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Selasa, 11 Mei 2021

Trump drags House GOP deeper into his theater of lies
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Trump drags House GOP deeper into his theater of lies




When the House Republican Party moves against Liz Cheney this week, it will prove that it prefers to unite behind a lie rather than stay divided over truth.

The expected ouster of the third-ranking Republican leader in the House over her repeated rejection of Donald Trump's election fraud falsehoods may not be the most acute issue facing the American people. Concerns over unemployment and possible inflation, attempts to persuade holdouts to take Covid-19 vaccines, President Joe Biden's sweeping liberal agenda and a new cyberattack shutting down a pipeline are more urgent.
But the vote in the House Republican conference Wednesday may be the most fateful moment in a while, since it will further cement the disdain for democracy in one of the nation's two great political parties. It will also show that for the House GOP, nothing -- not even the protection of voters' rights to express their will in free elections -- is more important than moving in lockstep with Trump.
    Sen. Lindsey Graham explained the equation when he was asked Monday whether there was a place in the party for anyone who opposed Trump.
      "Sure, you're just not going to be a leader of the party if you're anti-Trump," the South Carolina Republican said.
      The vote will also once again expose the choice of Washington Republican leaders to put the fate of their party, and even their country, ultimately in the hands of a former President who used both primarily as a vessel to protect his own vanity.
      It is clear that the leadership in the House, cowed by Trump's popularity with the party base, is unwilling to contradict the false beliefs of voters convinced by the former President's malicious assault on the election and by conservative media propaganda.
      In a letter to Republican House members on Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who had condemned Trump's actions in the hours after the Capitol riot before he genuflected before the former President in a visit to Mar-a-Lago, said it was time to stop "relitigating the past."
      "If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team," McCarthy wrote, alerting his troops to a vote on Cheney's fate on Wednesday. "It's clear that we need to make a change."
      McCarthy's letter was full of inconsistencies, however. The chief culprit in "relitigating" Trump's election humiliation is the former President himself, who fans lies hour after hour and day after day.
      McCarthy also billed his party as, unlike the "left," a haven for "free thought and debate." Yet Cheney is set to be toppled precisely because she was indulging such privileges by pointing out Trump's falsehoods. And if tackling the Biden agenda was the question, then Cheney -- one of the most conservative members of the conference, who has made one of the most coherent arguments against the White House's multitrillion-dollar ambitions -- would be an ideal weapon.
      But the Wyoming lawmaker and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney navigated herself into an unsustainable position in a leadership group that puts loyalty to Trump ahead of truth.
      Her likely replacement -- Rep. Elise Stefanik, a more liberal Republican from New York -- transformed herself into a member of Trump's loyal Capitol Hill army to ease her lightning rise to power. In an interview with the Washington Examiner on Monday, Stefanik stood by her vote in the House to block the certification of Biden's electors in Pennsylvania after the Capitol insurrection.
      The ex-President's more than 70 million votes in November also mean that Cheney is at odds with what the party's key voters believe -- even if it is not true. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, another GOP Trump opponent, said Cheney was paying the price for putting the ex-President's apologists in an impossible position. He said some colleagues were saying, " 'We need to move on Liz Cheney because she makes me have to answer questions that I know are false.' "
      Biden's victory was upheld by multiple recounts, audits and court rulings. But Trump's power in his party remains undiminished, as is shown by multiple Republican-run states that have passed bills making it more difficult to vote based on his lies about voter fraud.
      Another member of the tiny band of heretics is Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who condemned the "circular firing squad" in the GOP that guards Trump's personality cult.
      "It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the dear leader or you get kicked out of the party," Hogan said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
      Other Republican lawmakers live double lives. They are confronted with questions about Trump's assault on democracy and Cheney's fate by the Washington media but serve constituents for whom Trump is a hero.
      Several Senate Republicans confessed unease about the move against Cheney on Monday, but also reflected political reality.
      "To be honest, we'd do the same if the shoe were on the other foot, but it's not good for our ability to get important stuff to be divided," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
      "No one is talking about this," said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he was not concerned about the Cheney feud, commenting, "This is all inside the Beltway."
      While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has tried to move on by running a familiar obstruction strategy in the Senate, Trump's influence remains strong in his chamber as well. The Kentucky Republican was disgusted by Trump's actions but didn't vote to convict him in an impeachment trial.

      Trump would 'take half the party with him' if expelled, says Graham

      Both McCarthy and McConnell will meet Biden at the White House for the first time in his presidency on Wednesday, the day that Cheney is expected to be toppled. McConnell is showing some signs of being willing to accept a traditional infrastructure package deal with Biden that sheds some of the President's goals, like home health care.
      The backdrop of the Cheney purge will be an apt metaphor for the way half of Washington is operating in familiar -- if partisan ways -- while the other half is purely concerned with a loyalty mission for Trump and McCarthy's ambition to win the speaker's gavel in November 2022.
      Given Trump's hold on his party, the House Republican leader may be making a shrewd choice -- though a higher loyalty to democracy would indicate otherwise. Midterm elections often rely on the intensity of partisan base turnout, and only Trump can engineer such conditions in House elections. If it's a choice between Trump and Cheney, it's not really a choice.
      "If you tried to run him out of the party, you'd take half the party with him," Graham told reporters Monday.
      Yet perpetrating the Big Lie of a stolen election might also turn into a big risk for Republicans. Trump, after all, lost the House and the Senate and the White House in the space of his single term. He also alienated some moderate and suburban voters, who turned to Biden to deprive him of reelection. And it has now emerged that party leaders in his thrall may be trying to hide the truth about such a backlash.
      Two sources told The Washington Post that staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee had omitted details about how Trump was hurting party candidates in key battleground districts at a meeting in April. The ex-President's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher in those areas than his favorable ones, according to polling results later obtained by the paper.
      Former Republican presidential nominee Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah issued a warning about the damage that associating with Trump could do in a broader national electorate wider than the GOP base.
        "Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won't gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few," Romney wrote.
        Yet Cheney's ouster suggests that such a message from an orthodox conservative who cares about US democracy -- and voted twice to convict Trump in impeachment trials -- has no place in the modern GOP.

        Minggu, 09 Mei 2021

         Elon Musk opens 'SNL' by telling his mother that he's gifting her dogecoin for Mother's Day
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        Elon Musk opens 'SNL' by telling his mother that he's gifting her dogecoin for Mother's Day



        Live from New York, it's Elon Musk. And his mother too.

        After much fanfare, anticipation and some controversy, the eccentric tech billionaire took the stage at Studio 8H as host of "Saturday Night Live" on Saturday.

        "It's an honor to be hosting 'Saturday Night Live. I mean that," Musk said. "Sometimes after I say something, I have to say, 'I mean that,' so people really know that I mean it."

        Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla and one of the richest people on the planet, didn't waste any time jumping into jokes about his Twitter account, smoking weed with Joe Rogan, and his son's name, "X Æ A-12."

        Musk wasn't alone on stage, however. The CEO brought out his mother Maye during his monologue since Sunday is Mother's Day.

        "I'm excited for my mother's day gift. I just hope it's not dogecoin," Musk's mother said mentioning the cryptocurrency, which Musk has been a vocal supporter of.

        "It is," Musk said, smiling. "It sure is."

        Musk's monologue covered a bunch of subjects but he seemed comfortable, which says a lot considering he's not an actor or comedian.

        Musk is a surprising choice for the show given that "SNL" is not known for picking hosts from the tech or business world. The selection also raised some eyebrows, including with some castmembers signaling their displeasure at the choice, since Musk has courted controversy in the past.

        Musk spoke a little bit about his erratic comments while making jokes to kick off the show.

        For example, he shared his vision for the future with the audience saying that he believes in a renewable energy future and that humans have to become a multi-planet civilization.

        "Those seem like exciting goals, don't they?" he said. "Now think, if I just posted that on Twitter, I'd be fine."

        Musk added that he knows that sometimes he says or posts strange things, but said that's how his brain works and revealed that he has Asperger's syndrome.

        "To anyone I've offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I'm sending people to Mars in a rocket ship," Musk said. "Did you also think I was going to be a chill normal dude?"

        Musk also starred in sketches including one where he played a doctor in "Gen Z Hospital," another where he played the Nintendo character Wario, and he also came up during the show's "Weekend Update."

        "I don't know if you guys were following the news today, but a space rocket that was spinning out of control just minutes ago crashed into the ocean," castmember Colin Jost said. "And for once we know it's not Elon's fault."

        Jost added that "a lot of people have been wondering, 'why is he hosting our show?'"

        "Now we know, it's because he needed an alibi," Jost said.

        Saturday's "SNL" was also notable because it was the first time the show has ever been live-streamed internationally.

        YouTube streamed it live in more than 100 countries, including Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Russia and the United Kingdom, NBC announced on Saturday.

        After much fanfare, anticipation and some controversy, the eccentric tech billionaire took the stage at Studio 8H as host of “Saturday Night Live” on Saturday.

        “It’s an honor to be hosting ‘Saturday Night Live. I mean that,” Musk said. “Sometimes after I say something, I have to say, ‘I mean that,’ so people really know that I mean it.”

        Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla and one of the richest people on the planet, didn’t waste any time jumping into jokes about his Twitter account, smoking weed with Joe Rogan, and his son’s name, “X Æ A-12.”

        “It’s pronounced cat running across keyboard,” he said of his son’s name.

        Musk wasn’t alone on stage, however. The CEO brought out his mother Maye during his monologue since Sunday is Mother’s Day.

        Musk spoke a little bit about his erratic comments while making jokes to kick off the show.

        For example, he shared his vision for the future with the audience saying that he believes in a renewable energy future and that humans have to become a multi-planet civilization.

        “Those seem like exciting goals, don’t they?” he said. “Now think, if I just posted that on Twitter, I’d be fine.”

        Musk added that he knows that sometimes he says or posts strange things, but said that’s how his brain works and revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome.

        “To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship,” Musk said. “Did you also think I was going to be a chill normal dude?”

        Musk also starred in sketches including one where he played a doctor in “Gen Z Hospital,” another where he played the Nintendo character Wario, and he also came up during the show’s “Weekend Update.”

        “I don’t know if you guys were following the news today, but a space rocket that was spinning out of control just minutes ago crashed into the ocean,” castmember Colin Jost said. “And for once we know it’s not Elon’s fault.”

        Jost added that “a lot of people have been wondering, ‘why is he hosting our show?'”

        “Now we know, it’s because he needed an alibi,” Jost said.

        Saturday’s “SNL” was also notable because it was the first time the show has ever been live-streamed internationally.

        YouTube streamed it live in more than 100 countries, including Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, Russia and the United Kingdom, NBC announced on Saturday.

        We didn't know what to expect when "Saturday Night Live" announced Elon Musk would host its May 8 episode. But as far as his opening monologue went and throughout the episode, he proved quite the comedian.

        "I know I sometimes say or post strange things but that's just how my brain works," the billionaire Tesla CEO said, referring to his confounding social media presence. "To anyone I've offended, I just want to say I reinvented electric cars and I'm sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?" 

        He also disclosed he has Asperger's syndrome, saying he's the first person with Asperger's to host the show. "Or at least," he joked, "the first person to admit it." (Twitter was quick to note that "SNL" alum Dan Aykroyd revealed his diagnosis in 2013, a decade after hosting the show.)

        Toward the end of his monologue, Musk's mother, Maye, joined him.

        "I'm excited for my Mother's Day gift," his mother said. "I just hope it's not Dogecoin."

        He quipped back: "It is. It sure is."

        More 'SNL':Miley Cyrus covers Dolly Parton in moving Mother's Day opening tribute

        Dave Chappelle defends past transphobic jokes: The comedian also weighs in on Elon Musk's 'SNL' hosting gig

        Jumat, 07 Mei 2021

         Trump's Republicans assault democracy while Biden gets down to work
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        Trump's Republicans assault democracy while Biden gets down to work

        As the Republican Party finds new ways to pay homage to Donald Trump and attack democracy, Joe Biden is pushing ahead with the grunt work of building a substantive presidency that could change the shape of America.



        The contrast in approaches between the White House and the GOP encapsulates the risky bet that each has adopted at what is beginning to look like a tumultuous and potentially decisive turning point in the political history of the early 21st century.

        In the country's relentless march through the next biennial election cycle, each side is making choices now that will provide the foundation of their strategies in 2022 and 2024 elections in which Trumpism and Bidenism will again be on the ballot in some form.

        The President traveled to Louisiana on Thursday to promote a package that expands the definition of infrastructure from transportation projects to broadband Internet right through the provision of home health care for sick or elderly Americans.

        But he chose a traditional backdrop, an aging bridge, to argue for tax raises on corporations and the wealthiest Americans to fund vital projects -- a centerpiece of his plan. He also offered some flexibility on the scale of a hike to corporate rates -- as he tries to get GOP senators on board -- hinting he may settle for a 25% ceiling instead of his initial bid for 28%.

        "I'm not ready to have another period where America has another infrastructure month, and doesn't change a damn thing," Biden said at a highway bridge that carries I-10 in Lake Charles.

        "The truth is, across the country, we have failed -- we have failed to properly invest in infrastructure for half a century."

        Biden also spent the week working on the core task of his presidency -- ending the pandemic and repairing the economy. He announced a new target to convince wary Americans to get vaccinated. He made a decision to back waiving patents on Covid-19 vaccines, which reverberated around the world and could help save millions of lives in poorer nations. Biden also highlighted a restaurant rescue plan that is typical of his approach -- in that it uses a gusher of government money to safeguard a vital economic sector.

        The plan is an apt symbol of a presidency rooted in fixing problems that makes a bet that after a murderous pandemic, Americans have arrived at one of the periodic moments in history when they are willing to endorse the sweeping use of government power to ease social and economic deprivation.

        The strategy requires Biden to open a narrow path through tiny Democratic majorities in the House and Senate -- which isn't guaranteed. And if he has misjudged the public mood, he could risk a public backlash that could benefit Republicans next year.

        Republicans fixated on personality cult loyalty tests

        Ironically, one of the Republicans who has made one of the most targeted attacks on Biden's big government approach is Rep. Liz Cheney. But the Wyoming lawmaker, who's the No. 3 House Republican, may no longer have a leadership platform to make those arguments. She is set to be toppled as conference chair simply because she tells the truth, repeatedly, about the ex-President's lies about election fraud, points out that he whipped up an insurrection designed to overthrow Biden's victory and punctures his personality cult.

        The fact that her likely replacement, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who has become a fiercely pro-Trump lawmaker and promotes his falsehoods, is far less conservative than Cheney, offers an eloquent picture of the modern GOP's priorities.

        Seeking to ease concerns among fiscal conservatives about her record, Stefanik played her, literal, Trump card, underscoring the power of the former President's aura in her party. "My vision is to run with support from the (ex) President and his coalition of voters," Stefanik said on Steve Bannon's radio show Thursday. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the small band of Republican House members willing to stand with Cheney in opposing Trump, refuted Stefanik's claims that she was a unifying figure.

        "I'm gonna just go ahead and say this ain't unity. It's capitulation to crazy," Kinzinger tweeted.

        The total embrace of Trump by House Republicans represents a counter-wager on the scale of the President's belief that Americans want a multi-trillion dollar overhaul of society designed to make the economy more equitable for working class Americans.

        Given the popularity of Trump among GOP base voters and their willingness to buy into the false reality he created over last year's election, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's strategy could work, as he seeks to wrest control of the House next year in midterm elections that may be decided by whichever party manages to excite their core voters.

        Yet Trump's appeal is limited -- he never reached a 50% approval rating as president in the Gallup poll. He alienated crucial suburban voters and led House Republicans to defeat in the 2018 midterm elections and lost the White House in 2020 and two subsequent Senate runoffs. It's far from clear that devotion to the disgraced former President is a viable path for Republicans if Biden makes a success of his presidency and the economy is doing well as voters cast ballots in 2022 and 2024.

        McConnell launches his own maneuvers

        On the Senate side of the Capitol, meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to signal a characteristic policy of obstruction when he said this week that 100% of his focus was on stopping the current administration. The Kentucky Republican's comments raised the question of whether a GOP counter-proposal to Biden on infrastructure and negotiations currently taking place with the White House is nothing more than political posturing.

        McConnell's attitude recalled a similar stance he took against former President Barack Obama's presidency. It may also reflect insight from Biden -- a longtime sparring partner -- about the gravity of the current political moment. While Republicans in the House are almost exclusively positioning for the midterms already, McConnell, with his chamber's institutional capacity to serve as a roadblock, is also concentrating on shorter-term efforts to thwart Biden's transformational aspirations.

        But McConnell may also have offered the President an opening to argue that Washington Republicans spurned his offer of compromise on key issues like infrastructure and his plans targeting American jobs and families.

        His remarks also immediately trained attention back on West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who is a bulwark against the power of progressives in the party and wants compromise with minority Republicans on big Biden agenda items.

        Manchin said on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" on Wednesday night that he didn't know what McConnell's reasoning was but insisted "there are Republicans working with Democrats who want to make something happen."

        Building on Trump's election fraud lies

        Outside Washington, Republican state lawmakers continued to build on the ex-President's lies about election fraud to make it more difficult for Americans to vote. In Arizona, state Senate Republicans pressed ahead with a sham partisan recount of general election votes in Maricopa County after Biden's win was repeatedly verified by courts and election officials.

        The Texas state House, meanwhile, debated a Republican bill that would limit extended early voting hours, give partisan poll watchers more authority and make it tougher to cast a vote in city areas where Democratic voters live.

        And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the Sunshine State's new restrictive voting measures. Had the goal been to bolster public confidence in the electoral system he might have held a public event. But exposing the partisanship behind the move, he signed it into law on "Fox and Friends" in a stunt that excluded journalists other than those on one of Trump's favorite mouthpiece networks.

        The fact that DeSantis is so willing to use the electoral system -- the core of US political freedoms -- as a prop to advance his own political career shows why some pundits believe he has the brazenness needed to serve as an heir to Trump -- a figure whose power still looms over Washington despite his departure for Florida more than three months ago.

        The last time a Republican administration nearly ran the country into the ground, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse took to the floor of Congress with a warning.

        It was a month after George W. Bush had left office in January 2009, and Whitehouse—once the U.S. attorney in Rhode Island as well as the state’s attorney general—laid out much of the case against Bush, which included leaving the country mired in a needless war based on “faulty intelligence” and the “unprecedented politicization” of the Justice Department. Whitehouse argued that the country could not simply turn the page but that it was necessary to investigate “the damage the Bush Administration did to America, to her finest traditions and institutions, to her reputation and integrity.” Only that would “make the difference between this history being a valuable lesson for the bright and upward forces of our democracy, or a blueprint for those darker forces to return and someday do it all over again.”

        For the most part, the Bush administration never got its reckoning. Barack Obama famously said, on the issue of Bush’s torture program, that he wanted to “look forward, not back”—a phrase that became synonymous with the broader absence of accountability in the wake of the Bush administration. Today, Bush’s public reputation has so thoroughly recovered that he is selling a book of paintings and being warmly received by the media.

        Rabu, 05 Mei 2021

        Biden says the GOP going through a mini revolution as party moves to oust Liz Cheney
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        Biden says the GOP going through a mini revolution as party moves to oust Liz Cheney

        President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he thinks the Republican Party is going through a "sort of mini-revolution" amid the push by GOP House members to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position.

        "It seems as though the Republican Party is trying to identify what it stands for and they're in the midst of a significant sort of mini-revolution," Biden said in response to a question to CNN's Kaitlan Collins during a White House event.

        "I think the Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point," he added.

        Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, has faced growing opposition in her role in the No. 3 House leadership position and party leaders, including former President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have been part of a mounting effort to kick her out. In a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday afternoon, Cheney called on the GOP to support both the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot as well as a separate, bipartisan congressional commission into the event -- a move that is unlikely to gain her any more support among Republicans looking to push her out.

          "History is watching. Our children are watching," Cheney wrote in the op-ed. "We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be."

          Though from opposing parties, Biden notably offered Cheney a fist bump last week upon his arrival in the House chamber to deliver his first joint address to Congress. And earlier Wednesday, when asked about the schism among the GOP over Cheney, Biden simply said: "I don't understand the Republicans."

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          Cheney is under fire for saying her party cannot accept the "poison" of the idea that the 2020 election was stolen and should not "whitewash" the January 6 Capitol riot.

          "We can't embrace the notion the election is stolen. It's a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy," Cheney recently said behind closed doors at a conference in Sea Island, Georgia. "We can't whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump's big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed."

          The President said Wednesday at the White House event that in his years in the Democratic Party, he's witnessed many internal fights and disagreements, but he can never remember anything like what is happening now within the GOP. He also stressed that he thinks having a two-party system is important for the country.

          "We badly need a Republican Party. We need a two-party system. It's not healthy to have a one-party system," he said.

          And while once a powerhouse of the GOP, Cheney's criticism of Trump's attack on democracy and her unwillingness to comply with leadership's idea that her party should follow Trump, have put her leadership position in danger.

          On Wednesday, Trump endorsed Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to replace Cheney as conference chair. And McCarthy has been in contact with the former President about the effort to oust Cheney, according to Trump adviser Jason Miller.

            McCarthy said on Fox News on Tuesday that Cheney is not "carrying out the message" of the party and he has been privately supporting Stefanik. The No. 2 member of House Republican leadership, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, has publicly endorsed Stefanik's bid.

            Two sources familiar with Cheney's conversations with members said the Wyoming Republican feels at peace with where she has stood on the election, on January 6 and her comments about Trump. Her calculation is that it is not worth trying to keep the leadership position if it requires lying about the election or the events that transpired leading up to January 6.

            “History is watching. Our children are watching,” Cheney wrote in the op-ed. “We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”

            Though from opposing parties, Biden notably offered Cheney a fist bump last week upon his arrival in the House chamber to deliver his first joint address to Congress. And earlier Wednesday, when asked about the schism among the GOP over Cheney, Biden simply said: “I don’t understand the Republicans.”

            The President said Wednesday at the White House event that in his years in the Democratic Party, he’s witnessed many internal fights and disagreements, but he can never remember anything like what is happening now within the GOP. He also stressed that he thinks having a two-party system is important for the country.

            “We badly need a Republican Party. We need a two-party system. It’s not healthy to have a one-party system,” he said.

            And while once a powerhouse of the GOP, Cheney’s criticism of Trump’s attack on democracy and her unwillingness to comply with leadership’s idea that her party should follow Trump, have put her leadership position in danger.

            China cant stop talking about the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce
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            China cant stop talking about the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce

             The divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates has sent shockwaves though China, where the Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder has achieved a level of fame unlike almost any other Western entrepreneur.

            The "Bill Gates' divorce" hashtag had generated more than 830 million views and 66,000 discussion posts on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo by Wednesday — far surpassing the 91 million views accumulated when Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott divorced in 2019.
            Weibo users fretted about everything, from how the couple would divide their massive fortune to whether the divorce would affect Microsoft or their charitable foundation. Through their philanthropic organization, the pair have spent $53.8 billion on global health, poverty alleviation and other initiatives. Bill Gates is worth about $146 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and the couple has pledged to give the vast majority of their wealth away to charity.
              "You and Melinda have made huge contributions to people around the world. Even if you don't hold hands together in future life, I hope your foundation can still continue and help more people," one Weibo user wrote, responding to a post on Bill Gates' official Weibo account that announced the divorce in Chinese.
                While Bill Gates no longer runs Microsoft, the company has spent decades building goodwill with Beijing. Its products have a considerable presence in China, even as other Western tech companies have been locked out.
                While Facebook (FB) is blocked, for example, Microsoft's LinkedIn remains one of the few Western social media tools available in the mainland. The Bing search engine is also operational, while Google has been cut out for years.
                And the success of the business has likely contributed to Bill Gates' personal draw: He now has more than 4.1 million followers on Weibo, outnumbering Tesla CEO Elon Musk's 1.7 million and Apple chief Tim Cook's 1.4 million.
                Even prominent tech figures in China joined the conversation on Weibo: Kai-fu Lee — the former head of Google (GOOGL) China, who helped establish Microsoft Research Lab Asia, a hugely influential network in China — said it was hard for him to believe the news.
                Based in Beijing, Microsoft Research Lab Asia has cultivated many Chinese tech talents, including Bytedance founder Zhang YimingAlibaba (BABA) tech chief Wang Jian and former Baidu (BIDU) president Zhang Yaqin.
                Bill and Melinda are "the most affectionate couple I've seen among celebrity entrepreneurs," Lee wrote in a Weibo post.
                The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set up its Beijing office in 2007 and has since then worked with the Chinese government on several domestic projects in the country, ranging from HIV intervention to poverty reduction.
                Bill Gates himself has visited China more than a dozen times since the 1990s and cultivated friendly relations with top leaders. He was welcomed by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin in March 1994, right before China officially gained access to the Internet.
                At that time, China was eager to open up its economy and catch up with the West in technology. The trip — during which Gates promised Jiang that Microsoft would help China develop its software industry — helped Microsoft accelerate its expansion in the Chinese market.
                In 2006, Gates hosted former Chinese President Hu Jintao for dinner at his home in the Washington state.
                And last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote to Gates to thank him for his support in fighting Covid-19.
                Gates was even hailed as "the Chinese people's old friend" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in 2018, a title that the Party occasionally uses for foreigners it recognizes as having a deep friendship with.
                  Meanwhile, on social media, some distraught Chinese users even remarked that the divorce had shaken their beliefs about marriage. The couple had been married for 27 years.