Grim records in Hawaii, Argentinian demagogues and the forthcoming GOP debates

Plus, a former Republican legislator will see time behind bars and the wonderful financial benefits of being indicted.


A massive wildfire in Hawaii that occurred late last week set a horrific national record. Reports put the current casualty count at 96, making it the deadliest wildfire in American history. The economic toll will account for somewhere between $3 billion to $7.5 billion.

The intensity of the disaster was heightened by the effects of climate change and anthropological impacts on the environment: Flash droughts, a rise in temperature, forest management and the presence of invasive plant species all contributed to the intensity of the blaze.

An Argentinian strongman politician who openly admires former President Donald Trump won the largest share of votes in the country’s open presidential primary. Javier Milei, a libertarian who is a part of the ultraconservative “Liberty Advances” coalition, received close to a third of all votes cast.

Milei holds outlandish positions, having stated he thinks climate change is a Marxist plot, that people should be able to sell their organs on the open market and that sexual education is a conspiracy to destroy the nuclear family.

The country’s general election will be held on Oct. 22.

Last Friday, Republican Brian Kelsey, a former Tennessee state senator, was sentenced to 21 months in prison for violating campaign finance laws during his congressional run. In 2016, Kelsey laundered $91,000 into a federal campaign committee — thus concealing the funds from voters.

Meet the F***ers: A primer for the upcoming GOP debate

On Aug. 23, the GOP will hold its first debate in its field of 2024 presidential candidates. While all signs point to an easy victory for former President Donald Trump, he’s been mired in a series of indictments that could hypothetically take him out of the race. As such, long-shot candidates like North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have not only stayed in the race but seem to believe national exposure could shift the tide in their favor.

As of writing, Burgum, Scott, Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have all met the fundraising thresholds to appear on the debate stage in Milwaukee — which will also host the 2024 GOP presidential convention.  

However, Christie and Trump have not yet signed a required pledge drafted by the host network, Fox News, that each candidate will support the GOP nominee regardless of the outcome. Trump, who may skip the debates, signed a similar loyalty pledge in 2016 but made sure to emphasize his disinterest in standing by it.

Christie, meanwhile, has been wishy-washy on the pledge because of his branded, anti-Trump candidacy. He will most likely fold in order to compete at this supposedly crucial soiree.

Candidates that have not passed the fundraising barometer and almost certainly won’t appear on the debate stage include former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson and right-wing radio host Larry Elder.

Recent polling by The New York Times indicates that the vast majority of the GOP’s voting base is feverishly committed to Trump, so the debates may just be an informal exercise to decide who could hypothetically succeed Trump in 2028.


For Donald Trump and the GOP, becoming the most indicted president in U.S. history has been great for business: The only times that Republicans have surpassed Democrats, as graded by digital collection metrics by POLITICO’s Jessica Piper, has been during when the 45th president has appeared in court.

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Jamie Larson