August 21

• Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is testifying in the remarkable corruption trial of he and his wife, Maureen, and the whole thing is completely nuts. The sheer variety of ways the McDonnells’s “friend” Jonnie Williams found to shower the couple with his largesse — vacations, clothes, a Rolex, a drive in a Ferrari, paying for the catering at their daughter’s wedding, loans and on and on — is truly remarkable. But McDonnell did say that the gift of a set of golf clubs was “a little much.” And the entire defense of this “family values” politician is basically that he’s innocent because his wife is a shrew, and he can’t stand her, so they couldn’t possibly have conspired to break the law.

• Alex Tabarrok explains how the city of Ferguson, Mo., funds itself through a relentless campaign of harassment and fines directed at its population, in which a stop by a cop for something like jaywalking can spiral into a nightmare that threatens your job and your home. It amounts to $321 in fines and fees, and 3 warrants, for every Ferguson household.

• Yishai Schwartz explains why convicting police officer Darren Wilson of a crime for killing Michael Brown will be all but impossible.

• Rick Perry is a very serious person running for president:

Texas Governor Rick Perry warned a packed DC audience at DC’s Heritage Foundation headquarters Thursday that without swift action, terrorists from groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will “slip across our un-secure border.” In a speech linking the immigration reform debate to the current crisis in Iraq, Perry claimed there is “a very real possibility” that terrorists have already entered the country by crossing the desert from Mexico.

Perry cited only one anecdote to back up this claim: the recent detention at the border of a Ukrainian national. But she wasn’t a terrorist. She was the wife of a U.S. marine.

Also, how do we know that the Central American kids coming to the border aren’t shape-shifting xenomorphs from the planet Glugrax 17? We’d be protected from those illegal aliens if there was a real leader in the White House, is all he’s saying.

• Everybody’s talking about the fact that Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor has an ad touting the Affordable Care Act. Simon Maloy explains why this made good political sense.

• David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times asked Pryor’s opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, about the ad:

What’s fascinating is what Cotton didn’t do: there was no direct attack on Pryor for staring into a camera and proudly declaring that he voted for the (unnamed) health care law. There are extenuating circumstances (Pryor’s battle with cancer, noted in the ad, and the popularity of Pryor’s father, who also appears in the ad) but if Obamacare attacks are a bit less potent than they once were, surely this is a sign: The Pryor campaign released an ad highlighting his vote for Obamacare(!) and Cotton didn’t take the bait, responding in muted tones. In fact, he responded the same way he did when asked about the recent finding that Arkansas has cut its percentage of uninsured residents nearly in half — he dodged by saying he hadn’t seen it, while implicitly acknowledging that Obamacare does have benefits which have helped Arkansans.

“I will say the health care system was broken five years ago,” Cotton said. “There’s no doubt about that.” Cotton cited insurance costs and people with pre-existing conditions who didn’t have access to health insurance. Of course, Obamacare banned insurance companies from discriminating against people based on pre-existing conditions, which was what Pryor took credit for in the ad (“I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from cancelling your policy if you get sick or deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions”).

And Ramsey’s question about how Cotton would deal with the couple hundred thousand Arkansans who would lose their Medicaid coverage if the ACA were repealed was met with an utterly incomprehensible word salad.

• Steve Benen sees the weird turn the debate over health care has taken in Arkansas as a sign of progressive triumph:

Back in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama talked about the importance of changing the trajectory of the political conversation in a more progressive direction, and on health care, we’re starting to see that happen in earnest.

That’s especially true in Arkansas where Pryor is boasting about ACA benefits, Cotton says there’s “no doubt” the law has helped people, and Karl Rove’s outfit is running ads talking about how important socialized medical insurance is.

You take your victories where you can get them, I suppose.

• Sahil Kapur says it isn’t just Arkansas; the “Obamacare” issue is losing its potency for Republican candidates in many places.

• This ad hitting Thom Tillis on education cuts suggests that Democrats have polling showing that education is an area of serious vulnerability for Tillis.

• The Government Accountability Office has ruled that the Pentagon broke the law by not informing Congress before trading Taliban detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

• At the American Prospect, I explained the real reason congressional Democrats are peeved that President Obama doesn’t hang out with them more: ego.

• Yet another federal judge has ruled a state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. This time it is Florida.