Thursday, June 04, 2020


A couple of hours ago, President Trump tweeted out an attack on Jim Mattis by John Dowd, a high-level D.C. lawyer and former Marine who's recently done work for the president.

For a few paragraphs, Dowd's letter reads as if it was written by a human being angry at another human being.

I slept on your statement and woke up appalled and upset. You lost me. Never dreamed you would let a bunch of hack politicians use your good ame and reputation—earned with the blood and guts of young Marines. You did what you said you would—engage in this discourse.

Marines keep their word.

The phony protesters near Lafayette park were not peaceful and are not real. They are terrorists using idle hate filled students to burn and destroy. They were abusing and disrespecting the police when the police were preparing the area for the 1900 curfew. Jim, this is the new nihilism. See Dan Henninger in WSJ today.

Marines support the police in harm’s way.

Did you forget that President Bush used active duty Marines to quell the riots in LA?
But then, like a good cultist who's memorized the sacred texts, Dowd starts banging out readymade attack lines from the right-wing media, which has clearly taken over a good portion of his brain.
President Trump has countless cities and some snowflake governors and mayors wetting themselves in the use of force to protect innocent lives and property....

No one divided this country more than Obama. He abandoned our black brothers and sisters. He gave guns to the cartels. He apologized for our precious sacrifice and generosity overseas....

President Trump has done more to help our minority brothers and sisters in three years than anyone in the last fifty. Ask the black pastors. Ask the leaders of the black colleges and universities. He got them funded. Ask them about the prison reform which ended the draconian sentences imposed on young black men by the law enacted by Biden and his hacks....

I understand, you had to stick to the assigned narrative which did not include three years of corrupt investigations and evidence to destroy this President, his office, and his lawful free election. Nancy has no tolerance for dissent in the ranks—including those with stars.

You said nothing of the ugly, hate filled, disgraceful coments of Pelosi, Schumer, Perez and other Democrat hacks defaming the President and his office. You said nothing of the unlawful sanctuary cities and the unlawful release of hoodlums. You said nothing of the resistance movement to paralyze our courts and our government operations. You said nothing of the obstruction and subversion of our immigration laws. You said nothing of MS-13 killers and the drug cartels who own huge sections of our major cities....
Dowd eventually adds a few more sentences that are unlikely to have appeared on Hannity, The Ingraham Angle, or Rush Limbaugh's radio show, but the bulk of the letter consists of off-the-shelf talking points from conservative bloviators.

Everyone knows the country is divided -- but what we need to realize is that the other side has lost the ability to think for itself. It passively receives, processes, and regurgitates whatever conservative media demagogues spew out. They declare us unfit to live based exclusively on those received talking points.

America can't heal, and the industrial generation of right-wing outrage is why.


So did you read Tom Cotton's op-ed?

I made this fake headline for the piece and at least one person thought it was real: I'll leave you to decide what that says about both Senator Cotton and the Times.

Even though Cotton assures his readers that his imagined show of military force under a newly activated Insurrection Act would do no more than "disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers," he assembles a little list of enemies guaranteed to make any Fox News viewer dream of bloody vengeance.
Mayor Bill de Blasio stood by while Midtown Manhattan descended into lawlessness.... Some [looters] even drove exotic cars ... carnivals for the thrill-seeking rich ... feckless politicians ... Some elites have excused this orgy of violence in the spirit of radical chic ... nihilist criminals ... cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa ...
The response to the op-ed was overwhelmingly negative, even among Times staffers.
Dozens of Times staff members responded to the Op-Ed on Twitter by tweeting the sentence (or variations on it): “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.” ...

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine who won the Pulitzer Prize in commentary last month, tweeted, “As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this.” ...

The NewsGuild of New York, the union that represents many Times journalists, said in a statement on Wednesday that the Op-Ed “promotes hate.”
The military establishment seems more reluctant to go down this road than Cotton, who served but is now a civilian. Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed opposition to invoking the Insurrection Act. Former Marine general James Mattis, who preceded Esper as defense secretary, blasted Trump for seeking to militarize the situation, and for continually dividing the country.

Meanwhile, this is what we get in the absence of a full militarization of the response:
... the police line just north of the White House on Wednesday afternoon featured a patchwork of colors and agents wearing generic outfits ― sometimes what appeared to be just T-shirts under their protective gear that gave no indication of even their department or military branch.

Attorney General William Barr is leading this aggressive response that has brought in an alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies to guard federal property and suppress unrest: FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. Marshals; and the federal Bureau of Prisons. Those Department of Justice forces join Homeland Security officers, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police, the Federal Protective Service, the Secret Service and the District of Columbia National Guard.

... Allowing federal law enforcement to operate with anonymity all but eliminates accountability when force is inevitably used against demonstrators. Critics say it also breeds government distrust and is reminiscent of authoritarian regimes.

... Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) ... who has been watching videos of protests, said he could not distinguish federal personnel but that local law enforcement officers were also covering their badge numbers with black tape....
It's possible that if we had full militarization, the troops would be less inclined to act as if they were above the law than the cops and others patrolling the streets now. They might be more dedicated to deescalation than the police or ragtag groups from the FBI or the Bureau of Prisons.

But while Cotton's surface message was that troops would calmly and professionally restore order, he was really hoping to stir bloodlust -- and to position himself as the #1 enemy of feckless radical-chic elitists. Oddly, those elitists now include Mad Dog Mattis. America is divided, but not the way Cotton hoped it would be.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020


We've seen a lot of out-of-control cops in recent days, and now Daniel DiSalvo, a senior fellow at the right-wing Manhattan Institute, is taking to the op-ed page of The Washington Post to argue that we need to crack down on police unions. He's right about the fact that police unions seek to protect members' jobs "by pushing for safeguards against investigation, discipline and dismissal," a point many progressives have also made -- but be wary, because the Manhattan Institute despises unions of all kinds, and DiSalvo is usually seen railing against public-employee pensions and rooting for public-sector unions to lose at the Supreme Court.

The Institute is hoping to take advantage of skepticism about police unions on the part of people who are normally pro-union. This is pure opportunism and hypocrisy. In the 1990s, the Institute had a significant influence on the agenda of New York's cop-loving mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and its City Journal still publishes pieces such as "The Toxic Narrative About Police Is Wrong" by Institute fellow Rafael A. Mangual. I was amused by Mangual's piece, which appeared this week, because of its clever use of math:
The data on police use of force predominantly reveal professionalism and restraint. Yet, as with so many aspects of America’s criminal-justice reform debate, context and nuance are regularly cast aside in favor of obfuscation and mischaracterization. Consider, for example, an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post by columnist Catherine Rampell, in which she lamented that, “In the United States last year, police shot and killed more than 1,000 people; by comparison, across England and Wales, fewer than 100 died in police shootings over the past two decades.” While factually accurate, this observation ignores important and obvious differences between these nations. America is home to nearly 330 million people, for instance, while England and Wales have a combined population of about 59 million.
You could do the calculations yourself, or ask a fifth grader to do them for you, but I'll save you the trouble:

If American cops shot and killed more than 1,000 people last year, that suggests a rate of 20,000 police killings over a two-decade period, as compared to fewer than 100 over the previous two decades in England and Wales.

That's a ratio of more than 200 to 1.

The U.S. population is 330 million people, while the poulation of England and Wales is 59 million.

That's a ratio of 5.6 to 1.

So, rounding up, we have 6 times as many people uin this country and approximately 200 times as many police killings.

And remember: The folks at the Manhattan Institute are regarded as among the intellectuals of the right.


At a time when President Trump is calling for a merciless crackdown on protests against racist policing while COVID-19 is disproportionately killing more non-whites than whites, this tweet, posted yesterday afternoon, is the one he's chosen to pin at the top of his Twitter feed:

Donald Trump believes he's going to increase his share of the black vote in November -- even now. It's why he began his blood-and guts Rose Garden speech on Monday by saying, "All Americans are rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain." It's why he declared, prior to that, that "MAGA loves the black people" -- no, really, he thought that would be received as sincere outreach. Yamiche Alcindor has also reported on another attempt at outreach that's under consideration, which I imagine he also believes will be received well:
Right now, the president has not made clear what his plans are to deal with policing....

What I do know is that there's possibly a task force being formed by the White House that might be headed up by HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
Trump won 8% of the black vote in 2016, but he had a 14% approval rating among blacks in a February NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, including a 24% approval rating among black men. (This is not the only survey reporting that non-white males like Trump more than non-white females.)

Jared Kushner is urging outreach, according to Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni of The New York Times.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has pushed the efforts in the hope that even if Mr. Trump could increase his share of the black vote by as little as two percentage points, it could make a difference in the November election’s final outcome. Republicans and some Democrats privately see those efforts as aimed at reassuring suburban white voters who may not feel comfortable supporting Mr. Trump because of his divisiveness related to race.
And so
[Trump's] campaign poured $10 million into a Super Bowl ad featuring a black woman and highlighting the administration’s efforts on criminal justice reform. Trump advisers held events at the White House celebrating Mr. Trump’s support for historically black colleges. The advisers sought to turn the low unemployment rate into a selling point to African-American voters, claiming they had more opportunities for jobs with higher wages.
In February, it was reported that the Trump campaign had opened field offices in predominantly black communities in fifteen cities.

It's hard to believe now that this will work. It's easy to imagine that younger black voters -- and other young voters in general -- might fail to turn out for Joe Biden, but I can't imagine that there'll be a surge of support for Trump among young black males after the year America has had.

But Jared and his father-in-law are free to keep dreaming.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020


The news continues to be disheartening, so here's a distraction: Remember when we were being told that even though President Trump was losing to Joe Biden in public opinion polls, he was way ahead in online betting markets? Dion Rabouin wrote this at Axios on May 11:
The world's most popular betting destinations show Trump as the clear favorite.

The RealClearPolitics average of betting websites gives the advantage to Trump with an average spread of 8.2 as of Sunday night.
That was true then -- but here's what the numbers at Real Clear Politics look like now (click to enlarge):

Trump is plummeting and Biden is rising. The former vice president has now taken a small lead.

As I told you at the time, Trump's lead was partly the result of bettors not being convinced that Biden will be the Democratic nominee -- and, in fact, Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, and Michelle Obama are still seen as real contenders for the nomination according to Bovada.

Back then, PredictIt, which isn't listed in the RCP average, had Trump as a 49% favorite to win and Biden at 44%.

But now:

Has it become generally accepted wisdom that Trump is going to lose? Let's hope so. Then let's make it happen.


I went to the news aggregator Memeorandum and saw this headline from Gateway Pundit, the most sycophantic of pro-Trump sites:
LIKE A BOSS: Trump Walks to St John's Church Torched by Protesters Last Night, Holds Up Bible
Then I went to Gateway Pundit. Yes, that post is there -- but it's buried under posts with titles such as:
Shootout In Vegas: U.S. Marshal Shot Near Courthouse, LV Officer Shot Near Circus Circus Casino

“Complete Anarchy”: New York Cops Beaten, Run Over by Cars in Night of Rioting and Arson by Peaceful Protesters (Video)

Peaceful Protesters Loot, Torch St. Louis 7-11 Then Lay Down in Street to Block Firetrucks

Four St. Louis Cops Shot in Raging Gun Battle With Peaceful Protesters

Gov. Cuomo Goes on CNN, Trashes Trump for Calling Out Military to Crush Leftist Mobs and Looters — As Looters Wipe Out Fifth Avenue in NY City! (VIDEO)
It's the right-wing media, so the emphasis is on violence against the cops -- nothing here about police violence directed against peaceful demonstrators, of course. But the lead stories are all about mayhem, not Trump triumphant.

At Breitbart, the Bible stunt is similarly buried at the bottom of the front-page headline:





And at

In the Fox headlines under that photo of Trump holding the Bible, he and his allies are on the defensive:
Rubio backs Trump after church photo uproar, protesters wanted ‘police action’

Backlash grows over use of tear gas against protesters prior to Trump's walk to DC church
I know what Trump was imagining when he planned yesterday's events: He'd order the deployment of federal troops, they'd clear his way to the church, then they'd fan out across the country and end the unrest overnight.

I'm certain that this is literally what Trump envisioned. I'm sure he still thinks it could happen if everyone would stop worrying about the law and the Constitution and all that nonsense, and just do things his way.

(Axios's Jonathan Swan, describing yesterday's discussions at the White House, writes, "Trump wanted to federalize forces across the nation — a decision that has been held off for the moment. But he also wanted a massive display of force in Washington.")

I'm certain that Trump believed he'd change the course of the unrest overnight. I'm sure he thought he'd wake up this morning being talked about in the same breath as MacArthur and Patton (the only two generals he's ever heard of, apart from the ones he's met or seen on TV), because I'm sure he regards this as the equivalent of an overseas war.

I don't know what Trump will do now that he hasn't had instant success, and now that he realizes that his great photo op isn't even being portrayed as the day's triumphal Hollywood moment of heroism, even by some friendly news outlets.

He mighht become more brutal -- or he might just wash his hands of the whole problem, the way he did with the coronavirus. We'll see.

Monday, June 01, 2020


Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, captured on leaked audio:
President Trump unloaded on the nation's governors Monday morning, calling them "weak" for failing to more aggressively enforce law and order over the weekend....

One participant on the call described the president's words and tone as "unhinged."

"You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you. You're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate," the president told governors.
(Is he channeling Roy Cohn? His father? Both?)
The president said that the violence "is coming from the radical left — you know, it everybody knows it — but it's also looters, and it's people that figure they can get free stuff by running into stores and running out with television sets. I saw it — a kid has a lot of stuff, he puts it in the back of a brand new car and drives off. You have every one of these guys on tape. Why aren't you prosecuting them? Now, the harder you are, the tougher you are, the less likely you're going to be hit."
Right - instantly identify every looter on every grainy video and then just instantly find them and arrest them. That's how easy President Guy At The End Of The Bar Yelling At The TV thinks actual work is.


I bet that's news to General Milley, who I'm certain has no desire to see his troops deployed against civilians. (Barr, I imagine, is far more eager to do whatever he's asked.)

Do you think it's a coincidence that Trump also spoke to Vladimir Putin today?

Reporters may have subsequently found governors who were appalled at the tone of the call, but I'm convinced that the White House leaked this audio. I'm quoting above from CBS News, but The New York Times and The Washington Post are also reporting what Trump said. It's being distributed far and wide. You'd assume that the White House would technologically prevent audio of a call like this from ever leaking. So I think the leak was from Trump's people.

Of course the White House wants this out. The imagine of Trump right now is that he's cowering in the White House's secure underground bunker, afraid to emerge. Republican critics are mocking him for this.

Another president might try to unite America at this moment. Trump just wants to show up he's not the weak one, you're the weak one.


The press, echoing the words of some Trump advisers, is begging the president to say something unifying and healing in a prime-time speech. Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman in The New York Times:
After days in which the empathy he expressed for George Floyd, the man killed, was overshadowed by his combative threats to ramp up violence against looters and rioters, Mr. Trump spent Sunday out of sight, even as some of his campaign advisers were recommending that he deliver a nationally televised address before another night of violence....

Some campaign advisers were pressing for a formal address to the nation as early as Sunday. But White House officials, recalling Mr. Trump’s error-filled Oval Office address in March about the spread of the coronavirus, cautioned that it was not necessary.
As Philip Rucker tells us in The Washington Post, the president doesn't see the point.
Never in the 1,227 days of Trump’s presidency has the nation seemed to cry out for leadership as it did Sunday, yet Trump made no attempt to provide it.

That was by design. Trump and some of his advisers calculated that he should not speak to the nation because he had nothing new to say and had no tangible policy or action to announce yet, according to a senior administration official. Evidently not feeling an urgent motivation Sunday to try to bring people together, he stayed silent.
Trump is behaving like a father whose interactions with his kids is limited to pep talks and (mostly) abuse, and who never hugs them when they're crying. That means he's probably behaving like his own father.

This is exactly the way Trump has treated us throughout the coronavirus crisis. The message is: You are nothing. You are not important. I'm your father. My needs come first. I will not comfort you. Suck it up and get back to your chores. Old-school fathers believed that treating children this way was character-building.

In Trump's case, My needs come first means All I care about is reelection. We knew that, but he's not even pretending to conceal the fact. It's there in plain sight.

What did Trump aides whisper to Axios's Jonathan Swan?
Over the past couple of days, numerous advisers both inside and outside the White House have urged the president to tone down his violent rhetoric, which many worry could escalate racial tensions and hurt him politically.

... The biggest source of internal concern was Trump's escalatory tweet, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Some advisers said it could damage him severely with independent voters and suburban women.
And now here's what they're saying to Anna Palmer, who writes Politico Playbook:
Here’s a maxim in politics that a source raised to us this weekend: Suburban moms -- a catch-all for a kind of voter who has all but abandoned TRUMP -- care about safety. Perhaps if they believe the unrest will come to their doorstep or into their communities, they will vote for the man who is cracking down on it.
Trump isn't "cracking down on it." Trump is talking tough with his thumbs on Twitter, but he's cowering in fear in the White House, retreating to a secure underground bunker on Friday night, turning off the exterior lights last night.

But we see what he and his aides are thinking. They're thinking exclusively about voting blocs. They're not thinking about the immediate needs of the country.

Palmer goes on to write:
IT SEEMS CRASS TO FOCUS ON POLITICS now, but this is a political newsletter. If you believe TRUMP is not rising to the moment, ask yourself this: Who will? Will it be Democrats who hold the House majority and are out of session for much of the month of June? Governors or mayors? Or will it be JOE BIDEN, who has largely been relegated to his home?

ASK YOURSELF THIS: If you don’t like the president, is there anything he could say that you’d be satisfied with? If you like him, is there anything he could say that you would reject?
I think she's paraphrasing something she's been told by Trump advisers. She and other reporters are asking, When will Trump lead? Their answer is: Why should Trump do anything he isn't already doing? No critic will give him credit for it. And his fans think he's doing just fine. Besides, who else in this country is leading?

And so Trump tells the country, Wipe your nose and stop sniveling. It's a mean world out there and you're on your own.

Thanks, Dad.

Trump says, My job is to work hard to put food on the table for you kids. I don't have time to listen to you bawling.

Or at least that's what the fathers Trump is trying to emulate would say. For Trump, though, work means running for reelection -- the only thing, apart from fighting with his enemies, that he cares about.

The world of D.C. politics didn't want a woman as president in 2016. The media mocked her and played up every trivial flaw. If America's opinion-shapers couldn't have a Kennedyesque bro Democrat -- the only kind of Democrat who's been allowed to win the presidency since 1976 -- they wanted a Republican daddy.

And this is the kind of dad we got.

Sunday, May 31, 2020


No liberal wants to acknowledge agreeing with Ross Douthat, but I'm hearing a lot of concern on our sides that this year's election will go the way Douthat seem to believe it will:
In the origin myth of post-1960s liberalism, all the defeats that the Democratic Party suffered in the years of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were owed to the party’s heroic support for civil rights, which rectified a great injustice but opened the way for the Republicans to build majorities on racial backlash.

Like most myths, this story contains pieces of the truth. The battle over civil rights did accelerate the regional realignment of the parties; racial backlash did help the G.O.P. make gains in the once-Democratic South. But what ultimately doomed the old liberal majority wasn’t just support for civil rights; that was on the ballot in 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the heart of the old Confederacy but Lyndon Johnson won everywhere else. Rather, liberalism unraveled amid the subsequent nationwide wave of crime, unrest and disorder, which liberal mandarins and liberal machine politicians alike were unable to successfully manage or contain.

... there is a striking pattern of evidence, teased out in the research of the Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow, showing how peaceful civil rights protests helped Democrats win white votes, and then violence pushed white voters toward Republicans.

Looking at data from the civil rights era, Wasow argues that “proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines” — enough to tip the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Nixon.
So we're doomed, right? The unrest we're seeing now will throw the election to Trump, won't it?

Joshua Holland doesn't think so.
There are three good reasons to think it won’t work.

First, Nixon was taciturn, serious and experienced. As Josh Zeitz wrote, he “walked a thin line between statesmanship and demagoguery,” which is something that Trump, who has no discipline whatsoever and is the antithesis of a statesman, is incapable of doing. Nixon was able to pitch himself as a stabilizing force–a rock in a sea of chaos; Trump is himself an agent of chaos. A majority of Americans think he’s racist and uniquely divisive. Those yearning for stability and a return to “normalcy,” have an alternative in Joe Biden, a veteran moderate Democrat who’s served in government for decades and tends to speak in soothing tones....

Second, it didn’t work in 2016. Not only did [Trump] lose the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots, but the data show that he almost certainly would have lost the Electoral College as well if not for former FBI Director James Comey announcing that he was reopening the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the vote.

It also didn’t help his party in the 2018 midterms, when Trump spent months railing about an “invasion” by a caravan of refugees making their way north to the United States through Mexico.

Finally, it’s simply the case that nothing seems to move the needle on Trump’s popularity with the public, or lack thereof. Opinions are set. He ended 2019 with a 42.6 percent approval rating in FiveThirtyEight’s average, and today–after 100,000 mostly avoidable deaths, 40 million lost jobs and a couple of stock market sell-offs–that number stands at 42.6 percent.
I'll add a few more points. As I've been predicting, Trump has remained aloof (except on Twitter) and left the response to mayors and governors. Yesterday, many people expressed concern about a report that military troops were being mobilized in response to the unrest.
U.S. military police could be sent to George Floyd protests in Minneapolis under a law not used since the Rodney King riots, the Associated Press reported.

The Pentagon ordered the Army to ready personnel from North Carolina and New York for deployment in Minnesota amid unrest over the police killing of Floyd while he was in custody, according to the wire service.

Three unnamed sources told AP that the soldiers from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum were expected to be ready for deployment within four hours of receiving an order to deal with the ongoing protests in Minneapolis.
But the troops won't deployed unless the state of Minnesota asks for them. They weren't deployed last night. The president who wouldn't use the Defense Production Act in the worst days of the coronavirus crisis so far also doesn't seem to want to challenge the laws and norms that prevent the military from being deployed against civilians.

Also, many people read a tweet from Trump on Saturday speculating on "MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???" as a call for a violent confrontation on the White House grounds between protesters and Trump supporters. But no such thing happened last night -- there were protests at the White House, but "National Guard troops, the U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service" -- just whom you'd expect -- "kept the demonstrators back from the president’s residence."

Trump doesn't want to be involved in this. He'd have to plan a brutal response. He'd have to think and make choices. That's work. He'd much rather blame Democratic politicians in tweets. If someone came to him with an off-the-shelf plan for a brutal crackdown, he could sign off on it and then go play golf. But no one can offer him an easy, lazy man's way to be brutal.

And it's not clear that he wants to be brutal. His campaign has him convinced that he'll win a surprisingly large percentage of the black vote this year, even though, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, his approval rating among African-Americans is 8%. For the moment, he's trying to be liked by (as he puts it) "the black people." He may also believe that acknowledging the unrest undermines his "I made America great again" rhetoric.

Finally, he's incapable of focusing. He couldn't stay focused on the coronavirus, and now he can't stay focused on the anger and unrest in America. (Must go to war with Twitter! Must withdraw from the WHO! Must fly to Florida twice to see the SpaceX launch!)

Unrest in America doesn't inevitably lead to Republican electoral victories. The riots in response to the Rodney King verdict happened in the spring of 1992, and Bill Clinton was elected half a year later. Joe Biden isn't as talented a speaker or politician as Clinton was then, but Trump is at least as incapable of an effective response as Poppy Bush was.

Circumstances could change, but I don't see 2020 as 1968. Trump pretends to be a strongman, but at a moment of turmoil that seems ideally suited to that approach, he doesn't seem at all like a tough guy or a guarantor of safety and security.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


There are those who still hold out hope that the president of the United States will say or do something to help bring about peace, healing, and justice at this moment of unrest. And there are critics who believe he's about to become the president of our authoritarian nightmares, in the hope that brutality will win him reelection.

Earlier this morning, I made this prediction:

Then I looked at Trump's Twitter feed, in which he talked about confrontations between protesters and the Secret Service near the White House last night.

I have two thoughts.

First, this isn't the way a normal authoritarian acts tough. A normal authoritarian somberly orders a crackdown on dissent. Blood is spilled. People die. Mass arrests take place. What we have here is Trump saying, "You people are experiencing unrest, but I'm fine -- I'm protected by big bruisers!" And if my choice of words suggests that I'm seeing something homoerotic in this, well, look at Trump's own words: "Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. 'We put the young ones on the front line, sir...'" It's as if Trump is an effete, effeminate emperor luxuriating in a 1950s biblical epic, surrounded by a musclebound Praetorian guard.

Also, Trump seems to expect this message to be received aspirationally. We have a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a national crisis of law enforcement legitimacy, and yet Trump is still selling his lifestyle as something to be envied and pursued. Look how cool I am! I'm surrounded by tough guys who can protect me from any threat! Don't you wish you could be like me? Well, just buy these Trump-branded produ-- er, vote for me in November!

Trump followed up:

I've seen this described as Trump "calling for a street fight in front of the White House." Is that what he's saying? I guess so. But again, it's the same message: I'm snug in my palace with big toughs ready to kick ass on my behalf. Don't you aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and MAGA?

I still don't believe he'll order an American Tiananmen -- he'd rather just let the states and cities deal with the unrest and then blame them, which is exactly how he's responding to the coronavirus. And I don't think he really wants mayhem on his front lawn. But we know how much he loves to talk about generals and cops and bikers who admire him, and now he's enjoying the fantasy of young toughs roughing up the rabble on his behalf -- and he assumes that that's what America wants to hear at this time. I can't believe that's what anyone wants, at any point on the political spectrum, but what do I know?

Friday, May 29, 2020


Jamelle Bouie writes:
More than a hundred thousand lives have been lost to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, and while individuals and families have certainly grieved for their loved ones, there has been almost nothing in the way of a public remembrance of the lives lost. No national address; no moment of silence or official recognition beyond the occasional tweet and the flying of flags at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend. No sense from the president or his subordinates that these were untimely deaths — needless losses that ought to occasion collective mourning. There will be no speech like President Barack Obama’s in the wake of the Mother Emanuel shooting in Charleston; no address like President Ronald Reagan’s after the Challenger disaster....

The president’s indifference to collective mourning is of a piece with a political movement that denies our collective ties as well as the obligations we have to each other. If Trump represents a radical political solipsism, in which his is the only interest that exists, then it makes all the sense in the world that neither he nor his allies would see or even understand the need for public and collective mourning — an activity that heightens our vulnerability, centers our interconnectedness and stands as a challenge to the politics of selfishness and domination.
Republicans preach rugged individualism. Trump is perhaps the most narcissistic individual who ever lived. So, yes, it's not surprising that our narcissist Republican president is failing to lead us in collective mourning.

But why is conservatism "a political movement that denies our collective ties"? It's because some of us are black, Hispanic, female, LGBT, handicapped, formerly incarcerated ... Some of us, in other words, are members of groups that Republican voters -- who are overwhelmingly white, and mostly either male or male-identified -- are sick of being asked to feel empathy for. After a while, lack of empathy for anyone other than fellow members of the Volk becomes a habit. Conservative voters are ready to feel no compassion for any new group that's suffering -- even if it's fellow citizens dying from exposure to a virus that could easily strike them.

The virus could sicken any one of us, but Republicans are so accustomed to dividing the country into their people and the undeserving that they're doing it even with virus victims. It's a habit they can't (or won't) break, even now.


This happened a little while ago:
A CNN crew was arrested by Minnesota state police Friday morning while giving a live television report in Minneapolis, where the crew was covering ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd....

The crew, including correspondent Omar Jimenez, were handcuffed and detained as Jimenez gave a live report on a Minneapolis street shortly after 5 a.m. CT (6 a.m. ET).

Police told the crew they were being detained because they were told to move, and didn't, one member of the CNN crew relayed to the network....

Jimenez could be seen holding his CNN badge while reporting, identifying himself as a reporter, and telling the officers the crew would move wherever officers needed them to. An officer gripped his arm as Jimenez talked, then put him in handcuffs.

"We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here. ... Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way -- wherever you want us (we'll) get out of your way," Jimenez said before he was led away.

Prior to that, this happened:
Twitter said Friday morning that a tweet from President Trump in which he threatened shooting in response to civil unrest in Minneapolis violated the company's rules. The company said it was leaving the tweet up in the public interest.

It's widely assumed that Trump is promising violent reprisal, in the most inflammatory way possible. The New York Times says that "Trump threatened violence against those protesting a death in police custody." Walter Shaub, the former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, tweeted:

But will he?

He might -- I'm not ruling it out. But the menace of Trumpism is tempered somewhat by the fact that he still sees himself as a guy yelling at the TV because he's angry at the people running things. He doesn't see himself, even now, as the guy running things.

Oh, sure, when he feels personally mistreated -- by the Russia investigators, by Twitter -- he orders his minions to do harm to the offenders. But in Minneapolis, our narcissist president isn't personally threatened, so he might do nothing besides tweet and grumble. At this moment, the cops in Minneapolis are worse authoritarians than Trump.

After three and a half years in office, a smarter, more determined authoritarian could have had the institutions that stood in his way fully dismantled or at least cowering his fear -- critical news outlets, dissenting states, maybe even a house of Congress. He could have arranged to turn the Proud Boys or some similar band of youths into a paramilitary thug army useful for intimidating, brutalizing, and possibly murdering critics. It could have happened here. I see nothing to suggest that Republicans in Congress or Trump's fan base would have objected.

Trump stacks the courts because Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo want him to. Trump supports cutting rich people's taxes and corporate regulations because his rich friends and donors want him to. Trump brutalizes immigrants because Stephen Miller knows how to get that done.

Otherwise, Trump uses his power to serve his ego, at least so far. And then he complains on Twitter.