Saturday, July 11, 2020

ROGER STONE: WERE YOU REALLY SURPRISED?




That makes sense. David Frum explains:
It is not illegal for a U.S. citizen to act or attempt to act as a go-between between a presidential campaign and a foreign intelligence agency, and Stone was not charged with any crime in conjunction with his Trump-WikiLeaks communications. But it’s a different story for the campaign itself. At a minimum, the Trump campaign was vulnerable to charges of violating election laws against receiving things of value from non-U.S. persons. Conceivably, the campaign could have found itself at risk as some kind of accessory to the Russian hacks—hacking being a very serious crime indeed. So it was crucial to the Trump campaign that Stone keep silent and not implicate Trump in any way.

Which is what Stone did. Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and whom he was protecting. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.” You read that, and you blink. As the prominent Trump critic George Conway tweeted: “I mean, even Tony Soprano would have used only a pay phone or burner phone to say something like this.” Stone said it on the record to one of the best-known reporters in Washington. In so many words, he seemed to imply: I could have hurt the president if I’d rolled over on him. I kept my mouth shut. He owes me.

And sure enough, Trump did owe him.
I'm not sure why Trump hesitated (or why, as Yastreblyansky says, he still seems reluctant to pardon Manafort), and I'm not sure why he believed the commutation should be done sneakily, late on a Friday. Pro-Trump partisans are delighted. Ani-Trump partisans are livid. Everyone else ... well, I can't prove this, but it's my sense that folks in the middle find all these scandals abstruse and irrelevant to their lives. Trump's poll numbers barely budged in the months following the completion and release of the Mueller report; Ukrainegate and impeachment gave Trump a small poll bump. These matters didn't seem to mean much to people who aren't obsessed with politics before March of this year; now, with the pandemic, the economic downturn, and the growing racial justice movement, these matters seem even more distant from most Americans' concerns.

But Trump watches hours of cable news every day, so he probably believed that everyone would react the way politics junkies are reacting. I assume that's why he felt the need for trial balloons. (He retweeted a call for a Stone pardon on June 27 and told an interviewer this week that Stone's "prayer may be answered.")

There was no reason to hesitate. The communtation confirms what critics already assumed about Trump -- that he's a congenital criminal running a lawless administration. He might as well issue all the pardons and commutations he has in mind now. They won't change anyone's mind about him.

Friday, July 10, 2020

DEMOCRATS COULD WIN A BLOWOUT IN 2020, BUT WILL IT BE A ONE-OFF?

Sarah Longwell, publisher of the Never Trump online journal The Bulwark, tells us that there's widespread disgust with Donald Trump among women who voted for him in 2016, and many of them are quite comfortable with the idea of voting for Joe Biden.

That's the good news for Democrats. The not-so-good news is that it took Trump's ongong repulsiveness and the coronavirus crisis and the racial justice crisis and the nomination of a familiar Democratic moderate to get these women to this point -- which suggests that we might not be seeing a real political realignment just yet.

Longwell (who opposed Trump in 2016 as well) writes:
One of the great mysteries of 2016 was why so many women voted for Donald Trump.

Despite being caught on a hot mic talking about grabbing women “by the pu**y,” nearly 20 sexual assault allegations, and well known accounts of treating his multiple wives horribly, Trump still received the votes of 44 percent of white college-educated women and 61 percent of non-college-educated white women....

But that mystery has been easy to solve. Over the last three years I conducted dozens of focus groups with both college-educated and non-college-educated female Trump voters. And the answer given most commonly for why they voted for Donald Trump is “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I voted against Hillary Clinton.”

In 2016, Democrats understood that Hillary Clinton was a deeply polarizing candidate. But even they didn’t grasp the full magnitude of it. Right-leaning and Republican female voters had spent more than a decade hating both Clintons, and they didn’t stop just because Hillary’s opponent was an unrepentant misogynist.
Support for Republicans declined in the 2018 midterms among both college-educated and non-college-educated white women, and Trump's numbers have continued to declined among both groups. However, until recently, many Republican women who loathed Trump still weren't quite ready to vote for Democratic presidential nominee.
In late 2019 and early 2020 with a roaring economy and a bunch of abstract foreign policy scandals consuming the media and the elites whom these voters generally despise and distrust, even Trump-voting-women who rated the president’s performance as “very bad” weren’t entirely sure what they would do in 2020. There was still a crowded field of Democratic candidates—many of whom were living, breathing representations of the far-left caricature that Republicans paint of Democrats.

But by March of 2020, everything had changed.

First, Joe Biden blew out Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Democratic field.

In my focus groups, Biden had consistently outperformed all other Democrats among the female Trump voters who were souring on the president. In hypothetical head-to-head matchups, almost none of the women would take Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren over Trump, but a handful would typically (if not enthusiastically) pick Biden over Trump.

It cannot be overstated how much better of a candidate Joe Biden is for attracting disaffected Republican voters—especially women—than any of the other Democrats who ran this cycle.
And then came the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd.
Interestingly, in the early days of the pandemic the women in the focus groups were frustrated with Trump, but didn’t necessarily hold him responsible for everything that was happening. He hadn’t done great, they said, but it was a tough situation for any president to handle.

It wasn’t until the killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests that the bottom started to drop out.

Two weeks after Floyd’s death I ran a focus group with seven women from swing states—all of whom voted for Trump but currently rated him as doing a “very bad” job.

Only one was leaning toward voting for him again. Three were definitely going to vote for Biden. The other three were still making up their minds. But even these undecideds were unequivocal in their distaste for Trump’s posture on race and his handling of the protests. They actively recoiled.

One of the Trump voters who had decided to vote for Biden said, “The stakes are too high now. It’s a matter of life and death.”

That’s a pretty a good distillation of why Trump has been shedding support from women over the last few months. The multiple crises laid bare the fact that Donald Trump isn’t the savvy businessman these women voted for. Instead, they see him as a divisive president who’s in over his head.

And they see that his inability to successfully navigate this environment has real-world consequences for actual people.
I'll grant that Democrats seemed to be in good shape for 2020 even before the virus and the Floyd killing. Joe Biden has been leading Trump in head-to-head matchups since last year; the margins were so great even last summer that the president fired several pollsters for telling him he was losing.

On the other hand, polls taken in the first part of the year suggested that Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar led Trump by 2 points or less -- in other words, by Hillary Clinton's popular-vote margin -- while Bernie Sanders led by 4. (And I assume that Trump would have had some success in associating Sanders or Warren with left-leaning rioters and statue-topplers, which is much harder to do when Biden is the nominee.)

Republican Senate and House candidates are also in trouble, but if that's just the Trump effect, I hope it's sustainable after he's gone. My fear is that Republicans are very good at demonizing Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, but Democrats have been good only at demonizing Trump, so there's an opening for Republicans who aren't seen as Trump enablers to revive the party very quickly, especially if Biden struggles to repair the damage Trump and his fellow Republicans have done.

Then again, it's quite possible that Republican voters will respond to a 2020 rout by insisting that the next wave of GOP leaders has to be even more uncompromising than Trump and his crew were. So maybe the realignment won't really come until Vice President Tammy Duckworth, running for president after Joe Biden decides not to run for reelection, wins forty states against the explicitly white nationalist Tucker Carlson/Donald Trump Jr. ticket in 2024.

TRUMP ADVISERS WHO ARE SUGGESTING A COURSE CORRECTION ARE AS TONE-DEAF AS TRUMP

The Washington Post tells us that as America burns, the president whines.
Callers on President Trump in recent weeks have come to expect what several allies and advisers describe as a “woe-is-me” preamble.

The president rants about the deadly coronavirus destroying “the greatest economy,” one he claims to have personally built. He laments the unfair “fake news” media, which he vents never gives him any credit. And he bemoans the “sick, twisted” police officers in Minneapolis, whose killing of an unarmed black man in their custody provoked the nationwide racial justice protests that have confounded the president.
On that last point, no, Trump isn't expressing sympathy for George Floyd or his family, or for other victims of racist violence. It's all about him:
[An] adviser in frequent touch with the White House said that in a recent conversation, the president seemed almost “inconsolable” and summed up Trump’s riff: Gripes about the great economy he built, now felled by the virus, and also how “some stupid cop in Minneapolis kneels on someone’s neck and now everyone is protesting.”

The president has also complained to political advisers that the media blames him for the protesters in the wake of Floyd’s death, and that no matter what he says, “it is not enough.”
The most powerful man in the world thinks "they" forced him to give up his top reelection selling point.
“We had the greatest economy in the world,” Trump said in an Oval Office meeting last month, talking about how good the statistics were before the coronavirus, said one adviser. An outside adviser in frequent touch with the White House offered a similar recollection, saying that Trump simply keeps on repeating, “I had this great economy and they made me shut it down.”
Even people who've worked with Trump for years and have presumably become accustomed to his narcissism think it's a bit much.
Now, however, Trump’s sense of victimhood strikes even some allies as particularly incongruous considering the devastation wrought by the pandemic and the pain and anguish apparent in Black Lives Matter protests.

More than 130,000 Americans so far have died of the novel coronavirus, with more than 3 million cases reported. Nearly 43 million Americans — more than a quarter of the labor force — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began. And the nation is riven not just by protests following the death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man killed in Minneapolis police custody, but also by a president who has deliberately stoked racial animus.
But what's their advice? Go upbeat!
Even those in Trump’s orbit are trying to nudge him toward a sunnier, less egocentric approach to the crises he is facing, fearing that his sullen demeanor could backfire politically. Among those internally who have advocated a more optimistic tone are Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, according to one senior administration official.
That's crazy. The public doesn't want Trump to take a "sunnier" approach to the pandemic, the economic downturn, or America's race problems. In the early days of the pandemic, the public didn't express increased admiration for Andrew Cuomo and other governors because their demeanor was "sunny," just as the public didn't decide that Rudy Giuliani was a national hero in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 because he was "sunny."

The public wants to believe Trump is taking our problems seriously. A somber approach is fine. Giuliani was somber after 9/11. Cuomo was somber at the height of New York's outbreak.

Trump seemed to be taking the pandemic seriously in mid-March, when he (briefly) endorsed a shutdown. As a result, his job approval numbers rose. Now he's obsessed with reopening businesses and schools, even though the public is still afraid of the virus. He thinks a booming economy is the key to his reelection, even though the public gives him a pass on the economic downturn. He doesn't care about the pandemic, and the public knows it. Look at his March numbers in ABC's polling, and look at the numbers now.



You'd think the ratings-obsessed president would understand what these numbers are telling him. But Trump believes what he wants to believe. In a recent interview with Marc Thiessen, after the subject turned to "cancel culture," Trump insisted that he doesn't believe the silly old polls anyway.
“Maybe I’m a voice in the wilderness,” he said, “but most people agree with me. And many won’t say it, and they might not even say it in a poll, but I think they’ll say it in an election.”
The "shy Trump voter" theory! If Trump really believes that, he should stop whining.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

WHEN INVESTIGATORS FINALLY GET TRUMP'S FINANCIAL INFORMATION, WILL WE EVEN CARE?

Georgetown law professor Josh Chafetz is right:
The first reports on Thursday’s Supreme Court decisions dealing with the subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records sounded like bad news for the president in his effort to keep them hidden. But don’t be fooled.

... Mr. Trump won, because we almost certainly won’t get to see his financial records anytime soon. The decision in the case arising out of the New York State grand jury investigation held that he does not have absolute immunity, but the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts to consider challenges to the subpoenas at issue. Those proceedings will take some time to play out, and even records that are eventually turned over to the grand jury will be subject to secrecy rules. In the case dealing with the congressional subpoenas, Mr. Roberts threw out the lower courts’ decisions and told them to start over, this time with significantly greater deference to Mr. Trump.

So it is highly unlikely that the subpoenaed records will become public before the November election. And that is what Mr. Trump most cares about.
Trump's lawyers will play stall ball as long as they possibly can. Even in the New York State case, which seems to be less favorable to Trump, there seems to be a lot of room for them to maneuver, as Ian Millhiser notes.
Though [Manhattan DA Cyrus] Vance’s office may continue its probe into Trump, the Vance decision does not mean that this probe will not face additional obstacles. As Roberts notes, Trump still has the “right to challenge the subpoena on any grounds permitted by state law, which usually include bad faith and undue burden or breadth.” The subpoena could also be invalidated if a court concluded that it was “an attempt to influence the performance of [Trump’s] official duties,” or if Trump could show that the subpoenas would “significantly interfere with his efforts to carry out” those duties.
Rush Limbaugh smugly asserts that House Democrats and Vance will stop caring about the Trump case:
But I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t such disappointment at both the New York DA’s office today and Congress that they eventually lose interest in all of this, because it’s of no value to them if they don’t get this stuff before November. And it isn’t going to be made available to them, either the New York DA or the two congressional committees.

Trump’s tax records are not gonna be made available before November. The political value — and that’s all any of this is. There’s no major, great law at stake here. This a pure, raw politics, and after November, it ceases to have very much value at all. And I’m telling you that because of that, there’s probably masked disappointment today where you’re being told that there are high-five celebrations.
I disagree -- but I wonder whether the public will care in a year or so, assuming Trump loses in November. I know that progressives want Trump held accountable for many crimes and misdeeds in office, in a way that George W. Bush and members of his administration were never held accountable, and for crimes prior to his presidency. But I think most of the public will be so pleased to be rid of Trump, and so focused on trying to get the country back on its feet, that there might not be much interest, except among the extremely politically engaged, in any kind of reckoning for Trump and his circle.

Of course, this might be true only if Trump goes quietly, the way most presidents do. We didn't hear much from George W. Bush or Dick Cheney immediately after they left office. I'm not sure that will be true of Trump.

It's conceivable that he'll just slink off and spend the rest of his days golfing and watching TV. But it's more likely that he'll leave office in the most graceless manner possible, use his Twitter feed as an bunker from which to attack the new Biden government, and maybe even start a new TV network to broadcast anti-Democratic attacks 24/7. He might even declare himself a candidate for president in 2024, and I can imagine him continuing to hold rallies, just because he can't live without them anymore.

In a way, I hope so, because, because if he continues to make himself a pain in the ass, the public will be eager to see him brought down, even if he's not president anymore. It would be hilarious if he screwed up his post-presidency as badly as he screwd up his presidency.

THE ANSWER IS STILL NO: TRUMP WON'T DUMP PENCE FOR NIKKI HALEY

A couple of days ago, Ed Kilgore at New York magazine was writing about a possible VP switch for President Trump.
On two previous occasions I have addressed and dismissed rumors that the president wanted to dump his intensely loyal vice-president, Mike Pence, before voters go to the polls this year....

On both occasions I figured that Pence was just too valuable to Trump as his ambassador to white conservative Evangelicals to be discarded....

So what might have altered that calculation in the last year? Two things: First, Trump is in very serious danger of not being reelected. He needs a game changer to reset the race, and a fresh veep is a time-honored way to do that.... In a podcast at FiveThirtyEight in which Nate Silver, Claire Malone, and Perry Bacon Jr. batted around various emergency steps Team Trump could take to turn it all around, a switch in running mates was the one that made the most sense to them.

Second, Trump could perhaps try to blame Pence for his administration’s deadliest and most politically damaging error, its mishandling of COVID-19 from the get-go. The veep is, after all, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.... it wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for the sycophant-in-chief to be asked to step aside as one last act of service to the warrior-king: taking the fall for a public-health disaster.
But Trump can't make Pence the scapegoat for his failed response to the pandemic because the president continues to assert that his response to the pandemic has been a rip-roaring success. I don't think Trump regard this as mere messaging -- as far as I can tell, he actually believes this. Here was Trump on Tuesday:
“We’re at 130,” Trump said at an event on reopening schools, referring to the more than 130,000 Americans who have now died from the virus. “I think we could have been 2 and a half or 3 million people,” he said.

“We’ve saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives,” the President said.
Trump always needs to believe that he's the best, the smartest, the most brilliant and capable; he seizes on any shred of evidence that confirms his egomania bias. In this case, he's seizing on the early Imperial College projection that 2.2 million Americans could die from the virus if there were no mitigation efforts whatsoever. The vast majority of what's been done to stop the virus's spread in America has been the work of states, localities, and individuals, and much of it has been actively resisted by the Trump White House, yet Trump has pocketed the difference between whatever our death toll is at any given moment and 2.2 million, declaring that his inadequate and fitful steps to combat the virus are the sole reason the U.S. death toll isn't in the millions.

Kilgore continues:
In the FiveThirtyEight discussion, [Nikki] Haley was regarded as the most likely Pence replacement. As a woman of color who took down her state’s Confederate flags, she could obviously help address the perception that the president’s reelection effort is one long exercise in white male reactionary culture-war politics.
But that's precisely why Trump wouldn't pick her even if he does decide to dump Pence. In this campaign, Trump has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on white male reactionary culture-war politics; choosing Haley as his running mate would be a repudiation of himself.

Besides, Trump's pal Tucker Carlson would be horrified. Recall what Carlson said on the air shortly after the death of George Floyd:
No one jumped in more forcefully, or seemed angrier at America, than former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. “Tonight I turned on the news and am heartbroken,” Haley wrote. “It’s important to understand that the death of George Floyd was personal and painful for many. In order to heal, it needs to be personal and painful for everyone.”

But wait a second, you may be wondering. “How am I quote, ‘personally’ responsible for the behavior of a Minneapolis police officer? I’ve never even been to Minneapolis. And why is some politician telling me what I’m required to be upset about?” Those are all good questions. Nikki Haley didn’t answer them. Explaining isn’t her strong suit. That would require thinking. What Nikki Haley does best is moral blackmail. During the 2016 campaign, she compared Donald Trump to the racist mass murderer Dylann Roof. How is Donald Trump similar to a serial killer? Haley never explained. She wasn’t trying educate anyone. Her goal was political advantage. Nikki Haley is exceptionally good at getting what she wants. She’s happy to denounce you as a racist in order to get it.

In this case, Haley’s wish came true: the riots were indeed quote, “personal and painful for everyone.” And then the pain kept increasing. Two days later, dozens of American cities had been thoroughly trashed. A country already on the brink of recession suddenly faced economic collapse. An already fearful population had been throughly terrorized. Mission accomplished. Let’s hope Nikki Haley is pleased. We’ve atoned.
Why would Trump go to so much trouble to defend Confederate statues and military bases named after Confederates and then dump his VP for the woman who oversaw the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina's state house grounds? For that matter, why would she want to link herself to his presidency for four years? She's clearly trying to thread the needle, remaining loyal to Trump while expressing less racist views, in the hope that the Republican Party in 2024 will be less white nationalist. Why would she risk that by signing on to Trump's white nationalist campaign?

The white nationalists at Gateway Pundit also remind me that Haley expressed sympathy for NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace when it was announced that a noose had been found in his garage at the Talladega speedway.



It would be a tad awkward for her to run with this guy:



Kilgore continues:
Another name you occasionally hear as a substitute veep is Haley’s own 2016 candidate, Marco Rubio, a Latino pol whose presence on the ticket could arguably be worth a couple of points in must-win Florida.
Liddle Marco? The guy who recently said, "everyone should just wear a damn mask"? Nope.

Only one name on Kilgore's list made any sense:
A Forbes article last month touted 36-year-old New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a recent Trump favorite, as a potential replacement for Pence.
Despite her occasionally moderate voting record, Stefanik would be very appealing to Trump fans because she attacked Adam Schiff during impeachment. For a few weeks last year, they really loved her.

I think Pence is safe -- but if he's dumped, it will be either for Stefanik or for Trump's amour fou, his daughter Ivanka. It certainly won't be for Haley or Rubio.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

A SIMPLE PROP TO OCCUPY MY TIME

This is insane.
Trump campaign considers displaying statues at future rallies: Sources

A potential new addition to President Trump’s future rallies: statues.

The idea has been discussed by White House and Trump campaign aides, but no final decision has been made, sources familiar with the planning told ABC News. It’s also not clear who exactly the statues would resemble, but sources say one idea was for “America’s Founding Fathers."
What's the plan? Will the Trump campaign commission statues and then ferry them around from campaign stop to campaign stop, at great expense? Do Trump and his advisers understand that it will take time to acquire these statues, because sculptors don't just knock off a statue over a weekend?

Or is Trump thinking that because he's the president he can simply requisition a statue from anywhere in America and the people who own it or maintain it will simply lend it to him? And if he's taking statues from public places, isn't that removing them from public display, which is precisely what he doesn't like about the statue-topplers?

And when he has them, will he hug them?



Trump not only thinks this is a brilliant campaign strategy, he's preemptively accusing down-ballot Republicans of an inadequate appreciation of its brilliance.
In an interview with RealClearPolitics on Tuesday, the president reiterated his thought that "we are in a culture war."

"If the Republicans don't toughen up and get smart and get strong and protect our heritage and protect our country," Trump told the publication, "I think they're going to have a very tough election."
I interpret this as Trump getting ready to blame Republicans for dragging him down to defeat in November, rather than the other way around.

There's more excuse-making in the same interview.
“This was going to be a blowout, and then China hit us with the ‘China virus,’ and all of a sudden, it discombobulated this country and the entire world. Now, it's a much closer situation,” he said.

“We were sailing to an easy victory. Now, I have to fight for the victory, but I've been fighting all my life. That's what I do. I fight for victory.”
(Trump has trailed Joe Biden in the polls since last year, but he refuses to believe that.)

The RCP interview also includes one of my favorite Trump sentences of all time:
Calling them like he sees them will not end between now and November. “My instincts have been right. I follow my instinct,” the president said of how he will continue to campaign and advance the front in the culture war. “I follow the brain; the brain has gotten me far.”
I follow the brain; the brain has gotten me far. Fred Trump's brain may have gotten him far, and then Roy Cohn's, and later Mark Burnett's and Vladimir Putin's, but not Trump's own brain.

But he thinks he has the secret to victory, even though other Republicans won't follow his lead. And if they all lose, he'll blame them for underestimating his brilliance and causing him to lose.

SO WHAT ABOUT BARRON?

Presumably because the plutocrats have told the president and his aides that they want their workers' kids out of the house so the workers can risk their own lives back in the office, the president is demanding full school reopenings in the fall.
"We're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools," Trump said during a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon at the White House.

"Get open in the fall. We want your schools open," Trump said.

The president spoke alongside first lady Melania Trump, administration officials and teachers as part of planned programming from the White House to push for the reopening of schools....

On Monday, Trump tweeted, "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!"
And that's an order.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday told the country's governors in a conference call that she expects schools to be "fully operational" come the fall, regardless of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools need to open, it’s a matter of how," DeVos told governors, The Associated Press reports. "School[s] must reopen, they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders."

... Some districts have proposed a hybrid between traditional in-person learning and virtual learning, suggesting that students only physically go to school a few times a week.

DeVos disavowed these ideas, specifically calling out the Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, which has proposed such a plan and asked the parents to decide which one they want for their child.

“A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all,” DeVos said, according to the AP.
Trump insists that this is a wildly popular idea.



According to a survey released late last month, it isn't.
A majority of American voters now say they’re concerned about sending kids back to elementary and high schools this fall, according to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll....

Overall, a combined 54 percent of American voters said they are somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with reopening K-12 schools for the beginning of the coming school year. Fifty-eight percent of voters said they’re uncomfortable with reopening day care centers, according to the online survey of close to 2,000 registered voters.

Forty-eight percent of voters said they were very or somewhat uncomfortable with reopening colleges and universities, while 43 percent said they were comfortable with the idea.
Here's my question: Will Barron Trump attend school in person in the fall?

We'd need to put fainting couch manufacturers on a war footing if anyone were to ask that question of the president, the First Lady, or the press secretary, but when the Trumps are insisting that other people's children (and teachers and school staff) should be placed at risk, we deserve to know whether they're putting their own child at risk.

Barron attends St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. According to its website, St. Andrew's has not yet decided whether it will allow in-person learning in the fall.
Depending on local health conditions and the evolving guidelines set for schools by local and federal government agencies, St. Andrew’s will be prepared to conduct school in any of the following scenarios, and to shift among them readily as needed, during the 2020-2021 school year:

1. On campus, with careful observance of health and social distancing safety requirements. This is our preferred scenario for 2020-21, and we are working hard to make it possible.

2. Virtually, further improving on the robust distance learning programs delivered this spring. We will utilize this model if health concerns require us to close the campus for any part of the coming school year.

3. A blended model, which will synchronously combine in-person and virtual learning. This scenario will support students or teachers who can not attend school in person due to health concerns or other reasons. We are upgrading classroom technology campus-wide to make this possible.

To make sure St. Andrew’s will be ready to deliver a safe, exceptional learning environment next year, in April I established five faculty/staff planning task forces. These task forces have already made great progress and will continue to meet during the summer to prepare for September.
If "everybody wants" schools fully reopened in the fall, then Barron should attend in-person classes five days a week. If his school won't commit to that, the Trumps should send him somewhere that will.

Right?


Tuesday, July 07, 2020

THIS IS HOW FASCIST WE LIBERAL FASCISTS ARE

Your right-wing relatives believe that if we get our way -- and by "we" they mean everyone from the most moderate Democrat to the angriest Autonomous Zone dweller -- we will brutally suppress all speech and thought that doesn't fit into our ever-narrowing definition of the correct and the tolerable. They think this reign of terror will truly begin the night Joe Biden is declared the presidential winner, because he's either a secret radical or a useful idiot of us liberal fascists. Or maybe they think he's terrified of us because of the mercilessness with which we enforce unanimity of thought.

Meanwhile, in the real world, here are the great public thinkers on our side:
J.K. Rowling, Fareed Zakaria, Wynton Marsalis, Gloria Steinem and Margaret Atwood are some of the 150 intellectuals who have signed a public letter decrying the rising “intolerance of opposing views.”

Published in Harper’s on Tuesday, the signees collectively wrote that the “needed reckoning” regarding racial and social justice “has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”

“More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms,” the letter continued. “Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.”
Noam Chomsky! Dahlia Lithwick! Michelle Goldberg! Matthew Yglesias! Zaid Jilani! Randall Kennedy! Paul Berman! Making common cause with the likes of Bari Weiss! David Brooks! David Frum! Caitlin Flanagan! What's going on here?

What's going on is that despite what Tucker Carlson may have told your relatives about the enforced unanimity of thought on the left, we're really not very good at thought policing. It happens up to a certain point, then we start bickering among ourselves, because bickering among ourselves is just what people to the left of center do. Your right-wing relatives think there's no ideological difference between moderates and Marxists, or anarchists and New York Times op-ed columnists. But many people along that continuum never agree with others along it, and the rest of us struggle to unite even temporarily. (Among other things, thatt's why we lost elections in 2016, 2000, and 1968.)

Whatever you think of this letter, you can use it to assure the Fox fans in your family that we'll never send them to gulags, because even if we thought about doing that, we'd probably be too busy fighting one another to get around to it.

IS LAURA LOOMER REALLY ABOUT TO WIN A PRIMARY?

Wait, what?



I knew that Laura Loomer was running for Congress in Florida -- in the district that includes Mar-a-Lago -- but is she really the frontrunner in the Republican primary? Not that that would surprise me -- at a time when QAnon loonies are possibly on the verge of becoming Republican members of Congress, why not Loomer?

I don't see any actual evidence that's she the frontrunner, just an assertion that she is.
“Facebook has reportedly banned all ads on behalf of Laura Loomer, the frontrunner in the GOP primary race for House candidate in Florida’s 21st district” Breitbart reported on July 3. The article noted how her personal accounts have been banned from Facebook and Instagram, her political campaign has been restricted from creating an account or even buying advertisements.

“I’m the only federal candidate in the nation banned from advertising on Facebook,” Loomer observed. She added adding that “My competitor, Lois Frankel is running ads on Facebook to reach voters, and my campaign is shut out.” She then declared that Facebook’s moderation here is a case of “illegal election interference.”
But she might be. The Never Trumpers at The Bulwark noted a few months ago that Loomer's campaign seems to be doing quite well:
... Loomer has received what can only be described as a warm embrace from Trump’s Republican party apparatus.

President Trump has tweeted supportively of her race, his presidential campaign is renting out her email list, and Trump’s 2016 Florida Director Karen Giorno is managing her campaign. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan appears to have rented out her list, too. And Loomer claims endorsements from high-profile personalities and friends of Trump including Roger Stone, Jeanine Pirro, ... and Michelle Malkin.

Last month, Florida Republican party chairman and Senate Majority Leader Joe Gruters held a press conference with her to promote legislation that he said was inspired by Loomer. The bill, “Stop Social Media Censorship Act'” would allow people such as Loomer to sue Twitter for damages if their speech is censored or deleted. It’s commonly known as “Loomer’s Law.” Charlie Spies, former counsel for the Republican National Committee, the Federal Election Commission, and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign—as well as a stint as a Jeb Bush PAC treasurer—is representing Loomer in a lawsuit filed against Twitter and the Federal Elections Commission.

... At the end of the last reporting cycle, records show Loomer has raised more than $350,000 and had $115,000 cash on hand. Her closest competitor in the eight-way GOP primary had raised $44,000 and had only $6,400 on hand.
So maybe she is the frontrunner.

She's unlikely to win the general election -- the Democratic incumbent, Lois Frankel, ran unopposed in 2018 and won by nearly 28 points in 2016, a year when Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district by nearly 20.

Nevertheless, it's another sign of the crazification of the GOP that a House primary could be won by someone who's been banned from Twitter, Medium, Uber, Lyft, Uber Eats, GoFundMe, Venmo, MGM Resorts, and PayPal -- not to mention CPAC. And for obvious reasons.
On November 1, 2017, following a terrorist attack in New York City, Loomer tweeted that she was late to a conference because she could not find a "non Muslim cab or @Uber @lyft driver". She called for the creation of a new ride-sharing company which did not employ Muslims after it became known that the suspect in the attack was a former driver for Uber. Her day-long "tweetstorm" blamed all Muslims for the activities of radical Islamists such as ISIS. Following this, both Uber and Lyft announced that she had violated their guidelines and was banned from using their services. She described herself on Twitter at the time as a “#ProudIslamophobe" and called for a complete and permanent ban on Muslims entering the United States.

... In November [2018], Twitter banned Loomer from its platform for violating its rules against hateful behavior. According to Loomer, she was banned for a tweet about the newly elected Congresswoman in which Loomer called Omar "anti-Jewish", and described her as a member of a religion in which "homosexuals are oppressed" and women are "abused" and "forced to wear the hijab." Loomer denied that the tweet was a violation....

In February 2019, Loomer traveled to Minnesota with Jacob Wohl, a far-right conspiracy theorist who has previously made high-profile false claims about public figures. Loomer and Wohl stated they were investigating a false and debunked conspiracy theory which held that Omar, U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district and a Somali-American, had married her brother so that he could obtain U.S. citizenship....

Right Wing Watch reported that donations solicited by Loomer were going to the address of The United West, an organization which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an anti-Muslim hate group.
YouTube hasn't banned this campaign ad, which is all grievance:



After Donald Trump, the Republican Party won't be the party of Bulwark writers or Lincoln Project ad-makers -- it'll be the party of QAnoners and Laura Loomers. They have the energy. They're the ones who are full of passionate intensity.

After Trump, Fox News and talk radio will continue to stir up rage. Frustrated Republican voters won't be looking for a Nikki Haley or an Ivanka Trump. They'll want red meat. Maybe they'll see Laura Loomer as a bit too much, but the GOP will be the party of rage monsters like her.

Monday, July 06, 2020

PROTECTING HER DAUGHTER FROM THE REAL DANGERS IN LIFE

This is an awful story:
A Florida mother allegedly took her high-risk teenage daughter to a “COVID party” at their church, tried treating the girl at home with unproven drugs when she got sick — and then hailed her as a patriot after she died.
The mother, Carole Brunton Davis, reportedly took her 17-year-old daughter, Carsyn Leigh Davis, who survived cancer at age two,
to a church-sponsored event to intentionally expose her ... to the potentially deadly coronavirus.

More than 100 mask-free children attended the event, and Davis allegedly gave her daughter azithromycin, an anti-bacterial drug with no known benefits for fighting COVID-19, after she developed headaches, sinus pressure and a cough....

Davis — whose Facebook page is awash in QAnon conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine and coronavirus misinformation and dubious legal theories — next put the girl on her grandfather’s oxygen machine after she “looked gray” on June 19, Jones reported.

Then she gave the girl hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug touted as a cure by President Donald Trump, despite evidence of deadly side effects, and Carsyn’s condition worsened.

Davis finally took her daughter to a hospital, where she was admitted to a pediatric intensive-care unit — but declined intubation until it was too late....

She told the newspaper her daughter was a patriotic Christian who was involved with Operation Christmas Child and organized Christmas card writing for Ten Thousand for the Troops.
If these reports are correct, the mother put her child in harm's way -- but a look at a cached Facebook post from the mother -- the original is no longer available -- makes clear that there are some dangers from which she did, in fact, protect her daughter:





The coronavirus? Not regarded as a risk to her cancer-survivor daughter. Trans women? Run for your life, dear!

A FEW BAD APPLES

This Jonathan Swan post at Axios is absurdly reductive:
If you want to understand the rhetorical roots of Trump's Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore, go back and watch Tucker Carlson's monologues for the past six weeks.

... Trump — or rather his speechwriter Stephen Miller — framed the president's opposition to the Black Lives Matter protest movement using the same imagery Carlson has been laying out night after night on Fox.

... Below are grabs from Carlson monologues over the past month, followed by quotes from Trump's July 3 speech.

* Carlson: "For more than a month, mobs of violent crazy people have roamed this country, terrorizing citizens and destroying things."

* Trump: "Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities."

* Carlson: "The education cartel, enforced on your children, enforces their demands."

* Trump: "In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance."

* Carlson: "Few people ever could have imagined that Teddy Roosevelt would be canceled. Roosevelt was the most popular president in American history."

* Trump: "One of their political weapons is 'Cancel Culture.'" And in a separate part of the speech, "Theodore Roosevelt exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity. ... The American people will never relinquish the bold, beautiful, and untamed spirit of Theodore Roosevelt."

* Carlson: "For weeks we've asked, 'Who will stand up for this country?' And the answer we're learning is Americans. Americans will. It's up to them. Small groups of citizens are beginning to come forward to defend their laws, defend their history and their culture."

* Trump: "They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive. But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them."

* Carlson: "The Cultural Revolution has come to the West."

* Trump: "Make no mistake: This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution."
Swan suggests that there's only one source for all these ideas. That's preposterous.

We assume that Trump watches Fox News all day, and he may have asked his speechwriters to put all these ideas into his speech. Has Swan noticed what's been on Fox's other shows lately?









And if we assume that Stephen Miller wrote the speech more or less on his own, what do we think has been in his news diet recently?

\





If you ascribe all the culture war rhetoric in America to Tucker Carlson, you're focusing on the tip and ignoring the iceberg. The messages in Trump's speech are the common complaints of right-wingers across the country, not just on one hour of Fox prime time.

But if you blame it all on Carlson, you can safely ignore how widespread this thinking is. You don't have to pay attention to the other demagogues on the right. You can tell yourself that if Carlson and Trump were gone, then we could have the nice old America back, and the nice old Republican Party.

But it's too late for that. The rot and rage run too deep.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

THAT DENIS LEARY SONG IS MORE APROPOS THAN YOU REALIZE, MR. HICKS

G. Dane Hicks of Garnett, Kansas, doesn't seem to be your typical Republican county chairman. For one thing, he's self-published two novels, one of which valorizes a nineteenth-century anti-slavery newspaper publisher. He also has a YouTube account where, last November, he published a cheery little home video in which he accompanied two young girls, presumably his daughters, in a spirited rendition of the Denis Leary song "Asshole." (One of the singers, I believe, is seen in another video singing the national anthem.)

But that's not why I'm writing about Hicks. I'm writing because he's a coronavirus denialist and, well, an asshole.
The governor of Kansas has called on a Republican county chairman to remove a cartoon from his newspaper’s Facebook page that invokes the Holocaust to criticize her order requiring Kansans to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The cartoon, posted on the Facebook page of The Anderson County Review, shows the state’s Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, wearing a mask emblazoned with the Star of David against a backdrop of people being loaded onto a cattle car.

“Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask ... and step onto the cattle car,” reads a caption on the cartoon, which was posted on Friday, the same day an order by Ms. Kelly went into effect requiring Kansans to wear masks in public spaces and in places where social distancing is not possible.

The Anderson County Review is owned by Dane Hicks, the chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party. Mr. Hicks defended the cartoon, which he said he had made himself and planned to publish in the newspaper on Tuesday.

“Political editorial cartoons are gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate and response — that’s why newspapers publish them — fodder for the marketplace of ideas,” he wrote in an email. “The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration.”

He scoffed at the idea of an apology.

“Apologies: To whom exactly?” he wrote. “The critics on the Facebook page? Facebook is a cesspool and I only participate to develop readership.” He added that he “intended no slight” to Jews or Holocaust survivors.
Here's the cartoon:



Hicks has now removed it from The Anderson Country Review's Facebook page, with an acknowledgment that the cartoon was hurtful to Jews -- but no acknowledgment that it was an obnoxious attack on the governor.



Hicks still believes that the mask mandate is "creeping and abusive government authority and dereliction of due process" because he's a coronavirus truther. He wrote this in March:
Statistically, you have a better chance of being hit by lightning wearing a green hat while singing the National Anthem and watching an Andy Griffith Show rerun than of dying of the coronavirus. But why let facts get in the way of history's best made mainstream media panic ever?

... Despite the fact a couple of thousand poor souls have lost their fight with coronavirus so far compared to an estimated 600,000 who die worldwide from the flu every year, the American mass media has staked a frenzied claim in the coronavirus realm that surpasses even its obsession with mass shootings and hurricanes. But not tornadoes, because they happen mostly in the Midwest – New York and Los Angeles media aren't exactly sure where the Midwest is.

Though he'll never get credit for it, President Trump had the only logical comments on the “crisis” to have been uttered so far: It's like the flu, it'll pass, he told us. But he was immediately inundated by the tsunami of media crazy over the virus to the point he had to spend some federal money on coronavirus just to keep mobs from burning the White House.

Bare facts of the virus' insignificance aside, the impact of the surrounding panic is very real. Even though business, industry and employment in the U.S. and for the most part abroad are booming, trillions of dollars in value has been lost, hopefully temporarily, by retiree pensions, 401ks, kids' 529 college plans and other investment vehicles due to nothing but conjecture and flame-fanning. And all of it surrounding a sickness whose only real notoriety came from being listed on your bottle of Lysol as one of many bugs killed by the disinfectant. Coronavirus isn't even a player it the scheme of likely ways to die – it's the Beto O'Rourke of the virus world.
Mr. Hicks, 130,000 Americans would like to have a word with you. Oh, sorry, they can't, because although the coronavirus "isn't even a player it the scheme of likely ways to die," for some inexplicable reason, they're dead. Must be the libs' fault!

And oh, look -- here's Hicks in 2018 retweeting an Ann Coulter joke about Hillary Clinton being killed like Jamal Khashoggi! How droll!



I was planning to close this post with the video of Hicks and his family sitting around playing "Asshole," but it seems unfair to his daughters. So I'll post the original version of the song. The song is quite appropriate, because even after Hicks's semi-apology, he really is an asshole.


NO, KANYE'S NOT RUNNING

So this happened last night:
American rapper Kanye West, a vocal supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, announced on Saturday that he would run for president in 2020 in an apparent challenge to Trump and his presumptive Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.



He was immediately endorsed by his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and by Elon Musk.

But he's not really running. He's generating publicity at a time when he's announcing a series of new projects.
Kanye West teased a short excerpt from a new song, “Wash Us in the Blood,” on Twitter on Monday. The star also announced that he plans to release a new album titled God’s Country....

While West has been quiet for much of the year, the last few weeks brought a flurry of news. The star just announced a new arrangement with Gap to create a clothing line called Yeezy Gap. West’s deal with the company extends for 10 years with an option to renew after five....

In addition, West announced last week that he will join his longtime collaborator Kid Cudi to voice characters in an animated show inspired by their 2018 album Kids See Ghosts. On top of that, the rapper hopes to release both a James Turrell-directed Jesus Is King film and a version of the album produced by Dr. Dre. Like God’s Country, the various projects do not yet have release dates.
In 2017, I fell for Kid Rock's announcement that he was considering a run for the Senate in Michigan. He was just promoting a new album, as he later acknowledged. I'm not going to fall for this.

I've had this thought:



But if that was the plan, it should have been executed months ago. We're told:
The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states.
In fact, according to Ballotpedia, the dealine has already passed in New York and Texas, as well as North Carolina, Indiana, Maine, and New Mexico. And the window is closing fast in several other states. To get on the ballot in Florida, West would need to submit 132,781 signatures in the next ten days; the dealine is also July 15 in Oklahoma (35,592 signatures) and Soluth Carolina (10,000 signatures). In Michigan, he'd need to submit 30,000 signatures, "with at least 100 signatures from each of at least half of the state's congressional districts," by July 16. I strongly doubt that West has a campaign ready to collect these signatures, or collect signatures in other states with later deadlines. Even if this is just a stunt, it would be embarrassing for someone as megalomaniacal as West to be on the ballot in only a fraction of the country.

Here's another theory, possibly far-fetched: The Trump campaign urged West to do this not in the belief that he'll actually run, but in the hope that there'll be a poll or two with West included in the candidate field in which Biden's lead shrinks as a result. (Third-party candidates generally poll better several months before a presidential election than they do on Election Day.) If no outside polling firm will conduct a Biden-Trump-West poll, the Trump campaign can conduct its own, or maybe urge Rasmussen or Zogby to do it. A poll like that would be a small, momentary embarrassment to Biden, and would also cheer Trump up. (We all know what a bad mood Trump has been in lately.)

We can't rule out the possibility that one bad three-way poll could lead to a dozen op-eds and think pieces arguing that Biden needs to do more to close the sale with young and non-white voters. If this is a Trump campaign scheme, it might work for a few news cycles.

But trust me, Kanye West isn't running. He clearly has too many other projects to promote. This is obviously part of the promotion.


Saturday, July 04, 2020

BRET STEPHENS, DONALD TRUMP: ALREADY IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY WHICH WAS WHICH

Donald Trump gave a culture war speech at Mount Rushmore last night.
Standing in a packed amphitheater in front of Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day celebration, President Trump delivered a dark and divisive speech on Friday that cast his struggling effort to win a second term as a battle against a “new far-left fascism” seeking to wipe out the nation’s values and history....

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Mr. Trump said, addressing a packed crowd of sign-waving supporters.... “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
Today, Bret Stephens, who claims to loathe Trump, published an op-ed with many of the same ideas.
This Fourth of July, it’s worth taking stock of the state of freedom — and of our attitudes toward it — at home and around the world.

... For once, the main problem isn’t Donald Trump. The president may be an instinctual fascist, a wannabe autocrat. But, after nearly four years in power, he’s been unmasked as an incompetent one.

... The more serious problem today comes from the left: from liberal elites who, when tested, lack the courage of their liberal convictions; from so-called progressives whose core convictions were never liberal to begin with; from administrative types at nonprofits and corporations who, with only vague convictions of their own, don’t want to be on the wrong side of a P.R. headache.

This has been the great cultural story of the last few years.
Some examples?
It is typified by incidents such as The New Yorker’s David Remnick thinking it would be a good idea to interview Steve Bannon for the magazine’s annual festival — until a Twitter mob and some members of his own staff decided otherwise. Or by The Washington Post devoting 3,000 words to destroying the life of a private person of no particular note because in 2018 she wore blackface, with ironic intent, at a Halloween party. Or by big corporations pulling ads from Facebook while demanding the company do more to censor forms of speech they deem impermissible.

These stories matter because an idea is at risk. That’s the idea that people who cannot speak freely will not be able to think clearly, and that no society can long flourish when contrarians are treated as heretics.
So acccording to Stephens, a man who helped run the campaign of the current president of the United States, and who later advised him from an office in the West Wing, is a "contrarian" whose free speech was squelched when he was denied one interview.

Let's take a look at what an unperson Steve Bannon has become since the liberal fascist totebaggers silenced him.

Here's a story about a February 2020 Bannon appearance on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Here Bannon is being interviewed for PBS's Frontline, in a video uploaded in January of this year. Here's a CNBC interview of Bannon from December. Here's another December interview in The Guardian. Here's a 60 Minutes interview of Bannon from October. Here's a review of a 2019 documentary on Bannon by the award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris.

Left totalitarians mercilessly silence contrarians!

I won't defend the Washington Post story Stephens cites, although I will note that the most prominent critique of it came in New York magazine, which is generally regarded by conservatives as part of the fascist-left media establishment. And as for the the Facebook story, here's work done by some of the brave contrarians whose clear thinking Stephens wants to shield from evil corporate boycotters:





How can we call ourselves a free society if corporations are allowed to withhold advertising from Facebook because they don't want it next to posts like these? Surely companies should should be forced to run their ads in proximity to these posts! Because freedom!

Stephens eventually invokes Orwell:
... the Orwell essay to which I keep returning is a little jewel from 1946, “The Prevention of Literature.”

Orwell’s concern then was not just with Russian totalitarianism, but with the arguments used by much of the Western intelligentsia to justify repression.

“What is sinister,” he wrote, “is that the conscious enemies of liberty are those to whom liberty ought to mean most.” He was particularly calling out Western scientists who admired the Soviet Union for its technical prowess and were utterly indifferent to Stalin’s persecution of writers and artists. “They do not see that any attack on intellectual liberty, and on the concept of objective truth, threatens in the long run every department of thought.”

Every department of thought.
I've read the essay. Orwell goes on to write:
For the moment the totalitarian state tolerates the scientist because it needs him. Even in Nazi Germany, scientists, other than Jews, were relatively well treated and the German scientific community, as a whole, offered no resistance to Hitler. At this stage of history, even the most autocratic ruler is forced to take account of physical reality, partly because of the lingering-on of liberal habits of thought, partly because of the need to prepare for war. So long as physical reality cannot altogether be ignored, so long as two and two have to make four when you are, for example, drawing the blueprint of an aeroplane, the scientist has his function, and can even be allowed a measure of liberty. His awakening will come later, when the totalitarian state is firmly established.
I don't believe America is truly totalitarian, at least for now -- but our current Republican-dominated government actually doesn't believe it needs "to take account of physical reality." Republicans don't believe they need to acknowledge the reality of climate change, and so climate denialism is the official policy position of the United States (with the eager assent of Bret Stephens). Republicans working hand in glove with the NRA have stifled scientific research into the nature of gun violence, on the assumption that it's better not to know why so many Americans are killed by firearms. And now it's the expressed belief of the Republican president of the United States, and thus of the U.S. government, that liberals and the media are making way too much of the coronavirus pandemic, that mask-wearing and social distancing are optional, that as many businesses as possible should be open regardless of the health consequences, and that the virus might disappear by magic and is probably no worse than the flu even though it's killed more than 130,000 people despite widespread state, local, and individual effoerts to curb its spread.

Stephens isn't upset about the government's efforts to silence, intimidate, and contradict scientists -- but if a Republican ex-official loses one interview, then we're living in an totalitarian nightmare. I don't think that's what Orwell was getting at.

Friday, July 03, 2020

NO, TRUMP WON'T DROP OUT

Wouldn't it be nice?
MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch predicts Trump will drop out in the face of ‘the biggest landslide defeat in US history’

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” regular contributor Donny Deutsch said he would not be surprised at all if Donald Trump dropped out of the 2020 presidential race because he wouldn’t be able to face losing to former Vice President Joe Biden in a landslide....

“I would not be shocked at some point if he doesn’t drop the mic,” Deutsch admitted. “It’s [the election] is not turning around. This is a guy that I cannot see standing up and owning the biggest landslide defeat in U.S. history. I know you have been throwing it out in, a lot of people are saying no, that’s not possible. But the more I think about it, the more I’m jumping on your bandwagon. I don’t see this guy going the distance.”
No, this won't happen.

Trump will go all the way to November insisting (to himself and to others) that the polls are wrong and he's secretly winning. Axios's Jonathan Swan recently reported,
"[Trump] truly believes there is a silent majority out there that's going to come out in droves in November," said a source who's talked to the president in recent days.
He thinks he can still win when every poll and pundit says he'll lose, just the way he did last time. (And who knows? He might.)

But if he doesn't win? Won't that be an unbearable humiliation?

No, because he'll never concede that he lost fair and square. He still won't admit that he lost the popular vote in 2016, even though he fell millions of votes short -- why would he admit that even a blowout win by Biden was on the up-and-up? The Fake News and the Deep State are so vicious! If the Fake News would just report how great Trump is, he'd win in a landslide, but that doesn't happen! And everyone know the Deep State is out to get Trump -- look at the phony Russia hoax, and Ukraine, and Afghanistan! Vicious liars making up phony stories! And China with the virus! It's all very unfair!

Trump might even agree to leave offfice with minimal fuss. But he'll never admit that he lost a fair election. And his hardcore fan base will all agree with him.

So if he loses, he'll do it with his head held high -- not because he's suddenly become a graceful loser, but because he'll insist to the end that he really won, or should have.

****

Also, can we please stop imagining that Trump could experience "the biggest landslide defeat in U.S. history"? It's not going to happen.

FIrst of all, the race will tighten -- soon, I believe. It may not tighten much, and Trump may continue to say and do things that alienate voters, but much of the heartland white electorate would like to vote GOP, as usual. They want to come home to the party. Many will do so. They're just looking for any sign, however fleeting or false, that Trump is an acceptable candidate. Frankly, I think if he started wearing a mask, he'd pull within the margin of error in every poll. I know he won't do that. But recent statements in which he kinda-sorta endorsed mask-wearing (though still not for himself) will probably give him a slight poll bump.

But the real reason Trump can't suffer the all-time worst defeat is the size of some of our other blowouts.

In 1932, FDR beat Herbert Hoover by more than 17 points, and won 42 of 48 states; four years later, he beat Alf Landon by 24 points, and won 46 states out of 48.

In 1964, LBJ beat Barry Goldwater by 22 points and won all but 6 states. Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 lost one state each. Reagan's popular-vote margin was 18; Nixon's was 23.

Since then, every popular vote margin has been in the single digits. Given the partisan skew of America, that's likely to be the case for the foreseeable future. (And please keep in mind that Trump's job approval rating hasn't sunk below 40 since early 2019, even in this period of apparent freefall; the last time it was below 39 was in January of 2018.)

In 2016, Trump won eleven states by 25 points or more: Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Idaho, Kentucky, South Dakota, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Nebraska. Do you think he could lose any of these states? I don't think any Republican could.

I predict Trump will lose -- but Biden's margin of victory will probably be normal by the standards of the past three decades. There certainly won't be an FDR/LBJ/Nixon/Reagan blowout.

WHO'S PROMOTING THE IDEA OF A TUCKER CARLSON PRESIDENTIAL RUN?

It wasn't exactly Bruce Springsteen appearing on the covers of Time and Newsweek on the same day in 1975, but yesterday Politico and Business Insider told us simultaneously that Tucker Carlson is the hottest person in right-wing politics, and that he really could be president, or at least the Republican presidential nominee, someday soon.

Why are we hearing this now? Why two stories on the same day?

From the Politico story:
Republican strategists, conservative commentators, and former Trump campaign and administration officials are buzzing about Carlson as the next-generation leader of Donald Trump’s movement — with many believing he would be an immediate frontrunner in a Republican primary....

“Let me put it this way: If Biden wins and Tucker decided to run, he’d be the nominee,” said Sam Nunberg, a former top political aide to Trump who knows Carlson.
Let's see: What do we know about Sam Nunberg? Among other things, that Roger Stone was his mentor. What do we read in the Business Insider story?
[Carlson]'s a ... longtime friend of the one and only Roger Stone, the GOP provocateur and felon who probably had more to do with nudging Trump's political ambitions into reality than anyone else....

Stone and Carlson have been close for more than a decade, according to former Carlson colleagues.

After he started The Daily Caller, Carlson enlisted Stone to write occasionally under the title "Daily Caller Men's Fashion Editor," a playful dig at the New York gossip class and homage to Stone's fashion sense....

The Stone-Carlson relationship grew more serious during the Trump era as congressional and federal investigators examined the longtime political adviser to the president over his public boasts that he'd spoken with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about the stolen emails surfacing during the 2016 campaign to damage Hillary Clinton.

Before his arrest, in early 2019, Carlson gave Stone valuable airtime to make his case. Then after a Washington, DC, jury convicted Stone, in November, of lying to Congress and witness tampering, Carlson directly asked Trump to pardon Stone.

All of Carlson's Stone coverage hasn't gone without notice. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple accused Carlson in February of being a "shill" for the longtime GOP operative, and wrote that Carlson was effectively running a campaign to get Stone's conviction thrown out.
The Politico story adds:
In 2012, Nunberg said Republican operative Roger Stone unsuccessfully pushed Carlson to run on the Libertarian ticket. Stone told POLITICO in an email that “[i]t is not inconceivable that I may have raised it in jest or in passing as repartee, but have no memory of that.”
It might not be Stone who's stirring the pot -- Carlson's agent and publicist might be working the media to sell the notion that Carlson, with his escalating ratings, might be too important to fire, if Fox is considering termination in response to advertiser boycotts. Or Carlson might really be serious about running -- it's clear that the contest for the 2024 GOP nomination is already under way, with Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and others already engaged in a race to the wingnut bottom on social media and elsewhere.

But the implication of the two stories is that even as America rejects the racial divisiveness of Donald Trump, we might just leap right back into the white supremacist cesspool in the 2024 presidential race -- yes, the same country where even a majority of white Americans support Black Lives Matter and more Americans want an increase in immigration than a decrease.

The Politico story, in particular, is appallingly neutral about Carlson's most notorious moments of racism, considering them only as a case study in effective career management:
As Republicans across the country and in Congress have expressed newfound openness to reforming the police and taking down Confederate monuments in the wake of protests, Carlson has denounced the Black Lives Matter movement and derided Republicans who have gone along with it.

“This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through. But it is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you,” Mr. Carlson said in one 25-minute monologue on June 8 that has over 5.4 million views on YouTube. That lost him high-profile advertisers, including Disney, Papa John’s and T-Mobile, whose chief executive tweeted, “Bye-bye."

Carlson faced a similar advertiser exodus in 2018 after saying that immigrants make "our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

Carlson emerged from the backlash apparently unchastened.

“The angry children you watched set fire to Wendy's and topple statues and scream at you on television day after day are truly and utterly stupid,” he said on his show last week. And he has repeatedly pushed back on the idea that racism is systemic in the country. “Overall, this is the least racist country in the history of the world,” he said a few days earlier. “Millions of Africans want to move here. Many already have. Our last president was black. What are you talking about?”

His audience has rewarded him with blockbuster ratings.
Of course, Carlson could win even a country trying to overcome racism for the same reasons that Trump could win in November: a Republican Party and Supreme Court obsessed with suppressing the Democratic vote, as well as a mainstream media that's always willing to pretend that "nice" right-wing extremists aren't really beyond the pale. That's how we got Trump. It's why Roger Stone is still a presence in our politics and not a pariah, even with several felony convictions. It's why we shouldn't assume Carlson can't win.