McCain proves able, Mooch spouts off, and eight other stories you might have missed

John McCain was centerstage in a political drama surrounding the proposed Obamacare repeal.
John McCain was centerstage in a political drama surrounding the proposed Obamacare repeal.
Image: AP / Cliff Owen
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

1. Maverick badge unlocked

Even in the golden age of television, there have been few moments more riveting than C-Span’s near-silent, single-camera feed of the Senate floor during (what could be) the last effort to undo Obamacare. Each expression and gesture from the chamber was analyzed and re-analyzed by journalists on Twitter as it became increasingly clear that the fate of millions of peoples’ health care could come down to some middle of the night arm twisting. In the end, John McCain—who days earlier had flown to DC after receiving a brain cancer diagnosis and will now return to Arizona for radiation and chemo—turned a single thumb down and joined GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in dooming the Skinny Repeal. From WaPo: The night John McCain killed the GOP’s health-care fight.

+ “It cracked open a new divide in the Senate, which seems to be split not so much between Republicans and Democrats, but by those senators who want to work together versus those stuck in hardened partisan tribes.” LA Times: Did McCain open the door for Senate bipartisanship? If he did that, he really is a maverick.

2. Meanwhile, back at the branch

It’s been a laughably chaotic week in the executive branch. But no one was laughing on Friday morning, when we got another reminder that those who present the greatest threats aren’t going to hit the pause button until America gets it together. North Korea launched another ballistic missile test.

3. Weekend whats

What to Watch: It’s no secret that some politicians have been attacking the free press. But that’s not the only risk the industry is facing. There are also legal challenges to freedom of speech, including Hulk Hogan’s Peter Thiel-backed lawsuit that took down Gawker Media. You may not like either side in this documentary, but that’s one of the reasons why its so important. On Netflix, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.

+ What to Stream: I’ve been waiting for Cage the Elephant’s latest album, Unpeeled, featuring stripped down, acoustic versions of some of their best songs. And it didn’t disappoint. Check it out on Spotify or the music site of your choice. It will make you feel good.

+ What to Read: “The world feels more dangerous. Our streets seem less safe. The assault on our values is constant. The threats feel real. The enemy is out there – just check your feed.” Tobias Rose-Stockwell with a piece that will have you nodding your head in agreement: This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit.

+ What to Trick: Here’s a short video on Franco Pascali, a 19 year-old magician and cardistry artist. This is my favorite subject. Not cards. People who are incredibly passionate about what they do.

4. Whack job

“What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.” Vladimir Putin’s media czar died in Washington, DC, just before meeting with US officials. BuzzFeed on the search for answers and a look at why so many people are convinced it was murder.

+ We’ve talked a lot about the divided Congress. But there was widespread bipartisanship when it came to putting new sanctions on Russia. The big question is whether Trump will sign it.

+ Reuters: Putin signs Syria base deal, cementing Russia’s presence there for half a century. (The strategic importance of this base/port is the most under-discussed aspect of Russia’s relationship with Syria.)

5. Bannon-a republic

It started out unhinged (with him referring to himself in the third-person as “The Mooch”) and went black-diamond downhill from there, touching on subjects from the plans to fire everyone in “the entire place” to calling the White House chief of staff “a f*cking paranoid schizophrenic” to accusing Steve Bannon of a self-pleasuring technique, which even at the metaphoric level, would be anatomically impossible for anyone who didn’t have historically loose hamstrings. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza on his call with Anthony Scaramucci.

+ Remnick: Scaramucci was, in language and in manner, channelling Trump himself.

+ Andrew Sullivan on a week of reckoning: “Surely this week must mark some kind of moment in this vertiginous descent, some point at which the manifest unfitness of this president to continue in office becomes impossible to deny.” I think there’s a better chance it gets weirder next week. (And don’t call me Surely…)

6. Profit margin of error

“Slightly more than 100 firms earned about half of the total profit made by US public firms in 1975. By 2015, just 30 did.” When it comes to pulling in big profits, it’s always been lonely at the top. But in the age of the great divide, it’s getting a lot lonelier.

7. Leader of the Pakistan

“The charges against Mr. Sharif, 67, and three of his children—two sons and a daughter—stemmed from disclosures last year in the Panama Papers leak. Those documents revealed that the children owned expensive residential property in London through offshore companies.” From the NYT: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Toppled by Corruption Case. (Sidenote: They have nukes…)

+ Gizmodo explains how a Microsoft font helped take Pakistan’s prime minister down.

8. Sell mates

Back in the day, bands would avoid allowing their work to be featured in a commercial for fear of being labeled a sellout. These days, young music listeners hear a song in the background of a commercial and think, “good for them, they’re starting to really get successful.” Here’s Slate on The Rise and Decline of the Sellout.

9. America offline

“Some would argue that the social contract has changed and that fast internet isn’t just a luxury—it’s a right of all 21st-century Americans. If that’s the case, we’re far from ensuring it. Just spend a few days hopping from town to town on Saguache’s long stretches of road.” FiveThirtyEight pays a visit to the place with the worst Internet access in America. (Lucky for them, NextDraft is text only.)

10. Bottom of the News

“Suddenly the news was a new kind of friend. The kind who emails you, then texts you immediately to see if you got its email.” One of Conan’s writers searches for the punchline in an era when the news never stops.

+ Cops with weapons and a battering ram showing up at a house for a pot bust might not make for a terribly unique story. But in this case, the house was inhabited by two former CIA employees. And the pot turned out to be a hydroponic tomato garden.

Quartz now syndicates NextDraft, a daily roundup for the day’s most fascinating news curated by Dave Pell. Read the archive here. Sign up to get the newsletter or download the app here.