The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Help Wanted; Inquire Within

How the job of White House press secretary became nearly obsolete. Plus: The Democratic National Committee announces the breakdown of the first primary debates.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Friday, June 14.

Color Wars: The Democratic National Committee finally announced the breakdown of the first primary debates. The first night features the likes of Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar; on the second night, Biden and Bernie go head-to-head. Check out our cheat sheet to remind yourself who’s who.

+ Thought exercise: If there were a separate climate-focused debate, Robinson Meyer knows what questions he’d want asked.

An Empty Title: President Donald Trump will soon appoint a replacement for Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary, a role that now essentially exists in name only. But the eroding of the press-secretary position began long before the Trump administration took power.

(Barry Thumma / AP)

A Different Era: Left-wing Democats and 2020 presidential candidates alike have recently called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortions through programs such as Medicaid. Even Joe Biden, who consistently voted in favor of the ban in the Senate, backed down. But the Democratic Party wasn’t always so united on the issue. Emma Green traces the decline of the pro-life Democrat.

What Would You Do: When President Trump said he wouldn’t call the FBI if someone offered him information on his opponent, adding that “life doesn’t work that way.” But for Tom Downey, it did. Here’s what happened after the former Democratic representative and Al Gore campaign staffer received stolen files on George W. Bush.

‘The Reverbations of Injustice’: In 1987, the Supreme Court was one vote away from eliminating capital punishment in Georgia on the basis of racial disparity. Instead, it issued a ruling that affected equal-protection claims across the country, and civil-rights advocates have been fighting it ever since. This is the case some legal experts call the “death penalty’s Dred Scott.”

Chattin’ With Ash: “Are we heading to war [with Iran]?” The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, asked former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in a conversation that covered Iran, China, and Carter’s close friend Jim Mattis.

The Race Is On: In this week’s Radio Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere, who covers Democrats, and Elaina Plott, who covers the White House, talk 2020. Listen to two reporters who cover starkly different universes compare notes on the coming whirlwind of an election.


(Andrew Ryan / Reuters)

Fans react after the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA title, defeating the powerhouse Golden State Warriors in six games late Thursday evening.

Ideas From The Atlantic

Kamala Harris’s Mistake (Quinta Jurecic)
“The idea that a presidential candidate can permissibly endorse the potential prosecution of a political opponent is itself a sign of how much damage Trump has done to that principle. Part of that damage comes from Trump’s own insistence on treating the Justice Department as a personal political tool, which eats away at the codes of behavior that have, in the past, barred politicians from making similar promises.” → Read on

The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum (Adam Serwer)
“What is notable is that crisis of faith in liberalism for this faction of the religious right comes only now … The state of emergency occurred when, and only when, liberal democracy ceased to guarantee victory in the culture war. The indignity of fighting for one’s rights within a democratic framework is fine for others, but it is beneath them.” → Read on

Braininess Is Now the Brand (Peter Beinart)
“It’s likely Republicans would try to turn intellectualism into a negative for either [Elizabeth] Warren or [Pete] Buttigieg … It’s a tactic that’s worked in the past. What’s harder to know is what will happen if a Democratic nominee wears these attacks as a badge of honor. To the debates over whether America is ready for a woman or a gay president, Warren and Buttigieg are adding an additional wrinkle: Is it ready for a nerd president, too?” → Read on

Why Trump Uses Mock Spanish (Ben Zimmer)
“When Trump referred to ‘bad hombres’ in the 2016 debate, Adam Schwartz, a specialist in Spanish-language education at Oregon State University … observed that while ‘hombre itself might not be a racial slur,’ Trump’s use of it crystalized ‘the scope of that word’s injury, its offensiveness, its oppressive potential.’” → Read on

What Else We’re Reading

Louise Linton, aka Mrs. Steven Mnuchin, Is Sorry (Maer Roshan, Los Angeles Magazine)
Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Hillary Clinton (Ezra Klein, Vox)
The Escalator Ride That Changed America (Michael Kruse, Politico Magazine)
Big Government to the Rescue? (Christian Vanderbrouk, The Bulwark)

About us: This newsletter is a daily effort from The Atlantic’s politics writers: Elaine Godfrey, Madeleine Carlisle, and Olivia Paschal. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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