have an impact on criminals committing gun violence, but she hopes it sends a message to law-abiding citizens, which she hopes creates fewer risks for everyone. It is as nonsensical a plan as it is unconstitutional.
The best argument for Lujan Grisham is that there is some limited data showing states with more permissive concealed carry laws have higher rates of gun violence, though a slight correlation is not exactly cause for a major constitutional overstep. And, of course, there is no data for what happens when a ban like this is instituted, because it has almost no precedent. Even if you were to cede that a temporary ban will have an effect, the timing is still bizarre. Albuquerque is on track to have lower homicide and robbery numbers this year than in 2021 or 2022. If she were responding to a truly unprecedented crime wave, it might make such a drastic action more palatable. But she isn't.
Conversely, the arguments against Lujan Grisham's order are pretty overwhelming. For starters, concealed-carry permit holders are disproportionately not responsible for violent crime anywhere, including New Mexico. Permit holders in New Mexico only have their permits revoked 0.002% of the time for any reason. So, telling a bunch of law-abiding gun owners who passed background checks and various other benchmarks to be able to conceal- or open-carry that they can't do so is not going to do much to slow down gun violence. In fact, it's only going to affirm the beliefs of many gun owners that the government is coming after their rights, despite there being very little evidence of that — until Lujan Grisham’s declaration.
In other words: She's breaking the law, she's proposing a solution that won't work, she's feeding conspiratorial fears about government overreach, and she's punishing a group of people who are statistically some of the least likely to commit gun violence.
When I've written about this issue in the past, I've made a few observations I keep coming back to. First, no national trend is monocausal. As the conservative columnist Noam Blum said after the Robb Elementary School shooting, "There are just parts of our society that are unfathomably broken and they occasionally intersect in unspeakably awful and evil ways." In New Mexico, for instance, the gun violence deaths that pushed Lujan Grisham over the top included a 5-year-old who was killed in a drive-by shooting and a 13-year-old girl who was killed by a 14-year-old boy who got possession of his dad's handgun. These outcomes were not solely caused by guns, but also by gang violence or irresponsible parenting, which are often cofactors.
Second, we can’t just accept the status quo. Or, as The Onion put it in one of its best (recurring) headlines ever:
Roughly 500 people die each year from gun deaths in New Mexico, which has a population of 2.1 million. There are literally dozens and dozens of countries with far larger populations and far fewer gun deaths than that per year, and they vary widely in socioeconomic status. A small sample includes Ireland (29 deaths — 5 million people), New Zealand (48 — 5.1 million), Cuba (78 — 11.3 million), Belarus (108 — 9.3 million), Finland (161 — 5.5 million), Nicaragua (226 — 6.9 million), and Bolivia (452 — 12 million). 500 people dying from guns in the 36th most populated state in the United States should not be considered normal.
Lujan Grisham has imposed some other regulations to address gun crime, but there are a few easy-to-implement resolutions she has so far not touched. Jennifer Mascia and Chip Brownlee addressed some of these in The Trace, highlighting waiting periods for firearm purchases, compelling every New Mexico county to participate in a universal crime gun tracing program (less than a quarter participate, which is well below the national average), and putting money behind actual violence prevention programs. These reforms would address the gun violence New Mexico is experiencing head-on.
Ultimately, I can appreciate Lujan Grisham's desire to do something — anything — to feel like she is moving the needle. But this is lazy legislating, it's bad politics, and it reeks of someone just trying to get national attention. It's a distraction, and it drives the people on opposite sides of this issue further away from each other, rather than putting energy toward a consensus solution.
Your questions, answered.
Q: A Republican friend said they wouldn’t vote for Trump, but that he did a lot of good for the country when he was president. I do not know what he did that was good for the country. Could you tell me?
— Tara from Orland, California
Tangle: Sure. Assessing Trump's presidency is inherently difficult because the last year or two of his time in office was upended by a global pandemic and the riots at the Capitol, which makes it easy to forget all the things that happened before then.
I reviewed Trump's presidency in January after he left office, based on the promises he made to Americans and whether he upheld them. The "good things" I covered there are obviously subjective, and based on whether you support his policy positions or not. To that end, I think the controversial "good" he did — i.e., the things he ran on but maybe half the country wouldn't support — included cutting taxes and regulations, reducing legal and illegal immigration (the former more than the latter), renegotiating our trade deals, and appointing conservative judges (including three Supreme Court justices). The U.S. also became the world leader in crude oil production when he was in office, and he put a lot more funding into school choice. If you are a Republican voter, Trump did the kinds of things many conservative politicians promise but rarely actually do.
Aside from the conservative wins, I think he made other big accomplishments as president that most Americans generally support.
He helped cut red tape to fast-track Covid-19 vaccines, getting them to the public faster than anyone thought was possible. Pre-Covid, he oversaw a period of huge job and wage growth while also pushing many American companies to bring their jobs back to the U.S. While overseeing a humming economy, the poverty rate hit a 17-year low. He passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill that nudged criminal justice reform toward rehabilitation. He continued the trend of presidents overseeing a fall in violent crime rates. He did not start any new wars, and pushed our allies to better fund and support the conflicts and military entanglements we are already engaged in. He brought troops home from places like Syria, though the number of troops overseas when he left office was about the same as when he entered.
He also did a lot of stuff you probably never heard about: He signed laws to make cruelty to animals a federal felony, signed several laws aimed at making drug pricing and health care pricing more transparent, and also signed a number of executive orders to make it easier to import cheap drugs from Canada. He ushered in rules that gave law enforcement more tools to fight sex trafficking and created a hotline for the VA that was staffed by veterans and family members of veterans. His administration seriously pared back the reach of ISIS, and negotiated the release of dozens of American hostages abroad. He also green-lit lots of financial aid to farmers.
There was a lot more, but there’s no doubt that Trump got a lot done while in office. Some of his achievements were made via executive action and have already been undone. Other trends changed post-Covid. But his list of accomplishments (from the conservative view) is long, and there is plenty in there for those in the middle and on the left to support as well.
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Under the radar.
Columbia University ignored women, undermined prosecutors, and allowed one of its OB/GYNs to abuse hundreds of patients over the course of several decades. The doctor, Robert Hadden, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in July. But the victims who have been trying to raise the flag about him for years are left wondering how Columbia has still admitted no fault and has instituted no reforms. At least twice, including after Hadden was arrested for assault, Hadden's bosses acknowledged in writing their concerns about him and then continued to let him practice. Columbia has paid $236 million to resolve settlements with 226 of Hadden's victims. New York Magazine and ProPublica just released a bombshell investigative report on what happened, and what the victims want now.
- 6th. New Mexico's ranking among U.S. states in gun deaths per capita.
- 22%. The reduction in homicides in Albuquerque for the first five months of 2023 compared to the same time period in 2022.
- 30%. The increase in weapons violations over the same time period.
- 67%. From 2009 to 2018, the percentage of gun deaths in New Mexico that were suicides.
- 27%. During that same time period, the percentage of gun deaths in New Mexico that were homicides.
- One year ago today we covered the Pennsylvania Senate race.
- The most clicked link in yesterday's newsletter was the story about the arrest of the escaped convict outside Philadelphia.
- Cheapening the process: 846 Tangle readers responded to our poll asking if an impeachment inquiry into President Biden is justified, with 35% saying "probably not." 32% said "definitely not," 17% said "definitely," 14% said "probably," and 2% were unsure or had no opinion. "Cheapening the process only perpetuates Congressional decline into disrespect. They are going there fast enough as it is," one respondent said.
- Nothing to do with politics: Yoda, the dog who helped catch the escaped convict outside Philadelphia.
- Take the poll. What do you think of New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham's recent firearm ban? Let us know!
New YouTube video!
Is college still worth it? We discuss:
Have a nice day.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has created a 14-foot-long robot, hoping to use AI to help us find water on other planets. The “Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor,” or EELS, is being trained to work autonomously while on the moon or Mars, to determine the environment it is in, and to make decisions based on its surroundings. "You're talking about a snake robot that can do surface traversal on ice, go through holes and swim underwater — one robot that can conquer all three worlds," JPL robotics technologist Rohan Thakker said. "No one has done that before." Rovers can have a hard time with bumpy surfaces and steep terrain, and EELS, which is set to be deployed in a few years, will be able to slip into areas easier. "The most interesting science is sometimes in the places that are difficult to reach," said Matt Robinson, EELS project manager. The Los Angeles Times has the story.
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