No Surprises Now

Donald Trump has been in office for two and a half years and there are no surprises. He wakes up before dawn, alone and angry, and rage-tweets. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve is an enemy of the state. Everyone at the Wall Street Journal is a fool. Fox News has abandoned him so America should abandon Fox News. This or that celebrity is a real loser. Kim Jong-un is a wonderful person, and so is Vladimir Putin. And the Democratic Party is a terrorist organization, and full of racists who hate blacks and Hispanics and Asians – and they hate religion too. And all our allies are screwing us. They’ve been doing that for years. We need to slap them around. And we don’t need China, we don’t need their goods and services, and we don’t need access to that market – so we’ll destroy them with tariffs. It’ll be fun. And then Donald Trump starts his day – three or four hours watching Fox News and the morning talk shows, and then off to the office downstairs just before noon. And the nation shrugs. This is how things are. None of this is surprising anymore.

Nothing is going to change, not now, and that means there are people who now feel freed:

Gregory Cheadle, the black man President Donald Trump once described at a rally as “my African American,” is fed up.

After two years of frustration with the president’s rhetoric on race and the lack of diversity in the administration, Cheadle told PBS NewsHour he has decided to leave the Republican Party and run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representative as an independent in 2020.

Now, the 62-year-old real estate broker, who supported the Republican approach to the economy, said he sees the party as pursuing a “pro-white” agenda and using black people like him as “political pawns.” The final straw for Cheadle came when he watched many Republicans defend Trump’s tweets telling four congresswomen of color, who are all American citizens, to go back to their countries, as well as defend the president’s attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his comments that Cummings’ hometown of Baltimore is “infested.”

“President Trump is a rich guy who is mired in white privilege to the extreme,” said Cheadle, of Redding, Calif., who switched from being an independent to a Republican in 2001. “Republicans are too sheepish to call him out on anything and they are afraid of losing their positions and losing any power themselves.”

Gregory Cheadle had waited. He had expected Donald Trump to pivot to something that Donald Trump never was and never will be. Donald Trump is this:

Thursday afternoon, when asked by NewsHour on the White House lawn about Cheadle leaving the Republican Party, President Trump claimed he has a lot of support from African American voters.

“We have tremendous African American support,” Trump told NewsHour. “I would say I’m at my all-time high. I don’t think I’ve ever had the support that I’ve had now. I think I’m going to do very well with African Americans. African American support has been the best we’ve had.”

When pressed about whether he thought Cheadle was wrong to say Trump was pursuing a “pro-white” agenda, Trump said he didn’t know who Cheadle was.

Cheadle should read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man again:

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.

That is what happened:

Cheadle became widely known in June 2016 when Trump, then a presidential candidate, pointed to him at a rally in Redding, Calif. and said, “Look at my African American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?”

At the time, Cheadle took the president’s comments as a joke and laughed along with the president and the crowd of largely white supporters. Now, his view of that moment has changed.

But this is how things are. None of this is surprising anymore, not even in Baltimore:

President Trump kicked off a policy retreat for House Republicans with an address that bashed his potential Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton and the media, receiving a full embrace from GOP lawmakers converging on a city the president disparaged as a “rodent infested mess.”

“They’re colluding and they’re obstructing,” Trump said of Democrats and the media, a not-so-veiled reference to the potential impeachment charges against him.

And he’s being clever:

He started his speech an hour later than planned, but in so doing managed to take the stage in Charm City at the exact minute that the 2020 Democratic presidential debate got underway.

Trump took shots at the candidates with dismissive nicknames.

The nearly 70-minute speech opened House Republicans’ three-day huddle here in Baltimore, a soul-searching exercise that comes as the GOP tries to chart a course back to the majority amid a raft of retirements from incumbents.

So, Trump was sneering and calling all those stupid Democrats belittling little names, and the rest of the party was trying to figure why their House members and a senator here and there are retiring early, one after another, two or three each week. Could those two things be connected?

No one dared to say that, so Trump did what he does:

For the first half-hour, Trump’s speech slowly moved along at the pace of a State of the Union address. He ticked through what he considered GOP accomplishments – slashing thousands of rules, including the decision Thursday to scrap the Obama-era regulation on the wetlands and tributaries that feed into the nation’s largest rivers – and through tax cuts.

All the “clean water” rules are gone now, and there was polite applause there, but then the real show began:

Trump became more animated later on, going off script to rant about Democrats wanting to take away plastic straws and what he called their outrageous demands for how to recycle lightbulbs.

 He jabbed at his 2016 rival Clinton, saying she “didn’t like stairs, didn’t like airplanes, didn’t like a lot” – and would rest for weeks between stops.

 At one point, Trump veered off script to take a shot at the Democrats onstage in Texas at that moment, calling Biden “Sleepy Joe” and Sanders “Crazy Bernie.”

“I hit Pocahontas way too early,” he said, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “I thought she was gone. She’s emerged from the ashes and now it looks like she could beat Sleepy Joe, he’s falling asleep. He has no idea what the hell he’s doing or saying.”

The crowd went wild. It was time to impeach Hillary Clinton, not him – or lock her up – or something. But then he got down to business:

Trump, who just weeks ago endorsed stronger background checks for gun owners, made no mention of gun control at all. The president has since rescinded that position.

“Republicans will always uphold fundamental rights to keep and bear arms,” he promised to applause.

So that’s that. Nothing will happen. Mitch McConnell said the House can pass whatever gun legislation they want over there, they’re Democrats, but he’s in charge of the Senate, and they’re Republicans. He will bring no House bill to the Senate floor. Their bills will be filed and forgotten, and his Senate won’t even begin to chat about any of this, even in the hallways and at lunch, because Trump can veto anything they come up with. He’ll wait for Trump to tell him what he won’t veto, if the president ever gets around to that. Why even bother to discuss this? This is not his call.

But earlier in the day there was this:

A group of 145 CEOs from some of the largest companies in America have sent a letter to senators demanding they pass stronger gun control laws, calling firearm violence “a public health crisis that demands urgent action.”

The letter, signed by the chief executives of Uber, Levi Strauss & Co., Twitter and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., among other companies, urges Congress to expand background checks and “red flag” laws, legislation that would enable law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

“We are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country. Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the letter, dated Thursday and first reported by the New York Times, said.

“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable. There are steps Congress can, and must, take to prevent and reduce gun violence. We need our lawmakers to support commonsense gun laws that could prevent tragedies like these,” it continued.

McConnell shrugged. This is not his problem. Send a letter to the president, not Mitch’s senators. Sure, more than ninety percent of the public wants background checks for guns sold on the internet and at gun shows, which of course includes most Republicans, but Donald Trump decides this – and it seems he already has.

Perhaps he’ll call for a boycott of all these major corporations now, but it doesn’t matter:

On Sept. 3, Walmart announced it would no longer sell ammunition used in high-capacity magazines and military-style weapons and asked its customers not to openly carry weapons in stores, even in states where it is permitted. That announcement came after last month’s El Paso shooting, which killed 22 people at a Walmart and nearby shopping mall.

That’s where this stared. Kroger followed. But those who live in an “open carry” state have every right to walk into a Walmart or any store wearing full body armor and fully armed with giant guns of any sort and point their guns at the head of any kid and laugh at that kid’s mother and then point the gun at anyone at all, and pretend he’s about to open fire. And he can laugh manically. He has that right. Walmart is run by snowflakes who hate America. None of this is going to change. And a guy in full body armor pointing his big gun at your kid in Walmart should not be surprising at all.

And no one should have been surprised by this:

President Trump’s emerging plan to address California’s homeless crisis includes ideas that have been tried unsuccessfully before, namely the mass housing of people living on the streets, and proposals that have been ruled illegal by federal courts.

The White House effort has taken state officials by surprise, as the president has shifted from criticizing California’s management of homelessness on social media to proposals that would insert the federal government directly into the crisis, including relocating homeless people living on the street and in tent camps to a federal facility.

It’s like what FDR did with Japanese-Americans a few months after Pearl Harbor – put them all in camps. The original detention camps may still be available, but yes, there is a problem:

About 140,000 people in California are without permanent housing, roughly a quarter of the country’s total homeless population. The numbers are rising fast, driven by the highest housing costs in the nation, enduring mental health and substance abuse issues, and legal barriers that prevent authorities from simply removing people from the streets, even those who cannot take care of themselves.

Angry local politics has also emerged around the issue. In recent months, residents have organized against plans for neighborhood homeless shelters, from once-solidly conservative Orange County to the liberal Bay Area. Local ballot measures approved in recent years to raise money to address homelessness have become tangled in legal challenges.

But no one is ready for massive detention camps or reeducation camps or whatever. FDR wasn’t a hero for what he did, nor was Pol Pot for doing this in Cambodia in the late seventies:

“I am wary because every time this president does anything involving people who are vulnerable, they are the ones who get hurt,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg (D), who is chairman of the state Commission on Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

But he hardly matters:

The president’s domestic policy advisers have been discussing options to clear what are often highly unsanitary street-side homeless camps. Earlier this week, administration officials toured an unused Federal Aviation Administration building in California, presumably as a possible shelter site.

Trump has expressed particular interest in Los Angeles, where 60,000 people live without permanent housing, nearly half of them outdoors. At the same time, he has proposed reducing the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget by 18 percent from the previous year, a deep cut to the agency primarily responsible for helping cities pay for and subsidize affordable housing.

So that’s the plan, cut funding for the homeless and put them in camps, but folks out here have long memories:

Actor George Takei says he’s determined to keep talking about the imprisonment of his family and 120,000 other Japanese Americans during World War II because he wants a new generation to know what happened and fight similar injustices today.

On Tuesday night, Takei recounted the morning his father abruptly woke him and his younger brother to get dressed and pack. They were going on vacation, his father explained to 5-year-old Takei as his mother bundled up his baby sister and the few belongings they could carry.

Armed soldiers forced Takei’s family from their Boyle Heights home and imprisoned them in a Santa Anita racetrack horse stall that reeked of manure.

“I thought everyone went on vacations escorted by soldiers,” Takei told the Los Angeles Times Book Club at the Montalbán Theatre.

Takei and his family were shipped to internment camps in Arkansas and Northern California, spending four years behind barbed wire. His new graphic memoir, “They Called Us Enemy,” is told through the eyes of a child growing up incarcerated, detailing the day-to-day hardships and humiliating experiences of the camps.

What will the Trump folks say to that, that he’s gay and he was never that good as Sulu in the original Star Trek series? No, the Trump folks said this:

Even with the additional shelter space the FAA building might provide, city officials would face the challenge of getting homeless residents to use it. One Trump administration official said Wednesday, “We’re not rounding up anyone or anything yet.”

That last word sounded like a threat, and Kevin Drum just sighs:

This whole charade with Trump and the homeless is hard to figure out. I mean, it’s obvious that Trump can’t actually do anything. The homeless haven’t broken any laws, and they certainly haven’t broken any federal laws. They can’t be swept up off the streets. Nor does the federal government have a police force to sweep them up even if they wanted to. Even Trump isn’t dim enough to think otherwise. So why the kabuki?

The most obvious answer is that Trump is putting on a show for his fans. We wanted to get the homeless off the streets but Democrats fought to keep their squalid, disgusting, disease-ridden camps right on city sidewalks where they’re free to murder your children!

Everyone knows who Trump always talks about, and this is what Gregory Cheadle was talking about. He won’t be Trump’s House Nigger anymore.

And meanwhile, the Democrats had a debate:

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. clung tightly to the legacy of the Obama administration in a Democratic primary debate on Thursday, asking voters to view him as a stand-in for the former president as an array of progressive challengers, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, brandished more daring policy promises and questioned Mr. Biden’s political strength.

Facing all of his closest competitors for the first time in a debate, Mr. Biden, the Democratic front-runner, repeatedly invoked President Barack Obama’s name and policy record as a shield against rivals who suggested his own record was flawed, or implied his agenda lacked ambition. On health care, immigration, foreign wars and more, Mr. Biden’s central theme was his tenure serving under Mr. Obama.

In short, there were no surprises:

In an early exchange over health care, Mr. Biden referred to Ms. Warren’s support for Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for all” plan. “The senator says she’s for Bernie,” Mr. Biden said. “Well, I’m for Barack – I think the Obamacare worked.”

Explaining his preference for more incremental health care improvements, like the creation of an optional government-backed plan, Mr. Biden challenged Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders to defend the cost of their plans, warning that they would require tax increases on middle-income Americans.

Mr. Biden was steadier in what was his third debate of the primary contest, rattling off statistics and parrying attacks with good cheer, though he still rambled at other moments. And despite their criticism, none of the nine other candidates onstage appeared to significantly damage his candidacy.

This was a bit boring, actually, but not that unpleasant:

Biden’s resilience has prompted some of his rivals to recalibrate their approach as the race enters the fall. After unleashing one of the contest’s toughest attacks against Mr. Biden in the first debate, Senator Kamala Harris of California steadfastly avoided critiquing the former vice president or any of her Democratic opponents.

Ms. Harris used her opening statement to speak directly to, and criticize, President Trump. During the health care contretemps she lamented that “not once have we talked about Donald Trump.” And when she made the case for using executive action to overcome legislative gridlock, she turned to Mr. Biden, let out a laugh and borrowed Mr. Obama’s signature line. “Hey Joe, let’s say ‘yes we can,'” she said.

No hard feelings, right? And there was this:

There was consensus on the stage when it came to praising the leadership of former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas in the aftermath of the mass shooting last month in El Paso, his hometown. And Mr. O’Rourke won a booming ovation from the audience when he was asked whether he would try to confiscate some weapons.

“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”

Mr. Booker, who lives in Newark, said the outrage over gun violence was long overdue. “I’m sorry that it had to take issues coming to my neighborhood or personally affecting Beto to suddenly make us demand change,” he said. “This is a crisis of empathy in our nation. We are never going to solve this crisis if we have to wait for it to personally affect us or our neighborhood or our community before we demand action.”

He said he stood with Beto. Biden said the same thing. They all argued many things, but they didn’t quarrel. They’re not Republicans, and Alyssa Rosenberg saw this:

Sometime in the first hour of Thursday’s debate, I realized something surprising: The Democratic debates are actually making me feel a little better about the state of America.

It’s not that the debates are uniformly nice: Former vice president Joe Biden’s opponents have used the events to question him in strikingly personal terms. It’s not that the candidates agree on everything: Gestures of unity aside, they are deeply divided on policy and style, and their constituents are, too. Rather, the debates have served as a reminder that Americans can differ on hugely important questions; they can rub each other the wrong way; they can even hurt each other; and they can still find ways to talk to each other.

That was the surprise:

Stephen Miller, the architect of President Trump’s immigration policy, was publicly condemned by his uncle. A Supreme Court case about gerrymandering was thrown into turmoil by files uncovered by a Republican redistricting expert’s estranged daughter. Families have been torn apart by bizarre conspiracy theories. President Barack Obama’s career-making refusal to believe that there are two Americas has never seemed more distant.

Obviously, the Democratic contenders for president have not been exactly kind to the man they hope to defeat in November. Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) called him out in her opening statement on Thursday and suggested that Trump has been “tweeting out the ammunition” for mass shootings such as the one in El Paso. But given how imperative beating Trump is, and how bitter the post-2016 recriminations have been, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see the Democrats tear into each other with the same sort of ferocity.

That didn’t happen.

This happened instead:

Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke may be fading, but his competitors chose to finish him off with kindness, praising his response to a recent mass shooting in his city, rather than trying to destroy him. When Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) challenged the other contenders on criminal-justice reform, he did it in a detailed and constructive way, asking them to talk specifically about which incarcerated people they’d give clemency to if they had the power of the presidency at their disposal.

Even the difficult moments have been oddly heartening. Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro’s efforts to call Biden’s memory into question seemed like a necessary line to press to some and a shocking breach of decorum to others.

These were decent people who disagreed but could talk through their disagreements with each other. No one was out to hurt anyone. The idea was to find a way to make things better for everyone, while the current president, alone in the cold hours before dawn, rage-tweets in response to imaginary slights he thinks he has just unfairly endured.

And none of this is a surprise. But he may be surprised one day fairly soon. We still have elections.

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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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