The Suddenly Shrinking President

Richard Parker wrote Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America back in 2014 and Karen Olsson ended her review of his book with this:

Parker comes across as a kind of affable tour guide at a major attraction, who explains what’s there in front of you without going too deep. His take-home message, that the problems and opportunities in Texas are the nation’s writ large, is reminiscent of an old quip from Molly Ivins. Texas, she used to say, is just like anyplace else in America, only more so.

That may be the problem now, the problem for Donald Trump, because, Parker says, Texas has just become a turning point for Trump, and for the nation:

If consoling the nation in a time of desperate need is a vital and yet simple task of the American presidency, Donald J. Trump failed miserably this week.

From his flight on Wednesday to Dayton, Ohio, to this sprawling high-desert city on the Mexican border, the 45th occupant of the White House not only littered his consolation tour with petty insults – but just to rub salt in the wound, doses of renewed racism. Yet most striking was how alone and outnumbered the president was: rejected, ostracized and told to go home.

The people who streamed the scene of the terrorist attack here – brown, black, white and every hue in between – defiantly defended the nation’s diversity. With no public appearances, the president seemed to shrink, ever more alone as he clung to his white nationalist politics and governance. But he and his supporters were grossly outnumbered.

For perhaps the first time in his angry, racist and cruel presidency, the tables were turned in smoldering, righteous popular anger – and he was on the receiving end.

Parker documents that, in detail, and adds this summary:

Something is shifting. Mr. Trump may not have felt it during his few hours in town, but walking around, you couldn’t miss it. The El Paso massacre brought together the most active of America’s shifting tectonic plates: racism, assault weapons, a national Latino population of 60 million now with a target on its back, Mr. Trump’s white nationalism and his awful manners for a country in mourning.

Another president might have been sensitive enough to sense the shift, and changed course accordingly – played the convener, the unifier. Instead, Mr. Trump displayed just how small he is, no matter how big his mouth or powerful his office. He never once appeared in public. By 6:01 p.m., after just a little more than two hours, he was safely aboard Air Force One again and it was wheels up into the sky.

But he is a shrinking president, stuck in a racist past, flying over a changing America.

And everyone knows this:

President Donald Trump bragged on Twitter about how successful his visits to El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday were, but apparently his own aides thought the whole situation was a mess.

“Does the White House think this visit went well, Maggie?” CNN host John Berman asked New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman on Thursday.

“No, they don’t,” Haberman replied. “Most people, while they would, I suspect, not say it publicly, will privately admit that yesterday was something of a debacle and that these were not the headlines they wanted to see.”

“They wanted him to go in and behave differently,” she continued. “The goal was for him to go in and get out while making as little news as possible.”

But the man is who he is:

Haberman said that Trump “couldn’t stop watching” the news on Wednesday, which caused him to lash out at Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D), 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, and various TV reporters on the same day he was supposed to focus on comforting the victims of the weekend’s deadly mass shootings and their families.

He should have known better. Others know better. David Nakamura reports on others who know that something has changed:

Hours after the mass shooting in El Paso last weekend, Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, issued a tweet in the organization’s name denouncing the “tragic” carnage and urging Americans to “stand together against senseless rage and destructive impulses.”

FAIR – a leading proponent of restricting immigration – typically provides its 300,000 followers on Twitter and 2.1 million on Facebook with links to studies, news stories and podcasts warning of the economic, public safety and environmental costs of high immigration levels.

But Stein made no mention in his tweet of the online document police believe was written by the alleged killer, Patrick Wood Crusius, which cited many of the same arguments against immigration as a rationale and motivation for the attack that killed 22 people in a predominantly Hispanic city near the U.S.-Mexico border.

He’s no dummy:

Stein’s decision to rapidly issue a statement condemning the El Paso massacre – the group did not comment on the weekend’s other mass shooting, in Dayton, Ohio – reflects a sense of alarm among FAIR and the small cohort of other restrictionist groups about potential political fallout from the massacres.

These groups do need to be careful now:

Long relegated to the fringes of the debate, these organizations have moved center stage under President Trump – helping to provide the intellectual and ideological framework for the administration’s hardline immigration agenda, one that immigrant rights advocates have decried as xenophobic and racist.

In an interview, Stein repeatedly brushed aside connections between FAIR’s ideology and the suspect’s, casting doubt on whether Crusius wrote the document and saying it was unfair to attribute those views as the reason for a deadly rampage.

In short, this had nothing to do with them, but maybe it did:

FAIR, along with two other Washington-based restrictionist groups, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Numbers USA, have avoided linking their positions to race or ethnicity, but they have pushed similar arguments about the burden that immigrants place on the native-born, and the purported difficulties they pose to assimilation in American culture and society…

All three restrictionist groups were founded by John Tanton, a Michigan doctor who professed support for eugenics, a widely debunked belief that certain beneficial human traits can be made more prominent in a population through selective breeding.

Tanton, who died last month at 85, rejected criticism that his interest in immigration was based on race and ethnicity. But according to a 2011 profile in the New York Times, he wrote to a donor that he was concerned about “the decline of folks who look like you and me,” and he warned a friend that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

Okay, he was a nasty crackpot, but these folks have joined Team Trump:

Top Trump administration aides, including White House adviser Stephen Miller, the man behind some of the administration’s most restrictive policies, have met with the groups and asked them to pass along studies and data.

Jon Feere, a former policy analyst at CIS, now serves as a senior adviser at Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Julie Kirchner, who worked at FAIR for a decade, is the ombudsman at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), while two other FAIR alums, Elizabeth Jacobs, a former lobbyist, and Robert Law, who was the group’s government relations director, serve as senior advisers at USCIS.

Their presence illustrates an important distinction. While the president rails most often in public about illegal immigration, the groups are focused more intently on the broader ideological project of slashing legal immigration levels, which the Trump administration has sought to do by limiting asylum seekers, refugee admissions and guest workers.

But things may have shifted. Trump may have overplayed his hand. There may be nowhere to hide now:

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson announced that he is leaving for vacation Wednesday, after his comments about white supremacy being a “hoax” set off a firestorm and garnered the endorsement of David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Fox News claims that the vacation was planned before the controversy unraveled.

Carlson said Tuesday night on his show that white supremacy is “just like the Russia hoax” and that “it’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.”

He made the comments just days after a shooter in El Paso killed 22 people, seemingly motivated by his white nationalist beliefs.

His comments earned approval from Duke, one of the most infamously virulent white nationalists.

People now notice such things:

Fox News and host Tucker Carlson are losing more advertisers.

Long John Silver’s will no longer advertise on Fox News, as confirmed to Media Matters’ Angelo Carusone.

Nestlé and HelloFresh, which have advertised on Carlson’s show in the past, told The Hollywood Reporter they were no longer running ads on the show. Nestlé said it had no plans to do so in the future…

In December 2018, Carlson lost more than 20 advertisers after suggesting that immigrants are making the United States “dirtier.” He never issued an apology and later doubled down on the racist sentiment.

But this time may be different. There really is no place to hide:

The State Department has put on leave an employee of its energy bureau after reports that he has been an active member of a white supremacist group for more than five years, two sources familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

Matthew Gebert, a foreign affairs officer for the department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, was linked to the Washington D.C.-area chapter of a white supremacist organization and published racist propaganda online, according to a report published Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate speech.

In a May 2018 episode of a white nationalist podcast, Gebert, speaking under a pseudonym, called for white people to establish “a country of our own with nukes, and we will retake this thing lickety split,” according to the SPLC report.

“We need a country founded for white people with a nuclear deterrent. And you watch how the world trembles,” the report quoted him saying.

And he’s been there for years:

Former State Department officials expressed surprise that security screenings had not flagged Gebert’s involvement with the hate groups. Gebert would have undergone a routine screening before starting his position and another at his five-year work anniversary, said Amos Hochstein, who served as special envoy and coordinator for the State Department’s international energy affairs from 2014 to 2017 and was Gebert’s boss.

“It is inconceivable he got security clearance twice,” Hochstein told Politico. “If Gebert was Muslim or a person of color, it would have been caught. Neo-Nazis are not all shaved heads and tattoos; they are hiding in plain sight. I’m horrified Gebert worked for me at the State Department.”

Hochstein knows better now. There are horrible people embedded in the government now. And that means, now, some people will have to choose sides:

The top U.S. diplomat to Latin America resigned this week amid tension over President Trump’s immigration policies, the Associated Press reported.

Two officials and a congressional aide who spoke to the AP offered varying rationales for Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier’s exit. The two officials said her departure was centered on family issues, but the congressional aide pointed to a difference of opinion on immigration policy on asylum with Guatemala as reason for the exit.

According to the Washington Post, which first reported Breier’s departure, the top diplomat was recently scolded in an email chain by White House policy adviser and unofficial hardline immigration reform champion Stephen Miller. Miller reportedly said Breier was not publicly defending the Guatemala asylum agreement strongly enough. The agreement requires Central American migrants to first seek asylum in Guatemala before they can do so in America.

Breier was also unhappy with the White House’s level of interference on issues related to immigration and trade with Mexico, according to the Post.

She knew the place was being run by ideologically-purist total amateurs. So it was time to bail, although the Post offers telling details:

Earlier in her government career, Breier, who holds degrees in Spanish and Latin American studies, also handled regional issues as a CIA analyst and at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. Immediately before becoming assistant secretary, she handled Latin American issues in the department’s policy planning office…

She is the latest in a steady turnover at the assistant secretary level. Although Pompeo has filled many of the jobs left vacant by his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, a number are still held by acting officials, and at least four have departed this year, including A. Wess Mitchell, the top diplomat in charge of European affairs.

In May, Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary for arms control verification and compliance and a prominent Iran hawk, resigned. Poblete’s views were reportedly more aligned with those of White House national security adviser John Bolton than her direct supervisor at the State Department. Earlier this month, Kiron Skinner, who headed the State Department office of policy planning, was forced out of her job over personnel clashes.

Officials said Breier, a Mexico expert, was not necessarily opposed to administration policies in the region but chafed at the level of control exerted by the White House over immigration and trade-dominated relations with Mexico and other matters.

So the problem was the total amateurs:

One senior administration official said she had been chastised, in a particularly unpleasant recent email chain, by White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who considered her insufficiently committed to publicly defending last month’s sudden agreement over asylum between President Trump and the government of Guatemala.

The safe-third-country agreement requires Central American migrants to seek asylum in Guatemala and be rejected there before the United States will consider their asylum requests here. Pompeo reportedly objected to the White House-negotiated deal on grounds that Guatemala, one of the world’s most violent countries, was not equipped to provide secure refuge for migrants fleeing Honduras and El Salvador.

Others in the department – some of whom have circulated for signatures a dissent channel memo on the subject – have also objected to it on the grounds that it violates U.S. asylum law.

Stephen Miller didn’t care, so Donald Trump didn’t care. Mike Pompeo cared, but he always caves to Trump.

But others don’t cave. Chuck Park decided that he’d cave in no more:

I was 26, newly married and more than a little idealistic when I set off for my first diplomatic assignment almost a decade ago as a member of the 157th class of commissioned U.S. Foreign Service officers.

According to a certain type of right-leaning conspiracy theorist, that would make me part of “The Deep State” – a shadowy government within the government that puts its own interests above the expressed wishes of the electorate. Adherents to this theory believe that thousands of federal workers like me are plotting furiously to subvert the Trump administration at every turn. Many on the left, too, hope that such a resistance is secretly working to save the nation from the worst impulses of President Trump.

They have it all wrong.

In fact, they have it backwards:

Like many in my cohort, I came into the government inspired by a president who convinced me there was still some truth to the gospel of American exceptionalism. A child of immigrants from South Korea, I also felt a duty to the society that welcomed my parents and allowed me and my siblings to thrive.

Over three tours abroad, I worked to spread what I believed were American values: freedom, fairness and tolerance. But more and more I found myself in a defensive stance, struggling to explain to foreign peoples the blatant contradictions at home.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, I spoke of American openness and friendship at consulate events as my country carried out mass deportations and failed thousands of “dreamers.” I attended celebrations of Black History Month at our embassy in Lisbon as black communities in the United States demanded justice for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. And in Vancouver, I touted the strength of the United States’ democracy at the consulate’s 2016 election-night party as a man who campaigned on racism, misogyny and wild conspiracy theories became president-elect.

Since then, I have seen Trump assert the moral equivalence of violent white nationalists and those who oppose them and denigrate immigrants from “shithole countries” and separate children from their parents at the border, only to place them in squalid detention centers.

But none of that created a Deep State:

Almost three years since his election, what I have not seen is organized resistance from within. To the contrary, two senior Foreign Service officers admonished me for risking my career when I signed an internal dissent cable against the ban on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017. Among my colleagues at the State Department, I have met neither the unsung hero nor the cunning villain of Deep State lore. If the resistance does exist, it should be clear by this point that it has failed.

The resistance does not exist, but Park says this does:

I am part of the Complacent State.

The Complacent State sighs when the president blocks travel by Muslim immigrants; shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; averts its gaze from images of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders.

Every day, we refuse visas based on administration priorities. We recite administration talking points on border security, immigration and trade. We plan travel itineraries, book meetings and literally hold doors open for the appointees who push Trump’s toxic agenda around the world.

But something has changed:

We shrink behind a standard argument – that we are career officials serving nonpartisan institutions. We should be named and shamed. But how should we respond? One thing I agree with the conspiracy theorists about: The Deep State, if it did exist, would be wrong. Ask to read the commission of any Foreign Service officer, and you’ll see that we are hired to serve “during the pleasure of the President of the United States.” That means we must serve this very partisan president.

Or else we should quit.

Things changed. The president shrunk. He quit. That’s the new environment:

President Trump said in a tweet Thursday that he will name Joseph Maguire, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as the acting director of national intelligence, following his aborted effort to install a political loyalist.

Maguire is a retired Navy admiral not steeped in the inner workings of the intelligence community, but his appointment was seen as steadying in the middle of a tumultuous shake-up in the top ranks of the country’s spy agencies.

That’s a compromise. He knows nothing. But he’s not a jerk. That will do for now:

As Trump announced Maguire’s appointment, he also said that Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence, would resign and not serve in the acting role when director Daniel Coats also departs next week.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers had said they wanted Gordon, a career intelligence official, to fill in for Coats. But Trump was reluctant to keep someone with whom he had never formed a close bond. The president and his aides also regarded her as a career official and consequently suspicious, according to officials with knowledge of the president’s views.

That’s a nice way to say that they regarded her as part of the Deep State, that shadowy government within the government that puts its own interests above the expressed wishes of the electorate and wants to overthrow Trump in a coup of some sort – per Fox News most nights. So this was the battle to save democracy or something, or it was just stupid stuff:

Trump had intended to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) as the director of national intelligence. But Radcliffe’s potential nomination collapsed amid bipartisan criticism about his lack of national security expertise and allegations that he padded his résumé as a former federal prosecutor.

In her letter of resignation, Gordon emphasized her years of experience and praised intelligence agency employees.

“I am confident in what the Intelligence Community has accomplished, and what it is poised to do going forward,” Gordon wrote. “I have seen it in action first-hand. Know that our people are our strength, and they will never fail you or the Nation. You are in good hands.”

That was a subtle slap-down. She knows what is going on. Others know too:

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised Gordon, but didn’t signal that he would oppose Maguire as the acting director.

“Sue Gordon’s retirement is a significant loss for our Intelligence Community,” the senator said in a statement. “In more than three decades of public service, Sue earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues with her patriotism and vision. She has been a stalwart partner to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I will miss her candor and deep knowledge of the issues.”

Why was he insulting the president? He was insulting the president because he could. The president is shrinking. Trump seems to have no idea what to do next:

Current and former intelligence officials were relieved by Maguire’s appointment, although it wasn’t clear whether Trump would formally nominate him as the permanent intelligence director.

Who knows what he’ll do? But others know what he’s doing:

Congressional Democrats said Trump has pushed out Gordon as part of a plan to bring the intelligence agencies to heel.

“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he is seemingly incapable of hearing facts that contradict his own views,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

“The mission of the intelligence community is to speak truth to power. Yet in pushing out two dedicated public servants in as many weeks, once again the President has shown that he has no problem prioritizing his political ego even if it comes at the expense of our national security,” Warner said.

“The retirements of Dan Coats and Sue Gordon represent a devastating loss to the Intelligence Community, and the men and women who serve in it,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

“Gordon brought decades of experience and encyclopedic knowledge of the agencies to bear, and her absence will leave a great void. These losses of leadership, coupled with a president determined to weed out anyone who may dare disagree, represent one of the most challenging moments for the Intelligence Community.”

But there’s Richard Burr and other Republican senators like him, saying the same things about this woman. Something may have just changed. This was the week the president shrunk. Let him nominate Ted Nugent or Sarah Palin or Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson. He may not get what he wants now. Richard Parker may be right. Things did change in El Paso. Texas is just like anyplace else in America, only more so. Some of us now hope so.

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Not Wanted

fIt was a good day for the television to go out. Something happened inside the cable box – everything switched to the Emergency Alert System screen, or a portion of it, with no sound, just as the president was sneering at reporters on the White House lawn as he was about to leave for Ohio, for Dayton, and then off to El Paso. Both cities told him they didn’t want him there – not now – maybe not ever – and was about to explain that this was not what they were saying at all. And then everything went blank and silent. A call to the cable folks would fix that – they can send a signal to reboot the cable box – but there was no hurry. A few hours without this nonsense were kind of a gift – but then the damned thing fixed itself. Trump was back. There’s no escaping this man.

That seems to be how everyone felt, and he was in rare form, doing the opposite of what he should be doing. That’s how the New York Times wrote this up:

President Trump visited Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso on Wednesday on a day intended as a show of compassion to cities scarred by a weekend of violence, but which quickly devolved into an occasion for anger-fueled broadsides against Democrats and the news media.

Mr. Trump’s schedule was meant to follow the traditional model of apolitical presidential visits with victims, law enforcement officials and hospital workers after calamities like the mass shootings that resulted in 31 deaths in Dayton and El Paso and that created a new sense of national crisis over assault weapons and the rise of white supremacist ideology.

That plan went awry even before Mr. Trump, who has acknowledged his discomfort with showing empathy in public, departed Washington. On Tuesday night, he tweeted that Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from El Paso, should “be quiet.” As he prepared to leave the White House on Wednesday morning, he went after former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who said in a speech that day that Mr. Trump had “fanned the flames of white supremacy.”

The man can’t help himself, or he rose to the bait, or he lied to himself:

The result was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s penchant for inflaming divisions at moments when other presidents have tried to soothe them, and further proof of his staff’s inability to persuade him to follow the norms of presidential behavior.

Mr. Trump himself finished the day claiming success. “We had an amazing day,” he told reporters in El Paso. Of his earlier stop in Dayton, he said, “The love, the respect for the office of the presidency – I wish you could have been in there to see it.”

He was being coy. He noted all the love and respect for the office of the presidency but not necessarily for him. He knows. But at least, on his way in the morning and on his way home, he got to sneer even more than usual:

In response to questions about his Democratic critics, he again assailed them. “They shouldn’t be politicking today,” Mr. Trump said, referring to Mr. Biden and Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, who accompanied Mr. Trump to a hospital in Dayton. And en route home to Washington, he tweeted still more attacks on Democrats, calling their charges that he is a racist “truly disgusting.”

He was cool, they weren’t, but those New York Times reporters have their sources:

He was particularly upset by excerpts from a news conference in Ohio featuring Mr. Brown and Nan Whaley, the Democratic mayor of Dayton that he had seen while flying from Dayton to El Paso. Both officials took a mostly respectful tone toward the president and said he had been received graciously. But Mr. Brown also said that some people at the hospital had privately said they do not support Mr. Trump, and he charged that the president had used racist and divisive language.

Mr. Trump reacted with fury. As his plane soared toward a restive El Paso, he shouted at aides that no one was defending him, according to a person briefed on what took place.

Don’t make this man angry. He has the codes and can start a nuclear war, the big and final one that ends all life on earth, if he wants to, and no one can stop him. So he was screaming at thirty-five thousand feet on his way to a place where he knew he was not welcome. He might have nuked China right then, just for the hell of it, but he went and faced the city that scorns him. Neither city was welcoming:

Mr. Trump was greeted in both Dayton and El Paso by protests of unusual size for a presidential visit at a time of collective grief.

In Republican-leaning Dayton, small groups of demonstrators waved signs that read “Dump Trump” and “Do Something!” His supporters, who insist that his language is not to blame for the actions of deranged individuals, and that calls for him to embrace gun control do not address the root causes of gun violence, turned out in smaller numbers.

The reception was especially bitter in El Paso, a border city that Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized and where many people blame his anti-immigrant messaging and talk of a cross-border “invasion” for inspiring the gunman who killed 22 people at a Walmart here.

Protesters staged a daylong demonstration in a park near the University Medical Center of El Paso, and when Mr. Trump arrived at a nearby police emergency operations center, a group greeted him with a large white bedsheet that had the words “Racist, go home” written on it. At a memorial site in a parking lot near the Walmart, where mourners had erected small white crosses and left hundreds of flowers, balloons and candles, the appearance of a woman in a red “Make America Great Again” hat provoked shouting and profanity, prompting state troopers to intervene and urge calm.

This didn’t go well, but the whole day was like that:

In his comments to reporters on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump repeated his previous attacks on undocumented immigrants and called Mr. Biden, his leading Democratic presidential rival, “a pretty incompetent guy” who has “truly lost his fastball.”

The president held back from making any further public statements once he arrived in Dayton later in the morning, visiting privately with families and victims of the shooting over the weekend as well as emergency and medical personnel at Miami Valley Hospital. But while his spokeswoman said the event was never meant as a photo op, Dan Scavino, the president’s social media director, posted pictures on Twitter. “The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video,” he tweeted. “They all loved seeing their great President!”

The White House quickly followed up with campaign-style video featuring images of Mr. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, shaking hands with emergency medical workers and chatting with smiling hospital workers.

They all loved him! That was the word:

After departing from El Paso, Mr. Trump was on the attack again. Reflecting his anger over television coverage of his day, which prominently featured the protests in both cities, he tweeted that the “Fake News” media “worked overtime trying to disparage me and the two trips, but it just didn’t work. The love, respect & enthusiasm were there for all to see.”

That’s a matter of where one is standing, because others saw this:

Jim Madewell, 71, a retired printing press foreman who said he lives 100 yards from the Dayton suspect’s house, said the president’s language “throws gasoline on the fire,” and that leads to violence. “He feeds on negativity and hate and fear,” Mr. Madewell said.

As in Dayton, protesters gathered in El Paso ahead of Mr. Trump’s arrival. Judy Lugo, the president of the Texas State Employees Union, said Mr. Trump should not have come.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Ms. Lugo said. “The people here need to mourn… they need to be left alone.”

That’s an odd thing to say about a potential visit from the most powerful man in the world, and as he says, the richest and sexiest and smartest man in the world too.

Maybe that’s not true. The New York Times’ Simon Romero and Rick Rojas explain the situation in El Paso:

Earlier this year in his State of the Union address, President Trump described to the nation how the Texas border city of El Paso once had “extremely high rates of violent crime” and was considered “one of our nation’s most dangerous cities.” Then he turned it into the living argument for his border wall.

“With a powerful barrier in place,” he went on, “El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country. Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.”

In this West Texas border city, founded 360 years ago as an outpost of the Spanish empire, those words festered. So did words Mr. Trump repeated at a rally he held on the city’s outskirts a few weeks later. “Murders, murders, murders,” he said, in reference to immigrants, as the crowd chanted, “Build the wall!”

For many in El Paso, the potentially devastating consequences of the anger over immigration and race became apparent this weekend, when 22 people were killed at a Walmart and the white suspect warned of a “Hispanic invasion,” plunging the city into mourning. So Mr. Trump returned – this time to say he wanted to help the city grieve.

El Paso had been safe all along. There had been no new wall. And he had shouted “murders, murders, murders” when the crime rate had been extraordinarily low for decades. He lied to get everyone riled up. A kid six hundred miles away in Dallas got riled up. And that was that. The locals were having none of it:

The El Paso Times published a letter to Mr. Trump defending the city – which lies just across the border from the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez – and its deep sense of bicultural identity. “Our city and Juárez were always linked. Today, we are intertwined more than ever. The evil that visited us targeted people from El Paso and Juárez alike,” it said. “Our people are scared.”

And so this predominantly Hispanic city in a state whose leadership is tightly aligned with the administration’s anti-immigration agenda tried this week to chart its own course through America’s troubled political waters.

El Paso officials – pointing out that the Trump campaign still owes the city more than half a million dollars for the security costs of a rally in February – veered between rejecting the president’s politics and welcoming his attempt to recognize the city’s grief.

The matter of that more than half a million dollars for the security costs is curious. Trump famously never pays his bills. That’s why he’s so rich. And many on the right think this is cool – he’ll never pay them and those El Paso losers can’t do a thing about it. Trump’s a winner. They’re pathetic. They deserve what they got. And cool and clever Trump gets to keep the money. He’s a winner. Deal with it.

So they dealt with it:

“This is the office of the mayor of El Paso in an official capacity welcoming the office of the president of the United States, which I consider is my formal duty,” said Dee Margo, the mayor.

Others in the city had no patience for such diplomacy.

“Absolutely everything that Trump stands for was concentrated and fired at the citizens of El Paso that day at Walmart,” said Christopher Bailey, 43, a project coordinator for an El Paso health clinic. “Shame should be hung around the neck for every supporter that continues to justify his language and his presidency.”

But, as Trump likes to say, and keeps saying, he’s president and they’re not, but one woman didn’t seem to care that he was:

In an extraordinary series of tweets on the night before the president’s arrival, Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing El Paso in Congress, underscored the way in which the city was taking on a leading role – even in a conservative state like Texas – in opposing Mr. Trump. Only about 26 percent of the voters in El Paso County voted for Mr. Trump in 2016.

Ms. Escobar revealed that the White House had invited her to join Mr. Trump during Wednesday’s visit, but she said she had requested a phone call with the president in an effort to explain that the language he uses to describe Latinos, sometimes equating them with violent criminals, is dehumanizing.

“I have publicly said he has a responsibility to acknowledge the power of his words, apologize for them, and take them back because they are still hanging over us,” Ms. Escobar wrote.

The president, she said, was “too busy” to talk, and she declined to join him in his visit. “I refuse to be an accessory to his visit.”

He may have to have Navy Seal Team Six execute her, but that doesn’t change what was happening here:

Jason Carr, 53, who described himself as a libertarian, said it was clear even to him that it would have been better for the president not to have come to El Paso.

“It’s pretty clear he wasn’t wanted,” he said. “You can see the hurt in people’s eyes,” he said of the attack, still so fresh after only a few days. “It’s just so wrong. There are just so many layers of how wrong it was.”

And as Alexander Burns and Katie Glueck report, the Democrats could not let that go unnoticed:

Democratic presidential candidates lashed President Trump on Wednesday with their sternest denunciations yet of his exploitation of racism for political purposes and resistance to gun control, in a day of biting criticism that also highlighted differences between Democrats over how best to understand the recent rise of hate crimes in America.

So they let loose, starting with the old guy but including them all:

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in one of the most fiery speeches of his campaign so far, argued Wednesday that Mr. Trump had both explicitly and implicitly “fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation” with his language.

“Trump readily, eagerly attacks Islamic terrorism but can barely bring himself to use the words ‘white supremacy,'” Mr. Biden said in Burlington, Iowa. “And even when he says it, he doesn’t appear to believe it. He seems more concerned about losing their votes than beating back this hateful ideology.”

Speaking in Charleston at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where a white supremacist gunman killed nine black worshipers in 2015, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey also blamed Mr. Trump for encouraging hatred. The weekend’s violence, he said, was “sowed by those who spoke the same words the El Paso murderer did, warning of an ‘invasion,'” a word Mr. Trump has used to describe migrants approaching the Southern border.

And Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Representative Beto O’Rourke both said they believe Mr. Trump was a white supremacist.

Trump’s response to this was curious:

Mr. Trump has emphatically denied that he is racist, and on Wednesday, he dismissed reporters’ questions about the role of his rhetoric in dividing the country, saying his language “brings people together.”

He didn’t explain that. Perhaps he thought that was obvious. Perhaps he just gave up and tossed that out just for the hell of it. But it didn’t matter:

Mr. Trump, who rose to power railing against the country’s changing ethnic and cultural texture, contends that Democrats should be punished for opposing his immigration policies and rejecting the values of the rural white people who make up his base. Democrats, meanwhile, are now arguing in the most explicit terms yet that white supremacists are receiving aid and comfort from the president.

“His low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week I don’t believe fooled anyone, at home or abroad,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump’s remarks Monday about the El Paso shooting.

The Democrats don’t seem to be afraid of losing the votes of  the rural white people who make up Trump’s base. They seem to be claiming that there really are other Americans. Trump doesn’t think so. That dispute won’t be settled soon. But even Biden sees this is bigger than Trump:

In Iowa, Mr. Biden acknowledged that American history was no “fairy-tale.”

“I wish I could say that this all began with Donald Trump and will end with him,” he said. “But it didn’t and I won’t.”

But he also assailed Mr. Trump as representing a wild departure from the American political tradition, blaming him for stoking hatred and abandoning the unifying role past presidents have sought to play. He contrasted Mr. Trump’s ambivalent response to racism and tragedy with the conduct of his predecessors, including Bill Clinton’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and George W. Bush’s visit to a mosque after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In a biting one-liner that has become a regular jab on the campaign trail, Mr. Biden said that Mr. Trump had “more in common with George Wallace than he does with George Washington.”

So, Trump is not a one-off bigot here. There have been others in the past. There will be others in the future. But we have to deal with this guy. That was the message. Trump as screwed up everything.

Charles Blow, who is quite black, says it’s more than that:

This is what Trump has done.

If you are one of the people in this country who feel personally targeted by Trump – immigrants, people of Mexican heritage, Muslims, people who are transgender, women, African-Americans – you know that we are experiencing this nightmare in a wholly different way, in a deeper way, than people who are not targeted.

When you are not the target of this man’s hate, you can object on moral grounds, as an exercise of principle. But you have chosen the fight.

For the targets, the fight chose us. It dragged us in. We have two choices: be pummeled or fight back.

And the even more stinging part is that fighting and discrimination and oppression are not new to us. We know this struggle. We end our lives with a spirit covered in scar tissue. We endeavor every day to not let our weariness drift into despair.

Each morning, we rise, adjust our armor and set our minds, so that we can continue the battle, but also celebrate our victories and not forget to wring bits of joy out of life.

Obviously, this is not a white man’s perspective, someone who would not have these experiences, but this is dire for others:

We are used to navigating unwarranted hostility from neighbors, co-workers and schoolmates, but when the person targeting you has actual power over you, it makes your life hell, psychically as well as a matter of reality.

Now just imagine how much higher the level of offense and betrayal is when one has to grapple daily with the reality that the chief executive of the country is the source of the targeting and the source of the pain.

There is no way to escape it. We are stuck. There is no way to remedy it until the next election.

So one must live with this:

We are forced to look on in horror as the power of the federal government is deployed in the service of racism: the Muslim ban, the family separation policy, children in cages, trying to build a wall, efforts to restrict even legal immigration and talk of invasions and infestations.

It is still unfathomable to me that the federal government took children away from their parents without a system for reunification, that some of those children may never see their parents again.

Even if this were only one child it would be outrageous and egregious. Unfortunately, it is more than one.

And on it goes:

There is a new outrage every day, but I try to remember children. If I were one of them, away in a strange place, all alone, surrounded by strangers, and my mother or father or both were taken away, how could I possibly cope? If I were the father of a child taken away from me to who knows where, and I had no idea if I would see my child again, how could I continue to function?

And yet, this is happening in real time in the name of the United States government. And even as Trump makes overtures to trying to live up to the role of the presidency, his administration continues its pressure on immigrants unabated.

And now there’s this:

U. S. immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 mostly Latino workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at least a decade.

The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to visit El Paso, Texas, the majority-Latino city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead in the border city.


This action could have been delayed until the president’s visit was complete, but no.

What signals are these optics supposed to send to the mourning members of the El Paso community? Or, maybe the message isn’t aimed at those who are suffering but at Trump’s supporters.

And that’s the other part of the trauma: The targets have to constantly wrestle with the reality that a large portion of the American population is perfectly fine with what Trump is doing and many people will even show up at his rallies and cheer.

And that’s that. Trump was not wanted in Dayton and El Paso. But he’s making sure that the people in Dayton and El Paso understand that the rest of the country agrees that they’re not wanted here. Now America is a matter of exclusion. Who is not wanted here? It’ll be time to vote on that soon.

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On Impulse Power

Kirk tells Sulu to proceed on “impulse power” but Sulu isn’t supposed to be impulsive. He’s supposed to go slow. He’s supposed to use the ship’s crude and old-fashioned secondary method of getting around:

In the fictional Star Trek universe, the impulse drive is the method of propulsion that starships and other spacecraft use when they are travelling below the speed of light. Typically powered by deuterium fusion reactors, impulse engines let ships travel interplanetary distances readily. For example, Starfleet Academy cadets use impulse engines when flying from Earth to Saturn and back. Unlike the warp engines, impulse engines work on principles used in today’s rocketry, throwing mass out the back as fast as possible to drive the ship forward.

That’s it. Throw mass out the back as fast as possible. This is late seventeenth-century Isaac Newton stuff – for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. It’s crude but effective. But then Captain Kirk also runs on impulse power. He acts impulsively, things go wrong, Spock straightens things out with systematically applied dry logic, and the end-credits roll. That was the formula. Impulsiveness was trouble. It was crude and stupid and everyone always had to clean up the mess caused by what might have seemed like innocent or even heroic impulsiveness. There’s no such thing.

Politicians find that out:

After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) slammed Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for a photo posted on Facebook of a group of young men wearing “Team Mitch” shirts shown choking and groping a cardboard cutout of the Democratic congresswoman, the Senate majority leader’s campaign manager initially responded by saying, in essence, boys will be boys.

Oops. There’s no such thing as innocent impulsiveness:

The campaign ultimately ended up condemning the image as “demeaning.”

In a statement, Kevin Golden said the media is using the image to “demonize, stereotype, and publicly castigate every young person who dares to get involved with Republican politics,” adding that “these young men are not campaign staff, they are high schoolers.” In another statement, Golden condemned the photo, saying: “Team Mitch in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cut outs of any gender in a manner similar to what we saw from President Obama’s speechwriting staff several years ago.”

It was a bad move! Obama’s folks did it too! (No one remembers that.) They were wrong! Look! At least we apologized! We’re wonderful!

No, they aren’t wonderful:

Some of the young men in the photo, which was posted with the caption “break me off a piece of that,” attended Lexington Christian Academy, and the photo was taken while they were attending a “non-school” event, a school spokesperson said Tuesday. “Lexington Christian Academy officials are aware of a photo circulating on social media which includes LCA students attending a recent, non-school event,” Dan Koett wrote in an LCA statement. “This matter has been addressed with the students and the families involved.”

Lexington Christian Academy doesn’t run on impulse power, and don’t use impulse power in Texas:

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R) admitted that he did say “terrible things” about his members on a recording taped by a far-right activist, saying that it was “stupid” to meet with someone who “worked hard to divide our House.”

“I said terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House, and to me personally,” he said in an apology email to House members, which was obtained by the Dallas Morning News. “You know me well enough to know I say things with no filter. That’s not an excuse for the hurtful things I said or the discussion that was had.”

“Once again, I call for the release of the entire unedited recording so the House is no longer held hostage, and we can begin to heal,” he added.

“You know me well enough to know I say things with no filter,” said Captain Kirk. Spock raised one eyebrow and then fixed the problem, but Spock wasn’t in Texas that day:

Activist Michael Sullivan recorded a meeting he had with Bonnen and Republican caucus chairman Dennis Burrows on June 12 during which Sullivan was allegedly given a list of Republicans to challenge in the primaries with his well-funded super PAC in exchange for press credentials.

Bonnen has previously denied the existence of any such list, and he has consistently called for the recording’s release.

Sullivan and some members he shared the recording with have vehemently pushed back against calls to release the recording, saying that it would provide unfettered ammunition for Democrats in the upcoming elections.

There’s no good way to fix this, but as the Washington Post’s Damian Paletta reports, Donald Trump has also been running on impulse power:

President Trump is increasingly acting based on his own intuition and analysis and not the advice of aides in the fraught trade war with China, five people briefed on the actions said, shattering a more cautious process that had yielded few positive results so far.

The Treasury Department’s formal announcement that it had labeled China a “currency manipulator” Monday came six hours after President Trump did it himself, on social media, the latest example of how Trump is determining his own next steps. The people describing the White House process spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

On Tuesday, Trump’s senior advisers still floated the possibility that the White House could scale back some of its economic penalties against China if leaders in Beijing offer tangible concessions.

Well, someone has to play Spock here, but that’s both a hopeless and thankless task:

“As difficult as things may be, and I know the markets are bit volatile, the reality is we would like to negotiate,” White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on CNBC. His comments came the same day that Chinese leaders moved to stabilize their currency, a move that calmed investors after a sharp selloff Monday.

The one-day respite may not continue much longer. A number of White House officials say they now expect a long, drawn-out battle with Chinese leaders, as the on-again, off-again trade negotiations that began in December have shown little sign of progress.

In short, a number of White House officials say they now expect Trump to do whatever suddenly occurs to him at any given moment, which will probably make no sense at all:

Trump is convinced that the Chinese economy is suffering more than the U.S. economy from the conflict and that leaders will eventually back down. And he has felt validated that his hardball threats in other circumstances, including a recent tangle with Mexico over border security, seemed to get at least some results, even if they scared investors in the short term, said the people familiar with the matter.

This has left aides, many of whom have preferred for the president to be more patient, to scramble to complete directives issued by Trump. Stocks have whipsawed as Trump and China have escalated the trade conflict. Democrats, some of whom are supportive of a more adversarial economic relationship with China, have nonetheless criticized Trump’s penchant for making impulsive moves that have enraged farmers and businesses.

It seems that Trump does need a Spock:

The practical implications of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s move to label China a “currency manipulator” on Monday were limited. It begins a process of discussions with the International Monetary Fund about ways to address China’s behavior. But it represented the most concrete Trump administration broadside in a week that had previously been marked by twin attacks from Beijing.

First, China’s currency had weakened against the U.S. dollar, something White House officials suspected was directed by the Chinese government. And second, Chinese officials sent signals that they would not be ramping up purchases of U.S. agriculture products, as Trump had long promised they would.

Both steps made clear that Chinese leaders did not plan to make quick concessions to the White House following Trump’s surprise announcement last week that he would be imposing a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion in imports from China. Several of Trump’s advisers had warned against this, nervous that it would only provoke retaliation from Beijing and could damage the U.S. economy.

“We’re learning that maybe China has a higher pain threshold than we thought here,” said Stephen Moore, who was an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 election and remains close to the White House.

So, Trump’s impulses were wrong, but they often are:

Trump has frequently relied on his own judgment in navigating trade disputes with other countries, a tactic that has yielded mixed results. South Korean leaders agreed to revise their trade agreement with the U.S. after Trump threatened to withdraw from an existing pact. Similarly, Canada and Mexico agreed to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, though U.S. lawmakers have still not approved the changes.

But Trump has also tried to take charge of sensitive trade arrangements with Japan, India, and the European Union, and he has made little progress so far. And none of those relationships is as complex or intertwined with the U.S. economy as China’s.

And this won’t go well:

Trump had promised during his 2016 campaign to label China a currency manipulator, but he backed down once he took office amid pressure from top advisers. Then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and others warned Trump about the economic implications of attacking China without a strategy in 2017, and Trump instead focused on passing a large tax cut law and growing the domestic economy.

But Trump pivoted sharply toward following through on his trade threats in 2018, and Cohn left shortly thereafter. Trump still has a number of senior advisers on his economic team, but he frequently ignores their advice. He has been frustrated that Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer have not been able to extract more concessions from China since trade negotiations began in December, and he increasingly relied on his own impulses to lead the battle with China, said the people familiar with the matter.

So all bets are off:

Just last month, Kudlow tried to assure the public that the White House had ruled out the possibility of intervening in the U.S. dollar as part of the currency war. Kudlow said in a CNBC interview that top White House advisers had met and decided not to intervene.

Several hours later, Trump told reporters that this was not true and that he reserved the right to intervene if he wanted to.

“I could do that in two seconds if I want to,” Trump said two weeks ago. “I didn’t say I’m not going to do something.”

Kudlow has a difficult job. Trump is finished with listening to others about anything, and Tom Friedman sees this:

For the first three decades, U.S.-China trade could be summarized as America bought T-shirts, tennis shoes and toys from China, and China bought soybeans and Boeing jetliners from America. And as long as that was the case, we did not care whether the Chinese government was communist, capitalist, authoritarian, libertarian or vegetarian.

But over the last decade, China has become a more middle-income country and a technology powerhouse. And it unveiled a plan, “Made in China 2025.” This was Xi’s plan to abandon selling T-shirts, tennis shoes and toys and to instead make and sell to the world the same high-tech tools that America and Europe sell – smartphones, artificial intelligence systems, 5G infrastructure, electric cars and robots.

I welcome China as a competitor in these areas. It will speed up innovation and drive down prices. But these are all what I think of as “deep technologies” – they literally get embedded into your house, your infrastructure, your factory and your community. And unlike dumb toys, they are all dual use. That is, they can potentially be used by China to tap into our society for intelligence or malicious purposes. And once they are embedded, they are hard to remove.

So this is serious stuff, and Trump is right to oppose this, and, at the same time, he’s kind of useless:

Someone had to call that game. And that was what Trump did, and he was right to do it. But he did it in an incredibly foolish way!

Trump should have signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which would have aligned all the major Pacific economies – except China – around United States trade values, norms, interests and standards, and lowered thousands of tariffs on American products. Instead, Trump tore up the TPP.

Then Trump should have lined up all the European Union countries, which have the same trade problems with China as we do, on our side. Instead, Trump hit them with tariffs on steel and other goods, just as he did China.

Then Trump should have told Xi that we and our Pacific and European partners wanted to negotiate with him “in secret” on a new trade regime and no one would lose face. But in that secret negotiation, it would be “the world’s trade standards and values versus China’s.”

Instead, Trump went it alone – and made it America versus China alone. If everything is “America first,” why should anyone help us?

It seems that Trump’s impulsiveness trapped us:

Now we have less leverage and are involved in a tit-for-tat tariff war – with no allies – and we have made it a nationalist-pride question of who will lose face first: Xi or Trump? This makes it much harder to solve. Again, Trump’s core instinct is right, but trying to solve the whole United States-China trade problem, built up over decades, in one perfect deal may be too much change for the lumbering Chinese system to handle at once.

Spock could have told him that, but this isn’t science fiction. There is no Spock. This is just the world falling apart, but Frank Bruni argues that Trump is worse when he suppresses his impulses:

When a president orders up a special script, summons the national media and sends a message to all Americans that the “sinister ideologies” of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” have no place here, the normal response is to cheer.

But these aren’t normal times. Donald Trump isn’t a normal president. And those words, which he spoke on Monday, made me feel sick, because they were just cheap and hollow sops to convention.

He doesn’t believe them. Or rather, he doesn’t care. That’s indisputable from his actions to this point, and it will be demonstrated anew by his behavior going forward. I lost my fondness for forecasts after November 2016, but you can take this prediction to the bank: Trump will be back to his old tweets and tricks in no time. They have gotten him this far, and he’s not going to mess with a good thing just because the country is in crisis.

That speech of his was a pantomime of dignity to give cover to his Republican enablers…

Trump, however, has different impulses:

I don’t claim that Trump specifically caused or catalyzed El Paso or Pittsburgh or related blood baths, because nothing’s that tidy, because I know that mass shootings and mad shooters predate him and because, in a sense, it doesn’t matter. The enmity he sows and the hatred he reaps are unacceptable regardless, and they’re certainly not lowering the temperature of political discourse in America.

I also don’t believe that all of Trump’s backers are bigots, and insistences along those lines are an overreach with the unfortunate effect of inviting many of them to tune out their critics. Trump rose and Trump rules for an array of reasons, and racism is prominent among them.

Let’s never forget the milestones of his political ascent: In 1989, as he kicked around the idea of running for office, he took out full-page ads in major New York City newspapers against the Central Park Five and denounced the “bands of wild criminals” and “crazed misfits” threatening everyone else. In retrospect, this was throat clearing for his invocation of Mexican rapists more than a quarter century later.

Go back and reread the presidential campaign announcement speech when he mentioned rapists and drug smugglers from Mexico. It’s not just an aria but an entire opera of grievance, its unalloyed fury trained on supposedly unprincipled actors from places where people’s skin is darker and their names less bluntly phonetic than Donald Trump. If fits with eerie neatness into the “replacement theory” that animated the El Paso gunman, and it’s not meant to inspire or instruct. It’s meant to inflame.

And that’s his impulse:

He’s a moral arsonist, and if he determined that the only way to hold on to power was to burn everything to the ground, he’d gladly be king of ashes. To paraphrase Milton: Better to reign over a ruined country than to be just another crass plutocrat in a noble one.

That may be what drives him, but Ross Douthat sees this:

What links Donald Trump to the men who massacred innocents in El Paso and Dayton this past weekend? Note that I said both men: the one with the white-nationalist manifesto and the one with some kind of atheist-socialist politics; the one whose ranting about a “Hispanic invasion” echoed Trump’s own rhetoric and the one who was anti-Trump and also apparently the lead singer in a “pornogrind” band.

Nothing links them, but this:

There really is a dark psychic force generated by Trump’s political approach, which from its birther beginnings has consistently encouraged and fed on a fevered and paranoid form of right-wing politics, and dissolved quarantines around toxic and dehumanizing ideas. And the possibility that Trump’s zest for demonization can feed a demonic element in the wider culture is something the many religious people who voted for the president should be especially willing to consider.

But the connection between the president and the young men with guns extends beyond Trump’s race-baiting to encompass a more essential feature of his public self – which is not the rhetoric, or the ideology that he deploys, but the obvious moral vacuum, the profound spiritual black hole that lies beneath his persona and career.

So, Douthat insists, deal with that:

By all means disable 8Chan and give the FBI new marching orders; by all means condemn racism more vigorously than this compromised president can do. But recognize we’re dealing with a pattern of mass shootings, encompassing both the weekend’s horrors, where the personal commonalities between the shooters are clearly more important than the political ones – which suggests that the white nationalism of internet failsons is like the allegiance to an imaginary caliphate that motivated the terrorists whose depredations helped get Trump elected in the first place.

A failson, by the way, is an incompetent, unsuccessful middle-class or upper-class man who is protected from economic duress by his family’s wealth or influence – a “fail son” of course – a recent coinage – but that works:

This is what really links Trump to all these empty male killers, white nationalists and pornogrind singers alike. Like them he is a creature of our late-modern anti-culture, our internet-accelerated dissolution of normal human bonds. Like them he plainly believes in nothing but his ego, his vanity, his sense of spite and grievance, and the self he sees reflected in the mirror of television, mass media, online.

And that means Trump is not a populist:

It’s not as if you could carve away his race-baiting and discover a healthier populism instead, or analyze him the way you might analyze his more complex antecedents, a Richard Nixon or a Ross Perot. To analyze Trump is to discover only bottomless appetite and need, and to carve at him is like carving at an online troll: The only thing to discover is the void.

So there’s nothing there:

Cultural conservatives get a lot of grief when they respond to these massacres by citing moral and spiritual issues, rather than leaping straight to gun policy (or in this case, racist ideology). But to look at the trend in these massacres, the spikes of narcissistic acting-out in a time of generally-declining violence, the shared bravado and nihilism driving shooters of many different ideological persuasions, is to necessarily encounter a moral and spiritual problem, not just a technocratic one.

But the dilemma that conservatives have to confront is that you can chase this cultural problem all the way down to its source in lonely egomania and alienated narcissism, and you’ll still find Donald Trump’s face staring back to you.

And he’s an incredibly popular impulsive man who believes in nothing. What could go wrong? Now we know. This ship can’t get anywhere on impulse power.

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The Man’s Word

The Iran nuclear deal was Obama’s deal so Trump pulled the United States out of that. The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) was Obama’s deal so Trump pulled the United States out of that. The Affordable Care Act was Obamacare – and that will be gone soon, entirely, if the Trump administration has its way. And it’s the same with all the arms treaties with Russia – Trump didn’t make those deals – we will abrogate all those treaties immediately and everyone builds lots more nukes. Trump has done this because he wrote the book on making deals, The Art of the Deal, and he can make a better deal right now. It’s a matter of humiliating the other party until they submit, seething with resentment, but powerless to do anything about what just happened, and do exactly as they’re told. That’s why he loves tariffs. They inflict pain, and humiliation. And that’s why he loves trade wars. He says they’re easy to win and kind of fun. He will humiliate China now. Just look at the deals HE makes!

There are no deals yet. Don’t expect TrumpCare. There never was such a thing, even in concept. Iran will build nukes. Trump has not made the “better” deals. There may never be deals. It’s hard to take this man at his word. But this is Donald Trump. He has his own way of doing things, as Jonathan Chait explained here:

I’ve been working up a brilliant moneymaking scheme. My plan is to throw a bunch of wild accusations at my neighbors. I’ll comb city regulations to find rules they’re breaking, and if I can’t come up with anything, I’ll just make stuff up. After I’ve bombarded them with accusations of unfair treatment, I can threaten them with lawsuits. Eventually they’ll give me some money, maybe a few hundred dollars, to drop the matter.

The plan I’m describing would probably work. But as you’re probably intuiting, it’s an extremely stupid plan. It only seems like a way to extract concessions. In reality, I’d be paying a heavy cost. The goodwill of my neighbors is a valuable long-term asset. It’s pleasant to get along with them, but also practical. We rely on each other for all sorts of arrangements, from borrowing that ingredient you suddenly realize you’re missing in the middle of cooking dinner to calling 911 if there’s an emergency. Whatever payoff I could jack out of them with crazy threats would simply be a short-term monetization with long-term costs.

Donald Trump’s negotiating style as president is basically the plan I just described writ large.

And it is confusing:

Much of the analysis of Trump’s deals is devoted to figuring out which ones contain actual wins as opposed to face-saving retreats. Sometimes his methods draw grudging praise for their seemingly acceptable outcomes. Jonathan Swan described Trump’s tactics as, “Threaten the outrageous, ratchet up the tension, amplify it with tweets and taunts, and then compromise on fairly conventional middle ground.” David Graham conceded, “This turns out to be an effective tool, because not many people have Trump’s appetite for awkwardness. But if it doesn’t work, the president has few other tools at his disposal, and tends to back down.”

But the distinction between the deals where Trump manages to extract some value and the deals where he backs down and gets nothing misses the broader point: Properly accounted for, all the deals are losses. Even when Trump “wins,” he is ignoring the invisible costs on the opposing side of the ledger. The goodwill of American allies is an extremely valuable asset built up over generations that Trump is drawing down.

But this isn’t the commercial real estate business:

Stiffing contractors and lenders was one of Trump’s signature business maneuvers. It worked because he could always find more people to do business with, and the fame he cultivated through his manipulation of the media – also a legitimate Trump business skill – helped draw in a never-ending supply of suckers.

The problem is that the supply of foreign countries is finite. The bad will Trump engenders with his irrational charges and crazy threats alienates partners he will need to deal with again.

So, last week Trump, against the advice of almost everyone in his administration, announced massive new tariffs on almost all Chinese goods and services, to start in September, because they had made him very angry. They weren’t being submissive. They didn’t realize who they were dealing with – the master of such things. And then they humiliated him:

A dramatic escalation of the trade war between the United States and China sparked a worldwide sell-off in markets on Monday. The Dow closed down 767 points, and the Nasdaq Composite – a proxy for the technology companies that will be most harmed by a trade war – suffered its longest losing streak since November 2016.

The Chinese government devalued the yuan to fall below its 7-to-1 ratio with the US dollar for the first time in a decade Monday. A weaker currency could soften the tariff blow the United States has dealt China.

The weak yuan ignited fear on Wall Street that a currency war has begun or that the United States would respond with even higher tariffs, prolonging the standoff with China and potentially weakening the global economy. Investors are particularly concerned that the Trump administration could try to devalue the dollar, sparking a currency war that could weaken Americans’ purchasing power.

Everyone knows Trump by now. He’ll triple all the tariffs. And he’ll devalue the dollar – just to show them two can play that game – no matter how much that hurts American businesses and consumers. He’s like that. He hits back ten times harder, but there’s this:

“Risks of Trump intervening in foreign exchange markets have increased with China letting the yuan go,” wrote Viraj Patel, FX and global macro strategist at Arkera, on Twitter. “If this was an all-out currency war the US would hands down lose. Beijing is far more advanced in playing the currency game and has bigger firepower.”

Perhaps so, but Trump is very angry and that must count for something, and it did:

At its worst, the Dow was down 961 points Monday. Even though the index clawed back some of its losses, it logged its worst day of the year, as well as its sixth-worst point drop in history.

This man does not make deals:

If the U.S. continues to raise a wall of tariffs on Chinese goods in the coming months and China responds, expect a global recession in three quarters, Morgan Stanley said Monday.

“As we view the risk of further escalation as high, the risks to the global outlook are decidedly skewed to the downside,” Morgan Stanley chief economist Chetan Ahya said.

The firm believes a global recession will come in about nine months if the trade war further escalates through the U.S. raising tariffs to 25% “on all imports from China for 4-6 months,” Ahya said. “We would see the global economy entering recession in three quarters,” he said in a note to investors.

And there is a cost to Trump’s anger:

President Donald Trump on Thursday unexpectedly announced that, beginning Sept. 1, the U.S. will add levies of 10% on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports that had not previously faced duties. These new tariffs “raise downside risks significantly,” Ahya said.

“About two-thirds of goods tariffed in this round are consumer goods, which could lead to a more pronounced impact on the US as compared to earlier tranches,” Ahya said. “Trade tensions have pushed corporate confidence and global growth to multi-year lows.”

And add this:

The U.S. government has determined that China is manipulating its currency and will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate unfair competition from Beijing, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Monday.

The move brings already tense U.S.-Chinese relations to a boil and fulfills U.S. President Donald Trump’s promise to label China a currency manipulator for the first time since 1994.

Well, they made him angry. Expect a market crash. There go your retirement funds, or all your savings, or both. But he is the master dealmaker. And trade wars are easy to win and kind of fun. And who believes a word this man says?

And that wasn’t the big news story of the day. There was that other matter and those other things this man said. The New York Times’ Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman cover that:

President Trump on Monday denounced white supremacy in the wake of twin mass shootings over the weekend, and citing the threat of “racist hate,” he summoned the nation to address what he called a link between the recent carnage and violent video games, mental illness and internet bigotry.

But he stopped well short of endorsing the kind of broad gun control measures that activists, Democrats and some Republicans have sought for years, such as tougher background checks for gun buyers and the banning of some weapons and accessories such as high-capacity magazines.

And while he warned of “the perils of the internet and social media,” he offered no recognition of his own use of those platforms to promote his brand of divisive politics. Instead, he focused on a rising intolerance that he has been slow to condemn in the past.

“In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”

And no one believes a word this man says:

It seemed unlikely that Mr. Trump’s 10-minute speech, coming after one of the most violent weekends in recent American history, would reposition him as a unifier when many Americans hold him responsible for inflaming racial division. He took no responsibility for the atmosphere of division, nor did he recognize his own reluctance to warn of the rise of white nationalism until now.

And this man wasn’t really saying much:

Mr. Trump, who will visit Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday, took no questions. He also did not repeat his call on Twitter earlier in the morning for Republicans and Democrats to work together to strengthen background checks for prospective gun buyers.

That outraged Democratic leaders in Congress, who quickly accused Mr. Trump of retreating from more substantive action on gun control under political pressure.

“It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said in a statement. House Democrats passed such a measure in February, but the Republican-controlled Senate has not acted on it.

Yes, Trump will not press the Senate to do anything at all with what the House passes. He walked away from that. He seemed bored by it all:

Mr. Trump had spent the weekend at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he was thinly staffed as news of the shootings unfolded. Perusing the news in isolation, Mr. Trump tweeted several expressions of sympathy, along with more combative shots at the news media and his liberal critics.

By Sunday night, when Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, joined him for his return to Washington, Mr. Trump’s aides recognized that he needed to do more. Some advisers suggested that background checks would be an easy, bipartisan measure to endorse, but Mr. Trump was uncertain. When early drafts of his remarks began circulating, they did not mention background checks or immigration, according to two people briefed on them.

But that was an idea, call for backgrounds checks and link that to immigration legislation of some kind, but that got buried in the usual “right” words:

Trying for a somber tone at the White House, Mr. Trump repeated his past endorsement of so-called red-flag laws that would allow for the confiscation of firearms, from people found to be mentally ill, and said mental health laws should be changed to allow for the involuntary confinement of people at risk of committing violence. He gave no indication of how he would pursue any of his goals.

Mr. Trump also warned that the internet and social media provide “a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts.” But the president has himself amplified right-wing voices online with histories of racism and bigotry.

Mr. Trump also emphasized steps to better identify and respond to signs of mental illness that could lead to violence, repeating a familiar conservative formulation that de-emphasizes the significance of widely available firearms.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Mr. Trump said.

And the nation yawned. Everyone has heard all this before. And everyone has heard this man before too:

In March, after an avowed white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand, Mr. Trump said he did not “really” see a rising threat from white nationalism. “It’s a small group of people,” he added.

The president has also previously declared himself a supporter of stronger gun control, only to retreat from the issue. After a gunman killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Fla., last year, Mr. Trump startled Republican lawmakers that February when on live television, he appeared to embrace comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks, keep guns from mentally ill people and restrict gun sales for some young adults.

But he made little effort to follow through.

Everyone knows what to expect, but the New York Times also ran a devastating companion piece:

President Trump’s re-election campaign has harnessed Facebook advertising to push the idea of an “invasion” at the southern border, amplifying the fear-inducing language about immigrants that he has also voiced at campaign rallies and on Twitter.

Since January, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word “invasion” – part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging. A review of Mr. Trump’s tweets also found repeated references to an “invasion,” while his 2016 campaign advertising heavily featured dark warnings about immigrants breaching America’s borders.

Mr. Trump’s language on immigration – particularly his use of the word “invasion” – is under scrutiny after the mass shooting in El Paso on Saturday. The suspect in that shooting, which left 22 people dead, appeared to be the author of a manifesto declaring that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

This did not help Trump, for obvious reasons:

The cognitive linguist George Lakoff said the word “invasion” was a potent one for Mr. Trump to use because of what it allowed him to communicate. “If you’re invaded, you’re invaded by an enemy,” he said. “An invasion says that you can be taken over inside your own country and harmed, and that you can be ruled by people from the outside.”

Mr. Lakoff added: “When he’s saying ‘invasion,’ he’s saying all of those things. But they’re unconscious. They’re automatic. They’re built into the word ‘invasion.'”

For the writer of the manifesto, the concept of an “invasion” had an additional, racist meaning: He promoted a conspiracy theory called “the great replacement,” which claims that an effort is underway to replace white people with nonwhite people.

Democratic candidates for president blamed Mr. Trump for helping spread such views. “White supremacy is not a mental illness,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said on Monday. “We need to call it what it is: Domestic terrorism. And we need to call out Donald Trump for amplifying these deadly ideologies.”

That seems to be what happened, and Michelle Goldberg expands the timeline of all this:

A decade ago, Daryl Johnson, then a senior terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, wrote a report about the growing danger of right-wing extremism in America. Citing economic dislocation, the election of the first African-American president and fury about immigration, he concluded that “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.”

When the report leaked, conservative political figures sputtered with outrage, indignant that their ideology was being linked to terrorism. The report warned, correctly, that right-wing radicals would try to recruit disgruntled military veterans, which conservatives saw as a slur on the troops. Homeland Security, cowed, withdrew the document. In May 2009, Johnson’s unit, the domestic terrorism team, was disbanded, and he left government the following year.

Oops. That unit might be useful now:

Johnson expected right-wing militancy to escalate throughout Barack Obama’s administration, but to subside if a Republican followed him. Ordinarily, the far-right turns to terrorism when it feels powerless; the Oklahoma City bombing happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and all assassinations of abortion providers in the United States have taken place during Democratic administrations. During Republican presidencies, paranoid right-wing demagogy tends to recede, and with it, right-wing violence.

But that pattern doesn’t hold when the president himself is a paranoid right-wing demagogue.

“The fact that they’re still operating at a high level during a Republican administration goes against all the trending I’ve seen in 40 years,” Johnson told me. Donald Trump has kept the far right excited and agitated. “He is basically the fuel that’s been poured onto a fire,” said Johnson.

And that’s why few believed a word Trump just said:

Surrendering to political necessity, Trump gave a brief speech on Monday decrying white supremacist terror: “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” He read these words robotically from a teleprompter, much as he did after the racist riot in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when, under pressure, he said, “Racism is evil – and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.”

Back then, it took about a day for the awkward mask of minimal decency to drop; soon, he was ranting about the “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis. Nevertheless, on Monday some insisted on pretending that Trump’s words marked a turning point. “He really did set a different tone than he did in the past when it comes to condemning this hate,” said Weijia Jiang, White House correspondent for CBS News.

If history is any guide, it won’t be long before the president returns to tweeting racist invective and encouraging jingoist hatreds at his rallies.

Goldberg expects that:

What Trump said on Monday wasn’t nearly enough. He has stoked right-wing violence and his administration has actively opposed efforts to fight it. Further, he’s escalating his incitement of racial grievance as he runs for re-election, as shown by his attacks on the four congresswomen of color known as the squad, as well as the African-American congressman Elijah Cummings. One desultory speech does not erase Trump’s politics of arson, or the complicity of the Republicans who continue to enable it.

And there’s a bit of irony too:

On Monday, by coincidence, Cesar Sayoc Jr., the man who sent package bombs to Democrats and journalists he viewed as hostile to Trump, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In a court filing, his defense lawyers describe how he was radicalized. “He truly believed wild conspiracy theories he read on the internet, many of which vilified Democrats and spread rumors that Trump supporters were in danger because of them,” they wrote. “He heard it from the president of the United States, a man with whom he felt he had a deep personal connection.”

He became a terrorist as a result of taking the president both seriously and literally.

So don’t believe a word the man says:

Trump probably couldn’t bottle up the hideous forces he’s helped unleash even if he wanted to, and there’s little sign he wants to. If the president never did or said another racist thing, said Johnson, “it’s still going to take years for the momentum of these movements to slow and to die down.”

As it is, Trump’s grudging anti-racism is unlikely to last the week.

Perhaps so, but Luke O’Neil says there’s no reason to wait a week:

Over the weekend, a white man with a semiautomatic rifle went on a shooting rampage at an El Paso Walmart, killing 22 people.

President Trump, who averred that we cannot let the victims “die in vain,” offered an idea for how to prevent future shootings: “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”

It’s a shame about the deaths, in other words, but they never would have happened if immigrants didn’t keep trying to come here, and if Democrats would just let me stop them. “So, this atrocity,” as Nicole Hannah-Jones aptly summed up his view, “was caused by immigration.”

Having essentially blamed the victims for their own murders, the president was happily and enthusiastically acceding to what authorities think are the alleged killer’s specific demands.

That really is the logic at play here:

The idea here is that some sort of bipartisan immigration reform would stop the epidemic of white-supremacist violence in the United States. But of course that makes sense only if you believe that racist killers have a legitimate complaint – that we shouldn’t have Latino immigrants, and that, therefore, they do bear some of the blame. (Never mind that people of Hispanic descent existed in El Paso long before that region was part of the United States.) This was the idea, too, behind Trump’s common warning, reiterated last month, that if migrants didn’t like the detention centers along the border, they could simply not come.

What’s worse, the president in this case seems to be holding the prospect of modest gun reform hostage to his and the online screed’s common demands.

You want background checks? Let me stem the “infestation” first and we can talk.

Well, he is the master dealmaker after all, so note his position:

What happens to migrants next is up to them, the president and the manifesto’s author agree on that. Don’t want to die? Don’t come.

And people do get that:

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced on Monday evening that President Donald Trump will visit the city on Wednesday following the deadly shooting, which is being investigated as a hate crime against Latinos, over the weekend that led to the deaths of 22 people.

“He’s coming out here on Wednesday,” Margo said during a press conference. “And I want to clarify for the political spin that this is the office of the mayor of El Paso in an official capacity welcoming the office of the President of the United States, which I consider is my formal duty.”

“I will ask President Trump to support our efforts with any and all federal resources that are available,” he continued.

Mayor Margo said no more, not one word. Everyone now knows this president. Even the Chinese now know this president. His words mean nothing. And his word means nothing. So work around him. It may be time to ignore him and get things done for a change.

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A Bewildered Nation

After college, everyone has had a few odd jobs, and that’s doubly true for philosophy majors. It was the late sixties, and the philosophy major in question found himself in New York, working as a page on the Tonight Show and other NBC audience shows. He’s still philosophic about that. And then somehow he ended up writing photo captions for the Associated Press. Someone has to do that. And someone has to write the headlines. It’s not the reporters who write the stories. In the days of print there were font size and available space to consider. Big stories got big letters and fewer words. The trick was both to capture the essence of the news item and also hook the reader with something catchy. It’s an art form of sorts. That got the philosophy major in question into the news business and he eventually ended up part of Ted Turner’s team that started up CNN in 1980 – the team that got the nation hooked on continuous instant news. Get to the essence of things. And hook the viewer – the child trapped in a well, the new war starting somewhere, the surprise political scandal, the disaster like no other. That worked. The philosophy major in question had a long career there.

This weekend, of course, demanded a killer headline, literally, and the New York Times came up with Back-to-Back Shooting Massacres Shake a Bewildered Nation to Its Core – the words that screamed from the printed page and the Times’ website, but were softened when a reader clicked on the item. But the nation was bewildered, and shaken to the core, by these two events:

On Sunday, Americans woke up to news of a shooting rampage in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, where a man wearing body armor shot and killed nine people, including his own sister. Hours earlier, a 21-year-old with a rifle entered a Walmart in El Paso and killed 20 people.

In a country that has become nearly numb to men with guns opening fire in schools, at concerts and in churches, the back-to-back bursts of gun violence in less than 24 hours were enough to leave the public stunned and shaken. The shootings ground the 2020 presidential campaign to a halt, reignited a debate on gun control and called into question the increasingly angry words directed at immigrants on the southern border in recent weeks by right-wing pundits and President Trump.

This was the weekend from hell:

Residents of El Paso were on edge, grimly aware of a manifesto posted online that the authorities said was written by the suspect, Patrick Crusius, 21, who was in police custody. The manifesto spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” described an imminent attack by the writer and railed against immigrants.

It echoed what Trump had been saying, and then, up north:

In Bellbrook, a quiet suburb of Dayton that residents described as a “utopia,” the typical Sunday morning peace was disrupted by the police and news media who swarmed the cul-de-sacs and sidewalks of the neighborhood where Connor Betts, the 24-year-old suspect, is believed to have lived.

Brad Howard, 25, who had known Mr. Betts since before kindergarten and rode the bus with him to school for years, opened his phone and saw the news of his classmate on Sunday morning. “It was just another one of those things,” he said, “Just a kick in the teeth.”

Brad Howard had moved beyond being bewildered to being philosophical – these things happen, and no one knows why, and no one will ever know why. The universe will kick everyone in the teeth periodically. The best response is to shrug. Accept the events and accept the pain:

Across the country, Americans tried to process the weekend of violence while going about their usual routines. On Sunday morning at the National Cathedral in Washington, the Rev. Dr. Leonard Hamlin Sr. spoke to Americans struggling to grasp the violence and loss of life, on top of what can feel like a long list of national and personal struggles.

“Our real challenge is to look within,” he said. “If you are honest this morning, all of us need to be transformed at little bit more.”

In Cambridge, Mass., people said they had little hope that the events would lead to any policy changes.

“It’s disheartening, I think, to see so many politicians just keep doing the same kind of wash-rinse-repeat kind of cycle of: mass shooting happens, and then it’s, tweet about thoughts and prayers, and then it becomes, ‘We can’t talk about political ideology, we can’t talk about this and that,'” said Greg Cameron, 31, who does marketing for a bike share company.

Laura Platt, 33, a physician, said she wanted to see better gun policies enacted, but had no expectation that that would happen.

Expect nothing. These things happen, and there was this:

Mr. Trump, who spent the weekend at his estate in Bedminster, N.J., thanked law enforcement officials in both cities on Sunday, declaring that “hate has no place in our country and we are going to take care of it.” He said that “a lot of things are in the works.”

Mr. Trump did not elaborate on that statement.

That was a shrug, but the New York Times’ Charles Blow was outraged:

On July 28, a 19-year-old white man named Santino William Legan opened fire at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., killing three people and injuring 13 others before taking his own life.

As the Daily Beast reported, just before the shooting, Legan “posted a picture with a caption that told followers to read a 19th-century, proto-fascist book.” As the site explained:

“The book, which is repeatedly recommended alongside works by Hitler and other fascists on forums like 8chan, is full of anti-Semitic, sexist and white supremacist ideology. The book glorifies ‘Aryan’ men, condemns intermarriage between races, and defends violence based on bogus eugenicist tropes.”

Saturday, a 21-year-old white man identified by the police as Patrick Crusius walked into a crowded Walmart in El Paso and opened fire, killing 20 people and injuring more than two dozen others, some children. It was a massacre.

As The New York Times reported, “Nineteen minutes before the first 911 call” about the shooting at the Walmart, “a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online.”

The manifesto is heavily anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic. It’s riddled with the fear of white “displacement” and fear that changing demographics will favor Democrats and turn America into “a one party-state.”

And then on Sunday, a 24-year-old man named Connor Betts opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine people and injuring at least 27 others. Most of those killed were black.

There was no manifesto there, so that may not fit the pattern, but Blow sees a pattern:

Are these shootings a gun control issue? Of course. We have too many guns, and too many high-capacity guns. We sell guns first designed for soldiers to civilians. We don’t do enough to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them and we do next to nothing to track guns once they are sold.

But everyone knows that already, and Blow is more concerned with motive:

There is no doubt that Trump and Republicans are making poisonous anti-immigrant rhetoric part of their platforms.

But, I think laying all the blame at their feet is too convenient and simplistic. I think a better way to look at it is to understand that white nationalist terrorists – young and rash – and white nationalist policymakers – older and more methodical – live on parallel planes, both aiming in the same direction, both with the same goal: To maintain and ensure white dominance and white supremacy.

The policymakers believe they can accomplish with legislation in the legal system what the terrorists are trying to underscore with lead. In the minds of the policymakers, border walls, anti-immigrant laws, voter suppression and packing the courts are more prudent and permanent than bodies in the streets. But, try telling that to a young white terrorist who distrusts everyone in Washington…

These terrorists want to do quickly what the policymakers insist must be done slowly, so the terrorists stew in their anger.

And then they shoot, but Maureen Dowd sees something else:

A black man had made it into the White House. A woman in hot pink claimed the gavel in the House. A Latina congresswoman with a Bronx swagger emerged as the biggest media star in the capital. Six Democratic women – five pols and one mystic – earned their spots on the stage in the first presidential debates.

Male candidates who might have jumped to the head of the presidential pack in earlier eras are finding it impossible to rise to anywhere near double digits in polls.

There’s a pattern here too:

White male privilege is out of fashion these days. Yet we are awash in nostalgia for it. Donald Trump has built a political ideology on nostalgia…

Trump’s time machine is a vicious and vertiginous journey, all about punching down, pulpy fictions, making brown and black people scapegoats and casting women back into a crimped era of fewer reproductive rights.

Trump has inverted all the old American ideals, soiling the image of our country in the world and reshaping it around his grievances and inadequacies.

He is a faux tough guy who lets other people do the fighting for him, a needy brat who never accepts responsibility for his actions, an oaf with no trace of courage, class or chivalry.

And she points to the new movie about such things:

Quentin Tarantino has built a movie ideology on nostalgia. In the Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara observed that the moral of Tarantino’s new fairy tale, “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” is, “Who doesn’t miss the good old days when cars had fins and white men were the heroes of everything?”

That’s a dumb question. Even the president knows better:

President Donald Trump on Sunday claimed “mental illness” was the cause of the fatal shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend that led to the deaths of 29 people combined.

While Trump floated that “perhaps more has to be done” to prevent future shootings, he claimed that “this is also a mental illness problem if you look at both of these cases.”

“This is mental illness,” he said. “These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill.”

So far authorities have found no indication that either of the two suspected shooters was mentally ill. While the motive of Connor Betts, the suspected Dayton shooter who was killed by the police, remains unknown so far, investigators believe the El Paso shooter may have written an anti-immigrant manifesto ranting against the “Hispanic invasion” and are therefore investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.

This was, then, nonsense, but useful nonsense:

Telling reporters that he’d spoken to Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray, Trump said that “hate has no place in our country and we’re going to take care of it.”

Trump critics, including 2020 candidate former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), say Trump’s own racist rhetoric against immigrants and Hispanics has contributed to the rise in white nationalist violence.

Trump has downplayed white nationalism as “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” even though Wray told Congress that a majority of his agency’s arrests of domestic terrorists this year had links to white supremacy.

This president is big on avoidance, but the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch dives right in:

The center of Donald Trump’s America is not holding. You had already watched the fear and loathing spiraling out of control – the immigrants afraid to leave their homes to take their kids out to a playground or an ice cream shop, the gulag of squalid concentration camps, the increasingly racist rants from a president desperate to cling to his job. And now these twin eruptions – body bags and hastily abandoned shoes stacked up on blood-stained American asphalt.

When things fall apart, they shatter into a million pieces. I can’t tell you yet exactly how the bloodshed in El Paso is related to a mass murder in Dayton, or to the social dysfunction right here in Philadelphia that caused someone to spray bullets into a crowd of people shooting a hip-hop video, or into a crowded block party in Brooklyn the night before that. I can’t explain why people tweeting about El Paso couldn’t use the hashtag #WalmartShooting because it was already in use for a man who’d just murdered two employees at an outlet in Mississippi.

All I know is that it’s all starting to feel like the same event – a Great Unraveling of America.

Somehow that makes sense:

The feeling only grew worse when I read that the authorities in El Paso believe some of the wounded may not go to local hospitals… because they’re so afraid of our immigration cops. It seemed like one more sign that conditions in this country – the violence, the fear, the embrace of racism and xenophobia from the highest levels, and the long slide into neo-fascism – have become intolerable. And yet – with the blood of El Paso and Dayton not yet dry – far too many are still tolerating this.

None more so than America’s so-called Republican leaders – the Mitch McConnells, Mitt Romneys, the Greg Abbotts – who seemed to share the same pathetic and cowardly playbook of quickly taking to Twitter, praying for the victims and their families, praising the first responders, and quickly logging off without one word about the scourge of white supremacy, their president who helps promote it, or the gun culture that makes it all so lethal.

And forget the mental health crap:

No doubt, mental health – and the lack of care – is a crisis in this country. But linking it to the El Paso murders seems like an evasion. From what we know so far, the killer embraced a sick ideology but knew exactly what he was doing – driving 600 miles to a carefully selected kill zone and writing a hate-filled but consistent manifesto. His mass murder seemed less a statement about his own mental health and more a statement about the moral health of a nation where so many are opening embracing racist and xenophobic rhetoric – including the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Interestingly, the El Paso gunman was media-savvy enough to drop a line into his manifesto that his racist views are independent of his president, that journalists were certain to blame Trump but that would be, in his words, “fake news.” But are good-and-thinking people to make of the fact that Saturday’s killer – just like the Christchurch mass-murderer before him and the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman before him – echoed Trump’s “invasion” language on immigrants? What kind of America should citizens expect when the president attacks women of color in Congress by telling them to go back to where they came from and when his true believers chant, “Send her back!”?

So he sees this:

A president choosing to use the bully pulpit of his office to embrace racism – with the naked political goal of his own re-election – and now inspire mass murderers is the greatest abuse of American power in my lifetime, worse than the crimes of Richard Nixon’s Watergate. This is exactly why the Founders baked impeachment into the Constitution and it’s why the 2020 election may be too long for us to wait. If things are intolerable now – and they are – take a moment to ponder how much worse things can get over the next 15 months if we continue to do nothing.

After all, the president will do nothing. The Associated Press’ Jonathan Lemire covers that:

The president has repeatedly been denounced for being slow to criticize acts of violence carried out by white nationalists, or to deem them acts of domestic terrorism, most notably when he declared there were good people on “both sides” of the 2017 deadly clash in Charlottesville. The number of hate groups has surged to record highs under Trump’s presidency, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“He is encouraging this. He doesn’t just tolerate it; he encourages it. Folks are responding to this. It doesn’t just offend us, it encourages the kind of violence that we’re seeing, including in my home town of El Paso yesterday,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a 2020 Democratic contender, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “He is an open, avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country. And this is incredibly dangerous for the United States of America right now.”

Other Democratic candidates also slammed Trump’s lack of response.

“We must come together to reject this dangerous and growing culture of bigotry espoused by Trump and his allies,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Instead of wasting money putting children in cages, we must seriously address the scourge of violent bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

And Pete Buttigieg said Trump is “condoning and encouraging white nationalism.”

“It is very clear that this kind of hate is being legitimized from on high,” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said in an interview on CNN.

Trump did order flags to be lowered in remembrance of both shootings, and really, that should have satisfied these people:

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended the president’s response, saying Trump was “a combination of saddened by this and he’s angry about it.” Mulvaney told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump’s first call was “to the attorney general to find out what we could do to prevent this type of thing from happening.”

You want him to talk to the public too? Don’t expect much:

White House officials said there were no immediate plans for Trump to address the nation. Trump said Sunday he would be giving a statement on the situation Monday morning.

Other presidents have used the aftermath of a national tragedy to reassure citizens, including when George W. Bush visited a mosque less than a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to stand up for Muslims in the United States and when Obama spoke emotionally after mass shootings at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, and a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Trump has struggled to convey such empathy and support, and drew widespread criticism when he tossed paper towels like basketballs to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. He has also, at times, seemed to welcome violence toward immigrants. At a May rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, Trump bemoaned legal protections for migrants and asked rhetorically, “How do you stop these people?”

“Shoot them!” cried one audience member.

Trump chuckled and said, “Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”

Expect that sort of thing. Daniel Drezner explains why:

The American president serves two functions in our civic life: head of government and head of state. The head of government is the country’s chief executive, making and implementing policy. This is a political job, and usually half the country disagrees with how the president is doing it.

The head-of-state role is simultaneously less and more vital than the head-of-government task. The head of state’s job is often ceremonial, greeting fellow heads of state, attending ceremonial functions such as the D-Day anniversary and the like. This function is not terribly important, although it produced the single-greatest piece of presidential rhetoric in American history. [The Gettysburg address] Then there are national traumas, disasters that seem senseless, in which ordinary citizens look to leaders to help make sense of the world. For my generation, the first prominent example of this was Ronald Reagan’s televised address to the nation following the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle.

Well, those days are over:

Commentators can debate all day about President Trump’s performance as the head of government, but there is a rare degree of unanimity that the 45th president is not just a bad head of state; he is essentially incapable of performing that function. This had been clear long before this weekend. Indeed, a few months ago, the New York Times’s Peter Baker suggested Trump had destroyed this element of the U.S. presidency: “The old-fashioned idea that a president, once reaching office, should at least pretend to be the leader of all the people these days seems so, well, old-fashioned. Mr. Trump does not bother with the pretense. He is speaking to his people, not the people.”

All this was before Trump had launched his persistent, racist tirades against minority members of Congress. Trump’s bigoted rhetoric is about as far from unifying as politically possible. He doesn’t bring the country together – he lacks the ability to do that. The only thing Trump does with his words is inspire domestic extremists and stress the rest of America out.

This holds with particular force for the El Paso shooting. As former Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem tweeted out, “Trump doesn’t shame white supremacists. He both-sides them, winks and nods them, tolerates, embraces, goads, lures, flirts… call it what you will. But he does not shame it.”

And maybe he just can’t do the job:

The growth of homegrown white nationalism preceded Trump, but his administration has made the problem worse with its rhetoric and staffing decisions. There will and should be debates about the best set of policies to cope with this burgeoning problem. Maybe something will get done; maybe the people acting as impediments to doing something will be voted out.

For now, however, what matters is that America is hurting. Unfortunately, we lack a leader with the ability to serve as a head of state. We have a man who cannot comprehend grieving. All he understands is grievance.

And maybe that’s the headline here – “The President Incapable of Performing the Duties of the Job”

But the New York Times was right. A bewildered nation has been shaken to its core. That’ll do, but now what? That might be the philosophical question.

Posted in Mass Shootings in America, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going Pure White

Cincinnati is a fine place – a bit of the South with Covington Kentucky just across the river, and a bit of the industrial Midwest too, sometimes it snows like hell in the winter, and they have the very first professional baseball team, the Reds, still playing there, although not all that well. And it’s a very American place – Jerry Springer was mayor there for a few years, and both Doris Day and George Clooney (and Rosemary Clooney) started out in Cincinnati. Mark Twain didn’t think much of the place – “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always twenty years behind the times.”

There’s no proof Twain ever said that – that had been a common insult about many places for many years – but that’s not bad as a working hypothesis. There is something retro about the place. Sometimes that’s charming. Sometimes it’s not. John Boehner – the conventional Republican who could not control the Tea Party crowd and just gave up – went back home to Cincinnati to smoke cigars and play golf and forget he had ever been Speaker of the House Boehner. Cincinnati was safe. It’s an “old school” kind of place.

That’s why Donald Trump was there:

President Trump on Thursday escalated his attacks on Baltimore and other diverse, liberal cities, telling a crowd in this key swing state that Democrats “deliver poverty for their constituents and privilege for themselves.”

“For decades, these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians, and it’s been total one-party control of the inner cities,” Trump said. He called federal funding sent to these areas “stolen money, and it’s wasted money, and it’s a shame.”

And he invited members of the crowd to criticize Baltimore, asking them to shout out the names of countries with comparable homicide rates. When one supporter yelled out, “Afghanistan,” Trump repeated him, saying, “I believe it’s higher than Afghanistan,” prompting laughter from some in the crowd.

There’s a lot there. Follow his logic. Most big cities are run by Democrats and full of black murderous thugs. The two groups work together, and those black murderous thugs aren’t even American. Those cities are Afghanistan, not America. That’s not America – and all federal funding sent their way is stolen money, presumably stolen from the white folks cheering him on in Cincinnati. He might as well have just said it’s time to get rid of the damned niggers messing up “our” country, but he knows better than that:

Trump steered clear of mentioning lawmakers by name, in a departure from his recent attacks on Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), whose district includes parts of Baltimore, and four minority Democratic congresswomen, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.).

On Thursday night, he made only a passing mention to “four left-wing extremists” who he said are now leading the Democratic Party, and then told the crowd in the mostly full U.S. Bank Arena: “We can name one after another, but I won’t do that, because I don’t want to be controversial. We want no controversy.”

That was code. Don’t start chanting “No More Niggers!” That’s bad form. Just think that. And none of this is his problem anyway:

 The president’s remarks were in line with his recent denunciations of liberal enclaves as violent, dirty and outside the mainstream. Trump offered no policy proposals for how he plans to address the problems he says plague numerous cities across the country.

But there was this:

As protesters disrupted his remarks in Cincinnati on Thursday night, Trump sought to blame the city’s Democratic leader, declaring, “You must have a Democrat mayor. Come on, law enforcement.”

That was a call for the police to wade in and bust a few heads, but Cincinnati is a large diverse city, with lots of minorities of all sorts and yes, Democrats – and black and minority police officers. Trump had to be disappointed. The city’s police weren’t going to beat the crap out of those who don’t like Trump and decide to say so.

But the rest was what it was, Trump being Trump:

His remarks later meandered. At one point, he claimed that AIDS and childhood cancer would soon be cured. At another, during a span of 90 seconds, Trump moved from a long riff on how he learned to pronounce Lima, Ohio, to declaring that U.S. astronauts will go to Mars to attacking a teleprompter for being “boring.” The crowd seemed to lose the thread, as they did during a longer riff about the perils and problems of windmills, long a Trump target.

“If a windmill is within two miles of your house, your house is practically worthless,” Trump said.

That might have made a few in the crowd uncomfortable, but at least they behaved themselves:

There were no “Send her back!” chants during Trump’s remarks Thursday night, unlike the crowd’s response during a rally in Greenville, N.C., last month to the president’s attacks on Omar, who was born in Somalia.

They needed to prove a point. He is not a racist. That’s the word:

Many religious leaders have strongly condemned President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about minority members of Congress. Prominent figures on the religious right have not joined in, instead maintaining public silence or insisting that Trump’s tactics reflect hard-nosed politics rather than racism.

“He does not judge people by the color of their skin,” said the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas and a frequent guest at the White House.

“He judges people on whether they support him,” Jeffress said. “If you embrace him, he’ll embrace you. If you attack him, he’ll attack you. That’s the definition of colorblind.”

Not everyone agrees:

Eleven leaders of Protestant and Catholic groups in Maryland issued a public letter Tuesday imploring Trump to “stop putting people down.”

“Enough of the harmful rhetoric that angers and discourages the people and communities you are called to serve,” the leaders wrote.

A similar message came the same day from leaders of the Washington National Cathedral, designated by Congress as a non-denominational National House of Prayer.

“As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over,” said a statement from three cathedral leaders. “We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation.”

And there were spats:

The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian social justice group Sojourners, assailed Trump’s remarks as “a public sin that must be called out” and challenged five of the president’s evangelical supporters, including Jeffress and the Rev. Franklin Graham, to publicly denounce his rhetoric.

“If we hear silence from white people of faith, we are in deep spiritual trouble,” Wallis wrote on Sojourners’ web site. “Christian moral objection to the president’s racist language must grow every day and from many quarters.”

Graham, the son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham and president of the charity Samaritan’s Purse, said the president’s critics had devalued the word “racism.”

“The left has weaponized it and uses it against their opponents,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

He was saying that no one knows what that word means anymore, but most everyone else decided they didn’t want to talk about this at all.

But there was an exception:

Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the 69-year-old daughter of the infamously segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace, sees parallels between her father’s politics and that of President Donald Trump.

At an event last week at the Birmingham Public Library, Wallace Kennedy told attendees that she “saw daddy a lot in 2016,” according to writer John Archibald’s column published on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately it does look like the ’60s now,” she said.

Wallace Kennedy also said the “two greatest motivators” at her late father’s rallies were “fear and hate.”

“There was no policy solution,” she continued, “just white middle-class anger.”

And history does seem to repeat itself:

Wallace, whom civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once called “perhaps the most dangerous racist in America,” touted his staunchly pro-segregation stances in fiery campaign rally speeches when he ran for president three times in the 1960s and ’70s. And as governor of Alabama, he ordered state troopers to “use whatever measures are necessary” to halt civil rights activists’ march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, leading to a violent conflict known today as “Bloody Sunday.”

“I hope we don’t go back,” his daughter said at the event, according to “But it looks like where we are slipping – that seems to be where the top is taking us.”

But there was more history. The Atlantic published an article by Tim Naftali – Ronald Reagan’s Long-Hidden Racist Conversation with Richard Nixon – with subhead “In newly unearthed audio, the then–California governor disparaged African delegates to the United Nations.”

This wasn’t pretty:

The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China, then–California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said. “Yeah,” Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries – damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon gave a huge laugh.

And there was another daughter, Patti Davis, trying to deal with this:

Something was taken out of context. His words were careless, not harmful. I was preparing my defense ahead, composing a reasonable explanation for whatever I was about to encounter.

But I wasn’t prepared for the tape of my father using the word “monkeys” to describe black African delegates to the United Nations who had voted in a way that angered him. Nor could I wrap my head around his comment about them not being comfortable wearing shoes. I don’t know if it was masochism or shock, but I listened to the tape twice before allowing myself to cry. I wanted the story to go away, to get buried in the news of the Democratic debate. I wanted to immediately go back in time to before I heard my father’s voice saying those words.

But she couldn’t do that, and she’s not Franklin Graham. She doesn’t play word games:

There is no defense, no rationalization, no suitable explanation for what my father said on that taped phone conversation.

If I had read his words as a quotation, and not heard them, I’d have said they were fabricated. That he would never say such things. Because I never heard anything like that from him. In fact, when I was growing up, bigotry and racism were addressed in my family by making it clear that these were toxic and sinister beliefs that should always be called out and shunned. I can’t tell you about the man who was on the phone with Richard Nixon that day in 1971. He’s not a man I knew.

All I can do is tell you about my father.

And she remembers this:

That man held a small girl in his lap and answered her question about why people come in different colors. “God made all his creations in different colors,” he said. “It would be pretty boring if we all looked the same.” I can tell you about my father’s father, who wouldn’t let his two sons see “The Birth of a Nation” because it glorified the Ku Klux Klan, and how both Jack and Nelle Reagan drilled into their sons that racism in any form would not be tolerated. I can tell you about a night when my father was in college, on the football team, and the team came to his hometown for a game. They arrived at the local hotel and were told that the black players couldn’t stay there. My father said, “Then I’m not staying here,” and he took them to his parents’ house. When he was governor of California, he was given a membership to a ritzy country club in Los Angeles. He turned it down because the club didn’t allow Jews or African Americans.

But maybe that doesn’t matter:

I can tell you all these things, and more, but it doesn’t remove the knife cut of the words I heard him say on that tape. That wound will stay with me forever. But I believe, if my father had, years after the fact, heard that tape, he would have asked for forgiveness. He would have said, “I deeply regret what I said – that’s not who I am.” He would have sought to make amends for the pain his words caused.

She is saying her father was never Donald Trump, but she has never had much use for Republicans, and now that they excuse Trump, and defend him, no matter what, she has had enough. In April it was this:

You have claimed his legacy, exalted him as an icon of conservatism and used the quotes of his that serve your purpose at any given moment. Yet at this moment in America’s history when the democracy to which my father pledged himself and the Constitution that he swore to uphold, and did faithfully uphold, are being degraded and chipped away at by a sneering, irreverent man who traffics in bullying and dishonesty, you stay silent.

You stay silent when President Trump speaks of immigrants as if they are trash, rips children from the arms of their parents and puts them in cages. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that my father said America was home “for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness.”

You stayed silent when this president fawned over Kim Jong-Un and took Vladimir Putin’s word over America’s security experts. You stood mutely by when one of his spokesmen, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said there is nothing wrong with getting information from Russians. And now you do not act when Trump openly defies legitimate requests from Congress, showing his utter contempt for one of the branches of our government.

Most egregiously, you remained silent when Trump said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis who marched through an American city with Tiki torches, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

She expects more of these people:

Those of us who are not Republicans still have a right to expect you to act in a principled, moral and, yes, even noble way. Our democracy is in trouble, and everyone who has been elected to office has an obligation to save it. Maybe you’re frightened of Trump – that idea has been floated. I don’t quite understand what’s frightening about an overgrown child who resorts to name-calling, but if that is the case, then my response is: You are grown men and women. Get over it.

And stop talking about her father:

Trump has been wounding our democracy for the past two years. If he is reelected for another term, it’s almost a given that America will not survive – at least not as the country the Founding Fathers envisioned, and not as the idealistic experiment they built using a Constitution designed to protect democracy and withstand tyranny.

My father knew we were fragile. He said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”

So, to the Republican Party that holds tightly to my father’s legacy – if you are going to stand silent as America is dismantled and dismembered, as democracy is thrown onto the ash heap of yesterday, shame on you. But don’t use my father’s name on the way down.

It seems that these two daughters of famous men don’t like what they see, because they remember their fathers, but Trump is who he is, and there’s no changing that. That means that there’s only changing this:

Rep. Will Hurd, the lone black Republican in the House and the rare GOP lawmaker to at times criticize President Trump, will not seek reelection, he told the Washington Post.

Hurd’s retirement is the third by a Texas Republican in the past week and the ninth by a party incumbent, dealing a blow to GOP efforts to regain control of the House in next year’s election.

With Hurd’s retirement, Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) would be the lone black Republican in Congress.

The party is turning pure white, so it was time to ride off into the sunset:

In an interview Thursday with the Post, Hurd criticized Trump’s racist tweets last month in which the president said four Democratic minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

“When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said.

But Hurd also repeated his earlier pledge to vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee in 2020. He said Hispanics, African Americans and other groups would be receptive to conservative themes if they weren’t drowned in racially charged rhetoric.

There’s no room now to talk about fiscally responsible small government and states’ rights and deregulating everything and ending abortion and birth control too, and even lower taxes on the rich and tariffs that will stop most worldwide trade until the rest of the world bows to our awesomeness. Trump only wants to talk about how awful blacks and Muslims and Mexicans are. Hurd has had enough, but this was a long time coming:

Hurd, who represents a district that includes 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, more than any other House member, has been a frequent critic of Trump’s border wall proposal, calling it a “third-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” He instead favored increased use of technology and additional Border Patrol staffing.

He opposed Trump’s national emergency declaration to divert funds to border wall construction and was one of only 14 Republicans to vote to override the president’s veto of a bill that sought to block the national emergency.

Hurd called on Trump to abandon his presidential bid in October 2016 after The Post reported on an audio tape in which the GOP nominee boasted of groping women, one of only a handful of Republican elected officials to do so.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Hurd frequently warned about Russian election interference and was less strident than other Republicans in criticism of investigations of Trump.

Who does he think he is, Ronald Reagan, the man who would, if his daughter is correct, apologize for being a jerk now and then, and mean it? Hurd would do that.

Donald Trump won’t. Donald Trump was in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is always twenty years behind the times.

Posted in Republican Racism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fight Nights in Detroit

There are those of us who did not watch the second set of Democratic debates. At some point, one day, nineteen of these twenty people will be gone. They’ll return to whatever it was they were doing. Twelve years ago people talked seriously about Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich for president. Now, no one knows why. Four years ago Jeb Bush was inevitable. So was Hillary Clinton. Nothing is inevitable, and the early debates, long before the first primaries and caucuses, don’t matter a whole lot. The obscure shine and then disappear. And the debates can be absurd. CNN handled the second set of Democratic debates and did what they could to make their two nights of debates seem important, but they may have made things worse.

That’s what Megan Garber argues here:

“Tonight: a fight for the heart of the party! Senator Bernie Sanders, determined to seize his second chance at the nomination… going head-to-head with Senator Elizabeth Warren. Longtime friends fighting for the same cause – and the same voters!”

That was the introduction to the compilation video CNN aired on Tuesday evening, just before the network’s Democratic primary debate started… It included lightning-round bios of the 10 participating candidates, and shots of some of those candidates pumping their fists in the air. And a jubilant musical score, and, at one climactic moment, a video of an American flag, swaying poetically in the wind.

The melodrama, it would turn out, was fitting. Throughout the debate, the first of a two-night doubleheader set at Detroit’s Fox Theatre, the event’s moderators – Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon – did what the network’s trailer suggested they would: They asked questions that might turn this fight for the heart of the party into a plain old fight.

And that was embarrassing:

One of their questions: “Senator Warren, you make it a point to say you’re a capitalist. Is that your way of saying you’re a safer choice than Senator Sanders?” Another: “Congressman Ryan, are Senator Sanders’s proposals going to incentivize undocumented immigrants to come into the country illegally?” Another: “Congressman O’Rourke, you live near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso and disagree with Mayor Buttigieg on decriminalizing the border crossings. Please respond.”

CNN wanted sparks to fly, but Garber thinks that might have been a bad idea:

Debates are competitions, yes. They are spectacles, certainly. And the Democrats have noteworthy differences in their policy positions and their political orientations. But there is a revealing absurdity to CNN’s repeated attempts to reduce a ten-person event to a series of highly targeted duels. The moderators might have asked the candidates about health care, and immigration, and gun safety, and racial inequality, and climate change, but mostly they asked the candidates about one another. The result was cyclical, and cynical: Here were matters of life and death, framed as fodder for manufactured melees.

That seemed to be the plan:

As the debate wore on, candidates’ individual discussions of policy proposals were often cut short (“Your time is up!” was a common refrain among the moderators); petty squabbles, however, proved less beholden to the rigid rules of the clock. “I want to bring in Governor Hickenlooper,” Tapper said at one point. “I’d like to hear what you say about Senator Warren’s suggestion that those onstage not in favor of Medicare for All lack the will to fight for it.”

It was not a question so much as an invitation – to battle, to squabble, to make the kind of news that is full of sound bites.

Garber, however, sees a reason that this happened:

Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, talks often about his love of sports, and has discussed the ways CNN has incorporated the particular logic of ESPN into its coverage of electoral politics. (Zucker, discussing – defending – CNN’s treatment of the 2016 presidential campaign: “The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.”)

Today, as it becomes clear how few of the previous election’s lessons have been learned in time for the one that rapidly approaches, there is an aptness to the idea that CNN would, once again, take refuge in the easy symmetries of an athletic competition. And there is a thudding inevitability to the notion that the network would find new ways to insist that politics is, above all, a sporting event: high in drama, low in stakes.

Dan Froomkin sees that too:

Yes, the questions were idiotic, largely based on Republican talking points, and designed purely to inflict damage. Yes, the format was a total disaster, with moderators constantly cutting off responses. And yes, there was an aggressive but entirely unacknowledged shilling for a centrist agenda.

But it’s more than that. It’s about CNN, and journalism, and what qualifies as political debate today, and, ultimately, the debasement of the single most important political medium in the world to a point where it creates, sustains, and protects the kind of vacuous, violent, circus atmosphere in which people like Donald Trump thrive and democracy suffers.

He cites David Dayen saying this:

It would give Tapper and his other moderators too much credit to say that their relentless right-wing framing of the questions was animated by a desire to protect the insurance industry and the border patrol. But that’s not really it. CNN has no politics. CNN has no understanding of politics or policy. … The CNN debate was an inevitable by-product of turning news into an entertainment and cultural product.

Entertainment industry morons only understand how to stage television through the lens of forcing conflict. The questions weren’t really prompts as much as they were invitations to fight.

So it comes down to this:

The empty suits at CNN trying to create “matchups” and “drama” have corrupted us all, as much as anything else in politics.

Jonathan Bernstein sees the same thing:

Those contentious questions have superficial appeal because they appear to get to what separates the candidates. And they promise fireworks, with candidates forced to argue. But in reality, invitation-to-fight questions tend to emphasize the differences that the moderators select, differences which may or may not be substantively important ones. It leads the debate to focus on areas of internal candidate differences, leaving policy areas where they agree irrelevant – even if those areas are important, and contain real disputes with the other party.

Ashley Feinberg adds this:

The moderators peppered the candidates with questions that were evidently designed to produce bad answers in the short format. Question after question was framed up from the ideological perspective of a Heritage Foundation intern or otherwise crafted as a gotcha to generate a 15-second clip for Republican attack ads down the line.

Froomkin notes that Feinberg “translated” CNN’s questions to clarify what was being asked. Why do you hate the middle class? Why are you betraying unions? What words would you like Donald Trump to quote when he attacks you and immigrants in the same breath? Which candidates do you think are too far left? Are you too weak to do wars? Are you too young, or is Bernie Sanders too old?

And there’s Vox’s Aaron Rupar:

Though no Republicans were physically onstage on Tuesday night in Detroit, it too often seemed they were living rent-free inside the moderators’ heads.

And then Froomkin adds this:

I happened to read the Kirkus Review of New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik’s forthcoming book, Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America. His thesis is that for Trump, cable TV news, with its “constant fear and passion” and need to “agitate their viewers, not settle them,” was a perfect fit.

You thought Fox News was the enemy? It is. It corrupts small minds. But CNN may be doing more damage in the long run.

Perhaps so, but Matthew Yglesias argues that this was never going to work:

The Democratic National Committee was so determined to avoid any allegations of rigging the 2020 nominating process that they agreed to open the campaign season with debate lineups set essentially by random.

The bar for qualifying was set extremely low, so as to include conventional politicians who are nowhere in the polls (Tim Ryan) and people who are nowhere in the polls and also have no business participating in a presidential campaign at all (Marianne Williamson). Sideshow candidacies like those of Tulsi Gabbard and Bill de Blasio were put formally on a par with heavy hitters like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Nobody knows who John Delaney is but he somehow seemed to be the center of attention in night one.

While the 2016 GOP handled a large field by dividing the debates into a main stage versus an undercard debate, in 2020 the Democrats just split the candidates up randomly. Then by the luck of the draw, Joe Biden dodged both Warren and Sanders twice in a row. So despite all the debating, we haven’t actually seen the debate that is at the center of the argument inside today’s Democratic Party.

That would be Biden versus Warren and Sanders – the careful versus the bold – without the useless hanging around pretending that they mattered – but Yglesias says that CNN did make thing worse anyway:

The producers of the two-night debate series clearly decided that the main theme of the story they wanted to tell was “moderates versus progressives.”

A proven effective way of doing this, used on both nights, was to select out particular unpopular provisions from Bernie Sanders’ proposed massive overhaul of the health care system and ask candidates whether they’d support them. That forces candidates to either embrace unpopular ideas, or else get on the wrong side of left-wing activists. It also encourages the candidates to fight with each other. All in all, it very much succeeded as television drama especially because polls show that Democratic primary voters are in fact very interested in health care policy.

In the real world, however, this is not at all how policy gets made.

In the real world things are messy:

Even if you make some rather utopian assumptions about Democrats’ prospects for picking up senate seats in 2020, the limiting factor on the ambition of health care legislation is going to be moderate Democrats in congress. It’s simply not possible for a hypothetical O’Rourke administration to enact laws that Amy Klobuchar (who is far from the most conservative Democrat in the field) opposes, so the differences on health care between O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren on health care can be informative but don’t actually tell us much directly about how policy would change under their administrations.

And yet the presidency is a very important office. The debates just didn’t feature much discussion of the specific ways in which it’s important. Foreign and national security policy was relegated to brief segments at the end of both debates, and not linked in any clear way to the main narrative the hosts were driving. We didn’t learn anything about the candidates’ approaches to staffing the executive branch — which in practice is where the progressives vs moderates split likely makes the most difference – or about their thinking on judicial nominations. The Warren and Sanders online fandoms have been waging a weeks-long knife fight over the theory that the two progressive contenders have contrasting social visions of how change happens, an idea that was totally absent from the debate stage. Nobody asked about the Federal Reserve or discretionary regulatory policy or any of the other things the president actually does.

But we learned a lot about hypothetical health care plans!

That is, we didn’t learn much, but Yglesias says that things will be better when the field shrinks:

Starting with the third debate, the DNC is going to set a higher bar for who qualifies and all the qualifying candidates will be on the stage together. We don’t yet know exactly who is going to make the cut. But we know Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg, Booker, and O’Rourke plus potentially one or two others will be up there.

That will allow the main candidates to actually argue with each other, which would be the purpose of a debate. Biden has a strong argument that Barack Obama was a good president and Democrats should carry on in his footsteps by nominating his VP. Sanders and Warren have both become major stars by mounting strong moral and intellectual critiques of the Obama trajectory. Others chart a middle course and bring some youth and diversity to the table that Biden lacks. That’s going to be a good debate!

What we watched over these two nights was… not quite that.

It was only this:

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a steadfast defense of his moderate policies in the Democratic primary debate on Wednesday, striking back at a familiar adversary, Senator Kamala Harris, but facing intensifying attacks on his record from liberal rivals including Senator Cory Booker and Julián Castro, the former housing secretary.

That’s the summary of the week’s second debate from the New York Times’ Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, followed by this detail:

Mr. Biden, the leading candidate in the Democratic presidential race, entered the debate under pressure to articulate a more forceful rationale for his campaign and turn back attacks from his fellow Democrats, after failing to do so in his clash with Ms. Harris in the first debate in June.

In a handful of moments, Mr. Biden did just that, delivering pointed critiques of Ms. Harris and other challengers. But it was unclear by the end of the forum whether he was any closer to allaying liberals’ reservations about his candidacy, or inspiring a Democratic Party that is eager to defeat President Trump but has shifted to the left in the years since Mr. Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama. Though he may have won sympathy from Democratic voters for absorbing so many blows, he did not deliver a commanding performance to reclaim firm control of the race.

And in a sign of the party’s drift, Mr. Biden was repeatedly forced to defend not only his own record but also was questioned sharply about policies of Mr. Obama on issues such as immigration and trade.

In short, as CNN had hoped, this was personal:

In the opening moments of the debate, Mr. Biden took particular aim at Ms. Harris, accusing her of peddling “double talk” on health care and insisting that a range of liberal plans to displace the private health insurance system were too disruptive and too costly. He chided Ms. Harris for her proposal of a decade-long transition to a version of single-payer health care, urging voters to be skeptical “anytime somebody tells you you’re going to get something good in 10 years.”

“My response is: Obamacare is working,” said Mr. Biden, who has proposed the creation of an optional, government-backed health insurance plan.

Ms. Harris, on defense for the first time against Mr. Biden, insisted that her plan would do far more than his to ensure universal coverage: “Your plan, by contrast,” she retorted, “leaves out almost 10 million Americans.”

Yet by the end of the debate, Mr. Biden was besieged, attacked from all sides on a plethora of subjects including health care, immigration, trade, criminal justice, climate change, women’s rights and the war in Iraq. As he did at times in the first debate, he cut some of his answers short and stumbled over lines. And he flashed his impatience with rivals, like Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris, who he said were harrying him over events that occurred “a long, long time ago.”

Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, must have been grinning by then, but not everyone was pleased with how this was going:

At several early moments in the debate, some candidates onstage exhorted Democrats to keep their attention on President Trump and the Republican Party, and especially on their hardline immigration policies and efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. As Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris battled over the idea of “Medicare for all,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand trained her fire on Republicans whose “whole goal is to take away your health care.”

In the midst of another Biden-Harris duel, midway through the debate, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado erupted in impatience with the two of them for once again “debating what people did 50 years ago with busing” – the subject of Ms. Harris’s searing confrontation with the former vice president in June.

“Our schools are as segregated today as they were 50 years ago,” Mr. Bennet said. “We need a conversation about what’s happening now.”

And in an extended, contentious discussion of immigration, several Democrats tried to shift attention away from their own disagreements and toward the policies of the Trump administration.

“We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House,” said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, adding, “We have to make America what it’s always been: a place of refuge.”

But no one was listening to them:

The most protracted clashes of the evening concerned criminal justice and immigration, and put several candidates besides Mr. Biden on the defensive. Attempting to pre-empt liberal attacks on his immigration record, Mr. Biden went on offense against Mr. Castro – the most vocal advocate for liberal immigration policy in the Democratic field – noting that he could not recall the former San Antonio mayor criticizing the Obama administration’s border policies when he was serving in the cabinet.

“If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back; it’s a crime,” said Mr. Biden, rejecting Mr. Castro’s plan to decriminalize illegal immigration.

Mr. Castro shot back that “it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t,” and added that the only element missing in border policy is “politicians who have some guts.”

“I have guts enough to say his plan doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Biden retorted.

Jeff Zucker must have been in seventh heaven by then. This was ratings gold – if anyone was watching. Some of us weren’t. The news summaries and quick clips were enough. This was unpleasant and may not have mattered much at all, or it may not have mattered at all.

Gail Collins captures the absurdity here:

So, who won the Democratic debates?

My vote is for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Sure they were both on Day 1, but nobody on Day 2 came close.

Unless you figure that Joe Biden triumphed by failing to fall down. Some of his answers might have been a bit muddled, and he sort of faded off after the first hour. But expectations were so low, that was like clearing a high hurdle.

Everybody looked forward to his meeting with Kamala Harris, who had tortured him so effectively in Debate 1. “Go easy on me, kid,” Biden told her when they shook hands. It was either typical nice-guy Joe or yet another moment of Not Getting It by a former vice president who doesn’t know you don’t call a female member of the U.S. Senate “kid.”

You pick.

But don’t expect much:

Twenty candidates over two days and only a handful of them had any real business being on the stage. Listening to Bill de Blasio rant and preen, the nation got a good hint of why no mayor of New York has ever been elected president. Harris totally failed to live up to expectations, and sort of floundered on the health care front.

The star of the first night was Warren. (“We’re not going to solve the urgent problems that we face with small ideas and spinelessness.”) As a result, some Biden backers are talking of recruiting her as their vice-presidential nominee. This is a problem both for those who believe Warren deserves to be first and those who believe a national ticket should ideally include at least one person under the age of seventy.

And that’s a worry:

We’ve still ten more debates to go. The next round is scheduled for September, in a week that begins with Grandparents Day and ends with a full moon. Perhaps Warren, Biden and Sanders will show the audience pictures of their grandchildren while Pete Buttigieg will suggest that he is young enough to be one of them… and then comes the full moon.

Bad things happen on the night of the full moon. But the nation is used to bad things happening now. And soon enough something will happen.

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