Finally Losing America

Perhaps the world is changing. The week ended with startling news from the world of Proudly Political True Christianity:

Jerry Falwell Jr., one of President Trump’s most prominent and controversial evangelical supporters, will take an indefinite leave of absence from his role as president and chancellor of Liberty University, the board of trustees announced on Friday.

The news comes days after Mr. Falwell posted, and then deleted, a photograph on Instagram of him posing alongside a woman with his pants unzipped and his arm around her.

Oops. And “an indefinite leave of absence” usually lasts forever. He’s gone, and this was a big deal:

Under the Falwell family’s leadership, Liberty has grown in five decades from a modest Baptist college to an evangelical powerhouse with cash investments and endowments of nearly $2 billion, nearly 46,000 undergraduates and a campus that sprawls across Lynchburg and neighboring counties in Virginia.

The university was founded by Mr. Falwell’s father as a bastion of social conservatism, one that was unabashedly assertive as it trained what it called “Champions for Christ.”

Jerry Prevo, the chairman of the board, said in a statement that Liberty had experienced academic, financial and spiritual success during Mr. Falwell’s tenure.

“Unfortunately, with this success and the burdens of leading a large and growing organization comes substantial pressure,” Mr. Prevo said. He added that the decision for Mr. Falwell to take a leave of absence “was not made lightly.”

But the guy was, in the end, a jerk:

In the photograph, both Mr. Falwell and the woman have their pants unzipped. His hand is close to her chest. “More vacation shots,” the post said. “Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass.”

Mr. Falwell responded to criticism of the photo earlier this week in an interview with WLNI, a local Lynchburg radio station. “Yeah, it was weird. She’s pregnant. She couldn’t get her pants zipped and I was like trying to like … I had on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time and couldn’t get zipped either. So, I just put my belly out like hers. She’s my wife’s assistant, she’s a sweetheart. I should have never put it up and embarrassed her. I’ve apologized to everybody. I promised my kids I will try to be a good boy from here on out.”

He’ll try to be a good boy? No, he’s already gone:

Students from Liberty expressed outrage about the photo on social media. Several pointed out that it was in direct violation of the school’s code of conduct.

They can’t smoke, or drink, and must dress modestly, these young men and young women cannot dance with each other, or at all. Even touching is discouraged, but Jerry is who he is:

Mr. Falwell has been involved in a number of controversies in recent years. In May he tweeted out Blackface and Ku Klux Klan imagery, prompting demands for his firing and resignations of at least four Black faculty and staff members. In April a student filed a class-action lawsuit against Liberty over how it has handled the coronavirus pandemic. Last year the former editor of the Liberty student newspaper wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling Mr. Falwell out for silencing students and faculty who spoke out against his support of Mr. Trump.

He makes fun of black folks, Liberty University is a no-masks and no social distancing kind of place, because that whole coronavirus thing is a hoax to make Trump look bad, and no one on campus is allowed to say a disparaging word of any kind about Donald Trump, and now he’s gone:

Calum Best, 22, who graduated from Liberty in May and who has spoken out against Mr. Falwell’s political activity, called the move “a victory.”

“It feels like they did it more because they were embarrassed, more than because it was the correct thing to do,” he said. But, he said, “It’s great that he’s gone.”

“He is the one who holds up Liberty’s culture of focus on money, material well-being, political nationalism,” he said. “Without Falwell gone, we can’t really change any of that.”

And now they can change that, and there does seem to be something in the air. At Politico, David Siders notes this:

The culture wars aren’t working for Donald Trump. His law-and-order rhetoric isn’t registering with suburban voters. One of his leading evangelical supporters, Jerry Falwell Jr., was just photographed with his zipper down. Immigration isn’t provoking the response it did in 2016, and NASCAR has spurned the president.

Even an attempt by a New York Democrat to take down the National Rifle Association – a lawsuit announced Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James – looks unlikely to juice Trump’s reelection hopes.

“America has changed,” said Frank Luntz, the veteran Republican consultant and pollster. “Every person who cares about the NRA is already voting for Trump. Suburban swing voters care about the right to own a gun, but they don’t care about the NRA.”

Yes, the NRA is so last week, or last century:

A brawl between the NRA and New York once would’ve been turnout gold for a Republican president. And some Republicans and Democrats alike on Thursday suggested that Republicans could use the episode to stoke turnout among Trump’s base.

But the NRA is not the institution it was in American politics even four years ago, when it spent heavily to help Trump win election. Beset by financial problems and infighting, public support for the NRA has declined during the Trump era, falling below 50 percent last year for the first time since the 1990s, according to Gallup. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of Americans want stricter gun laws.

That’s when voters are even thinking about gun control. Three months before Election Day, they mostly aren’t – it’s all about coronavirus and the economy, stupid. That’s a problem for Republicans even the NRA has acknowledged.

Siders references internal NRA memos wondering how to get the membership, and the rest of the country, to think about guns again. But there’s no way, so Trump is in trouble:

The culture wars of old, said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, seem “miles away from where this election is right now.”

Gun control and other cultural issues, he said, “are always a backdrop and a way for Trump to maintain his base. But again, his base is 42 percent. Where’s the other 5 to 6 percent he needs going to come from?”

No one else is coming to rescue him, and that’s where this gets interesting:

Within hours of the lawsuit’s announcement, some Democrats did raise concerns about the effect that it could have on turnout. One Democratic elected official in Pennsylvania likened it politically to a Republican attorney general suing to dissolve Planned Parenthood, saying, “If this is the election of our lifetime, and I believe it is, why risk it?”

But given Trump’s inability to harness any other cultural issue so far in the campaign, it will likely take a Hail Mary for him to make it work. Trump has been running consistently behind Biden nationally and in most battleground states – unaided by issues surrounding civil unrest and the flag. Trump’s best chance, most Republicans and Democrats agree, is for the coronavirus or economy to turn around or for his law-and-order rhetoric to gain traction.

The coronavirus will get worse and worse. A miracle cure before Election Day would be a miracle. Trump keeps saying it will just go away, in fact, it’s going away right now. But there are the dead bodies, a thousand deaths a day, day after day after day. And that means the economy cannot possibly turn around, and all his talk about Black Lives Matter young thugs overrunning white American dream-suburbs is getting embarrassing.

This isn’t working. The Washington Post reports this:

A growing number of Republican women are sounding the alarm about continuing loss of support for President Trump and the GOP among female voters ahead of the November election, warning that the party is in danger of permanently alienating women if it doesn’t change course.

Yes, Republican women are warning their own party:

Trump’s flailing response to the coronavirus pandemic and his move to inflame nationwide racial tensions are exacerbating an already precarious situation, according to interviews with female Republican lawmakers and GOP pollsters focused on female voters.

Women now favor presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by an eye-popping 23 percentage points, according to an average of national polls since late June. And White women, a majority of whom backed Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, are starting to abandon the president.

“There was a gender gap when it came to Hillary Clinton, but now there is a gender chasm,” said GOP strategist Sarah Longwell, who has been conducting regular focus groups with female Trump voters who no longer approve of the president. “Trump has created an environment where women are not particularly interested in the Republican Party, where the Republican Party doesn’t seem like a place for women.”

But none of them says that too loudly:

Although GOP pollsters and strategists spoke freely about the problem, many Republican women in Congress were reluctant to criticize Trump or party leaders publicly, fearful of triggering the president’s wrath. Privately, one female lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about internal frustration, said male GOP leaders have done little to address the problem, but she also suggested that not much can be done until Trump is out of office.

After all, it’s just one thing after another:

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) was accused of using a vulgar and sexist expletive to describe Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). He denied he said the words and offered an apology that was widely criticized as insufficient.

In the same week, the highest-ranking House Republican woman, GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), came under fire from her male colleagues for criticizing Trump on some national security issues and supporting Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert.

Within days, Trump tweeted a term for women out of the 1950s: “Suburban Housewives of America… Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!”

Across Washington, Republican women groaned at the phrase “housewives.”

“I’m like, really? Just stop talking, please. Gentlemen, STOP talking,” said GOP strategist Sarah Chamberlain, who has tried to help her party appeal to female voters. “We need women around the country to recognize that the Republican Party is not just what happened that week.”

But that’s every week now. Republican women are simply giving up:

The exodus of women has been particularly distressing to Republican strategists because many of the women are die-hard conservatives on issues such as abortion and police power who have reached a tipping point when it comes to Trump.

Once willing to overlook controversies because their families were doing well, the security these voters felt with the booming economy is now gone because of the pandemic, the pollsters say. Now they are worried about their children, their elderly parents and their livelihoods – and they don’t see Trump as a leader who can protect them.

“Suburban voters, including women, are center-right voters. Democrats don’t own them,” said Liesl Hickey, the former executive director for the National Republican Congressional Committee who has been conducting research on the suburbs. “But Republicans must make a compelling policy-focused case to earn their support.”

But that’s not Trump’s way:

The Trump campaign in recent weeks has sought to appeal to “Suburban Housewives,” as the president put it, through appeals to law-and-order and security. Via videos of protesters toppling statues, or police battling demonstrators, the Trump campaign has warned that a Biden-led America would be more dangerous for mothers and their families.

“We won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Lara Trump, who is heading the Women for Trump initiative at the campaign, said in her statement.

Female GOP strategists, however, say the strategy is off the mark and reflects the president’s clear misunderstanding of many female voters. Rather than turning to him as a savior, they’re increasingly blaming him for the chaos and uptick in racial tensions, as well as the increasingly devastating pandemic.

He wants to rile them up. They want him to do his job. This will never work.

This was never going to work. David Brooks wrote a major piece about that:

Jonathan V. Last thinks President Trump is here forever. Last, the editor of The Bulwark, a conservative site that’s been hostile to Trump, argues that if Trump loses in November, he’ll claim he was cheated out of the election. He’ll force other Republicans to back up his claim. He’ll get a TV show, hold rallies, and be coy about running again in 2024.

He’ll still be the center of everything Republican. Ambitious Republicans will have to lash themselves to the husk of the dying czar if they want to have any future in the party. The whole party will go Trump-crazed and brain-dead for another four years.

Perhaps, but Brooks disagrees:

My guess is that if Trump gets crushed in the election, millions of Republicans will decide they never liked that loser and jerk anyway. He’ll get relegated to whatever bargain basement they are using to hold Sarah Palin. But something will remain: Trumpism.

The basic Trump worldview – on immigration, trade, foreign policy, etc. – will shape the GOP for decades, the way the basic Reagan worldview did for decades. A thousand smarter conservatives will be building a new party after 2020, but one that builds from the framework Trump established.

On immigration, stop all of it, on trade, screw everyone and sneer at them, on foreign policy, walk away. Is that it? Brooks says no, not exactly:

If you came of age with conservative values and around Republican politics in the 1980s and 1990s, you lived within a certain Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher paradigm. It was about limiting government, spreading democracy abroad, building dynamic free markets at home and cultivating people with vigorous virtues – people who are energetic, upright, entrepreneurial, independent-minded, loyal to friends and strong against foes.

For decades conservatives were happy to live in that paradigm. But as years went by many came to see its limits. It was so comprehensively anti-government that it had no way to use government to solve common problems. It was so focused on cultivating strong individuals that it had no language to cultivate a sense of community and belonging. So, if you were right of center, you leapt. You broke from the Reagan paradigm and tried to create a new, updated conservative paradigm.

And that’s where this went wrong:

On Sept. 15, 1997, William Kristol and I wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal on what we called National Greatness Conservatism. We argued that the GOP had become too anti-government. “How can Americans love their nation if they hate its government?” we asked. Only a return to the robust American nationalism of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and Theodore Roosevelt would do: ambitious national projects, infrastructure, and federal programs to increase social mobility.

The closest National Greatness Conservatism came to influencing the party was John McCain’s 2000 presidential bid. He was defeated by a man, George W. Bush, who made his own leap, to Compassionate Conservatism. (You know somebody has made a paradigm leap when he or she starts adding some modifying word or phrase before “Conservatism.”) This was an attempt to meld Catholic social teaching to conservatism.

Sam’s Club Republicans, led by Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat, pointed a way to link the GOP to working-class concerns. Front Porch Republicans celebrated small towns and local communities. The Reformicons tried to use government to build strong families and neighborhoods.

Cool, and pointless:

Most actual Republican politicians rejected all of this. They stuck, mostly through dumb inertia, to an anti-government zombie Reaganism long after Reagan was dead and even though the nation’s problems were utterly different from what they were when he was alive. Year after year, GOP politicians clung to a dead paradigm and ran the same anti-Washington campaigns and had no positive governing philosophy once they got there.

Steve Bannon’s leap finally did what none of us could do. Donald Trump and Bannon took a low-rent strand of conservatism – class-based ethnic nationalism – that had always been locked away in the basement of the American right, and overturned the Reagan paradigm.

Bannon and Trump got the emotions right. They understood that Republican voters were no longer motivated by a sense of hope and opportunity; they were motivated by a sense of menace, resentment and fear. At base, many Republicans felt they were being purged from their own country – by the educated elite, by multiculturalism, by militant secularism.

And that was that:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump and Bannon discarded the Republican orthodoxy – entitlement reform, fiscal restraint, free trade, comprehensive immigration reform. They embraced a European-style blood-and-soil conservatism. Close off immigration. Close trade. We have nothing to offer the world and should protect ourselves from its dangers.

So the party is a mess now:

The Republican Party looks completely brain-dead at every spot Trump directly reaches. Off in the corners, though, there’s a lot of intellectual ferment on the right. But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the decades, it is never to underestimate the staying power of the dead Reagan paradigm.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page stands as a vigilant guardian of the corpse, eager to rebut all dissenters. The former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are staunch defenders of Minimal-Government Conservatism. Senator Ted Cruz seems to be positioning himself for a 2024 presidential run that seeks to triangulate all the pre-Trump and pro-Trump versions of the party into one stew.

And if Joe Biden defeats Trump and begins legislating, as seems more and more likely, there’s also the possibility that Republicans will abandon any positive vision and revert to being a simple anti-government party – a party of opposition to whatever Biden is doing.

Brooks hopes that doesn’t’ happen. He discusses, one by one, current Republicans who might save the party, but Donald Trump is still president at the moment, and he’s still pretending to lead by saying that one day he might just do something:

President Trump on Friday signaled he was ready to forge ahead without Congress to try to address lapsed economic relief measures for millions of Americans, but he stopped short of declaring negotiations dead.

The path forward remained unclear, as he used a press conference Friday evening to discuss steps he might take but he didn’t stipulate whether he would follow through.

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Trump said.

That was a warning. He just might begin to lead, but no one knew what he meant:

At the press conference, Trump said he was preparing to sign executive orders that would pay unemployment benefits through the end of the year, offer eviction protections that have lapsed and also provide student loan relief. He was circumspect on some of the details, though.

For example, he was asked if the government would continue paying the $600 enhanced unemployment benefit that expired last month, and he responded “I won’t say that yet.”

He also said he wanted to sign an executive order that would defer payroll taxes – retroactively – from July through December of this year. It was unclear how this would work and whether taxpayers would end up owing money in back taxes in January…

Cutting the 7.65 percent payroll tax, which comes out of workers’ salaries and goes to fund Medicare and Social Security, has been a long-standing goal for Trump. Lawmakers in both parties question the value of such a move, partly because it would do little to help workers who are not actually employed.

Those with jobs would get a tad more money in each paycheck. The forty million or more who are unemployed get nothing. Funding for Medicare and Social Security dries up, and those with jobs would have to pay those differed taxes later anyway. No one in either party thinks this is a good idea. Trump thinks this is leadership, but he doesn’t think much:

One target is to attempt to provide some relief to jobless Americans whose enhanced $600 weekly unemployment aid expired at the end of last month. White House officials have looked at potentially redirecting money from other programs toward unemployment benefits. Another target is to provide eviction relief for Americans who had been protected by a congressionally authorized eviction moratorium that also expired last month.

The moratorium covered renters who live in homes with federally backed mortgages, which the Urban Institute estimates to be 12.3 million households. Democrats agree the administration can unilaterally extend the eviction moratorium, but argue that is of limited value without providing financial support to renters.

But wait, there’s more:

Democrats insist the White House can’t spend money without approval from Congress, but Trump has pushed the boundaries of executive authority in the past, including his move to declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border so he could raid Pentagon funds to build his wall…

White House officials are looking at moving funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency into a program that could pay jobless benefits, people briefed on the discussions said.

This is hurricane season. FEMA would have no funding left to help out. Damn, leadership is hard:

Democrats want $915 billion to help states and local governments whose budgets have been decimated by plummeting tax revenue, but Republicans offered only $150 billion. There was also disagreement on money for schools, testing, housing, child care, the postal service, the census and voting…

Brooks was right about the corner Republicans had painted themselves into, so comprehensively anti-government that it had no way to use government to solve common problems, and of course the day ended with this:

Russia is “using a range of measures” to interfere in the 2020 election and has enlisted a pro-Russian lawmaker from Ukraine – who has met with President Trump’s personal lawyer – “to undermine former vice president Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” a top U.S. intelligence official said in a statement Friday.

The remarks by William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, were some of the most detailed to date about foreign interference in the presidential race and come after earlier criticism from Democratic lawmakers that Evanina had not shared with the public some of the alarming intelligence he gave them in classified briefings.

Okay, he shared:

Evanina also said that the government of China does not want Trump to win reelection in November, seeing the incumbent as “unpredictable.” Evanina described China’s efforts to date as largely rhetorical and aimed at shaping policy and criticizing the Trump administration for actions Beijing sees as harmful to its long-term strategic interests.

By contrast, Evanina described Russia as actively engaged in efforts that are reminiscent of the Kremlin’s attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former vice president Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment,'” Evanina said.

He noted that a Ukrainian lawmaker who has been in contact with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is part of a Russian disinformation effort.

“Pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine” Biden and Democrats, Evanina said.

That’s devastating, but Trump showed leadership:

Asked during a news conference Friday if he believed the intelligence assessment, Trump said that “it could be,” before directly contradicting part of the finding by saying, “The last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump, because nobody’s been tougher on Russia than I have, ever.”

When a reporter pointed out that his answer was not in line with the intelligence community, Trump said, “I don’t care what anybody says.”

And that’s the problem.

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The Sticky Past

William F. Buckley once said that a conservative is “someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

That was the core idea of the mission statement in the first issue of the National Review – the seminal conservative magazine he founded back in 1955. He meant those words to be heroic and defiant, but history being what it is, this notion was rather silly. Things change. This was like Peter Pan screaming that he wouldn’t grow up, he just wouldn’t. This was petulance, but since Buckley led such a fascinating life and was so preposterously well-educated and absurdly cosmopolitan, people cut him some slack. Many watched his show Firing Line just to improve their vocabularies. Buckley may have spouted nonsense, but it sounded impressive and one could use those new and quite odd erudite terms to end any argument. No one would understand what was just said, but they’d feel shame that they didn’t and they’d just shut up.

That was cool, but then Buckley appeared in a series of televised debates with Gore Vidal during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where Vidal ended up calling Buckley a crypto-Nazi. Vidal was just as preposterously well-educated as Buckley. Buckley called him a fag, Vidal smiled, but the real problem was history, which won’t stop. In 1954, Buckley wrote a book with Brent Bozell defending Senator Joseph McCarthy as a patriotic crusader against communism. McCarthyism was “a movement around which men of good will and stern morality can close ranks” – but Joe McCarthy turned out to be a drunken thug who got most everything wrong and ruined many good lives. That was a bit of an embarrassment. Then, in the August 24, 1957, issue of the National Review, there was Buckley’s editorial “Why the South Must Prevail” – arguing the case for white supremacy, at least in the South. He argued that “the central question that emerges is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically.”

The answer was yes – “The White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.” That’s just the way it is – so stop this civil rights nonsense – but he later changed his mind and said that had been a mistake.

No one cared. He had been a fool. The National Review would live on but he didn’t. He died in 2008, the year America elected Barack Obama.

All of this is a reminder that conservatives tend to get stuck in the past in uncomfortable ways. Conservatives tend to talk about what was settled long ago, or was just forgotten. Everyone else has moved on. They haven’t. There are those questions – what about Benghazi, and what about Hillary’s emails? They ask. Others strain to remember what any of that was about, or they just stare. Someone here got stuck in the past. That’s quite odd. Everyone else moved on long ago.

But the past is sticky. Now, suddenly, it was four years ago:

The former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates on Wednesday adamantly defended the Justice Department’s investigation of Michael T. Flynn, clashing with Senate Republicans who accused her of being part of a politically motivated ploy by the Obama administration to frame President Trump’s former national security adviser.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Yates described how top White House officials became deeply alarmed when they learned in the waning days of President Barack Obama’s tenure that the top national security adviser to the incoming president was conducting secretive talks with the Russian ambassador. They worried that Mr. Flynn’s purpose was to undercut new American sanctions against Moscow, and that he was apparently withholding those discussions from the incoming vice president.

The FBI eventually responded by dispatching agents to interview Mr. Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to them about his conversations with the ambassador. Though Ms. Yates did not sign off on the interview and disagreed with the process, she argued on Wednesday that it had been justified as a means to better understand what law enforcement officials viewed as a possible counterintelligence threat, especially in the context of an open investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

And, gentlemen, this was almost four damned years ago, not that it mattered:

Her testimony was sharply at odds with the message of Republican lawmakers who control the panel and convened the hearing as part of an inquiry to discredit the broader Trump-Russia investigation, which many of them view as corrupt. Allies of Mr. Trump hold up the case of Mr. Flynn as evidence of investigative abuse, and Attorney General William P. Barr moved this spring to drop the prosecution of the case altogether.

Three and a half years after most of the events in question took place, the hearing drew out few, if any, new facts.

So, in lieu of new facts, they argued old facts:

In the hearing room, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the committee’s chairman, insisted that Mr. Flynn had “every right” to talk to the Russian ambassador as he did, and suggested that the previous administration was trying to use an obscure 1799 statute, the Logan Act, to punish him for a policy disagreement.

“What we are doing here is criminalizing policy differences,” he fumed, specifically calling out Mr. Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. “That’s why Flynn got prosecuted, because they hated his guts.”

But that’s not what Yates remembered:

Ms. Yates repeatedly rejected Republicans’ sinister characterization of events… She said that Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden were purely interested in ensuring that it was safe to share sensitive government secrets with Mr. Flynn after public comments about his talks with the Russian ambassador contradicted intelligence intercepts of their conversations.

They “did not in any way attempt to direct or influence any kind of investigation,” she said. “Something like that would have set off alarms for me.”

But four years ago Obama and Biden hated Trump’s guts! Well, maybe they did, but so what, now?

That was the real disagreement here:

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, posited that she despised Mr. Trump.

“I think you and your colleagues have tarnished the reputation of the FBI,” he said.

No, she didn’t feel one way or the other about Trump. She saw an actual national security problem and she tried to fix it, but that didn’t matter now:

As the hearing got underway, Mr. Trump slammed Ms. Yates on Twitter with dubious claims. He said she had “zero credibility,” accused her of aiding “the greatest political crime of the Century” and insinuated that she might have leaked details of Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the ambassador to the news media at the time – something she has already denied under oath.

“ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING!” he wrote.

Mr. Graham disagreed during the hearing with Mr. Trump and some of his own members, repeatedly telling Ms. Yates that he believed she had acted properly by seeking to inform the White House about Mr. Flynn’s apparent deception.

So this was an argument about nothing. The only loser was Flynn:

A divided three-judge panel of the Federal Appeals Court in Washington had moved to side with the government and Mr. Flynn and dismiss the case in June. But after a vote of its members, the entire court announced last week that it would erase that decision and review the case anew, prolonging Mr. Flynn’s legal limbo.

This may not matter to anyone but Flynn now, and to Donald Trump, who does stand athwart history yelling STOP! But he’s not Bill Buckley with a set of principles about tradition and natural long-standing authority. He holds grudges, forever. Obama once disrespected him, long ago, perhaps. He remembers. He will never forget. He will now “get” Obama and his buddy Biden. That’s about it. Everyone else is just along for the ride.

But his base does think like he thinks:

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that he has received death threats and his daughters have been harassed as a result of his high-profile statements about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security is just, I mean, it’s amazing,” Fauci said.

Fauci, who plays a key role on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, didn’t reveal any more details about the threats and harassment. But he said he and his wife, and his three daughters, who live in three separate cities, are weathering the stress.

“I wish that they did not have to go through that,” Fauci said.

But he has no choice. Trump’s base never forgets a thing:

He made his comments Wednesday during an online forum sponsored by Harvard University that CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta moderated.

Fauci has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and has advised six presidents on matters of public health. In recent months, he has sometimes made statements that have contradicted President Trump.

“I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles are so set against it, and don’t like what you and I say, namely in the word of science, that they actually threaten you. I mean, that to me is just strange,” Fauci said.

He doesn’t understand those who will never let anything at all go, and he then said this:

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed on Wednesday that the United States has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, pointing to the nation’s high number of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

“Yeah, it is quantitatively if you look at it, it is. I mean the numbers don’t lie,” Fauci said when asked during an interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta whether the U.S. had the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S., which accounts for less than 5% of the world population, leads all other countries in global coronavirus infections and deaths. The nation represents more than 22% of global coronavirus deaths and more than 25% of infections as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

“Every country has suffered. We, the United States, has suffered as much or worse than anyone,” Fauci said during the interview with CNN and the Harvard School of Public Health. “I mean when you look at the number of infections and the number of deaths, it really is quite concerning.”

He said that? That is unforgivable, but then he made things worse for himself and his wife and kids:

Fauci reiterated that the U.S. needs a unified response and that people of all ages, including young people, have to work to suppress coronavirus outbreaks across the country.

“Any demographic group that’s not seriously trying to get to the endgame of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder,” he said.

Fauci’s comments are at odds with President Donald Trump’s suggestion during a contentious interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan that the nation is “lower than the world” in “numerous categories.”

This will not end well, but Dana Milbank wonders what the real issue is now:

Nearly 5 million covid-19 cases in the United States. One-hundred fifty-seven thousand dead. Thirty-two million out of work. Tens of millions facing eviction, foreclosure and hunger.

What do we do now?

Simple: We talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails!

And so it was:

“During the investigation of Hillary Clinton over her email server, James Comey, the FBI director, had a press conference, as you know, on July 5 where he said ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would prosecute that case,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said at Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Did you know before July 5, 2016, that he was going to do that?” Cornyn asked.

The witness, Sally Yates, a former Obama administration deputy attorney general called before the panel to testify, told Cornyn she had not known.

Cornyn pressed on. “When he reopened the case after Anthony Weiner’s computer was looked at, did you know he was going to reopen the case beforehand?”

“That was more than four years ago now,” Yates replied. “And I didn’t go back and try to review any of that.”

She may or may not have been trying to make him look like a fool. It doesn’t matter. She did. Dana Milbank saw even more:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and all the others are trying to change the subject from the crises now gripping the nation to their greatest hits from 2016. As the Trump administration drifts and millions lose their unemployment benefits, the Senate Judiciary Committee staged yet another hearing Wednesday about the Steele dossier, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Fusion GPS and other golden oldies.

Graham, the committee chairman, seemed defensive about his choice of hearing topic, for he kept posing and answering rhetorical questions: “So what’s the purpose of this hearing? And to the public, why does this matter to you? Why are we having these hearings? And again, why does it matter?” And those were just the ones from his opening statement.

Maybe Graham perceives the yawning gap between where the country is right now and where Republicans are.

And maybe he’s all alone:

As Americans grapple with public health, economic and racial-justice crises, Trump and his allies are talking about Antifa, illegal immigrants and “Obamagate.”

In the red state of Missouri on Tuesday, voters approved an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare – the sixth Republican-led state where voters overruled GOP leaders who opposed the expansion. The state’s governor and other Republicans fought the ballot initiative.

The anti-expansion consortium put out a mailing featuring a person wearing a Mexican-flag face mask and claiming the expansion “means illegal immigrants flooding Missouri hospitals while we pay for it!” As the Kansas City Star pointed out, illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to enroll in Medicaid.

So now it’s a new world in Missouri. That anti-expansion consortium stood athwart history yelling STOP! That anti-expansion consortium got run over by history moving on. And there was this:

In Washington on Tuesday, Cruz conducted a hearing on “stopping anarchist violence” in which he used the Judiciary Committee’s Constitution subcommittee to allege that demonstrations against police brutality have been taken over by “Antifa.”

Cruz alleged that “Antifa and other radicals” in Portland, Ore., have thrown metal pipes, used lasers, launched “mortar-style attacks” and “firebombed” a courthouse. “And sadly, what’s missing is too many in the Democratic Party refused to condemn Antifa,” he said. Antifa got 96 mentions at the hearing.

But as Mark Hosenball of Reuters reported that same day, federal prosecutors have produced no evidence linking the dozens of people arrested at protests in Portland to Antifa or anarchist groups.

Someone needed to tell Ted to move on, and it was the same with the Steele dossier and all the rest, which astounds Milbank:

Yates testified that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “did not in any way attempt to direct or influence any kind of investigation” and she repeatedly asserted that a genuine “counterintelligence threat,” not politics, was behind the Trump-Russia investigation.

Not that it mattered. “What I want to let the American people know,” Graham said after three hours of questioning Yates, “is I don’t buy for a minute that there were only two people at the FBI who knew the dossier was garbage.”

The nation, because of a worst-in-the-world pandemic response, is on the cusp of depression – and that’s what Graham wants Americans to know?

Yes, that is what he wants Americans to know, but the day also brought a bit of current reality:

Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday took extraordinary action against President Trump for spreading coronavirus misinformation after his official and campaign accounts broke their rules, respectively.

Facebook removed from Trump’s official account the post of a video clip from a Fox News interview in which he said children are “almost immune” from covid-19. Twitter required his Team Trump campaign account to delete a tweet with the same video, blocking it from tweeting in the interim.

In the removed video, President Trump can be heard in a phone interview saying schools should open. He goes on to say, “If you look at children, children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – but almost immune from this disease,” and that they have stronger immune systems.

The twin actions came roughly three months before the elections in which Trump’s performance on coronavirus is a key issue, and the social media companies have made it clear in recent months that they will not tolerate misinformation on the global pandemic.

And that does seem to be misinformation:

While many children have had milder symptoms from the virus, researchers have found they are still able to catch and spread it to other people, including adults at home and in school settings, such as teachers.

“They get it and can transmit it, but they get it less and transmit it less than adults,” said Theodore Ruel, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the University of California at San Francisco. He said the word “immunity” is incorrect in this context but that children, especially younger ones, are less of a risk than adults.

More than 240,000 children in the United States have been documented to have covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 300 children have contracted a rare inflammatory disease due to covid-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and six have died.

So this had to be done:

Facebook previously deactivated dozens of ads placed by President Trump’s reelection campaign that included a symbol once used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.

The company has faced increasing pressure to better moderate its site. More than 1,000 advertisers have joined a boycott regarding its civil rights record, including Disney and Verizon. And nearly two dozen state attorneys general sent a letter criticizing the company earlier Wednesday.

The shifts are at least a partial retreat from the company’s traditional deference to speech it deems “newsworthy.” That includes Facebook’s decision to not label or remove a post by Trump that said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

And there were the other guys:

Twitter, which affixed a warning label on a similar post, has been more forceful about responding to what it deemed to be policy violations, including from politicians.

Twitter has labeled several tweets from the president for being misleading, including on mail-in ballots being fraudulent. Twitter late last month ordered the president’s son to delete a misleading tweet with hydroxychloroquine misinformation and limited the account for 12 hours.

And then the flame wars began. Twitter censors conservative voices! Facebook censors conservative voices! Trump could be right! All the science says he’s dead and dangerously wrong, but he could be right! These were the conservatives once again standing athwart history yelling STOP!

They’re getting run over.

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