Sunday, August 30, 2020
Before we waddle in the dirt, here's an election song from
Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby. It will make you feel better.
And to top it off, how about
the Power (e.g., "the power to wrestle the earth from fools")?
Big event of the week was the Republican National Convention.
Once again, I didn't watch any of it live, but caught some high-
or low-lights on Stephen Colbert's "live" recaps, plus I read a
lot. I started collecting links on Tuesday, and I haven't made
the effort to group them, so the following list may seem to run
around in circles. I did try to list them chronologically under
each writer. (Past practice generally listed the latest pieces
first, but the opposite made more sense for day-by-day pieces,
and when I decided that I tried to reorder the others.)
There were other serious stories this week. A Category 4 hurricane
hit Louisiana, inflicting a lot of damage. Police in Kenosha, WS shot
an unarmed black man eight times in the back -- he survived, but is
paralyzed -- and that kicked off another round of Black Lives Matter
protests. Then an armed Trump supporter shot three protesters, killing
two. There was also a shooting in Portland, OR, where the victim was
a Trump-aligned counter-protester (presently unclear who pulled that
Barely mentioned below is a well-attended March on Washington, on
the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech there.
One story I've shortchanged is Israel's continuing offensive against
Gaza, extended last week with bombing raids on Lebanon (as opposed
to the more covert destruction of the port of Beirut).
Links on the Republican National Convention:
Vox [Zack Beauchamp/Jane Coaston/German Lopez/Ian Millhiser/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop/Aaron Rupar/Dylan Scott/Emily Stewart/Matthew Yglesias/Li Zhou]:
5 winners and 2 losers from the RNC's first night: Winners: The
Fox News cinematic universe; Nikki Haley; Sen. Tim Scott; Recep Tayyip
Erdogan; Covid-19; Losers: Optimism; The GOP beyond Trump. That cut
Haley and Scott a lot of slack, "but the reason they stood out is that
they felt out of step with the rest of the two-and-a-half-hour
convention." In particular, the "story of Trump's triumph over
Covid-19" was so unconvincing they scored that point for the virus,
rather than flagging the story itself as the loser it was.
Republican National Convention speakers, explained for people who
don't watch Fox News. The Tuesday night roster.
2 winners and 3 losers from night 2 of the RNC:
Winners: Eric Trump ("the most effective orator of the evening");
nepotism. Losers: Ethics in government; The immigrants Trump didn't
naturalize; RNC vetting.
Wednesday's Republican National Convention speakers, explained for
people who don't watch Fox News.
2 winners and 3 losers from the third night of the Republican National
Convention: Winners: The Republican Party's alliance with law
enforcement; Gov. Kristi Noem (evidently the night's least embarrassing
speaker; their words were "nothing all that extraordinary"; also "She
inaccurately characterized Martin Luther King Jr. as a supporter of
Republican approaches to racial issues"). Losers: Mike Pence's presidential
aspirations; pretaped speeches; whitewashed feminism.
Thursday's Republican National Convention speakers, explained for people
who don't watch Fox News.
3 winners and 4 losers from the final night of the Republican National
Winners: Donald Trump; Black Republicans; The politicization of sports.
Losers: The Mellon Auditorium; Social distancing; Riots; Bill de Blasio.
This whole "winners/losers" thing has been sorely tested by the RNC. It
worked better following debates, where some candidates did better/worse,
and some issues were touted or ignored. With the RNC, the winners and
losers were still relative, but the bar was so far below normal the
"winning" speeches were merely the less embarrassing ones (remember,
Eric Trump was the lead day two "winner"), and the reasons behind
picking the non-people winners/losers were rarely obvious (e.g.,
Covid-19 was a day one winner, probably because whenever a speaker
mentioned it, the claims made obviously rang false).
Grand old meltdown: "Trump's Republican Party is the very definition
of a cult of personality."
The spectacle is unceasing. One day, it's a former top administration
official going public with Trump's stated unwillingness to extend
humanitarian aid to California because it's politically blue and Puerto
Rico because it's "poor" and "dirty." The next day, it's Trump launching
a boycott of Goodyear, a storied American company that employs 65,000
people, for one store's uneven ban on political apparel in the workplace.
A day later, it's Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist,
getting rung up on charges of swindling donors out of money for the
private construction of a border wall, money he allegedly spent on
yachts and luxury living. It was just the latest in a string of arrests
that leave Trump looking eerily similar to the head of a criminal
enterprise. What all of these incidents and so many more have in common
is that not a single American's life has been improved; not a single
little guy has been helped. Just as with the forceful dispersing of
peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park -- done so he could hold up a
prop Bible for flashing cameras -- Trump and his allies continue to
wage symbolic battles whose principal casualties are ordinary people.
The 'abomination' of a convention makes clear the GOP threat.
Nick Sandmann, RNC speaker and Covington Catholic video star,
explained: Why is an 18-year-old nobody speaking at the RNC?
Sandmann is the perfect victim: a young conservative man who came to
Washington to protest abortion and was "smeared" by the left as being
an awful racist because he had the temerity to wear one of President
Trump's hats. The fact that he's been fighting the media, and forcing
them to settle lawsuits, is icing on the cake.
In reality, though, Sandmann's appearance is a testament to the
emptiness of this narrative. There's no policy argument connected to
this story; revisiting it does nothing to convince voters that the
Trump administration can make their lives better in any kind of material
way. The RNC to date has been empty in this exact way, an attempt to
gin up anger and fear at the base's enemies rather than sell a positive
vision of America.
The RNC and the subtle rot of Trump's reality TV presidency: "Why
the RNC's broadcasted naturalizations and pardon ceremony felt so
The RNC weaponized exhaustion: "The sheer volume of lies and illegal
behavior from Trump and the Republicans is what allowed them to get away
The first night of the RNC featured more false and misleading claims than
all four nights of the DNC put together, according to a CNN fact-check.
The second night starred an anti-abortion activist whose tale about the
horrors of Planned Parenthood had been exposed as a fraud more than 10
years ago. On the third night, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that
the murder of a police officer by a far-right extremist was a crime
committed by left-wing rioters. It was all capped off by President
Trump's Thursday night speech, a farrago of falsehoods that even veteran
Trump fact-checkers found stunning.
Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech encapsulated the Fox News feel of the RNC's
first night: "Loudly." How can a person find any logic in gibberish
such as this:
"They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they
can control how you live," she said. "They want to enslave you to the
weak dependent liberal victim. They want to destroy this country and
everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal
your liberty, your freedom."
The only way to stop it, according to Guilfoyle, would be by reelecting
President Donald Trump. She listed several of Trump's accomplishments
since taking office, mentioning tax cuts, taking on ISIS, and renegotiating
"Don't let the Democrats take you for granted," she said. "Don't let
them step on you. Don't let them destroy your families, your lives, and
your future. Don't let them kill future generations because they told you
and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren't good enough."
Eric Trump's RNC speech had something rare: Policy substance. Just
because he mentioned (in deceptive spin) a few things -- "tax cuts for
the wealthy, cut regulations, an improved economy and reduced unemployment
(before the pandemic triggered a collapse), and increased military funding,
and the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem" -- that the Trump
administration had done doesn't make him a policy wonk, let alone explain
the thinking behind de facto policies. Moreover, the thrust of his speech
was wholly in line with the Trump campaign spiel:
Using imagery of the Hoover Dam and Mount Rushmore, Trump's speech
painted a picture of an industrious heartland, ignored by the coastal
elites. "Every day my father fights for the American people," he said.
"The forgotten men and women of this country. The ones who embody the
American spirit." . . .
"In the view of the radical Democrats, America is the source of
the world's problems. As a result, they believe the only path forward
is to erase history and forget the past. They want to destroy the
monuments of our forefathers," he said. "They want to disrespect our
national anthem by taking a knee, while our armed forces lay down their
lives every day to protect our freedom. They do not want the Pledge of
Allegiance in our schools. Many do not want one nation under God. The
Democrats want to defund, destroy, and disrespect our law enforcement."
Trump went on to contrast this depiction of Democrats with his father,
who he claimed is a champion for law enforcement, religious people, the
"canceled," coal miners, and farmers. "To every proud American who bleeds
red, white, and blue -- my father will continue to fight for you," Trump
This featured notion that Trump fights for the little guy is possibly
the most grotesque lie in a campaign that is chock full of them.
Mike Pence's big lie about Trump and the coronavirus at the Republican
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pence's bowing and scraping
to Trump is that he seems to revel in it. In an interview with the
Times, his chief of staff, Marc Short, said Pence has studied
previous Vice-Presidencies, and he "exemplifies servant leadership."
Even in these twisted days, when Trump's takeover of the G.O.P. seems
virtually complete, it isn't every elected Republican who would like
to go in the history books as the forty-fifth President's most loyal
and obsequious servant. As he demonstrated on Wednesday night, when
he once again acted as Trump's lickspittle, Pence seems to fill the
Trump was supposed to change the GOP. But the GOP changed him.
"How the Republican Party turned Donald Trump into one of their own."
This formulation flips a common argument about Trump refashioning
the Party in his own image. He has done some of that in terms of
look and feel, but Trump's style is something that has been honed
for years by Fox pundits: he's basically a receptacle and incubator
for their rants. But he's stocked his administration with standard
issue Republicans, many straight from lobby shops, and they've
limited his policy options to what they would have any Republican
Aaron Ross Coleman:
Republicans claim Democrats want to defund the police. Biden's plan
calls for more police.
NYC tenants in RNC video say they were tricked.
Trump escalates rhetoric on unrest in cities, looking for a campaign
A guide to the GOP Convention's pretend agenda.
Dan Diamond/Adam Cancryn:
How Mike Pence slowed down the coronavirus response.
Thomas B Edsall:
'I fear that we are witnessing the end of American democracy': "The
Frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda is on display at the
Donald Trump declares total war on the civil service: "The Republican
National Convention is a testament to the president's effort to permanently
recast the executive branch in his own warped image."
The platform the GOP is too scared to publish: "The question is not
why Republicans lack a coherent platform; it's why they're so reluctant
to publish the one on which they're running."
Once you read the list, I think you'll agree that these are authentic
ideas with meaningful policy consequences, and that they are broadly
shared. The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform;
it's why they're so reluctant to publish the one on which they're
- The most important mechanism of economic policy -- not the only tool,
but the most important -- is adjusting the burden of taxation on society's
richest citizens. . . .
- The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It's not that dangerous
and will soon burn itself out. . . .
- Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It's probably not happening.
If it is happening, it's not worth worrying about. . . . Regulations to
protect the environment unnecessarily impede economic growth.
- China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United
States. . . . When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.
- The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are
outdated. . . . If America acts decisively, allies will have to follow
whether they like it or not -- as they will have to follow U.S. policy
- Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make
their ow best deals in the insurance market with minimal government
supervision. . . .
- Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate
that privilege . . .
- Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American
life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse
discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants.
Federal civil-rights-enforcement resources should concentrate on
- The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating
the mistake made in 1965, when women's sexual privacy was elevated
into a constitutional right.
- The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome
the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. . . .
- Trump's border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration;
the task of enforcing immigration rules should not fall on business
operators. . . .
- The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a
result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of
police. . . .
- Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of
the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump
by the media and the "deep state," his occasional excesses on Twitter
and at his rallies should be understood as pardonable reactions to
much more severe misconduct by others.
So there's the platform, why not publish it? . . . This is a platform
for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country. And
for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that
it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.
Trump's Republican National Convention was a spectacle fit for a
To call things what they are, the Republicans adopted a fascist aesthetic
for this year's Convention. It was in the pillars and the flags; the
military-style outfit that Melania Trump wore to deliver her speech, on
the second night; the screaming fervor with which many of the speeches
were delivered; the repeated references to "law and order"; and phrases
like "weakness is provocative," which the Republican senator Tom Cotton
offered on the final evening. The aesthetic -- and the rhetoric -- held
out the carrot of greatness, of what Hannah Arendt, explaining the appeal
of totalitarian movements, called "victory and success as such," the prize
of being on the winning side, whatever that side is. The seduction of
greatness may grow proportionately to anxiety: the more scared one is --
of losing one's job or health insurance, or of the coronavirus, of the
world never going back to normal, among other worries -- the more
reassuring it is to say (better yet, to scream) that one lives in the
greatest country on earth. One looks at people shouting triumphantly --
none of them social distancing, only a few wearing masks -- and one
feels somehow uplifted by the fantasy of being one of them.
Susan B Glasser:
The malign fantasy of Donald Trump's convention.
The problem, of course, is that America as we know it is currently in
the midst of a mess not of Biden's making but of Trump's. Suffice it
to say that, by the time Trump's speech was over and the red, white,
and blue fireworks spelling out "2020" had been set off over the
National Mall, late Thursday night, more than three thousand seven
hundred Americans had died of the coronavirus since the start of the
Convention -- more than perished on 9/11 -- and a hundred and eighty
thousand Americans total had succumbed to the disease, a disease that
Trump repeatedly denied was even a threat. His botched handling of
the pandemic was the very reason that his Convention was taking place
on the White House lawn in the first place.
Melissa Gira Grant:
The real, paranoid housewives of the Republican Convention: "Patricia
McCloskey and Kimberly Guilfoyle are a new twist on a dangerous lineage
of conservative women."
New citizens in Trump's naturalization stunt were unaware it would be
used at RNC.
Trying to disgust you is the only move the Republican convention's
antiabortion speakers have left.
Why Trump's racist appeals might be less effective in 2020 than they were
The GOP thinks Marxists are taking over. If only that were true:
All this insane paranoia about radical Democrats and the march of
socialism is helping to produce a backlash as more and more people
wonder if that wouldn't be a good idea after all.
Republicans promised a convention, but delivered crazy talk:
"On the first night of the RNC, speakers worshipped Trump but rarely
mentioned their party, and many went over the brink with wild anti-Biden
Night two of the RNC badly needed an editor: "After a wild first
night, the second night of the RNC had its insane moments but lacked
pace and drama."
Pence warns that America won't be America without Trump: "Even the
president hasn't yet made such a sweeping boast tying himself to the
essence of the nation." But if you consider that the only thing separating
his slogans "make America great again" and "keep America great" was Trump's
election, he did. We just foolishly assumed he meant something more, but
in the mind of a narcissist, what more could there be?
The big liar ends the RNC with big lies about himself and Biden:
"Trump ended the convention as it began -- with efforts to salvage his
record, make out Biden as a radical, frighten suburbanites, and ignore
A loyalty test for the GOP, a reality test for the country: "The
Republican Party has become a personality cult."
In the era of President Donald Trump, the news develops the quality
"of being shocking without being surprising," wrote Masha Gessen in
Surviving Autocracy. Each week's events are "an assault on the
senses and the mental faculties," and yet, somehow, "just more of the
That's how I felt watching the first night of the Republican National
Convention. It was a night that I couldn't quite believe. It was a night
I could not have imagined going any other way. It was bizarre, unnerving,
and unprecedented. It was banal, predictable, and expected.
"If you really want to drive them crazy, you say '12 more years,'"
Trump said as he opened the convention. The crowd happily chanted "12
more years." It drove me a little crazy, but mostly left me tired. It's
a performance of provocation hiding a convention that had nothing to say,
only enemies to fight, social changes to fear.
What is there to say upon hearing Trump described as "the bodyguard
of Western civilization?" It's not an argument so much as a loyalty
oath, an offering cut from the speaker's dignity and burnt for the
pleasure of the Dear Leader himself. But the outrageousness is the
point. Protest and you're triggered -- just another oversensitive
lib who can't take a joke. Ignore it and you're complicit. To care
is to lose. . . .
Fact-checkers will have a field day with all this, but it's a bit
beside the point. The sort of lie Trump and his supporters tell,
writes Gessen, "is the power lie, or the bully lie. It is the lie of
the bigger kid who took your hat and is wearing it -- while denying
that he took it." That is the sort of lie that suffused Monday night's
proceedings. The point isn't that it's true; it's that they can say it
and no one can stop them.
The core of Trump's agenda has always been untethering American
politics from factual reality, and among Republicans, at least, he's
been startlingly successful. The convention is a loyalty test for
Republicans, and a reality check for the rest of us.
The 3 charts that disprove Donald Trump's convention speech: "Trump
wants to take credit for something he didn't do [pre-pandemic economic
growth], and dodge blame for something he did do [coronavirus response]."
How Trump mastered the art of telling history his way. Grim
conclusion, quoting Doug Brinkley: "And if he gets reelected with us
knowing all of this, then he is a reflection of what America has
How Trump inoculates his supporters against reality.
Why the RNC blamed "restorative justice" for the Parkland shooting:
"The father of a Parkland shooting victim said school discipline, not
gun laws, was to blame for the mass shooting."
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the gun-toting St Louis couple, explained:
"The couple is speaking at the first night of the Republican convention.
Trump didn't just fail to address Covid-19. He made the crisis worse.
"Trump and the RNC tried to put a positive spin on his record. But the
facts are clear."
Trump failed on the opioid crisis -- and Democrats are letting him get
away with it. This is the author's reporting turf, but I can't see
it as an issue worth talking about in this election -- the dig against
the Democrats is unfair, although when it does come up, the answer
should point out that this is a public health problem, exacerbated by
the lack of free and universal health care (which would include pain
management and addiction treatment). Republicans fail because they
don't want free and universal health care. Democrats won't succeed
until they do. But since Biden isn't exactly campaigning for that,
probably best not to play up the issue.
The absurdity of Trump's RNC speech, in one photo: The one on the left.
On the right, without the sign but with a better view of the fireworks
(symbolizing the destruction of American democracy?) is every bit as
absurd (and even more malign?).
CNN fact-checked Trump's RNC speech on air. It took 3 minutes.
"Trump's RNC speech averaged a false or misleading claim every 3
minutes." Includes a list of 21 items.
Trump used the RNC to gaslight America on Covid-19.
The manic denialism of the Republican National Convention.
The problems in your life aren't real; the real problems are the ones
that nobody, except for everybody on this stage, has the courage to
talk about. The media wants to brainwash you; the Marxists are massing
outside your idyllic suburban lawn; if the enemy gets its way, small
businesses will be decimated, Thomas Jefferson will be cancelled, and
911 will go straight to voice mail. The speakers at the Republican
National Convention keep ringing the same notes: fabricated panic
followed by hoarse, manic Panglossianism. Jobs were lost under past
Democrats, and they would be lost under future Democrats, but with
President Trump there is only milk and honey. Joe Biden is a stultifying
agent of the status quo, too boring to mention by name; he is also an
unprecedented break with tradition, a threat to all that we hold dear.
Climate change, of course, is waved away as mass hysteria; even the
coronavirus pandemic is mentioned rarely and almost always in the past
tense, as if the decision to deliver speeches in a cavernous, empty
auditorium were merely the whim of a quirky location scout. Anyone
watching from quarantine, during a once-in-a-century unemployment
crisis, would not need a fact check to know that this is all a
stretch, to say the least.
Marantz goes on for a few paragraphs like this, then he quotes
Ronald Reagan from the RNC in 1980: "Never before in our history
have Americans been called upon to face three grave threats to our
very existence, any one of which could destroy us. We face a
disintegrating economy, a weakened defense, and an energy policy
based on the sharing of scarcity." As best I recall, one of those
was bogus, and the other two were trivial compared to what we got
after Reagan was elected. Marantz then segues into a review of Rick
Perlstein's new book, Reaganland. One factoid he pulled out
of there is that "84 percent of Reagan voters gave 'time for a change'
as their major reason for choosing him -- not any ideological reason
at all." I can imagine a high percentage of Trump voters saying that
in 2016, but now? Depends on how effectively the R's can portray
Biden as the incumbent, responsible for all the mess Trump rails
The Republican National Convention's carnival of white grievance.
Unconventional: The Republicans, day one: "Even Diversity Night was
Unconventional: The Republicans, day two: "The Melania Mystery, the
Kudlow Confusion, and the two-track convention."
Unconventional: The Republicans, day three: "Chicago, 1968; pandemic,
Kenosha, and the hurricane, 2020: Reality has a way of intruding on the
Unconventional: The Republicans, day four: "The GOP extravaganza
concluded with a fireworks display, a sign of life in a limp evening."
The Hatch Act, the law Trump flouted at the RNC, explained.
The RNC's big Covid-19 lie, refused in one chart. Chart plots
7-day rolling average of new confirmed Covid-19 cases per million
people, comparing US, EU, and six other well-to-do countries.
"There are, in other words, world leader who did take decisive
action to save lives. Donald Trump isn't one of them."
The RNC yanked a speaker who promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy
theory: Mary Ann Mendoza. "Cancel culture" lives on.
The most shocking line in Vice President Pence's 2020 RNC speech:
"Pence blames right-wing violence on a vague leftist enemy."
Pence's speech highlighted a single law enforcement officer, strongly
implying that this officer was the victim of left-wing radicals opposed
to police officers and to President Trump: "Dave Patrick Underwood was
an officer of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective
Service, who was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California,"
said Pence, before acknowledging Underwood's sister, who was in the
Underwood's death is tragic, but it has nothing to do with left-wing
Underwood was killed just blocks away from anti-police violence protests
in Oakland, but federal authorities say he was killed by Steven Carrillo,
an Air Force staff sergeant and a follower of the "boogaloo boys," a
right-wing extremist movement that, according to the Washington Post's
Katie Shepherd, "has sought to use peaceful protests against police
brutality to spread fringe views and ignite a race war." . . .
And yet, to Mike Pence, Underwood's death was just an opportunity to
pin violence on his political opponents -- regardless of whether the
attack has any real basis in fact.
We need to talk about the GOP's 'black friends': Several pieces
here mention the relatively large number of black speakers at the RNC,
but this article explains it: "The Republican National Convention has
been all about using black people to convince white people it's OK
to vote for a bigot." On the other hand, the ploy implies that the
battle lines have shifted. George Wallace and Ronald Reagan never
needed this sort of cover, but Trump's pollsters obviously felt he
did. On the other hand, if Republicans believed that Trump had any
appeal to black voters, they wouldn't be scrambling to help get Kanye
West's name on battleground state ballots.
Trump's pitch to evangelical voters, explained in one RNC speech:
"He's 'the most pro-life president we have ever had,' according to
anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson."
American history has never seen anything to rival the Trumps' RNC family
act: Alternate title, "The Trump children hogged the spotlight like
nothing else in history."
The Republicans' love letter to rich culture warriors.
The difference between the DNC and RNC, in one tweet: It's mostly
visual, so you'll have to follow the link to get it. Of course, that's
not the only difference, or even the most important one.
Paul R Pillar:
The costs of Mike Pompeo's partisanship.
Why Republicans didn't write a platform for their convention this year:
"The party's true priority is supporting Donald Trump."
Trump thinks racism is his best chance: "Trailing in the polls, he
used the Republican National Convention to ratchet his violence-encouraging
rhetoric to an even more dangerous level."
Trump's cloud of gossip has poisoned America: "The president's
insatiable need to traffic in rumor and conspiracy blows larger holes
in our shared reality with each passing day."
The GOP convention just ripped the mask off Trump's corruption and
lies: On Pam Bondi's speech.
The contradictory Republican case to Black voters -- and why it
- Doreen St Félix:
The special hypocrisy of Melania Trump's speech at the Republican
This was the week American fascism reached a tipping point.
The surprising boredom of Trump's circus show.
Mike Pence is a parody of a politician.
Wednesday night, the gravely serious Mike Pence ended his workmanlike
speech at Fort McHenry with a similar frenzy of repetition: "With
President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years and
with God's help, we will make America great again, again."
As presidential campaign slogans go, it isn't "Tippecanoe and
Tyler Too," which helped elect William Henry Harrison in 1840.
Pence's oratory is revealing since he is a disciplined politician
who obediently follows the script and scrupulously avoids crazed
Trumpian improvisations. In short, every line in a Pence speech is
there because White House political strategists thought it represented
shrewd politics -- even Pence rhetorically sticking another scarlet "A"
for "Again" on every MAGA hat. What the vice president is saying is
that, despite Trump's supposed Mount Rushmore greatness, America needs
saving yet again. In Pence's telling, the nation is akin to an innocent
maiden in the silent movies who keeps getting tied to the railroad
Donald Trump, of course, has no responsibility for anything. Not
the pandemic, not the economy, not White House incompetence, not a
white vigilante killing protesters in Kenosha, and not Hurricane
Laura devastating the Gulf Coast. Trump is simply the unluckiest
president since William Henry Harrison died in office just a month
after he was inaugurated in 1841.
Still unclear to me why, if God let Trump down in his first term,
She's going to come to his rescue in a second term.
The Republicans still don't know how to run against Biden.
Registered foreign agent Pam Bondi accuses Joe Biden of self-dealing in
Republican convention speech.
Trump's spent years touting the stock market. At the RNC, he just . . .
didn't. "Somewhere along the way, did someone decide it might not
be a moment to tout stocks?" As long as Trump stays on script, which
he mostly did at the RNC, everything he says has been pre-cleared and
calculated for effect. What he says is what his handlers think will
do him the most good. They may not be right, but it's not for lack of
polling and testing.
The bland, boring visuals of the Republican National Convention:
"The aesthetics of the 2020 RNC are a disaster."
The RNC will be a strange mix of denial and terror.
A dubious Pompeo speech for an empty Trump foreign policy.
Trumpism is the real cancel culture.
This doesn't seem to be organized as a formal series, but I've noticed
that Vox is running a number of pieces about what a second term with
Donald Trump as president might mean. The articles are all speculative
about the future, but they are also effective indictments about what
the first Trump term did. I thought I'd try to collect them here:
What a second Trump term could mean for LGBTQ people.
A nation of immigrants no more.
Lock them up: The danger of political prosecutions in a second Trump
A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the
climate. Isn't that already the meaning of the first Trump term?
Or at least part of the meaning. Roberts argues: "Trump's damage to
the climate is not like his damage to the immigration system or the
health care system. It can't be undone. It can't be repaired. Changes
to the climate are, for all intents and purposes, irreversible." He's
exaggerating on both ends. Trump's damage to government won't be so
easy to reverse (especially with his packed courts). On the other
hand, zero carbon emissions would eventually result in a lowering
of the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. Not soon, but, you
What would Trump actually want to do on health care in a second term?
"America First, but on steroids": What Trump's second-term foreign
policy might look like: "Little could stop President Trump from
remaking the world in his image." It's tempting to wax dystopian
when contemplating second terms for presidents who did extraordinary
damage in their first terms -- invariably, they imagine even greater
feats, especially with the popular ratification of their first term --
but the track records are more benign. GW Bush's second term was an
utter disaster for America, but more past-due bills from his first
term than new ambitions. His big push to privatize Social Security
was beaten back, and he never managed to mop you the remainder of
his Axis of Evil (having gotten totally bogged down in Iraq and
Afghanistan). Then his fraudulent housing bubble burst, and the
Great Recession ensued. Reagan's second term was mostly tied up
with scandals. Nixon didn't even manage to finish his second term.
Even Eisenhower did little in his second term. Of course, one thing
that helped in all of these cases is that Democrats won big in the
6th year mid-terms, so Republicans had no chance of doing much
legislatively. Of course, foreign policy could be different, given
how much power Congress has surrendered to the president over the
years (and how much various presidents have snatched). Most of the
topics in Ward's article are alarming, in large part because Trump
is so unprincipled and erratic, but the last ("Trump may just start
withdrawing from everything") might be for the better. A more
sensible approach would be to draw back military forces based on
multilateral treaties that build up international institutions,
and that's clearly over his head. I don't want to cast doubt on
the likelihood of disaster that a second Trump term would pose.
First of all, after seeing what Trump has done, it would reflect
very poorly on the judgment of the voters. Second, we'd have to
bear with four more years of extreme bullshit, while real crises
continue to multiply. Third, although popular opinion (through
Congress) can frustrate his legislative agenda, his administration
mostly works through executive orders and appointments to pack the
courts. Fourth, he is just staggeringly bad at crisis management,
and you should expect a lot of them. Finally, nobody has any idea
how much damage he's caused in the last four years, or how much
effort it's going to take to restore any semblance of normalcy.
The Republican war on government (formerly conceived as "of the
people, by the people, and for the people") sometimse includes
bold proposals like privatizing the Post Office and the TVA, which
can be opposed politically, but it mostly proceeds by entropy: by
thousands of little cuts, not least to the incentive to public
service. Much of what government does is manage risk (cf. Michael
Lewis's book, The Fifth Risk). The thing is, you rarely
notice that you've shortchanged risk management until it breaks,
and disaster ensues.
Trump has mostly worked to change the rules under which business
and government operate, but it takes time before people adapt to
exploit the new rules. For example, the Republicans won Congress
in 1946 and combined with Southern Democrats to override Truman
vetoes on labor and banking legislation. The effects of those
laws didn't really become evident until the 1980s, when Reagan
signaled open war on labor unions, and the savings & loan
industry blew up. Things happen faster now because the brain rot
of the Reagan era has progressed to Trump's zombiedom, because
an era of relatively equal collective affluence has turned into
an orgy of individualist greed. Trump's one claim to greatness
is how thoroughly he personifies America's decline.
Some more scattered links this week:
Trump has now oved $2.3 million of campaign-donor money into his private
What populism is and is not. Review of Thomas Frank's book, The
People, NO! The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy.
How federal housing programs failed black America: Review of
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's book, Race for Profit: How Banks and
the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.
The police shooting of Jacob Blake, explained: Black man, unarmed,
shot 7 times in the back, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests ensued, and
more shooting: Kyle Rittenhouse, age 17, armed with an AR-15, shot
three protesters, killing two.
Why police encouraged a teenager with a gun to patrol Kenosha's
17-year-old charged with murder in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings.
Two shot dead in Kenosha amid third night of Jacob Blake protests.
"A 17-year-old from Illinois has been arrested and charged with first-degree
intentional homicide." A friend tweeted that he'd be speaking at the RNC
tonight. A surprising number of people found that credible. After all,
it's only the next logical step beyond the St. Louis couple who pointed
guns at marchers and wound up speaking at the RNC (despite, or maybe
because, they got arrested for menacing with a gun). The only things
that kept this guy from the dais were timing, logistics, and the
courage of his convictions.
Ellie Hall/Amber Jamieson/Tasneem Nashrulla/Kadia Goba:
The Kenosha shooting suspect was in the front row of a Trump rally in
Trump created a permission structure for the shootings in Kenosha.
Cops have long encouraged armed right-wing counterprotesters like the
teenage shooter in Kenosha.
Conservatives are defending a white teen charged with killing
Christians fundraising for Rittenhouse.
The violent delights of the Trumpian right: "In the end, it was
always going to be about blood and soil and gun-toting vigilantes."
Many conservatives who own guns likely wouldn't use them to slaughter
fellow Americans. But their embrace of rhetoric that legitimizes acts
of violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, Democratic opponents,
and other perceived opponents only helps those who might take things to
their logical, bloody conclusion. As the November election grows closer,
the economy struggles, and the nation's political temperature rises,
the risk of further bloodshed may get worse. Kellyanne Conway, one of
Trump's top White House advisers, suggested that the White House has no
interest in trying to lower political tensions any time soon. "The more
chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence, the better it is for the
very clear choice on who's best on public safety, law and order," she
Mark Joseph Stern:
The conservative defense of Kyle Rittenhouse is dangerous nonsense.
What we know about a deadly shooting in Portland, Oregon: "1 person
is dead in Portland after a pro-Trump caravan descended on the city."
Victim appears to be part of that "pro-Trump caravan." Members of the
caravan attacked protesters with "pepper spray and paintballs," so the
violence didn't start with the shooting. Might as well file this here
for now. Back-and-forth risks escalating random police shootings and
consequent protests into civil war. Peters also wrote:
Trump responds to a deadly shooting in Portland by blaming Democrats --
and calls for the National Guard. Trump is clearly pining for his
Reichstag Fire. For Biden's response, see Elise Viebeck:
Biden accuses Trump of 'recklessly encouraging violence' in response
to Portland shooting.
White supremacists are invading American cities to incite a civil
Trump's election theme is that Americans won't be safe in a Biden
presidency. The opposite is true. Americans won't be safe as long
as a white supremacist president is leading a movement of bigots to
incite a civil war, and attempting to ensure that the majority of
Americans with cosmopolitan, egalitarian values remain politically
disenfranchised and under the thumb of those who fear and despise them.
Trump is visiting Kenosha on Tuesday. The mayor would rather he didn't.
The Republicans newest plan to derail voting rights.
The exhilarating jolt of the Milwaukee Bucks' wildcat strike.
The incestuous relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News:
Review of Brian Stelter's book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and
the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.
David A Farenthold/Jonathan O'Connell/Joshua Partlow:
Jessica Flack/Melanie Mitchell:
Uncertain times: "The pandemic is an unprecedented opportunity --
seeing human society as a complex system opens a better future for us
all." Not sure this piece ever gets to where it's going, but I do
believe that increasing social complexity is forcing us to rethink
basic assumptions about how people work.
US law enforcement's warrior complex is on full display in the streets --
and in leaked documents: "Hacked documents from the early weeks of
the ongoing protest movement illustrate one of Black Lives Matter's
central observations: Policing in the United States functions as a
What makes California's current major wildfires so unusual: Updated
from last week. After all, the state is still on fire.
Isabel Wilkerson wants to change how we understand race in America:
Wilkerson's book is Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents. Makes
me wonder why she can't just say "class."
Those who like government least govern worst: "From the Iraq War
to the coronavirus: why Republicans fail at governance." Mostly about
Robert Draper's book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration
Took America Into Iraq, although the article title could have brought
up any number of examples. Toward the end, Klein tries to draw a link
between the coronavirus response fiasco and Iraq, and there are some
(like magical thinking), but there are also differences. Republicans
are generally pretty deferential to the military, so it's hard to pin
the failure in Iraq on lack of funding or message discipline or even
resolve -- all of which had an adverse effect on coronavirus response,
and are characteristic of Republicans' general contempt for government.
Yet Iraq was a disaster anyway. Faith in power and disregard for other
people have something to do with it. With both, really.
How to decarbonize America -- and create 25 million jobs: Interview
with Saul Griffith, who runs an organization called Rewiring America,
and has an
ebook on how
to do it.
Vladimir Putin is on the ballot in November: This is really stupid.
I don't doubt that Putin prefers Trump to Biden, and that he has little
reason not to throw some of his cyber resources into tainting the 2020
election, but the net effect in terms of US-Russian relations will be
negligible. The assertion that if Trump wins a second term, "Russia will
be able to wantonly throw its weight around globally" is ridiculous. It
hasn't happened in Trump's first term, and nothing changes for a second.
The main limit on Russian "expansion" is Russia's own weakness and lack
of popularity. Sure, they can on rare occasions play on external schisms
as they have in Georgia and Ukraine, but most of the former Russian sphere
thoroughly hates them, and their only "allies" elsewhere are countries the
US has driven into their arms (like Syria, Venezuela, and Iran). If Biden
decides to "get tough" on them, he'll only alienate and destabilize the
world situation further. I don't doubt that Trump and Putin are sympatico
because of their shared links to oligarchs, their reliance on jingoistic
nationalism, and their general contempt for democracy, but interests are
something else. Where Trump might help Putin most is in promoting the arms
trade -- that being one of Russia's few competitive exports. He also might
blow up the Middle East, which would be good for Russian oil and gas prices.
(He's already taken most Iranian and Venezuelan oil off the market.) I
don't doubt that if Putin were on the ballot, hardly anyone would vote
for him. Except maybe in a Republican primary, where a cunning oligarch
and despot might be preferred over a really stupid one.
Protesters in multiple states are facing felony charges, including
Why Hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster: "Fifteen years
ago, New Orleans was nearly destroyed. A new book suggests that the
cause was decades of bad policy -- and that nothing has changed." The
book is Katrina: A History, 1915-2015, by Andy Horowitz. As I
note under Alex Ward (above), bad policy may take many years to reveal
itself as a disaster, which is the argument here. Louisiana is getting
hit by another big hurricane this week:
Trump asked for fewer Covid-19 tests. Now the CDC is recommending less
How violent protests against police brutality in the '60s and '90s changed
public opinion. It's not unreasonable to worry that acts associated
with protests might lead to a backlash and even a setback. But lots of
things are different now. Police brutality often triggered riots in the
1960s, but it wasn't seen as such, partly because the riots weren't
preceded by protest marches, and partly because there weren't cameras
everywhere back then to document the brutality. Civil rights marches
in the 1960s were much more analogous to the current BLM marches, not
only because they were organized protests but also because they were
met with public police brutality not unlike we see today. Whereas the
riots produced a backlash against "criminality," the marches made the
case for civil rights, and were generally successful (ultimately). I
worry that repeating protests too often will create an escalating
dynamic that could turn counterproductive (which may have happened
in Portland, although I'm not close enough to be sure). I also don't
have any problem with arresting people who destroy property and/or
act violently -- nor would I exempt the police when they do so. But
secondary violence never excuses the violence that triggered the
protests in the first place, nor does it justify further violence by
police, let alone their self-appointed "allies." Police have as much
responsibility to protect protesters as anyone else -- something they
can all too easily forget when they dress up like stormtroopers.
In Trumpworld, the grown-ups in the room all left, and got book deals:
Gang-reviews books by Sean Spicer, James Comey, Omarosa Manigault Newman,
Andrew G McCabe, Anonymous, John Bolton, and Mary L Trump.
Over 100 ex-staff members for John McCain endorse Joe Biden. As
someone who's long regarded McCain as one of the most reprehensible
characters in American politics, I don't find this very gratifying.
Especially give the other large Republican cluster to come over to
Top Republican national security officials say they will vote for
Biden. McCain was long the most reckless hawk in the GOP, and
that's bread and butter to the security officialdom, so the bet is
that Biden will follow militarist orthodoxy more faithfully than
Trump will. Biden has given them little reason to think otherwise,
so they may be onto something. Those camps loom large in
All the Republicans who have decided not to support Trump.
On climate change, we've run out of presidential terms to waste.
He probably said that about Bush too -- if not the first, certainly
the second. After all, he founded 350.org when 350 was just a fearsome
future number. The latest carbon dioxide number (from 2019) is
What happens to the Supreme Court (and the Constitution) if Trump wins:
"The Supreme Court has rejected some of the GOP's sloppiest and most
presumptuous arguments. It won't anymore if Republicans grow their
Elizabeth Warren calls for investigation into Trump's politicization
Can Biden's center hold? Long piece, good background including some
things I didn't know, recounting the campaign to date, not much forward
projection, even on the title question. Of course, all you can really
say is that what holds Biden's center together is fear and loathing of
Donald Trump. Take that away and you can pick Biden apart from every
angle. But for now, Biden is managing to straddle two theories that are
normally in opposition: one is the centrist belief that if you can stop
right-wing destruction and restore functioning institutions (not just
government, although that's the big one), America will rebound largely
on its own, and all will be well; the other is the leftist belief that
unless equality and justice are restored, nothing can work right, and
our problems will continue to multiply. Biden is more associated with
the former, but not so dogmatically as to exclude inputs from the left.
Moreover, as long as he's running against Trump, the left-center split
isn't (or shouldn't be) an issue.
Private equity is cannibalizing the post-pandemic economy: "These
vulture firms helped create the conditions for economic collapse. Now
they're cleaning up."
All of this is to say that private equity had a heavy (if largely unseen)
hand in weakening a number of crucial industries right before a national
disaster. Not only will it likely face no consequences for indirectly
facilitating a portion of the suffering, but it also now stands to profit
from the wreckage of the economic recession it helped flame. . . .
That very disconnect illuminates the failure of an economy that
encourages disaster profiteering. Though private equity may seem uniquely
villainous, in the end, those firms are only doing what they were created
to do and always explicitly promised to do: generate profit for their
investors above all else. Their predations are made possible by a
government that condones them or is content to simply turn away, as it
has so many times before. That calls not just for a general condemnation
of financial greed -- which most politicians are happy to offer -- but
real measures to end it. As Warren and Fife put it, "Wall Street has
already shown us what it will do if left unchecked."
Why Cuban doctors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since the start of Cuban medical internationalism in 1960, over
400,000 medical workers have worked in more than 40 countries. . . .
Cuban medical workers are risking their health to break the chain of
the COVID-19 infection. Cuban scientists developed drugs -- such as
interferon alpha-2b -- to help fight the disease. Now Cuban scientists
have announced that their vaccine is in trials; this vaccine will not
be treated as private property but will be shared with the peoples of
the world. This is the fidelity of Cuban medical internationalism.
The Jerry Falwell Jr scandal, explained: "It's not just about sex --
it's a tale of financial, institutional, and political corruption. And
there's a Trump angle." More on Falwell:
Trump's 40 biggest broken promises.
Why we can't stop fighting about cancel culture: Is cancel culture
a mob mentality, or a long overdue way of speaking truth to power?"
No, neither, and not just because it isn't even a thing. Think about
it. Cancel is something that only those in power can do. It's something
they do all the time, usually without fanfare or even notice. They don't
need a "culture" to get them to do it. All they need is the power. I
made a joke above about "cancel culture" causing the cancellation of
an RNC speaker who had suddenly become an embarrassment (although her
usual racist shtick was probably why she got the invite in the first
place). On the other hand, people without the power to actually cancel
an appearance can still ask or demand that it happen, but they have no
direct power to make it happen. It's really just a challenge to power,
and those in power don't like those out of power butting into their
business, so they imagine a "culture" which drives this dynamic on.
Germany is launching a new experiment in basic income.
Joe Biden's strategy of appealing to Republicans is courting disaster.
See 2016. I don't mind the messaging going that way, but the mistake that
Biden cannot afford is slighting the "ground game" to make sure the base
votes, and understands what's at stake. That's something Obama did well,
and Hillary barely did at all.
Climate is taking on a growing role for voters, research suggests.
Related: Lisa Friedman:
Climate could be an electoral time bomb, Republican strategists fear.
How Obamacare helped millions who lost their jobs during Covid-19, in 3
UAE-Israel deal: Breakthrough or betrayal?
Americans are falling through the safety net. The government is helping
predatory lenders instead.
The real pandemic gap is between the comfortable and the afflicted:
"Beneath society's plutocratic layer, America is not as united in the
face of crisis as we like to pretend." Who's pretending? The idea that
this is a war, with its now-ancient implication that we're all in it
together, didn't take root. Once the stock market rebounded, Trump and
the Republicans lost interest in bipartisan deals that might help the
non-rich. Still, there is another gap, between Watson's "comfortable"
and those who struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Watson puts that
gap somewhere between $30,000 and $130,000, noting that "Pew reports
18 percent of 'upper income' (above $112,600 in annual income) people
have been laid off or lost their jobs since the pandemic started
(compared with 39 percent of 'lower income' people, who earn less
than $37,500)." I'd define it a bit differently: the "comfortable"
are those who simply added their $1,200 stimulus checks to their
savings, in contrast to the "uncomfortable" many who spent it on
debts and necessities and soon wound up with nothing less. The big
difference there is having an uninterrupted income stream larger
than routine expenses, which has a lot more to do with who saves
than thriftiness ever did.
Biden needs a Sister Souljah moment: I read this op-ed in the
Wichita Eagle this morning, and was appalled and disgusted. Will
is a conservative pundit who doesn't love Trump but also doesn't
like anything his opponents stand for, so he should be irrelevant
at the moment. I might have skipped this, but then I found
Biden needs a Sister Souljah month, which elicited a response from
We don't need another Sister Souljah moment. I didn't recall what
the rapper said to provoke Bill Clinton's wrath, but still recalled the
incident for its gratuitous racism. It was Clinton's way of reminding
white people that he's one of them, and that he can be counted on to
defend them against raging blacks. Biden doesn't need such a moment,
and shouldn't want one, and anyone who prods him in that direction is
aiming to make the racial divide worse. Take Donald Trump: he has a
Sister Souljah moment almost every day, and each one begets the next.
Tracinski's real point is that Biden needs to make sure he's viewed
as anti-riot. I'm against riots too, and I don't care how draconian
he gets in prosecuting rioters -- as long as the same justice applies
to police and to Trump's agitator-thugs. Or I would be, but shouldn't
police be held to a higher standard? As it is, much of what they do
seems designed to provoke riots, not to prevent or pacify them.
PS: Biden did issue a strong statement, included
here. As Steve M notes, "The New York Times covers it by
burying it in the 13th paragraph of a
story about President Trump's overnight Twitter barrage." He also
Why did Hillary Clinton lose in 2016? She lost for many reasons, but
one was the media's willingness to let her opponent Bigfoot his way
to a disproportionate share of press coverage. Trump was seen as great
copy and great television, so the media yielded the floor to him every
time he beat his chest and demanded attention, dismissing most efforts
by Clinton to Change the subject to serious issues. And here we are.
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