The Broken News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But our news did stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s immigration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gail Collins puts it a little differently:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now the Clinton folks have perfected that:

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

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

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

Posted in Nice Terror Attack, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Specific to the General

Donald Trump has never run for public office, much less for president, but he may be getting the hang of it. Primary elections (and caucuses) are specific to the party, and for Republicans, specific to two key constituencies – the angry anti-government Tea Party crowd and the outraged mainly white evangelicals. Both want “their” country back, but of course they want to take their country back from a much larger group of voters who are fine with gay marriage and Obamacare and regulating the financial industry a bit more, and fine with shifting from fossils fuels to keep the ice caps from melting, making Florida disappear – and fine with a multicultural society. Many are Hispanic, and see no reason anyone should have a problem with that. Many are black, and see no reason anyone should have a problem with that. Sure, there will be friction, but that can be managed, and it might even be useful.

These are the people who vote in the general election, and they vastly outnumber the quite specific constituencies that must be won over to win the party’s nomination in the primaries. Donald Trump may be beginning to realize he cannot win the general election with his fired-up thirty-eight percent (at best) that want him to Make America Great Again. Everyone else is a bit wary of what that might mean to them, specifically. Eighteen months of his volunteer army busting down doors and putting eleven million people in boxcars and sending them south seems a bit scary. Much could go wrong. Blowing off each week’s killing of another unarmed young black man by a white cop, as justified to keep order, or an honest mistake that the black community will just have to expect, is a bit scary too. Trump, to get beyond his fired-up thirty-eight percent, will need to address those fears, or he’s going nowhere – but he can’t lose his fired-up thirty-eight percent either. Their fears matter too.

That’s why politicians straddle issues in a general election, and Donald Trump just came up with this:

Donald Trump declared himself the “law and order candidate” at a campaign event Monday in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“We must maintain law and order at the highest level, or we will cease to have a country, 100 percent,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told the invite-only crowd. “Or we will cease to have a country.”

Monday’s event was originally billed as a speech on veterans’ affairs, but it was given a new focus on law enforcement and crime following the shooting deaths last week of five Dallas police officers. The gunman said he was angry about the police killings of black men – such as Alton Sterling, who was shot last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, who died in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Not only am I the law and order candidate, but I’m also the candidate of compassion, believe it,” Trump said, “The candidate of compassion. But you can’t have true compassion without providing safety for the citizens of our country.”

He seemed to be hinting that the two police killings called for compassion for the despair in the black community – but it was only a hint. He’s still figuring this out, but there’s new polling from Pennsylvania and Ohio where Donald Trump is getting zero percent of the vote among black voters – this isn’t going to be easy.

He’s working on it. Steve Benen flags this:

Given recent violence in Texas, Minnesota, and Louisiana, race is very much on the minds of many Americans, including Donald Trump. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee sat down with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly last night, where Trump was able to explain why he believes he can relate to African Americans.

O’REILLY: There [are] still some black Americans who believe that the system is biased against them. The American system because they’re black, they don’t get the same kind of shot, they don’t get the same kind of fairness that whites do. What do you say to them? 

TRUMP: Well, I have been saying even against me the system is rigged when I ran as a, you know, for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system and the system is rigged.

When the host told the candidate this sentiment probably won’t lift anyone’s spirits, Trump responded, “No, what I’m saying is they are not necessarily wrong. I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play. I’m not saying that. And I can relate it really very much to myself.”

Asked if he believes he can understand the African-American experience, Trump added, “You can’t truly understand what’s going on unless you are African-American. I would like to say yes, however.”


First, let’s quickly note that the GOP’s presidential nominating process was not, in reality, “rigged” against the candidate who prevailed. Trump didn’t understand how states chose delegates to the national convention, but that doesn’t mean the system itself was manipulated unfairly.

Second, for Trump to believe his experiences winning the Republican nomination helps him “relate” to African Americans is so painfully bizarre, it would do real and lasting harm to a normal presidential candidate.

But even if we put this aside, one of the most striking things about Trump’s perceptions of current events is his narcissistic myopia. For Trump, the importance of the mass-shooting in Orlando is something he once said on Twitter. For Trump, the importance of Brexit is how it might affect his golf course. For Trump, the importance of African-American alienation is how similar it is to his treatment during the GOP primaries.

Ask Trump about almost any issue, and he’s likely to respond with a sentiment that boils down to, “That reminds me of me.”

Yeah, but these are baby steps. He’s not a racist. Obama is. That’s the party line left over from the primaries, and of Obama’s Dallas speech Charles Hurt maintains that Obama trampled on high ideals of America and fueled Black Lives Matter racism:

Again and again and again, this president, who was so uniquely positioned with the credibility to do more than any president in history to quell the discord and unify America, has done the exact opposite.

Instead of waiting for blind justice to work, he repeatedly jumps to prejudicial – and usually wrong – conclusions.

Police are stupid; somebody looks like him; things were racially motivated; let’s go after guns. Every opportunity he has had to be the honest broker and reach for the great principles and high ideals that unite America, Mr. Obama has instead chosen partisan divisiveness.

If he were a real man, if he were a leader or statesman or one ounce of the constitutional scholar he claims to be, Mr. Obama would have already hotly condemned and denounced the Black Lives Matter movement as the racist and anti-American thing that it is…

Instead, Mr. Obama chickened out. He scrambled for the easy way out. He shirked his duties. He blew his moment to defend the constitution and stand with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr.

There is no racism in America, damn it, and that was said before the Dallas speech:

A Republican congressman from Virginia said Tuesday that President Barack Obama has reaped “what he has sowed” in the slayings of five police officers during a peaceful protest last week in Dallas.

In an interview on “The John Fredericks Show” first flagged by Right Wing Watch, Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA) said that Obama’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement was just “Chicago-style politics.” Hurt went on to say that Obama was using racial discrimination to divide the country and that he feels that the Dallas shooting was Obama getting what he had coming to him.

“He has drawn this narrative for political purposes and now we’re seeing him reap what he has sowed,” Hurt said.

“He has sown this racial – he has fanned these flames, I think he has in many ways highlighted these things in ways that I don’t think are fair or right, and now we’re seeing the fruit of this,” he added.

The congressman, who is not running for re-election, then referenced Obama’s scheduled appearance at a memorial service for the five officers who were killed. He suggested that in light of Obama’s comments on race and the police, families of the slain officers may not want to see him speak at the memorial.

That’s the fired-up thirty-eight percent talking, and forget Trump’s baby steps. Trump has decided that’s where his heart was all along:

Donald Trump told Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday that he witnessed people call for a moment of silence for the man who killed five police officers and wounded eleven other people at a Black Lives Matter rally last week.

Asked by the Fox News host if there was a divide between blacks and whites in America, Trump used this as an example of how “there would seem to be.”

“It’s getting more and more obvious and it’s very sad, very sad,” Trump went on. “When somebody called for a moment of silence to this maniac that shot the five police, you just see what’s going on. It’s a very, very sad situation.”

Something odd is going on here:

There were no media reports about anyone calling for a moment of silence for gunman Micah Johnson, though groups from Congress to the New York Stock Exchange held moments of silence for the victims of last Thursday’s mass shooting. Searches on social media for people making such calls also came up short.

Despite this lack of evidence, Trump reiterated the claim at a rally in Westfield, Indiana on Tuesday night, where he criticized Black Lives Matter for holding rallies across the country the weekend after the Dallas shootings.

“The other night you had 11 cities potentially in a blow-up stage,” he said. “Marches all over the United States – and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac! And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer!”

Okay – he hasn’t learned about moving from the specific to the general after all – and Josh Marshall sees even more:

Everybody took note when Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that American Muslims across the river in New Jersey celebrated and cheered as the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 – an entirely fabricated claim. Last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show and then separately at a rally in Westfield, Indiana he did something very similar and in so doing cemented his status an impulsive propagator of race-hatred and violence.

The details of the rapid-fire fulmination are important. So let’s look at them closely.

Trump claimed that people – “some people” – called for a moment of silence for mass killer Micah Johnson, the now deceased mass shooter who killed five police officers in Dallas on Thursday night. There is no evidence this ever happened. Searches of the web and social media showed no evidence. Even Trump’s campaign co-chair said today that he can’t come up with any evidence that it happened. As in the case of the celebrations over the fall of the twin towers, even to say there’s ‘no evidence’ understates the matter. This didn’t happen. Trump made it up.

And that says a lot:

A would-be strong man, an authoritarian personality, isn’t just against disorder and violence. They need disorder and violence. That is their raison d’être – it is the problem that they are purportedly there to solve. The point bears repeating: authoritarian figures require violence and disorder. Look at the language. …

At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, if you translate the German, the febrile and agitated language of ‘hatred’, ‘anger’, ‘maniac’ … this is the kind of florid and incendiary language Adolf Hitler used in many of his speeches. Note too the actual progression of what Trump said: “Marches all over the United States – and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!”

The clear import of this fusillade of words is that the country is awash in militant protests that were inspired by Micah Johnson. “Started by …”

We’re used to so much nonsense and so many combustible tirades from Trump that we become partly inured to them. We also don’t slow down and look at precisely what he’s saying. What he’s saying here is that millions of African-Americans are on the streets inspired by and protesting on behalf of a mass murderer of white cops.

This is not simply false. It is the kind of wild racist incitement that puts whole societies in danger. And this man wants to be president.

And then there’s reality:

There have continued to be protests. There’s no reason why there should not be. But every Black Lives Matter leader of any note has spoken clearly denouncing Johnson’s atrocity. Indeed, if anything the continuing protests have been tempered calls for an end to violence on all sides. For all the horror, the outrage has spawned moments of bridge-building, unity. So these are combustible times. But they’re not the racial end times Trump is describing.

Indeed, what Trump said in the passage above is something verging on the notorious “big lie”. Micah Johnson didn’t inspire any marches. No one is marching on his behalf. Even the truly radical and potentially violent Black Nationalist fringe groups had apparently shunned him even before the shooting. No one called for a moment of silence on Johnson’s behalf or honored him in any way. This is just an up-is-down straight-up lie served up for the purpose of stoking fear, menace and race hate.

There will be no Trump pivot for the general election:

These are the words – the big lies rumbling the ground for some sort of apocalyptic race war – of a dangerous authoritarian personality who is either personally deeply imbued with racist rage or cynically uses that animus and race hatred to achieve political ends. In either case, they are the words of a deeply dangerous individual the likes of whom has seldom been so close to achieving executive power in America.

That’s a bit strong, but Kevin Drum explains why few people see that:

Trump’s explicit race baiting has been so normalized by now that we hardly notice this stuff. This kind of talk from a major-party candidate for president should be front-page news everywhere. Instead, it warrants a few words in various campaign roundups.

Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, foreigners of all stripes: they’re all grist for Trump’s crusade to convince white voters that they’re surrounded by rapists, murderers, terrorists, and assorted other predators who want to take their jobs away and impoverish them. It’s his whole campaign.

For years it’s been clear that the Republican Party could only win by turning out an ever greater share of the white vote. But by 2012 they seemed to have done everything they possibly could: Fox News stoked the xenophobia, Republican legislatures passed voter ID laws, and outreach to white evangelicals had reached saturation levels. What more did they have on their plate? Now we know the answer: nominate a guy who doesn’t play around with dog whistles anymore. Instead he comes out and flatly runs as the candidate of white America, overtly attacking every minority group he can think of. That shouldn’t work. In the year 2016, it should alienate at least as many white voters as it captures. But so far it seems to be doing at least moderately well.

There’s a reason for that:

President Obama was right yesterday: America is not nearly as divided as the media makes it seem. But the only way for Donald Trump to win is to make it seem otherwise. That’s what he’s been doing for the past year, and the media has been playing along the whole time, exaggerating existing grievances where they can and inventing them where they can’t.

I’m not scared that America is such a hotbed of racial resentment that it’s about to implode. But I’m increasingly scared that Donald Trump can make it seem that way, and that the press – always in search of a dramatic narrative – will go off in search of ways to leverage this into more eyeballs, more clicks, and more paid subscriptions.

Greg Sargent thinks that we should be pointing out that one of the two candidates is actively trying to divide the country, while the other just isn’t and points to the New York Times’s Nicholas Confessore reporting the obvious:

In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.

Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”

His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.

But in doing so, Mr. Trump has also opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life.


Note this quote from Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups: “I think what we really find troubling is the mainstreaming of these really offensive ideas. It’s allowed some of the worst ideas into the public conversation in ways we haven’t seen anything like in recent memory.” The piece’s ultimate conclusion is that Trump has made “the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread.”

And we shrug:

What is really striking about all of this is that most observers, including neutral, non-ideological, and non-partisan ones, would not even quarrel with the idea that Trump is running a campaign that is explicitly about unleashing white backlash. For months, this has been widely, openly agreed upon by pretty much everyone who is paying even cursory attention. Yet oddly enough, this widely accepted acknowledgment of Trump’s explicit efforts to foment racial division is not being meaningfully brought to bear on the current debate over the two candidates’ responses to police-community tensions. Clinton has repeatedly tried to acknowledge that the police and those protesting their use of force both have legitimate grievances; Trump has not done this to anywhere near the same degree.

By the way, Americans appear to agree that Trump is the far more divisive figure. A new Heartland Monitor poll finds that Americans say by 48-30 that Clinton would do more to “bring the country together.”

All of this is not to say that Clinton is not a polarizing figure in her own right. Rather, it is to say that, given the political conditions in this country, it is hard for one of the major party nominees not to be widely disliked by the other side; meanwhile, Trump is actively trying to foment and politically profit off of racial division in a way Clinton simply is not.

That is a difference, a big one, which Clinton decided was worth pointing out:

Hillary Clinton argued in a speech Wednesday that her opponent, Donald Trump, was a threat to democracy and well on his way to turning the Republican Party into the “party of Trump.”

She criticized the real estate mogul in a speech in Springfield, Illinois, where she called for racial unity following the slaying of five police officers in Dallas and the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. She then turned her focus to Trump whose campaign she said was sending an “ugly, dangerous message” to America.

She pointed to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, his plan to deport thousands of undocumented immigrants and his habit of demeaning women when she said that he campaign was as “divisive as any we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”

“This man is the nominee of the party of Lincoln. We are watching it become a party of Trump,” she said. “And that’s not just a huge loss for our democracy; it is a threat to it.”

Clinton spoke from the Old State House, where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, and made several historical references to the former President.

She went on to say that Trump’s campaign rhetoric amounted to fear-mongering and asked the audience to imagine if Trump didn’t have just “Twitter and cable news” to go after his critics, but also the IRS and the military.

That’s a thought, but really, Trump was never going to pivot to the general election. He can’t. That’s not him. He’s stuck in the specific, the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance. That’s it. That’s all there is.

So be it. In many states Donald Trump will receive zero black votes, and zero Hispanic votes, and for the first time in modern elections a majority of college-educated whites are backing the Democratic candidate for president – all of it unprecedented. There never was a way to make the narrowly specific general. There never will be, but Trump has never run for public office before, so he didn’t believe it. He obviously still doesn’t believe it. His fired-up thirty-eight percent doesn’t believe it. The rest of us believe what we see.

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two True Things

Tragedy unites a nation. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, as one, we decided we had to do something. The nation united around George W. Bush, who vowed he would do something, and did. After ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban – but not finding that Osama fellow and being stuck with a failed state and being forced to build one there from scratch (we’re still working on it) – we invaded and occupied Iraq. That was something. That was the wrong thing, but it was something. And then it all fell apart. The “surge” bought us some time, but the Sunnis were never going to accept a Shiite government, especially one that locked them out of everything – but for a year or so after we removed that evil Sunni tyrant, Saddam Hussein, we were united as a nation. We had done the right thing. All was well.

We know better now. We’re wary. Most of us realize that tragedy only exposes the deep problems that caused the tragedy in the first place. This week we have five dead cops in Dallas, gunned down by an unhinged young black man who’d had enough of white cops killing unarmed young black men. He snapped, and he wasn’t too stable in the first place, but the damning video from Baton Rouge and Minnesota showed what it showed. Two young black men shot dead on the spot for no good reason – one fully restrained on the ground and the other pulling out his identification, as asked. The ambush and assassination of five police officers was a national tragedy, but there was a whole lot more going on. This was never going to unite us.

Tragedy and ambiguity don’t mix, and this one was full of ambiguities:

Trauma surgeon Brian Williams was running Parkland Memorial Hospital’s emergency room the night seven officers arrived after a shooting rampage in downtown Dallas by a lone gunman who targeted police.

Williams, whose hospital routinely treats multiple gunshot victims, quickly went to work that night.

Later, he choked back tears when describing how three officers died at the hospital.

“I think about it every day, that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night,” Williams said at an emotional news conference Monday. “It weighs on my mind constantly.”

Williams is also a black man who said he was deeply affected by “the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers.” He understands the anger directed toward police and has had his own run-ins with officers in which he feared for his life.

In an interview he explained many of those, and they were frightening, so now, all he can say is this:

“I want the Dallas Police Department to see I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you,” he said Monday. “That doesn’t mean that when you approach me, I will not have a visceral reaction and start worrying about my personal safety.”

Nothing is simple, although he says that when he’s out and about with his five-year-old daughter he likes to “do simple things” to show kindness to police officers, like picking up their tabs at a restaurant:

“I want my daughter to see me interacting with police officers that way so that she doesn’t grow up with the same burden I have,” he said.

That may not work. There are cops and then there are cops. A bit of fear might be useful to the kid, a necessary burden – better submissive and abused than dead.

Still, there are stories like this:

When a couple refused to sit next to a booth full of police officers at a restaurant, the cops counteracted with an act of kindness. It happened over the weekend at an eatery in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.

A group of officers from Homestead and a neighboring department were having dinner at Eat N’ Park restaurant when a server tried to seat the couple right next to them. The couple wasn’t having it.

“The guy looks over at one of the police officers and was like, ‘Nah I don’t want to sit here.’ So they got moved completely opposite, away from the police officers,” restaurant server Jesse Meyers told CNN affiliate WTAE.

“I looked over and said, ‘It’s okay sir. You won’t have to worry about it, we won’t hurt you,” Homestead police Officer Chuck Thomas said. “He looked at me hard again and said he’s not sitting here and walked away.”

Then the officers, fully cognizant of the recent heightened tensions between police and the communities that they serve, had an idea. They’d counteract this rude brush off with a random act of kindness.

The officers paid the couple’s $28.50 bill, and left this note on the receipt: “Sir, your check was paid for by the police officers you didn’t want to sit next to. Thank you for your support.”

That last bit was a bit sarcastic, but no harm was done:

“Essentially the whole goal of it was to let him know that we’re not here to hurt you,” Thomas said. “We’re here for you. We work for the public. And we just want to better the relationship between the community and the police.”

As the officers left, one of them got a smile and quick thank you from one of the two people who had earlier rebuffed them.

That sort of thing helps, but this sort of thing doesn’t:

Four off-duty police officers who were providing security at a Minnesota Lynx home game Saturday walked off the job following pregame comments by some players and team members warming up in shirts with messages supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The president of the Minneapolis Police Federation offered praise for the officers’ decision to quit and suggested that their colleagues may all choose to do the same.

Before a game against the Dallas Wings, Lynx players wore shirts with the phrase, “Change Starts with Us – Justice and Accountability,” on the front. The backs of the shirts bore the names of two men killed by police officers in incidents in Minnesota and Louisiana last week, the logo for the Dallas Police Department and the words, “Black Lives Matter.”

That didn’t go well:

A day after a Minnesota police union chief voiced strong support for four off-duty officers who quit rather than provide security for a WNBA team that demonstrated its feelings about three high-profile incidents that resulted in deaths last week, the mayor of Minneapolis slammed his comments as “jackass remarks.” Mayor Betsy Hodges did not mince any words Tuesday in distancing herself from what Lt. Bob Kroll had said. …

The players also offered remarks before a home game Saturday condemning both “racial profiling” and “violence against the men and women who serve on our police force.”

The players said they were on the side of the Dallas police too, but that didn’t matter:

Kroll also took a swipe at the attendance of the team, which won last year’s WNBA title and has been the champion in three of the past five seasons, saying, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”

Yeah, who wants to see large hulking young very black women play basketball anyway? That was a question that should not have been implied:

The Minneapolis police chief, Janee Harteau, also issued a statement Tuesday, saying, “Although these officers were working on behalf of the Lynx, when wearing a Minneapolis Police uniform I expect all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office. Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear.”

In short, do your damned job, but this was spreading:

Before their game against the San Antonio Stars on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, the New York Liberty players wore black T-shirts addressing the recent shooting deaths of black men by the police in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, La., and the fatal shooting of five Dallas police officers. The shirts, which were printed without notice to the WNBA read: #BlackLivesMatter and #Dallas5. The back of the shirts had another hashtag followed by a blank space.

“We do need people to stand up and understand and express that black lives are just as important as any other lives in America, and right now that’s not being seen,” Liberty guard Tanisha Wright said.

And really, the guys had done this, two years earlier:

In December 2014, shortly after a grand jury did not indict a New York police officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, NBA players struck a similar stance to that of the Liberty players.

Knicks guard Derrick Rose, then with the Chicago Bulls, wore a T-shirt with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” and was followed by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and members of the Nets. Most of the players focused on supporting Garner’s family, and were not as directly engaged in relating their attire to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sure, but it was the same thing, and the women were far more balanced in their approach:

After the game on Sunday, which the Liberty won, 75-65, Kiah Stokes, Tina Charles and Carolyn Swords joined Cash and Wright to answer questions about their statement.

“I think it’s a shame that we keep seeing people that want to make this movement as something that’s violent,” said Cash, who repeatedly hit the lectern with her fist and whose voice cracked while speaking. “Five cops gave their lives up trying to protect a peaceful movement. And in this country, I do believe that you can assemble peacefully and protest against injustice. So until the system transforms, we cannot sit here and act like there is not a problem here in America.”

Yes, there are problems:

A former Chicago Police detective shown in a photo posing as a hunter who bagged a black teenager as a trophy should not get his job back, an Illinois appellate court has ruled.

Timothy McDermott had appealed the decision of a Cook County judge, who in 2014 upheld the detective’s firing for appearing in the photo.

A black kid playing dead on the floor, wearing antlers, with the two cops holding hunting rifles and grinning – they said it was just a joke – but there are cops and then there are cops:

Then-Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who had asked the Chicago Police Board to fire McDermott, called the photo “disgusting.”

Also posing in the photo was Officer Jerome Finnigan, who is serving a 12-year prison term for corruption.

The U.S. attorney’s office had obtained the 2002 photo during a criminal investigation of Finnigan and other officers accused of participating in a robbery ring. The feds turned over the photo to the Chicago Police Department in 2013.

A state appellate court on Friday upheld the police board’s firing of McDermott for violating three department rules: bringing discredit on the department; disrespect of a person; and unnecessarily displaying a weapon.

What can be said about this sort of thing? America has issues, now about both Black Lives Matter and the killing of those five police officers in Dallas, but the highly conservative Jonah Goldberg suggests that we can work this out:

At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points. Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably Speaker Paul Ryan and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America. Gun rights activists were dismayed that Philando Castile, the man shot by a police officer in Minneapolis, had followed all of the rules – he had a gun permit, cooperated with the officer, etc. – and was still killed. Liberals who insist that rhetoric from their political opponents inspires violence were forced to consider whether rhetoric from their allies might have helped inspire the shooter in Dallas. …

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who did not lose his lazy certainty) spent the weekend attacking the Black Lives Matter movement as “racist.” He wants people to focus on the fact that most black murder victims die at the hands of other blacks. That’s true, and tragic, and fairly irrelevant.

Conservatives, of all people, should understand that misdeeds committed by agents of the state are categorically different from the same acts committed by normal citizens. A father who slaps his son for no good reason, however wrong that may be, is very different from a cop who slaps a citizen for no good reason.

Kevin Drum sees the same thing:

I’m continually nonplussed by the apparent inability of so many people to believe two things at the same time. Thing 1: Most police officers are conscientious public servants who perform dangerous jobs admirably and honorably. They’re my first call if I’m ever in trouble. Thing 2: They’re also human beings just like the rest of us, and fall prey to the same racial stereotyping that most of us do – but with guns in their hands. It’s hardly surprising that black activists are finally demanding better treatment from police in their communities. The only surprising thing is that it took so long.

Two things. Both true. And not so hard to believe at the same time.

That’s easy for him to say, but President Obama had to explain that very carefully and slowly to America in his speech in Dallas. The Washington Post captures how hard that was:

A chastened and humbled President Obama on Tuesday used a memorial service here for five slain police officers to call on Americans to overcome their racial divisions and mutual suspicion after years of relentless gun violence.

Obama’s impassioned appeal – one he has repeated often throughout his presidency – was made more powerful by confessions of his own doubt about whether he and the country are up to the task.

“I am not naive. I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency,” Obama said in one of the most reflective and personal speeches of his time in office. “I have seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

His rhetoric hasn’t been able to counter the rhetoric from both sides, the angry black community and the angry and defensive law and order folks:

His challenge, in the midst of a bitter and polarized presidential election season, was to press Americans to be more empathetic and focus on their shared values. The task was made all the more difficult by the graphic videos of police shootings that have ricocheted across social media over the past week, spawning competing narratives about racial discrimination, inequities in the criminal justice system and the dangers of policing.

“Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other? Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us?” Obama asked. “I don’t know. I confess that sometimes I, too, experience doubt.”

Aboard Air Force One en route to Texas, Obama called family members of the two men killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota to offer his and the first lady’s condolences.

In Dallas, the president praised police officers for doing difficult and dangerous work, even as he called attention to broader problems with policing practices across the nation. He consoled the mourners, even as he challenged Americans to be more open with each other, to shout less and listen more.

Two things, both true:

“If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts. We know that,” Obama said. He acknowledged that even as Americans try to rise above bigotry and discrimination, “none of us is entirely innocent. No institution is entirely immune, and that includes our police departments,” he said. “We know this.”

Former president George W. Bush, who lives in Dallas, also addressed the mourners and sought to project a common purpose beyond politics. “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” Bush said, in remarks that Obama would echo.

They agreed, even if the talk radio folks say Bush was scolding Obama there, in support of the cops. That seems unlikely, and Obama was on familiar ground:

One year ago, Obama stood before an arena full of mourners in Charleston, S.C., who had gathered to remember nine black parishioners killed by a white gunman during a Bible study. In Charleston, Obama gave a soaring, spiritual and optimistic address. The country, he said, had responded to the brutal killings with a “big-hearted generosity… a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.”

He cast the killings at Emanuel AME Church as a divinely inspired turning point. In the days after the slayings, South Carolina lawmakers had voted overwhelmingly to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol dome. Obama called on Americans to build on that spirit by tackling the country’s biggest and most intractable problems: guns, racial discrimination, poverty.

In Dallas, he once again described a tragedy as a call to action, but this time he was more blunt than soaring. His optimism was tempered by a stream of violence in the intervening year. Since he spoke in Charleston, there have been more mass shootings: in Roseburg, Ore.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando; and now Dallas. Much to his frustration, the president’s efforts to advance gun-control legislation have gone nowhere, and a bipartisan push for criminal justice reform has stalled. Racial tensions seem to have grown worse amid the recent run of police shootings and the divisive cacophony of a bitter election season.

Tragedy is a call to action. We must do something. We will do something. Not much comes of it. But he’ll give it another go:

Obama called on police and their supporters not to ignore the complaints of protesters who point to racial disparities in searches, arrests, deadly shootings and sentences as proof of police bias.

“To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends… it hurts,” Obama said. “Surely we can see that, all of us.”

He called on protesters and civil rights activists to empathize with the plight of police officers, who are often assigned to patrol dangerous and forgotten neighborhoods without sufficient resources.

“We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book,” Obama said. “We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience. … These things we know to be true.”

If Americans cannot speak “honestly and openly,” Obama warned, the problems will fester, and “we will never break this dangerous cycle.”

In short, we could talk, and drop the bullshit.

That’s easy for him to say. It’s an election year and David Weigel explains the rhetorical issues on the right:

Hours after he branded himself the “law and order” candidate for president, Donald Trump weighed in on another politically loaded term – one he proudly rejected: “Black Lives Matter.”

“A lot of people feel that it is inherently racist,” the presumptive Republican nominee told the Associated Press on Monday. “It’s a very divisive term, because all lives matter. It’s a very, very divisive term.”

Trump, who has a habit of starting a debate because “a lot of people” want him to, was not wrong about the phrase’s divisiveness. In the wake of last week’s police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, and especially after the killing of five police officers in Dallas, fresh conservative thinking about race and crime has been stymied by those three words.

“I believe I saved a lot more black lives than Black Lives Matter,” Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and one of Trump’s most reliable advocates in the Republican Party, said over the weekend. “I don’t see what Black Lives Matter is doing for blacks other than isolating them. All it cares about is the police shooting of blacks. It doesn’t care about the 90 percent of blacks that are killed by other blacks.”

Giuliani and Trump, who have sought and sometimes received the support of police unions, are among the most prominent people to argue that “Black Lives Matter” is simply too heated and accusatory to represent a serious call for reform.

“A lot of people” think otherwise:

To members and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, anger at the phrase is at best ill-considered and at worst malicious. The clear intent of the words, they say, is to emphasize that black lives matter as much as others.

They’ve scoffed as critics suggest the use of a slogan like “All Lives Matter,” as the radio host Glenn Beck did at an August 2015 rally “to end discrimination” that featured gospel music and a prayer from Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist arrested in Baton Rouge over the weekend, accused Giuliani of “deflecting so that we are not engaged in a conversation about the abuses the police inflict on communities of color time and time again” in a Monday interview with MSNBC.

There you have it. “Black Lives Matter” is simply too heated and accusatory to be useful, or it’s a critical reminder of what’s true and should never be forgotten, or it is both. And tragedy unites us in a common cause, or it rips us apart as it exposes the nasty underlying cause of the tragedy in the first place, or it does both.

No one likes ambiguity, and ambiguity is political poison, and it’s also the closest thing to truth in difficult times. Obama tried to explain that to the nation – two things can be equally true – but maybe that’s too hard a concept for America right now. We may have to learn that the hard way, again.

Posted in Dallas Police Shootings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The God of Nostalgia

Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be a particularly religious person. There’s no evidence he ever thought about God much, and once, when asked if he ever asked God for forgiveness, he said no – there wasn’t much point in that as there had never been anything to forgive. Still, since he finally decided he was a Republican, and amassed enough delegates to win the Republican nomination this time around, he knows he has to have the evangelical base behind him. Those are the folks who know that Jesus was a Republican, and the folks who turn out to vote Republican at a reliably high rate – their votes are the floor upon which Republican victories are built. Trump has to have those votes, as a given, to win in November, and he has been courting that crowd already inclined to vote Republican with some success, in spite of himself.

The problem is coming across as a Man of God in spite of all evidence to the contrary. He has to prove that, or fake that somewhat convincingly – close enough for the evangelicals to cut him some slack – or come up with someone who will vouch for him, someone who is Born Again and says he’s just fine. There aren’t many out there, but Katie Glueck at Politico has now profiled Donald Trump’s God whisperer:

There were the IRS investigation and the business troubles, the divorces and the rumored affairs splashed across the tabloids. And always, there were the biased media that lay in wait, desperate to seize on any hint of internal dysfunction or family drama.

Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser paced the stage in black stilettos, railing against the unfairness of it all.

It was a spring evening in 2011, and pastor Paula White – the woman credited with leading Trump on a faith journey to Jesus Christ – was speaking at a pastors’ conference about her own experiences. But at times throughout her two-hour sermon, she could easily have been talking about Trump’s.

For the evangelical leaders she now aims to convert to the GOP nominee’s team, that’s exactly the problem.

Yes, he found a spiritual adviser, a real honest-to-goodness evangelical, but one that’s just like him, which may not be a good thing:

Like Trump, who for years was best known as a TV star and real estate mogul, White, a televangelist, is new to GOP evangelical activism. She has more experience leading Bible study with the New York Yankees or meeting the Obamas through Oprah Winfrey than hosting pro-life gatherings in Iowa.

And Trump and White share personal track records – divorce, bankruptcy, embracing views outside of the Republican and evangelical mainstreams – that raise hackles among the influential Christian leaders Trump needs on his team as he seeks to consolidate the Republican base.

“I don’t know who she is, I don’t have any contact with her, I’ve never met her, never talked to her; the most prominent her name has been is, she’s tied to Trump,” said David Lane, an influential evangelical leader with whom many of the Republican presidential candidates cultivated a relationship. Adding that her brand of faith does not represent the mainstream among more traditional Christians, he said, “She can’t move evangelicals.”

Unfortunately, that’s the job:

White, a 50-year-old grandmother who, like Trump, is on her third marriage, this one to rocker Jonathan Cain of Journey fame, has emerged as one of the candidate’s main conduits to the evangelical community. It’s a vote-rich constituency that continues to harbor skepticism about his commitment to its policy views and personal beliefs – and White is fighting a sometimes uphill battle to change that.

That might be okay – the most famous song from the band Journey is Don’t Stop Believin’ (1981) – her current husband wrote that – but she has a past:

White, an author and TV personality who at one time had “millions in the bank,” has had financial challenges of her own. In the early 2000s, her ministry’s spending habits drew scrutiny first from the IRS, and then from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who launched a congressional probe. The probe was eventually dropped (her ministry didn’t fully respond to congressional inquiries, according to reports at the time). The Tampa-based church that she and her ex-husband founded and led – which began to fall apart after their 2007 divorce – declared bankruptcy in 2014, though by then she was leading another church, in Orlando.

Damn, she’s as slippery as Trump with this bankruptcy-to-success stuff, but her success is as questionable as his:

Despite her decades as a faith leader in Florida, she is not well-known in Florida GOP circles. The GOP chair of Hillsborough County, the Tampa area where she and her then-husband ministered for years, does not know her, nor does Mark Phillips, who is helping to run evangelical outreach for the Republican National Committee in the state.

It’s the same story at the national level, which raises questions about how helpful she can ultimately be in arranging introductions and finagling endorsements from the most influential Christian leaders. Like Trump, she is an outsider to the evangelical establishment.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, does not know her, nor does Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America. Both groups, which focus on curbing abortion, have substantial grass-roots networks.

“She’s not active in my world,” Nance said. “I don’t think she’s been active in the pro-life movement, to my knowledge. I’ve never worked with her.”

Perhaps so, but Trump gave her the job of selling him to the evangelicals:

She played a role, behind the scenes, in assembling a thousand-person gathering of prominent Christian leaders in New York City last month to meet with Trump, and Trump gave her a shout-out, said Nance, who attended. Many leaders walked out of that gathering still unconvinced by Trump, but appreciative of the outreach. And White has worked with plenty of leading evangelicals over the years. She secured for Trump a Bible signed by the Rev. Billy Graham…

She’s doing the job, and she doesn’t much care what others think:

White insisted that she has enough both political and religious cachet with evangelical influencers to engage on Trump’s behalf.

“We all connect on the exact same things,” she said. “Jesus Christ is our lord and savior; we connect the same on [the] trinity, on redemption, on basic principles, the fundaments of our faith. When you get to that there’s not too many places where you can go, ‘She’s a lot more different.'”

She’s one of them. Trump is one of them. They’ll get over it, or they won’t. Laura Turner reports on how Trump’s nomination could be the end of the Religious Right:

The evangelical divide over Trump has been widening for months, but it was only in recent weeks that the pro- and anti-Trump camps definitively split, with an increasing number of conservative evangelicals coming out forcefully against the candidate whom GOP consultant Rick Wilson once called “Cheeto Jesus.” The breaking point came on June 21, when Trump – ironically in an effort to appease the religious right – met with nearly a thousand evangelical leaders and announced a 25-person “evangelical advisory board” to help him reach conservative Christian voters.

Paula White set up that advisory board, but that might have been ill-advised:

Almost all the members of that board have histories of being right-leaning, pro-life and pro-Israel – typical for conservative Christians. But as Ruth Graham noted at Slate, the group is really a who’s-who of former evangelical leaders: Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition; Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention; and James Dobson, former president of Focus on the Family. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the board is mostly older (average age: 64), mostly male and mostly white, with only four people of color. They are a remnant, in other words, of the old guard Moral Majority-era conservative evangelicals whose political influence, on issues like same-sex marriage, contraception and school prayer, was already waning.

After all, Evangelicalism today looks very different from the bygone era of the Dobsons and the Falwells. (Jerry Falwell, Jr., the son of the Moral Majority’s founder, is also on Trump’s board.) For years, evangelicals have been leading the charge against climate change and supporting immigration reform, and 27 percent of white evangelicals now support same-sex marriage, up from 13 percent in 2001. Demographically, the fastest-growing segment of evangelicals in America is Latinos.

The world had passed these folks by:

Christian blogger Fred Clark called the advisory board a “B-list of second-tier religious right figures along with a handful of peaked-long-ago relics.” The Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance took offense too, in a statement warning that “joining this board is not the wisest way to be salt and light” and cautioning against “jumping into a crowded office where the weed and wheat are undistinguishable.” It was essentially a call to stay out of politics – a rejection of the basic premise of the Moral Majority that Christians ought to influence politics to see God’s Kingdom come.

That tactic may be dead, and it only got worse:

Russell Moore – an influential leader in the Southern Baptist Convention with a history of theologically and politically conservative views – immediately denounced the board’s “heretical prosperity gospel hucksters hailed as spiritual leaders.” Presumably he was taking aim at people like televangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and Paula White…

But others seem willing to cut Trump some slack:

Some evangelicals, like Southern Evangelical Seminary president Richard Land – another member of Trump’s board, though he has not officially endorsed the candidate – continue to see their calling as being “salt and light” to those in positions of power. They believe Christians have a mandate to influence politics through whatever avenue is available to them, whether they like the candidate or not. If they want the next president to nominate a conservative Supreme Court justice to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat, for instance, they should vote for Trump over the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Dobson, for instance, has encouraged evangelicals to “cut [Trump] some slack,” calling him merely a “baby Christian.” Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a long-favored candidate on the religious right, has also stood by Trump, defending his family as “one of the most admirable I’ve ever seen from any father with children.” One member of Trump’s advisory board, Reverend Robert Jeffress, put it more bluntly in making the case to evangelicals for supporting a Trump presidency: “I want the meanest, toughest, son-of-a-you-know-what I can find in that role, and I think that’s where many evangelicals are.”

In short, Trump will do. This is war, but then there’s Robert P. Jones, the founding chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute – and the author of The End of White Christian America – who has this to say:

Mr. Jeffress’ expression of acute vulnerability is the key to understanding white evangelical support for Mr. Trump and the extraordinary lengths to which evangelical leaders are going so they can rally behind him. Leaders like Mr. Jeffress locate the threats to their security in the larger world around them.

But the anger, anxiety and insecurity many contemporary white evangelicals feel are better understood as a response to an internal identity crisis precipitated by the recent demise of “white Christian America,” the cultural and institutional world built primarily by white Protestants that dominated American culture until the last decade.

That’s what his book is about, and he summarizes:

Today, white evangelicals are not only experiencing the shrinking of their own ranks, but they are also confronting larger, genuinely new demographic and cultural realities. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, white Christians (Catholics and Protestants) constituted a majority (54 percent) of the country; today, that number has slipped to 45 percent. Over this same period, support for gay marriage – a key issue for evangelicals – moved from only four in 10 to solid majority territory, and the Supreme Court cleared the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. The Supreme Court itself symbolized these changes, losing its last remaining Protestant justice, John Paul Stevens, in 2010.

Yes, the Supreme Court is now all Jews and Catholics – none of them was born again or whatever – and that’s not the half of it:

A recent Public Religion Research Institute-Brookings survey shows the alarm that white evangelical Protestants are feeling in the wake of demographic and cultural changes. Nearly two-thirds are bothered when they encounter immigrants who speak little English. More than two-thirds believe that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against other groups. For discrimination against Christians, that number is nearly eight in 10. And perhaps most telling of all, seven in 10 white evangelical Protestants say the country has changed for the worse since the 1950s.

And all of that actually transcends religion:

By most measures, Ted Cruz, the son of an evangelical pastor and himself a Southern Baptist, should have been the evangelicals’ presidential candidate in 2016. But Mr. Trump won evangelicals over by explicitly addressing their deeper sense of loss. Mr. Cruz assured evangelicals that he’d secure them exemptions from the new realities, while Mr. Trump promised to reinstate their central place in the country. Mr. Cruz offered to negotiate a respectable retreat strategy, while Mr. Trump vowed to turn back the clock.

He simply said the right things:

For white evangelical Protestants, Mr. Trump’s general vow to “make America great again” means something specific. Mr. Trump stepped into the spotlight just as the curtain was coming down on the era of white Protestant dominance.

Mr. Trump’s ascendancy has turned the 2016 election into a referendum on the death of white Christian America, with the candidate appealing strongly to those who are most grieving this loss. Mr. Trump instinctively understood this from the beginning of his campaign. Take his speech at an evangelical college before the Iowa caucuses in January: “I’ll tell you one thing: I get elected president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” He added that Christianity will be resurgent “because if I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power – you don’t need anybody else.”

That’s a religious promise and more:

How white evangelicals respond will be important for the future of the American democratic experiment. If their powerful feelings of nostalgia and vulnerability lead them to embrace Mr. Trump as a straightforward means back to power, we can expect, if he wins, more lawsuits and civic unrest, accompanied by more politicized churches and increasing political polarization along cultural and racial lines.

If, however, white evangelicals somehow summon a response that is rooted in real acceptance of their decentered place in a new America, they may find that they have a critical role to play in the revitalization of our civic life.

Sure, but who is going to accept a newly decentered place in a new America? That’s the problem here, as Joan Walsh notes here in her discussion of Jones’ book:

Jones shows that young white people are “leaving religion in droves.” While that was once only a problem for “mainline” Protestant groups – Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and some others – it has lately become a big problem for evangelical Christians. In the 1980s, as mainline denominations’ membership declined, conservative evangelicals built their mega-churches and felt theologically and socially vindicated – the mainline orders had gone all in with secularism and liberalism and participated in their own diminishment, they believed.

Now evangelicals have to explain their own decline, especially among young people. While 27 percent of Americans over 65 are white evangelical Protestants, only 10 percent of millennials are – the exact same percentage as white mainline Protestant millennials. In PRRI surveys, those young white evangelicals overwhelmingly say they’re fleeing their childhood religion because of its intolerance, especially on issues of sexual identity and gay marriage.

That’s another factor here – the rebellion against the old farts – but the main problem is the world itself:

Jones makes clear that the decline of his people – he’s a Baptist with deep roots in Georgia – is largely the result of decisions and definitions made by the leaders of white Christian America over the last 200 years. For one thing, this Irish Catholic reader learned with a twinge that I’m not counted within white Christian America: rejecting Catholicism as a foreign threat to American identity has been a pillar of white Christian belief since the 1800s, and it remains one. Of course, I know that history…. It just didn’t occur to me that the definitional barrier remained (Jones had to break it to me in a phone interview.) Of course, if you added in white Catholics, white Christian America would still hold a strong majority, but that’s a road not taken long ago.

Likewise, if you added in black, Latino, or Asian Protestants, the demographic power of “Christian America” would soar. Those groups’ numbers, and adherence to Christianity, are rising, not falling. But Jones does not mince words about the way white Christian America has made that modifier “white” essential to its self-definition. Nor does he hesitate to show the way racism – support for slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy – has shadowed the positive moral contributions of white Christians, going back almost to the country’s founding.

White Christian churches gave scriptural justification for slavery – or for tolerating it as a realm of Caesar’s they could ignore. In the South, after desegregation became law, churches began to sponsor “Christian schools” in which religion provided a cover for white parents to avoid educating their kids with black children. In fact, the Christian right grew to its greatest strength when foes of abortion and gay rights, many of them Catholic, made common cause with Southern evangelicals, whose primary driving issue was maintaining that network of tax-exempt, segregated Christian schools, as well as colleges like Bob Jones University, after President Jimmy Carter moved to take away their tax-exempt status.

The core issue is race, but only for this subset of Christians:

Mainline Protestants had a better record on race, going back to the abolitionist movement (although some denominations split between North and South during the Jim Crow era). The venerable National Council of Churches was an enthusiastic supporter of the civil-rights movement, helping to sponsor the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 as well as the 1963 March on Washington, and to push for rights legislation in Congress. The journal of mainline Protestantism, The Christian Century, published the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which specifically excoriated even the city’s “liberal” religious leaders for counseling a go-slow approach to desegregation. King later became a contributing editor.

Through today, a less influential NCC has spoken out on the recent killings of black men at the hands of police, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Not surprisingly, some Southern evangelicals have been less sympathetic, with the Rev. Franklin Graham, far more conservative than his father Billy, opposing the Black Lives Matter movement and telling African Americans to “listen up” and obey police officers instead of protesting.

But it was more than race too:

Trump deftly combined three overlapping but separate GOP constituencies: the adherents to the old Southern strategy (with its Northern admirers), the Christian right, and the Tea Party. As the campaign began last year, many observers, including myself, thought those groups might fight among themselves; Trump found a way to unite them – around nostalgia for a better day, as well as around race. …

We may feel personal sympathy with aging individuals who are watching the world they once knew disappear – most white people have someone like that in their family – yet as a group, they’re hard to imagine how to reach. And as someone who is excluded from belonging in white Christian America by virtue of being Catholic, I’m keenly aware how much the entire project’s driving force has been exclusion – not merely setting a moral, “Christian” example, and hoping others will follow it, and join in.

And that led to Trump:

Jones’s book convinced me that white Christian America didn’t just die a natural death, thanks to demographic change; it is committing suicide, by clinging to that seductive yet toxic modifier “white.” It would seem that Donald Trump is helping it along, as it trades adherence to its supposed moral values for nostalgia about an age that many other Christians now believe was immoral in its cruelty and inequality. Still, as they fade into the past, these embattled Americans can still endanger our emerging multi-religious, multiracial communities. If Trump loses, as most polls indicate he will, it’s hard to imagine them admitting they’re wrong and trying to join the rest of the country.

Yes, that won’t happen. Nostalgia is a powerful god, and a jealous god, and an angry god – and Donald Trump is a man of god after all – just not the god that others assumed.

Posted in Trump and God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Now What

It’s going to be long, hot summer, starting, as the Washington Post notes, with the second week in July:

The growing national divisions over law enforcement and race hardened further on Sunday as police and political leaders condemned the recent killings of five officers in Dallas. One chief referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as “criminals,” while a former D.C. law enforcement leader said the United States is “sitting on a powder keg.”

Even as people streamed into churches in Dallas and other cities and Americans tried to make sense of the past week of violence, demonstrations again were the order of the day.

Renewed protests over the latest fatal shootings of black men by police took place in Dallas, Baton Rouge, La., and the District, although they remained peaceful, unlike the unrest that erupted late Saturday.

The momentary truce in the nation’s political wars also ended. The White House announced that President Obama will travel to Dallas on Tuesday to speak at a memorial service for the slain officers, but some questioned why the nation’s first African American president was not also visiting Louisiana and Minnesota, where two black men were killed by police last week.

On the Republican side, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump edged away from his earlier calls for unity, blasting Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and tweeting that America is “a divided nation.”

Okay, Obama will go to Dallas, along with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – that’s three presidents – because that’s where the five dead cops are – but he won’t go to Louisiana or Minnesota, where the equally dead two black men are. And Donald Trump will now be arguing none of this would have happened if Obama hadn’t acted so damned black, rubbing it America’s face that he is a black man, sneering at everyone (white folks, presumably) and always favoring “his people” and thus dividing the nation. And half the black community is disgusted that Obama has spent almost every day of his presidency trying to be white, ignoring them, and now he’s doing it again. Obama can’t win, but he knew this going in and plows forward as best he can. Not everyone will be happy, and Trump is arguing it’s the same with Hillary – she sides with blacks over whites too – but of course she also divides the nation by playing the “woman card” – sneering at men. Will men put up with that? Real Men might not.

This is going to be unpleasant, but the issue of America’s threatened innate manliness is an issue for later, because this is about race:

“You can call it a powder keg,” Charles H. Ramsey, a former police chief in Washington and Philadelphia, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “You can say that we’re handling nitroglycerin. But obviously when you just look at what’s going on, we’re at a very critical point in the history of this country.”

More details also emerged Sunday about Micah Xavier Johnson, the gunman who shot 12 officers in Dallas on Thursday night before law enforcement detonated a bomb-equipped robot in the parking garage where he had fled. His rampage, during a Black Lives Matter protest, followed the police-shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., a St. Paul suburb.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Johnson appeared delusional, taunted police during a standoff by singing and “laughing at us” and wrote cryptic messages on a wall with his own blood. He also said Johnson was “determined to hurt more officers” and may have been planning a larger attack, citing evidence of bomb-making materials and a journal found in Johnson’s home in nearby Mesquite. …

The new information about Johnson’s behavior emerged after a tense Saturday night marked by the arrest of a prominent activist in the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in five cities nationwide that resulted in more than 200 arrests, according to activists and police.

That was more than unpleasant:

At least 100 of those arrests were in St. Paul after what police described as rioting that injured 21 officers. In Baton Rouge, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson was released on bond Sunday after being charged with obstructing a highway during a protest there.

In an interview Sunday, Mckesson called his arrest “unlawful” and said: “The protesters were peaceful last night; the police were not.”

The fast-moving events left Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) asking for prayers for his state and the country at a late-afternoon news conference.

And Obama has to balance it all:

“I think that the overwhelming majority of people who are involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, what they really want to see is a better relationship between police and the community,” Obama said at a news conference in Spain. At the same time, he added, “I would hope that police organizations are also respectful of the frustrations people in these communities feel and not just dismiss these protests and complaints.”

A senior administration official said the president feels he must reach out to law enforcement after voicing the anguish of many African Americans following the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Obama “channeled a lot of frustration on behalf of the African American community, that not enough progress has been made” in curbing the excessive use of force, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House thinking.

But in at least one Dallas church, Obama’s planned trip triggered its own degree of frustration. “Mr President, I love you, I support you, I’ve defended you. But I need you to go to Minnesota,” the Rev. Frederick Haynes III said Sunday at Friendship-West Baptist Church in South Dallas. “Maybe if the same energy and love we bring when blue lives die, maybe if we bring that same attention, affection and love when black folk get killed in the hands of cops, maybe we’ll save a generation.”

There’s no winning, and there was this:

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” two prominent figures from New York also expressed differing views. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) condemned the Black Lives Matter movement, which arose after the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

“When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist,” Giuliani said. ”Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American, and it’s racist.”

But New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, who once served as Giuliani’s police commissioner, sounded a conciliatory note. Noting that he has had nearly 600 meetings with community leaders and activists in recent years, Bratton said, “It’s been a time of healing.”

Those two worked together? How? And meanwhile in Baton Rouge:

Black Lives Matter activists worried that this swampy state capital with its history of slavery and civil rights struggle could be the next Ferguson, Mo. – another small U.S. city with a predominantly white police force ill-equipped or unwilling to respond to the grievances of black Americans, or deal with protests for better rights.

Reports from Friday and Saturday from reporters on the scene indicated as much. When protesters moved their demonstration to the street outside of police headquarters on Friday night, police met them in riot gear, pounding on shields with their batons to make a deafening and repetitive thud.

Police had no megaphone or bullhorn as they ordered protesters to stay on the grass and out of the street. Police arrested 31 people that night, nearly all of them after they stepped into the roadway and were rushed by police and dragged away to police wagons.

On Saturday night, the People’s New Black Panther Party, a radical Black Nationalist group, arrived, and police formed a human chain, pushing the crowd forward but with little instruction. An officer standing in the turret of an armored vehicle clutched a rifle.

It was just like Ferguson, a modern war zone, with armored vehicles and all the rest, although the troops “pounding on shields with their batons to make a deafening and repetitive thud” had a bit of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae to it. Still, it looked like war, it smelled like war, it sounded like war, so that’s probably what it was.

That may be what some people want, as Slate’s Will Saletan explains here:

Hours after a sniper gunned down five law enforcement officers in Dallas – claiming, according to police, that “he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers” – no one was crowing louder than David Duke. “All I warned about, sorry to say, is now happening,” the former Klansman tweeted. “There is war against Whites in America. A war of hate, racism, and violence against us!” Duke circulated tweets by people who used the phrase “black lives matter” and celebrated the shootings. In a pitch to Donald Trump supporters, he added the hashtags #WarOnWhites, #ThanksObama, and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.

David Duke is already where Donald Trump is headed, but Saletan argues there’s another way to see this:

This is the central thing to understand about what happened in Dallas: Black people who target whites are fundamentally allied with white people who target blacks. They’re on the same team: the race war team. It’s a lot like the global struggle over jihadism, in which Muslims who hate Christians collaborate, in effect, with Christians who hate Muslims. In the case of jihadism, the real struggle isn’t between two religions. It’s between people who want religious war and people who don’t. The same is true of race: Either you’re on the race war team, or you’re against it.

That would mean that all of this is about methodology – how to get what you want. Either war is the answer or it isn’t, and people have chosen sides on that:

The attack in Dallas – allegedly committed by Micah Johnson, a black man -comes barely a year after a white man, Dylann Roof, allegedly shot nine black people to death in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof told friends, and later police, that he wanted “to start a race war.” “He wanted it to be white with white, and black with black,” said a friend.

Roof’s manifesto echoed the ideas of Anders Behring Breivik, a white Christian nationalist who massacred 77 people in Norway five years ago. Breivik claimed to be defending “our people, our culture, Christendom and our nation.” He declared, “It is every European’s duty to defend their people and country against the ideology of genocide, conquest and destruction known as Islam.”

Nothing helps Roof, Breivik, Duke, and other white nationalists, more than hate crimes by the people they vilify – blacks and Muslims – against whites, Christians, and police officers. No crime justifies such collective vilification. But as a social dynamic, haters and killers on all sides work together, by stoking feelings of group victimization and group vengeance.

There is a lot of that going around:

This is the war Micah Johnson joined in Dallas on Thursday night. He didn’t join the side of black people, any more than Bin Laden or ISIS joined the side of Muslims. He joined the side of tribal enmity and vengeance. He joined the side of Dylann Roof, Anders Breivik, and David Duke.

This is going to be a long, hot summer, but Jamelle Bouie tells the story a different way:

The tragedies arrived in quick succession, and it’s worth dwelling for a moment on the details of each one. Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, was killed Tuesday in a confrontation with police outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to an anonymous 911 caller, Sterling was waving a gun (the convenience store owner disputes this). Upon arrival, officers confronted Sterling, used a stun gun, and tackled him to the ground. As they worked to restrain him, they found a gun in his pocket. Moments later, they opened fire. Sterling, who had appeared subdued, was dead.

In the aftermath, each player performed his role in the standard dramaturgy of these events. The police department placed its officers on administrative leave; the family expressed its heartache and called for justice; political leaders gave condolences and assured a fair investigation; the federal government announced its involvement; Hillary Clinton made a statement.

But just as we were grasping Sterling’s life and death – just as activists were mobilizing and journalists were analyzing – we were confronted with another incident. Another police killing. In this second video, Philando Castile is bleeding, slumped toward the woman recording the scene, Diamond Reynolds. Her 4-year-old daughter is in the backseat. A police officer is outside the car, aiming his gun at the man he has shot. As Reynolds says in her shockingly calm narration, Castile was her boyfriend. He had told the officer that he was carrying a gun and that he was reaching for his driver’s license and registration. It’s at this point the officer fired several times. “Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” Reynolds says. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

The death of the five police officers in Dallas buried those details, but it all blends together:

The killings of Sterling and Castile are a stark reminder of deep racist inequality and of the degree to which police behave this way – relentlessly scrutinizing black Americans above all others – because that’s what the public wants. And the Dallas shootings provide another example of the terrible gun violence that seems to define modern American life. It was the whole American horror show, compressed into a few days.

There’s no context in which this string of violence wouldn’t have had a heavy impact on our politics. But in this particular year, it feels ominous. Just last month, we mourned the dozens killed in the hateful rampage through a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We’ve seen an upswing in prejudiced and exclusionary rhetoric, and we have a presidential candidate in Donald Trump who condones and encourages it, all for the sake of his accidental campaign for president. Accordingly, the barriers we’ve built to keep racism and violence out of politics are faltering, and the international picture – where once-entrenched arrangements crash against the rocks of anger and bigotry – only adds to our anxiety. Groups and individuals see opportunity in this, and they begin to stoke flames of racial hatred for their own gain. It feels, in a visceral way, as if we’re coming apart.

Bouie, however, sees some good:

For as little political movement as we’ve seen on questions of police violence and racial bias, there are signs that the broad public – the white public – is waking up to the problem. Conservative writers like Matt Lewis in the Daily Caller or Leon Wolf in RedState are conceding the pervasiveness of police brutality. Prominent Republicans such as Paul Ryan did the same, praising President Obama’s remarks and hailing peaceful protests. Even Newt Gingrich – who once called Obama a “food stamp president” – agreed. “It’s more dangerous to be black in America,” he said. “You’re substantially more likely to be in a situation where police don’t respect you.”

But there’s this too:

It’s too much to say that there’s unity in American life. Nationally, police officers are killing people as often as they were before Ferguson, Missouri, put the issue on the map. It’s not enough to acknowledge problems of police violence; Americans – and white Americans in particular – have to agree to end it, which means jettisoning views that equate crime with blackness and rethinking the role of police writ large. We are still at a deep impasse on the question of guns and what to do about the violence at the heart of our society. And there is the Trump phenomenon to be reckoned with. It’s still true that his campaign is a vector for racism and anti-Semitism, still true that he has proposed plans that would target racial and religious minorities, still true that he has awoken and validated an ugly nativism across the country.

But there’s this too:

The events of the past week – and perhaps the shared sense that we’re on a brink of some sort – have inspired a basic decorum. Black Lives Matter has fiercely condemned the violence in Dallas, and beyond the right-wing fever swamps, there’s no apparent effort to cast blame on the movement against police brutality. At the risk of indulging the soft bigotry of low expectations, this week has revealed the strength of American society at the same time it has exposed its most fragile parts.

That doesn’t mean we can’t break apart. But it does mean that enough of us, for now, agree that there is still something here worth holding together.

Do enough of us agree on that? The New York Times’ Frank Bruni wonders about that:

All of us want the same thing: for the killing to cease and for every American to feel respected and safe.

We have disagreements about how to get there, but they don’t warrant the inflammatory headlines that appeared on the front of The New York Post (“Civil War”) or at the top of The Drudge Report (“Black Lives Kill”). They needn’t become hardened battle lines.

“We have devolved into some separatism and we’ve taken our corners,” Malik Aziz, the deputy chief of police in Dallas, said in an interview with CNN on Friday. “Days like yesterday or the day before – they shouldn’t happen. But when they do, let’s be human beings. Let’s be honorable men and women and sit down at a table and say, ‘How can we not let this happen again?’ and be sincere in our hearts.”

“We’re failing at that on all sides,” he concluded, expressing a sentiment uttered by public officials, black and white, Democrat and Republican, in laments that drew on the same vocabulary.

Separate, divided: I kept hearing those words and their variants, a report card for America as damning as it was inarguable.

Separate, divided: I kept seeing that in pundits who talked past and over one another, in a din that’s becoming harder and harder to bear.

Separate, divided: I kept thinking of Donald Trump and how he in particular preys on our estrangement and deepens it.

Bruni is not hopeful:

Hillary Clinton wrestled with that confusion in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, stressing, “We can’t be engaging in hateful rhetoric.” Asked if and why she’d be better at dealing with race relations than Donald Trump would, she declined to disparage him. This wasn’t the moment for that.

We can’t keep falling into the same old traps. We can’t keep making hasty conclusions, faulty connections. Predictably, there was a recurrence of talk after the killings of five police officers in Dallas late Thursday night that this was the fruit and fault of the Black Lives Matter movement and that cries of police misconduct equal a bounty on police lives.

That was a willfully selective interpretation of events. It ignored an emerging profile of the suspected gunman as someone who acted alone, not as the emissary of any aggrieved group.

It ignored how peacefully the protest in Dallas began and how calmly it proceeded up until shots rang out. Black and white stood together. Civilians and cops stood together. Those cops were there precisely because they’d been briefed on the demonstration and brought into its planning. They were a collaborative presence, not an enemy one.

“We had police officers taking pictures with protesters, protecting them, guarding them, making sure they was getting from one point to another,” Aziz recalled.

And their instincts amid the gunfire weren’t to flee for cover but to run toward its source and to hurry demonstrators out of the way. If we don’t pay full tribute to that, we’ll never get the full accountability from police officers that we also need, and we’ll never be able to address the urgent, legitimate demands at the heart of the Dallas demonstration and others like it.

Will we pay full tribute to that? That doesn’t sell copy, as they say. It doesn’t sell page views and thirty-second spots on CNN and MSNBC and Fox News. That’s reporting on nothing really happening, which is a wonderful thing in this case, but essentially static. Intense dynamic conflict sells copy. That copy then, in turn, generates more conflict. That further conflict then sells more copy, and so forth and so on.

What next? No one really knows, but it’s going to be a long, hot summer. Something will explode.

Posted in Dallas Police Shootings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now Dallas

History plays in an endless loop. At the office window, down at the airport, on Thursday, April 30, 1992, we all stopped working and looked out over Imperial Highway and the main runway and watched Los Angeles burning. The scattered columns of smoke rose in the distance, all over the city, out to the mountains.

That was the second day of the massive Los Angeles riots – the largest riots since the sixties after Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the death toll this time was fifty-three, the worst death toll since the New York City draft riots way back in 1863, not that anyone remembers those. These lasted six days, with about a billion dollars of damage done to everything. Koreatown went up in flames. Even shops here on Hollywood Boulevard were looted and burned – many of them still have metal roll-up security doors than rattle down each night, in case something like that ever happens again.

We watched from the office window. A young African-American computer programmer said she was ashamed for her people. A white guy said he was ashamed for the human race. Management sent us home early, if you could get home. That night, Bill Cosby spoke on the NBC affiliate out here, KNBC, and asked people to stop what the hell they thought they were doing and watch the final episode of The Cosby Show instead. He’s a strange dude, and seems even stranger now as it seems he was a serial rapist all along, but back then he was trying to be helpful – or he was worried about his ratings.

That didn’t help:

The third day was punctuated by live footage of Rodney King at an impromptu news conference in front of his lawyer’s Los Angeles offices on Wilshire & Doheny, tearfully saying, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?” That morning, at 1:00 am, California Governor Pete Wilson had requested federal assistance, but it was not ready until Saturday, by which time the rioting and looting was under control. The 40th Infantry Division (doubled to 4,000 troops) continued to move into the city in Humvees, eventually seeing 10,000 Army National Guard troops activated. Additionally, a varied contingent of 1,700 federal law-enforcement officers from different agencies from across the state began to arrive, to protect federal facilities and assist local police. As darkness fell, the main riot area was further hit by a power cut.

Friday evening, U.S. President George H. W. Bush addressed the country, denouncing “random terror and lawlessness”, summarizing his discussions with Mayor Bradley and Governor Wilson, and outlining the federal assistance he was making available to local authorities. Citing the “urgent need to restore order” he warned that the “brutality of a mob” would not be tolerated and he would “use whatever force is necessary.”

And then it was over. Not much force was really necessary. The riots had run their course. There wasn’t much more to burn, and there was no point in burning anything anyway. Nothing was going to change. The previous year, four or five white Los Angeles Police Department officers had beaten the crap out of Rodney King, who was black, after a car chase. King had given up and was on the ground, but they kept beating him with their nightsticks, and then they kicked him around, and then beat him a bit more. It happens, but someone had caught it all on videotape and had shopped that amateur videotape to the media. Everyone out here saw those white cops beating that helpless black guy on the ground, who was just lying there half-conscious, and beating him again and again. It seemed to go on for eight or ten minutes. It didn’t, but the LAPD was still in a fix. The officers were finally brought to trial.

Then there was that change-of-venue motion. They couldn’t have the trial downtown in the city – the people were too outraged. They couldn’t be fair. The trial was moved out to Simi Valley, at the far end of the San Fernando Valley, where, curiously, almost all the folks were white and where a whole lot of LAPD cops had retired. Ronald Reagan is buried at his ranch in the nearby hills. On April 29, 1992, the seventh day of jury deliberations, the jury out there acquitted all four officers of assault, and acquitted three of the four of using excessive force. Maybe one of them had gone a bit overboard, but they were deadlocked on that last charge. All four officers walked. The riots followed.

They were inevitable. African-Americans had had just about enough of this crap. Lincoln had freed the slaves. Martin Luther King had forced the country to change the law – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been signed, sealed and delivered – but even now white cops, in a pack, could beat a single black man, who had already surrendered to them, nearly to death – and walk. Do you think that’s okay, whitey? You’ll be sorry.

In the end everyone was sorry. Much was lost in those riots and little was gained, except for a few police reforms, not quite implemented yet. Whites did, however, become more fearful, and angry that they had been forced to become more fearful. Blacks saw nothing much would change. They saw that their anger, while satisfying for a week or so, made them look like thugs – or like fools who burned down their own neighborhoods. They also saw that their anger alone changed nothing.

In fact, Los Angeles hasn’t changed much, except that the cops are a bit more careful now, or circumspect, and America hasn’t changed much. Two years ago it was Missouri:

A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.

There were riots, there was looting, but that too burned itself out and nothing much changed. More unarmed African-American teenagers or young men would be shot to death by some white police officer “who legitimately feared for his life” – except the guy on Staten Island was choked to death. This seemed to happen every eight to ten days. We got a Black Lives Matter movement. Democrats lined up behind that. We got a Blue Lives Matter movement too – the cops do fear for their lives, for good reason, and the Black Lives Matter folks want to kill cops, really, or so the  Blue Lives Matter folks say. Republicans lined up behind that. Fox News hammered that home. Each side settled in, sure they were right. America got used to that.

This was, however, an inherently unstable situation. Dallas had to happen:

Following the death of the five police officers who were killed in a shooting Thursday, President Obama plans to cut his trip to Europe short by one day, returning from Spain on Sunday night so he can travel to Dallas early next week.

“Later in the week, at the White House, the President will continue the work to bring people together to support our police officers and communities, and find common ground by discussing policy ideas for addressing the persistent racial disparities in our criminal justice system,” the White House said in a statement.

This was Obama being Obama – both sides have a point – let’s work this out – but that won’t be easy:

Along with the five officers who died, seven others were wounded Thursday night when sniper fire from what turned out to be a lone gunman turned a peaceful protest over recent police shootings into a scene of chaos and terror.

The gunfire was followed by a standoff that lasted for hours when the attacker told authorities “he was upset about the recent police shootings” and “said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. The gunman was killed when police detonated a bomb-equipped robot.

Fine, perhaps – sending in a bomb, by robot, seems a bit odd – but that wasn’t the end of it:

The violence did not end in Dallas. Officers were also shot Friday in Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri. In Georgia, police said a man called 9-1-1 and then shot at the responding officer, wounding him, the Associated Press reported. And a police officer was in critical condition in St. Louis after being shot during a traffic stop Friday morning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Police said Friday that Micah Xavier Johnson, a black 25-year-old believed to be from the Dallas area, was the attacker. Dallas Mayor S. Mike Rawlings told the Associated Press Johnson used an AR-15 assault weapon in the ambush.

Johnson, who had no criminal history, deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army from November 2013 through July 2014 and was in the Army Reserve from 2009 until last year. Army records show that Johnson, whose home was listed as Mesquite, Tex., had served with an engineering brigade before he was sent to Afghanistan. He did not have a combat job and was listed as a carpentry and masonry specialist.

The Dallas Police Department said Friday that during a search of Johnson’s home, they found “bomb making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics.” Authorities said they were still investigating the journal’s contents.

Yep, he was an Army guy, not from ISIS or anything, and what he did set off others, and what set him off was clear:

For hours after the assault, police were locked in a standoff with Johnson after he was cornered on the second floor of a building downtown. Police exchanged gunfire with him and negotiated with him, but those discussions broke down, Brown said.

In those conversations, Brown said Johnson told police that “he was upset about Black Lives Matter” and angered by the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota that dominated national news this week after officers in both places fatally shot black men. Johnson also said he was not involved with any groups and acted alone, Brown said.

During the standoff, Johnson also told authorities that “the end is coming” and spoke about bombs being placed downtown, though no explosives had been found by Friday.

That’s good, but the damage was done:

Police chiefs in Washington, Los Angeles County, Boston, Nassau County and St. Louis instructed their patrol officers to pair up, as did officials in Las Vegas, where two officers were gunned down in an ambush while eating lunch in 2014, and New York, where two officers were killed in another ambush that same year.

Terry Cunningham, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., said Friday that officers nationwide “really are going to have to have vigilance. Any traffic stop, at any time, can be deadly. I don’t know what this means. I don’t know if this means more violence perpetrated toward law enforcement as a result of this.”

Officials in Tennessee said Friday that they believed a man who opened fire on a parkway there before exchanging gunshots with police may have been prompted by concerns over encounters involving police and black Americans.

That means that Obama will have a lot to balance:

The mass shooting in Dallas comes amid intense scrutiny of police officers and how they use deadly force, an issue that returned to prominence in the news this week after videos circulated of a fatal shooting in Baton Rouge and the aftermath of another in Minnesota. On Tuesday morning, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge; less than 48 hours later, Philando Castile was fatally shot by an officer in Minnesota.

Obama, who after arriving in Warsaw discussed how troubling the events in Minnesota and Louisiana were, spoke about the Dallas attack and said there was “no possible justification” for the shooting in the city.

“I believe that I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events,” Obama said.

He called on Americans to “profess our profound gratitude to the men and women in blue” and to remember the victims in particular.

Some didn’t hear what he said:

The head of a law enforcement advocacy group lashed out at President Barack Obama in the wake of the Dallas shootings that left five police officers dead, accused the president of carrying out a “war on cops.”

“I think [the Obama administration] continued appeasements at the federal level with the Department of Justice, their appeasement of violent criminals, their refusal to condemn movements like Black Lives Matter, actively calling for the death of police officers, that type of thing, all the while blaming police for the problems in this country has led directly to the climate that has made Dallas possible,” William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said in an interview with Fox News on Friday morning.

And there was this from the Chicago Tribune:

Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, now a radio talk show host, declared “This is now war” and called for President Barack Obama to “watch out” in a Twitter post reacting to the Dallas shooting that killed five police officers and injured seven.

“This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you,” he wrote in the tweet posted Thursday night, which has since been deleted.

In subsequent tweets that remained posted as of early Friday, he called the shooters “uneducated black thugs” and blamed Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement for the officers’ deaths.

What did he just say to Obama? Real America is coming after you? Well, not exactly:

An unrepentant Walsh stood by his tweets Friday morning, saying in a Tribune interview: “Of course I didn’t mean, ‘Let’s go kill Obama and Black Lives Matter.’ I was not trying to incite violence against Obama and Black Lives Matter. That’s crazy and stupid and wrong.”

He added: “It would end my career and it’s wrong. I would never say anything as reprehensible as that.”

Walsh, who lives in suburban Chicago, said he had a sleepless night because of death threats against him on social media. He said he had asked for local police protection.

“You know how social media is,” he said. “I put out some stuff that I believe. And I’ve had people on the left hating on me and threatening to kill me on Twitter and Facebook all night.”

So he’s the real victim here? What did he mean in the first place? It’s easy enough to sense a race war coming, and Josh Marshall senses something like that:

This feels like a bomb being set off at one of the key stress points, one of the architectural holds that fasten our whole society together.

Sometime yesterday I saw a friend say on Facebook that it felt like the country was starting to come apart, in a way that felt reminiscent of 1968. This is someone my age, with no living memory of that time. As Adam Smith famously said, there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. I shy away from these kinds of remarks and that kind of thinking. But this year is shaping up to be at least something like that, the erratic and unbounded presidential campaign, the normalization of words and actions that all normally agree are beyond the limits of acceptance. Mass murder in Orlando, our own cultural creation, the rage-fueled mass shooting melding with the jihadist mass killing of Eurasia, watching innocent black men die on handheld videos (products of our limitless tech culture) after being shot by police, now this mass murder – which as I’ve been writing has now been ascribed to a man who said he wanted to “kill white people, especially white police officers.”

No good can come of this:

There’s a lot of ruin in a nation. But the pace of transgression can grow quick enough to build on itself and overmatch the force of communal and inter-communal bonds and social integument. I don’t think we’re there. I don’t think we’ll get there. But we’re closer than we have any real business being.

And then Marshall looks at history:

The Detroit Riots occurred in July 1967. But ‘1968’ isn’t so much a calendar year as an inflection point in American history which is not entirely bounded by those 12 months, the product of numerous causes but most glaringly the collision of the fight for African-American equality and the escalating American war in Vietnam.

Many younger Americans have vivid memories of the LA Riots of 1992 in which 55 people died and some 2,000 were injured. But the late 1960s witnessed a series of comparable riots across the country – indeed, in a number of cases in cities which simply never truly recovered. Watts 1965, 34 dead, over 1000 injured. Detroit 1967, 43 dead, over 1000 injured, Newark 1967, 26 dead, almost 1000 injured.

As you’ll note, these examples were all before calendar 1968 and don’t include the numerous urban riots during 1968 itself or other ‘smaller’ ones during the preceding years. Indeed, a good deal of what made 1968 ‘1968’ was the way in which a building momentum of violence, civil unrest and a seeming breakdown of the society itself, which had been escalating in the two or three previous years, built to such a pitch of intensity that it seemed the entire society might be overturned, that there might never be a going back. I say all this as a student of the past rather than a witness. I was born in February 1969.

By so many measures – civil disorder, political breakdown, assassinations, death tolls, the US Army operating in major American cities – there is truly no comparing that era in our country’s history with today… there is an underlying societal unity, prosperity and consensus which the headlines, political and cultural polarization and atrocities obscure. And yet, I don’t think we can quite, entirely close the book on the analogy.

Perhaps history does play in an endless loop:

The improvement and all that is good is all right there to see. I see it. And yet revolutions mostly tend to occur not when things are dire but when they’re improving. Just not fast enough. The phenomenon of revolutions or protest when change is not keeping pace with rising expectations is a well-known one in sociology and political science.

You can’t look at the scene today and not see that the Chief of Police in Dallas is black, numerous officers are black. And let’s just say it – the President of the United States is black. And yet you see the video of Philando Castile dying after what appears to have been a routine traffic stop in which he apparently did nothing but try to pull his wallet out of his pocket. Or the video of Alton Sterling, different set of facts, comparable end result. The Black Lives Matter movement is only a part, perhaps the most pointed and visible part, of a rising moving of African-American political self-assertion which, as an outsider to it, seems like a final demand not for improvement and progress but the whole package, intact and total: equality, prosperity, the dignity of the body and life itself. The whole thing.

And that means it’s time for an honest assessment:

At a traffic stop, I’m white, no matter what my politics, empathy, or awareness of this reality or that. I’m white, period. My kids are white too. And the metaphoric traffic stop plays out in numerous other social situations. That’s a layer of protection I carry around me no matter what. It inevitably shapes what I see when I watch these horrific videos – the mix of outrage or anger or fear. I feel a lot of outrage and a lot of anger but I don’t feel much fear because, frankly, I’m pretty sure nothing like that is going to happen to me. All of which is a protracted way of saying I don’t think I can quite know what year it is for my black brothers and sisters watching those videos.

Then there’s the entirely other side of the coin.

Why is Donald Trump the presidential nominee of a major political party? As that famous Simpson’s line put it about Fox News, Not Racist but #1 Among Racists! The KKK and “white nationalists” say they feel like the tide is turning in their direction for the first time in decades. Perhaps in spite of himself, but even so, Trump is re-normalizing the old anti-Semitism that had seemed entirely written out of acceptable public life in America. Not ‘anti-Semitism’ as an attack phrase against people who don’t support Israel enough. But real anti-Semitism with global Jewish cabals, hook-nosed cartoons, jokes about ovens and all the rest.

None of this is normal.

But it can be explained:

There are numerous roots of Trumpism, some deep-seated, others entirely contingent. They include economic grievances which are legitimate and real. Yet Trump might plausibly, if not necessarily, be described as a madman. The fact that the general election version of his campaign (which has to the surprise of many been even more outrageous and transgressive than the primary version) struggles to get below 40% in the polls is to a degree a measure of the degree of political polarization in the country – fertile and disquieting ground for another pols. But the overriding drive of Trumpism is that a substantial minority of our fellow citizens believes their country, white America, is dying or being taken away from them. This is rooted in the rising demands of African-Americans, tens of millions of new Americans and now their children from Latin America and other parts of the world, and newcomers with a religion that to many signifies alienness, violence and threat.

I’ve written about this in numerous posts over recent months, sometimes explicitly, at other times obliquely. But we can’t understand this phenomenon unless we understand that from a certain perspective what they fear or are angry about is true. The America in which whites made up the vast majority of citizens and held a monopoly on political power not simply because of racism but, in most parts of the country, by the fact of numerical majorities is unambiguously coming to an end. You see it in everything from birtherism, to opiate death rates, to a constant theme of our politics. Is this a threat or a death? I’m entirely untroubled by this fact. Indeed, I welcome it, as do millions and millions of Americans. But there are millions of Americans who do not. You can’t be an observer of contemporary American politics and not see that very clearly.

This is what I mean by how or whether one’s political identity is bound up in one’s whiteness or to be more precise whether it is bound up with the political and social dominance of white people. If you do see things through that prism the apocalyptic worldview of many Trumpites starts to make a good deal of sense. For many more, it isn’t the end of the world but it is a source of persistent and sometimes intense anxiety.

This may not be 1968 or 1992, but that might not matter:

Set aside for a moment who you think is right and wrong and see that we have two groups in our society with deep sets of grievances pointing in very different, indeed oppositional directions. Will we get through it in one piece? I’m quite confident we will, for all the reasons I noted above. But it also creates a distinct tension and instability in our society and our politics, a lot of which we’re seeing play out today.

History does play in an endless loop after all. Unless it doesn’t, as Jonathan Chait notes here:

The demonstration in Dallas was the very model of a functioning liberal society – a peaceful protest against police conducted under the protection of the police themselves. Even the most radical of the protesters deplored the shootings, and the police honored the right to protest.

Probing deeper, into more tender spots, one could even detect a formative consensus about the underlying cause of the protest: the routine violence by police against African-Americans. Videos of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have not only galvanized African-Americans who have grown accustomed to the constant threat of police brutality, but they also shocked no small number of white Americans. “In the era of Facebook Live and smart phones,” wrote the conservative columnist Matt K. Lewis in the Daily Caller, “it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than the fact that police brutality toward African-Americans is a pervasive problem that has been going on for generations.” Leon H. Wolf, writing for RedState, conceded that police brutality against minorities had gone on because “a huge, overwhelming segment of America does not really give a damn what cops do in the course of maintaining order because they assume (probably correctly) that abuse at the hands of police will never happen to them.” They may not agree with Black Lives Matter on the exact scope of the problem, but the two sides have a shared sense of its existence – no small achievement in a country where the two parties cannot even agree on such questions as climate science – and broad moral contours.

Among Republican leaders, the impulse to restore calm prevailed over the impulse to stoke racial hysteria. Paul Ryan praised the values of peaceful protest. Newt Gingrich – Newt Gingrich! – conceded, “It’s more dangerous to be black in America. You’re substantially more likely to be in a situation where police don’t respect you.” Even Donald Trump obliquely, and with a characteristically shaky command of the facts, conceded the need for some solution to police abuse: “The senseless, tragic death of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.” Whatever Trump actually believed – the identification of Trump’s real convictions always being more art than science – he at least felt compelled to make some nod toward the perception that the police had gone too far. It was not inspiring, it was not ideal, but it was also more than one would have gotten from, say, circa-1968 George Wallace.

At that office window on Thursday, April 30, 1992, and in the weeks after, and in all the years after, none of that seemed possible. Perhaps the loop is a spiral, spinning out change slowly. Now it’s Dallas. Maybe Dallas is different. There’s no smoke in the air.

Posted in Dallas Police Shootings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Band of Brothers Problem

Every heroic war movie has its inspiring before-the-big-battle Saint Crispin’s Day Speech – “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” – Aragon at the gates of Mordor, or the fighter-pilot president leading his ragtag band of bungling fliers against the aliens from outer space (no, really) – but the original is Shakespeare’s Prince Hal – the heavy drinker and general goofball who got sober and became the heroic Henry V – giving that “band of brothers” speech just before the Battle of Agincourt, rallying the troops to go out there and win one for England. The king rallies each and every man to his side. They cheer and go fight for him and with him. They become a band of brothers. The French lose.

The practical problem, however, is managing that transition from goofball to king. That has to have been completed before the inspiring speech. That was the problem when Donald Trump headed to Washington to meet with House Republicans and then Senate Republicans, to rally them to his side. To beat Hillary Clinton in November, not the French in this case, they do have to be on his side, and many of them haven’t been. Many consider him an embarrassing goofball, or just an embarrassment, or worse.

They had to be won over, and Lauren Fox at Talking Points Memo reports that this didn’t go well:

He arrived 20 minutes late.

Then presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump addressed the House GOP’s rank and file in a standing-room-only meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. He talked in broad strokes about the Supreme Court, trade, tax reform, securing borders, Saddam Hussein and how the media has been unfair to him… and the Constitution…

Fine, but somehow it all went wrong:

“It’s awkward. It’s really awkward,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said when asked what it was like to sit in a meeting when the nominee doubled down on his stump speech line that Saddam Hussein had killed a lot of terrorists. “There is a lack of enthusiasm. You can feel it.”

Kinzinger said that at one point, Trump had used the Saddam story as just one example of how the media has treated Trump unfairly.

Maybe he should shrug that off, because that’s his problem, not theirs:

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) said that members asked about his effect on the House and Senate races. One member asked pointedly about Trump’s comments about Hispanic voters.

“He said Hispanics love him,” Dent said, noting that the polls showed no such thing. “All I can say is that I haven’t endorsed him. I believe he has a lot of persuading to do.”

He certainly does, and he’s not that good at it:

Another Republican in the meeting Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told TPM that Trump was asked pointedly if he would defend Article I of the Constitution.

“Not only will I stand up for Article One,” Trump enthusiastically stated, according to Sanford. “I’ll stand up for Article Two, Article 12 – you name it of the Constitution.”

Sanford said Trump’s lack of knowledge about how many articles exist, gave him “a little pause.” (The Constitution has seven articles and 27 amendments.)

“There wasn’t a lot of substance, and I think at some point we got to get to substance in the most significant political position in the world,” Sanford said.

Others were willing to cut him some slack:

Blake Farenthold (R-TX) dismissed the flub as little more than a small error.

“He was just listing out numbers,” Farenthold said. “I think he was confusing Articles and Amendments. Remember, this guy doesn’t speak from a TelePrompTer. He speaks from the heart.”

Maybe so, but there was this:

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said that Trump did a good job at the meeting “laying out a conservative agenda,” but when asked if he still had fears about Trump’s candidacy, Meadows said, “I got an interview I got to run to.” 

Apparently the band of brothers will form at a much later date, if ever, and Josh Marshall explains why:

Everything that happened in that meeting underscores Trump’s extreme ignorance, and just as importantly, his extreme indifference to being ignorant. But the exchange about Hispanic support has a unique significance in the context of that meeting.

Trump was asked – not surprisingly and not unreasonably – what about your unpopularity with Hispanics voters and what about down-ballot races? Trump’s response: No, Hispanics love me!

This is obviously ridiculous on its face. The GOP is generally unpopular with Hispanics and Trump is personally unpopular with Hispanic Americans at a level that is historic and unprecedented. We know this from a limitless trove of public opinion data. As a factual matter, it’s no more ridiculous than the 12th Article of the Constitution Trump pledged to protect, or numerous other examples of Trump nonsense. But it has a particular import here. 

Marshall thinks Trump blew it:

A predictable and halfway reasonable way to respond might have been, “Look, the border is important and it’s what our core voters care about. But we’ve got a plan to soften that opposition from Hispanic voters over coming months.”

Given everything we’ve seen, that wouldn’t be a terribly convincing response. But it would be a response that at least engaged the reality of the situation. If I were a Republican member of Congress and heard what Trump said, I’d be angry. And I strongly suspect many of them were. If I’m a GOP member of Congress I hear that and think, “Damn, you’ve got zero plan to ensure I don’t lose my job. I can’t even tell if you care. But you definitely haven’t even thought about it.”

That’s one thing to say to an interviewer to rebuff a question or say at a rally to give yahoo supporters something to say on Twitter. But in private, when people’s whose jobs and majorities are on the line need an answer, it’s different.

Trump clearly didn’t understand his audience:

We often say that the GOP has collectively cast anchors from the world of empiricism and the reality based universe others inhabit. But even the biggest numskull in the House, the biggest nonsense spewer, is very, very empirical when it comes to getting reelected. And if they’ve been there for more than one term it’s something they usually know a good deal about, even ones who are incurious and ignorant about most things or generally stupid by most definitions….

You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. Politicians are consummate bullshitters. But they want real answers on this one very specific question. When that’s Trump’s answer, his real answer in private, to a serious and, for some Republicans, existential danger, it’s immediately clear there’s no there there, no net, no back-up plan, nothing but a jackass riffing and talking the way he does when he’s trying to get a mark to sign on the dotted line.

That’s fine about global warming, Putin, ISIS, virtually anything. But politicians need to get reelected. That’s real. I have great confidence that many of the elected politicians in that room weren’t just dumbfounded by the Hispanics response. They were mad.

That, however, was the good meeting. The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan reports on the quite nasty Senate meeting:

Donald Trump’s private meeting Thursday with Senate Republicans – designed to foster greater party unity ahead of the national convention in Cleveland – grew combative as the presumptive presidential nominee admonished three senators who have been critical of his candidacy and predicted they would lose their reelection bids, according to two Republican officials with direct knowledge of the exchanges.

Trump shifted tactics to insults:

Trump’s most tense exchange was with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been vocal in his concerns about the business mogul’s candidacy, especially his rhetoric and policies on immigration that the senator argues alienate many Latino voters and others in Arizona.

When Flake stood up and introduced himself, Trump told him, “You’ve been very critical of me.”

“Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona – the one who didn’t get captured – and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” Flake responded, according to two Republican officials.

Flake was referencing Trump’s comments last summer about the military service of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict. Trump questioned whether McCain was a war hero because he was captured.

Flake told Trump that he wants to be able to support him – “I’m not part of the Never Trump movement,” the senator said – but that he remains uncomfortable backing his candidacy, the officials said.

Trump said at the meeting that he has yet to attack Flake hard but threatened to begin doing so. Flake stood up to Trump by urging him to stop attacking Mexicans. Trump predicted that Flake would lose his reelection, at which point Flake informed Trump that he was not on the ballot this year, the sources said.

Oops – but Trump threatened to attack him anyway, or none of it happened:

Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign’s chairman and senior strategist, who attended the meeting, disputed the characterization of it as contentious.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Manafort said: “Today’s meeting was positive and productive and these characterizations, attributed to unnamed sources, are wholly inaccurate. The conversation was very positive and substantive. The Members were in total agreement with Mr. Trump of the need to unite the Party and work together to win the Presidency and keep a Republican Congress. Mr. Trump was pleased with the discussion and looks forward to working together with the Republican Party leadership towards defeating Hillary Clinton in November.”

That’s not what Sean Sullivan dug up:

Trump also called out Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) – who withdrew his endorsement of Trump last month, citing the business mogul’s racially based attacks on a federal judge – and said he did not approve of the senator’s action, the officials said.

Characterizing Kirk as a loser, Trump vowed that he would carry Illinois in the general election even though the state traditionally has been solidly Democratic in presidential contests. Kirk did not attend the meeting with Trump.

Asked later in the day about Trump’s comments, Kirk declined to comment other than to say, “I guess he lit me up.”

And he no doubt smiled, because angry name-calling deserves no other response, and there was a lot of that:

Trump also singled out Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who has refused to support Trump and has emerged as perhaps the most vocal advocate for a third-party candidate. Sasse declined to speak with reporters as he left the meeting.

“Senator Sasse went to today’s meeting ready to listen. Senator Sasse introduced himself to Mr. Trump, and the two had a gracious exchange,” said James Wegmann, the senator’s spokesman. “Mr. Sasse continues to believe that our country is in a bad place and, with these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.”

Yes, after that gracious exchange Sasse walked away from the burning garbage fouling the air. This was not going well, but Trump had a tease:

In his discussion with senators, Trump claimed that he had inside intelligence about Hillary Clinton’s vetting process for Supreme Court vacancies and that he knew the names of two people the presumptive Democratic nominee is considering nominating, two Republican officials said. But Trump would not reveal those names.

I know something you don’t know, I know something you don’t know, and I’m not gonna tell you! Ha, Ha!

That may not be effective persuasion beyond the fifth grade. Trump may not know how to rally these troops, or any troops, and again, Josh Marshall suggests why:

Part of making sense of the current Trump campaign is understanding that Trump is continually trying to take the hyper-aggressive bullyboy tactics he learned from his father in the New York City real estate world and apply them to national politics. That style might fairly be described as sell, sell, sell and attack, attack, attack… It’s largely about getting inside other people’s heads with over-the-top aggression that knocks them on their heels and leaves them unprepared to fight back. Some of this is simply what I’ve called “dominance politics”, an idea I’ve developed in various posts over the years, and which I described back in March as being based on “the inherent appeal of power and the ability to dominate others.” Trump is the master of a certain kind of ‘dominance politics’ and that’s made him the master – in a very deep sense of the word – of a certain part of the electorate. But the general election electorate is a different animal. And in his interactions with that wider swath of the public and even with fellow Republicans we’re seeing another pattern I noted about a month ago: “the inherent turbulence faced by a bullshit-based candidate making first contact with an at least loosely reality-based world.”

That is what Trump faced here:

Trump went over to the Senate side and apparently focused on picking fights with Senators who weren’t supporting him enough. He got in one of these tussles with Sen. Jeff Flake, one of his biggest critics. Bear in mind that Senators are both more electorally threatened by Trump – they run statewide, not in gerrymandered districts – and have more stature (ego?) to stand up to him. Trump apparently threatened to lose Flake his election if Flake didn’t fall in line (not good). Flake pointed out that he wasn’t running for reelection this year (very good).

Like I said, life’s hard. Especially when you’re stupid.

And then there’s the setting:

So much of Trump’s whole way of approaching, or rather attacking life is, as I’ve said, sensing the crowd, sensing the audience and either telling them what they want to hear or knocking them off their stride with unpredictable, aggressive tactics. You can do that in a sit-down with a fellow mogul over lunch where you go from 0 to 60 with over the top tactics they’re not expecting or used to. But that’s an immediate, almost intimate encounter; you can likely only pull it on the same person a limited number of times. (Remember, only one major bank, DeutscheBank, will do business with Trump. He’s shut out at all the rest.) But the stage Trump is now is quite a different one. There are a lot of people out there and people have a lot of time to watch. Trump has passed himself off for decades as a great philanthropist. Only under the hot glare of presidential election scrutiny has that claim been revealed to be more or less baseless. …

A great salesperson can say something so magnificently and convincingly that you believe because you want to believe even if it makes no sense at all. Salespeople tell stories, beautiful or horrifying ones. Trump can say Hispanics actually love him. But in his meeting this morning with House Republicans he was talking to people who have been inundated by evidence and have an existential need to know the truth. The standard-issue bullshit is just no easy match for that audience under those circumstances. 

And then there are the structural issues:

Presidents rarely get to threaten senators – it’s one of the enduring problems of presidential management of Congress. Most senators will be there long after the president is gone. Popular presidents can withhold benefits and support. That can be key. But they have few real cudgels at their disposal. Trump doesn’t seem to know that. But knowing things isn’t usually his mode of operation. Remember, attack, attack, attack – but if you’re going to threaten a senator with electoral defeat, make sure your threat isn’t laughable and be absolutely sure he’s actually up for reelection. My sense is that Trump’s racket works much better at close quarters, with only a limited number of eyes watching and with people more interested in being amused than having any real skin in the game or whatever racket he’s currently running.

That’s not the case here:

What worked for a couple decades in New York City, with a bemused public, an assortment of sycophants and a barbed but generally pliant tabloid press does not work nationwide. If Trump were interested or capable of learning, I think he could actually give Clinton a run for her money. But he can’t. It’s not in his DNA. It’s not who he is. He has one game. And it has limits.

Chris Cillizza adds this:

I get that Trump ran a very successful primary campaign against Washington and the Republicans who call it home. But, the primary is over. The targets now can’t be Jeff Flake, Mark Kirk or any other Republican. Trump needs GOP elected officials not only on board but enthusiastically so as he tries to rapidly build a national fundraising operation and scale up his paltry voter identification and get out the vote operations. Trump may not like Flake – he clearly doesn’t – but Flake has something that Trump doesn’t have in Arizona: a tested and able political organization. And, as of today, there’s no way in hell that political organization is going to work for Trump this fall.

That means the big picture is this:

There’s no discernible strategy here. It looks from afar like pure political pique and ego; Trump doesn’t like the idea that some Republicans are blanching at the idea of supporting him, so he tries to bully them into support or, at the very least, submission.

It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. Most political people know this. I would suspect most people on Trump’s payroll know this. It appears, however, that the man at the top of the campaign still doesn’t get it.

That seems to be true, and leads Nancy LeTourneau in a different direction:

Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is definitely not a team player. A cursory look at his business, entertainment and political careers tells us that, other than family, his litigious bullying means that he usually goes it alone. That’s why we’ve seen so much upheaval among his campaign staff. He tends to be drawn to the most unsavory of characters (Roy Cohn and Paul Manafort) as mentors/partners. But mostly he likes people he can bully…

So now we’re at the point in the 2016 presidential race when all eyes turn to who Trump will pick for the ultimate team-player spot – vice president. Yesterday Sen. Bob Corker wisely withdrew from this contest and it looks as if Sen. Joni Ernst has as well.

What I find interesting is that two of the guys who still seem to be in the running know a thing or two about being a bully themselves – Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie. I’m sure they are both smart enough to know what it means to play on “Team Trump.”

And that makes them the wise men:

I suspect that they both think that they are smarter bullies and can out-Trump him. That’s what narcissists usually assume. But I also suspect that they have calculated that if Trump actually makes it to the White House, he won’t last long. Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell have already suggested that there are “Constitutional remedies” if he were to veer off course. In other words, he would be impeached and his vice president would be the man left standing. Neither Gingrich nor Christie wants to be Trump’s lapdog permanently. They want to be president and see Donald Trump as a way to get there.

That’s the band-of-brothers concept turned on its head, but there was that recent New York Times interview with this:

Presented in a recent interview with a scenario, floating around the political ether, in which the presumptive Republican nominee proves all the naysayers wrong, beats Hillary Clinton and wins the presidency, only to forgo the office as the ultimate walk-off winner, Mr. Trump flashed a mischievous smile.

“I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens,” he said, minutes before leaving his Trump Tower office to fly to a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

But the only person who could truly put any doubts to rest seemed instead to relish the idea of keeping everyone guessing, concluding the recent conversation with a you’re-on-to-something grin and handshake across his cluttered desk.

“We’ll do plenty of stories,” Mr. Trump promised enigmatically.

Oh, he was just kidding… or he wasn’t. Keep ’em guessing. But there will be no band of brothers. The happy few aren’t happy at all.

Posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment