This morning Trump appeared on Fox and Friends and rambled on for 47 minutes. At the end of the interview, Steve Doocy expressed some surprising hostility toward the fake “president.”
Wow! Doocy’s getting a little fed up with Trump’s word salad, I guess. He even offered equal time to Joe Biden.
In another headline-grabbing moment, Trump told his Fox and Friends pals that he wanted to assassinate Syria’s Bashar al-Assad awhile back.
The Washington Post: Trump confirms he wanted to assassinate Assad. In 2018, he denied it was even considered.
In the Fox interview, Trump criticized former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who has in recent months warned the country strongly against reelecting Trump. But in the course of making that case, Trump offered an odd claim: He said Mattis had effectively stood in the way of his efforts to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I would’ve rather taken him out,” Trump said. “I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general.”
When asked whether he regretted not taking Assad out, Trump added: “No, I don’t regret that. … I had a shot to take him out if I wanted. Mattis was against it.”
The first problem with this argument is that Trump is disparaging Mattis for opposing something that Trump doesn’t even say he regrets. The second is that the commander in chief makes these decisions, full stop. If Trump wanted to do it, Mattis couldn’t block him.
In 2018, Woodward published “Fear.” In the book, he reported that Trump had considered assassinating Assad. Trump, on Sept. 5, 2018, flatly denied it.
“I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed,” Trump said, adding: “No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated.”
He even held it up as evidence that the book shouldn’t have been published.
Breaking news: Trump is a pathological liar.
Lets see . . . what else is happening in the United States of crazy?
As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, Trump seems determined to continue holding super-spreader rallies that threaten the lives of his own supporters and staff. The Washington Post suggests that Trump is using these events to “rebuke” Democratic governors and mayors who have established restrictions on public behavior in order to protect their citizens.
President Trump’s first indoor rally in months was staged as a rebuke to Democrats he accuses of using coronavirus restrictions against him, but the campaign event in Nevada also prompted sharp denunciations from critics on Monday as a symbol of the president’s failure to effectively confront the deadly covid-19 crisis.
The Sunday night gathering came as the pandemic has caused at least 190,000 deaths in the United States, with the number expected to pass 200,000 sometime before Trump holds his next official campaign events on Friday. The Nov. 3 election had already become a referendum on the president’s often dismissive approach to the pandemic before revelations last week that he had told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he knew the severity of the virus but preferred to play it down in public….
On Monday, Trump held another indoor campaign event at a luxury hotel in Phoenix that was billed as a roundtable with Latino supporters. The White House pool reporter traveling with Trump described the scene as looking much like a rally, with more than 100 people crowded closely together inside a ballroom. Television footage showed mask-free supporters waving campaign signs.
“I know this was supposed to be, you know the fake news, they said that this is supposed to be a roundtable, but it looks like a rally,” Trump said. “But it is a rally because we love each other.” He then added that “it is a roundtable.”
President Donald Trump is running as the “law and order” candidate. But that hasn’t stopped him and his campaign from openly defying state emergency orders and flouting his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines as he holds ever-growing rallies in battleground states.
Democratic governors and local leaders have urged the president to reconsider the events, warning that he’s putting lives at risk. But they have largely not tried to block the gatherings of thousands of people, which Trump and his team deem “peaceful protests” protected by the First Amendment.
“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said in a statement….
Trump’s campaign insisted that it takes appropriate health precautions, including handing out masks and hand sanitizer and checking the temperatures of rallygoers.
But images of thousands of maskless supporters standing shoulder to shoulder remain jarring in a country where sports are still played in empty arenas and concerts have been largely banned. That’s especially true for those who have lost loved ones or spent months isolating at home and worry that rallies will further spread infection, undermining hard-fought progress. An indoor rally that Trump held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June was blamed for a surge of virus infections there.
In an interview yesterday, Trump demonstrated that he couldn’t care less about threatening the health of his supporters, as long as he himself is protected. The New York Times: Trump Defends Indoor Rally, but Aides Express Concern.
President Trump and his campaign are defending his right to rally indoors, despite the private unease of aides who called it a game of political Russian roulette and growing concern that such gatherings could prolong the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, after thousands of his supporters gathered on Sunday night inside a manufacturing plant in a Las Vegas suburb, flouting a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people.
The president did not address health concerns about the rally attendees, a vast majority of whom did not wear masks or practice any social distancing. When it came to his own safety, he said, “I’m not at all concerned.”
He is simply incapable of caring about anyone but himself.
Yesterday afternoon, Trump met with California officials and told them they are clueless about how to deal with wildfires. Forbes: ‘I Don’t Think Science Knows, Actually’: Trump Dismisses Climate Science In California Wildfire Discussion.
After multiple California officials confronted President Donald Trump Monday about ignoring climate change’s role in the raging west coast wildfires, the president dismissed their concerns and raised skepticism about the “science” that has concluded the Earth is warming.
“It’ll start getting cooler,” Trump said in response to California Natural Resource Secretary Wade Crawfoot, who pressed the president to acknowledge the fact untamed vegetation is not solely responsible for the wildfires in the Golden State.
“I wish science agreed with you,” Crawfoot replied back, to which the president replied, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”
Trump’s solution to the wildfire problem:
In other insane news, Trump loyalist Michael Caputo, who “interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19” made wild claims about a conspiracy involving the CDC and “left-wing hit squads.” The New York Times: Trump Health Aide Pushes Bizarre Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt.
The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.
Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.
Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.
“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” [….]
To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.
Read more at the NYT link.
Also at The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie argues that there’s a serious side to these conspiracy theories, even though they make no sense to normal people: Trump’s Perverse Campaign Strategy: If the president’s allies are talking about the moment “shooting will begin” and “martial law,” it’s not by accident.
On Sunday, Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, warned of left-wing insurrectionists and “sedition” within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a video he hosted live on his Facebook page. After predicting victory for President Trump in the upcoming election, Caputo warned that Joe Biden wouldn’t concede. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” [….]
…Trump isn’t actually running for re-election — or at least, not running in the traditional manner. He has a campaign, yes, but it is not a campaign to win votes or persuade the public outside of a few, select slivers of the electorate. Instead, it’s a campaign to hold on to power by any means necessary, using every tool available to him as president of the United States. Caputo, in that sense, is only taking cues from his boss.
Of course, Trump would like to obtain a proper victory. But it’s clear he’s not counting on it. That is why the most visible aspect of Trump’s campaign for continued power is his attack on the election itself. If he doesn’t win, he says again and again, then the outcome isn’t legitimate….
Along with this warning comes Trump’s call for supporters to act as “poll watchers” to prevent imaginary fraud at voting locations….
There’s also the president’s rhetoric toward his political opponents. Asked on Fox News about “riots” if he wins re-election, Trump said he would “put them down very quickly,” before adding:
Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes.
Trump also indicated that he supports extrajudicial killings.
Later in the interview, Trump commented on the Sept. 3 killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl by U.S. marshals. Reinoehl was suspected of shooting a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during a protest in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29. Trump, who swore to uphold the Constitution when he was inaugurated, claimed to have essentially called for an extrajudicial killing:
Now we sent in the U.S. marshals for the killer, the man that killed the young man in the street. Two and a half days went by, and I put out “when are you going to go get him.” And the U.S. marshals went in to get him. There was a shootout. This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. marshalls killed him. And I’ll tell you something — that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution.
Instead of making a conventional appeal to voters to give him another term in office, Trump is issuing a threat, of sorts: I cannot lose. If I do lose, the election was stolen. Anyone protesting my effort to hold onto power is an insurrectionist. And sometimes, “there has to be retribution.”
I guess that’s enough crazy for today. Take care of yourselves folks and check in if you can to let us know what’s happening where you are. We’ll be thinking of those of you who are in the paths of wildfires and hurricanes.
I slept late this morning for the first time in a couple of months. Since the beginning of the pandemic, my sleep patterns have been so disturbed. I began waking up very early even though I usually stay up at least till midnight. I also began drinking coffee again after years of mostly drinking tea, and my caffeine consumption has increased. I think it’s a combination of the stress of Trump and the changes that came with the virus.
Everything has changed. At first it was so surreal and now it feels like the new normal. But each time there is a new shock–mostly because of Trump–I experience sleep problems and other signs of stress. Since the revelations from the Woodward book, I think I’ve been grinding my teeth at night, because my jaw has been hurting. It’s better today. I don’t know why I finally relaxed enough to oversleep, but it feels good for now. Who knows what horrors Trump will visit on us today though? It’s always something.
Apparently, I’m not alone in my reactions to the national stress. Dentists are seeing strange tooth problems lately.
The New York Times: A Dentist Sees More Cracked Teeth. What’s Going On?
I closed my midtown Manhattan practice to all but dental emergencies in mid-March, in line with American Dental Association guidelines and state government mandate. Almost immediately, I noticed an uptick in phone calls: jaw pain, tooth sensitivity, achiness in the cheeks, migraines. Most of these patients I effectively treated via telemedicine.
But when I reopened my practice in early June, the fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I’ve been in the office. On average, I’m seeing three to four; the bad days are six-plus fractures.
What’s going on?
One obvious answer is stress. From Covid-induced nightmares to “doomsurfing” to “coronaphobia,” it’s no secret that pandemic-related anxiety is affecting our collective mental health. That stress, in turn, leads to clenching and grinding, which can damage the teeth.
But more specifically, the surge I’m seeing in tooth trauma may be a result of two additional factors.
First, an unprecedented number of Americans are suddenly working from home, often wherever they can cobble together a makeshift workstation: on the sofa, perched on a barstool, tucked into a corner of the kitchen counter. The awkward body positions that ensue can cause us to hunch our shoulders forward, curving the spine into something resembling a C-shape.
If you’re wondering why a dentist cares about ergonomics, the simple truth is that poor posture during the day can translate into a grinding problem at night.
Second, most of us aren’t getting the restorative sleep we need. Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve listened to patient after patient describe sudden restlessness and insomnia. These are hallmarks of an overactive or dominant sympathetic nervous system, which drives the body’s “fight or flight” response. Think of a gladiator preparing for battle: balling his fists, clenching his jaw. Because of the stress of coronavirus, the body stays in a battle-ready state of arousal, instead of resting and recharging. All that tension goes straight to the teeth.
Read more at the NYT.
Stress and isolation brought on by the pandemic are certainly bad for our mental health, but dentists say they’re seeing evidence our oral health is suffering too.
Reports of a huge spike in cracked teeth have received national media attention in recent days, but multiple dentists told USA TODAY that’s just the start of the problem.
“It’s like a perfect storm,” Dr. Michael Dickerson, an independent practice owner with Aspen Dental in Tarpon Springs, Florida, told USA TODAY. The patients he’s seeing now need “a ton of work,” as compared to the past, he said.
In the New York metropolitan area, it’s more of the same. Overall, patients’ mouths are “much dirtier than they were before … their gums are more inflamed,” Dr. Michael Fleischer told USA TODAY. Fleischer is a dentist and Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs at Dental365.
And in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, endodontist Dr. Derek T. Peek said he treated twice as many broken teeth this August compared with last year, even though he’s treated less patients. Endodontists are dentists who specialize in patients with complex or painful teeth issues.
Read more at the link.
At Salon, Chauncey DeVega, who often writes about Trump’s pathology, interviewed an expert on the stress Trump is causing Americans: PTSD expert Seth Norrholm: Americans “are being psychologically abused by Donald Trump.”
Dr. Seth Norrholm is a translational neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fear. He is currently the scientific director at the Neuroscience Center for Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma (NeuroCAST) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.
In this conversation, Dr. Norrholm explains how Donald Trump’s behavior towards the American people resembles that of a domestic abuser. He also details how Donald Trump and his regime are causing the American people to experience symptoms and behaviors similar to PTSD — and that post-Trump PTSD will impact the country’s public health for many years into the future. Norrholm also offers advice on how the American people can handle the increase in stress and anxiety as Election Day 2020 approaches in the midst of a deadly pandemic and Trump’s escalating threats and violence….
What are Trump and his regime doing to the emotional health of the American people? The long-term impact is going to be great.
From 2015 forward, it is a constant timeline of one risk or threat or breaking of norms after another from the Trump administration. There has been no real respite.
Looking at this through social media, it is very much like an addiction where some people will log into Twitter in the morning and then you will see them log off at night and they will actually say, “See you in the morning, folks.” Twitter and other social media is almost like a running commentary of their day.
The Age of Trump is the story of authoritarianism and how it can damage the mental health of an entire society. Why has there been such reluctance by most of the mainstream American news media to discuss emotional life as connected to politics in this moment?
Part of the problem with emotions is vagueness. Therefore, the news media and analysts tend to shy away from discussing emotions. I also think that part of the challenge is that American society tends to be forgiving. For example, if the president were to go public and say that, “Look, I’ve battled an addiction to painkillers or alcohol,” or that he has early stage Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the news media and public would accept it. Why? Because it is a hard diagnosis. It is something tangible. But because with Donald Trump we are talking about behavior which is open to interpretation and involves concepts from psychology that deal with emotions and personality, it is very difficult for the average person to understand. This is true of the news media as well. Therefore, emotions in general are much less discussed by the American news media.
This has meant that the American news media has for the most part covered Donald Trump using the existing heuristics which are, “Here is the president’s schedule. Here’s what he did today. Here’s what he said.” Donald Trump should not have been covered that way. The assumption that he is somehow “presidential” and acts in a normal way should have been discarded.
Then there is the other side, with Fox News and other right-wing news media which Trump’s followers listen to. That side is proceeding with, “This is how we have to defend our position.” That is when we see cult psychology, a shared psychosis where the members have to radically defend their positions because the alternative is admitting that they were wrong. It is as if American society has lost the ability to admit wrong and apologize where whole groups of partisans and Trumpists can’t simply say, “Look, I read the situation wrong and I made a mistake.”
Read the rest of the interview at the Salon link above.
At Raw Story, Heather Digby Parton writes about the aftermath of the Woodward revelations: The deep malevolence that drives Trump’s behavior has now been laid bare.
It figures that Bob Woodward, the man who helped to take down Richard Nixon 45 years ago, would follow up with a big book about Nixon’s natural heir to the presidency, Donald Trump. Just as Nixon was undone by tape recordings he foolishly made to document his own corruption, so too Trump foolishly allowed himself to be recorded by Woodward. That’s what sets Woodward’s book “Rage” apart from all the other Trump books that have come before: We can hear the quotes in Trump’s own voice, so he can’t get away with calling it fake news.
I think most of us who have been observing this surreal presidency for the past four years have wondered whether Trump is more ignorant than malevolent or vice versa. (Obviously, he’s both: It’s just a question of which is dominant.) It’s been especially hard to know during this pandemic catastrophe because the president has made so many ill-informed comments and odious decisions, from the inane hydroxychloroquine campaign to his decision not to implement a national testing program because most of the people dying in the early days were in blue states.
Listening to Trump blithely tell Woodward at the beginning of February that he knew the pandemic was going to kill a whole lot more people than the flu and that it was an airborne disease proves that he is malevolent first and foremost. You can hear it in his voice — so blandly detached and dispassionate as he talks about what he describes as “deadly stuff.” We know he’d been warned about the likelihood of the virus coming to America by this point. Woodward even reports that national security adviser Robert O’Brien had told Trump in January that the virus would be the “biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”
It’s clear that Trump simply didn’t care about that. And he never changed. CNN reports this anecdote from the book that backs up that impression:
On March 19, as the coronavirus pandemic was exploding, Woodward asked Trump if he ever sat down alone with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to learn more about the virus.”Yes, I guess, but honestly there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob,” Trump said to Woodward. “This is a busy White House. We’ve got a lot of things happening. And then this came up.”
Woodward notes in the book that Trump had found the time to “carve out hours” to do interviews with him throughout the crisis.
Read the whole thing at Raw Story.
Hang in there Sky Dancers! Make sure to do something nice for yourselves today and be kind to others who are experiencing Trump stress reactions.
I’m sure we’ve all thought at times that living in Trumpworld was like being down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass. Well, it turns out Jared Kushner thinks that’s a good thing. According to a Washington Post article on Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be released book, Rage:
Kushner advised people that one of the most important guiding texts to understand the Trump presidency was “Alice in Wonderland,” a novel about a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole. He singled out the Cheshire cat, whose strategy was endurance and persistence, not direction.
Woodward quotes Kushner paraphrasing the Cheshire Cat as a way of making sense of Trump’s chaotic style of management, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”
Woodward describes Kushner as an “ever-loyal cheerleader and true believer” of the President, but also someone who has intimate knowledge of how and why Trump makes decisions. While former top Cabinet officials describe Trump’s style as chaotic and dangerous, Kushner views his constant reversals as “an asset.”
Woodward writes, “Where others saw fickleness or even lies, Kushner saw Trump’s constant, shifting inconsistency as a challenge to be met with an ever-adapting form of managing up.”
“With the president, there’s a hundred different shades of gray,” Kushner is quoted as saying. “And if people try to get a quick answer out of him, it’s easy. You can get him to decide in your favor by limiting his information. But you better be sure as hell that people with competing views aren’t going to find their way to him. And when that happens, he’s going to undo his decision.”
Again, Kushner thinks this is a positive description of Trump’s blundering (mis)management style. Woodward writes that Kushner recommended.
…four texts people should “absorb” if they want to truly understand the President. Woodward writes the texts do not paint a flattering picture of someone who is both Kushner’s boss and father-in-law.
The first text Kushner recommends is a 2018 opinion piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan’s assessment of Trump: “He’s crazy… and it’s kind of working.” Noonan also calls Trump a “circus act,” and “a living insult.” [….]
Woodward writes, “Did Kushner understand how negative this was? Was it possible the best roadmap for the administration was a novel about a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole, and Kushner was willing to acknowledge that Trump’s presidency was on shaky, directionless ground?”
The third text Kushner suggests is from author Chris Whipple’s book “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.”
Whipple writes, “What seems clear, as of this writing, and almost a year into his presidency, is that Trump will be Trump, no matter his chief of staff.”
The final text Kushner offers is “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter,” by Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip. According to Adams, Trump employs a technique called “intentional wrongness persuasion,” and “can invent any reality” because “all you will remember is that he provided his reasons, he didn’t apologize, and his opponents called him a liar like they always do.”
It was clear to Woodward that none of this was meant to criticize Trump, just as a way to help understand him. That said, Woodward was surprised and writes, “when combined, Kushner’s four texts painted President Trump as crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative.
Is it possible that Kushner was simply trying to explain why he has been so successful in manipulating Trump? I can see Jared trying to show Woodward how clever and savvy he is.
Of course the big “news” from Woodward’s book was that Trump knew all along that the coronavirus was deadly despite his insistence for months that it was no worse than the flu and that it would magically “go away” without the federal government doing anything. We sort of knew that though. We knew that Trump was told about the dangers of a pandemic in March. Yesterday we learned that Trump actually knew plenty in January and February. From The Washington Post:
“This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,” national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward. “This is going to be the roughest thing you face.”
Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, agreed. He told the president that after reaching contacts in China, it was evident that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
Ten days later, Trump called Woodward and revealed that he thought the situation was far more dire than what he had been saying publicly.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.
Trump also told Woodward early on that he knew children were just as vulnerable to the virus as adults, as he insisted that schools should be fully opened. Is anyone really surprised by this? It’s shocking to hear the Woodward’s recordings, but we already knew Trump didn’t give a shit how many Americans died as long as he could keep bluffing long enough to get himself four more years in the White House. What’s actually kind of surprising is that Trump would be stupid enough to talk to Woodward about all this on tape.
John Harris at Politico: Woodward Interviews Shallow Throat.
For years, President Donald Trump and his allies have warned about his adversaries in the “Deep State.” The phrase evokes images of anonymous officials with hidden motives buried deep in the government.
Recent days have made it clearer than ever that the real hazard to Trump is actually the Shallow State.
The people saying mean things about Trump aren’t lurking in the shadows. They are well-known names whom Trump recruited to work by his side. Their motives aren’t mysterious. They are obvious: A transactional president encourages transactional behavior in his midst. These sources have shocking stories to tell, but no longer any genuinely surprising ones….
The entire notion of the Deep State rests on soil tilled by Hollywood, in decades of movies and television shows in the genre of the paranoid thriller. In these conspiracy dramas, the plot tension flows from a slowly building, creepy realization that Things Are Not What They Seem.
Woodward, based on Wednesday’s barrage of publicity for next week’s official release of “Rage,” has once again delivered the goods with plenty of news-driving revelations. But these scoops are like so many in the Trump years: They reveal that things are pretty much Exactly What They Seem.
It seemed last winter and spring that Trump was prattling on with a lot of happy talk that he couldn’t possibly believe about how the coronavirus wouldn’t be that serious—even as his own government officials were warning that it would be—because he was desperately trying to create reality by proclamation. Months later, Woodward has confirmed that to be true.
What’s more, his source was not a latter-day Deep Throat skulking around garages on behalf of the Deep State. The most damaging source for Woodward is on the record and on tape: Trump himself.
It had previously seemed that Trump, despite his constant attacks on the “Fake News” media, had a compulsive fascination with establishment media figures and the coverage they give him. Now the president has confirmed that to be true, giving 18 (!) interviews to Woodward. Think of him as Shallow Throat.
Read the rest at Politico.
Trump also told Woodward about a top secret weapons system that, thanks to Trump, is no longer secret. Forbes: Trump Claims To Have Built A New, Secret Nuclear Weapons System.
President Donald Trump claimed to journalist Bob Woodward that he had overseen the creation of a new U.S. nuclear weapons system, saying, “We have stuff that you haven’t ever seen or heard about,”as the two discussed tensions between the United States and North Korea.
It’s not clear what Trump was referring to, but Woodward writes in his new book Rage that he later confirmed with sources that the U.S. military indeed had a secret new weapon system, and the sources said they were surprised Trump had disclosed the information, according to The Washington Post.
It’s possible that Trump was referring to the W76-2 warhead, according to the defense publication Task & Purpose.
That weapon was announced in Feb. 2018 as a relatively “low-cost” addition to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and has a smaller explosive yield than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
CNN reports that those around Trump are freaking out: ‘Calls without us knowing:’ Aides point fingers in wake of Woodward’s latest book.
Furious he didn’t speak with Bob Woodward for the first book he wrote on his presidency, President Donald Trump determined full participation with the follow-up would provide the best chance of securing a positive take on his rollicking tenure….
Yet instead of outmaneuvering the journalist famous for exposing Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Trump appears to have become a victim of his own confidence. And instead of a glowing portrait of a successful presidency, Trump is facing another damaging account two months before the election.
The fallout has caused internal strife at the White House as aides assign blame for allowing the taped interviews to proceed. Fingers have been thrust at ex-press secretaries, longtime confidants and old friends.
But people familiar with the situation say it is Trump himself who ultimately determined at the outset he could talk Woodward into writing a positive portrayal of his administration, reckoning the powers of salesmanship that have sustained him his entire adult life would yield another unlikely success.
So confident was Trump he could generate a favorable depiction that he provided Woodward with his personal cellphone number, eager to speak with a man whose long record of interviewing his predecessors has not exactly produced flattering results.
In phone calls late at night from the White House residence, Trump spun his tenure as one of historic successes and unparalleled victory.
The Daily Beast: Trump Was ‘Ecstatic’ About Talking to Woodward—Until He Wasn’t.
President Trump was “ecstatic” about the prospect of sitting for interviews with Woodward, according to a White House official, and relished some of his conversations with the famous Washington Post journalist.
Ultimately, Trump spoke with Woodward 18 times for the book. And at some point along the way, he had a change of heart, becoming convinced that Woodward was using him. Trump then began rage-tweeting the very reporter with whom he was so psyched to go on the record.
“The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been,” the president tweeted, seemingly out of the blue, last month. Later that month, Trump logged back on to blast the veteran reporter as a “social pretender” who “never has anything good to say.”
It is unclear when, exactly, Trump decided that the Woodward book could prove harmful. According to a person with direct knowledge, Trump privately said before sitting for interviews with Woodward, that one reason he was looking forward to doing so was because of how “fair” the journalist was to him on the issue of “Russian collusion.” However, late last month this source recalled the president complaining unprompted that the then-upcoming Woodward book would be filled with “fake stories,” and that the author was a “big phony.” The source did not recall Trump bringing up any of the stories or quotes he directly gave Woodward.
Apparently, Lindsey Graham pushed Trump to talk to Woodward. I wonder how soon they will be golfing together again. Read all about that and more at the Daily Beast.
What will today bring? Who knows? I’m just going to stay hunkered down and trying to stay healthy and sane. Take care of yourselves today, Sky Dancers!
We’re heading into the long Labor Day weekend, as schools around the country prepare to reopen and flu season approaches. Schools that have already opened are fighting coronavirus outbreaks. In other words, a covid-19 perfect storm could be approaching.
Local officials and health experts say they worry that gatherings during Labor Day weekend — the first long weekend for students who have returned to classrooms across the country — could lead to a repeat of the national surge of coronavirus infections that followed Memorial Day if people don’t follow health guidelines.
This weekend presents challenges that didn’t exist earlier this summer, including schools resuming and a wider spread of infections overall, said Thomas Tsai, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who partnered with Google to publish a forecast model for infections.
“In some ways we’re entering Labor Day with a more volatile mix than we did before Memorial Day,” he said. “We have masks and treatment, but we’re starting with a much higher base of cases, and we’re still seeing new hot spots rise across the country.” [….]
Infections swept through the Sun Belt after Memorial Day, straining health-care systems in Texas, Florida, Arizona and other states as record numbers of people fell ill in those places. Tsai said the rise was attributable to a rushed reopening in Southern states where testing and contact tracing weren’t yet in place, inconsistent mask mandates and increased travel due to the holiday.
The Washington Post: Covid-19: A bad flu season colliding with the pandemic could be overwhelming.
Doctors and health officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated against influenza in record numbers this fall to avoid a dreaded scenario: flu colliding with a raging coronavirus pandemic.
They worry that tens of millions of flu-related illnesses could overwhelm hospitals, doctor offices and laboratories that test for both respiratory illnesses.
Symptoms of flu and covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are similar.
“When someone presents to a physician with fever, cough, malaise, unless it’s one of the few things peculiar to covid-19, like a loss of smell, it’s hard to tell them apart when both are circulating in the community,” said Benjamin D. Singer, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a pulmonary critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If people wear masks and follow social distancing recommendations, we could even reduce the number of flu cases.
“This fall and winter could be one of the most complicated public health times we have, with the two coming at the same time,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent interview on the JAMA network.
“On the other hand, I’m an optimist. If the American public heeds the advice that we said about face covering and the social distancing and the hand-washing and being smart about crowds, this could be one of the best flu seasons we have had,” Redfield said. “And particularly if they do one more thing, and that is to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.”
Unfortunately, we’ve already seen that many people–particularly Trump cult members and some young people–aren’t going to bother with these prevention strategies.
The Washington Post: Experts project autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with a peak after Election Day.
Infectious-disease experts are warning of a potential cold-weather surge of coronavirus cases — a long-feared “second wave” of infections and deaths, possibly at a catastrophic scale. It could begin well before Election Day, Nov. 3, although researchers assume the crest would come weeks later, closer to when fall gives way to winter.
An autumn surge in covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, would not be an October surprise: It has been hypothesized since early in the pandemic because of the patterns of other respiratory viruses.
“My feeling is that there is a wave coming, and it’s not so much whether it’s coming but how big is it going to be,” said Eili Klein, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine….
Respiratory viruses typically begin spreading more easily a couple of weeks after schools resume classes. Although the pandemic has driven many school districts to remote learning, there is a broad push across the country to return to something like normal life.
The Labor Day holiday weekend is a traditional time of travel and group activities, and, like Independence Day and Memorial Day, could seed transmission of the virus if people fail to take precautions. And viruses tend to spread more easily in cooler, less humid weather, which allows them to remain viable longer. As the weather cools, people tend to congregate more indoors.
I plan to continue staying home most of the time and wearing my growing collection of masks anytime I leave my apartment. That’s not difficult for me, because I enjoy solitary activities like reading and I’m past the days when I enjoyed going to parties or otherwise mixing with large groups of people. But I’m worried about what is going to happen when kids return to school and bring home the virus to the older people they live with.
The fallout continues from the Atlantic article about Trump’s disrespect for the military. A couple of examples:
Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Donald Trump, Human Parasite, Has Also Said Soldiers Missing In Action Should Be Left For Dead.
…shortly after The Atlantic story was published, the Washington Post reported that a former senior administration official confirmed that Trump regularly made disparaging comments about veterans, in addition to this choice take on soldiers missing in action:
In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.
Also, he thinks he deserves a badge of honor for making up a foot injury to get out of the draft:
Trump believed people who served in the Vietnam War must be “losers” because they hadn’t gotten out of it, according to a person familiar with the comments. Trump also complained bitterly to then Chief of Staff John F. Kelly that he didn’t understand why Kelly and others in the military treated McCain, who had been imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War, with such reverence. “Isn’t he kind of a loser?” Trump asked, according to the person familiar with Trump’s comments.
NBC News: Trump often sees an American landscape of ‘losers’ and ‘suckers.’ Analysis: The Atlantic’s report that the president callously dismissed dead American soldiers stands to reinforce his past disregard for sacrifice.
It’s believable because Trump has called so many of his fellow Americans, including military veterans, suckers, losers and the like. The story challenges Trump’s political narrative that he is a winning deal-maker who is so infuriated by the sacrifices Americans have been forced to make — in misbegotten wars and bad trade deals — that he gave up his own comfortable lifestyle to stand in and fight on their behalf. In this telling, they are good people who deserve a selfless champion like him.
Giving up his private life netted Trump the most powerful office in the world. He characterizes that as sacrifice, but the personal payoff was huge.
If it’s true that Trump believes people who sacrifice the most for causes greater than themselves — soldiers who laid down their lives — are losers, what does he think of the many hardworking American doctors and nurses who rushed into hospitals to treat coronavirus victims? What does he think of the police officers whose public service he commends so often? What does he think of farmers who kept putting on “Make America Great Again” hats when his trade war with China squeezed their profits and forced the government to give them subsidies to continue operating?
Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and Harvard graduate who served in a Marine infantry battalion during the Iraq war, said Trump simply doesn’t get the concept of sacrifice for the greater good.
“The man has no honor, and can never understand the millions of men and women that serve with honor for their country,” Gallego told NBC News. “I served with and buried men that even in a thousand lifetimes Trump couldn’t come close to matching their honor, courage and commitment.”
Peter Strzok has a book coming out next week, and I think I might want to read it. The New York times: Ex-F.B.I. Agent in Russia Inquiry Says Trump Is a National Security Threat.
A former senior F.B.I. agent at the center of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia defends the handling of the inquiries and declares President Trump a national security threat in a new memoir, while admitting that the bureau made mistakes that upended the 2016 presidential election.
The former agent, Peter Strzok, who was removed from the special counsel’s team and later fired over disparaging texts he sent about Mr. Trump, has mostly kept silent as the president and his supporters have vilified him.
But Mr. Strzok’s new book, “Compromised,” a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times ahead of its publication on Tuesday, provides a detailed account of navigating the two politically toxic investigations and a forceful apologia of the bureau’s acts. Mr. Strzok also reveals details about the F.B.I.’s internal debate over investigating the president himself, writing that the question arose early in the Trump presidency and suggesting that agents were eyeing others around Mr. Trump. Mr. Strzok was himself at first opposed to investigating the president.
But in a scathing appraisal, Mr. Strzok concludes that Mr. Trump is hopelessly corrupt and a national security threat. The investigations that Mr. Strzok oversaw showed the president’s “willingness to accept political assistance from an opponent like Russia — and, it follows, his willingness to subvert everything America stands for.”
Mr. Strzok’s insider look serves as a counter to the efforts by Mr. Trump and his allies to discredit the Russia investigation. Attorney General William P. Barr has appointed a veteran prosecutor to review the conduct of the F.B.I., Mr. Strzok and others for possible misconduct and bias.
The Justice Department inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, found the bureau had sufficient reason to open the inquiry and found no evidence of political bias.
Anne Applebaum interviewed Strzok at The Atlantic: ‘Who’s Putting These Ideas in His Head?’ The former FBI agent Peter Strzok worries that Americans will never learn the full story about Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Strzok has always argued that he, James Comey, and the rest of the FBI tried, from the beginning, to treat both of these cases apolitically: They were focused on following the law. But after the Department of Justice released some private texts in which he was critical of President Donald Trump, he was accused not just of bias, but of seeking to deliberately discredit the president. Strzok, who also worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in its early months, became a hate figure for everyone who sought to distract the public from the facts about Russia’s intervention and the Trump team’s eager embrace of it. “I have devoted my adult life to defending the United States, our Constitution, our government and all our citizens,” Strzok writes in the introduction to Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump. “I never would have imagined—could not have imagined—that the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, would single me out with repeated attacks of treason, accusing me of plotting a coup against our government.”
As I read Strzok’s book, I found myself unexpectedly angry, because his narrative exposes an extraordinary failure: Despite multiple investigations by the FBI, Congress, and Mueller’s team, Americans have still never learned the full story about the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia or Trump’s own decades-long financial ties with Russia. Four years have passed since the investigation began. Many people have been convicted of crimes. Nevertheless, portions of reports produced by Mueller, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and others remain redacted. Investigations are allegedly ongoing. Details remain secret. Meanwhile, valuable FBI time and money were spent investigating which email server Hillary Clinton used—a question that, as it turned out, had no implications for U.S. security whatsoever.
Strzok himself was not exactly reassuring: He does not believe that Trump’s true relationship with Russia was ever revealed, and he now worries that it won’t ever be. It’s not clear that anyone ever followed up on the leads he had, or completed the counterintelligence investigation he began. He doesn’t say this himself, but after speaking with him I began to wonder if this is the real reason the Department of Justice broke with precedent in his case by not just firing a well-respected FBI agent but publicly discrediting him too: Strzok was getting too close to the truth.
Head over to The Atlantic to read the interview.
Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, Sky Dancers! Let’s hope Trump goes off to one of his golf courses and leaves us alone for a few days.
Yesterday the news broke that Tom Seaver had died, but for some reason the cause of his death wasn’t immediately emphasized. He died because he had Covid-19. He also had dementia, but the coronavirus is what killed him. Today that fact is appearing in headlines.
He died peacefully in his sleep Monday, the organization said.
“We are heartbroken to share that our beloved husband and father has passed away,” said a family statement from Seaver’s wife, Nancy, and daughters, Sarah and Anne. “We send our love out to his fans, as we mourn his loss with you.”
Seaver played 12 seasons with the Mets, winning the National League Cy Young Award, honoring the league’s best pitcher, three times.
Why am I calling attention to this? Because the latest conspiracy that Trump has begun pushing is that somehow people who died of Covid-19 who also had other medical conditions shouldn’t be counted in the coronvirus death totals.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been deluged with a flood of media requests about a conspiracy theory promulgated by QAnon—an increasingly violent far-right group praised by President Donald Trump that is widely known for spreading disinformation.
As the agency attempted to manage the fallout of a controversial Health and Human Services announcement that it had revised testing guidelines to exclude individuals who do not exhibit symptoms, officials were sidetracked by a barrage of inquiries about whether the CDC had lied about the number of Americans who died as a result of the coronavirus. Over the weekend QAnon, a movement whose believers often push out falsities on a myriad of subjects, promoted a bogus theory that only 6 percent of people listed as having died from the coronavirus had “actually died” from COVID-19.
Officials at the CDC said they spent the last several days fielding questions or requests for comment from dozens of local and national outlets asking to clarify whether the agency had falsified its data. The wave of emails and calls about the conspiracy theory caught officials off-guard….
The CDC effort to combat accusations from QAnon, a relatively new, increasingly unhinged movement that’s making inroads into online health communities, shows the power that conspiracy theorists can have during the pandemic—especially when boosted by the president. It also shows just how permeable the barrier between conspiracy cranks and established media outlets can be.
“In all my time working in the government I’ve never had to deal with something this crazy. The level of disinformation spread by this group has grown in recent months and now we’re having to actively debunk it through the press.”
The “six percent” claim was embraced by conservatives, who have been eager for ways to downplay the virus’ American death toll and have claimed for months that the CDC and hospitals were overcounting COVID-19 deaths. To QAnon supporters, the claim purports to show that COVID-19 has killed only 9,000 people, with the vast majority of the roughly 183,000 COVID-19 casualties actually killed by another ailment.
The simple truth is that Tom Seaver wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t contracted the virus and neither would thousands of other Americans who also may have had high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, or some other secondary condition.
Another crazy conspiracy that Trump has been pushing for a long time is the notion that mail-in ballots cannot be trusted. Yesterday, Trump actually recommended that voters in North Carolina should try to vote twice. NBC News: Trump encourages North Carolina residents to vote twice to test mail-in system.
President Donald Trump suggested that people in North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, escalating his attempts to cast confusion and doubt on the validity of the results.
“So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote,” Trump said when asked whether he has confidence in the mail-in system in North Carolina, a battleground state.
“If it’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do,” he said.
It is illegal to vote more than once in an election.
But Bill Barr, who is supposedly the Attorney General of the United States isn’t sure that voting twice is illegal. Newsweek: Bill Barr Mocked After ‘Playing Dumb’ Over Legality of Voting Twice.
Appearing on CNN on Wednesday, Barr said the president was trying to make the point that election monitoring was not good enough to prevent people from voting at polling stations if they already cast their ballots by mail.
But when he was pressed on the fact that such an action would be illegal, he said he was unaware of what state laws said about the legality of voting twice.
“I don’t know what the law in the particular state says, and when that vote becomes final,” Barr told CNN.
The network host Wolf Blitzer then asked: “Is there any state in which you can vote twice?”
“Maybe you can change your vote up to a particular time, I don’t know what the law is,” the attorney general replied.
Barr might as well come out and say that he’s the chairman of Trump’s reelection campaign. In the CNN interview, he also claimed that “voting by mail is ‘playing with fire'”
“This is playing with fire. We’re a very closely divided country here,” Barr said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” of changes this year where states are allowing more voting by mail because of the pandemic.
“People trying to change the rules to this, to this methodology — which, as a matter of logic, is very open to fraud and coercion — is reckless and dangerous and people are playing with fire,” Barr added.
Barr provided no evidence for his claims.
These comments contradict the views of bipartisan election officials and a wide array of voting experts who say voting-by-mail is a safe option with protections in place to prevent systematic fraud. There is no widespread fraud in US elections, even in states with a history of heavy mail-in voting, running directly counter to Barr’s assertions.
Barr’s comments seem to play into Trump’s attempts to stoke fear and add chaos to the coming election. Several states have expanded their mail-in voting options this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Trump campaign and Republican Party are fighting more widespread options for voters.
And then there’s Trump bizarre story about thugs, looters, and anarchists on planes flying around to cause “big trouble.” Salon: Thugs on a plane? Trump’s bizarre yarn echoes viral Facebook rumor — and Rudy Giuliani’s rants.
President Trump pushed a baseless and bizarre conspiracy theory on Monday that a plane “almost completely loaded with thugs” was sent to disrupt the Republican National Convention, a claim that appears almost identical to a rumor that traveled across Facebook three months ago.
Trump made the claim in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, alleging without evidence that “we had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.”
While the president would not divulge more details, he assured Ingraham that the incident is “under investigation right now.”
There is no evidence of such a flight. When Ingraham asked Trump to say more, the president replied, “I’ll tell you sometime.” The unidentified black-clad “thugs,” the president said, were headed to Washington D.C., to disrupt the RNC….
NBC News’ Ben Collins later reported that the rumor lines up with a viral Facebook post from June 1, which falsely claimed to have observed a similar sinister contingent on board a flight from Seattle to Boise, Idaho: “At least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black.”
Seriously, Trump is beginning to sound truly delusional. I’m not sure he’s in touch with reality much of the time. The White House doctor might need to prescribe and antipsychotic drug.
From Justin Baragona at The Daily Beast: Devin Nunes May Be Trump’s ‘Person’ Who Witnessed the Antifa Plane ‘Firsthand.’
President Donald Trump’s latest outlandish conspiracy about a “person” he refuses to name having “firsthand” witnessed a commercial flight full of “thugs” and “looters” clad in “black uniforms with gear” may seem ripped directly from an unhinged relative’s Facebook page. But before this bizarre theory was being pushed by the president, another GOP lawmaker was spouting a nearly identical story….
“So, these people that descended on Washington, D.C., most of them were not local,” Nunes declared. “In fact, I flew in with a bunch of them where I got on a plane in Salt Lake City where I had to commute through and I saw maybe two dozen BLM people.”
Nunes continued: “The irony is they were all white people, they weren’t even Black, but somebody was paying for those people to go there—they were coordinated, paying for that, and then what they did was they were not protesting. This is not protesting when you block the exits of the White House.”
Neither Nunes’ office nor the White House returned a request for comment. But the congressman’s interview with Breitbart represents a type of missing puzzle piece to the mystery of just where Trump got the idea of an antifa plane packed with geared-up looters.
Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke hilariously satirizes the “thugs on a plane” narrative: Column: Trump’s ‘Air Antifa’ plane story is true (maybe). I know because I was there (maybe). A brief excerpt:
Which plane traveling to Washington, D.C., was this, and who were these black-clad thugs and who relayed this information?
Trump wouldn’t say. But I will: It was me. I was on that black-clad thug plane. I am President Trump’s source for this harrowing tale of rioters flying commercial….
I’ll explain the whole thing. And like the president, I’ll do it in a way that lacks specific details, sounds wildly unhinged and makes you wonder if you should start slowly walking away, careful not to make any sudden movements.
It was August-whatever, and I was catching the Air Leftist “looters & anarchists” flight out of O’Hare at a time I will not reveal. I try to avoid that airline — they try to turn you socialist by evenly redistributing peanuts among the passengers — but it was the cheapest fare I could find.
Just before I got on board, someone in a dark shadow of the terminal started talking to me about the coronavirus and how Trump had mishandled the pandemic and made America a global laughingstock. I shouted, “LAW AND ORDER!” at the guy, and that made him go away.
Next we boarded the plane in order from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
I sat down and took out some meat I had killed with my gun earlier in the day, and that’s when I noticed it: black-clad thugs, everywhere. I felt very uncomfortable, particularly when two of them sat down in my row.
I asked the first one what he does, and he said: “I’m a looter. I just bought this $300 plane ticket so I could travel to wherever and steal $100 worth of clothes, which is something that definitely happens because it makes sense.”
The other guy nodded and said, “I’m an anarchist. And I’m hoping to destroy America while also collecting valuable mileage points for future travel.”
I kept silent for a moment, afraid they would beat me up or destroy my suburb. Then I asked: “So what are you all looking for?”
They both said: “Trouble.”
Read the whole thing at the link.
I also recommend reading two general articles on Trumpist conspiracy theories:
Daniel Dale at CNN: Fact check: A guide to 9 conspiracy theories Trump is currently pushing.
Just two more months until the election. I only hope we can rid ourselves of the lunatic in the White House, but will sanity be restored to the country as a whole if he loses? We can only hope.
Take care Sky Dancers! Stay safe and sane and check in if you can.