The Broken News

The always breaking news in America – these days almost entirely about Donald Trump, but sometimes about Hillary Clinton, or about one more police shooting of another unarmed young black man who dies in the street, with all of it caught on camera – was broken by other news that seemed more terrifying:

A truck plowed into pedestrians during Bastille Day celebrations in the popular French seaside city of Nice Thursday, leaving at least 80 people dead in what the nation’s president called “obviously a terrorist attack.”

The deadly toll, which included several children, came after the truck slammed into revelers gathered on a promenade to watch fireworks, French President Francois Hollande said in an address Friday morning.

“Such a monstrosity,” Hollande said. He pledged to step up efforts to fight terror in Iraq and Syria, and extended a state of emergency for three months.

“France is deeply saddened, but it is also very strong,” Hollande said. “I can assure you we will always be stronger than the fanatics who are trying to attack us.”

The driver was killed by police, Hollande said. It is unknown if anyone else was involved, Hollande said. French media, citing a police source, reported that ID papers belonging to a French-Tunisian were found in the truck. A source told NBC News the driver is believed to have been a French national of Tunisian descent. …

Christian Estrosi, president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region that includes Nice, told French media that the driver also shot at people. A senior U.S. military official told NBC News that guns and explosives were found in the truck.

And suddenly our domestic news seemed a bit parochial – the matter of who Donald Trump chooses as his running mate, the big story of the day, seemed small. Sooner or later ISIS will claim responsibility for this Nice attack, even if they’re not directly responsible. This French citizen from Nice, whose family was originally from Tunisia, might have not been in contact with ISIS at all. He might have just wanted to do what they do – that’s how things seem to work out these days. Donald Trump can say this is why we should never allow even one Syrian refugee into our country – that’s already in progress – but this guy wasn’t a refugee. The south of France and all the banlieues around Paris are filled with families that were French citizens of what was once French North Africa – Algeria and Tunisia. Some of this may be ISIS and Sunni Islam, but the guy may have been continuing that famous Battle of Algiers or something. Who knows? Things are complicated in France – but after the Charlie Hebdo attacks and then last November’s nightclub attacks – one hundred thirty dead – maybe it doesn’t matter. ISIS is stirring things up. Many will die.

Here, as always, the question will be who is using the right name for this stuff. Republicans will keep insisting it must be call “radical ISLAMIC terrorism” – because we don’t need any damned Muslim allies, or Muslim nations, to help us in our fight against ISIS, a Sunni subset of Sunni Islam. And if Trump is elected it will be eighteen months of his armed volunteer force busting down doors and putting eleven million people in boxcars and sending them south. They don’t have papers – some of them could be terrorists. This story of France will turn out to be all about us, of course.

But our news did stop:

In a stunning move late Thursday, Donald Trump said he was scrapping his plans to announce a running mate because of the terrorist attack in southern France, following a day of strong signals that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was the likely choice.

Throughout the day, aides to Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, were preparing to formally announce Pence as the vice-presidential candidate at a news conference in New York on Friday morning. But by early evening, Trump said that he had yet to make a “final, final decision” between Pence and two other candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

With the Republican National Convention just days away, it was unclear when Trump would finalize or announce his selection.

Okay, many died in France, again, so we’ll have to wait – but this is over. Trump’s son-in-law may have vetoed Chris Christie. Chris Christie, when he was a federal prosecutor, sent the kid’s father to jail for securities fraud. Some things cannot be forgiven. As for Newt Gingrich, he’s old and goofy – and resigned as House speaker due to clear ethics violations. That was a long time ago but on record, and this is a safe choice:

Pence’s elevation to the ticket could help unify the divided Republican Party ahead of next week’s national convention in Cleveland. Early reports that Pence would be chosen were welcomed on Capitol Hill, with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) calling the governor “a good movement conservative.”

A deeply conservative former congressman and talk-radio host, Pence, 57, is a seasoned politician who could help bring together disparate blocs of the Republican coalition. Trump would rely on Pence especially to bring aboard social conservatives and establishment leaders who remain skeptical of, if not outright hostile to, Trump’s candidacy.

Trump has long said he wanted a running mate with governing experience who could help him enact his agenda in Washington, and Pence’s credentials as a former House Republican leader seem to fit the bill.

But there is this:

Pence has not always agreed with Trump’s policy ideas. In December, for instance, the governor criticized Trump’s controversial proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States. “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional,” he tweeted.

On trade, Pence and Trump have been on opposite sides. While Trump campaigns as a strident protectionist, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and vowing to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Pence has been a proponent of such deals. As a member of Congress, Pence voted for every free-trade agreement that he faced.

Yeah, well, they’ll work something out, and Brendan Gauthier points out what matters:

He’s a Tea Partier. Pence is one of two – along with Kentucky’s Matt Bevin – sitting governors who are avowed members of the Tea Party Caucus.

He wasn’t always a Republican. According to a USA Today report, Pence – raised by Democrats – veered right as an undergrad, inspired by then-President Ronald Reagan’s “brand of conservatism and his views on limited government.”

He was, for a time, a radio personality. Pence hosted a drive-time talk show in the ’90s, likening himself to “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”

He’s got the Koch connection. Pence was a potential contender in 2016 because of his close connection with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Super PAC. “A number of Pence’s former staffers from his days in Congress have assumed major roles in the brothers’ corporate and political spheres,” Politico reported in 2014. “And Americans for Prosperity has been holding up Pence’s work in Indiana as emblematic of a conservative reform agenda they’re trying to take nationwide.”

He endorses a strong Church and State connection. Pence is thoroughly opposed to the separation of church and state, as indicated by his 0% (the highest level of opposition) rating from watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

He’s anti-abortion. As Politico reported in 2011, then-Congressman Pence, in three consecutive sessions, introduced legislation to totally defund Planned Parenthood. “If Planned Parenthood wants to be involved in providing counseling services and HIV testing, they ought not be in the business of providing abortions,” Pence said. “As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them.” All three pieces of legislation excluded cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother.

And then there’s immigration:

As governor in 2014, Pence tagged onto a multi-state lawsuit filed against President Obama for a series of executive actions pertaining to illegal immigration and amnesty for families. And three days after the 2015 ISIS-credited Paris attacks, Pence joined as many as 30 U.S. governors in banning Syrian resettlement in his state. The ACLU took Pence to court, where Federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled his ban unconstitutional, adding that it “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin.”

Mikey and Donald agree more than they disagree, but Amber Phillips also reminds us of this:

Pence was already well known and respected in Republican circles when he was elected governor of Indiana in 2012. But he became a household name when he signed a religious freedom bill into law in 2015. Pence said it would extend legal protections to Indiana business owners who didn’t want to participate in same-sex weddings, citing their religious beliefs; opponents argued that he was sanctioning discrimination.

The law got so much attention that at the 2015 White House correspondents’ dinner, President Obama joked he and Vice President Biden were so close that “in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore.”

After a week of taking heat from Democrats, LGBT activists, corporate America and the NBA, Pence signed an amendment, saying it’s not okay to use it to discriminate against gay people. But that didn’t quell activists’ criticism of the law, nor did it boost Pence’s tanking approval ratings.

Many said that was the end of his political career. Maybe it was – it was looking like he wasn’t going to be reelected as governor – but that only meant he had nothing to lose by hooking up with Trump. Chris Christie had nothing to lose either. He’s loathed in New Jersey now and Bridgegate isn’t over. Hooking up with Trump was all he had left. As for Newt Gingrich, he’s now the Republicans’ eccentric old uncle who blurts out odd things at random intervals. His political career was over long ago. He was willing to hook up with Trump. Going down in flames with Trump in November seemed to be okay with all three of them – a long shot is better than no shot. Mike Pence gets the shot, as if it matters. Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president was Hannibal Hamlin? Remember him?

Gail Collins puts it a little differently:

Each of them has a special something. Gingrich, like Trump, has been married three times. (Six-wife ticket!) Bringing Newt back would also allow the nation to revisit his interesting plan to replace unionized school janitors with poor children.

Christie has exhibited a marvelous ability to suck up abuse. Trump has made fun of him for everything from being AWOL from the governor’s office to eating Oreos. There are pictures of Trump holding a huge umbrella over his own famous head and letting Christie get wet. When you’ve currently got a 26 percent approval rating in your home state, I guess you take whatever they throw at you. However, Christie’s office denied reports that Trump once sent him out to get hamburgers.

I have a theory that women will never vote for a male presidential candidate who yells, because it reminds them of their worst boyfriends. A Trump-Christie ticket would be like the worst boyfriend sitting in the living room with his thug-like pal, watching football with their shoes off and demanding that you cook them pizza from scratch.

A Trump-Gingrich ticket would be a total of 143 years old.

None of the options are really all that terrific. But then you’ve got to be in a pretty bad place to begin with if you’re yearning for the spot beneath Donald Trump.

That’ll do. All of this nonsense should have been pushed out of the news, and Seth Stevenson notes that Hillary Clinton is taking care of much of this:

The archetypal negative political ad shows the bad guy candidate in a black-and-white photo as a gravel-voiced narrator lists concerns about his record. Superimpose a few damning newspaper headlines, end with a tagline (“Wrong for your family! Wrong for America!”), and call it a day.

But the forces opposing Donald Trump seem to have settled on a different template. No narrator, no headlines. Instead, multiple anti-Trump TV ads in this cycle have featured Trump in his own words, framed to demonstrate how those words sound as heard through the ears of various, specific audiences. First women, then the disabled, and now children.

Back in May, there was a spot called “Speak,” from the Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA, which featured women lip-syncing to audio of Trump’s most misogynistic statements. (That ad was itself derivative of a previous ad from a right-wing, anti-Trump organization.) More recently, also from Priorities USA, came “Grace” and “Dante” – two ads in which a clip of Trump mocking a disabled journalist is contextualized via interviews with people whose lives have been touched by disability. In both cases, the idea is to foreground not Trump but rather his targets, forcing the viewer to contemplate how Trump’s words are received by the people who are in his crosshairs.

And now the Clinton folks have perfected that:

In a new spot from the campaign titled Role Models we observe cherubic kids as they watch TV clips of Trump saying outrageous, offensive things. A Latino child watches Trump calling Mexicans “racists”; a young girl watches a clip of Trump hating on women. Again, Trump’s own words are being used against him. And again, instead of taking our cues from that gravel-voiced announcer of yore, we’re invited to view and hear Trump’s statements through the eyes and ears of the vulnerable. It’s a powerful framing device, and I expect we’ll see more of it through November.

Maybe we will, but now it will be Trump calling for torture, as he has before, and targeting the wives and children of terrorists, for slowly killing their wives and children before their eyes, to teach them a lesson, and so on and so forth. What happened in Nice will assure that. So, do you want your kids to watch that man on television, the one with the odd hair, say kill them, kill them all? Maybe you do, now. Maybe you don’t.

You may have no choice. We all know what’s coming, even if the news from France just broke a few hours ago. That breaking news broke our increasingly absurd news cycle. Now it gets serious. Now it gets nasty.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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