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TL(PM) DIGEST: Dark Brandon's case for a second term
Plus Tucker Carlson ousted at Fox, Beijing's Covid cover-up, and South Korea's president comes to DC for a state visit
1. Biden launches his re-election campaign by raising the stakes about Donald Trump’s return
What happened? President Joe Biden formally announced his re-election effort today with a sharp video saying, “Let’s finish the job!”
Why does it matter? When Biden launched his 2020 campaign, he promised to restore the “soul of the nation” and called out the violent white nationalist march on Charlottesville, Virginia. Four years later, Biden opens his 2024 bid with starkly similar images of Trump backers and insurrectionists attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
TLP’s take: Biden’s message of “personal freedom and a fair shot for everybody” stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s message of vengeance and personal grievance. People constantly underestimate Joe Biden, but with this campaign announcement today it’s clear the president knows how to frame the election stakes against Republican frontrunner Trump.
2. Lies, conspiracies, and bad behavior have consequences
What happened? Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch fired star Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson without explanation yesterday, merely saying the network and Carlson had parted ways.
Why does it matter? Fox News is down nearly $800 million thanks to its 2020 election lies about Dominion Voting System machines “switching” votes from Trump to Biden. With Fox and Carlson facing another lawsuit claiming widespread sexual harassment, Fox boss Murdoch obviously had enough and abruptly cut off Carlson while agreeing to pay out the remainder of his contract. As the New York Times reports:
Lachlan Murdoch, the C.E.O. of Fox Corporation, with the blessing of his father, conferred with the Fox News chief Suzanne Scott on Friday about dismissing Carlson, and the host was reportedly notified just 10 minutes before the announcement went out.
Mr. Carlson may have become too hot to handle:
The Dominion lawsuit unearthed private comments by Carlson in which he often profanely disparaged colleagues, sources and, perhaps crucially, his bosses.
A former producer is suing Fox News after accusing Carlson of overseeing a hostile and discriminatory work environment.
And the Murdochs have reportedly grown tired of trying to corral a controversial host who proudly says he can’t be controlled.
TLP’s take: America rightly sets a high bar for defamation cases, and the fact that Fox chose to settle rather than take the case to court suggests the network believes it would have lost—with Carlson one of those primarily responsible for pushing lies that cost the corporation nearly $800 million. But Carlson is accountable for his own actions, and his demise should be no cause for tears and soul-searching about free speech or America's free market media system.
3. Beijing attempts to rewrite the history of COVID
What happened? The New York Times reports on the Chinese government’s quiet but insistent global campaign to obscure and censor information about the COVID-19 pandemic—an effort that began almost as soon as the virus began spreading around the world. It’s a censorship drive that extends to “international journals and scientific databases,” with Chinese scientists withholding data, withdrawing genetic sequences from public databases, and altering important details of their journal submissions—all under government pressure.
Why does it matter? Beijing’s attempt to control the COVID-19 narrative has made it impossible to resolve the debate over the pandemic’s origins. More importantly, though, it shows that effective cooperation with Beijing on what ought to be shared concerns like global public health just may not be possible right now and in the immediate future.
TLP’s take: This report ought to throw more cold water on notions that the United States and China should and must cooperate on challenges that know no borders like climate change and pandemics—Beijing’s overriding priority remains maintaining the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on power, not working with other nations to solve shared problems. It also ought to serve as a wake-up call for scientific researchers around the globe and international institutions like the World Health Organization, both of which have let the Chinese government get away with its manipulations of science and data without much pushback.
4. South Korea’s president in DC for a state visit
What happened? Recently elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is in Washington for a state visit to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea. President Biden will host Yoon for a state dinner (featuring crab cakes and kimchi) and Yoon will give an address to a joint session of Congress, while Vice President Harris will give him a tour of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Why does it matter? South Korea remains a critical American ally whose geopolitical and economic importance has only grown in recent years—Korean companies like Samsung and LG are major electronics manufacturers, with Samsung one of the world’s major semiconductor makers. Roughly 28,500 American troops remain deployed in South Korea to help deter potential North Korean aggression.
TLP’s take: Given South Korea’s geographic position and critical role as a global electronics manufacturer, it’s vital to maintain the close alliance and deepen economic ties between it and the United States. It’s also important for the United States to encourage South Korea and Japan—America’s other major ally in East Asia—to continue their slow but steady rapprochement in the face of a Chinese government seeking to throw its weight around the region and the world.
Just one more thing…
If you want to know where to find a good donut in Los Angeles—and learn how Cambodian immigrants came to dominate the LA donut scene—the New York Times has got you covered.