Trump’s Lost Weekend

Things go right when everything goes wrong. That’s what happened in 1945 with Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend – Ray Milland as the alcoholic writer who loses everything, and Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan’s first wife, as the good woman who tries to save him from himself. (She does.) This was film noir at its most noir – darker than dark – and it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four – Best Picture and Best Director and Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. It shared the Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival too. People do love seeing everything go wrong. It doesn’t even matter that the alcoholic writer promises to go sober. That’s tagged on at the end of the movie. The audiences came to watch the good stuff. They came to watch everything go wrong. They came to watch Ray Milland disintegrate. That was cool.

That’s not so cool in real life. This was Donald Trump’s lost weekend. He disintegrated, and it wasn’t just the loss of the House in the midterm elections. Other things were going wrong. There was another mass shooting. A former Marine shot and killed eleven college kids in a country and western bar out here in Thousand Oaks, just northwest of Los Angeles, and shot and killed one of the police – a good guy who had rushed in to save the day – and then shot and killed himself. There wasn’t much to say. There wasn’t much to tweet. Who could he be mad at about all this? This was a week after that “nationalist” out to save the nation from that caravan of asylum seekers in Mexico, those invaders, shot and killed all those people at that Pittsburgh synagogue, who he thought were helping the invaders, two days after that white guy in Kentucky decided he’d execute random black folks at the local Kroger store, and did. Things seem to be falling apart. Donald Trump was not going to call for gun control – he thinks that’s stupid and dangerous – but he really couldn’t claim that everyone should now be heavily armed at all times. That would be even more stupid and more dangerous. Even the NRA had fallen silent.

This was not the time to say anything at all – but then, out in Thousand Oaks, a brush fire got out of hand. Within a day a hundred squares miles had burnt to the ground, all the way out to the Pacific, all the way out to Malibu. And things were worse in northern California. The town of Paradise was gone.

That was it. That was something to tweet about. He could be outraged at that. Someone was to blame, and it wasn’t him, but by the end of the weekend, as Politico notes, that was going all wrong:

California Gov. Jerry Brown, now seeking a “major disaster declaration” from the White House to bolster the emergency response to three catastrophic wildfires, warned Sunday that those who deny climate change “are definitely contributing to the tragedy” of what he predicted could be years of damaging firestorms due to rising temperatures and increased drought conditions in his state.

“Things like this will be part of our future… things like this, and worse,” warned Brown at a Sunday press conference, flanked by fire and emergency officials delivering an update on three major fires still raging through the state which have killed 25 to date. “That’s why it’s so important to take steps to help communities, to do prevention and adaptation.”

Jerry Brown was not impressed with the man who had claimed all of that climate change stuff was a hoax cooked up by the Chinese to ruin our economy, or by all the world’s scientists to ruin our economy, because scientists hate capitalism. Jerry Brown was not impressed with what this man had tweeted:

Brown’s remarks came after a tweet by Trump on Saturday in which the president argued: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

This was Jerry Brown’s fault! No more money for him or his state!

Brown disagreed:

“Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change – and those that deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedy,” Brown said. “The chickens are coming home to roost. This is real here.”

Brown’s comments came at the site of a state operations center coordinating the response to three major fires in Butte County, as well as Ventura and Los Angeles counties, which have destroyed over 6,700 structures and forced the evacuation nearly 150,000 residents, with 25 dead and 100 still missing. More than 3,000 firefighters from seven states were battling the blazes whipped up by winds as high as 40 mph in some regions Sunday, officials said.

Trump didn’t seem to care, because this is California:

In August, Trump criticized California wildfire management and threatened to cut off federal aid, inaccurately suggesting that the state was allowing millions of gallons of water to flow to the sea rather than using the water for fighting fires.

The president, who polls show is historically unpopular in the state, has called Brown “Moonbeam,” slamming the governor’s position to limit the role of National Guard troops along the border with Mexico. His latest tweets also came during the same week Republicans suffered big losses in the midterm elections, which could end up with the state’s GOP caucus in the House withering to eight out of 53 members when the full vote count is finished.

During the election cycle, the president also jabbed at Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, calling him a “clown” as he endorsed Newsom’s unsuccessful Republican rival, John Cox, for governor.

Okay, we all called Jerry Brown “Governor Moonbeam” the first time he was governor forty years ago – he was dating Linda Ronstadt and doing the peace-and-love thing, being a social justice Jesuit fellow at the time. Now the state runs a surplus and everything works just fine, and the problem is President Moonbeam:

Trump’s critical comments over the weekend sparked a blistering response from Brian Rice, head of the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters organization, who called the president’s attack “ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to victims and to our firefighters on the front lines.”

Rice directly refuted Trump’s assertion of mismanagement as “dangerously wrong,” noting in a statement that “nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another one-third under private control.” He charged that “it is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.”

Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup, reacting to Trump in a statement, said, “Our focus is on the Californians impacted by these fires and the first responders and firefighters working around the clock to save lives and property – not on the president’s inane, uninformed tweets.”

This was not going well:

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also angrily tweeted to Trump: “What is wrong with you? Disaster victims deserve help and sympathy. Oh, and guess who owns much of the forest land in CA? Your federal agencies! CA only owns 2%. Guess who cut funding to forest management in the budget? YOU DID!”

And Rep. Adam Schiff, another California Democrat, slammed Trump’s response on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, saying: “People are losing their lives, losing loved ones, losing their homes. For the president, at a time when people are facing utter disaster, to be making a statement like this, making a threat like this, this just goes to show how little he understands the job he has.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) echoed the California Democrats’ concerns, telling “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd: “I don’t think it’s appropriate to threaten funding. That’s not going to happen. Funding will be available. It always is available to our people wherever they are, whatever disaster they are facing.”

So, the Republican senator here said Trump was all bullshit – don’t take him seriously – but that doesn’t change this:

Three fires are blazing through the state. In Northern California’s Butte County, the Camp fire has destroyed more than 6,700 structures and left 23 people dead, making it the state’s most destructive fire. More than 250,000 have been evacuated – and two have died – in the wake of the Woolsey fire, which has raced through Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks in Southern California, destroying homes and continuing to threatening parts of Simi Valley and West Hills. The Hill fire burned more than 4,000 acres in canyons near Camarillo Springs and Cal State Channel Islands, west of Thousand Oaks.

A state of emergency has been declared in Los Angeles, Ventura and Butte counties because of multiple fires, and late last week California secured direct federal assistance to further support the affected communities, Brown’s office said.

Yes, Trump released the funds. It was all bluster. But that is who he is:

Trump did not visit California after deadly fires in Santa Rosa and Redding over the summer caused billions of dollars in damage – a decision that many Democrats in the state saw as an intentional slight that contrasted dramatically with the president’s visits to red states like Florida and Texas, which have suffered hurricane damage.

That was an intentional slight – the Republican Party has all but died in California and the state went for Hillary Clinton last time around – two to one. Screw them.

It’s not just them. Jonathan Swan reports this:

President Trump doesn’t want to give Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria, White House officials have told congressional appropriators and leadership. This is because he claims, without evidence, that the island’s government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.

Trump also told senior officials last month that he would like to claw back some of the federal money Congress has already set aside for Puerto Rico’s disaster recovery, claiming mismanagement.

No, he can’t do that:

Trump won’t be able to take away disaster funds that have already been set aside by Congress, and sources close to the situation tell me the White House hasn’t asked Republican lawmakers to do so. But Trump could refuse to sign a future spending bill that would make more money available for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

It seems he can only do future damage, and of course this too was a misunderstanding:

In late October, Trump grew furious after reading a Wall Street Journal article by Matt Wirz, according to five sources familiar with the president’s reaction. The article said that “Puerto Rico bond prices soared after the federal oversight board that runs the U.S. territory’s finances released a revised fiscal plan that raises expectations for disaster funding and economic growth.”

President Moonbeam mistook things getting a bit better for a scam:

Sources with direct knowledge told me Trump concluded – without evidence – that Puerto Rico’s government was scamming federal disaster funds to pay down its debt.

On Oct. 23, Trump falsely claimed in a tweet that Puerto Rico’s “inept politicians are trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations.”

At the same time, White House officials told congressional leadership that Trump was inflamed by the Wall Street Journal article and “doesn’t want to include additional Puerto Rico funding in further spending bills,” according to a congressional leadership aide. “He was unhappy with what he believed was mismanagement of money,” the aide said. A second source said Trump misinterpreted the Journal article, concluding falsely that the Puerto Rican government was using disaster relief funds to pay down debt.

A third source said Trump told top officials in an October meeting that he wanted to claw back congressional funds that had previously been set aside for Puerto Rico’s recovery. “He’s always been pissed off by Puerto Rico,” the source added.

He’s always been pissed off by California too. He’s always pissed off. He may not be Ray Milland drinking himself into oblivion, but this was a lost weekend.

In fact, Donald Trump was lost in Paris. The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Alissa Rubin cover that:

Dozens of leaders from around the globe marched in the soaking rain down the Champs Élysées on Sunday, expressing solidarity for an international order that had its origins in the end of a world war 100 years ago, an order now under increasing pressure on both sides of the Atlantic.

Only after these leaders arrived by foot at the Arc de Triomphe did President Trump show up, protected from the rain as he made an individual entrance. A few minutes later, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did the same.

Baker and Rubin think that was unintentionally symbolic, but it was symbolic:

No one has done more to break up the postwar global system in the last couple of years than Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. As the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I was commemorated on Sunday, Mr. Trump’s brand of “America First” nationalism was rebuked from the podium while he sat stone-faced and unmoved, alienated from some of America’s strongest allies, including his French hosts.

That was a bit brutal:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a speech at the Arc de Triomphe, welcoming the leaders and extolling an old system now under siege. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?'”

Recalling the forces that led to World War I, Mr. Macron warned that “the old demons” have been resurfacing and declared that “giving into the fascination for withdrawal, isolationism, violence and domination would be a grave error that future-generations would, very rightly, make us responsible for.”

Mr. Trump, who recently declared himself “a nationalist,” appeared grim as he listened to the speech through an earpiece and clapped only tepidly afterward. He had no speaking role and made no mention of the issues Mr. Macron raised during an address later at a cemetery for American soldiers killed in the war.

He had, after all, already had his say:

Mr. Trump seeks to rewrite the rules that have governed the world in recent decades. He has abandoned international agreements on trade, nuclear proliferation and climate change, and disparaged alliances like NATO and the European Union.

On the campaign trail this fall, Mr. Trump railed against what he called the “rule of corrupt, power-hungry globalists,” as he put it at a rally in Houston. “You know what a globalist is, right? You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that.”

But perhaps we can have that:

Mr. Macron has now, in effect, given a rebuttal. In addition to the speech, he also used an interview with Fareed Zakaria of CNN that aired Sunday to define himself as “a patriot” rather than a “nationalist.”

“I do defend my country,” Mr. Macron said. “I do believe that we have a strong identity. But I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples, and I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody, where the nationalists are sometimes much more based on a unilateral approach and the law of the strongest, which is not my case.”

Ah, but not everyone agrees:

Mr. Trump’s views have been embraced by other Western leaders, some of whom, like Viktor Orban in Hungary, have made an anti-immigrant stance the keystone of their policy.

“He’s not isolated,” said Bruce Jentleson, a scholar at Duke University, citing nationalist politicians across Europe. “They’ve all benefited from him as precedent.” Other leaders have even adopted and adapted Trump phrases like “fake news” and “America First” for their countries.

But, Mr. Jentleson said, it “mostly gives him second-tier players like Poland, Hungary, Italy, and not the big guys like Germany and France.”

Trump has made us some strange allies, which may create problems:

Even some of those nationalists do not favor unraveling the world order entirely so much as changing the rules, as with President Xi Jinping of China or the Europeans who want better arrangements within the European Union, not a departure from it.

Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state for Europe, said Mr. Trump’s nationalism did not reflect a consensus even within his own administration, which still has senior officials with a more traditional internationalist outlook.

“The danger to the world is not that Trump will lead the nationalists, sweeping them to remake the world in an ugly, pre-1914 image or a dystopian counter-world of the U.S. siding with the fascists in World War II,” he said. “The danger is that Trump may take the U.S. out of the game – à la the interwar period – long enough for one of the serious nationalists, Putin or Xi, to do major damage.”

That is an issue, but there were minor issues too:

Mr. Trump’s two-day visit to Paris was marred by his decision on Saturday to scrap a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at the foot of the hill where the Battle of Belleau Wood was fought. Aides cited the rain in canceling a helicopter flight, but it went over badly in Europe.

Christopher Dickey comments on that:

Using a little rain (very little) as an excuse, Trump blew off a long-planned visit to the graves of more than 1,000 U.S. Marines killed in the ferocious fight for Belleau Wood in the bloody spring of 1918. No other heads of state failed to make their appointed rounds at battlefield cemeteries. But ironically it seems that Marine One, the presidential helicopter, was deterred by drizzle.

Even Trump’s most credulous supporters must find that hard to believe. And one would like to know what his two most important enablers, the former four-star Marine generals Secretary of Defense James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, think of the way Trump disrespected those brave members of that proud corps. Probably we will have to wait for their memoirs, but, of course, those will just be part of history.

The truth is, Trump never wanted to be here in the first place, and his performance on Saturday reflected his trademark truculent petulance. He wanted to be in Washington reviewing a massive military parade all his own, like the one he saw in Paris on Bastille Day 2017 — the same one put on every year here in France — which he had taken to be, yes, somehow about him as well.

There was no parade. He was grumpy. He sent Kelly to go stand in the rain, and then, the next day:

Sunday’s event was, as long planned, an assembly of more than 60 heads of state and government, a total of some 90 delegations, who do remember the history of a worldwide war in which millions of people died and the future of humanity was forever altered. But Trump said that attendance was up because the United States (that is, Trump) decided to come.

Maybe Trump’s die-hard American supporters believe this stuff. But the rest of the world sees it as ludicrous and contemptible.

Baker and Rubin then cover Sunday:

Mr. Trump had another chance to pay respects to the war dead on Sunday at the Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris, where 1,565 American soldiers are buried. Speaking in a drenching rain, Mr. Trump paid tribute to the soldiers and praised Franco-American relations, largely sticking to his prepared text without responding to Mr. Macron.

“The American and French patriots of World War I embodied the timeless virtues of our two republics – honor and courage, strength and valor, love and loyalty, grace and glory,” he said after visiting a field of white crosses. “It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago.”

In contrast to the stiff interactions with the American president, Mr. Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, representing two nations that were once bitter enemies, demonstrated the close friendship that has emerged from the rubble of war. In appearances over the weekend, the French and German leaders – who are facing their own political struggles at home – appeared affectionate, and Mr. Macron on Saturday posted a picture of the two holding hands along with the single word “Unis,” or “United.”

Mr. Putin, on the other hand, seemed focused on Mr. Trump, approaching him at the Arc de Triomphe, shaking his hand and giving a friendly pat on the arm.

And then it was over:

After the ceremony and subsequent lunch, Mr. Macron opened the Paris Peace Forum, a three-day conference to discuss fostering multilateralism. “History will retain an image – that of 84 chiefs of state and of governments united,” he declared.

“What is uncertain for the future is how this image will be interpreted,” he continued. “Will it be a ringing symbol of a durable peace among nations or the photograph of the last moment of unity before the world goes down in new disorder?”

Mr. Trump was not there to help answer that question. He skipped the forum and headed back to the United States.

That was a lost opportunity at the end of a lost weekend, and Max Boot puts this in perspective:

One of the best new histories of the outbreak of World War I, by the Cambridge University historian Christopher Clark, is called “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.” One cannot help thinking of the present day when Clark writes of “monarchs and statesmen” such as Kaiser Wilhelm II who “were positively obsessive about the press and spent hours each day poring through cuttings.” Sound like anyone we know? So, too, we can hear contemporary echoes when Clark describes “aggressive ultranationalist organizations whose voices could be heard in all the European capitals,” even though they “represented small, extremist constituencies.” Their aggressive ideology was the kindling that ignited when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

There are similar ultranationalist organizations today, and their constituencies are no longer so small. They include the Law and Justice party (the ruling party in Poland), Jobbik (the ruling party in Hungary), United Russia (the ruling party in Russia), the League (one of the ruling parties in Italy), the Freedom Party (one of the ruling parties in Austria), the Alternative for Germany (Germany’s second-most popular party) and the National Rally in France (which is ahead of Macron’s party in a recent poll for European Parliament elections). They are all promoting the kind of nativism and nationalism that was widespread in Europe before World Wars I and II.

But once, long ago, we fixed that:

After 1945, the United States tried to curb the forces of nationalism and encourage international cooperation. President Harry S. Truman, who as a captain in the field artillery served in France in 1918, summed up the American achievement in his 1953 Farewell Address: “After the First World War we withdrew from world affairs – we failed to act in concert with other peoples against aggression – we helped to kill the League of Nations – and we built up tariff barriers that strangled world trade. This time, we avoided those mistakes. We helped to found and sustain the United Nations. We have welded alliances that include the greater part of the free world. And we have gone ahead with other free countries to help build their economies and link us all together in a healthy world trade.”

Boot says that unlike Truman, Trump knows nothing of war, or of history – but then Trump knows nothing of brush fires and forest management – or climate change – or economics as it pertains to bond prices in that Puerto Rico matter. He does, however, despise Puerto Rico and California too – because no one there recognizes his awesomeness. And where is his parade, damn it!

At the end of Billy Wilder’s movie, Ray Milland drops a cigarette into a glass of whiskey to make it undrinkable. There will be no more lost weekends. Fade to black. Roll the credits.

Donald Trump doesn’t smoke. Donald Trump doesn’t drink. There will be more lost weekends like this. But things don’t go right when everything goes wrong. This isn’t a movie.

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The Stronger Women

Donald Trump clearly admires Vladimir Putin, and as for Kim Jong-Un there was this:

I was really being tough. And so was he. And we’d go back and forth. And then we fell in love. Okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they’re great letters. We fell in love.

That is a bit odd. Donald Trump despises Justin Trudeau – he’s a wimp. He has called Theresa May a scold. Angel Merkel is a frump – but the near-Nazi Viktor Orban in Hungary is cool and Trump is impressed with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi too – the President of Egypt, in office since 2014, because that democracy thing just wasn’t working out. The Egyptian people had turned to a military guy to run things, again, a guy who would say what’s what and that would be that – no muss, no fuss. That’s Trump’s kind of guy, and so is Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. That guy knows how to handle the drug problem. His military and police just shoot drug dealers – no trial, no evidence that they were drug dealers, just the word on the street. Duterte says he’s shot some of them himself, and thrown more than a few of them out of helicopters. The world has been appalled by this guy for years, but he is a strong leader. Donald Trump likes strong leaders, and he “loves” Kim Jong-Un, and he takes notes. Putin and Orban and el-Sisi and Duterte must be doing something right. Be like them. Take control. Be a strong leader.

And do take notes:

The Philippine government said on Friday that it would charge a veteran journalist and her online news start-up with tax evasion, a move the publication described as an attack against media in the country by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The country’s Department of Justice said it had grounds to indict the start-up, Rappler, and its founder, Maria Ressa, for tax evasion and failure to file tax returns.

Rappler denied the charges, calling the case a “clear form of continuing intimidation and harassment,” and accused the government of trying to silence critical coverage.

The penalties for tax evasion include a fine as well as up to 10 years of imprisonment.

Ressa doesn’t care:

Speaking from Washington, D.C., where she received an award from the International Center for Journalists on Thursday evening, Ms. Ressa said an indictment – which the government has said could come as soon as next week – would have a chilling effect on reporters in some of the most dangerous places around the world.

“This is really transforming our democracy and yet another blow,” Ms. Ressa said on Friday. “It is meant for maximum impact of intimidation.”

Of course it is:

Since taking office in 2016, Mr. Duterte has threatened to block the renewal of a license for the country’s largest broadcast network, called reporters who ask him tough questions “spies” and warned that “just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination.”

But the backstory is this:

Ms. Ressa created Rappler in 2012 after persuading three friends to leave their high-powered jobs at other news organizations. The women shared optimism that the internet would create a more level playing field and give a platform to those without a voice.

They also had years of experience tackling thorny issues. Ms. Ressa, who had negotiated the release of three staff members kidnapped by a Qaeda group in 2008 when she was head of ABS-CBN, the national broadcaster, has written two books on terrorism.

Chay F. Hofileña, who is head of investigations at Rappler, has written about media corruption, and Glenda Gloria, managing editor, about military corruption.

They built their careers in the wake of the “people power” revolt that brought down the regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos and ushered in Corazon Aquino, the first woman to become president of the Philippines.

So, three strong and smart and accomplished women brought down a strutting authoritarian male jerk – Ferdinand Marcos – and helped bring in a reasonable woman – Corazon Aquino – to run things. That may bother Duterte more than anything else here. They’re strong and smart and accomplished women. Perhaps they don’t respect his awesome manly manliness either.

This may apply here. The New York Times’ Michael Grynbaum tells that tale:

President Trump said on Friday that he might revoke the credentials of additional White House reporters if they did not “treat the White House with respect,” lobbing another threat at the news media two days after his administration effectively blacklisted the CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.

Asked how long Mr. Acosta’s pass would be suspended, Mr. Trump replied: “As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that decision. But it could be others also.”

The president made his comments while speaking with reporters on the South Lawn before boarding Marine One.

“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place for me, a very special place,” Mr. Trump said as he left Washington for a brief jaunt to Paris. “You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.”

And you have to respect his manly manliness:

On Friday, the president lashed out at Mr. Acosta again, calling him “a very unprofessional guy.” He went on to insult other members of the White House press corps, including April D. Ryan, the correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and one of a small number of African-American reporters who cover the administration.

“You talk about somebody that’s a loser; she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Ryan, in an unprompted diatribe. “She gets publicity, and then she gets a pay raise or a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty. And she shouldn’t be. She shouldn’t be. You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”

Mr. Trump also laced into another African-American journalist, Abby Phillip of CNN, who asked the president if he wanted the new acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, to “rein in” the investigation being led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

“What a stupid question that is,” the president replied to Ms. Phillip. “What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot – you ask a lot of stupid questions.”

He wasn’t exactly modeling respectful behavior there, but he doesn’t have to. He’s president and they’re not, as he likes to say, which might be irrelevant:

In a statement, CNN said Ms. Phillip “did not ask a ‘stupid’ question today at the White House.”

“In fact, she asked the most pertinent question of the day,” the network added.

No, they’re all black, and all three are women, and they’re pathetic. But they do know who the pathetic one is here:

At the Wednesday news conference, Mr. Trump repeatedly told Ms. Ryan to “sit down,” accusing her of interrupting a male reporter, as she tried to ask a question about voter suppression. When Ms. Alcindor asked Mr. Trump about Republicans and white nationalists, he called her query “a racist question.”

Ms. Ryan, speaking on CNN on Friday, said that the three presidents she covered before Mr. Trump “understood that reporters were part of the underpinning of this nation.”

“Sometimes we ask questions that they did not like, and maybe there would have been a bit of retaliation and fight-back,” Ms. Ryan added. “But at the end of the day it was part of the American process.”

The strong leader, the manly man, just doesn’t get it:

Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said on Thursday that his group had been lobbying privately for the administration to restore Mr. Acosta’s press pass.

“It’s a pretty basic principle that a president does not get to decide who covers them,” Mr. Knox told National Public Radio.

If the United States were more like the Philippines that might not be so, but here a president does not get to decide who covers them, and Paul Farhi notes this:

Trump has disparaged many people, so his responses to Phillip, Ryan and Alcindor might simply reflect equal-opportunity contempt. But all three of the latest examples fall into the categories of people – journalists, women, African Americans – for whom Trump has reserved special nastiness. Among the African American figures are Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters of California and Frederica S. Wilson of Florida.

“He’s not able to finesse his disdain for certain people,” Ryan said in an interview Friday. “Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately because you can see for yourself what it is, perception is reality with this president. He attacks the people he feels are beneath him.”

She added, “He’s not apparently built for this. Being in the pressure cooker of the White House has exposed him for what he is.”

Alcindor declined to comment but tweeted after Wednesday’s news conference, “I followed up the president calling my question ‘racist’ with a policy question about his proposed middle class tax cut because that’s what journalists do. We press on. We focus on the privilege of asking questions for a living. We do the work.”

And then David Nakamura adds the racial stuff:

President Trump’s verbal assaults against black reporters, candidates and lawmakers has renewed criticism that the president employs insults rooted in racist tropes aimed at making his African American targets appear unintelligent, untrustworthy and unqualified.

Trump recently called Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), a gubernatorial candidate in Florida, a “thief,” and declared that Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the state House in Georgia and the Democratic candidate for governor there, was “not qualified” for the job. A feature of his campaign rallies ahead of Tuesday’s elections was mocking Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a black lawmaker who has been highly critical of him, and calling her a “low-IQ person.”

Since taking office, the president has repeatedly questioned the intelligence of black public figures. Perhaps most vicious have been his persistent attacks on ­Waters as “low IQ” and calling her the de facto leader of the Democratic Party.

But Trump has similarly called CNN’s Don Lemon the “dumbest man on television” and, after Lemon interviewed basketball star LeBron James, said in a tweet that the television anchor, who is black, “made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” James had been critical of Trump, calling him a “bum” after the president revoked an invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to visit the White House amid reports that the team didn’t want to attend.

Trump also has called Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) “wacky” and disparaged his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog” after she wrote a tell-all book that accused him of using racist language.

Donald Trump has a problem with black folks. Donald Trump has a problem with our women-folk. And things just got worse. Here comes another strong and smart and accomplished black woman, a fourth one:

Former first lady Michelle Obama blasts President Donald Trump in her new book, writing how she reacted in shock the night she learned he would replace her husband in the Oval Office and tried to “block it all out.”

She also denounces Trump’s “birther” campaign questioning her husband’s citizenship, calling it bigoted and dangerous, “deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks.”

In her memoir “Becoming,” set to come out Tuesday, Obama writes openly about everything from growing up in Chicago to confronting racism in public life to her amazement at becoming the country’s first black first lady.

She will show him no respect either:

Obama writes that she assumed Trump was “grandstanding” when he announced his presidential run in 2015. She expresses disbelief over how so many women would choose a “misogynist” over Hillary Clinton, “an exceptionally qualified female candidate.” She remembers how her body “buzzed with fury” after seeing the infamous Access Hollywood tape where Trump brags about sexually assaulting women.

She also accuses Trump of using body language to “stalk” Clinton during an election debate. She writes of Trump following Clinton around the stage, standing nearby and “trying to diminish her presence.”

Trump’s message, according to Obama, in words which appear in the book in darkened print: “I can hurt you and get away with it.”

But of course that’s the whole point. That has always been Trump’s business strategy. Now it’s his foreign and domestic policy, but not everyone approves:

The former first lady writes in her new memoir that she will never forgive Trump for his role in promoting the “birther” conspiracy theory that falsely claimed that her husband was not born in the United States. She writes that Trump’s central role in pushing the falsehood put her family at risk.

“What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls?” she wrote in her book. “Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

That did it. The Strong Leader had to respond:

President Donald Trump pushed back at former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama over a forthcoming memoir in which the former first lady said she would “never forgive” Trump for his role in the “birther” movement.

“She got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always expect a little controversy,” Trump said.

“I’ll give you a little controversy back. I’ll never forgive President Barack Obama for what he did to our US military. It was depleted, and I had to fix it,” Trump said. “What he did to our military made this country very unsafe for you and you and you.”

That was utter nonsense. Military spending didn’t change much in the Obama years. We did not have an Army smaller than Denmark’s with technology from 1953 for those eight years. That was just talk. Trump was saying that Obama had been a girly-man. He was a manly man. His manly manliness will win the day for him, any day, but that is nonsense too:

President Donald Trump would likely lose the 2020 election against every woman floated as a potential Democratic candidate, including Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren, according to an Axios poll.

The poll, released Friday, found that Michelle Obama has a 13 point favorability lead over Trump, while Oprah Winfrey has a 12 point lead over the president.

California Senator Kamala Harris has a 10 point lead over Trump, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has a 9 point lead. Both women were given a new national platform through their questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as they served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Donald Trump should worry:

A near-majority of those surveyed said they did not know enough about the senators, or New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who has a six-point lead over Trump, to rate them as favorable or unfavorable. But the poll found that they would still beat Trump if the election were held today.

Clinton and Warren, both women that Trump frequently and publicly derides, have the smallest leads over Trump, but would still beat him, the poll found.

Clinton has a five-point lead over Trump, while Warren has a two-point lead.

The results come as Trump’s popularity with women slumps: 64% of women view Trump unfavorably.

There’s only one thing to do:

Michael Moore said while he loves Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) that Democrats can’t run a politician against President Trump in 2020. Moore said the party should run a beloved American like former First Lady Michelle Obama…

Moore also admonished the Democratic Party for never taking Trump seriously as a candidate and now as president.

“There is a lot of good news here, but he is a true danger,” Moore said Wednesday’s broadcast of ‘Morning Joe’ on MSNBC. “He’s so much smarter than our side. Nobody has ever taken him seriously, has never understood his “pow” or his ability to read a room, his ability to manipulate people with fear. I mean, the man is a genius in this area. He’s an evil genius, but to not respect how smart he’s been in doing this.”

And only Michelle Obama can save us, except that Jennifer Szalai notes this:

No, she’s not running. In her new memoir, “Becoming” – a book whose reportedly enormous advance rendered its contents almost as closely guarded as the bullion at Fort Knox – Michelle Obama puts to rest any speculation about her political ambitions. “I’ve never been a fan of politics,” she writes, “and my experience over the last 10 years has done little to change that.”

Note how she says “the last 10 years,” not two. She emerges in these pages as a first lady who steadfastly believed in her husband’s abilities but had no illusions that the sludge of partisanship and racism would melt away under the sunny slogans of hope and change. A month after President Obama started his first term in 2009 Michelle Obama was sitting in the balcony during a joint session of Congress, where she could see a cadre of Republicans scowling while her husband delivered his address. “They would fight everything Barack did, I realized, whether it was good for the country or not.” She continues, “It seemed they just wanted Barack to fail.”

She wants no more of this:

This might sound like the acuity of hindsight if it weren’t consistent with the woman she had already shown herself to be: Michelle, the wry, orderly realist to the dreamy, cerebral Barack, joking on the 2008 campaign trail about her husband’s slovenly habits in the real world. She also talked candidly then about how the popular enthusiasm for him and his message – in a country in which the prospect of a black president had seemed far-fetched even to her – made her feel. “For the first time in my adult lifetime,” she told a crowd before the Wisconsin primaries, “I’m really proud of my country.”

She got hammered for it and felt blindsided, taking it as a lesson that she needed to be even more careful and prepared than she already was. Having gone from a working-class upbringing in South Side Chicago to the rarefied precincts of the Ivy League, she was already a self-described “control freak” who took her minority status at Princeton as a “mandate to over-perform.”

Politics, though, turned out to be a weird mix of elite pretensions and schoolyard bullying, amplified by opposition research.

And there was this:

“Since stepping reluctantly into public life, I’ve been held up as the most powerful woman in the world and taken down as an ‘angry black woman,’ ” she writes in the preface. Those three words – angry black woman – make her want to ask her detractors “which part of that phrase matters to them the most – is it ‘angry’ or ‘black’ or ‘woman’?”

Someone should ask Donald Trump that question. Maybe it’s all three. Or it may just that last one. Here and in the Philippines strong leaders – manly men – do seem to have a problem with strong and smart and accomplished woman. Those women are stronger.

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Evermore Powerful Bombs

There’s no clever opening here. Somehow, somewhere along the way, America became absurd – not mistaken – not momentarily gripped by some irrational fear or some irrational enthusiasm – just absurd. That may be Donald Trump’s doing. Philip Rucker, the White House Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, notes the current obvious absurdity:

Following this week’s midterm elections, President Trump ousted his attorney general, seized control of the Russia investigation for a partisan loyalist and suspended the credentials for a journalist he deemed too adversarial.

And that was just the first 24 hours.

After voters delivered a mixed verdict in the first national referendum of his presidency, Trump has been unbound, claiming more of a popular mandate than exists – “very close to a complete victory,” as he put it Wednesday – and moving swiftly to press some of the buttons he had previously resisted pressing.

“All of the guardrails are off and the rule of law is under an unprecedented threat,” said Joyce White Vance, who served as a U.S. attorney in Alabama during the Obama administration.

Joyce White Vance might be an alarmist, but maybe not:

For more than a year, Trump has mused privately and publicly about his desire to remove Jeff Sessions because he believed the attorney general was disloyal by recusing himself from the Russia investigation due to conflicts of interest. But Trump’s advisers, including his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, counseled him against the firing – at least until after the midterm elections.

So on the day after the election, he did it. Trump directed Sessions to resign and appointed as acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, a Trump loyalist who has been publicly critical of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The move accomplishes another goal of Trump’s: transferring oversight of the Mueller investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is considered protective of the probe and has tangled with the president, to Whitaker, a Trump loyalist.

That was a “screw you” to those fond of the rule of law, if that was Trump’s intention. Rucker cites those who think that Trump has no nefarious intentions at all. He’s not nasty and evil. He’s just impulsive. There’s no plan to any of this, but Rucker notes this:

Another decision that on the surface seemed impulsive was the one by the White House to suspend the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta after his testy exchange with Trump at the news conference. But Trump has long vented angrily to aides about what he considers disrespectful behavior and impertinent questions and sought to punish them. He has singled out Acosta, as well as April Ryan of American Urban Radio, among others.

As CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Acosta has long infuriated the president and his aides with his line of questioning and comportment.

Trump repeatedly has directed White House staff to ban individual reporters from covering official events or to revoke their press credentials. However, Trump’s senior aides, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, had previously convinced him that moves to restrict media access could backfire.

Fine, but he had already made up his mind and he pulled the trigger:

That changed Wednesday, when the White House for the first time directed the Secret Service to seize a reporter’s “hard pass,” which provides access to the White House grounds.

Sanders has defended the move and distributed a doctored video that made Acosta’s actions look more aggressive toward a White House intern. The deceptively edited footage was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, who is known for his conspiracy-theory videos on the far-right website Infowars, which has been banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.

Joyce White Vance was alarmed:

“This is a unique moment in this administration where the president has thrown down the gauntlet,” Vance said. “We have this dangerous convergence of walking away from the rule of law and walking away from the First Amendment at the same time.”

That’s new and unique. A sitting president openly walking away from the rule of law and openly walking away from the First Amendment at the same time, not even pretending that they matter, but that’s the man:

Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer who has studied the president’s behavior in his personal and professional lives, said Trump’s moves this week to oust Sessions and punish Acosta are in keeping with his natural instinct to escalate feuds – and portend an even more tumultuous period of his presidency.

“His inclination is annihilation of the enemy,” D’Antonio said. “I think that he’s been dying to increase the power of his salvos against his enemies. He is a person who wants evermore powerful bombs to drop.”

That’s an absurd way to govern a nation, but Margaret Sullivan suggests fighting back:

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta is a smart, tough reporter. He can also be a grandstander who seems to thrive on conflict with President Trump and doesn’t always know when to stop his aggressive questioning.

But whether you like Acosta’s style, it is clear the White House crossed a bright line Wednesday when it took away Acosta’s “hard pass,” which allows him the access he needs to cover the White House.

That action amounts to punishing a member of the press for doing his job of informing the public and then creating a false pretext to justify that retaliation.

In short, this was planned:

Trump’s dislike of Acosta is well known, and he took it to a new level at a wild news conference Wednesday, calling him “a rude, terrible person” whom CNN should be ashamed of employing.

To make matters worse, Sarah Sanders lied – and circulated a misleadingly edited video to back herself up – when she claimed later that Acosta was being punished for “placing his hands on a young woman.”

A White House staff member was directed to take a mic out of Acosta’s hands; he certainly didn’t readily give it up but he was polite, and he came into physical contact with her only for a brief moment as he moved his arm to shield the mic.

That didn’t matter anymore. The rigged Infowars version of the event went viral and soon the word was that this CNN reporter had beat this young woman staffer nearly to death, and she was a sweet young thing. CNN had to be stopped! Yes, talk radio can be absurd, but Sullivan does want to fight back:

I’ve heard various suggestions about how CNN or the press corps should respond to this retaliation: There should be a boycott, a walkout, a news blackout. And I’ve read the strongly worded rebukes from the White House Correspondents’ Association, from CNN and others. But mere words aren’t enough. And a boycott or blackout not only runs counter to the core idea that the reporters are there to inform the public, but it also would cede the briefings to the worst Trump sycophants.

No, something more is called for: CNN should sue the Trump White House on First Amendment grounds. And press-rights groups, along with other media organizations, should join in to create a united and powerful front.

That’s the plan:

“This merits a forceful response, and a lawsuit would be reasonable,” said Jonathan Peters, a media-law professor who teaches at the University of Georgia Law School and is the press freedom correspondent for Columbia Journalism Review.

He told me by email that the stated rationale for revoking the pass “was clearly a sham,” and the White House should be held accountable.

“Nothing educates the government so much as a damage award,” he said.

The claim, he said, would probably take the form of an action under a statute that authorizes suits against government actors for, among other things, a deprivation of First Amendment rights.

And there’s more:

Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told me Thursday that CNN “now has a legitimate claim that there’s been retaliation – a line has been crossed here.”

His organization “absolutely” would support such an effort, he said, and suggested a larger framing might be wise – one that includes the Trump Justice Department’s efforts, now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to undo the $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which is CNN’s parent company.

Sullivan is all-in:

Granted, a suit is far from a perfect solution. It wouldn’t solve Acosta’s immediate problem, and it might take months or even years to be resolved. It also feeds the kind of anti-media controversy Trump loves to generate, and which benefits him politically. And because a suit would generate news coverage, it would distract from important issues like Trump’s putting a loyalist in the office of attorney general after firing Jeff Sessions.

None of that is good. But far, far worse is letting a bullying White House get away with retaliating against the press and then lying about it.

This would be an effort to stop the absurdity, and there’s a lot of that going around:

Fox News legal commentator Andrew Napolitano on Thursday said the man President Trump named as Acting attorney general “does not qualify under the law” to take the job…

“There’s only three ways a person can become acting attorney general,” Napolitano said. “One, if you are the deputy attorney general – Rod Rosenstein – the president signs an executive order and makes you acting.”

“Two is if you are already in the Department of Justice and have a job that requires Senate confirmation and you have received confirmation,” Napolitano added. “That is not the case with Matt Whitaker because he’s the chief of staff. That does not require Senate confirmation.”

Whitaker’s most recent post was chief of staff to Sessions at the Justice Department.

“Three is a recess appointment, which is not relevant here because the Senate is not in recess,” Napolitano continued.

“So with deference and respect to what the president’s trying to do – he has every right to have whoever he wants run the Justice Department – he has chosen someone who does not qualify under the law to be the acting attorney general,” Napolitano added.

Judge Napolitano is the farthest right of the far-right legal experts on television, but he did teach Constitution Law at Seaton Hall – a friend who had him there for that class said he was a by-the-books guy – so he knows what is absurd and what isn’t. Only the Fox News panel was stunned, and it was the same on CNN:

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Thursday questioned the qualifications of President Trump’s pick for acting attorney general, arguing that he was chosen largely because of his past comments about special counsel Robert Mueller.

On “New Day” Toobin exchanged thoughts with former independent counsel Kenneth Starr about Trump’s decision to appoint Matthew Whitaker, chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, as head of the Justice Department on a temporary basis. Sessions resigned Wednesday as attorney general at Trump’s request.

“You know the Department of Justice. You know the kind of people who are named attorney general of the United States – senators, judges,” Toobin said. “What about naming someone, frankly, this obscure and this unqualified just because he’s been critical of the Mueller investigation. What do you think about that choice?”

Starr called Toobin’s characterization “a little bit unfair,” while noting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would have been a “natural” choice to replace Sessions.

Ken Starr said the guy was only “a little bit” obscure and unqualified. That’s damning with the faintest of praise, but the main argument against this absurdity was this:

The husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is arguing that the President’s decision to instate Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general is “unconstitutional” and “illegal.”

George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, slammed the move in an op-ed published Thursday in the New York Times.

“A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very significant consequence today. It means that Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal,” Conway argued in the op-ed, co-written with Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general under former President Barack Obama.

They added, “And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.”

In fact, the whole thing is absurd:

Conway and Katyal argued that the appointment of Whitaker to the top job at the DOJ “defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution.” They pointed to the Constitution’s Appointments Clause in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 to argue that Whitaker, now as a principal officer, should have undergone a Senate confirmation process to be placed in the role of acting attorney general, and that otherwise it’s “unconstitutional.”

“For the President to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document,” the two lawyers wrote.

Conway and Katyal argue the other reason Whitaker’s appointment is unconstitutional is that the public is entitled to the assurance that he “has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility,” which they believe a Senate confirmation process would ensure.

It would be nice if the guy had the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law but Ruth Marcus notes this:

Matthew G. Whitaker, installed in the job by President Trump to replace Jeff Sessions, was asked in 2014, during an ill-fated run in the Republican senatorial primary in Iowa, about the worst decisions in the Supreme Court’s history. Whitaker’s answer, to an Iowa blog called Caffeinated Thoughts, was chilling.

“There are so many,” he replied. “I would start with the idea of Marbury v. Madison. That’s probably a good place to start and the way it’s looked at the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of constitutional issues. We’ll move forward from there. All New Deal cases that were expansive of the federal government – those would be bad. Then all the way up to the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate.”

Marcus is not impressed:

Reasonable people can differ over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Maybe there’s some space to debate the New Deal-era cases that cemented the authority of the regulatory state. But Marbury? This is lunacy.

Decided in 1803, at the dawn of the new republic, Marbury v. Madison is the foundational case of American constitutional law. It represents Chief Justice John Marshall’s declaration that the Supreme Court possesses the ultimate power to interpret the Constitution and determine the legitimacy of acts of Congress.

In Marshall’s famous words, “it is emphatically the duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” The untested new Constitution provided that the Supreme Court possessed the “judicial Power of the United States,” but it did not define what that power entailed.

“With one judgment Marshall would chisel judicial review into the American system,” Cliff Sloan and David McKean explain in their book, “The Great Decision.” The ruling “asserting clearly and unequivocally that the Supreme Court did indeed possess the power to strike down an Act of Congress as unconstitutional laid the foundation for the American rule of law.”

It took some time to make the text of the Constitution operational. In 1803 the operation of the “three co-equal branches of the government” was finally worked out. Whitaker thinks Marbury v. Madison was wrongly decided. The judicial branch is a “lesser” branch. No one has to listen to them, but wait, there’s more:

That’s not the only troubling question about Whitaker. During a 2014 Senate debate sponsored by a conservative Christian organization, he said that in helping confirm judges, “I’d like to see things like their worldview, what informs them. Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice? Which I think is very important.”

At that point, the moderator interjected: “Levitical or New Testament?”

“New Testament,” Whitaker affirmed. “And what I know is as long as they have that worldview, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular worldview, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.”

Marcus is the one who’s alarmed now:

Marbury was wrong. Religious tests for judges. If you thought the big worry about Whitaker was how he would handle special counsel Robert Mueller that might be just the beginning.

Charlie Savage adds more detail:

Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, said that Mr. Whitaker’s expressed views of the Constitution and the role of the courts “are extreme and the overall picture he presents would have virtually no scholarly support” and would be “destabilizing” to society if he used the power of the attorney general to advance them.

Simultaneously criticizing the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review while criticizing cases where it declined to strike down laws regulating economic and health insurance matters was a sign of an “internally contradictory” and “ignorant” philosophy, Mr. Tribe said…

“He seems to think much of the fabric of federal law, that is part of our ordinary lives, violates the Constitution of the United States, to which he is evidently going to take an oath,” Mr. Tribe said.

That is absurd and people do know that:

Congressional aides, journalists and other observers scoured his record after Mr. Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday and replaced him with Mr. Whitaker, instantly raising questions about whether the president wanted a loyalist in charge at the Justice Department with the power to end the Russia investigation.

Groups throughout the nation marched on Thursday to support the inquiry of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and to protest Mr. Whitaker’s appointment. Thousands demonstrated in dozens of cities, including in Washington, Philadelphia, Omaha and Salt Lake City.

In New York, about 4,000 people marched from Times Square to Union Square, the police said. Protesters held signs and chanted “Trump is not above the law.” On Twitter, #ProtectMueller was trending.

The idea is to protect Mueller from this:

Past statements suggest that Mr. Whitaker has already made up his mind that the investigation will fail to show that Mr. Trump or his advisers aided Russia’s disruption.

“The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign,” Mr. Whitaker said in an interview on “The Wilkow Majority,” a conservative political talk radio show, in summer 2017. His remarks were reported earlier by The Daily Beast.

He also argued last year that the president could not have obstructed justice by asking the FBI director, James B. Comey, to end an investigation into his first national security adviser, a broad notion of executive power that Mr. Trump’s lawyers have also embraced. Mr. Whitaker dismissed the outcry over Mr. Trump’s request as overkill during a radio interview in June 2017 on the conservative “David Webb Show.”

“This hyperventilation of what we see here is just, I don’t think, sustainable based on these facts,” he said in comments reported earlier by Mother Jones. And he once said Mr. Mueller’s appointment “smells a little fishy,” according to a radio segment unearthed by CNN.

And this is the man that Donald Trump wants to supervise the investigation into what really happened. Of course that’s absurd, and then there’s this:

Other aspects of Mr. Whitaker’s record also came under sharper scrutiny on Thursday as Mr. Whitaker huddled with Justice Department officials in a lengthy briefing about its major cases and other activities.

Before joining the Trump administration last fall, Mr. Whitaker sat on the advisory board of a patent marketing company in Florida that was shut down and ordered this year to pay consumers nearly $26 million. The Federal Trade Commission accused the company, World Patent Marketing, of bilking thousands of customers who believed they were receiving patents.

He helped run a scam and got caught. Oops. But think of Trump University. On November 18, 2016, Donald Trump agreed to pay twenty-five million dollars to settle the two class-action lawsuits here in California and one in New York – because Trump University had been a scam too. Former students can now get a refund of up to ninety percent of the money they spent on those totally useless Trump University courses.

So, when this is all over, when Trump is no longer president, can the American public get a refund?

Why not? Somehow, somewhere along the way, America did become absurd – not mistaken – not momentarily gripped by some irrational fear or some irrational enthusiasm – just absurd. Donald Trump does want evermore powerful bombs to drop. American will want a refund.

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The Warlike Posture

Nothing changed. Republicans gained Senate seats deep in red America, but in the House of Representatives, that other place, Democrats won seat after seat in urban and suburban America, and swept to a majority, and brought an end to the Republican monopoly on power. This was a blue victory deep in red America. This was a victory in urban and suburban America. But Republicans held the Senate. Both sides won. Neither side won. NBC’s First Read said this wasn’t a wave, this was a realignment:

We are living in extremely volatile and divided times. And what we are seeing is a further realignment of our politics – with urban/suburban going Democratic, and with rural and red areas going more Republican.

There are two sides – two tribes – each with its specific values and its specific geography. Ten years ago, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Sarah Palin said this – “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans.”

She got in trouble for that. She apologized. Cities are the real America too. So are suburbs. So is Hollywood – although she didn’t go THAT far in her apology – and then the dustup was over. It didn’t matter much. Politics is a tribal thing and Republicans appealing to the tribalism of their supporters wasn’t that horrible or that surprising. Now that tribalism is a bit more severe, but Kevin Drum argues that only one tribe won this time:

Democrats ran on health care and won. Several red states passed Medicaid expansion. The GOP’s lies about pre-existing conditions obviously didn’t stick. And Obamacare itself is now safe for another two years from Republican attempts to repeal it. I hesitate to say this since I’ve said it before, but I think this is the final hoorah. By 2020, Obamacare will be six years old. Republicans will have tried multiple times to repeal it and failed. They will have taken on pre-existing conditions and pre-existing conditions will have walloped them.

By 2020 Obamacare will be just a standard part of the social safety net, available to anyone who loses a job or simply can’t afford free-market insurance. There will be no more juice in opposing it. Obamacare is here to stay.

Drum was right – Republicans Abandon the Fight to Repeal and Replace Obama’s Health Care Law – and he notes this too:

Trump ran on racism and lost. He ran on the wall. He ran on the caravan. He ran on nationalism. He ran on hate and xenophobia and bigotry. He turned the volume up to 11 and became increasingly desperate as the campaign neared its end. The rest of the Republican Party either joined in or held their tongues, but they knew: in the suburbs of America, where Republicans once ruled, they were losing votes. In 2016, after eight years of Barack Obama and Fox News, a lot of suburbanites were willing to tolerate just a little more racism than they normally would, and Trump won. In 2018, with Obama long gone and two years of relentless racial ugliness fresh in their minds, their tolerance was gone. They voted against the racism and the hate, and Trump lost.

Republicans have now learned that there really is a limit to how far that can take you in the 21st century. They’ve now hit that limit, and if they want to win national elections in the future they’re going to have to rely on something else.

Perhaps so, but the New York Times sees tribal geography at play:

In New Jersey, voters slashed the number of Republicans in Congress from five down to two, and possibly only one. In New York, Democrats declared victory in three congressional races in President Trump’s home state, ejecting the last remaining Republican from New York City. And in the six other states in the Northeast, the lone remaining Republican congressman, Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine, was clinging to his seat on Wednesday, his fate to be decided by the second choices of third-party voters through ranked-choice voting.

If the country delivered a mixed verdict nationally on Mr. Trump and his brand of unrepentant nationalism and white-hot rhetoric on immigration in the 2018 midterms – Democrats seized the House and ceded ground in the Senate, and the two parties split key governorships – the results were far clearer in a region that once defined moderate Republicanism in America.

There was no more of that because Trump had pulled a Palin on them:

From a tax bill that penalized high-tax blue states to a message far more attuned to the ears of rural America than the cities and educated suburbs that dominate the Northeast, Mr. Trump accelerated and hardened a regional realignment that has been underway for years. Almost no Republicans appeared immune to the region’s shifting political winds, no matter how they positioned themselves.

They were in the wrong place. Another tribe had moved in:

Nowhere was the fracture with the Trump-led Republican Party more potent than in a swath of wealthy suburban enclaves in the northeastern part of New Jersey, where Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, defeated her Republican opponent by more than 12 percentage points. It was a stunning margin in a seat that had been held for 24 years by Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a genteel, moderate Republican deal maker who rose to become the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee. The district had not elected a Democrat since President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

Even a fine moderate Republican didn’t stand a chance there, but Adam Serwer isn’t so sure about all this:

It’s fashionable in the Donald Trump era to decry political “tribalism,” especially if you’re a conservative attempting to criticize Trump without incurring the wrath of his supporters. House Speaker Paul Ryan has lamented the “tribalism” of American politics. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has said that “tribalism is ruining us.” Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has written a book warning that “partisan tribalism is statistically higher than at any point since the Civil War.”

In the fallout from Tuesday’s midterm elections, many political analysts have concluded that blue America and red America are ever more divided, ever more at each other’s throats.

But calling this “tribalism” is misleading, because only one side of this divide remotely resembles a coalition based on ethnic and religious lines, and only one side has committed itself to a political strategy that relies on stoking hatred and fear of the other. By diagnosing America’s problem as tribalism, chin-stroking pundits and their sorrowful semi-Trumpist counterparts in Congress have hidden the actual problem in American politics behind a weird euphemism.

Something else is going on:

In New York’s Nineteenth Congressional District, the Democrat Antonio Delgado, a Harvard-educated, African American Rhodes scholar, defeated the incumbent Republican John Faso in a district that is 84 percent white, despite Faso caricaturing Delgado as a “big-city rapper.” In Georgia, the Republican Brian Kemp appears to have defeated the Democrat Stacey Abrams after using his position as secretary of state to weaken the power of the black vote in the state and tying his opponent to the New Black Panther Party. In Florida, the Republican Ron DeSantis defeated the Democrat Andrew Gillum after a campaign in which DeSantis’s supporters made racist remarks about Gillum. The Republican Duncan Hunter, who is under indictment, won after running a campaign falsely tying his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is of Latino and Arab descent, to terrorism. In North Dakota, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp lost reelection after Republicans adopted a voter-ID law designed to disenfranchise the Native American voters who powered her upset win in 2012. President Trump spent weeks claiming that a caravan of migrants in Latin America headed for the United States poses a grave threat to national security, an assessment the Pentagon disagrees with. In Illinois on Tuesday, thousands of Republicans voted for a longtime Nazi who now prefers to describe himself as a “white racialist”; in Virginia, more than a million cast ballots for a neo-Confederate running for Senate…

Those opponents cannot be said to belong to a “tribe.” No common ethnic or religious ties bind Heitkamp, Campa-Najjar, Delgado, or the constituencies that elected them. It was their Republican opponents who turned to “tribalism,” painting them as scary or dangerous, and working to disenfranchise their supporters.

There are two different approaches here:

The core of the GOP agenda – slashing the social safety net and reducing taxes on the wealthy – is deeply unpopular. Progressive ballot initiatives, including the expansion of Medicaid, anti-gerrymandering measures, and the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, succeeded even in red states. If Republicans ran on their policy agenda alone, they would be at a disadvantage. So they have turned to a destructive politics of white identity, one that seeks a path to power by deliberately dividing the country along racial and sectarian lines. They portray the nation as the birthright of white, heterosexual Christians, and label the growing population of those who don’t fit that mold or reject that moral framework as dangerous usurpers.

The Democratic Party, reliant as it is on a diverse coalition of voters, cannot afford to engage in this kind of politics. There are no blue states where Democrats have sought to make it harder for white men without a college education to vote, even though that demographic typically votes Republican. Democratic candidates did not attack their white male opponents as dangerous because four white men carried out deadly acts of right-wing terrorism in the two weeks prior to the election. Democratic candidates for statewide office did not appeal to voters in blue states by trashing other parts of the country considered to be conservative…

When a party’s viability is dependent on a diverse coalition of voters, that party will necessarily stand for pluralism and equal rights, because its survival depends on it. And when a party is not diverse, it will rely on demonizing those who are different, because no constituency exists within that party to prevent it from doing so, or to show its members that they have nothing to fear.

So there you have it:

In the Trump era, America finds itself with two political parties: one that’s growing more reliant on the nation’s diversity, and one that sees its path to power in stoking fear and rage toward those who are different.

America doesn’t have a “tribalism” problem. It has a racism problem. And the parties are not equally responsible.

And one party did do well this time, considering the first six items on Martin Longman’s list of Fifty Things That Went Well on Election Day:

The Democrats will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year for the first time since January 2011.

The Democrats flipped the House and Senate in New Hampshire, and the Senate in Colorado, Maine, and New York.

The Democrats won the Trifecta (controlling the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature) in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, and New York. In Oregon and Nevada, they won supermajorities in both chambers.

The Republicans lost their Trifectas in Kansas and Michigan.

The Republicans lost their supermajorities in the North Carolina legislature.

The deep red states of Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska used the ballot to expand Medicaid.

And as Noah Bierman reports, that did not sit well with the chief of the other tribe:

President George W. Bush would blow off steam by clearing brush from his ranch. President Obama would sneak a soupcon of almonds or a cigarette. President Trump’s happy place: duking it out with a roomful of pestering reporters.

Trump turned his post-election news conference on Wednesday – normally an occasion for presidents to lick wounds and move on after midterm losses – into a nearly 90-minute political tour de force for the president who loves as much as anything to put on a pugilistic performance.

He took no blame for the type of humbling losses that Bush called a “thumpin'” in 2006 or Obama acknowledged as a “shellacking” in 2010, when they similarly presided over their party’s loss of at least one house of Congress.

Instead, Trump hailed “a great victory,” against the electoral evidence otherwise.

And that meant it was time to attack the press again:

The president told a black reporter, who asked whether his calling himself a “nationalist” was emboldening white nationalists, that she was asking “a racist question.” He taunted Republican House members who lost their seats after refusing his “embrace,” saying, “Too bad. Sorry about that.” He mocked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a close ally, with an aside to a Japanese reporter, “Say hello to Shinzo. I’m sure he’s happy about tariffs on his cars.”

Above all, Trump suggested that his primary opponent for the next two years will not be Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco – for whom he had nothing but kind words – or any other Democrats angling for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination, or even the special counsel’s office that is investigating him, his company and his 2016 campaign. Instead, Trump showed he’s running against the news media. And some reporters played willing foils by interrupting the president, shouting and refusing to yield the floor.

“I tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta, after the correspondent refused to defer to another reporter or hand the microphone to a White House intern tasked by Trump to take it from him. “You are a rude, terrible person,” he further admonished Acosta. “You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”

When the waiting reporter, NBC’s Peter Alexander, defended Acosta for his diligence as a reporter, Trump pounced on Alexander. “Well, I’m not a big fan of yours, either, so you know.”

His base loves that. The rest of the country hates that. He was having fun:

Trump told three reporters with foreign accents that he could not understand them, even as he fended off questions about whether his campaign rhetoric had been xenophobic. He barked “Sit down!” six times to reporters. “Quiet, quiet, quiet,” he told another, raising his voice.

As he fought with questioners, he just as often avoided answering their questions. NBC’s Kristen Welker asked Trump twice about the rise of anti-Semitic attacks and hate crimes since his election. The first time, Trump replied with an extended boast about his relations with Israel. The second time, he went on a tangent about trade and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I think I am a great moral leader and I love our country,” Trump said finally, offering no elaboration, after she pressed a third time.

No one else will say that so he’ll say that, because that means those who love him will love him even more:

The sparring with reporters served as a message to Trump’s base, that he will not stop fighting. While critics saw a petulant, un-presidential performance, many in Trump’s thrall saw a ravenous and disrespectful media always out to get the president.

When Acosta protested that CNN employees had been targeted by the recent mailing of pipe bombs, allegedly by a Trump supporter, after such rhetoric, the president showed no sense of responsibility, let alone remorse.

“When you report fake news – which CNN does a lot – you are the enemy of the people,” Trump said.

Hours later the White House, in a rare move, said that it was suspending Acosta’s press credential, falsely claiming he physically mistreated the female intern who tried to take his microphone as he persisted in questioning Trump.

There are two things there. The first is clean enough. When you report fake news you are the enemy of the people, and that means that one or more of “the people” may take you out with a bomb or whatever, as a natural consequence of what you keep doing. That will happen sooner or later, that’s going to happen sooner or later, and that’s not his fault, that’s CNN’s fault. The second is clear too. Ask too many questions, or ask them the wrong way, and no more press credentials for anything. That was a warning to all reporters. Don’t make this man angry. Make this man angry and you’re gone – go find another career.

But that wasn’t all:

While reporters were Trump’s primary targets in the East Room, they were not the only ones. The president went out of his way to lambaste fellow Republicans who had kept their distance or even criticized him during their campaigns, given his unpopularity in their districts or states.

“You had some that decided to, ‘Let’s stay away. Let’s stay away,'” Trump said, shaking his head. “They did very poorly.”

“I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it,” he continued, before reeling off the names of vanquished Republicans from Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Utah.

They didn’t “embrace” him and now they’re out in the cold, alone, their political lives over. That was a warning too. The Republican Party is “him” now. Embrace him or die – at least politically.

And as Philip Rucker and his Washington Post team reports, the casting out of heretics began:

Washington plunged into political war on Wednesday in the wake of a split decision by voters in the midterm elections, with President Trump ousting his attorney general and threatening to retaliate against Democrats if they launch investigations into his personal conduct and possible corruption in the administration.

The rapid shift to battle stations signaled the start of what is likely to be two years of unremitting political combat as Trump positions himself for reelection. For the first time, Trump will be forced to navigate divided government as Democrats who won the House pledge to be a check on his power and face pressure from their liberal base to block him at every turn.

That is the situation:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who is poised to lead the new Democratic majority as speaker, said her caucus would use its subpoena authority to pursue sweeping oversight of the Trump administration.

“We will have a responsibility to honor our oversight responsibilities, and that’s the path that we will go down,” she told reporters. But, she added, Democrats would do so in the interest of “trying to unify our country.”

Trump didn’t seem to care:

Trump spun his own reality by claiming “very close to complete victory.”

Trump said in a wide-ranging and often sharp-tongued news conference that any hope for bipartisan deals would evaporate if House Democrats use their new power to investigate him or his administration. Such efforts, he said bluntly, would precipitate “a warlike posture.”

House Democrats have said they plan to begin a series of investigations of the president, including issuing a subpoena for his tax returns, which he has for years refused to release. Trump said he would respond by using the Republican-controlled Senate as a cudgel, instructing his allies there to investigate alleged misconduct by Democrats.

“They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” Trump said. “They can look at us, then we can look at them and it’ll go back and forth. And it’ll probably be very good for me politically… because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually.”

So it’s war now:

After demonizing Democrats in apocalyptic terms and attacking Pelosi on the campaign trail, Trump said Wednesday, “The election’s over. Now everybody is in love.”

But Trump drowned out his own call for unity within hours by announcing via Twitter the sudden ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said in his resignation letter that the president had directed him to resign.

The two parties plunged into a fierce disagreement over whether the president was obstructing justice by replacing Sessions with acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, who immediately assumed control over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The inquiry had previously been overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

And so it begins:

Democrats indicated that the firing of Sessions would be one of their top investigation targets – and warned of a constitutional crisis. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who is set to take over as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the Mueller probe was in “new and immediate peril.”

“Interference with the special counsel’s investigation would cause a constitutional crisis and undermine the rule of law,” Schiff said. “If the president seeks to interfere in the impartial administration of justice, the Congress must stop him. No one is above the law.”

The elections settled nothing. Everyone voted and then the two tribes dug in for a long war. It’s diverse and curious urban-suburban blue America at war with the white and profoundly incurious rural and red America. Nothing changed. It just got nastier.

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Not Quite Judgement Day

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 – Election Day – the midterm elections – this was the referendum on President Donald Trump. He said that’s what this was, and now everything is almost over. It’s late in the evening out here in Los Angeles, coming up on midnight, and some races haven’t been called – but this is more that almost over. This is over, but the referendum on President Trump was a bust. He wasn’t triumphant but he wasn’t handed his hat and shown the door. It was foolish to expect either. It’s always best to expect ambiguity. That’s all anyone ever gets. There’s no such thing as closure. That’s for the movies, where stories end. But stories don’t end. They never end. Characters drop out when they’ve played their part, but the story goes on. Someone else jumps in. But no underlying conflict is ever resolved. Essential conflicts cannot be resolved. Go ahead. Imagine a Judgment Day. Myths are comforting. They’re still myths. It might be better to accept ambiguity and make the best of what just happened. No one is ever satisfied.

The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns offer an initial assessment of this referendum on President Trump, which was a rebuke of Trump where he did just fine anyway:

Democrats harnessed voter fury toward President Trump to win control of the House and capture pivotal governorships Tuesday night as liberals and moderates banded together to deliver a forceful rebuke of Mr. Trump, even as Republicans added to their Senate majority by claiming a handful of conservative-leaning states.

Propelled by an unusually high turnout that illustrated the intensity of the backlash against Mr. Trump, Democrats claimed at least 25 House seats on the strength of their support in suburban and metropolitan districts that were once bulwarks of Republican power but where voters have recoiled from the president’s demagoguery on race.

From the suburbs of Richmond to the subdivisions of Chicago and even Oklahoma City, an array of diverse candidates – many of them women, first-time contenders or both – stormed to victory and ended the Republican’s eight-year grip on the House majority.

That’s the rebuke that didn’t matter all that much:

In an indication that the political and cultural divisions that lifted Mr. Trump two years ago may only be deepening, the Democratic gains did not extend to the Senate, where many of the most competitive races were in heavily rural states. Republicans built on their one-seat majority in the chamber by winning Democratic seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri while turning back Representative Beto O’Rourke’s spirited challenge of Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

And in the South, a pair of progressive African-American candidates for governor who captured the imagination of liberals across the country fell to defeat at the hands of Trump acolytes – a sign that steady demographic change across the region was proceeding too gradually to lift Democrats to victory. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp soundly defeated Stacey Abrams, who was seeking to become the first black woman to lead a state, while former Representative Ron DeSantis narrowly defeated Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, in the largest presidential battleground, Florida.

The Democrats won the House, and Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum – the hope of the future – got trounced. Ted Cruz is a mean and nasty man. Brian Kemp and Ron DeSantis are both mean and nasty men and stone-cold racists too – they hardly hide that – and the people have spoken.

No, Martin and Burns say that other people spoke too:

The Democrats’ House takeover represented a clarion call that a majority of the country wants to see a check on Mr. Trump for the next two years of his term. With the opposition now wielding subpoena power and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation still looming, the president is facing a drastically more hostile political environment in the lead up to his re-election.

Their loss of the House also served unmistakable notice on Republicans that the rules of political gravity still exist in the Trump era. What was effectively a referendum on Mr. Trump’s incendiary conduct and hard-right nationalism may make some of the party’s lawmakers uneasy about linking themselves to a president who ended the campaign showering audiences with a blizzard of mistruths, conspiracy theories and invective about immigrants.

And it revealed that many of the right-of-center voters – who backed Mr. Trump in 2016, as a barely palatable alternative to Hillary Clinton – were unwilling to give him enduring political loyalty.

But this is a mixed bag:

In the states Mr. Trump made a priority – Florida, Georgia, Indiana – he came away with several marquee victories for Senate and governor. But in parts of the country with many college-educated white voters, some of whom supported Mr. Trump in 2016, his style of leadership and his singular focus on immigration in the last weeks of the campaign contributed to Republican House losses.

He doesn’t see that:

Mr. Trump has appeared sensitive in recent days to the possibility that losing the House might be seen as a repudiation of his presidency, even telling reporters that he has been more focused on the Senate than on the scores of contested congressional districts where he is unpopular. And Mr. Trump insisted that he would not take the election results as a reflection on his performance.

“I don’t view this as for myself,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday, adding that he believed he had made a “big difference” in a handful of Senate elections.

Maybe so, but there’s nothing left but ambiguity:

In interviews Tuesday, voters in both parties repeatedly agreed that the election was fundamentally about President Trump, and that the country was bitterly divided. But they couldn’t agree on whose fault that was.

Debbie Eschbacher said at a polling place in Chesterfield, Mo., that she was sick of what she described as “liberals yelling at people.” Jay Kim, on the other hand, said he was sick of Mr. Trump “dividing the country.”

These two will never agree. Essential conflicts cannot be resolved, and the Washington Post’s Marc Fisher reinforces that:

Jim Bailey went to the polls Tuesday because he is convinced President Trump has put American democracy in grave danger of collapse. Rob Moyers voted because he believes Trump is the only thing saving the country from spiraling out of control.

Despite their deeply different political perspectives, Bailey and Moyers – like millions of others who voted Tuesday in midterm elections they might ordinarily ignore – shared the conviction that their country was at the precipice of a democratic implosion, and that their vote mattered.

On the surface, Bailey, 77, a retired Air Force officer in Glenville, W.Va., and Moyers, a 38-year-old itinerant worker in natural gas fields, share little more than a hometown. They watch politics on different channels, hold opposing views about immigration and believe the other side sorely lacks common sense.

These two are emblematic:

Voters across the nation, energized by two years of the most divisive rhetoric in modern American history, said they were determined to send a message about how much the other side scares them.

“We’re almost near a change in our form of government,” said Bailey, who added that he watches MSNBC from 6 a.m. to midnight and has concluded that the president “is bringing us into really troubled waters.” Bailey recently bought a thousand copies of the Constitution to distribute to his neighbors; on Tuesday, he said, he picked candidates who still seem to believe in compromise, a concept he said many of his neighbors now view with contempt.

By contrast, Moyers pronounced himself “all up for the Trumpster.” He said it’s been easier to find work extracting gas from the ground since the president cut back on regulations. “I was ready to sell my house if Hillary Clinton got in. We almost got into a fistfight over her at my family reunion.”

It might be better to accept ambiguity and make the best of what just happened but that is not America these days:

Trump’s brash, acid rhetoric sounds like creative disruption to his supporters, but comes off as narrowness and intolerance to those who find him alienating.

“We’ve all dealt with bullies,” said Taneisha Williamson, 35, a medical assistant in downtown Cleveland. “At the end of the day, being loud and screaming is not solving an issue. You may not like a person, but I can work with people I don’t like. I would like my president to be able to do the same.”

Trish Morgan, in contrast, voted to back up the “smartest president” she’s seen in her 51 years. Trump’s victory, she said, “was like a new beginning, a new chance.” She praises his hardline immigration policies and admires his handling of the economy. She doesn’t believe any of the accusations of sexual misconduct that women have made about him. She doesn’t mind his insults either.

“Just because he’s a little crazy with his words doesn’t make him a bad person,” said Morgan, a product inspector at a medical manufacturer in Hudson Falls, N.Y. “He’s an individual that is not going to let anybody tell him what to say or what to think, and I respect him for that.”

This will never be resolved, but Matthew Yglesias sees this:

Two years ago, the odd quirks of the Electoral College allowed Donald Trump to become president with a scant 46 percent of the vote. Today, the rest of America struck back.

Republicans picked off Senate seats deep in red America, but in the more responsive House of Representatives Democrats won seat after seat in urban and suburban America, swept to a majority, and brought an end to the Republican monopoly on power. The lesson is clear: Resistance works.

He sees no ambiguity:

Since the day after Trump’s inauguration, ordinary people refused to sell out immigrants, refugees, transgender people, or other scapegoats of the moment.

The protests that followed Trump’s inauguration were the largest mass demonstrations in American history. Crowds rushed to America’s airports to halt the first, and cruelest, version of Trump’s notorious travel ban. Thousands who called and protested played a crucial role in blocking the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saving health coverage for millions of mostly low-income families.

The resistance fought hard to combat Trump’s policy initiatives in Congress. By no means did they win at every turn. Trump scored a meaningful policy legacy, but all of it is unpopular. His image on health care is in tatters, the polling on his tax bill is miserable, and Brett Kavanaugh is the least popular newly confirmed Supreme Court justice on record.

And there were heroes and villains:

Women took the lead in rebuilding the Democratic Party and para-party organizations all around the country. Even as the media endlessly rehashed “Trump voters still like Trump” content, in suburbs and small towns all across the country, newly energized grassroots groups marched and phone-banked and organized, and tonight they won.

The congressional Republican Party stood by Trump through it all. They abandoned their 2016-vintage promises to be independent of Trump and hold him accountable, and Trump betrayed his 2016-vintage promises to be independent and check the GOP’s plutocratic instincts. They decided they would rather hang together than risk hanging separately, and for their sins, paid at the polls.

Initially, some in the media and some Democrats interpreted Trump’s razor-thin Electoral College victory, in which he earned fewer votes than his opponent, as a sign that he was a repository of deep and important truths about the state of the country. Some Democrats had the initial instinct in that fateful winter to try to collaborate with Trump – perhaps on an infrastructure bill – a misguided instinct that, unfortunately, will likely rear its head again.

What happened instead was the most extraordinary sustained popular mobilization of my lifetime. And from the beginning, the electoral warning signs were there for Republicans to heed.

They misread that:

It turned out that one of the things in it was a massive expansion of Medicaid that people liked quite a lot and that Senate Republicans were nervous about repealing. Another thing in it was the protections for patients with preexisting conditions that proved to be the centerpiece of many winning Democratic Party campaigns. As much as Trump tried to make the election be about a few thousand Central Americans hundreds of miles away, to many voters, it was about a few hundred congressional Republicans in Congress trying to deregulate the insurance industry.

They misread a lot of things:

Trump entered office not only having lost the popular vote but – uniquely among presidents – with an underwater favorability rating. George W. Bush got fewer votes than Al Gore, and Bill Clinton prevailed in a three-way field with just 42 percent of the vote, but both were popular on their inauguration days and enjoyed a honeymoon period with the mass public.

The Trump administration, by contrast, has consistently tried to run plays out of the authoritarian populist playbook – casting criticism and opposition as unpatriotic betrayals of the will of the people – without ever actually achieving popularity. Brazil’s new President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, repugnant as he may be, won an actual election in which he got most Brazilian voters to back him. Trump’s entire viability, by contrast, has been due to the geographic happenstance of the Electoral College, backed up by the Senate’s structural underrepresentation of people of color and boosted by a House GOP majority that gerrymandered itself into softness and complacency.

And that led to this:

Republicans treated Trump as if one of the least popular presidents on record was a genius. And much of the press went along, treating recklessness as a form of political savvy.

It was not. The state of semi-permanent emergency that the country has been in since Trump’s election continues, and the risks of a high-stakes institutional showdown are in some ways now elevated. But the myth of a Teflon Trump is dead, along with the bizarre notion that 45 percent or so of the public constitutes a “silent majority” that craves incompetence and white nationalism.

The resistance won because resistance works.

Right, but Trump is still president and the Senate is still Republican and the court are now packed with Trump appointees, and they know what to do. The resistance works but it didn’t win. This isn’t a movie. There is no closure. This is a story that never ends.

That’s okay, because Frank Bruni will take what he can get:

I wanted a sweeping repudiation of President Trump’s ugly politics, an undeniable statement that this country is bigger than his smallness and brighter than his darkness.

I got a vital safeguard against his worst impulses in the form of a significant Democratic majority in the House, the exact size of which wasn’t yet clear early Wednesday morning.

I’ll take it, and I’ll let others quibble over whether it amounts to a big wave, a modest one or a slosh of something wet and reassuring. It’s enough for the time being, even if doesn’t make me feel as good about America as I’d like to or as sure about the future as I yearn to.

It won’t humble Trump as thoroughly as he needs humbling. He’ll dwell on the Republicans’ success in the Senate, where they built on their majority. He’ll brag that he concentrated his own campaign-trail energy on that chamber of Congress and on those races, and he’ll be right. He’ll note — or others in his party will — that Democrats didn’t fare as well in these midterms as Republicans did two years into Barack Obama’s presidency, when they picked up 63 House seats…

He’ll find a way to feel validated and vindicated. He always does.

But that’s okay:

Trump needed a comeuppance, and the decisive swing of the House into the Democratic column was precisely that. You know what else was? The profiles of the Democrats who made that swing happen.

Many of the candidates for the House who turned red seats blue were women. A record number of them ran for Congress this year, and it seemed likely early Wednesday morning, even before all the counting of ballots was done, that the next Congress would also contain a record number of them: more than the 107 currently there. So a president who has acted and spoken with such vulgar disregard for women will deal with more female lawmakers than any of his predecessors did. That’s a measure of sweet justice.

Many of the candidates for the House who turned red seats blue were people of color. I think of Antonio Delgado in New York, whose blackness was something that Republicans dwelled on. I think of Colin Allred in Texas, who defeated a previously invincible Republican, Pete Sessions, who has been in Congress for two decades. I think of Lauren Underwood in Illinois, who was making her first bid for political office and wasn’t initially given much of a chance. She proved the naysayers wrong.

And there’s this:

In a bellwether House race in Kansas, Sharice Davids defeated the Republican incumbent, Kevin Yoder. She’s 38, openly gay and will be one of the first Native American women in Congress. The other, also elected on Tuesday, is Deb Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat.

Ah, Kansas: Trump won the state in 2016 by more than 20 points, but on Tuesday, in the governor’s race there, Kansans rejected a far-right candidate who was a darling of the president’s – Kris Kobach – for a Democratic woman, Laura Kelly. She won handily.

So this is all good, but not all that good:

I can look at the way Trump has governed – unabashedly spreading hate, gleefully shattering norms and sowing chaos at every turn – and wonder why more didn’t go Democrats’ way on Tuesday. I can tally their possible mistakes. Too many Democrats still haven’t figured out the difference between talking to and talking down to Americans, and too many engage in a kind of oppression Olympics that turns off voters in the middle.

But he’ll take what he can get:

On Tuesday, in House elections, Democrats prevailed among independents. They prevailed in suburbs. They prevailed in swing districts with candidates who showed plenty of prudent moderation.

And they prevailed despite low unemployment numbers, wage growth and an overall economic picture that most Americans find positive. It wasn’t “the economy, stupid” that drove what happened on Tuesday. It was Trump.

And that was that:

He repeatedly told his supporters in the days leading up to the midterms that he was essentially on the ballot, and for once he wasn’t boasting idly. Americans weighed in on him, and if it wasn’t quite the spanking he had coming, it certainly wasn’t a hug.

And that will have to do. This wasn’t Judgment Day. This was just another election. That will do for now. That will have to do. This particular story never ends.

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The Last Night

Monday, November 5, 2018, and waiting for Tuesday, November 6, 2018 – Election Day – the midterm elections – the referendum on President Donald Trump. He says that’s what this is. That’s what he wants, and that’s fine. Others want to give him what he really doesn’t want – the loss of the House and Senate and no end of new worries – and shame. Make him feel shame, but of course he doesn’t feel shame. The loss of the House and Senate will have to do, but that’s not certain. He was supposed to lose to Hillary Clinton.

He won, and this time he and the Republicans could win it all again. No one knows, and if he and the Republicans do win it all again, the changes are permanent. Muslims and Mexicans, and Hispanics in general, and uppity blacks, particularly the football players, and those even more uppity women, always trying to bring good men down, and gays, and urban hipsters, and those damned scientists, will no longer be welcome here. It will be the new age of the straight white evangelical males – as the Founding Fathers intended. For each side a big loss could be the end of the world, or that will be wonderful, finally settling matters the way they should have been settled in the first place. There was no way to tell, on the last night before the election, how things would turn out.

There was nothing to do but wait, but there was the last-night drama, as the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner reports here:

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday issued strong warnings about the threat of voter fraud in Tuesday’s elections, echoing the president’s claims that massive voter fraud marred his 2016 election and prompting accusations that his administration is trying to intimidate voters.

In a tweet early Monday, Trump said that law enforcement has been “strongly notified” to watch for “ILLEGAL VOTING.” He promised that anyone caught voting improperly would be subjected to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.” Sessions, in a statement laying out the Justice Department’s plans to monitor ballot access on Election Day, said “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”

That might intimidate voters. Vote at your own risk. You could be arrested and have to hire an expensive lawyer to prove that you really did have the right to vote after all, that you were really registered. Why bother? And Trump was serious:

In remarks to reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump also claimed that voter fraud is commonplace.

“Just take a look,” he said. “All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people – a lot of people – my opinion, and based on proof – that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”

And there and then Amy Gardner gets unfairly snarky about this:

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States. Trump formed a commission to study the issue shortly after he took office that was disbanded without finding evidence of fraud after states refused to turn over voter data.

Sure, they didn’t find a thing, and shrugged and moved on, but does that mean there wasn’t any voter fraud? Trump won’t let this go, and he has an ally:

Nowhere has the debate over voting rights been more acrimonious than in Georgia, where Republican Brian Kemp, a champion of voting restrictions, is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the first-ever black female governor in the nation.

Kemp, who as secretary of state is also in charge of running Tuesday’s elections, over the weekend accused the state Democratic Party of trying to hack into the state election system.

He’s contacted the FBI and whatnot. That’s his job as secretary of state down there. He’s in charge of running Tuesday’s elections. He can make sure Stacey Abrams goes to jail. He can have her barred from running for any office anywhere ever again. And he’s also running against her, so he has her arrested and he wins. This is pretty simple, but it is nonsense:

Emails from the Democratic Party, however, show that party officials were alerted to a possible vulnerability in the state system and forwarded the tip to cybersecurity officials, who in turn forwarded it to lawyers for Kemp as well as the FBI.

On Monday, computer experts and lawyers involved with the episode said they were stunned that Kemp had turned an effort to alert his office, about a security-vulnerability, into a political attack. “It’s obvious to me that they’re shooting the messenger,” said Logan Lamb, an Atlanta-based cybersecurity researcher who reviewed the emails over the weekend.

Those who were stunned shouldn’t have been:

In 2014, he accused the New Georgia Project, a voter-registration group that Abrams founded to register eligible people of color, of fraud, but his investigation produced no evidence of wrongdoing. This year, he accused Abrams of encouraging undocumented immigrants to vote, a charge she denies. This week he circulated the accusation in an automated telephone recording.

Kemp also championed strict new voting rules that were partially blocked in a pair of court rulings in recent weeks. One of the laws, requiring personal information on voter registration applications to exactly match other government records, disproportionately affected people of color.

Kemp also tweeted out an article Monday from Breitbart, a conservative news outlet that regularly publishes right-wing conspiracy theories, claiming that “armed Black Panthers” support Abrams. The racially charged article featured photographs of black men carrying guns and holding Abrams signs.

That’s who he is. He remembers the New Black Panthers – both of them showing up at a polling place in Philadelphia in 2008 in that election. Those two must be stopped! And the dour and severe and very white Brian Kemp and the open and happy and articulate and very black Stacey Abrams were in a dead heat on the night before the big election.

And this happened too:

Sean Hannity spoke from the stage of President Donald Trump’s last midterm election rally on Monday, after Fox News Channel and its most popular personality had insisted all day that he wouldn’t.

Hannity appeared on the podium in a Missouri arena after being called to the stage by Trump. Another Fox News host, Jeanine Pirro, also appeared onstage with the president.

“By the way, all those people in the back are fake news,” Hannity told the audience.

And then he told them to rush back there and kill them all. No, not really, but this was odd:

It was an extraordinary scene after the news network had worked Monday to establish distance between Hannity and the campaign. Trump’s campaign had billed Hannity as a “special guest” at the rally, but Fox had said that wasn’t so. Hannity himself had tweeted: “To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the president. I am covering final rally for the show.”

But Trump called him to the stage after saying, “they’re very special, they’ve done an incredible job for us. They’ve been with us from the beginning.”

Hannity hugged the president when he came onstage and, after echoing Trump’s traditional epithets about the media, recited some economic statistics.

Some people were not happy with this:

“Either Fox News lied all day about their direct collaboration with the Trump campaign, or the network simply doesn’t have any control over Sean Hannity,” said Angelo Carusone, president of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, which has urged an advertiser boycott of Hannity in the past. “This is a problem. It’s dangerous for democracy and a threat to a free press.”

Even the Fox News people know this:

Hannity has been rebuked by Fox in the past. In 2016, he was part of a Trump political video, which Fox said it had not known about in advance and told Hannity not to do so again. When Fox found out in 2010 that the Tea Party had advertised that Hannity would be appearing at one of his fundraising rallies, Fox said it had not approved the arrangement and ordered him back to New York.

But they cannot control him now:

Hannity’s role at the rally had been put in question by Trump campaign itself. It announced on Sunday that Hannity was to be a guest, along with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and singer Lee Greenwood. Fox said it did not know how that impression had been created and Michael Glasser, chief operating officer for the campaign, did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite Fox’s disavowal, the Trump campaign continued to list Hannity as a guest throughout Monday at the link where people could seek tickets to the event.

And that was that. There they were – Donald Trump and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Lee Greenwood – all that is right and good with America – or the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

But that wasn’t all. Emily Stewart at Vox covers the other issue of the day:

Some networks refused to air President Donald Trump’s race-baiting campaign video put out in the final stretch of the 2018 midterms. CNN, for example, refused to broadcast the full version of it. Eventually other networks – including Fox News – pulled the ad.

And Trump’s not happy about it.

The ad, created by Trump’s campaign committee, features footage of Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported unauthorized immigrant who killed two California police officers in 2014. It ties him to the migrant caravan currently hundreds of miles away from the US-Mexico border and the Democratic Party. Political experts compared it to the infamously racist Willie Horton ad used by George H. W. Bush with some even saying it was worse.

Trump then defended allegations that the ad is offensive by saying that some reporters ask questions HE finds offensive.

That was a “fuck you” to the reporter asking the question but this was a generalized media rebuke:

NBC on Sunday aired the ad during a Sunday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, a program that garners massive ratings.

After a backlash, NBCUniversal Monday pulled the ad, in a statement saying that “after further review” the network recognizes “the sensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible.”

Fox News and Fox Business, which had run the ad about a dozen times, quickly did the same. “Upon further review, Fox News pulled the ad yesterday on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network,” a spokesperson told CNN.

Facebook, which according to the New York Times had been running the ad targeted at voters in states such as Florida and Arizona, said it would drop the ad, too, because it “violates advertising policy against sensational content.”

And that was that – even Fox News had betrayed Trump, the day Sean Hannity betrayed Fox News and campaigned with Trump. Fox News is Sean Hannity’s network now, and there was this:

Brad Parscale, Trump’s reelection campaign manager, also hit back on Twitter, saying that the outlets that had canceled the ad “stand with those ILLEGALLY IN THIS COUNTRY” instead of legal immigrants.

Brad Parscale was putting Fox News on notice there, and Emily Stewart adds this:

Trump has a strong economic case to be making right now: growth is strong, and unemployment is low. Politico reported on Sunday that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had called Trump over the weekend to encourage him to talk about the economy.

But Trump wants the topic to be immigration. For weeks, he’s been hyping up the migrant caravan from Central America that is hundreds of miles away and warning about an “invasion” of immigrants. At rallies, he says Democrats want open borders and will let a flood of criminals into the United States.

He says that because that works:

Republicans are most angered by undocumented immigrants crossing the border and by calls to impeach Trump, according to a survey conducted by Reuters and Ipsos gauging emotional response toward the biggest headlines this month.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being extremely angry, the survey found Republicans ages 55 and older registered an average 7.9 in anger about illegal immigration. Republicans have consistently named illegal immigration as the biggest problem facing the US, whereas Democrats prioritize health care, gun violence, and climate change.

He’s got the base. He has no one else, but he’s got the base.

Fine, but Paul Waldman sees that as the real problem here:

This election has seen some surprises and some things that were absolutely predictable. Few of us would have imagined that Republicans could think they’d be able to get away with suddenly proclaiming themselves the true champions of protections for people with preexisting conditions, for instance. But centering their campaign on racist appeals to fear and hatred? I think we all saw that coming.

It doesn’t look like it’s going to work, though we won’t know for sure until Tuesday night. But it does raise a question that will help determine the shape of our politics for the next few years: What happens afterward? Especially if they lose the House – as pretty much everyone assumes they will – will Republicans conclude that the campaign they ran was a mistake and try to change?

Waldman sees that as unlikely:

You’d think that when the former grand wizard of the KKK is applauding the president for his racist campaign ads and white supremacist websites are lighting up with joy over his rhetoric, it might lead to some reflection on the right. But we know it won’t.

So if nothing else, if they’re not successful in holding the House, Republicans could decide that it was a “tactical” mistake to embrace race-baiting as a campaign strategy. And I’m sure some will. The problem is that the party as a whole may be trapped into repeating the same strategy for the next couple of elections.

That might seem counter-intuitive. After all, if they lose, wouldn’t they want to change?

Waldman cites Matt Viser on that:

By running so overtly on racially tinged messages, the GOP is putting that explosive form of politics on the ballot. If Republicans maintain control of the House, the notion of running a campaign built on blunt, race-based attacks on immigrants and minorities will have been validated. A loss, on the other hand, might prompt a number of Republicans to call for a rethinking of the party’s direction – but that would collide with a sitting president who, if anything, relishes over-the-edge rhetoric.

Waldman sees that as a trap:

There are many Republicans running right now, particularly in suburban districts, who wish the president would dial down the racism so they could just appeal to traditional party loyalties and assure voters they’re reasonable and responsible. But this is Trump’s party, and if you have an “R” next to your name, you’re going to own whatever he does. There will be some Republicans saying the party made a mistake, but their arguments will fall on deaf ears.

And then they’ll be gone:

The Republicans who lose will be the more moderate members. While there are a few exceptions here and there, as a general matter, the more conservative a district is, the safer the seat and the more intensely right-wing its member of Congress.

That means that your ordinary Freedom Caucus member is going to get reelected even in a blue wave, while the vulnerable members are the more moderate ones who represent swing districts. This will produce a somewhat ironic result in the next Congress: The bigger the blue wave, the more conservative the Republican caucus will end up being when it’s over, and the less equipped the GOP will be to run a different kind of campaign in 2020.

If all the reporting and polls are wrong, we’ll end up with a Republican Congress that looks like it does now (which, to be clear, is incredibly conservative). On the other hand, if Democrats get just enough seats to take the House, a couple dozen of the more moderate Republicans will be defeated, shifting the center of the caucus that remains to the right. And if there’s a huge blue wave, every Republican with even the slightest impulse toward moderation will be gone.

In short, things will get worse:

If Democrats win a huge victory Tuesday, Trump isn’t going to say, “Gee, I guess I was wrong about all that anti-immigrant stuff. I need to reach out to a broader electorate to get reelected.” He’ll tell himself that the 2018 defeat only happened because he was not personally on the ballot, and it would have been much worse had he not executed such a brilliant strategy.

That story line will also be validated by the conservative media. Feeding the racial fears and resentments of older white people is to Fox News and conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh what game highlights are to ESPN. It’s the core of the business model, and has been for a couple of decades now. And the GOP base – aghast at an unprecedented number of victories by Democratic women and people of color – will become even more susceptible to the message of fear.

You can extend it out even further. What happens in 2022? If Trump wins in 2020, it will validate the race-baiting, and if he loses it means there will be a Democratic president and a right-wing backlash… The earliest we could see the GOP truly try to reach out to a broader swath of voters is 2024.

And this year, they’re going to come to the same set of conclusions whether they win or lose. Was the racist fear-mongering a mistake? Nope, midterm losses just happen to the president’s party. Was it wrong to try to suppress the votes of racial minorities in places such as Georgia and North Dakota? Nope, we just didn’t do a thorough enough job of it. Should we try something different? We might like to, but as long as Trump is president, this is the strategy we’re going to follow.

There’s a lot more ugliness to come.

Right – that does seem to be the case on the last night before the big election. Something is going to change, one way or the other. The change will be for the worse, one way or another. Americans are who they are.

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Flying Down to Rio

Brazil was always cool. In 1933 it was Flying Down to Rio – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ first movie together. Rio was cool. Brazil was cool. And there’s that famous 1939 Ary Barroso song – “Aquarela do Brasil” known to everyone else as “Brazil” and covered by everyone. In 1959 it was Black Orpheus – the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set in Rio, at Carnival. The French director Marcel Camus cast the fetching Marpessa Dawn as Eurydice, even if she was from Pittsburgh. This shouldn’t have worked. The whole thing was in black-and-white and in Portuguese, with subtitles, but the score featured lots of Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá – and Bossa Nova was born. Stan Getz got his career back. A generation of jazz musicians, and pop musicians, covered every song that had been in that movie – and then there were more and more subtle and haunting Brazilian tunes. That never let up. In 2011 it was Rio – a comic animated version of what Marcel Camus had done more that forty years earlier. Anne Hathaway was Jewel, a female macaw from Rio de Janeiro, not Eurydice, but it was pretty much the same story – save Eurydice – and Rio was still cool – and Brazil was still cool.

Forget that. Things just changed:

Brazil became the latest country to drift toward the far right, electing a strident populist as president in the nation’s most radical political change since democracy was restored more than 30 years ago.

The president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has exalted the country’s military dictatorship, advocated torture and threatened to destroy, to jail or drive into exile his political opponents.

He won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil – a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil – and by presenting himself as the alternative.

“We have everything we need to become a great nation,” Mr. Bolsonaro said Sunday night shortly after the race was called in a video broadcast on his Facebook account. “Together we will change the destiny of Brazil.”

This should sound familiar. People call him the Donald Trump of Brazil. He calls himself the Donald Trump of Brazil. Donald Trump calls him the Donald Trump of Brazil. He wants to make Brazil great again, in a Trump kind of way:

Many Brazilians see authoritarian tendencies in Mr. Bolsonaro, who plans to appoint military leaders to top posts and said he would not accept the result if he were to lose. He has threatened to stack the Supreme Court by increasing the number of judges to 21 from 11 and to deal with political foes by giving them the choice of extermination or exile.

And that’s okay:

His roster of offensive remarks – he said that he’d rather his son die than be gay and that women don’t deserve the same pay as men — was interpreted by many as bracing honesty and evidence of his willingness to shatter the status quo.

“The way he’s run his campaign is very clever,” said Matias Spektor, a professor of international relations at Fundação Getulio Vargas University. “He has managed to align himself with the institutions that Brazilians still believe in: religion, family and armed forces.”

Trump has the evangelicals here, so that’s not surprising, nor is this:

A year ago, Mr. Bolsonaro’s bid was widely regarded by political veterans in Brasília as fanciful in a nation renowned for the cordiality and warmth of its people. Some of the candidate’s remarks were so offensive the country’s attorney general earlier this year charged him with inciting hatred toward black, gay and indigenous people. In a country where most of the population is not white, this alone might have seemed to disqualify him.

Yet, the vitriol and outrage Mr. Bolsonaro brought to the campaign trail as he traveled around the country largely mirrored Brazilians’ dystopian mood. Nearly 13 million people are unemployed.

There, as here, cordiality and warmth are for losers, because law and order matter more:

He vowed to give the police forces in Brazil – some of the most lethal in the world – expanded authority to kill suspects, saying with trademark bluntness that a “good criminal is a dead criminal.” He also promised to lower the age of criminal responsibility, impose stiffer sentences for violent crimes and ease Brazil’s gun ownership restrictions so civilians could better protect themselves.

Trump still wants the Central Park Five executed and the rest is pure NRA stuff, so this was no surprise:

Donald Trump’s national security adviser has welcomed Brazil’s election of far-right Jair Bolsonaro as a “positive sign” for Latin America. John Bolton praised Mr Bolsonaro, who is openly racist, homophobic and sexist, as “like-minded”.

The comments came during a speech in Miami in which he appealed to the city’s thousands of exiles from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, days before tightly contested midterm elections in Florida.

Mr Bolton announced new sanctions on the nations he described as a “troika of tyranny” and “destructive forces of oppression, socialism and totalitarianism”.

He drew a clear line between Latin America’s left-wing regimes and the right-wingers Mr Trump’s administration appear to view as allies.

That’s bad:

A former spokesperson for the US National Security Council described the remarks as “terrifying”.

“It puts the US on the side of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and an aspiring autocrat,” added Ned Price, who served under Barack Obama.

Ah, don’t worry about it:

Harold Trinkunas, deputy director of Stanford University’s Centre for International Security and Cooperation, said there was “no doubt” Mr Bolton’s speech “had an electoral purpose”.

“The timing and the location have an electoral impact and Florida is an important state for the Republican Party,” he added.

That was just “election talk” of course, but James Traub, writing in Foreign Policy, sees something bigger going on here:

Angela Merkel couldn’t have remained Germany’s chancellor forever. Even Helmut Kohl, who was chairman of the Christian Democratic Union and Germany’s longest-serving postwar chancellor, had to step down after 16 years. Kohl’s tenure ended in the usual way: In 1998, with unemployment and economic dissatisfaction rising, voters chose the left-of-center Gerhard Schröder over the right-of-center Kohl. But today, unemployment is at an almost historic low of 3.4 percent. Both youth unemployment and long-term unemployment, typical drivers of the anti-incumbent spirit, are low (though so is annual growth, at 2 percent).

Yet Merkel announced this week that she is stepping down as party chair, which strongly suggests she will not serve out the remainder of her term. She has been done in, above all, by the refugee crisis, for which a growing number of German voters have blamed her ever since she famously told them, in the late summer of 2015, “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do this”). Many of those voters want to reclaim what they have suddenly come to regard as an endangered identity.

This isn’t Brazil, but this is angry populism too:

The larger significance of Merkel’s fate is that the materialist assumptions of Western liberalism no longer capture the reality of Western politics and culture. It is in the nature of liberalism, a credo founded on rationalism, secularism, and utilitarian calculation, to regard material interests – your pocketbook – as real and the realm of values as ephemeral. That is why the economist Thomas Frank could argue that Republicans had hoodwinked working-class Americans into voting against their true interests by seducing them with traditionalist values. That is also what Barack Obama was thinking when he said during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

It is, of course, no coincidence that the wave of populist nationalism now breaking over the West began in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis, when millions of working- and middle-class voters lost savings, jobs, and future prospects. But the wave engulfed liberal politics even where economic pillars remained intact.

In short, the economy got better but people got angrier anyway:

This is the phenomenon we face today in the United States, where the economy has rebounded more quickly than it has elsewhere in the West yet the forces of nationalism have not abated a whit. Donald Trump has not even campaigned on the economy or the stock market, an utterly bewildering choice by classical political standards.

At first the president focused on his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, which drew attention to his crusade against abortion, the great values issue of the last generation. But recently he has switched to immigration, turning the caravan of mothers and children seeking refuge from the violence and poverty of Central America into a threat to national security and identity.

Steve Bannon has claimed that the American electorate is dividing between “nationalists” and “cosmopolitans.” Trump plainly agrees, and he knows his base. A 2017 survey found that “fears about immigrants and cultural displacement were more powerful factors than economic concerns in predicting support for Trump among white working-class voters.” Almost half of such voters agreed with the statement, “Things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”

Trump (and Bolsonaro and countless others) can work with this, and people like Angela Merkel and Barack Obama cannot:

What this means for liberals is that a program of economic justice will not be enough to reach alienated whites. It means as well that a politics of identity that emphasizes the particularity of every group and subgroup, the right of each to stand apart from the straight white male default, will only further inflame the yearning for an atavistic whites-only identity.

So, don’t even think about standing up against the culture’s straight white male default. That will make those folks even angrier. Traub suggests just trying to understand them:

Liberals are inclined to regard their own values as universal and self-evident, unlike the so-called subjective ones that arise from religion or custom. The cosmopolitan cherishing of diversity is an intrinsic good, while the yen for the familiar constitutes a repudiation of reality. In fact, both are preferences, although very deep ones that sharply divide those who hold them. The globalization of people, goods, jobs, and ideas has brought out that difference in sharp relief and thus redefined the politics of the West.

Liberals can’t abandon their own values, but they must acknowledge them. And they must take seriously the views of those who do not share those values.

Traub ends there. He doesn’t suggest how to do that. It is hard to take Trump seriously. On the Sunday before the midterm elections, the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker shows why:

President Trump is painting an astonishingly apocalyptic vision of America under Democratic control in the campaign’s final days, unleashing a torrent of falsehoods and portraying his political opponents as desiring crime, squalor and poverty.

As voters prepare to render their first verdict on his presidency in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Trump is claiming that Democrats want to erase the nation’s borders and provide sanctuary to drug dealers, human traffickers and MS-13 killers. He is warning that they would destroy the economy, obliterate Medicare and unleash a wave of violent crime that endangers families everywhere. And he is alleging that they would transform the United States into Venezuela with socialism run amok.

So, liberals must take seriously the views of those who do not share their values, but this is just bile:

In Columbia, Mo., the president suggested that Democrats “run around like Antifa” demonstrators in black uniforms and black helmets, but underneath, they have “this weak little face” and “go back home into mommy’s basement.”

In Huntington, W.Va., Trump called predatory immigrants “the worst scum in the world” but alleged that Democrats welcome them by saying, “Fly right in, folks. Come on in. We don’t care who the hell you are, come on in!”

And in Macon, Ga., he charged that if Democrat Stacey Abrams is elected governor, she would take away the Second Amendment right to bear arms – though as a state official, she would not have the power to change the Constitution.

That doesn’t matter, because none of it is real:

President Trump has been promising a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class, though no such legislation exists. And he has sounded alarms over an imminent “invasion” of dangerous “illegal aliens,” referring to a caravan of Central American migrants that includes many women and children, is traveling by foot and is not expected to reach the U.S.-Mexico border for several weeks, if at all.

But it works:

With his breathtaking cascade of orations, tweets, media appearances and presidential actions, Trump has dictated the terms of the political debate in the final week of the campaign even though he is not up for reelection for two years.

“He goes out and says crazy, horrible things, blows race whistles and sits back and watches his topic of craziness dominate cable TV for the next 24 hours,” said Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a Trump critic. “Everybody repeats his charge, and then there’s a lot of pearl-clutching and tsk-tsking, and then repeating it again.”

Trump’s omnipresence has frustrated Democrats, who are attempting to stay focused on their campaign messages of health care and other pocketbook issues.

Forget that. Trump sucked all the air out of the room, but that may be a gamble:

Trump has had only one formative political experience: His 2016 race for president, which he won against odds by galvanizing his conservative base around nativist themes. Two years later, he is returning to the same playbook.

“This freneticism at the end… him ratcheting up to a new level of histrionics and fear, the question is, ‘Is there a point of diminishing returns?'” asked David Axelrod, who was former president Barack Obama’s chief strategist. “Do these tactics at once offend some people but also appear so fundamentally contrived that even some who are inclined to vote for Republicans say, you lost me here?”

“His gamble is that this will work,” Axelrod added. “Certainly the veracity doesn’t bother him, and the optics doesn’t bother him. The only thing that would bother him is losing.”

Republican strategist Mike Murphy says that’s not quite it:

“All his bad characteristics get amplified when he’s in a crunch,” Murphy said. “He doesn’t have any allegiance to the truth or reality to begin with, so he’s drunk on crowds, in a corner and under great political pressure.”

He’s just reacting and these are just words, although Rucker notes this:

Trump’s campaign maneuvers – which Vice President Pence and many Republican candidates are reinforcing and defending – are not only rhetorical.

The president last week deployed thousands of U.S. troops to the border, ostensibly to protect the United States from the coming caravan, and has gloated on the stump about the “beautiful barbed wire” they have installed there. Several prominent former military leaders have denounced the deployment as a political stunt.

Trump has been fueling the baseless conspiracy theory that the caravan is being funded by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and Democratic mega-donor who was the target of a mail bomb last month. The same conspiracy theory allegedly motivated the suspect in the mass slaughter at a Pittsburgh synagogue eight days ago.

“They want to invite caravan after caravan, and it is a little suspicious how those caravans are starting, isn’t it?” Trump asked at a Saturday night rally in Pensacola, Fla. “Isn’t it a little? And I think it’s a good thing maybe that they did it. Did they energize our base or what?”

They – George Soros and the other Jews set up the caravans – did they energize his base, particularly that guy in Pittsburgh, but this is all based on nonsense:

At his Saturday rally in Belgrade, Mont., Trump told a cheering crowd, without a hint of irony, “I’m the only one that tells you the facts.”

But Trump’s flood of misinformation has swelled to epic proportions in recent weeks, according to an analysis by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. In the seven weeks leading up to the election, the president made 1,419 false or misleading claims, an average of 30 a day. That compares with 1,318 false or misleading claims during the first nine months of his presidency, an average of five a day.

But not to worry:

Trump’s supporters say they don’t much care about the falsehood meter. At his rally Wednesday in Estero, Fla., one Trump fan after another explained away the president’s disregard for the truth.

Hope Heisler, an emergency room doctor: “I’m not a fact-checker. All of the candidates, whether they be Republican or Democrat, don’t say things completely accurately all the time. But I trust in President Trump.”

Linda Sears, a housewife: “Presidents should tell the truth, but sometimes they make mistakes. At least Trump tells it like it is. Trump is a truth teller.”

Pat Banker, a retired registered nurse: “I don’t think he lies. He gets excited when he’s talking, and he likes to exaggerate a little bit. But that’s just his way.”

Rucker doesn’t see that:

Trump has never had much of an appetite for nuance, and he has been framing the choice before voters on Tuesday in terms of black and white, right and wrong.

“This election is a choice between Republican results and radical resistance,” Trump told a rally crowd Thursday in Columbia, Mo. “It’s a choice between greatness and gridlock. It’s a choice between jobs and mobs. And it’s a choice between an economy that is going strong and the Democrats who are going crazy.”

When it comes to assailing Democrats, Trump – who for years was a registered Democrat – has adopted a kitchen-sink strategy. On Friday night in Indianapolis, he told thousands of red-capped supporters, “If Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the legendary Maxine Waters, if they take power, they will try to erase our gains and eradicate our progress. The Democrats want to raise your taxes. They want to restore job-killing regulations. They want to shut down your steel mills. And that will happen.”

He kept going.

“They want to take away your real health care and use socialism to turn America into Venezuela,” Trump continued. “Lovely place, lovely place. And Democrats want to totally open borders.”

The crowd reacted, just on cue, with loud boos.

Liberals can’t abandon their own values, but they must take seriously the views of those who do not share those values. Why?

The Post’s Matt Viser sees this:

The fierce battle for control of Congress and the nation’s governorships has turned toward blatant and overtly racial attacks rarely seen since the civil rights era of the 1960s.

A new robocall going out to voters in Georgia features a voice impersonating Oprah Winfrey and calling Stacey Abrams, who is running to become the nation’s first black woman elected governor, “a poor man’s Aunt Jemima.” In Florida, the Trump administration’s secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, urged voters not to elect Andrew Gillum, who would be the state’s first black governor, with a colloquialism widely seen as having racial connotations: “This election is so cotton-pickin’ important.”

Some Republicans suddenly scrambled, following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, to distance themselves from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). The moves came after King said a far-right Austrian party with historical Nazi ties would be Republican were it in the United States.

Of course King is a special case:

The eight-term congressman has spent most of his career playing on the racial and xenophobic fringes, drawing praise from Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, blocking efforts to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill and displaying a Confederate battle flag on his congressional office desk. He said in 2013 that most children of undocumented immigrants “have got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” he tweeted in 2017.

It was only recently, after the Washington Post reported that he met with the far-right Austrian party and when he endorsed a white nationalist mayoral candidate in Toronto, that Republicans denounced him. But the denunciations came after the synagogue shootings; beforehand, the remarks had raised little fuss.

The remarks had raised little fuss because that’s where the party is now, just hoping for the best:

By running so overtly on racially tinged messages, the GOP is putting that explosive form of politics on the ballot. If Republicans maintain control of the House, the notion of running a campaign built on blunt, race-based attacks on immigrants and minorities will have been validated. A loss, on the other hand, might prompt a number of Republicans to call for a rethinking of the party’s direction – but that would collide with a sitting president who, if anything, relishes over-the-edge rhetoric.

The stakes for the party’s future are immense. Republicans now are an overwhelmingly white party, whereas Democrats represent a multiethnic coalition. The problem for Republicans is that the nation is moving swiftly in the direction of Democratic demographics.

“The long-term risks are obvious. The country is rapidly becoming more diverse, and appealing to a more diverse electorate requires a much more inclusive message,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster and strategist. “Those who are firmly committed to Donald Trump are not the least bit concerned. But people in the party who are concerned about how Republicans might actually win a majority of the popular vote or win swing states and districts… then they’re very concerned.”

They should be concerned:

Candidates in the past have tapped obliquely into racial undercurrents during political campaigns. Ronald Reagan talked of “welfare queens,” and George H. W. Bush played on racial fears with an ad in his 1988 campaign about a black convict, Willie Horton.

But the attacks are now much more blatant and out in the open, at a level not seen since the 1950s and 1960s, according to Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University.

“It’s quite extraordinary. It goes beyond criticizing their views,” he said. “This is using very racially tinged language. It’s very remarkable to hear from a president, and now it’s seeping down to candidates running below the presidential level. And it’s spread beyond the small fringe now.”

Take that overt racism seriously. That worked for Trump in 2016 and the same sort of populism worked for Jair Bolsonaro last week in Brazil, and Angela Merkel will be gone soon – so don’t even think of flying down to Rio. There’s no cordiality and warmth there any longer. There’s not much of that anywhere now. The world is changing. Take that seriously.

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