Racing Right Along

“If I can send the flower of the German nation into the hell of war without the smallest pity for the shedding of precious German blood, then surely I have the right to remove millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin.” ~ Adolf Hitler

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.” ~ Desmond Tutu

Graduate school at Duke University in the early seventies was odd, because North Carolina was odd. It was the South – red clay and loblolly pines out to the horizon, and trailer parks, and the trip down to hip Chapel Hill – a Little Bit of Heaven in the South – was a trip down the Jefferson Davis Highway. Folks were still deeply angry about that War of Northern Aggression. It wasn’t a Civil War, damn it! And in Durham there was no town-gown relationship with Duke. Durham was cigarette factories and tobacco auction houses. The town wanted nothing to do with the fancy-pants rich college kids. There were only pockets of the late twentieth century here and there – the universities and the then-new Research Triangle Park – IBM and other big tech firms set up shop to invent the future. Otherwise it was grits, guns, gravy and God – and seething resentment about the past. And of course race was an issue. Race was always an issue. The Civil War had settled nothing – the South would rise again. Reconstruction and Jim Crow kept the anger simmering, and Lyndon Johnson solved nothing with the Civil Rights Act and then the Voting Rights Act. There were ways around those. And now North Carolina is solidly Republican. All the congressional districts have been redrawn. Most of them are “safe” now – no Democrats will ever win there. White men will run the state.

That’s why Donald Trump was in Greenville:

President Trump held a campaign rally Wednesday night where the crowd responded to his attacks on a Somali-born Muslim congresswoman with chants of “Send her back! Send her back!”

The crowd’s response to Trump echoed the racist remarks he has aimed in recent days at four minority Democratic congresswomen he has accused of making hateful comments about the country, setting off a controversy that led the Democrat-controlled House to vote to formally rebuke him on Tuesday night.

The event here made clear that Trump plans to use his criticism of the liberal lawmakers as a rallying cry during his 2020 campaign as he seeks to frame the election around the nationalistic message that has inflamed racial tensions across the country.

But he had modified his message. He was no longer saying these four should go back to the miserable (“shithole”) countries they came from, and fix those damned countries, before they suggest how to fix this one. They had no right to say how this place should be run until they did that. That seems to have upset a few people, and someone must have tugged on his sleeve and reminded him that three of these women had been born here, and that all four of them had just been elected to the House to fix this country. They were elected to make suggestions, to offer alternatives. That was their job now. They were doing their job.

So there was a new message:

“These congresswomen are helping the rise of a militant, hard left. They never have anything good to say, which is why I say, ‘If they don’t like it, let them leave.'” Trump said. “They don’t love our country, and in some cases I think they hate our country.”

The crowd responded by chanting “leave!”

So this wasn’t ethnic or religious or anything else now. They don’t like what he has been doing. Well, he’s president. They’re not. He’s American. They’re not. So get out. He’d say the same to any young white male who disagreed with him on even the slightest of issues. These four just happened to be minority women, but that was just a coincidence. This was about those who disagreed with his policies and pronouncements. They had to leave now, or sooner, but race had nothing to do with any of this, except that it did:

On Sunday, Trump sent out a series of racist tweets attacking Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.), who have been heavily critical of his administration, by saying the four Democrats should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” All four of the congresswomen are American citizens, and only Omar, a Somali refu­gee, was not born in the United States.

Early in his remarks Wednesday night, Trump elicited loud boos when he went after Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib one by one, but he reserved most of his wrath for Omar.

During his 90-minute appearance here, Trump listed controversial remarks made by Omar, including her comments earlier this year that perpetuated anti-Semitic tropes and he falsely claimed that she had praised al-Qaeda.

The “send her back” chants intensified during the rally and Trump paused to let them continue after he said, “obviously and importantly she has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.”

Omar has countered Republican charges that she has made anti-Semitic remarks by saying her criticisms of Israel are based on her concerns over how Palestinians have been treated.

Trump has sided with Netanyahu. The Palestinians should be gone. It would be best if they just disappeared. Trump’s son-in-law’s new peace plan largely ignores them – give them some money so they’ll shut up and go away. Ilhan Omar objects, to this just as almost every other nation in the world does. So it’s Trump and Netanyahu against the world. The new congresswoman is the least of his problems.

And there were the usual objections:

Democrats running for president quickly condemned Trump’s remarks at the rally.

“These members of Congress – children of immigrants, just like so many of us – are an example of exactly what makes America great,” former vice president Joe Biden wrote in a tweet. “So, Mr. President, I am here to tell you this. This is OUR country: The United States of America. You’ll never understand what makes us strong.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), another Democratic 2020 contender, wrote on Twitter: “It’s vile. It’s cowardly. It’s xenophobic. It’s racist. It defiles the office of the President. And I won’t share it here. It’s time to get Trump out of office and unite the country.”

But he’s only saying that they despise America because of their criticism of past and current policies. They disagree with Trump. They disagree with America:

“Our Country is Free, Beautiful and Very Successful. If you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

So not only does dissent show you hate this country, even mild disagreement shows that, which moves beyond these four women:

The rest of Trump’s remarks at the rally Wednesday toggled between touting the strong economy as evidence of his success as president and dire warnings about the country’s downfall if put in Democrats’ hands.

A vote for Democrats is a vote for “frankly, the destruction of our country,” Trump told the crowd.

Vote for Democrats and die! Or not:

The four congresswomen have said that Trump’s recent attacks are a reflection of a white nationalist agenda and are intended to distract Democrats from their effort to make policy changes on issues such as health care and climate change.

“I want to tell children across this country that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you and it belongs to everyone,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a news conference Monday, later arguing that Trump was attacking her and her colleagues because he couldn’t win a debate on substance: “Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy.”

Trump, however, knows that no one cares about policy:

Earlier Wednesday, Trump told reporters he was “enjoying” his battle with the four congresswomen and said he believed he was winning the fight politically.

“The four congresswomen, I think they’ve said horrible things. When you look at some of the things they’ve said, they’re unthinkable,” Trump said before boarding Marine One Wednesday. “If somebody else, or me, said something like that it would be historic. You should look at some of the horrible statements because there have never been statements like that.”

They said he was wrong about a few things. No one in Congress has ever said that to or about a president ever before. This has to stop.

This is nuts, but everyone knows that:

A clear majority of Americans say President Trump’s tweets targeting four minority congresswomen were “un-American,” according to a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. But most Republicans say they agreed with his comments…

More than two-thirds of those who were aware of the controversy – 68% – called Trump’s tweets offensive, but among Republicans alone 57% said they agreed with tweets that told the congresswomen to go back to their “original” countries, and a third “strongly” agreed with them…

Independents by more than 2-1 said his tweets were “un-American.” Three-fourths of the women polled called them offensive.

So this merely fires up the base, but Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog adds this:

Trump can’t possibly fire up his base more than he already has. They’ll crawl through ground glass to vote for him. They’re locked in. He’s wasting energy selling them on a product they’re already 100% certain to buy. It’s not as if he can motivate them to vote for him more than once. But when he plays the race card this way, he motivates independents and women, including some who chose him in 2016, NOT to vote for him.

Trump’s usual mode is barely concealed racism, but the Squad inspired him to dispense with even the tiny bit of deniability in his standard rhetoric. If he keeps up his vendetta against them in this way – or if, perhaps, he’s inspired to go full-on racist against, say, Kamala Harris if she’s on the Democratic ticket – I think he’ll lose.

The Squad may be the foil Trump wants, but what he wants might be the opposite of what he needs.

Ah, but there is his son:

President Trump’s racist tweets are apparently just his defense against an ongoing culture war. At least that’s what Trump’s son Eric Trump suggested in Tuesday appearance on Fox & Friends. After Trump’s attack on four democratic congresswomen led to his official condemnation in the House, Eric Trump claimed “95 percent of this country is behind him” in this message despite polls showing the opposite.

During Tuesday’s Fox & Friends episode, host Brian Kilmeade declared that he “believes calling the president a racist is personally offensive.” Eric Trump then arrived and praised his father for “fighting for American pride and standing up for the national anthem.”

Eric Trump might have been saying that ninety-five percent of America is quite racist so there’s no problem here, or that what everyone calls racism isn’t that at all. It’s just Trumpian Patriotism. There’s a difference that everyone should understand – or that almost everyone actually already understands. Or, alternatively, this might be just bullshit from one of the lesser lights of the family.

Amanda Marcotte tries to explain what seems to be going on here:

Is there any expression of racism that Republicans will actually admit is racism? It’s a question on a lot of progressive minds in the wake of Donald Trump demonizing female congresswomen of color with the “go back” canard that white nationalists and other assorted racists have long used to abuse anyone with heritage they dislike, whether that heritage is Jewish, Irish, Italian, African, Latin American or Muslim. Telling someone to “go back” is, in the ranks of racist statements, right up there with calling a person the N-word or some other rank slur. Yet, there still appears to be resistance among Republicans to admitting that is racism, which leads many on the left to wonder: If this doesn’t count, then what could possibly count?

Actually, nothing counts:

Why are Republicans so resistant to admitting that Trump is a racist and that his words and deeds are frequently racist? Like many debates, this one gets caught up in semantics. The word “racist” necessarily implies beliefs that are inherently irrational and unfair. To be blunt about it, most conservatives do not agree that certain sentiments –  such as insinuating that people of color have less right to call themselves “American” or that people of color owe white people subservience and gratitude – are either irrational or unfair.

On the contrary, what has become clear in recent years is that most conservatives feel like they are hard-headed realists who are being suppressed or attacked by sanctimonious liberals when they try to speak their truth. Trump, with his willingness to air out his beliefs about the superiority of white people, is viewed as a leader in their movement to shake off the shackles of political correctness.

“In your heart, you know he’s right,” reads a popular Trump meme shared by conservatives on Facebook.

That was Barry Goldwater’s campaign slogan in 1964 and he lost to Lyndon Johnson in one of the largest landslides ever, but that hardly matters:

For liberals, this belief is irrational and cruel. Trump supporters, on the other hand, see it as rational and just. So they bristle at the word “racist”, which carries an obvious level of negative judgment. To admit that these beliefs are racist is to admit that they are bad beliefs, and conservatives aren’t willing to do that. Even outright white supremacists often reject the “racist” label, instead calling themselves silly things like “race realists.”

And that plays out in odd ways:

On Tuesday, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, clearly thinking he had a great “gotcha” question, asked Republican senatorial candidate and vote-suppression advocate Kris Kobach if he would still vote for Trump if Trump said, “I am a racist.”

Kobach refused to give a straight answer, giving Cuomo the viral clip he desired. But the question itself was inherently misleading. Almost nobody in contemporary America will self-identify as “racist.” Kobach, for instance, is as racist a politician as they come, but he rejects the label. Everyone superficially agrees that “racist” is a bad thing to be – because it signifies irrational prejudice – and Kobach does not think that he or Trump is being irrational when they hint strongly that white people are more deserving of the designation “American” than other people.

And if so, there’s this:

This is why the public debate over the border crisis is so fraught. The issue isn’t really over the facts of the matter, which are that Trump and his administration are targeting asylum seekers with inhumane treatment because almost all asylum seekers (at this historical moment) belong to ethnic groups Trump dislikes. The issue is over whether it’s a bad thing to target people on the basis of race or ethnicity.

Sure, Trump and his allies bristle and deny that they are specifically targeting Latino immigrants. But that act is deliberately half-hearted and insincere. A more holistic look at Trump’s communications to the conservative base makes clear that the actual message being sent is a lot closer to: “Hell yeah, we are targeting brown-skinned people, and we love it.”

And since that’s the “right” thing to do, it can’t be racism, because it’s just realism, even if it looks a lot like racism. Got that?

No one gets that:

This is not a matter of a bunch of confused or stupid people who are bamboozled by Trump and can be gently educated into being better people. For the most part, these are hardened bigots who love what Trump is doing and cannot be shamed or browbeaten out of it. The only realistic option is for the left to out-organize the right and make sure that the majority of Americans, who reject Trump’s agenda, show up to the polls to stop him.

Right, and then the Civil War will finally be over, but that was the War of Northern Aggression too. If one side says what seems to be irrational and cruel is really quite rational and just, and the other side said no, that’s simply irrational and cruel, this war will never end. There’s no way it can end. There’ll be another Trump. There always is.

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All Dug In

World War I was stupid. Battles like Verdun were stupid. This was trench warfare. Each side digs in, as deep as possible. The two sides shell each other. They might use mustard gas. There’s a charge now and then that gets no one anything. One side repels the other and the attackers slip back to their original trenches. Then the other side attacks the attackers, gets nowhere, and they slip back to their original trenches. This goes on for years. Thousands and thousands die, but no one gets anywhere. The war ends with one side just a bit more exhausted than the other and running out of resources. That’s how the Germans lost, but the French and British didn’t win, even with American help in the end. Everyone was dug in and this could have gone on for a decade or more. But it was stupid. It exhausted both sides. And it proved nothing.

Of course there’s an analogy. This wasn’t supposed to go into a third day, but it did:

The House voted on Tuesday to condemn as racist President Trump’s attacks against four congresswomen of color, but only after the debate over the president’s language devolved into a bitterly partisan brawl that showcased deep rifts over race, ethnicity and political ideology in the age of Trump.

The measure, the first House rebuke of a president in more than 100 years, passed nearly along party lines, 240 to 187, after one of the most polarizing exchanges on the floor in recent times. Only four Republicans and the House’s lone independent, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, voted with all Democrats to condemn the president.

Note that this was not legislation of any kind, and it wasn’t a formal censure of the president. It was a condemnation of one set of things he had done, one set of tweets. Bad boy! That’s all this was, and of course President Trump could have shrugged. House Republicans could have laughed out loud. Is that all you’ve got? What ya gonna do next, hold your breath until you turn blue?

That would have made the Democrats look foolish, and powerless – because they are or choose to be powerless – but everyone had already dug in:

“I know racism when I see it, I know racism when I feel it, and at the highest level of government, there’s no room for racism,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, an icon of the civil rights movement.

Some Republicans were just as adamant in their defense of Mr. Trump: “What has really happened here is that the president and his supporters have been forced to endure months of allegations of racism,” said Representative Dan Meuser, Republican of Pennsylvania. “This ridiculous slander does a disservice to our nation.”

Meuser was saying that Trump is the victim here. Look what he’s had to endure! It’s just not fair! This is ruining our country!

And then it got interesting:

Republicans ground the proceedings to a halt shortly before the House was to vote on the nonbinding resolution, which calls Mr. Trump’s tweets and verbal volleys “racist comments that have legitimized increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” It was the Democrats’ response to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who he said should “go back” to their countries, an insult that he has continued to employ in the days since…

“There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong, unified condemnation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as the House debated the resolution. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.”

As Republicans rose to protest, Ms. Pelosi turned toward them on the House floor and picked up her speech, her voice rising as she added, “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, made a formal objection to the remarks, charging that they had violated the rules of decorum, which call for lawmakers to avoid impugning the motives of their colleagues or the president.

There are such rules – they actually predate Thomas Jefferson – they have something to do with not insulting the King and haven’t been invoked since the years after the Civil War – but it didn’t matter. The Republicans screamed about the Democrats breaking the rules and the Democrats passed what really didn’t matter anyway, in spite of those objections.

The nation should have shrugged but everything matters now:

Mr. Trump on Tuesday denied that his tweets were racist and implored House Republicans to reject the measure. The president raged on Twitter, calling the House resolution a “con game” as he renewed his harsh criticism of the congresswomen.

“Those Tweets were NOT Racist” Mr. Trump wrote. “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap.”

Later at the White House, the president did not back away from his original comment, saying of the quartet, “They can leave.”

“They should love our country,” he continued. “They shouldn’t hate our country.”

So everyone had dug in, but Trump has a plan. The New York Times’ Jeremy Peters and Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report on that:

With three days of attacks on four liberal, minority freshman congresswomen, President Trump and the Republicans have sent the clearest signal yet that their approach to 2020 will be a racially divisive reprise of the strategy that helped Mr. Trump narrowly capture the White House in 2016.

It is the kind of fight that the president relishes. He has told aides, in fact, that he is pleased with the Democratic reaction to his attacks, boasting that he is “marrying” the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party to the four congresswomen known as “the Squad.”

He claims that he knows what he’s doing, and he might be right about that:

His efforts to stoke similar cultural and racial resentments during the 2018 midterm elections with fears of marauding immigrant caravans backfired as his party lost control of the House. But he is undeterred heading into his re-election campaign, betting that he can cast the entire Democratic Party as radical and un-American.

“He’s framing the election as a clash of civilizations,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative writer who is critical of Mr. Trump. The argument Mr. Trump is making is both strategic and cynical, he said. “They’re coming for you. They hate you. They despise America. They are not you.”

“And if you look at the Electoral College map,” Mr. Sykes added, “the places that will play are the places Donald Trump will need to win the election.”

And that means that Trump won the day:

While the Democrats were voting Tuesday to condemn the president’s attacks against the four women as racist, Trump campaign officials, by contrast, were trying to cast Monday as a landmark day for the Democratic Party – the day that the progressive “Squad” became the de facto leaders of their party.

The four freshman, female members of Congress – Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – hold no formal leadership positions in their party, and none have been on the national political stage for much longer than a year. Yet Republicans, led by Mr. Trump and buttressed by his allies in the conservative media, have spent months seizing on and distorting their more inflammatory statements.

This might work, and Trump has everyone on board now:

Aides to Mr. Trump’s campaign conceded that the president’s tweets about the four women on Sunday were not helpful, were difficult to defend and caught them off guard. They would have preferred he had not tweeted that the four women, all racial and ethnic minorities, should “go back” to their own countries. Only one, Ms. Omar, was born in a foreign country.

But they said that his instincts were what guided his campaign in 2016, when his attacks on immigrants resonated with alienated white voters in key states. They believe there is political value in having “the Squad” as the new face of their political opponents when Mr. Trump is tracing a path to re-election that runs through Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where the four women are unpopular.

And, for Republicans, this is just like old times:

The strategy is reminiscent of how President Richard M. Nixon and the Republican Party tried to frame their fight with Democrats during the 1972 elections around questions of patriotism and loyalty. Nixon supporters took to using the slogan “America: Love It or Leave It” to cast the Democrats and the growing opposition to the Vietnam War as anti-American – not merely anti-Nixon or anti-Republican.

Pat Buchanan, the populist, conservative former presidential candidate who served as an aide to Nixon, said that by elevating the four, Mr. Trump is trying to set the terms of his re-election fight.

“Rather than let Democrats in the primaries choose his adversary, Trump is seeking to make the selection himself,” Mr. Buchanan said. And if the election is seen as a choice between Democrats like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar, Mr. Buchanan added, “Trump wins.”

That’s the plan, and that just might work:

In research published in a journal in February, Carlos Algara and Isaac Hale found that among white voters, high levels of racial resentment – measured by asking people whether they agree with statements such as “I am angry that racism exists” – were a better indicator of how someone would vote than party affiliation or ideological beliefs.

They found that there were still a sizable number of white Democrats who harbor relatively high levels of racial resentment, and that is helping Republicans across the board.

Mr. Algara, a political scientist at the University of California, Davis, said that a forthcoming analysis of the 2018 midterm elections found that even without Mr. Trump on the ballot, white Democrats with high levels of racial resentment were likely to vote for Republican candidates.

“The president and the Republican National Committee know that if you prime racial resentment attitudes among Democrats, you’re more likely to win their votes,” he said. “It’s a very effective strategy.”

Trump wins again, or he doesn’t:

Many Democrats believe that Mr. Trump has repelled so many voters who gave him the benefit of the doubt in 2016 that he is only digging himself into a deeper hole. “He’s risking everything on a strategy of recreating his exact 2016 coalition, but things have changed,” said Nick Gourevitch, a pollster with the Global Strategy Group, a Democratic firm.

There are Trump supporters who agree that the president’s rhetoric could backfire, and wish he hadn’t gone down this road.

“I think a more successful strategy would be to focus on the growth in the economy and policies and go after moderates and independents,” Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as White House communications director, said on CNN on Tuesday.

He added that he found the comments reprehensible and was surprised that more Republicans were not speaking out. He said he found that “astonishing.”

Why does that so astonish him? High levels of racial resentment elect Republicans. Keep it up!

But there’s this:

On Michael Savage’s radio program on Monday, a caller named Susan dialed in to defend the president’s actions. “He’s said worse things than that, and he’s not a racist,” she said.

Mr. Savage, who was one of the earliest hosts in conservative radio to endorse Mr. Trump but has been more skeptical of late, questioned his caller’s blind faith and also expressed concern that the entire episode was unifying the Democrats.

“I’m starting to get very worried about the true believers out there,” Mr. Savage said, adding that he thought the president needed to stop being so impulsive.

“I think he needs to stop tweeting at three in the morning when he’s having a low-blood-sugar attack. He has set our entire cause back.”

That may be so, but Michelle Cottle argues that Trump couldn’t help himself:

In picking a fight with the quartet of Democratic congresswomen known as the squad, President Trump has done more than divide the American public – again – on the question of whether he’s a racist, a political opportunist or an occasionally overzealous patriot.

Calling on these four women of color – Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – to “go back” to their home countries (though all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States), the president simultaneously denigrated them and elevated their political standing. In the process, he may well have hit upon the shiny new political foil that he has been searching for.

In short, he made these obscure four famous, but he needed them to be famous, because he can work with that, and he still has no idea what to do with Pelosi:

Politically, Mr. Trump is most at home when on the attack, vilifying and mocking opponents – preferably with playground taunts and goofy nicknames. During the good old days of the 2016 campaign, “Crooked Hillary” provided the ideal punching bag for him, having long inspired a rare loathing among the Republican base.

As president, finding a suitable political nemesis has proved more difficult for Mr. Trump. On paper, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, seemed like a promising contender. A combative, outspoken woman representing liberal San Francisco, Ms. Pelosi has served as a popular rallying point – and fund-raising tool – for the Republican Party for decades.

But there’s just something about Nancy that throws Mr. Trump off his game. Perhaps it’s her knowledge of governing and politics. Or her hardball negotiating tactics. Or the indulgent-yet-exasperated shtick that, in one-on-one showdowns, makes the president look like an unruly child. Or the fact that, after a lifetime spent dealing with chest-thumping alpha males, Ms. Pelosi is neither impressed by the president’s bluster nor ruffled by his threats and insults.

Whatever the reasons, Mr. Trump has never figured out how to properly vilify Ms. Pelosi, much less stick her with a satisfactorily demeaning nickname. Despite – or perhaps because of – the speaker’s ability to deal with the president fits, he is said to have a grudging respect for her.

And he has other problems:

As for the 2020 Democratic presidential aspirants, the field is as yet far too sprawling to present a clean and clear target. Mr. Trump has taken a couple of shots at “Crazy Bernie” and “Alfred E. Neuman” (his Mad Magazine-style take on Mayor Pete’s boyish visage), but his heart hasn’t seemed in them. For a while there, he had some fun with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage, but his interest seems to have largely faded. When former Vice President Joe Biden entered the race and vaulted to the top of the polls, Mr. Trump started in with cracks about “Sleepy Joe” being past his prime, out of touch and possibly ill or senile. But age and infirmity aren’t really the sort of criticisms that rev Republican engines – and, considering Mr. Trump’s own septuagenarian status, spotty memory, verbal ramblings and occasionally erratic behavior, he needs to tread carefully in this area. As for the political fire Mr. Biden has drawn for his past positions on civil rights or his behavior toward women, let’s just say those are even more ticklish targets for this president.

But now he has these four women:

With the squad, Mr. Trump may have at last found his Holy Grail. Young, female, multiracial, multicultural, progressive, outspoken, combative, revolution-minded, high-profile – politically and personally, this group checks nearly every box on Mr. Trump’s culture-war list. (One is an immigrant! One is a Latina! Two are Muslim!) These lawmakers represent the future of the Democratic Party – and, in many ways, of the United States. They also embody everything that unsettles a certain segment of the Republican base, voters anxious about all the change afoot in the nation and looking to Mr. Trump to Make America Great Again by taking it back in time.

Better still from Mr. Trump’s perspective, the squad shares his taste for political combat, at times squaring off against the congresswomen’s own leadership. If he wants a culture war, they will give him one, bringing the bellicose rhetoric and rallying their voters – and, yes, calling for his impeachment. Who better to fire up Mr. Trump’s loyal supporters?

That’ll work, and Frank Bruni adds this:

Trump doesn’t want to run against Joe Biden, because no matter Biden’s energy level or the oxymoronic record that’s almost inevitable when you’ve put in as many decades in public service as he has, he radiates decency the way Trump glows orange from makeup and tanning beds.

He doesn’t want to run against Elizabeth Warren, because all the nicknames in the world won’t erase her seriousness, which brings his incoherence into vivid relief. He doesn’t want to run against Kamala Harris, because he has seen how poised and fierce she can be.

Besides, it’s better to run against four people than against one. Four are more readily turned into an idea. A symbol. And what do Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley symbolize?

The oldest of them, Pressley, is 45. Their average age is 38. They suggest in aggregate that the future of both the Democratic Party and the country belongs as much to women and to people of color as to anyone else. Trump is betting that Americans threatened by that will be scared enough to drive up the turnout for him.

Robert Kagan frames that a bit differently:

President Trump has forced us all to take a position on what kind of America this is going to be – in essence, to define again what American “nationalism” means. Is it a white Christian nationalism (or if you’re Jewish and think you can wriggle yourself inside the Trumpian nationalist tent, you can call it Judeo-Christian), in which immigrants of color or other religions are not really Americans and can be told by the president to “go back” to their ancestral lands? Or is it the universalist nationalism of the Declaration of Independence, based on the liberal Enlightenment principles of equality before the law, the inviolable rights of the individual against the state and the conviction that all citizens – regardless of religion, ethnicity or ancestral roots and the timing of their arrival – are equally American?

It is that simple:

Trump has given us a binary choice: Either stand with American principles, which in this case means standing in defense of the Squad, or equivocate, which means standing with Trump and white nationalism. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The truth is, they have done nothing and said nothing about the United States or about an ally (in this case, Israel) that has not been done or said thousands of times.

So do the right thing:

Our nation won’t be undermined by anything the Squad has said or done. It will be undermined if we don’t fight back against this assault on our universal principles. Disagree with the Squad, refute them, argue with them, vote against them. But also defend them, as the founders intended. The essence of our nation is at stake.

And then there’s Max Boot:

Sorry, Republicans. There is nothing – nothing – more important in the United States than racism. Where you stand on that one issue defines who you are as a human being. Silence is complicity. All Republicans who stand mute in the face of Trump’s latest racism are telling you who they really are. It’s an ugly picture of a morally bankrupt party that has now embraced racial prejudice as a platform.

I am ashamed to have spent most of my life as a Republican. I have significant differences with Pressley, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and Omar – perhaps even greater differences on the issues than I have with the president – but they are better Americans than Trump.

Still, Trump has dug in. He’s not changing now, on anything. Dig deeper – that’s what the French did between the two World Wars. They built the Maginot Line – the ultimate heavily-fortified really deep trench, to keep the Germans out, because the Germans were being pesky again. That would stop them, and the Germans rolled around the west end of the line, through Belgium, and headed south, and took Paris a few weeks later.

There’s a lesson there for Donald Trump. Don’t dig deeper. Things change. They always do.

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Extraordinary Loyalty to a Malicious Man

Give it time. Sometimes things get better. There’s got to be a morning after. The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar. But sometimes things get worse:

President Trump, under fire for comments that even members of his own party called racist, amplified his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color on Monday, saying that they hated America and that one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress sympathized with Al Qaeda.

In an extraordinary back and forth from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Trump appeared to revel in the viciousness of his brawl with the four progressive women who have become the young faces of the Democratic Party. He goaded them into a response from Capitol Hill, in which they denounced the president’s rhetoric and his policies, charging that he was pressing the agenda of white nationalists from the White House.

“He’s launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color,” said Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and the target of Mr. Trump’s most outrageous charges. “This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms, or it is happening on national TV, and now it’s reached the White House garden.”

Trump’s response was a resounding “so what” – if you don’t like white nationalism and a country run by white men, for white men, where you don’t matter, get the hell out – go back to where you came from. Trump has ranted about black athletes kneeling during the national anthem – those sons of bitches – and lobbed his insults at developing countries – those “shithole” countries – and defended the white supremacists marching with their torches – some of them fine people. Ilhan Omar quoted his exact words. She mentioned he had bragged about grabbing women by the pussy – using the exact word again. The words were shocking, but they were not her words. This time Trump is going after members of the majority party in the House, capable of fighting back. They quote him directly. The folks at Fox News will say this is grossly unfair. But those are his words.

This will not end well:

The congresswomen vowed not to be baited into a sprint to the bottom with a president they condemned as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and criminal. Their leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pledged to put a resolution on the floor condemning the president’s language – putting House Republicans on defense.

But Mr. Trump showed no sign of relenting. Even as the four spoke, he was online calling them “radical Democrats” and Twitter-shouting, “IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE!”

It was a message the president appeared determined to amplify throughout the day.

On Monday, he added that Ms. Omar, a Somali refugee and the only one not born in the United States, was a Qaeda sympathizer – a false charge that she said she would not “dignify” with an answer.

There’s a backstory to that:

Mr. Trump was referring to – and grossly distorting – remarks Ms. Omar made during a 2013 interview on a local PBS television show when she was a community activist.

Nowhere in the interview does she proclaim “love” for Al Qaeda or “how great” the terrorist group is. In fact, Ms. Omar repeatedly noted that Al Qaeda and Al Shabab had committed “evil” acts and “atrocities” and were “taking part in terror” around the world.

The October 2013 interview on “BelAhdan,” a show about Middle Eastern community issues, focused on the pressures and stereotypes Arab-Americans face. Ms. Omar and Ahmed Tharwat, the host and producer of the show, discussed the attack on a Kenyan mall by Shabab militants that had occurred a month earlier.

The two expressed frustration that Somalis and Arabs in general were asked to condemn or apologize for the attack because of an assumption, Ms. Omar said, that “we all are connected to this somehow.” But, they added, the same is not asked of citizens in other parts of the world for violence perpetrated by governments or by members of their communities like the Iraq war or mass shootings.

The two were getting tired of others demanding that condemn what they had already condemned and had nothing to do with them anyway. Catholic priests rape little boys. Perhaps all Catholics should renounce their religion and become Buddhists or Baptists. Omar noted the fools who “puffed their chests out” at the mention of Al Qaeda. She thought they were jerks. She said so. Trump missed that part.

But she did do something unforgivable:

Ms. Omar has criticized Saudi Arabia’s royal family for its financial links to Al Qaeda. In congressional hearings, she has also expressed concerns that American weapons “end up in the hands of terrorists” used to carry out attacks in the Middle East and described a “horrific reign of terror” in Africa under Shabab and Boko Haram militants.

Trump is all-in with the Saudis, and their rakish Crown Prince, his son-in-law’s very best friend, who really knows a thing or two about how to deal with pesky journalists. Trump seems to wish his family was just like Saudi Arabia’s royal family – fabulously wealthy and in power forever, in a land with no elections.

But that’s not the case:

In his appearance earlier Monday, Mr. Trump had sought to deflect criticism about his tweets even as he made it clear he stood behind them, saying it was Ms. Pelosi who was the real racist. As evidence, he pointed to a tweet in which Ms. Pelosi said his statements about the congresswomen confirmed that his “Make America Great Again” slogan “has always been about making America white again.”

Follow his logic. She called him a racist. That makes her a racist, for bringing up race at all. She mentioned race. He didn’t. But, on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with being a racist:

Mr. Trump repeatedly sought refuge, as he often has before, in what he insisted was broad public agreement with his inflammatory comments. “A lot of people love it by the way,” the president said. Asked whether he was concerned that his comments were racist and being embraced by white supremacists, who took to Twitter to cheer them, Mr. Trump shrugged.

“It doesn’t concern me, because many people agree with me,” he said. “All I’m saying is if they want to leave, they can leave now.”

Many people do agree with him. That’s what he promised in the first place. He told America that everyone is out to get us. He told America to sneer at the rest of the world – to get angry and get tough. The world was laughing at America. The rest of America – the blacks and the gays and the urban hipsters and the fancy-pants experts and the goofy scientists and all “politicians” in general – was laughing at Real Americans. Mexicans and Muslims were laughing at us too. He could fix that. When someone hits you, hit them back ten times harder. We’ll build that wall and Mexico will pay for it. Muslims will be banned from entering the country – once he gets a few more judges who see things his way. Hit back ten times harder. That way no one messes with you ever again. That’s the way America should deal with the world. That’s the way he would deal with everything. And now that’s how he’s dealing with race. No one will laugh at white folks ever again. A good number of white folks do worry about that.

Paul Krugman sees this:

In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political operative, explained to an interviewer how his party had learned to exploit racial antagonism using dog whistles. “You start out in 1954 by saying ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.'” But by the late 1960s, “that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights,’ and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Well, the dog whistle days are over. Republicans are pretty much back to saying “Nigger, nigger, nigger.”

Perhaps this is refreshing honesty:

Sorry, there’s no way to both sides this, or claim that Trump didn’t say what he said. This is racism, plain and simple – nothing abstract about it. And Trump obviously isn’t worried that it will backfire.

This should be a moment of truth for anyone who describes Trump as a “populist” or asserts that his support is based on “economic anxiety.” He’s not a populist, he’s a white supremacist. His support rests not on economic anxiety, but on racism.

That means his whole party is in on this:

I don’t just mean the almost complete absence of condemnation of Trump’s racism on the part of prominent Republicans, although this cowardice was utterly predictable. I mean that Trump isn’t alone in deciding that this is a good time to bring raw racism out of the closet.

Last week Bill Lee, the Republican governor of Tennessee, signed a proclamation ordering a day to honor the Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, whom he described as a “recognized military figure.” Indeed, Forrest was a talented military commander. He was also a traitor, a war criminal who massacred African-American prisoners, and a terrorist who helped found the Ku Klux Klan.

Put it this way: The Nazis had some very good generals, too. But the world would be horrified if Germany announced plans to start celebrating Erich von Manstein Day. There are, no doubt, some Germans who would like to honor Nazi heroes. But they aren’t in positions of power; their American counterparts are.

Now add this:

Although most of the commentary focuses on Trump’s demand that native-born Americans “go back” to their home countries, his description of their imaginary homelands as “crime infested” deserves some attention, too. For his fixation on crime is another manifestation of his racism.

I’m not sure how many people remember Trump’s inaugural address, which was all about “American carnage” – an alleged epidemic of violent crime sweeping our nation’s cities. He didn’t explicitly say, but clearly implied, that this supposed crime wave was being perpetrated by people with dark skins. And, of course, both Trump and the Trumpist media go on all the time about immigrant criminality.

In reality, violent crime in America’s big cities is near historical lows, and all the available evidence suggests that immigrants are, if anything, less likely than the native-born to commit crimes. But the association between nonwhites and crime is a deeply held tenet among white racists, and no amount of evidence will shake their belief.

Oh, and the real “American carnage” is the surge in “deaths of despair” from drugs, suicide and alcohol among less-educated whites. But this doesn’t fit the racist narrative.

And that means that this is no time to just shrug:

The GOP’s new comfort level with open racism should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats, both centrists and progressives, who sometimes seem to forget who and what they’re confronting.

On one side, Joe Biden’s celebration of the good relations he used to have with segregationist senators sounds even more tone-deaf than it did a month ago. Biden clearly isn’t a racist, but he needs to get a clue about how important it is to confront the racism sweeping the GOP.

Jamelle Bouie agrees with that:

If Donald Trump has a theory of anything, it is a theory of American citizenship. It’s simple. If you are white, then regardless of origin, you have a legitimate claim to American citizenship and everything that comes with it. If you are not, then you don’t.

Trump never quite put this theory in writing. But it guides his behavior all the same. That’s the reason he embraced and promoted the deranged conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama’s birthplace – a black president, in Trump’s mind, must be illegitimate somehow. And it’s the reason, as president, he wants fewer immigrants from “shithole” countries and more from northern European nations like Norway. It’s less a practical alternative – there aren’t many Norwegian immigrants to the United States – than it is an expression of his racism.

Trump’s theory of citizenship helps explain some of his unusual behavior.

And here is one example:

It’s tempting in this situation to just condemn Trump and leave it there. But that’s a mistake. With this latest tirade, Trump hasn’t only indulged his racism, he has also usefully – if unintentionally – stripped some racial euphemism from the public discourse. His attacks on the congresswomen stem from the same source as his failed attempt to place a citizenship question on the census.

Ludicrously, the Trump administration told the Supreme Court that this information was needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But the true aim, as the files of the man who devised the strategy proved, was a drive to preserve a majority-white electorate by giving state Republican lawmakers the tools and the data they need to gerrymander out noncitizens and nonwhites out of fair representation and fair apportionment. The underlying theory is the same in both cases. If you’re white, you are entitled to full political equality. If you’re not, you aren’t.

Bouie, however, is worried about the Democrats:

What’s more striking than the president’s blood-and-soil racism is how Democratic Party elites – or at least one group of them – are playing with similar assumptions. No, they haven’t held out the white working property owner as the only citizen of value, but they’re obsessed with winning that voter to their side – convinced that – some of which represent districts Trump won in 2016, but most of whom represent districts that gave Democrats the majority last November.

Indeed, it is instructive – and frankly disturbing – that top Democrats leaked a poll to Axios showing broad dissatisfaction with Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Omar. Not from the entire public or Democratic voters, but from “1,003 likely general-election voters who are white and have two years or less of college education.”

Winning the votes of that small crowd might be impossible, and it might be pointless:

Donald Trump wants to make the United States a white country, where the possibility of full citizenship is tied to race. Most Republicans are either silent or supportive. The Democratic Party has the opportunity to oppose this vision with all the moral force that comes with representing a diverse, multiracial coalition. But even as they condemn the president there are still too few Democrats who are up for the challenge and too many who would rather go after those who embody that other America.

There are those who agree with Trump on these matters. That’s the other America. Democrats will never get their votes, and why would they want their votes?

But all is not well in the conservative world. There’s the quite conservative David French writing in the quite conservative (founded by William F. Buckley) National Review with this:

The very notion that nonwhite Americans should leave this country to go back to ancestral homelands to prove their worth is deeply repugnant.

Moreover, there is something especially gross about a man who was too timid even to face the draft during his own generation’s war now presuming to define how Americans seek to reform their government. He is the last person to be the arbiter of patriotism or national loyalty.

But this is the worst part:

The near-total silence (at least so far) from GOP leaders is deeply dispiriting. Do they not understand the message the leader of their party is sending – especially to America’s nonwhite citizens? Do they not understand that racial malice as a political strategy isn’t just an ultimately losing proposition but also deeply divisive, picking at the scabs of America’s deepest political, cultural, and spiritual wounds?

There are many GOP leaders who, quite frankly, understand that they criticize even the president’s racist speech at their own peril. The grassroots have spoken. Loyalty to the president must be absolute, or one risks a primary challenge. Yet individual voters have responsibilities as well, and they must understand that extraordinary loyalty to a malicious man broadcasts their own disdain for their fellow citizens.

David French seems a man in despair:

American polarization is reaching a dangerous phase. On a bipartisan basis, criticism of presidents and our political opponents is escalating. I’m old enough to remember all the way back to 2015, when GOP hatred for Barack Obama even on occasion trumped Republican patriotism. Remember when Mike Huckabee actually urged American Christians not to join the military so long as Obama – or someone like him – remained president? Which country should he go back to so that he can somehow earn back our respect?

Obama would never earn their respect, but there’s really no one to respect now:

Trump is fully employing malice as a political strategy. It’s not clever. It’s not shrewd. It’s destructive and wrong. The fact that so few Republicans can muster enough courage to state this obvious truth speaks to a sad reality – the rot extends far beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Kevin Drum adds this:

Any conservative willing to call out Trump’s toxic appeal to white racism is basically on my side. I don’t think it’s something we can never recover from, but that’s only if it stops soon and leads to Republican defeat. If, instead, Republicans decide it’s their only road to victory – and it works – the impact on our country is difficult to imagine.

That might be the end of everything, except for extraordinary loyalty to a malicious man – think of Germany in the thirties – but Drum also argues that the Republicans had no other choice:

Reaching out to black voters would only work if Republicans also ceased their tolerance of white bigotry. In other words, they’d almost certainly lose votes on a net basis at first, which would mean handing over the presidency – and maybe much more – to Democrats for upwards of a decade or so. That’s just too big a sacrifice for any political party to make.

So instead they took another route: they went after the white vote even harder.

And they hit the jackpot:

In Donald Trump they found a candidate who wasn’t afraid to appeal to racist sentiment loudly and bluntly, something that simply hadn’t occurred to other Republicans. They never thought they could get away with something like this in the 21st century, and normally they would have been right: it would have lost them as many votes among educated whites as it won them among working-class whites. But after eight years of a black president in the White House, racial tensions were ratcheted up just enough that Trump could get away with it. Only by a hair, and only with plenty of other help, but he did get away with it, losing 10 points of support among college-educated whites but gaining 14 points among working-class whites.

And that sealed the deal:

The entire Republican Party is now all-in on this strategy. They mostly stay quiet themselves and let Trump himself do the dirty work, but that’s enough. Nobody talks anymore about reaching out to the black community with a spirit of caring or any other spirit. Nor is there anything the rest of us can do about this. Republicans believe that wrecking the fabric of the country is their only hope of staying in power, and they’re right. If working-class whites abandon them even a little bit, they’re toast.

And that means this is no time for Joe Biden’s Kumbaya politics:

All we can do is try to crush them. What other options are there? Reactionary American whites, as always, won’t give up their power unless it’s taken from them by either a literal or figurative war.

Liberals need to be as Lincolnesque as possible in this endeavor – we don’t have to win the votes of unrepentant bigots, just the fretful fence-sitters – but we also need to be Lincolnesque in our commitment to winning America’s latest race war.

So it’s war now? Maybe it was always war. Maybe it was always a race war, from the beginning. And as for Lincoln and his war, maybe the South will win this time. Maybe the South already won. Extraordinary loyalty to a malicious man can work wonders.

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The Ungrateful Ones

The only foreign capital named after a United States president is Monrovia, Liberia, named after James Monroe. That’s an odd country – it began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society, the organization that believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States, an organization supported by Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, and James Monroe, who believed repatriation of free African Americans was preferable to widespread emancipation of slaves. Lincoln later changed his mind and only about fifteen thousand freed and free-born black Americans ended up there before we had our Civil War.

The whole thing was a bad idea. The freed and free-born black Americans didn’t fit in there. They didn’t belong there. And they certainly couldn’t transform that part of the west coast of Africa into a Jeffersonian democracy. Liberia declared its independence on July 26, 1847, and the United States did not recognize Liberia’s independence until February 5, 1862, during the Civil War, but it didn’t matter much. The country had no identity. Liberia wasn’t like Africa in how it was organized but it wasn’t like America either. Liberia has been a bit of a mess ever since.

This was a failed experiment. The angry question had always been out there – “Why don’t you go back to Africa where you belong?” The answer became obvious. “It doesn’t work that way.”

Someone forget to tell Donald Trump about this:

President Trump said Sunday that four minority, liberal congresswomen who have been critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” prompting other Democrats – including Pelosi – to leap to their defense.

Pelosi denounced Trump’s tweets as “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation,” while the four congresswomen promised to continue fighting Trump’s agenda and accused him of trying to appeal to white nationalists.

These four congresswomen had been riding Pelosi hard, for ignoring them, and offered an amazing idea, suggesting she might be a bit of a racist herself, and she had hit back – these were only four radical voices and she had to worry about the whole party, and then suddenly all of that disappeared:

Trump’s remark swiftly united a House Democratic caucus that had been torn apart in recent days by infighting between Pelosi and the four freshman women of color – Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.). It also comes after Trump announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were preparing to round up migrant families that have received deportation orders across the country.

Those massive raids, busting down doors and separating families and putting millions in boxcars headed for the border, never happened. It was just business as usual, but Trump could, and did claim, that’s going to happen, or might be happening – one never knows. His tweets might have been an attempt to compensate for the massive purge that wasn’t:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted.

Well, for the record:

Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Tlaib was born in Detroit and Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York – about 20 miles from where Trump was born. Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia; her family fled the country amid civil war when she was a child, and she became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. All four women won election to Congress in 2018.

But never mind:

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump continued in the tweets. “Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

So he was sticking up for Pelosi. They called her a racist. They should get the hell out now. He stands up for his friends, like Nancy, which was amusing:

Trump’s comments prompted a sharp response from Pelosi, who described them as racist and divisive.

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” she said in a tweet. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

And then “the four” had their say:

The four Democratic lawmakers also fired back at Trump on Twitter. Omar wrote that “As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States.”

Pressley said in a statement that “it should come as no surprise that a man who has made it his goal to dehumanize and rip apart immigrant families would so brazenly display the racism that drives his policies.”

Tlaib warned Trump, “I am fighting corruption in OUR country. Keep talking, you’ll be out of the WH soon.”

Ocasio-Cortez sent a string of tweets defiantly addressing the president. “You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us,” she said. “You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”

Trump may have blundered here:

Within a few hours on Sunday, Democratic lawmakers were united in defending their colleagues against Trump’s attack.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring everybody together – I think the president just did that for us,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said. “Nobody in our caucus is going to tolerate that kind of hatred.”

Dingell, whose suburban Detroit constituency includes one of the largest Muslim American populations of any House district, said Trump’s tweet “reinforces the fear of so many people in this country.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) responded to Trump by recounting how, despite being born in the United States, he was repeatedly told to “go back to Mexico” throughout his life, regardless of his service in the Marine Corps or how well he did in school.

“To people like Trump I will never be American enough,” Gallego said in a tweet.

That put Trump on the defensive:

Later Sunday, Trump escalated his attacks on the four lawmakers, tweeting that it was “sad” to see Democrats “sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion.” The remark appeared to be aimed at Omar, who has previously made comments that some say invoke anti-Semitic stereotypes, and Tlaib, who has advocated for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump added that “whenever confronted,” the Democratic women “call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, ‘RACIST,’ ” and argued that their remarks “must not be allowed to go unchallenged.”

And that is his explanation. He was sticking up for his friend Nancy. That’s all this was, which wasn’t that convincing:

Trump last year sparked uproar when he reportedly used the term “shithole” to refer to some countries in Africa and Latin America. He later denied making the remark. For years, Trump repeatedly raised doubts about former president Barack Obama’s birth certificate, making the issue part of his 2016 presidential run. He finally acknowledged in September 2016 that Obama was born in the United States – but falsely accused the campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of being the source of the rumor.

“Trump is now turning the same birtherism he directed at President Obama against women of color serving in Congress,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a tweet. “Everyone should call this what it is: racism.”

That was the general idea, and Republicans decided to say as little as possible:

In television appearances, several Trump administration officials declined to defend the president’s tweets. They included Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“I think that you need to talk to the president about his specific tweets,” Morgan said on CBS News’ Face the Nation.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker was not surprised:

President Trump woke up on Sunday morning and gazed out at the nation he leads, saw the dry kindling of race relations, and decided to throw a match on it. It was not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last. He has a pretty large carton of matches and a ready supply of kerosene.

His Twitter harangue goading Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to the country they came from, even though most of them were actually born in the United States, shocked many. But it should have surprised few who have watched the way he has governed a multicultural, multiracial country the last two and a half years.

No one should have been surprised because this was the plan all along:

His assumption that the House Democrats must have been born in another country – or that they did not belong here if they were – fits an us-against-them political strategy that has been at the heart of Mr. Trump’s presidency from the start. Heading into next year’s election, he appears to be drawing a deep line between the white, native-born America of his memory and the ethnically diverse, increasingly foreign-born country he is presiding over, challenging voters in 2020 to declare which side of that line they are on.

“In many ways, this is the most insidious kind of racial demagoguery,” said Douglas A. Blackmon, the author of “Slavery by Another Name,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of racial servitude in America between the Civil War and World War II. “The president has moved beyond invoking the obvious racial slanders of 50 years ago – clichés like black neighborhoods ‘on fire’ – and is now invoking the white supremacist mentality of the early 1900s, when anyone who looked ‘not white’ could be labeled as unwelcome in America.”

It goes back way before that of course, but Trump is not hiding a thing. He drew that line. Decide. Decide now. The New York Times’ Charles Blow argues that Trump is using his own racism to appeal to the racism in the people who support him:

The country Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley “originally came from” is this one. They were born in America. Omar was a refugee from Somalia. But this is the most important fact: They aren’t white, and they are women. They are “other” in the framing of the white nationalists. They are descendants of Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

And that makes all the difference:

The central framing of this kind of thinking is that this is a white country, founded and built by white men, and destined to be maintained as a white country. For anyone to be accepted as truly American they must assimilate and acquiesce to that narrative, to bow to that heritage and bend to those customs.

It sees a country from which black and brown people come as deficient – “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world” – because, at its base, it sees black and brown people as deficient…

It chafes when these black and brown women from exotic-sounding places with exotic-sounding names would dare to challenge the white patriarchy in this country. Why do they not know their place? Why do they not genuflect to the gentry? Why do they not recognize – and honor – the white man’s superiority?

Blow thinks he knows why they won’t recognize and honor the white man’s superiority:

The entire white supremacist ideology and ethos is a lie. America expanded much of its territory through the shedding of blood and breaking of treaties with Native Americans. It established much of its wealth through 250 years of exploiting black bodies for free labor. And, for the entire history of this country, some degree of anti-blackness has existed. Now, there is an intensifying anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

Some might argue that’s just not true, but Blow, who is black, says at least this is true:

There can be no more discussion or debate about whether or not Trump is a racist. He is. There can be no more rhetorical juggling about not knowing what’s in his heart. We see what flows out of it.

White people and whiteness are the center of the Trump presidency. His primary concern is to defend, protect and promote it. All that threatens it must be attacked and assaulted. Trump is bringing the force of the American presidency to the rescue of white supremacy. And, self-identified Republicans absolutely love him for it.

And that leaves this:

We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation’s history unfold in real time. We are watching as a president returns naked racism to the White House. And we are watching as fellow citizens – possibly a third of them – reveal to us their open animus for us through their continued support of him.

But it’s not just Trump. Dina Nayeri introduces another character in this drama:

On Wednesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her ingratitude. “After everything America has done for Omar and for her family,” Carlson told his viewers, “she hates this country more than ever.” He called it “ominous” that Omar should have such disdain for his country’s values. “Our country rescued Ilhan Omar from the single worst place on earth,” said Carlson. “We didn’t do it to get rich – in fact it cost us money. We did it because we are kind people. How did Ilhan Omar respond to the remarkable gift we gave her? She scolded us and called us names.”

Now that Donald Trump has stopped listening to Sean Hannity and instead seems to listen to Tucker Carlson to discover what he should be thinking, this is significant:

There is so much miseducation and bad faith in that tiny word “we”. Carlson had nothing to do with Omar’s rescue from Somalia. He is just a privileged man who won the lottery of birth. If it were up to him, she would never have been allowed in. But even if he had been the very asylum officer who swung the door open for Omar’s family, the “we” implies that a place in America was his to give, that he is somehow entitled to (but she has been gifted) the freedoms and education and powerful voices they both enjoy.

And that make Omar an ungrateful bitch:

I don’t watch Carlson’s show. I found out about this incident because I have a Google alert for “ungrateful refugee,” a term his followers began to throw around shortly after his comments aired. That phrase also happens to be the name of my new book and a major intellectual and philosophical preoccupation since I escaped Iran in 1988 and arrived in the U.S. via an Italian refugee camp 16 months later – at 10 years old, the same age Omar was when she arrived.

For reference, the book is The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You – an extended excerpt appeared the Guardian – and this is the woman:

Dina Nayeri (born 1979) is an Iranian American novelist, essayist, and short story writer…

Nayeri was born in Isfahan, Iran. Her mother was a doctor and her father a dentist. She spent the first 8 years of her life in Isfahan but fled Iran with her mother and brother Daniel in 1988 because her mother had converted to Christianity and the moral police of the Islamic Republic had threatened her with execution. Nayeri, her mother and her brother spent two years in Dubai and Rome as asylum seekers and eventually settled in Oklahoma, in the United States. Her father remained in Iran, where he still lives. When she was 15, in 1994, she became an American citizen, alongside her mother and brother.

Nayeri holds a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and a Master of Education and MBA from Harvard University. She also holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

And now she says this:

The term “ungrateful refugee” is designed specifically to remind us that immigrants will never be as American as the native-born, no matter how much time passes, how much good they do for their new country, and what citizenship they obtain. It is a calculated attempt to reinforce nativist power dynamics between the children of the rooted and the children of the displaced, to remind the latter that they will forever owe their lives to someone else. And yet, it is uttered most often by those who have never had or will ever have anything to do with anyone’s rescue – these are, in fact, the very people who wish to shut the door and throw away the key.

More baffling is that the term “ungrateful refugee” goes against one of Carlson’s (and his fans’) own loudest beliefs: the call for a quick assimilation. Though these nativists don’t actually care what goes on in the hearts and minds of migrants and refugees, they want them to posture weakness, thankfulness, subjection, and then a full and visible transformation – quick, theatrical Americanness for the benefit of the native-born. “You’ve had five, 10 years here,” they think. “Learn our ways already.”

But that’s the problem, because they may learn actual American ways:

If a person is to assimilate and become American, they have to be allowed to participate in the American democratic process. They have to be able to think freely, to make arguments, to arrive at different conclusions than their neighbors, teachers, and, cable news personalities do. To be told they must agree with some segment of the native-born is undemocratic and absurd.

Is Carlson suggesting that giving asylum to Omar was a bad decision because she has different ideas than he does? Putting aside the value of her life, does the fact that, like Carlson himself, Omar has political ideas and critiques of her country disqualify her to be his peer? Does he expect that her private gratitude should lead her to give up her agency, her freedom of thought? Should a churchgoing American be assigned to do her thinking for her?

Carlson sees Omar as “a living fire alarm, a warning to the rest of us” about what can happen when you let in immigrants like her. How does he plan to decide who is homegrown enough to police the political engagement of newer citizens?

And that’s where this all falls apart:

Carlson doesn’t care about the intellectual hollowness of his argument because his concern isn’t genuine. He doesn’t think that participating in democracy is harmful to America or to the people who welcomed her family. He’s afraid only for himself.

The same can be said of Donald Trump.

Does Trump actually believe that the intelligence and capability of this American-raised and educated woman come into question because of the failings of the Somalian government she escaped? Does he think that everyone born in America has a hand in its success and everyone who was born in a ravaged country is similarly responsible for its ruin? Am I, a woman who escaped the Islamic Republic at eight, responsible for its atrocities?

No. This isn’t about America’s welfare or Omar’s qualifications. Quite the opposite: Trump and Carlson see Omar’s potential and are desperate to clip her wings – and the wings of every immigrant who may come into her gifts on American soil.

In short, these men see a read danger:

These men understand that the most powerful immigrants – those they see as threats – are the ones who actually took their vile instructions to heart and did everything we were asked to do. We became American, and highly educated ones too. In so changing, we found our voices. We saw that, though we were born in far unluckier places, we have all the same talents as our Western-born peers. We saw that we can compete and win. We learned that in America, if you see injustice or hypocrisy, you don’t bow lower, always afraid of being tossed back to the hell you once knew. You fight for every hard-earned belief.

They became American, and they left Trump and Carlson far behind:

These are mediocre men raised at the trough of extreme Western privilege. They have taken from the poorest countries, from the poorest families in America, in a thousand ways. They hope the day never comes that new arrivals will get up, cast off their trauma and shame, and assert the right to participate in the great project of America. Because if new immigrants allow themselves to be full citizens with voices, then what would winning the birth lottery do for Trump or Carlson or for their children?

They would have to compete with all the talented children of the world, instead of just the ones born here, in the land of the lucky few who control and consume all the earth’s bounty.

That might explain Trump’s tweets. “Why don’t you go back to where you came from?”

The answer is still the same. It doesn’t work that way.

Liberia was a bad idea. The American Colonization Society was a bad idea. In his second term, Abraham Lincoln publicly abandoned the idea of colonization after speaking with Frederick Douglass about the matter, and that was that. But now the Republican Party is once again the American Colonization Society. We’re going backwards.

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The Summer Gone Wrong

That was an odd week. It was the middle of summer and there was no baseball, except for that pleasant All-Star Game that means nothing at all – and then the season resumed on Friday evening. That’s fine. Everyone needs a rest. But only the baseball players got any rest. Everyone else watched things fall apart in Washington. The week ended with President Trump announcing that there would be no “citizenship” question on the 2020 forms, and no census-taker would ask about that – which he had said was absolutely necessary. No one else thought so. The Supreme Court said sure, add that question, but only if you explain why that question is necessary – because your previous explanation was nonsense. That proved difficult, and Trump seems to have decided that this wasn’t the moment to assert that the president does not ever have to do what the Supreme Court says, or not do what they say he cannot do. Perhaps he’s saving that for later. But this time he didn’t say that what the Supreme Court thinks about anything is irrelevant. He shrugged. He’ll get the “citizenship data” elsewhere – he said he was going to sign an executive order that all federal agencies provide that, which they already do, but it sounded forceful.

So, did Trump lose this one? He says no – he’ll get his data – but the ACLU said this:

Trump’s attempt to weaponize the census ends not with a bang but a whimper.

He lost in the Supreme Court, which saw through his lie about needing the question for the Voting Rights Act. It is clear he simply wanted to sow fear in immigrant communities and turbocharge Republican gerrymandering efforts by diluting the political influence of Latino communities.

He then tried a mulligan, but his keystone cops couldn’t settle on a new rationale for the question; they couldn’t even figure out how to swap out legal teams. Now he’s backing down and taking the option that he rejected more than a year ago. Trump may claim victory today, but this is nothing short of a total, humiliating defeat for him and his administration.

When the details of Trump’s new plan to compile citizenship data outside of the census come out – and his plans for using that data – we will scrutinize them closely and assess their legality.

They’re going to be busy. The new argument will be that the census itself is kind of useless. Slate’s Jeremy Stahl explains here:

The announcement does not mark the end of the administration’s efforts to dilute Latino political power. Prior to the Supreme Court’s rulings, evidence emerged that a GOP redistricting operative had helped to concoct the citizenship question as a means of drawing maps in a way that would be “a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites.”

But there are ways around that:

During the Rose Garden speech, both Trump and Barr seemed to concede that the actual reason for the citizenship question was to offer Republicans and “non-Hispanic whites” an advantage in future redistricting efforts. Both promised that the executive order would provide information that could be used in such efforts.

“This information is also relevant to administering our elections,” Trump said. “Some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts based upon the voter-eligible population. Indeed, the same day the Supreme Court handed down the census decision it also said it would not review certain types of districting decisions, which could encourage states to make such decisions based on voter eligibility.”

Trump was saying that states could simply ignore the census data:

In that second Supreme Court case, cited by Trump, the court ruled that questions of excessive partisan gerrymandering are not reviewable by courts. The fact that Trump brought it up is further confirmation that the citizenship question was never about enforcing voting rights, but rather an effort to entrench Republican and “non-Hispanic white” advantage in elections.

In more genteel terms, Attorney General Barr essentially said the same thing.

“That information will be used for countless purposes, as the president explained in his remarks today,” the attorney general offered. “For example, there is a current dispute over whether illegal aliens can be included for apportionment purposes. Depending on the resolution of that dispute, this data may be relevant to those considerations. We will be studying this issue.”

No, they’ve already studied the issue. Trump’s justice department will support the argument made by certain states that although the Constitution says “persons” those who chose that word really meant the voter-eligible population – citizens only would be counted – or only registered voters. That’s what the Framers must have meant, even if they didn’t write that down.

The Republicans are serious about this:

As University of California–Irvine election law expert and Slate contributor Richard Hasen noted in his analysis of the decision, this effort to change how states are apportioned according to voting-eligible population rather than total population is still very much a live issue:

“The government will still collect citizenship data to give Republican states a way to draw districts with equal numbers of voter eligible citizens, rather than all persons, thereby diminishing Hispanic (and Democratic) voting power. The question of whether that is permissible will have to be decided by the Supreme Court, where the odds are good that drawing such discriminatory district would be allowed.”

Trump put two guys on the Supreme Court to help make this so, and that’s where this is headed:

Basically, the Constitution says that redistricting is meant to take place according to a census count that includes an “actual enumeration” of the “respective numbers” of “counting the whole number of persons in each State.” But as Hasen has noted, in the 2016 Supreme Court ruling Evenwel v. Abbott, Roberts’ court left open the question of whether this language actually means states must draw district lines according to total population, or can do so on the basis of voting-eligible population.

Alabama has revived the effort to exclude noncitizens from its apportionment count in a lawsuit against the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department.

Stahl adds this:

While completely surrendering on this citizenship question fight, Trump’s executive order leaves open the door for future such efforts to redefine who counts as a part of the U.S. population.

It seems that some people just won’t count. That’s the plan. Was this nothing short of a total, humiliating defeat for Trump and his administration? No, this really didn’t matter very much. Trump will save any declaration that the Supreme Court doesn’t matter at all any longer for some other issue. He’s got this one covered.

But now Congress doesn’t matter at all. Tierney Sneed reports on that:

If anything was clear from Friday’s appeals court hearing in the accounting firm subpoena case, President Trump is going all in on the argument that Congress has almost no right to investigate or regulate his conduct.

The hearing, which lasted more than double the one hour it was allotted, featured Trump’s personal attorney doubling down on an a number of incredible claims. Attorney William Consovoy told the court that there is almost no legislation Congress could constitutionally pass to rein in any unethical behavior by the President. Because of that, Consovoy argued, there were no legitimate legislative reasons for the House Oversight Committee to subpoena Trump’s accounting firm for his finances.

And that was that:

The judges on the court at times appeared surprised by how extreme Consovoy’s theory was.

“Imagine, in the future, you have the most corrupt president in humankind, openly flaunting it, what law could Congress pass?” Judge Patricia Millett, an Obama appointee asked.

Consovoy said that it was “very hard to think of one.”

And he smiled at them:

The case is a lawsuit Trump brought against the accounting firm Mazars to block it from complying with a subpoena for the Trump family’s and business’ financial records. The House Oversight Committee has intervened in the case to defend the subpoena, and a district judge already rejected the President’s arguments.

But on Tuesday, Consovoy did not appear humbled in the least by the monumental smack-down he received from the district court. He conceded not an inch to the idea that Congress might be able to pass a law based on what it learned of Trump’s finances. He said that even if Congress could, the House’s claims that it’s looking at potential legislation were not to be trusted.

This argument came to head toward the end the first hour he spent arguing in front of the court.

“I take it your theory is that he’s absolutely immune to any oversight? Is that right?” Judge Millet asked Consovoy, who would only offer the Presidential Records Act as an example of whether Congress could regulate the President.

“Is that it?” she asked, her voice raised as Consovoy struggled to offer another example of where Congress could address the President’s conduct.

He couldn’t come up with anything but that didn’t matter:

Underlying this argument was another, perhaps crazier one: that in assessing the legality of the House’s subpoena, the court was required to assess the legality of any potential legislation that could arise from the lawmakers’ investigation…

The judges brought up Congress’ authority to investigate the executive branch’s compliance with the law. Consovoy claimed that the office of the President is not part of the executive branch in that way.

He said that Congress could investigate corruption with regards to an agency, but not with regards to the President.

He argued that if Congress wanted to investigate broadly the effectiveness of the law, it could not target one individual person’s compliance.

Okay, no one can investigate the president, ever, and the President is not part of the executive branch anyway. But what is he? That was buried deep in Trump’s Thursday morning tweetstorm:

Trump demeaned Elizabeth Warren by describing her as “a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas.”

Trump went on to compare Warren unfavorably with himself, describing himself as “so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!”

Trump is beginning to sound like Muhammad Ali – who liked to call himself “The Greatest” – but without Ali’s sly irony. Ali was kidding around. Trump is serious. There’s something wrong with this man.

And that was evident on Friday morning:

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s resignation Friday amid the mushrooming Jeffrey Epstein investigation made him the latest in a growing list of President Trump’s Cabinet members to depart under a cloud of scandal, plunging an administration that has struggled with record turnover into further upheaval.

Trump announced the departure in a morning appearance with Acosta on the South Lawn of the White House, telling reporters that his labor secretary had chosen to step down a day after defending himself in a contentious news conference over his role as a U.S. attorney a decade ago in a deal with Epstein that allowed the financier to plead guilty to lesser offenses in a sex-crimes case involving underage girls.

This was just too hot to handle right now, so Trump did what he could to make this seem okay:

The president expressed regret over Acosta’s decision, calling him a “great labor secretary” and saying he had reassured the secretary that “you don’t have to do this.”

“It was him, not me,” Trump said, though behind the scenes, he had grown uncertain about Acosta’s future, according to administration aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

This wasn’t okay:

The sole Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet said the intense media focus on his role in Epstein’s case while he was a U.S. attorney in Florida had threatened to become a distraction that would undermine his work for the administration. Trump has sought to promote robust job growth and record-low unemployment in his appeal to workers and organized labor as he ramps up his reelection campaign.

But Trump, who as a private businessman had socialized with Epstein in the early 2000s, has come under renewed scrutiny for his ties to the disgraced financier and has faced fresh questions over his decision to hire Acosta.

So this really did have to go away:

Trump said that Patrick Pizzella, the deputy secretary of labor, will become acting secretary of the department.

And so it goes:

Acosta’s rapid downfall closed a 2½-year tenure that began only after Trump’s first choice for labor secretary, fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder, was forced to pull out over several personal and professional controversies.

In all, 13 Cabinet members named by Trump have departed over 30 months, not counting those who served in an acting capacity. Several others left amid ethics scandals, among them Tom Price at Health and Human Services, David Shulkin at Veterans Affairs, Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ryan Zinke at Interior.

Ronny L. Jackson, whom Trump nominated to replace Shulkin, had his name pulled by the White House after allegations of mismanagement during his time as the White House physician. And last month, Patrick Shanahan dropped out of contention to be the permanent defense secretary after revelations over his marriage and family background.

Several others, including Jeff Sessions at Justice, Jim Mattis at the Pentagon, Kirstjen Nielsen at Homeland Security and James B. Comey at the FBI, were forced out or resigned amid increasing acrimony in their personal relationships with Trump or the president’s frustration with their performances.

And that leaves this:

Trump has struggled to keep up with the frequent vacancies, and he has moved in several cases to allow acting secretaries, who do not require Senate confirmation, to handle the duties, raising questions of accountability from congressional Democrats and good-governance groups.

Trump says he likes it that way. That gives him more flexibility. He gets to bypass the whole confirmation process. He can put anyone he wants in charge of everything, no questions asked, for as long as he wants. Even this guy:

Incoming acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella will take the helm of the department following the resignation Friday of Alex Acosta, who faced scrutiny over his role in prosecuting alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.

But Pizzella, currently deputy Labor secretary, has his own controversial past that will likely come to the fore. Democratic senators and civil rights groups have expressed concern about Pizzella’s prior work with disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the late 1990s and early 2000s to hamper worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands.

This was a scam:

When Pizzella worked on Abramoff’s team at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the lobbying firm was pushing to prevent Congress from imposing minimum wage laws on the Northern Mariana Islands. At the time, there were “maximum” wage restrictions on the islands of $3.05 per hour for foreign workers, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

“Foreign workers pay up to $7,000 to employers or middlemen for the right to a job in the CNMI. When they finally reach the Commonwealth, they are assigned to tedious, low paying work for long hours with little or no time off. At night they are locked in prison-like barracks,” one government report found.

Abramoff was one of those middlemen. Abramoff was sentenced to six years in prison on fraud-related charges in 2006 and served four years and was released. He’s nobody now. Pizzella will be acting secretary of labor probably for as long as Trump is president. Congress has no say in this matter. No one has any say in this matter, although he held positions for both Bush and Obama. Maybe he’ll be fine. But who knows?

That’s how the week ended. Baseball started up again and Donald Trump is still president. And there’s something wrong with this man. Michelle Goldberg ends the week with this:

On Monday, Donald Trump disinvited the then-British ambassador, Kim Darroch, from an official administration dinner with the emir of Qatar, because he was mad about leaked cables in which Darroch assessed the president as “insecure” and “incompetent.”

There was room at the dinner, however, for Trump’s friend Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, who was charged in a prostitution sting this year. Kraft was allegedly serviced at a massage parlor that had once been owned by Li Yang, known as Cindy, a regular at Trump’s club Mar-a-Lago. Yang is now the target of an FBI inquiry into whether she funneled Chinese money into Trump’s political operation.

An ordinary president would not want to remind the world of the Kraft and Yang scandals at a time when Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest has hurled Trump’s other shady associations back into the limelight.

But he took care of that, or perhaps not:

Even with Acosta gone, however, Epstein remains a living reminder of the depraved milieu from which the president sprang, and of the corruption and misogyny that continue to swirl around him. Trump has been only intermittently interested in distancing himself from that milieu. More often he has sought, whether through strategy or instinct, to normalize it.

And that’s what’s makes this so strange:

This weekend, Trump National Doral, one of the president’s Florida clubs, planned to host a fund-raiser allowing golfers to bid on strippers to serve as their caddies. Though the event was canceled when it attracted too much attention, it’s at once astounding and not surprising at all that it was approved in the first place.

In truth, a stripper auction is tame by the standard of gross Trump stories, since at least the women were willing. Your eyes would glaze over if I tried to list every Trump associate implicated in the beating or sexual coercion of women.

Instead of that Goldberg goes for the biggest hits, so to speak:

Acosta, you’ll remember, got his job because Trump’s previous pick, Andrew Puzder, withdrew following the revelation that his ex-wife, pseudonymous and in disguise, had appeared on an Oprah episode about “High Class Battered Women.” (She later retracted her accusations.)

Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, was once charged with domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness. (The case was dropped when his former wife failed to appear in court.) After Bill Shine, a former co-president of Fox News, was forced from his job for his involvement in Fox’s sprawling sexual harassment scandals, Trump hired him.

The White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned last year after it was revealed that both of his ex-wives had accused him of abuse. The White House speechwriter David Sorensen resigned after his ex-wife came forward with stories of his violence toward her.

Elliott Broidy, a major Trump fund-raiser who became the Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman, resigned last year amid news that he’d paid $1.6 million as hush money to a former playboy model, Shera Bechard, who said she’d had an abortion after he got her pregnant. (In a lawsuit, Bechard said Broidy had been violent.) The casino mogul Steve Wynn, whom Trump installed as the RNC’s finance chairman, resigned amid accusations that he’d pressured his employees for sex. He remains a major Republican donor.

In 2017, Trump tapped the former chief executive of AccuWeather, Barry Myers, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then the Washington Post discovered a report from a Department of Labor investigation into Myers’s company, which found a culture of “widespread sexual harassment” that was “severe and pervasive.” The Senate hasn’t yet voted on Myers’s nomination, but the administration hasn’t withdrawn it.

And just this week, a senior military officer came forward to accuse Gen. John Hyten, Trump’s nominee to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of derailing her career when she turned down his sexual advances. “My life was ruined by this,” she told The Associated Press. (The Air Force reportedly cleared him of misconduct.)

Yes, there is a pattern here, along with this:

Trump will sometimes jettison men accused of abuse when they become a public relations liability. But his first instinct is empathy, a sentiment he seems otherwise unfamiliar with. In May, he urged Roy Moore, the theocratic Alabama Senate candidate accused of preying on teenage girls, not to run again because he would lose, but added, “I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win.” The president has expressed no sympathy for victims in the Epstein case, but has said he felt bad for Acosta.

And there’s this:

It was just three weeks ago that E. Jean Carroll, a well-known writer, accused Trump of what amounted to a violent rape in the mid-1990s, and two friends of hers confirmed that she’d told them about it at the time. In response, Trump essentially said she was too unattractive to rape – “No. 1, she’s not my type” – and claimed that he’d never met her. That was a provable lie; there’s a photograph of them together. It didn’t matter. The story drifted from the headlines within a few days.

There is something wrong with this man, or wrong with us:

Since Epstein’s arrest, many people have wondered how he was able to get away with his alleged crimes for so long, given all that’s publicly known about him. But we also know that the president boasts about sexually assaulting women, and that over a dozen have accused him of various sorts of sexual misconduct, and one of them has accused him of rape. We know it, and we know we can’t do anything about it, so we live with it and grow numb.

And that means there’s something wrong with us now. How did it come to this? And what will it be next week?

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Not Now

Many things happened, but it was another day at the medical center down the street – more tests. They ate up the day. But there is tomorrow. Why not wrap up an odd week on Friday evening? That’s the plan.

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Driven by Anger

People do write books. Thomas Wright is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power – “a groundbreaking look at the future of great power competition in an age of globalization and what the United States can do in response” – for those into geopolitical theory. But of course Donald Trump shoots from the hip so Wright’s book doesn’t matter that much. Yes, the old alliances worked pretty well for seventy years. The United States led “the free world” with no real objections from our allies. It was an age of both overt and covert cooperation. The aim was to contain the commies. Everyone understood that. The spats were minor. France at one point pulled out of NATO – but they really didn’t. The West was a team, with a few prima donnas. That was understood, and the old alliance could work still – Wright has a few ideas about that – but that point may be moot. Donald Trump is easily angered. Donald Trump seems perpetually angered. Donald Trump thrives on being angered, and he hits back, immediately – ten times harder as he says. He doesn’t think these things through. And he doesn’t read books about geopolitical theory. He doesn’t read. He acts. No, that’s wrong. He reacts. He hits back. The rest of the job seems to bore him.

Thomas Wright is appalled by that, and now it’s specific:

Theresa May did everything she could to accommodate Donald Trump. She was the first leader to visit him after he became president. She offered him a state visit to the United Kingdom at a much earlier stage in his tenure than his predecessors had received one. She uttered nary a word of criticism of his administration. She had a foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, whom Trump likes. She accepted without protest when Trump’s decisions went against her advice – on climate change and the Iran deal, in particular.

Trump actively undermined May on at least a dozen occasions – whether by interfering in investigations into terrorist attacks or by criticizing her Brexit strategy – but every single time, the prime minister turned the other cheek. She went out of her way to make the state visit a success. The president brought his extended family to London and seemed to treasure every moment. Trump could not have wished for a prime minister who was less demanding or more sycophantic.

And none of it mattered:

Trump gave May nothing in return. Her government’s extraordinary generosity and tolerance of the intolerable could not even save the U.K. ambassador, Kim Darroch, from the president’s wrath. After the ambassador’s cables were leaked to the Daily Mail, Trump denounced him as a “pompous fool” who had not served the United Kingdom well. He declared that his administration would no longer deal with him. Darroch was immediately disinvited from a White House dinner with the emir of Qatar. He resigned…

He had to resign, but it seems that everyone knew what was going on:

Darroch’s crime was to state the obvious: that the Trump administration is inept and dysfunctional. Gérard Araud, who served as France’s ambassador to the United States for four years, told me that “anyone who has any experience of Washington would agree” with Darroch’s assessment. “There is no bureaucratic process anymore,” Araud said. He offered Syria as an example: “When Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces, nobody in the administration – not Bolton, not the head of the CIA, not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs – knew he would take this decision. They did not know what it meant. Syria was just one of countless examples. Trump makes these decisions from the hip. No one knows what he will decide or what will happen the day after.”

But one should not say such things, as only Americans can say such things:

The administration’s brazen hypocrisy on what is expected of ambassadors is unsurprising but still shocking. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has been scathing in his criticism of Brussels, calling the European Commission “out of touch with reality” and “off in the clouds.” In a New Year’s Eve interview on BBC Radio 4, Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., said he had traveled throughout the United Kingdom and found the people desperate for new leadership. Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, began his term by calling for the United States to shame Germany on defense spending, and said he wanted to empower Trumpian conservatives in Europe. And this is what they have said on the record. One can only imagine their private briefings to the president.

In short, only Americans can insult others. Americans may NOT be in insulted, ever. Those seem to be Trump’s rules, and the world will just have to deal with that, which Wright explains this way:

There are important lessons to be learned. For the United Kingdom’s next prime minister, it is obvious that flattery and sycophancy are not enough when dealing with Trump. In one cable, Darroch noted that Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were busy distancing themselves from Trump but warned London: “I don’t think we should follow them.”

He was wrong. The United Kingdom needs to fight its own corner. Trump respects only power and leverage.

But that raises other issues:

The problem for London, as Araud told me, is that “the U.K. is trapped by Brexit.” Its positions on Iran, climate, and trade are almost identical to those of continental Europe, but it is leaving Europe and so has no natural allies to turn to. The United Kingdom hoped to survive because of the special relationship, but in Trump’s Washington, Araud said, “alliances don’t matter and there is no sentimentality. The past is increasingly irrelevant.” It’s not just Trump. “Americans are not romantic; all that matters is what you are doing.”

So this will not end well:

Boris Johnson may believe that he gets on with Trump, but when he is in power, he will find that his personal rapport buys him nothing of substance. He needs leverage. He needs to be transactional. He is dealing with a man without honor.

That may be a bit severe. Boris Johnson will be dealing with a man who lives to be angered, who loves to hit back ten times harder, immediately, and who then basks in the praise for being so strong. Honor has nothing to do with it. Someone hit him. He hit back ten times harder. He ruined them. And that’s that. The “special relationship” with the Brits, that stared with FDR and the Lend Lease Program that armed them against the Nazis before anyone over here was ready to go to war is now dead. Trump killed it. But he didn’t mean to. He doesn’t seem to have given it much thought. He was just angry.

Dan Balz has given these things some thought:

Nigel Sheinwald, a former British ambassador to the United States, called Trump’s treatment of Darroch “vindictive and undignified,” adding that the president has repeatedly taken advantage of a government weakened by the Brexit stalemate. “This would never have happened under any other presidency in modern times…”

Balz reminds everyone of that:

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher occasionally sparred but were united in their conservative visions and their views of the then-Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair formed a partnership to advance centrist remakes of their political parties and tie their countries together. They were modernizers who brought their parties back to power and sought to spread the New Democrat and New Labour gospel elsewhere.

When America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, Blair was the first foreign leader to speak with President George W. Bush by telephone, and he offered unwavering support to Britain’s ally. Blair remained steadfast in his support of Bush’s subsequent policies, including the invasion of Iraq in 2003, something that has tarnished the legacies of both leaders but especially Blair’s back home in Britain.

Trump has followed a different script. He and the Brexiteers are cut from similar cloth – outsiders who tapped populist and anti-elite sentiment in their countries to upend and ultimately remake the politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

So the “special relationship” really is over:

Darroch’s resignation has forced a moment of reflection, a moment of reckoning, in the relationship between the longtime allies. The traditional ties – cooperation on defense and intelligence issues, cultural relations and all the rest – will continue apace. British and U.S. government officials will do their work as they have tried to do it for years, cordially and professionally.

But with Trump in the White House and operating as no president has before – throwing his weight around to try to force other independent actors to do what he wants – and with Brexit still unresolved and now the major fault line in British politics, the relationship between the two countries faces a period of severe strain and possible remaking.

But it is hard to remake anything without something to work with, not just chaos. The New York Times’ David Sanger reports on those difficulties:

Ask members of the Washington diplomatic corps about the cables that Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador who resigned Wednesday, wrote to London describing the dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration and their response is uniform: We wrote the same stuff.

“Yes, yes, everyone does,” Gérard Araud, who retired this spring as the French ambassador, said on Wednesday morning of his own missives from Washington. “But fortunately I knew that nothing would remain secret, so I sent them in a most confidential manner.”

So did Mr. Darroch, who, alone and with Mr. Araud, tried to navigate the minefield of serving as the chief representative of a longtime American ally to a president who does not think much of the value of alliances.

So they both made sure no one but one or two people saw what they wrote. They were both careful – but Darroch got hacked by someone who wanted him gone – a “hard Brexit” fanatical white nationalist Boris Johnson supporter, or the Russians having fun, or Steve Bannon – no one knows. But it really doesn’t matter:

“It could have been any of us,” one ambassador, who is still serving and therefore spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday.

But all signs point to Boris Johnson:

Mr. Darroch submitted his resignation the morning after Boris Johnson, who this month is likely to become Britain’s next prime minister, notably declined during a televised debate to defend the diplomat and also refused to criticize President Trump…

Mr. Johnson’s failure to back the ambassador was met with withering criticism from opponents, including his rival in the leadership race, Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary. Mr. Hunt called Mr. Trump’s comments “unacceptable” and said that he would keep Mr. Darroch in his job.

“The fact that Sir Kim has been bullied out of his job because of Donald Trump’s tantrums and Boris Johnson’s pathetic lickspittle response is something that shames our country,” said Emily Thornberry, the British opposition Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary. “It makes a laughingstock out of our government.”

She added, “Just imagine Churchill allowing this humiliating, servile, sycophantic indulgence of the American president’s ego to go unchallenged.”

Johnson, however, seems convinced that the Brits want to be ruled by Donald Trump, so he’ll help them out with that. He’ll be Trump’s lieutenant there, the next best thing to Prime Minister Trump. Who doesn’t like Trump? Who doesn’t love Trump?

That’s an odd gamble, but Sanger is more interested in the death of diplomacy in Washington:

With a few exceptions – including the ambassadors from Israel and the United Arab Emirates, who have supported Mr. Trump’s every move – foreign diplomats in Washington these days describe living in something of a black hole.

Decisions that directly affect their nations’ trade relationships or troops are delivered with no notice. Their contacts in the State and Treasury Departments as well as in Congress freely tell them they have little idea what decisions Mr. Trump may make.

And the Trump administration has almost reveled in keeping foreign diplomats in the dark. While Mr. Darroch, following in the tradition of his predecessors, hosted receptions in the British Embassy’s grand ballroom and weekend cocktail parties under tents on the lawn overlooking Embassy Row, few administration officials have attended.

But it’s more than that:

Mr. Trump’s secretaries of state, Rex W. Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, did not appear to nurture the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain, nor did Vice President Mike Pence, who lives next door to the British Embassy.

While Mr. Darroch often tried to reach out to the White House and the National Security Council, like most of the ambassadors from North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, he never quite felt that he broke into the inner circle.

And that’s a serious problem:

In December, when Mr. Trump announced on Twitter that the United States was withdrawing forces from Syria – where both the British and the French have deployed troops, some of them dependent on the American forces for transportation and intelligence – Mr. Darroch was given no notice.

He called around the capital, reaching out to key members of Congress and national security reporters to glean information. To be fair, Mr. Trump’s own national security team was also taken aback, and the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned in protest. (Mr. Trump later insisted Mr. Mattis was fired.)

Okay, no one was told anything, but that doesn’t make anything better, and this happens a lot:

Similarly, the White House barely gave allies notice last year of Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement, even though Britain, France and Germany had helped negotiate it. As one NATO ambassador noted, it took weeks for the administration to gather them and describe its new Iran strategy, which was composed largely of a series of 12 demands that Mr. Pompeo also announced in a speech.

“For me, as a foreigner, it was fascinating,” said Mr. Araud, who said he looks back at his tenure as French ambassador as a grand political science experiment. “It’s what happens when a populist leader takes command in a liberal democracy. These people don’t recognize or accept the idea that an ambassador or a bureaucrat could be of any use. They only want to deal with other leaders.”

And that is how things went:

Mr. Araud recalled a moment in 2017 when France’s foreign minister was planning a trip to Washington. The ambassador gave the State Department two months’ notice to try to get on Mr. Tillerson’s schedule. He did not hear back until a day before the event, Mr. Araud recalled, and was told the meeting would last only 20 minutes.

“So the minister didn’t come,” Mr. Araud said.

So the old alliances are dead. Diplomacy is dead. The leader speaks and that’s that.

But who does he listen to? That would be these folks:

President Donald Trump is scheduled to host several right-wing internet personalities at an event Thursday that the White House said was intended to “share how they have been affected by bias online.”

Trump and other Republican politicians have recently amplified attacks on social media companies for what they see as unfair censorship directed at conservatives. Trump has repeatedly decried “censorship” of users who have been banned from social media for breaking terms-of-service agreements on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Some users have had their accounts terminated by social media platforms for operating fake accounts or directing hate speech at other users.

Trump wants to make sure these voices are not silenced ever again:

While the Trump administration has generally embraced the far-right social media sphere, Thursday’s event will be one of the first to bring that digital ecosystem into the real world. Disinformation researchers who spoke with NBC News said the event further legitimizes a network of social media personalities who repeatedly target politicians and social media users with disinformation, trolling and harassment campaigns.

So it will be the usual. The moon landing was faked. So was Sandy Hook. Both the Boston Marathon bombing and the 9/11 attacks were false flag operations – our government did that to control our minds. And Hillary Clinton did run a child sex slave ring out of a pizza shop in Virginia, after she had murdered Vince Foster. And of course George Soros is part of a Jewish Conspiracy to fill America with Mexican drug dealers and murderers and rapists, and gang members, many of whom are ISIS terrorists.

But there are limits:

The toxicity of at least one of the attendees has already caused problems for the event.

Cartoonist Ben Garrison, who was initially invited to the summit, is no longer attending. Garrison faced criticism for a cartoon that showed George Soros as a puppet-master. The Anti-Defamation League called the cartoon “anti-Semitic” in 2017. Images of Soros, a Democratic donor who is frequently the target of conspiracy theories, have been a recurring trope in Garrison’s cartoons.

 But others will take up the slack:

Conspiracy theorist Bill Mitchell, an online radio host and frequent guest on Infowars who has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, has tweeted that he will attend the event. Tim Pool, a YouTube personality who has pushed the false conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich leaked hacked emails to WikiLeaks, also plans to attend the event.

Right-wing commentator Ali Alexander also received an invitation. Alexander made headlines in recent weeks for questioning Kamala Harris’s ethnicity in a tweet that was re-tweeted by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., and her father and mother are immigrants from Jamaica and India, respectively.

The White House has neither disclosed how guests were invited to the summit nor provided a full list of expected participants, but did say on Wednesday night that the event would be closed to the press.

And there’s this too:

The only social media network that has publicly said it’s attending is Minds – billed as the crypto “anti-Facebook” and once home to several neo-Nazi extremist groups. Pulp, a public relations firm that counts Minds among its client list, posted a photo of the invitation the fringe social media site received to the White House for the summit.

So there it is. Trump blows off our allies. He humiliates their leaders and then their ambassadors. He keeps his own military and diplomats in the dark about everything. But he’ll huddle with the neo-Nazis to see what can be done in this sorry world now. This is what we signed up for, right? Were we that angry?

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