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#601

This explores the “What ifs…” in anticipation of the November election where if Biden wins, T will surely try to lie, bluster, gaslight his way into staying in office.

In a much-loved children’s story, “The Doughnuts” by Robert McCloskey, a boy, Homer Price, is left alone in his Uncle Ulysses’ luncheonette, where a newfangled doughnut machine has been installed. As he puts the final touches to it, Homer sets the machine in motion and finds he cannot stop doughnuts “comin’, an’ a comin’, an’ a comin’.”

Trump resembles that doughnut machine in the Centerburg, Ohio, luncheonette, unable to stop lies from coming out of his pursed mouth at giddying velocity. There is a hole in the middle of everything the president says.

In their new book, “Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth,” Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly of The Washington Post clock the number of false or misleading statements from Trump at 16,241 in his first three years in office, or 15 a day.

There were six such falsehoods a day in 2017, nearly 16 in 2018 and more than 22 in 2019. The mercury in the presidential mendacity meter is rising; so is the extent to which Americans are inured to Trump’s lying. Trump-speak, the fact checkers write, is a “constant stream of exaggerated, invented, boastful, purposely outrageous, spiteful, inconsistent, dubious and false claims.”

This leads us to the most critical question for American democracy: Will President Trump concede if he is defeated by Joe Biden in the November election? Or put another way, can a liar accept a truth incompatible with his devouring ego? The need to pose these questions reflects the depth of the national nightmare.

That Trump will spread disinformation over the coming months on an unprecedented scale is a given. But to some degree, that’s politics. The evidence that he will also encourage voter intimidation and suppression efforts is compelling. His attacks on the integrity of mail voting are relentless. That makes a lot of sense if he is planning to declare a state of emergency in battleground states and ban polling places from opening.

He has amplified baseless claims of voter fraud in the same states. That makes a lot of sense if he is planning to declare the election was rigged and he won’t leave the White House. Hell, he even declared the election he won in 2016 was rigged.

In a piece this week on doomsday-scenario planners mapping out responses to some form of Trump putsch, my colleague Reid J. Epstein suggested one possibility: “A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

Not implausible. Barr is Trump’s hired gun. He is to justice what a hit man is to due process.

Of late, Trump has turned to “horrifying lies.” That’s how the widower of Lori Klausutis, who died almost 20 years ago in the Florida office of Joe Scarborough, then a Republican congressman and now an MSNBC news host, has described Trump’s recent slandering of Scarborough. In tweets, Trump has called Scarborough a “psycho” and asks if he may have gotten “away with murder.”

The facts — that Scarborough was in Washington and that the police found no evidence of foul play — make no difference to the conspiracy theorist in chief.

Now, after his avalanche of lies, Trump has signed an executive order trying to curtail Twitter’s legal protections in retaliation for its appending fact-checking labels to two of his tweets about mail-in ballots. Oh, the audacity of Twitter in suggesting that Trump’s accuracy should be checked! Attempted interference, Trump claims, in the 2020 election! The president’s mantra owes much to Cosa Nostra: Threaten, threaten, threaten, and to heck with legality.

Tell me, are you inclined to trust a president who this week retweeted a video from an account called “Cowboys for Trump” in which the speaker starts by saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat”? The speaker then says he’s not speaking literally — affording Trump plausible deniability as, with an eye to November, he winks to his gunned-up Second Amendment cohort.

Or the president who, in response to growing protests over the death in police custody in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an African-American, tweets, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”? Trump’s tweet violated company rules on glorifying violence, Twitter said.

Trump is a coward. Perhaps if Biden wins, the president will skulk out of the White House like the little boy he is who never grew into a man. And the nightmare will be over. I don’t think so. The chances are growing that Trump will not concede in the event of a Biden victory, that he may encourage violence and use the fear and division spread by the virus to extend autocratic power.

Trump is a doughnut. There is a hole in the middle of him where honesty, humanity, decency, morality and dignity never formed. He has done incalculable damage. Kessler and his colleagues quote Jonathan Swift: “As the vilest writer hath his readers, so the greatest liar hath his believers: and it often happens, that if a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work.” Three and a half years of Trump lies have done their work.

In “The Doughnuts,” before the machine goes haywire, a wealthy woman loses the diamond bracelet she took off to mix the doughnut batter. Homer has a fine idea! To offer $100 to anyone who finds the bracelet. The excess doughnuts get bought and devoured; the bracelet is found inside one.

Behind this oversized, sticky, misshapen doughnut of a president the hard diamond of recoverable truth lurks. To seize it, and save the Republic, requires the certain knowledge that Trump will stop at nothing between now and Nov. 3.


#602

By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

Los Angeles, like so many American cities, is on edge. Protests over the police killings of unarmed black civilians have been mostly peaceful, but they were marred Friday night by unfortunate acts of vandalism and looting that damaged downtown businesses, many of them owned by immigrants and people of color. The Los Angeles Police Department has acted with restraint, even as protesters destroyed some of its vehicles Saturday. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who ordered a curfew downtown Saturday, has been a voice of calm and reason.

Not so, alas, President Trump, whose depravity seemingly knows no bounds. In truth, we are tired of condemning him. Chronicling his lies is exhausting. We would rather focus on defeating him in November — an essential (though by no means sufficient) step toward restoring our democracy.

Yet condemn him again we must.

Trump’s threats Saturday to unleash “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons”against protesters at the White House; his crude appeal to his “Make America Great Again” supporters to convene in Washington Saturday night; and his bizarre and offensive statement that “MAGA loves the black people” all threaten to throw fuel on a powder keg. This is no mere dog-whistling; it is an all but open invitation to far-right elements and white supremacists to engage in violence.

Furthermore, Trump continues to politicize law enforcement. Saturday, he threatened “liberal governors and mayors” that if they do not “get MUCH tougher,” “the Federal Government will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests.”

These are the words of an authoritarian. Threatening the use of military force against one’s own citizens is the last resort of despots and tyrants; such language has no place in a free and open society.

Across America, governors and mayors are working to keep the peace. This is not a matter of Democrats versus Republicans, blue states versus red states or black lives versus blue lives. This is a matter of what our democracy stands for. Simply throwing more force at the protesters would only make the situation more combustible and deepen the scars it leaves behind.

America may be at a tipping point. As a nation, we are mourning the deaths of 100,000 of our people from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 20% of our work force may be unemployed, the highest rate since the Depression. Tensions are high, with so many Americans having been cooped up in their homes for close to three months. Layered onto that volatile mix is the enduring fact that many people in minority communities do not feel that the police enforce the laws equitably. The shocking death of a black man cruelly restrained by Minneapolis police officers Monday has only worsened the mistrust and anger that have been generations in the making, the bitter fruits of systemic racism.

The protests are being driven by young people — of all ethnic and racial backgrounds — who see a lack of hope and opportunity. They are angry and fearful about the more than four centuries of subjugation that people of African descent have endured in what is now the United States. They were not alive during the 1965 Watts riots or the 1992 disturbances triggered by the acquittal of the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King — and prompted reforms that are still works in progress. They may lack context and perspective, but what they have in abundance is a yearning for a more just and decent society, for a more humane and sustainable economy, and for urgent action to address the climate crisis that threatens all of humanity.

This is a time for America’s leaders to listen to these young people — with compassion, empathy and humility. We condemn violence, but we urge restraint by the authorities and we reject false equivalency. The actions of looters and vandals may grab the attention of TV news crews and embolden Trump, but the misdeeds of a small minority do not justify an excessive or brutal response by the police or the National Guard. Deployment of the active-duty military would be an extraordinary measure, one constrained by federal law; it should be considered only if regular law enforcement has utterly failed. If there are outsiders stoking the disturbances, as Trump and some other leaders have suggested, they should go home — regardless of their political persuasion — and stop exacerbating the situation.

America is on edge. In 1967, a year in which disturbances rocked cities from Detroit to Newark, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked, in his fourth and final book: “Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?” His answer, of course, was community — a beloved community grounded in human dignity, nonviolent social change and the defeat of poverty, racism and militarism. We are called again today to answer his question. Trump has already done grievous injury to the idea of the beloved community; the least he can do is be silent, and not accelerate a slide toward chaos.


#603

Point taken…your move, Jack.

And all the criticisms are correct…Take T off of Twitter.

Opinion

Think Outside the Box, Jack

Trump, Twitter and the society-crushing pursuit of monetized rage.

By Maureen Dowd

WASHINGTON — C’mon, @Jack. You can do it.

Throw on some Kendrick Lamar and get your head in the right space. Pour yourself a big old glass of salt juice. Draw an ice bath and fire up the cryotherapy pod and the infrared sauna. Then just pull the plug on him. You know you want to.

You could answer the existential question of whether @realDonaldTrump even exists if he doesn’t exist on Twitter. I tweet, therefore I am. Dorsey meets Descartes.

All it would take is one sweet click to force the greatest troll in the history of the internet to meet his maker. Maybe he just disappears in an orange cloud of smoke, screaming, “I’m melllllllting.”

Do Trump — and the world — a favor and send him back into the void whence he came. And then go have some fun: Meditate and fast for days on end!

Our country is going through biological, economic and societal convulsions. We can’t trust the powerful forces in this nation to tell us the truth or do the right thing. In fact, not only can we not trust them. We have every reason to believe they’re gunning for us.

In Washington, the Trump administration’s deception about the virus was lethal. On Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, the fat cats who carved up the country, drained us dry and left us with no safety net profiteered off the virus. In Minneapolis, the barbaric death of George Floyd after a police officer knelt on him for almost nine minutes showed yet again that black Americans have everything to fear from some who are charged with protecting them.

As if that weren’t enough, from the slough of our despond, we have to watch Donald Trump duke it out with the lords of the cloud in a contest to see who can destroy our democracy faster.

I wish I could go along with those who say this dark period of American life will ultimately make us nicer and simpler and more contemplative. How can that happen when the whole culture has been re-engineered to put us at each other’s throats?

Trump constantly torques up the tribal friction and cruelty, even as Twitter and Facebook refine their systems to ratchet up rage. It is amazing that a septuagenarian became the greatest exploiter of social media. Trump and Twitter were a match made in hell.

The Wall Street Journal had a chilling report a few days ago that Facebook’s own research in 2018 revealed that “our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness. If left unchecked,” Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.”

Mark Zuckerberg shelved the research.

Why not just let all the bots trying to undermine our elections and spreading false information about the coronavirus and right-wing conspiracy theories and smear campaigns run amok? Sure, we’re weakening our society, but the weird, infantile maniacs running Silicon Valley must be allowed to rake in more billions and finish their mission of creating a giant cyberorganism of people, one huge and lucrative ball of rage.

“The shareholders of Facebook decided, ‘If you can increase my stock tenfold, we can put up with a lot of rage and hate,’” says Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

These platforms have very dangerous profit motives. When you monetize rage at such an exponential rate, it’s bad for the world. These guys don’t look left or right; they just look down. They’re willing to promote white nationalism if there’s money in it. The rise of social media will be seen as directly correlating to the decline of Western civilization.”

Dorsey, who has more leeway because his stock isn’t as valuable as Facebook’s, made some mild moves against the president who has been spewing lies and inciting violence on Twitter for years. He added footnotes clarifying false Trump tweets about mail-in ballots and put a warning label on the president’s tweet about the Minneapolis riots that echo the language of a Miami police chief in 1967 and segregationist George Wallace: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

“Jack is really sincerely trying to find something to make it better,” said one friend of the Twitter chief’s. “He’s like somebody trapped in a maze, going down every hallway and turning every corner.”

Zuckerberg, on the other hand, went on Fox to report that he was happy to continue enabling the Emperor of Chaos, noting that he did not think Facebook should be “the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”

It was a sickening display that made even some loyal Facebook staffers queasy. As The Verge’s Casey Newton reported, some employees objected to the company’s rationale in internal posts.

“I have to say I am finding the contortions we have to go through incredibly hard to stomach,” one wrote. “All this points to a very high risk of a violent escalation and civil unrest in November and if we fail the test case here, history will not judge us kindly.”

Trump, furious that Dorsey would attempt to rein him in on the very platform that catapulted him into the White House, immediately decided to try to rein in Dorsey.

He signed an executive order that might strip liability protection from social media sites, which would mean they would have to more assiduously police false and defamatory posts. Now that social media sites are behemoths, Galloway thinks that the removal of the Communications Decency Act makes a lot of sense even if the president is trying to do it for the wrong reasons.

Trump does not seem to realize, however, that he’s removing his own protection. He huffs and puffs about freedom of speech when he really wants the freedom to be vile. “It’s the mother of all cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face moves,” says Galloway.

The president wants to say things on Twitter that he will not be allowed to say if he exerts this control over Twitter. In a sense, it’s Trump versus his own brain. If Twitter can be sued for what people say on it, how can Trump continue to torment? Wouldn’t thousands of his own tweets have to be deleted?

“He’d be the equivalent of a slippery floor at a store that sells equipment for hip replacements,” says Galloway, who also posits that, in our hyper-politicized world, this will turn Twitter into a Democratic site and Facebook into a Republican one.

Nancy Pelosi, whose district encompasses Twitter, said that it did little good for Dorsey to put up a few fact-checks while letting Trump’s rants about murder and other “misrepresentations” stay up.

Facebook, all of them, they are all about making money,” the speaker said. “Their business model is to make money at the expense of the truth and the facts.” She crisply concluded that “all they want is to not pay taxes; they got their tax break in 2017” and “they don’t want to be regulated, so they pander to the White House.”

C’mon, Jack. Make @realDonaldTrump melt to help end our meltdown.


#604

Powerful…

George Floyd protests: People are pushed to the edge - Los Angeles Times

Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge

What was your first reaction when you saw the video of the white cop kneeling on George Floyd’s neck while Floyd croaked, “I can’t breathe”?

If you’re white, you probably muttered a horrified, “Oh, my God” while shaking your head at the cruel injustice. If you’re black, you probably leapt to your feet, cursed, maybe threw something (certainly wanted to throw something), while shouting, “Not @#$%! again!” Then you remember the two white vigilantes accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through their neighborhood in February, and how if it wasn’t for that video emerging a few weeks ago, they would have gotten away with it. And how those Minneapolis cops claimed Floyd was resisting arrest but a store’s video showed he wasn’t. And how the cop on Floyd’s neck wasn’t an enraged redneck stereotype, but a sworn officer who looked calm and entitled and devoid of pity: the banality of evil incarnate.

Maybe you also are thinking about the Karen in Central Park who called 911 claiming the black man who asked her to put a leash on her dog was threatening her. Or the black Yale University grad student napping in the common room of her dorm who was reported by a white student. Because you realize it’s not just a supposed “black criminal” who is targeted, it’s the whole spectrum of black faces from Yonkers to Yale.

You start to wonder if it should be all black people who wear body cams, not the cops.

What do you see when you see angry black protesters amassing outside police stations with raised fists? If you’re white, you may be thinking, “They certainly aren’t social distancing.” Then you notice the black faces looting Target and you think, “Well, that just hurts their cause.” Then you see the police station on fire and you wag a finger saying, “That’s putting the cause backward.”

You’re not wrong — but you’re not right, either. The black community is used to the institutional racism inherent in education, the justice system and jobs. And even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness — write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change — the needle hardly budges.

But COVID-19 has been slamming the consequences of all that home as we die at a significantly higher rate than whites, are the first to lose our jobs, and watch helplessly as Republicans try to keep us from voting. Just as the slimy underbelly of institutional racism is being exposed, it feels like hunting season is open on blacks. If there was any doubt, President Trump’s recent tweets confirm the national zeitgeist as he calls protesters “thugs” and looters fair game to be shot.

Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

But COVID-19 has been slamming the consequences of all that home as we die at a significantly higher rate than whites, are the first to lose our jobs, and watch helplessly as Republicans try to keep us from voting. Just as the slimy underbelly of institutional racism is being exposed, it feels like hunting season is open on blacks. If there was any doubt, President Trump’s recent tweets confirm the national zeitgeist as he calls protesters “thugs” and looters fair game to be shot.

Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

So what you see when you see black protesters depends on whether you’re living in that burning building or watching it on TV with a bowl of corn chips in your lap waiting for “NCIS” to start.

What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, “Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court.”

Can you put this under Op Eds plz @Pet_Proletariat @MissJava. thx.


What The Fuck Happened Over The Weekend?
#605

I had to stop supporting the NYT several years ago in 2016. There are some great journalists there and I genuinely hope they are happy and supported and have stable jobs there.

But not the fuck today satan. I refuse to give a link for clicks. You have told your black reporters and staff you give zero fucks about them, and you’ve given permission to your white readers to feel the same.

Every time you print the words from the mouths of these heaping trash pile excuses for human beings, you say you want debate and discussion, free speech should not be stifled!

AND THEN YOU CLOSE THE COMMENTS SECTION. Feels a little stifley in here when no one is allowed to post in the comment section…WITH ACTUAL FUCKING DISCUSSIONS AND DEBATES. but what do I know, i got The Rona Brain and go to bed at 8 like an old lady who just is too tired and doesn’t have time to tell you how to fix this shit, except maybe if you didn’t close your comments section i probably fucking would! “Put BIPOC in positions of power, or if you won’t do that LISTEN TO THEM AND DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU.”

Can’t wait to see how you’ll continue the heinous 2016 farce of coverage and stoke the same nauseating bullshit fires of both-sidesism (which you never stopped doing) into the 2020 election.

I’m fucking RAGEY tonight, haven’t slept more than 3 hours for way too many days and I can’t stop the words from vomiting out of my mouth. Which means I gotta get off my soapbox , chainsmoke like 6 cigarettes under this beautiful 96% full moon with a glass of tequila and chug out of my bottle of cbd oil.

I want to apologize to my WTFam for the vitriol but honestly i can’t, and won’t cuz guess what, you better believe IM FUCKIN :fu:t3: TRIGGERED.


https://twitter.com/jpbrammer/status/1210972670260629504?s=21


(David Bythewood) #606

My wife and I were angry about this also.

The NYT is one of the most divided publications. They do amazing journalism, but their editorial board is a hot mess that loves to give platforms to racists, morons, and MAGA scavengers.


(David Bythewood) #607

Trump’s praise for China over Tiananmen Square years ago was a preview of his support for military crackdowns on the George Floyd protests

  • In 1990, President Donald Trump (then a real estate magnate and private citizen) praised China for showing the “power of strength” via its notorious, bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square the year prior.
  • Hundreds, possibly thousands, of unarmed protesters were killed in June 1989 when the Chinese military opened fire on them in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
  • Trump’s praise for China over the Tiananmen Square massacre foreshadowed his support for the use of the military against anti-police brutality protesters in the US in 2020.
  • The president on Monday told governors they were being too “weak” on the protesters and needed to “dominate” them, and he’s repeatedly championed sending in the military to break up the nationwide demonstrations.
  • The demonstrations were catalyzed by George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes.

Thirty years ago, Donald Trump said that China had shown the “power of strength” when its troops massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square the year before. Trump’s words foreshadowed his general disposition toward protesters as president, and offered a preview of his support for military crackdowns on anti-police brutality demonstrations in the present day.

It was March 1990, and Trump was being interviewed by Playboy magazine about his life as a real estate mogul. At one point, Trump was asked about a trip he’d taken to Moscow a few years prior.

Trump said he’d been “very unimpressed” with the Soviet Union.

“Their system is a disaster,” Trump said. “What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with [former Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”

Trump was then asked if he meant “firm hand as in China.”

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength,” Trump replied. “That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak…as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

On June 4, 1989, after several weeks of pro-democracy and pro-reform demonstrations, Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square in Beijing and fired on unarmed people. Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed.


In this June 5, 1989 file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Changan Blvd. from Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Trump has called on US governors to use law enforcement to “dominate” protesters who’ve flooded the streets of cities across America to demonstrate against police brutality. The protests were inspired by George Floyd, a black man who died last week after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for roughly eight minutes. Floyd was unarmed.

While many of the protesters have demonstrated peacefully, there has also been rioting and clashes with police. Law enforcement has been widely accused of exacerbating the situation with the use of force, including employing tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets against protesters, demonstrators, and journalists in some cases.

After nearly a week of unrest, and a weekend in which Trump hid in a secure White House bunker (and saw the lights turned off at the presidential residence), Trump on Monday told governors they were being “weak” in response to the demonstrations. He’s urged governors to deploy the National Guard, though nearly half of the country has already done so.

Over the course of the past week, Trump has routinely expressed support for the use of the military to quell the protests, and at one pointed tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet was flagged by Twitter as “glorifying violence.”

image

The president later walked back on his “shooting” tweet, but has continued to advocate for the use of the military against the demonstrations.

Trump, who as president has repeatedly praised authoritarian leaders, on Saturday threatened to use the “unlimited power” of the US military against protesters, and warned demonstrators at the White House they could be met with the “most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons.”

On Monday, Trump said GOP Sen. Tom Cotton was “100% Correct” after the Arkansas senator advocated for the use of military force to respond to the protests.

Experts on authoritarianism have warned that Trump’s rhetoric has increasingly resembled that of autocratic regimes. Responding to Trump’s tweet on shooting protesters last week, New York University historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Insider, “This is what American authoritarianism looks like.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut on Monday implored his Republican colleagues against allowing their “party’s position become pushing for an American Tiananmen Square.”

“Turning the army on protestors is what dictatorships do. It’s literally the antithesis of America,” Murphy tweeted.


(Ray Van Houtte) #608

“This is what ‘Make America great again’ looks like,”


(David Bythewood) #609

Is TV Finally Done With “Heroic” Cops? A Black Showrunner Says, “Hell F*cking No”

Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who cocreated S.W.A.T. for CBS, on Hollywood’s history of “copaganda”—and the hard work ahead.

A few years ago, I had the honor of traveling through Accra, Ghana. As I rode down a main avenue, images grabbed my attention. On one side of the street, African children wearing rags played in an open sewer. On the other side of the street, there was a towering billboard advertisement featuring palm trees, a beach, and a Caucasian man lowering sunglasses from his eyes. The ad was for actor David Caruso, starring in the television series CSI: Miami.

The dichotomy of images was a reminder not only of the international reach of American pop culture, but of the specific influence of TV police procedurals.

In Hollywood, I’m a rare creature. A black man who has made a career, in part, writing for network police shows, having eventually created my own show, S.W.A.T., for CBS. For me, writing television can never simply be about entertainment. Many people in Hollywood have a fear of being didactic, preaching messages that risk making an audience feel uncomfortable. But, in the shadow of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers, a question persists—how are the shows we are writing contributing to perceptions of the justice system, class, race, and the image of black men? I look at this, not as a creative burden, but a necessary responsibility.

Traditionally, the domain of TV police procedurals has been as morality plays, where clear lines are drawn. The past 60 years have seen shows like Dragnet , The Untouchables , and Adam 12 establish a formula where, within an hour of story, good lawmen, also known as square-jawed white cops, defeat bad guys, often known as poor people of color. This stark clarity, indulging the idea of the hero cop, often provides a sense of satisfaction for some viewers in an otherwise complicated world. This can make for wildly popular entertainment, but also risks encouraging fantasies to be perceived as reality rather than idealized comfort food. People watch TV to see heroes, but how are we defining who a hero is? For people of color, especially black people, the viewing experience is complex.

The idea of respecting the job of a police officer is not exclusive to white communities—but it takes on nuanced layers from an African American perspective. In the case of Dragnet , one of the trailblazing police procedurals, stories not only required insight from, but approval by the LAPD, a police force that has had, at times, an explosive relationship with the black community. Some call this form of storytelling “copaganda.” And it is from Dragnet ’s example that many police procedurals and the idea of the hero cop has descended.

The original Hawaii Five-O and Kojak inherited this DNA, and even as procedurals became increasingly nuanced, using compelling character work and gritty visuals, shows like Hill Street Blues , Miami Vice , and Cagney & Lacey were, for the most part, told from the point of view of white cops occasionally interacting with people of color who were, at best, one-dimensional criminals, colleagues, bosses, sidekicks, and best friends. Even when blackness was not equated with criminality, it was often supplemented by an inhuman lack of depth or presence.

While storytellers often hide behind the idea that issues of law and order are a universal concept, like mathematics, I believe the idea of telling a universal story is a myth. It’s a Hollywood term often used in defense of why issues like race and class should be handled with generic brush strokes. In my experience, the term “universal” often means “for the mainstream,” which is another way of saying stories told for white people, by white people.

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By Yohana Desta

David Milch, a showrunner well respected in the police-procedural realm, once publicly opined that black writers are unable to write universal stories, due to a burden of anger and an inability to “achieve emotional neutrality.” I disagree with this idea. I also wonder if emotional neutrality should always be the goal of good writing. It’s been my experience that writers of color often have an advantage of needing to keenly observe and analyze mainstream culture as they achieve any level of success. Consequently, their writing voices often have the flexibility to encompass a variety of ways of looking at a topic, necessitated for professional survival.

Black procedural writers before me often took an approach of wanting to be seen simply as writers, using a “colorblind” method that in theory levels the playing field, but in actuality devalues and negates any point of view different from the status quo. If anything is going to change, this mindset must be recalibrated. I take this task personally, and it’s one reason I include my middle name on all of my professional credits to clearly indicate that I am a black writer. Instead of using a colorblind approach, increasing empathy for diverse thought and life experiences would be more ideal.

As the descendants of Dragnet have grown into successful franchises like Law & Order , CSI , and NCIS , we’ve seen the rise of the vigilante anti-hero cop—the cowboy cop, who often has seemingly understandable reasons for doing questionable things, sometimes to the detriment of black people. Respected shows like The Shield and NYPD Blue feature this concept. But even these shows have found their way into police worlds mostly through the eyes of white cops, leaving the point of view of people of color mostly as an afterthought.

In the TV industry, diversity is often claimed to be addressed through casting, but if the voice behind the characters remains consistently and almost exclusively white, diversity is literally only skin deep. The goal should be to increase perspectives, both in front of and behind the camera. It would be great to see more police officers portrayed as having the power to empathize, or at least a humility and desire to acquire such an ability.

When I hear Hollywood colleagues playfully pondering whether or not we’re doing enough to address the image of the hero cop that has been entrenched as a procedural staple, the answer is clear: hell fucking no. There’s a ton of work we still have to do. The question is, how sincere will we be about putting in that work?

Right now, individuals and corporations are offering lip service to preserve business, using statements to indicate support for black people. The real test, as always, is: what actions will we see?

For many writers, the idea of police brutality remains a fad of the moment. For a black writer, this probability can be infuriating. A few months ago, I wrote a scene between LAPD officers, observing how there were 27 years between the Watts and the Rodney King Riots and how 2020 marked 28 years since the King riots. Were we a year overdue for another uprising? When I wrote that scene, I got a sense from white colleagues that it was the equivalent of science fiction, that surely this couldn’t happen again. Turns out, we were only a few weeks away from our latest unrest over George Floyd’s death. To a black writer, this shit isn’t a fad that can and will be conveniently forgotten in a few weeks. The pain is always there.

Most Popular

  • Jared Kushner Donald Trump


“He’s Going to Broom Kushner and Parscale”: “Malignantly Crazy” About Bad Poll Numbers, Trump Is Thinking of Replacing His Son-In-Law

By Gabriel Sherman


Saying Goodbye: 13 TV Shows Make an Exit

By Vanity Fair

  • donald trump walk of fame


Trump’s Hollywood Star Greatly Improved by Black Lives Matter Graffiti

By Yohana Desta

Much of my desire for change doesn’t stem from a moral crusade, but the opinion that our stories will improve, using a wider scope, more layers, and a lack of fear of engaging audiences who are growing increasingly savvier.

Having created a cop show on CBS using an acronym in S.W.A.T. , I have found myself faced with assumptions that we’re no different from any other hero or cowboy cop show that came before us, or currently exists alongside us. While it’s tempting to defend what our show has done to highlight issues like police brutality and feature black voices, I find it more useful to address what can be improved moving forward.

When I hear white showrunners, especially those in charge of police procedurals, asked questions about increasing the number of black showrunners in this realm, I rarely hear an answer that addresses the question. I often hear platitudes about hiring more diversity at the lowest levels and tolerating new points of view from “cooler” white writers, but rarely hear how any writer of color can manage a career to get to a point where their voice drives a show and impacts the worldwide narrative on these stories.

We, as creators in Hollywood, have to be willing to expand the point of view from which these stories are told. Instead of focusing simply on what makes our jobs easier and more convenient, real change requires hard and sometimes uncomfortable work, conversations, and consideration. Failure to do this can have real-life consequences. Ultimately, efforts to improve can and will lead to better TV shows, more nuanced cop procedurals, and, who knows, maybe even impact real-world interactions between police and community.


(David Bythewood) #610

Trump promised national pride. A new poll proves he’s delivered national shame.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/16/trump-promised-national-pride-new-poll-proves-hes-delivered-national-shame/

President Trump received widespread approbation for striking an optimistic, bipartisan tone in his first speech to Congress on Feb. 28, 2017. “A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning,” he promised. “A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.”

More than three years later, what we are witnessing today is an atrophying of the American spirit and the spread of a new sense of national shame. Gallup reported on Monday that pride in America had reached its lowest point in two decades of polling. Just 42 percent say they are “extremely proud” to be an American, down from 69 percent in 2003 and 52 percent in 2016. (Another 21 percent say they are “very proud.”) Even this issue has become polarizing, with just 24 percent of Democrats saying they are “extremely proud” compared with 67 percent of Republicans.

I join those Americans who don’t feel much pride in our country at the moment. What is there to feel good about? We have the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. We have the most confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the world — and we are still adding more than 20,000 new cases a day. We can see that unconscionable police brutality continues despite anti-racism demonstrations.

And we have a president who is making the situation far more wretched. Trump is stoking racial tensions by threatening to sic “vicious dogs” on protesters and defending army bases named after Confederate generals, and he is likely to increase the spread of the novel coronavirus by holding rallies again beginning on Saturday in Tulsa. If Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, Trump is the Great Exacerbator: He makes every problem worse.

And yet I can’t give up on America just yet — and neither can most Americans. John McCain liked to joke that “it’s always darkest before it’s totally black.” But sometimes the worst times are a necessary prelude to better days ahead.

The Civil War — which killed more Americans than all of our wars until Vietnam combined — led to the end of slavery. The Great Depression led to the beginnings of a welfare state to help the needy. World War II — the costliest conflict in history — led to the spread of democracy and the rise of a more liberal world order. White supremacist violence led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The humiliations of the 1970s — stagflation, Watergate, the fall of South Vietnam, the Iranian hostage crisis — led to a national revival and victory in the Cold War. The financial collapse of 2008 led to the election of our first African American president, greater limits on Wall Street and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Time and again — not always, but often enough to offer hope — Americans have reacted to catastrophes by rolling up our sleeves and going to work to address the problems that have been revealed. If you want reason for optimism today, look at the polls showing a massive shift in public sentiment toward Black Lives Matter. As recently as 2017, most Americans did not support the movement; now, by a 28-point margin, they do. Even “your president of law and order” now feels compelled to institute police reforms, however inadequate. That counts as a glimmer of progress.

If Joe Biden is elected, he can pursue the reform agenda we need, addressing racial and economic divides, expanding health-care coverage, rebuilding infrastructure, reviving alliances and curbing abusive police forces. The hardest issue to address will be the divisions that disfigure our country — we don’t trust the government and we don’t trust each other. That distrust, in turn, makes it much harder to address other underlying problems.

There is no easy way to dispel that distrust — like the coronavirus, it will notmagically all of a sudden go away” — but we can begin to rebuild our civil order by expanding national service programs as advocated by a bipartisan commission that completed its work in March. The coronavirus makes the need all the more urgent, and Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) has introduced legislation to fund 750,000 public service positions to speed our recovery.

So much of the progress of the 1950s and 1960s, from the building of the national highways to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, was made possible because members of Congress had a shared history of military service. They were able to bridge partisan divides for the greater good in a way that we no longer seem able to. If more young Americans serve not only in the military but in civilian programs such as AmeriCorps, YouthBuild, Senior Corps and the Peace Corps, we can start to renew our sense of national pride and shared purpose. But if we are to write a new chapter of American greatness, we will have to begin by voting out of office the Great Exacerbator and his Republican enablers.


#611

Over 280 million people a week depend on the V.O.A. for news. Its independence is why it is so trusted.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

*Founded in 1942, the Voice of America was never meant to be a megaphone for the American government. The concept was the opposite: A federally funded broadcaster would showcase American values around the world by offering unbiased news and a true picture of American life. That mission is enshrined in what the V.O.A. calls its “firewall,” which “prohibits interference by any U.S. government official in the objective, independent reporting of news.”

So it’s worrisome that the Senate confirmation of the Trump administration’s pick to head the V.O.A. and several allied broadcasters was followed by the resignations of the two top V.O.A. executives, both experienced, respected and independent journalists.

The people who listen to the news service around the world — more than 280 million in 40 languages and on every media platform — are, for the most part, people who can’t abide the propaganda of their rulers and turn to the world’s premier democracy to hear the truth. If they thought V.O.A. was also feeding them propaganda, they’d change the station, and probably their image of the United States.

The value of such journalism should be self-evident to any believer in the value of a free press. It is not to President Trump nor to his erstwhile strategist Stephen K. Bannon. It was Mr. Bannon, then head of the far-right website Breitbart, who more than two years ago tried to put his man, Michael Pack, at the helm of V.O.A. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, first under Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and Trump critic, and then under the more Trump-friendly Jim Risch of Idaho, was in no rush to confirm Mr. Pack until something prodded Mr. Trump to launch an attack on V.O.A. two months ago.

In its evening newsletter then, the White House blasted the service under the headline “Amid a Pandemic, Voice of America Spends Your Money to Promote Foreign Propaganda.” The crime, as described by Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s social media director, was positive reports on how China had handled its coronavirus outbreak. Mr. Trump promptly picked up the chorus. “If you heard what’s coming out of the Voice of America, it’s disgusting,” he told a White House news briefing on April 15. “What things they say are disgusting toward our country. And Michael Pack would get in and do a great job.”

What evidently rankled the White House was a clip showing people celebrating the lifting of the lockdown in Wuhan, which accompanied a straightforward account by The Associated Press. V.O.A. officials were dumbfounded. “It just came out of the blue,” said Amanda Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran of Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and The Philadelphia Inquirer, who announced her resignation Monday as director of the V.O.A. The deputy director, Sandy Sugawara, formerly of The Washington Post and United Press International, also resigned.

Ms. Bennett and Ms. Sugawara did not link their departures to the long-delayed confirmation of Mr. Pack, who becomes head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent organization of the V.O.A., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and some regional foreign broadcasters. In her farewell message, Ms. Bennett assured V.O.A. staffers that “Michael Pack swore before Congress to respect and honor the firewall that guarantees V.O.A.’s independence, which in turn plays the single most important role in the stunning trust our audiences around the world have in us.”

It may be that Mr. Pack will respect the firewall he is sworn to maintain. His past is patchy — he hired Mr. Bannon, an icon of the alt-right, as a consultant on two documentaries, including one about Adm. Hyman Rickover. He is also under investigation by the District of Columbia attorney general for possibly channeling money from a nonprofit group he oversees to his for-profit film production company. And he was confirmed along party lines. Before that, he had worked at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Council on the Humanities and served as president of the conservative Claremont Institute.

None of that confirms that if left to his own judgment, Mr. Pack would do Mr. Trump’s or Mr. Bannon’s bidding, especially if it meant flouting the V.O.A.’s legally mandated independence. What is certain, given Mr. Trump’s record and his statements about V.O.A., is that this is what the administration expects and will forcefully demand. Mr. Trump wants a bullhorn, not a diplomatic instrument, and he insists on loyalty.

The specter of turning V.O.A. into a propaganda tool of the White House should be frightening to all Americans, regardless of political leanings. America’s image abroad has already been battered under this administration, making an independent global broadcaster all the more essential as a voice of the integrity and fairness that are still at the core of American values.

The responsibility of the senators who confirmed Mr. Pack is not over. It is their duty to ensure that he does not violate the oath he took.**


#612

This is where we are :point_down:

https://twitter.com/brhodes/status/1274185721859866624?s=21


(David Bythewood) #613

What is this? Could be it a copy of the Bolton book?

Why yes it is.

https://twitter.com/DDoSecrets/status/1274469417041235968?s=20

And here is ANOTHER link:
https://twitter.com/RogueOpsMobile/status/1274530822062735360

And here it is uploaded to the GDrive of an account I rarely use.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/18FkDo_2BZVQ94mcMBwj4IFNukgo2XAn2/view?usp=sharing


#614

Preet Bharara, who held that position at just prior to Berman getting the top job, has this editorial/Opinion piece out tonight. He believes the case that Berman was not kicked out of SDNY for any real reason and “In my experience, government officials don’t lie about the intentions of others when they are acting in good faith.

President Trump has long made clear that, for him, “rule of law” is a limited-utility slogan. By word and deed, he has demonstrated his belief that the law and its instrumentalities exist to serve him, personally and politically.

He has pressured individuals and institutions to pervert their usual independent government missions to comply with a mandate of pure self-interest to protect the president’s friends and pursue the president’s adversaries. This explains Trump’s ire at his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation; recusal made the protection part of the mandate harder to accomplish.

It also explains the president’s conduct at the heart of impeachment — using the diplomatic and financial levers of government to coerce Ukraine into announcing a damaging investigation of Joe Biden, his chief political rival. The episode is what former Russia adviser Fiona Hill disparagingly referred to in her testimony as “a domestic political errand.”

Trump’s latest domestic political errand involves the office I led for almost eight years — the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, commonly known as S.D.N.Y., a place where politics is supposed to be off limits. The United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman was fired on Saturday in a manner and under circumstances that warrant criticism and scrutiny.

To understand the uproar over the termination in legal circles, some context helps. S.D.N.Y. is famously and proudly independent. It embraces its nickname, the “Sovereign District of New York,” as a badge of honor. Sovereign, in the understanding of those who have served there, does not mean rogue. It signifies respect for law and scorn for political considerations. Republicans and Democrats are equally in the cross hairs.

The career lawyers are hired without knowledge of their politics or ideology. Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney who hired me to be a prosecutor, opened an investigation of Bill Clinton, the president who appointed her, after he pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich. Such independent action would seem beyond this president’s comprehension.

That same commitment to independence is why I did not return President Trump’s unusual phone call to me in March 2017, after which he fired me.

The importance of reputational independence isn’t codified in a rule or a statute, but it is rightly embedded in the D.N.A. of any worthy law enforcement institution for a simple reason**: That independence gives comfort to the public that decisions about life and liberty will not be influenced by politics or partisan interests, that those decisions will not depend on an individual’s identity, wealth, fame, power or closeness to a president — every judgment rendered without fear or favor, as the oath commands.**

It is this independence, and the public’s faith therein, that Attorney General Bill Barr, in cahoots with President Trump, threatened with his dubious, if legal, removal of Mr. Berman.

[

What prompted the termination? We don’t know and neither Mr. Barr nor President Trump has publicly said. Mr. Berman is a registered Republican, donated to the Trump campaign and was personally interviewed by the president. There has been no suggestion of impropriety or incompetence.

Against that backdrop, the only sin ascribable to S.D.N.Y. under Mr. Berman’s leadership, it seems, is violation of the commandment to protect the president’s friends and pursue his rivals. The president was unhappy with how the case against his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was handled. The president was displeased that his handpicked U.S. attorney, Mr. Berman, removed himself from the case, unable to protect Mr. Trump from being incriminated in open court.

Then there is the reported continuing investigation of the president’s other personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, a former law partner of Mr. Berman. Perhaps that was a bridge too far.

Maybe it had something to do with Turkey. According to John Bolton’s new book, in connection with a case involving the Turkish bank Halkbank in S.D.N.Y. that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, didn’t like, Mr. Trump told the Turkish leader that the “Southern District prosecutors were not his people.”

I don’t know if any of these matters, individually or in combination, provoked the firing. It may be impossible to know.

But given the president’s track record, the absence of any other articulated reason and the peculiarity of the weekend termination, neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Barr deserves much benefit of the doubt. Nothing about the weekend termination was regular or in good faith. It smacks of an effort to get rid of someone perceived to be disloyal in favor of someone more controllable. It may be legal, but it does not clothe the attorney general, or the department he leads, in honor.

It began with Mr. Barr declaring that the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, would be nominated by the president to be the next head of S.D.N.Y., a somewhat odd choice. Mr. Clayton has never been a prosecutor and never worked in S.D.N.Y. (as has every other U.S. attorney going back two generations). The timing of the announcement, during the traditional news graveyard of Friday night, was further suspect.

More important, Mr. Barr, in a pro forma note of appreciation, thanked Mr. Berman for his service and said he was “stepping down” after two and a half years in the prosecutor’s office. The second part of that statement was an apparent lie. As Mr. Berman said in his own release later the same night, “I have not resigned, and I have no intention of resigning.”

In my experience, government officials don’t lie about the intentions of others when they are acting in good faith. Perhaps the attorney general thought Mr. Berman would be too cowed to contradict a pre-emptive public announcement of resignation. He was wrong. The next day, Mr. Barr sent a letter to Mr. Berman advising him the president had fired him (though Mr. Trump added to confusion and irregularity later in the day by saying, “I was not involved.”).

Forcing out a well-performing U.S. attorney of the same party, without explanation, on the eve of election, in favor of a less qualified candidate who golfs with the president (as Mr. Clayton does), in the midst of investigations known to be irksome to the president, does not reflect a commitment to law enforcement independence.

Within the Department of Justice, hardworking public servants — in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere — are angry, dismayed and demoralized. I’ve spoken to many of them this weekend**. They are disheartened by the bad faith of Bill Barr and his determined efforts to undermine prosecutorial independence**. On Saturday, finally assured his well-regarded and principled deputy, Audrey Strauss, would take over the reins, Mr. Berman left S.D.N.Y. with his head held high.

I believe the wrong Department of Justice official left office that day.


(David Bythewood) #615

Vanessa Friedman is right. It’s the first thing I noticed in his long walk of shame. It screams volumes.

Trump, (Tie) Undone

After the campaign rally in Tulsa, an accessory becomes a symbol.

It is the picture of the tie, like the echo of the words, that lingers. The tie no longer secured in its big, boastful knot, but rather hanging limply around the neck, like a boxer on the ropes. The tie, that has been as close to a sartorial spirit animal as President Trump has had, along with his red MAGA hat and his elaborately constructed hair, completely un tied.

The tie as it was in the small hours of Sunday morning as the president arrived at Andrews military base from his ill-fated campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., later landing by helicopter at the White House and striding across the South Lawn, MAGA cap crushed in one hand. The tie as most observers could never remember seeing it before, at least around the neck of this president.

Together, the two accessories created an image as striking as those of the sparsely populated rows in Tulsa, and the empty overflow area outside. And as potentially symbolic, though probably not in the way Mr. Trump would like.

After all, this is not a president who ascribes to the shirt sleeves photo op. Not someone who invites his electorate in to see him, jacket tossed aside, elbows-deep in work at his desk. Not someone interested, like President Barack Obama and former Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain or even former Vice President Joe Biden, who seems equally comfortable with or without a tie, in announcing his sensitivity to the younger generation and their value system by willingly rejecting the suit.

He is, rather someone who believes deeply in the pageantry of his office, of airbrushed calculation (see: Ivana, Melania, even Jared), branding, and the power of costume. Be that pageantry in the generals whom he famously once lauded as “straight from central casting” or his disastrously staged march across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church in response to the protests in Washington D.C.

It’s a tenet that was clearly on display in Tulsa not just in his own uniform — the flag-reflecting blue suit, white shirt, red tie — but in supporting acts that included Lara Trump, son Eric’s wife and a Trump campaign adviser, in a white wrap dress; Kimberly Guilfoyle, son Don Jr.’s girlfriend and chairwoman of the Trump Victory Finance Committee, in a bright blue wrap dress; and Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, in red, like a matching patriotic array.

And when it comes to Mr. Trump’s costume, the tie matters. Especially the bright red tie, which he made his doppelgänger during the 2016 campaign, glowing in all its Republican glory; subliminally reminding everyone of the party’s Reagan heyday; of the good old times when everyone dressed according to establishment role; representing, in all its ridiculous, below-the-belt length — well, who knows? Something! Manhood or power or Mr. Trump’s willingness to stretch the rules (he also Scotch-taped the back, remember?). The psychological speculation has been endless, and varied.

The problem is, when the tie becomes a sign of victory, it can also be a sign of defeat. So it looked Sunday morning. Sure, it was very early. You can understand why a tie might be undone. But Mr. Trump understands as well as anyone that he is always on display, always playing his part. There isn’t really a backstage in his job, especially during his entrance and exit moments.

Add to that the cap-in-hand, and the symbolism gets pretty loaded. As one observer tweeted, “I mean, when does a baseball coach scrunch up their team cap — it ain’t when they’re winning, is it?”

Nope. It’s usually when they are about to throw it on the ground and jump up and down on it in frustration and disgust, because nothing is going according to plan. At least in the movies, from which Mr. Trump does seem to derive most of his cues.

Which is why, through all the bombast and brouhaha, the denialism and accusations, that both characterized the flop in Oklahoma and followed it, the unplanned photo op stood out as a rare moment of truth, caught on camera. It was real Reality TV.

The campaign rally was supposed to be the start of a new stage (pun intended). Maybe it actually will be.

Juan Williams: A bad moon on the rise

In the immortal words of Creedence Clearwater Revival, “I see a bad moon rising.”

My fear comes from watching a scary alliance taking shape on the far-right.

It begins with President Trump, who is falling farther and farther behind former Vice President Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent. Biden led Trump by 12 points in a Fox News poll last week.

Feeling political heat, Trump is resorting to dividing and scaring people while posing as the strong man needed to satisfy what he calls the American public’s “demand [for] law and order.”

Just last week, Facebook took down several Trump campaign ads because they featured a Nazi symbol.

My anxiety goes even higher as white militants, some waving Trump flags, are becoming more public and more violent to people marching for racial justice.

“Federal prosecutors have charged various supporters of a right-wing movement called the ‘boogaloo bois,’ with crimes related to plotting to firebomb a U.S. Forest Service facility, preparing to use explosives at a peaceful demonstration and killing a security officer at a federal court-house,” The Washington Post reported on its front page last week.

And then there are the rising threats from police unions.

In the face of rising calls for police reform, the police unions are now politically aligned with Trump. And he is standing as their defender.

In a clear slap at people protesting police brutality, Trump said last week the real problem is that the “police have not been treated fairly.”

The police unions are using the same tactic, attacking protesters, in the words of the president of Minneapolis Federation of Police, as a “terrorist movement.”

This rising alliance of Trump, white militants and angry police unions fits with Trump’s long expressed desire to have men with guns on his side.

“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad," Trump famously told Breitbart last year.

Keep in mind this is not an empty threat.

The Trump administration used a mix of several federal police agencies — armed with tear gas and smoke bombs — to disrupt a peaceful protest in Lafayette Square this month, all so Trump could take a campaign-style picture in front of a nearby church.

That brutal use of police power could well be a preview of more ugly conflict around the country as protests, political rallies, conventions and the November election approach.

That’s why several polls show the country to be on edge.

In fact, last week 74 percent of Americans, including 63 percent of Republicans, said the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to an AP-NORC poll. A Monmouth poll also had 74 percent saying the country is going the wrong way.

And 64 percent of adults, including 37 percent of Republicans, according to the AP poll, said Trump has made the U.S. “much or somewhat more divided.”

Trump’s most divisive tactic at the moment is to malign Americans protesting police violence.

He exaggerates violence at protests, then blames left-wing groups even as federal officials have identified right-wing, white militants as behind much of the trouble.

Even before the protests, his administration pulled back from deals between the federal government and several big cities to halt aggressive police tactics.

Attorney General Bill Barr raised eyebrows late last year when he said if Americans fail to show proper respect to police “they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

Barr’s position is way out of step with American public opinion. The AP poll found that more than 70 percent of white Americans say police violence against the public is either very serious or moderately serious.

Even libertarian-conservative billionaire Charles Koch’s network of political activists see the need for police reform.

The Koch network is working to reform “qualified immunity” as part of police reform so law enforcement officers no longer enjoy blanket protection from being sued for abusing the public trust.

Even Senate Republicans are working on police reform.

Led by South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate GOP introduced the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act last week to improve police reform, accountability and transparency.

At a time when Trump has expressed overt authoritarian tendencies by praising dictatorial thugs in other countries like Russia and North Korea, his focus on law enforcement takes on a new sense of urgency.

Biden has raised the specter that if Trump loses the election, he may not concede defeat.

Even worse, the president may call on his army of police officers to restore order and back an attempt to postpone, cancel, or invalidate the November election.

Biden said he may have to deploy the military or law enforcement to forcibly remove Trump from the White House.

No wonder so many Americans say the country headed in the wrong direction.


#616

Opinion

The Pandemic Is Still Raging. The President Pretends Otherwise.

Downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus has not stopped it from spreading in parts of the U.S.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

  • June 23, 2020, 7:56 p.m. ET

More than 100 days into the coronavirus pandemic, here’s where things stand in the United States: 2.3 million people have been infected, and some 120,000 people — more than in any other country — have died. Early epicenters like New York and New Jersey appear to have gotten their outbreaks under control, but several new hot spots have emerged, including in Florida, Texas and Arizona, where daily case counts are higher than ever. Over all, the number of new cases a day is rising, and the rest of the world is taking note: The European Union is mulling travel restrictions that would prohibit Americans from entering any nation in the bloc because the United States has failed to contain the pandemic.

None of these developments have put an end to the denialism that has prevailed at the White House from the start. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal last week, Vice President Mike Pence argued that reports of a coming second wave of infections were exaggerated. That argument was seconded by Larry Kudlow, the administration’s top economic adviser. Scientists do not agree: On Tuesday Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told a House panel that the country has yet to clear the first wave of the pandemic and that a second wave of outbreaks is possible. “We’re still in the middle of a serious outbreak,” he said. “There is no doubt about that.”

A few days after the publication of Mr. Pence’s op-ed, President Trump noted at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., that the nation’s case counts would not rise quite so egregiously if the U.S. stopped testing so many people for the virus. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases,” he told the crowd. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’” Administration officials later insisted that the president was joking about requesting a testing slowdown, but it’s difficult to see the humor in that punchline: If the U.S. reduces testing, case counts will decrease, but death counts will undoubtedly increase.

The president’s remarks were hardly surprising. They harken back to the earlier days of the outbreak, when Mr. Trump suggested that coronavirus-exposed passengers be kept onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship so they would not contribute to the case count on American soil. At that point, he’d already spent weeks downplaying the risks of the virus, saying, among other things, that it would disappear like a “miracle” come spring.

It’s hard to see the benefit of such magical thinking, especially now, when the truth is so plain that even some of Mr. Trump’s reluctant fellow Republicans are starting to acknowledge reality. In recent days, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has finally allowed individual cities and counties to mandate wearing masks, after initially overruling such orders. (The reversal came after several local Republican leaders joined their Democratic colleagues to request more autonomy in responding to the crisis.) But the pattern is clear: The president and his most loyal supporters keep acting as though if they ignore the seriousness of the coronavirus, it will cease to exist. This game of make-believe is made easier for them by the fact that the pandemic is doing the worst damage behind the walls of prisons, nursing homes and meatpacking plants.

There is still hope to be found in this morass. For all the denialism and politicking, scientists have managed to learn quite a bit in recent months about this coronavirus: They’re fairly certain now that it can spread from normal breathing (as opposed to just coughing), that an infected person who isn’t showing any symptoms can pass the virus to others and that even simple cloth masks can prevent such transmissions.

Doctors also say that at least two medications have been shown to help treat Covid-19 and that refined treatment protocols — including for when and how to use ventilators — are helping to improve patient outcomes.

But it would still be better if the nation’s leaders worked to prevent as many people as possible from contracting the virus in the first place — and to do that, they’ll have to start by acknowledging that the threat is real. On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the pandemic “the greatest public health crisis our nation and world have confronted in a century.” It’s past time for the rest of the administration to start taking it that seriously.


(David Bythewood) #617

Segregation Has Gotten Worse, Not Better, and It’s Fueling the Wealth Gap Between Black and White Americans

M inneapolis seemed full of opportunity when Roxxanne O’Brien moved there in 1987. She was just a kid, but her mother, a teacher, had heard that the school system was stellar and that it was looking for Black teachers. There was some racism then, sure—a neighbor forbade her son from playing with O’Brien because she was Black—but overall, the city seemed like a place where a Black family could succeed. Minnesota was—and still is—majority white, but it was also among the first states to outlaw segregation in schools, and its political leaders, including Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Walter Mondale helped usher in some of the legislative accomplishments of the Civil Rights Era.

But over time, O’Brien, now 37, noticed that Minneapolis seemed to have backslid on many of its commitments to integration. “If anything, we’re more segregated than we were then,” says O’Brien, a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the state of Minnesota that alleges that public school students are being denied an adequate education because of segregation by race and socioeconomic status in the Minneapolis and St. Paul School Districts. (The parties in the lawsuit are in mediation.)

Minneapolis has become the center of attention on racial issues because of its policing problems, but the city is also illustrative of a larger issue. Because of policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels, Minneapolis, like many places in America, has become more segregated, not less, in the past three decades. As a result, Black Americans have been left behind in the nation’s economic growth.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment among Black people in the U.S. was far higher than among white people (6.0% versus 3.1% in January), and median household incomes were substantially lower ($40,258 versus $68,145 as of 2017). As the COVID-19 outbreak exploded across the U.S., the unemployment disparity continued: unemployment among Black workers rose to 16.8% in May, from 16.7% in April, as white unemployment fell to 12.4% from 14.2%.

The numbers reflect the long-term consequences of segregation, which has contributed to denying Black Americans the jobs, salaries and other opportunities that are key to upward mobility. “If you live in a segregated neighborhood, every single bad thing in the world happens to you: you don’t get a loan for housing, and the schools lead to jail,” says Myron Orfield, a law professor at the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota, who has documented the re-segregation of the Twin Cities. (Zero tolerance policies that impose severe punishments on Black students at schools have been found to create a school-to-prison pipeline.) “If you go to an integrated neighborhood, none of these things happen.”

In the Twin Cities, the number of schools in which more than 90% of students are people of color increased from 21 in 1998 to 102 in 2018. In 1999, after a gubernatorial election in which conservatives pushed back against the state’s school integration plan, Minnesota adopted a new policy that made it harder to prevent school segregation, Orfield says.

It’s not just schools. Orfield argues that in the 1980s and 1990s, the Twin Cities abandoned a plan created in the 1970s that required suburbs to provide a “fair share” of affordable housing. While the Twin Cities built 73% of all new subsidized housing in the suburbs between 1971 and 1979, which was the best record in the nation at the time, there was pushback from suburbs who saw integration as social engineering, and from cities who wanted more development near downtowns. Between 2002 and 2011, 92% of all subsidized, very low-income housing was built in the central cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Of course, segregation is not just a Twin Cities problem; it has spread nationwide since federal, state, and local government entities began abandoning commitments to integration. Though hundreds of school districts were put into court-ordered desegregation plans in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, several court rulings in the 1990s cleared the way for districts to be released from these programs. Between 1990 and 2009, more than 200 districts were released from desegregation court orders, leading to an increase in school segregation, one study found. A Supreme Court decision in 2007 mandated that school districts that designed their own desegregation plans could not use race as a sole factor in efforts to integrate.

By 2016, 18.2% of public schools were between 90-100% nonwhite, compared to 5.7 % of schools in 1988, the year the U.S. reached peak school integration levels, according to the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Today, many neighborhoods and regions are just as segregated as they were decades ago. Subsidized housing has been concentrated in high-poverty, segregated neighborhoods, while affluent suburbs passed zoning laws keeping out low-income housing. Black families are still denied mortgages at a higher rate than white families; in 2017 the gap between Black and white homeownership rates was the highest it had been in 50 years.

Roxxanne O’Brien has seen the effects of this segregation firsthand. The neighborhood where O’Brien lives, which is majority-Black, had among the highest rates of foreclosures in the nation between 2004 and 2008. O’Brien says her mother lost her home to foreclosure in the run-up to the Great Recession. Her two eldest children attended Nellie Stone Johnson elementary, which according to the lawsuit, was 96% children of color; 93% of students received free and reduced lunch. The lawsuit says that public schools such as Nellie Stone Johnson deprived children of extracurricular activities, science equipment, art classes, computers and other “necessities and accoutrements of an adequate education.”

One thing the public school system did have was cops known as school resource officers, provided by the Minneapolis police department. (The school district recently announced it was canceling its contract with the department in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s death). Her son, J’siris, now 17, felt targeted by these officers, she told me; officers once sprayed him with Mace as they tried to break up a fight, she says.

A Minneapolis School District spokesman said he could not comment on the experiences of individual students for privacy reasons but said the district is working with school districts across the state on a plan called Reimagine Minnesota that seeks to create equity in education. But O’Brien says such plans have done little in the past.

“We’re still segregated,” O’Brien says. “Everybody thinks that something was solved back in the 60s, but no, it wasn’t really solved, it just changed form.”

Segregation doesn’t stop at school. It was, and still is, a problem in the workplace and in housing. For much of the 20th century, unless you were white, it was nearly impossible to get hired at most well-paying jobs, and if you did, the salary was sure to be lower than what white workers received. In 1959, the median income for Black males was 58% that of all American men. Even in the early 2000s, when researchers sent out fictitious resumes to employers, they found that resumes with “white” names like Emily and Greg got 50% more callbacks than those with “African American sounding” names like Lakisha and Jamal.

Black Americans trying to build wealth through the most traditionally American means — homeownership — have long faced obstacles. The Federal Housing Administration for decades refused to guarantee mortgages in and near Black neighborhoods, forcing Black Americans into “contract-for-deed” arrangements in which they were essentially renting, even though they were paying for improvements in their homes. Even if they had the money to buy, they couldn’t purchase homes in some American neighborhoods.

Audreyia Thibodeaux, who lives near Houston, has traced her family history back centuries. Her ancestors couldn’t accumulate wealth because of the dearth of opportunities—they were all sharecroppers and servants, she says. When her grandmother’s family was able to buy a three-bedroom home, the whole family crowded in, including Thibodeaux’s many aunts and uncles; it was where Thibodeaux — who recently learned that George Floyd was the nephew of one of her aunts — lived until 1995.

The cycle has repeated itself through the generations. Thibodeaux’s parents bought a home in a segregated area of Hempstead, Texas, in 1996, but at a high interest rate—10%, even though both had held steady jobs with the same employers for more than a decade. At the time, average interest rates on mortgages were closer to 8%. Thibodeaux attributes her parents’ high rate to racism, and surveys support her contention. Black Americans typically have a harder time getting approved for home loans than other races and are often targeted by high-risk lenders who charge higher rates.

Thibodeaux’s parents are still paying off the loan. That made it difficult for them to save money, so Thibodeaux took out loans to put herself through college and to get a master’s degree in counseling. She now owes $145,000 for her education. She was laid off from a counseling job in November and has been driving for Amazon Flex, a delivery service, since then. “Black life is hard—our stress levels are different, our anxiety levels are different, we were legally stripped of wealth,” says. “We should be a protected class, with policies and guidelines that speak to us as a group, and then maybe we can move this country forward.”

Government efforts to ameliorate wealth disparities have been largely ineffective and in some cases have actually heightened segregation. In 1986, as part of the Tax Reform Act, the federal government created a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to incentivize the creation of affordable housing. But it let states decide how to assign those tax credits, and many states did not prioritize integration. They instead concentrated low-income housing in already poor neighborhoods, worsening segregation. Between 1995 and 2009, for instance, Texas did not award low-income housing tax credits for any family units in predominantly white census tracts, but instead assigned them to high-poverty segregated neighborhoods. (The Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that this method of assigning tax credits violated the Fair Housing Act.)

Efforts to reduce housing segregation by moving Black families to high-opportunity neighborhoods were limited. They included HUD’s Moving to Opportunity program, which gave thousands of families in public housing in a handful of cities vouchers to live in lower-poverty areas in the mid-1990s. (Similar programs still exist in Baltimore and Dallas as a result of court decisions.) But moving to the suburbs without a voucher and government assistance became more difficult over time as suburbs passed laws prohibiting the construction of affordable-housing units and fought plans for apartment buildings. Some cities resisted integrating Black and white neighborhoods as recently as 2015. Beaumont, Texas, for example, turned down federal funding to rebuild a majority-Black public housing complex because the federal government wanted it built in a richer and whiter part of town.

Where we live as children follows us into adulthood. In 2018, a landmark study of 20 million children born between 1978 and 1983 found that Black boys who had grown up in neighborhoods with low poverty, low levels of racial bias, and high rates of fathers present, had significantly higher incomes in adulthood than those who did not come from these neighborhoods. But only about 5% of Black children in the study grew up in such conditions, researchers found.

Persistent housing segregation also restricts access to good jobs. As the nation invested in highways, making it easier for upper-income families and jobs to move to the suburbs beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, Black workers were left behind. A few years ago, I talked to a 21-year-old man named Brastell Travis, who lives on Chicago’s South Side. It’s where the Acme Steel plant and General Mills factory had once provided job opportunities, until both closed. Despite a certificate in welding, Travis couldn’t find jobs in his field because they were all in the suburbs, he told me, and he couldn’t get to them without a car. Instead, he took a job stocking groceries. One study found that for every 10% decline in the share of jobs located in a central city, Black employment rates in the metro area dropped by 1.6 to 2.3%.

This helps explain why almost no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between Black and white households over the past 70 years. The median wealth—essentially the net worth—of Black households in 2016 was $15,000, compared to $140,000 for white families.

There are some efforts underway to help Black Americans buy homes in diverse neighborhoods, which studies show are key to building wealth. Community land trusts, for instance, let low-income families buy homes on land owned by non-profits, which vow to use the land for the good of the community. This lets homeowners gain equity and ensures that the property remains affordable for future home buyers.

But the long history of segregation in America, and the financial disparities it created, means it will be generations before the wealth gap is eradicated. Parker Gilkesson, 27, bought her first home last year. Gilkesson grew up hearing stories of family members like her grandfather, who tried to buy a home in Bowie, Maryland, in the 1950s, but who could not find anyone willing to sell to a Black person. As an adult, Gilkesson was determined to not let history repeat itself. Besides, rents were rising in Washington, D.C., where she works, and she worried that she’d soon get displaced and have to leave.

Through the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which helps buyers who cannot afford large down payments and who lack ideal credit scores, Gilkesson was able to purchase a home in Baltimore. She loves her place and loves being a homeowner, and she is proud that she was able to achieve the dream that so many of her ancestors were denied. But even Gilkesson’s success is testament to the factors that continue to segregate America. Her new home is in a predominantly Black neighborhood—the white or mixed neighborhoods, she says, were way out of her price range.


#618

Trump’s reality TV presidency is being crushed by reality

Trump is falling in the polls because he’s failing the country.

Ezra Klein Jun 26, 2020

The chaos of reality is matching the chaos of Trump’s presidency

In 2016, Trump ran as an outsider because he was an outsider. He had never been a mayor, a member of Congress, or a governor; there was no record of governance for him to defend. He experienced politics as many Americans do — as televised entertainment — and brought the skills of a television reality star to the campaign. It was enough.

But Trump never changed his approach. He has continued to treat the presidency as a media spectacle, the work of governance as a dull distraction from the glitter of celebrity. He obsesses over cable news and Twitter conflict and neglects the job Americans hired him to do. And so now he does have a record: More than 120,000 dead from Covid-19 — and counting. An economy in shambles. Coronavirus cases in America exploding, even as they fall across the European Union.

“Governing has been so little on the mind of this administration from the very beginning that it’s created a bizarre, extraordinary situation,” says Yuval Levin, director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “The president thinks so much about what he’s doing in terms of the show he’s putting on that there’s been very little attention paid to how the government is functioning.”

Trump has spent the past three years and 158 days playing president on TV and social media. But he has not spent that time doing the job of the president. A strong economy that carried over from Barack Obama’s presidency hid Trump’s dereliction of duties. But then a crisis came, and presidential leadership was needed, and the American people saw there was no plan, and functionally no president.

Every insider account of Trump’s presidency — from Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury to Bob Woodward’s Fear to Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker’s A Very Stable Genius to Anonymous’s A Warning to Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged to John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened — has painted fundamentally the same picture: a chaotic, lawless administration orbiting around a reckless, distractible, corrupt, overmatched, and disinterested chief executive.

There is no secret being revealed here. These insider accounts match what is on display, daily, for the public. On Wednesday, for instance, the United States passed a new high in confirmed coronavirus cases: more than 37,000 in a single day. Thursday morning found Trump tweeting angrily at Fox News personality Ed Henry, who said Trump held a Bible upside down after gassing protesters in Lafayette Park. “It wasn’t upside down,” Trump insisted. Later, he took aim at former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who “lost so badly to me, twice in one campaign, that she should be voting for Joe.” After that, Trump tweeted “The Obama/Biden Administration is the most CORRUPT in HISTORY!” Later, he simply shouted into the digital ether, with no context, “LAW & ORDER!”

That the president’s Twitter feed sounds like Abe Simpson after a Fox News binge is old news. What is remarkable is that Trump is watching his poll numbers collapse and US coronavirus cases rise, all the while acting like he has no agency over the situation. A glance at the polling increases enjoyed by other world leaders and most US governors would reveal, instantly, the optimal political strategy for this situation: Demonstrate empathy and competence at a time when the American people are desperate for reassurance.

“In 2016, he was the outsider coming to shake up Washington,” says Lynn Vavreck, a political scientist at UCLA. “The people who weren’t sure about the Democratic Party could say, ‘I’m going to give this guy a try.’ But now, he’s the incumbent and he’s responsible for the fix. Making everything us-versus-them is not a growth strategy.”

Instead, Trump is holding rallies maskless and settling old scores on social media. It is, to put it generously, a strategy against self-interest. And it suggests that what Trump did in 2016 was not a strategy at all: It was his sole way of being in the world, a mode that happened to match that moment, even as it’s failing him in this one.

“What does the dog do when it catches the car?” asks Levin. “Turns out the dog just keeps running and barking. I had this thought in the Lafayette Square madness. Trump puts on this show. And then he gets there and has nothing to do. He’s just standing there. His whole presidency is like that.”

In the American political system, of course, governance is not solely the job of the executive. But Trump’s congressional allies are mirroring his approach.


#619

From a former Republican speechwriter - Peggy Noonan in a very conservative newspaper.
Tides are turning…

Something shifted this month. Donald Trump’s hold on history loosened, and may be breaking. In some new way his limitations are being seen and acknowledged, and at a moment when people are worried about the continuance of their country and their own ability to continue within it. He hasn’t been equal to the multiple crises. Good news or bad, he rarely makes any situation better. And everyone kind of knows.

On Wednesday a Siena College/New York Times poll found Joe Biden ahead 50% to 36%. It’s a poll four months out, but it’s a respectable one and in line with others. (A week before, a Fox News poll had Mr. Biden leading 50% to 38%. The president denounced it as a fantasy.) This week’s poll had Mr. Biden leading among women by 22 points—a bigger lead than Hillary Clinton enjoyed in 2016. He has moderates by 33 points, independents by 21. On Thursday a separate Times/Siena poll had Mr. Trump losing support in the battleground states that put him over the top in 2016. His “once-commanding advantage among white voters has nearly vanished,” the Times wrote.

The latest White House memoir paints the president as ignorant, selfish and unworthy of high office. Two GOP House primary candidates the president supported lost their primaries resoundingly. Internet betting sites that long saw Mr. Trump as the front-runner now favor Mr. Biden. The president’s vaunted Tulsa, Okla., rally was a dud with low turnout. Senior officials continue to depart the administration—another economic adviser this week, the director of legislative affairs and the head of the domestic policy council before him. Why are they fleeing the ship in a crisis, in an election year?

Judgments on the president’s pandemic leadership have settled in. It was inadequate and did harm. He experienced Covid-19 not as a once-in-a-lifetime medical threat but merely a threat to his re-election argument, a gangbusters economy. He denied the scope and scale of the crisis, sent economic adviser Larry Kudlow out to say we have it “contained” and don’t forget to buy the dip. Mr. Trump essentially admitted he didn’t want more testing because it would result in more positives.

And the virus rages on, having hit blue states first and now tearing through red states in the South and West—Arizona, Florida, the Carolinas, Texas.

The protests and riots of June were poorly, embarrassingly handled. They weren’t the worst Washington had ever seen, they were no 1968, but still he wound up in the White House bunker. Then out of the bunker for an epically pointless and manipulative photo-op in front of a boarded-up church whose basement had been burned. Through it all the angry, blustering tweets issued from the White House like panicked bats fleeing flames in the smokestack.

It was all weak, unserious and avoidant of the big issues. He wasn’t equal to that moment either.

His long-term political malpractice has been his failure—with a rising economy, no unemployment and no hot wars—to build his support beyond roughly 40% of the country. He failed because he obsesses on his base and thinks it has to be fed and greased with the entertainments that alienate everyone else. But his base, which always understood he was a showman, wanted steadiness and seriousness in these crises, because they have a sense of the implications of things.

He doesn’t understand his own base. I’ve never seen that in national politics.

Some of them, maybe half, are amused by his nonsense decisions and statements—let’s ban all Muslims; let’s end this deadbeat alliance; we have the biggest, best tests. But they are half of 40%, and they would stick with him no matter what. He doesn’t have to entertain them! He had to impress and create a bond with others.

The other half of his base is mortified by his antics and shallowness. I hear from them often. They used to say yes, he’s rough and uncouth and unpolished, but only a rough man can defeat the swamp. Now they say I hate him and what he represents but I’ll vote for him because of the courts, etc. How a lot of Trump supporters feel about the president has changed. The real picture at the Tulsa rally was not the empty seats so much as the empty faces—the bored looks, the yawning and phone checking, as if everyone was re-enacting something, hearing some old song and trying to remember how it felt a few years ago, when you heard it the first time.

In the end, if the president loses, he’ll turn on them too. They weren’t there for him, they didn’t work hard enough, they’re no good at politics. “After all I did.”

That will be something, when that happens.

Nobody knows what’s coming. On New Year’s Eve we couldn’t imagine the pandemic, economic contraction and protests. We don’t know what will happen in the next four months, either. I believe in the phenomenon of silent Trump voters, people who don’t tell anyone, including pollsters, that they’re for him because they don’t want to be hassled. But eight, 10 or 14 points worth? No.

It’s generally thought that if the summer’s protests and demonstrations become riots again, if they’re marked by more violence and statues crashing to the ground, then Mr. Trump will benefit. This may be true. There will be powerful pushback if things are grim. But I’m not sure he will benefit. A sense that things have gone out of control under your watch does not help incumbents. A sense that he cannot calibrate his actions but will do any crazy thing to bolster his position will not help him. He is a strange man in a strange time, the old rules don’t necessarily apply.

It’s possible, but not likely, that a general calming will occur as progressive activists make progress in party primaries and corporate boardrooms, and as their ideological assumptions ascend in public life. They’ve already won and are winning a lot.

And it’s always possible Joe Biden will awaken to the moment we’re in, see that a leader isn’t someone who sits back in a sunny, well-appointed suburban room and watches, passively, as dramatic events unfold. He could emerge as a real leader with a series of statements putting forth guiding principles to weather our crises. We have problems with race, problems with the police. What rearrangements should be made? How do we make them nonviolently, democratically? What is the meaning of history? What is a statue? What is socialism? What is the path?

He is bowing to the ancient political wisdom that you should never interrupt a man while he’s destroying himself. And he’s afraid of being on the wrong side of rising progressive forces. But thoughtfulness and seriousness would put him squarely with wavering Trump supporters and the honestly undecided, and reassure them that a vote for him is not also a vote for unchecked extremism and mayhem.

Silence is short-term shrewd. Rising to the occasion, taking a chance, making a gamble when everything is going your way but the country needs more—that is long-term wise. And wise always beats shrewd in the end.

We had wondered if Mr. Trump can lead in a crisis. He cannot. Can Mr. Biden?


(David Bythewood) #620

Thank you for posting that one; I wanted to read it, but didn’t have WSJ access.