Fresh Hell Friday ReadsPosted: August 9, 2019 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: El Paso massacre, Genocide, Persecution of Hispanics, Racism 23 Comments
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I really have given up on having any expectations that the occupant of the White House is capable of normal human emotional reactions or empathy but his time and actions in El Paso were really something inconceivable for most of us. And yes, I know what that word means!
Politicians frequently use people as props and Trump has been no exception over his time in the public eye. The people he dehumanizes the most frequently and the most noticeably are people of color and women. His visit to El Paso was a massive show of peak narcissism. He is self serving. He is clueless on simple human kindness. He is a monster and a racist.
Here’s a bit from Tweetie:”WaPo: During Hospital Visit, Trump Compared His And Beto O’Rourke’s Crowd Sizes | Hardball | MSNBC” on You tube.
The worst was this disturbing photo op with the orphaned baby whose parents died shielding him from the hail of bullets that killed so many in El Paso. He is a victim of Trumpism. His parents are martyrs for Trump’s political ambitions and his love of white supremacist ideology.
I was horrified when this first crept into my twitter feed! Reed Richardson–for Mediaite--responded with this headline: “Trump and First Lady Smiling With Baby Orphaned in El Paso Massacre Draws Criticism: ‘Act Like a Human Being’”. The Addams family has more normal behavior and values than those two grifters. Gee, FLOTUS, is holding a wounded orphaned baby like a sack of potatoes part of the ‘be best’ pogrom?
The only thing missing was the “I don’t really care, do u” jacket.
One day after President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited with victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, Twitter erupted in disgust at an image Tweeted out by the @FLOTUS account that showed the pair broadly grinning — and with Trump inexplicably flashing a thumbs-up — while holding a two-month-old baby who lost both parents in the massacre.
Trump has already endured an onslaught of criticism for making political attacks amidst his consolation visits, bragging about his past rally sizes in El Paso to hospital staff, as well as creating a glowing, campaign-style video from footage taken during his visit.
But the image of both Trumps flashing big smiles while holding an orphan of mass gun violence at the hospital where his parents had only recently just died — and where he was returned to just for the photo op — struck a huge nerve with folks online, and their visceral responses showed it.
“Lack of Empathy” is putting it mildly.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro–writing for The Atlantic–argues that Latinos are being erased by the Media in the El Paso Shooting story.
On Tuesday morning, I happened to walk by the Newseum, the news museum in Washington, D.C., that displays front pages from across the country in its windows. They almost all looked the same—from the Portland Press Herald in Maine to The Arizona Republic to The Washington Post. The word the headlines shared in common was Trump, as they offered a variety of takes on his speech. Much of the broadcast coverage offered a similar emphasis on the president, with a few notable exceptions.
The attack in El Paso left 22 dead. Most were Latinos, some of whom were Mexican citizens. It followed a sustained and deliberate campaign by the Trump administration to demonize immigrants. Journalists should report on that. We should contextualize it. But that is only the beginning of our work.
There have been hundreds of articles and broadcast stories since the attack in El Paso, reporting with depth and compassion about this moment. But the banner headlines and the segments at the top of newscasts reflect the value editors assign to aspects of a story. The front page still speaks volumes. The top story in a broadcast signals to the audience which topics matter most. And despite the fact that the attacker purposefully targeted Latinos, that is not what most outlets chose to emphasize.
This erasure of Latinos by the national media is nothing new. For years, the marquee Sunday political talk shows have rarely featured Latinos. There is only one Latino on The New York Times’ editorial board, and there is none on The Washington Post’s(although at least one Latino editor regularly takes part in its editorial-board discussions). NPR, where I work, recently had a period of time with no Latino reporters on its politics team, before it made two hires.
Meanwhile, verticals and publications courting Latino readers, such as The New York Times’ Spanish-language site, have proliferated. That might seem like progress, but in practice, it often means that outreach to Latino audiences is walled off. The pinnacles of elite journalism remain mostly white.
Why does that matter? Latin American children are being separated from their parents at the border, and hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise. The media have an important role in framing these conversations, and the lack of diversity in newsrooms hobbles their ability to do so.
The Trump visit to the grieving El Paso community was accompanied by vast ICE Raids in Mississippi that left many children without parents on their first day of school. We continue to see the complicity but not the criminality of employers in these actions.
Federal agents fanned out across the state on Wednesday and detained about 680 workers at poultry and other food-processing plants. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Thursday that 300 people had been released, as they had no criminal record, or any other reason to remain detained.
If fear and foreboding had taken hold in the Hispanic community here, a sense of uncertainty had settled more broadly over Canton, a city of about 12,000 people a half-hour north of Jackson, the state capital.
A number of residents said that Hispanics, who account for about 5 percent of the city’s population, had arrived in noticeable numbers about 13 years ago. They have tended to cluster and stay to themselves, and their children often translate at parent-teacher conferences, residents said.
And now the questions on many minds: What would happen to the workers? And what would happen to their children? What, too, would happen to the chicken plant? Representatives for Peco Foods declined to say on Thursday how the plant was operating in the wake of the raid, but its parking lot was full, and big trucks were moving in and out. A few workers, black and Hispanic, could be seen walking into the building wearing plastic hair coverings.
NPR has reported today that 300 of the arrested workers have been released.
The procedures ICE followed in this week’s raids stood in contrast to President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border. That policy came under widespread and harsh criticism.
Included among those released in the Mississippi raids were 18 juveniles, with the youngest being 14 years old, the news agency said, quoting Jere Miles, a special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans.
The statement explained that detainees were “asked when they arrived at the processing center whether they had any children who were at school or childcare and needed to be picked up.” It said cellphones were made available for them “to make arrangements for the care of their children or other dependents.”
“[I]f HSI encountered two alien parents with minor children at home, HSI released one of the parents on humanitarian grounds and returned that individual to the place from which they were arrested,” the statement said. “HSI similarly released any single alien parent with minor children at home on humanitarian grounds and physically returned that person to the place where he or she was originally detained.”
“Based on these procedures, it is believed that all children were with at least one of their parents as of last night,” it added.
A plant owned by Illinois-based poultry producer Koch Foods in Morton, Miss., was among five plants targeted in Wednesday’s raids, which involved a total of about 600 ICE officers.
BB and I were talking the other day about the Ten Stages of Genocide as defined by Genocide Watch. Where are we on that list with what we are doing to our Hispanic communities and neighbors?
Nicholas Kamm writes this for TruthOut: ” When Trump Calls People “Filth,” He’s Laying Groundwork for Genocide”
President Trump’s rhetoric of national ethnic cleansing has ushered white supremacy into the mainstream. The Republican Party and right-wing media have consistently tried to launder his racism into excusable bawdy humor or political bloviating. Peel back their lies, and a nightmare becomes visible. Our president has led the nation closer to genocide.
Mass killing does not happen instantly. The ideological groundwork has to be laid. Therefore, we must look at Trump’s rhetoric of “filth,” painting immigrants as both unclean and “criminal.” We must look at his dehumanization of immigrants. If seen through Gregory Stanton’s Stages of Genocide, it is clear that Trump has legitimized the Neo-Nazi ideology that dreams of a Final Solution. It has been obscured because too many think of Europe when they think of genocide. We cannot forget that the United States was founded on genocide. It could end in one.
Trump has been issuing blatantly racist comments, using the language of criminality and refuse, since the beginning of his campaign. “When Mexico sends its people,” Donald Trump said at his 2015 campaign launch, “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Three years later in 2018, he said Democrats “want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13.” In July 2019, he tweeted about four Democratic congresswomen of color, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?” Later that same month, he tweeted that Baltimore was a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” that “no human would want to live there.”
Trump’s rhetoric of filth, criminality and dehumanization fits into a long white supremacist tradition that imagines non-whites as dirty foreign elements that must be expelled. Or killed. Comedian Joy Behar on The View quickly connected his imagery to history, “‘Infest,’ I think, is a buzzword. The Nazis used it against the Jews, they said vermin … once you start calling people names about that they’re insects, vermin, that they’re lower than humans — then the murders can begin.” She’s right. The 1940 Nazi film, The Eternal Jew, portrayed Jews as parasites, criminals and rats. Oppressive speech helped make the Holocaust possible.
This is a long read but well worth it as the author explores each of the stages and estimates that we are moving quickly up to the higher levels under the Trumpist Occupation of the White House.
Trump’s pogrom is being enabled by his disabling of the Justice Department and of US Intelligence Agencies. His agenda is to replace professional with ignorant cronies loyal to only him and greed. Meanwhile, the data on the current rise of White Supremacy and its mainstreaming into the Republican Party is appalling. No wonder Trump wishes to bury the data.
Alleged white supremacists were responsible for all race-based domestic terrorism incidents in 2018, according to a government document distributed earlier this year to state, local and federal law enforcement.
The document, which has not been previously reported on, becomes public as the Trump administration’s Justice Department has been unable or unwilling to provide data to Congress on white supremacist domestic terrorism.
The data in this document, titled “Domestic Terrorism in 2018,” appears to be what Congress has been asking for — and didn’t get.
The document, dated April 15, 2019, shows 25 of the 46 individuals allegedly involved in 32 different domestic terrorism incidents were identified as white supremacists. It was prepared by New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, one of the main arteries of information sharing, and sent throughout the DHS fusion center network as well as federal agencies, including the FBI.
“This map reflects 32 domestic terrorist attacks, disrupted plots, threats of violence, and weapons stockpiling by individuals with a radical political or social agenda who lack direction or influence from foreign terrorist organizations in 2018,” the document says.
The map and data was circulated throughout the Department of Justice and around the country in April just as members of the Senate pushed the DOJ to provide them with precise information about the number of white supremacists involved in domestic terrorism. While the document shows this information clearly had been compiled, some of the senators say the Justice Department would not give them the figures.
You can see the map at the link above to Yahoo News. You can also read about White Supremacist Journalist Tucker and enabler Kelly Ann Conway at this NewsWeek link: “KELLYANNE CONWAY DEFENDS TUCKER CARLSON, SAYS WHITE SUPREMACY GETS ‘OUTSIZED COVERAGE’ COMPARED TO ANTIFA”. Carslon has gone fishing–literally–for a few weeks to let his complicit work towards normalizing White Nationalism and Replacement theory. cool down.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday, arguing that his assertion that white supremacy is a “hoax” was getting “outsized coverage” compared to other threats.
Conway made the comments during an interview with pundit Eric Bolling on his show America This Week. Bolling asked the Trump aide whether or not white supremacy was a “quote unquote hoax” as Carlson had asserted on his show this week. Although Conway said that white supremacy is not a hoax, she deflected to other perceived threats.
“I think perhaps what Tucker is saying, but you’d have to ask him, is that the outsized coverage it gets versus all forms of hate,” the Trump administration official said, pointing specifically to the left-wing ideology of Antifa and calling out anti-semitism. Notably, many white supremacists often spout anti-semitic rhetoric. As for Antifa, the far-left group has been known to damage property and occasionally fight with police, but no killings have ever been linked to them.
“All forms of hate have to really – they have to be reigned in,” Conway continued. “We have to look at the motivations. We have to try to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are capable of doing such evil,” she added.
On Tuesday evening, Carlson claimed on his Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight that white supremacy was a “hoax” and a “conspiracy theory used to divide the country.”
“It’s actually not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium,” the Fox News host argued. Continuing, he said, “it’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.”
Despite Carlson’s assertions, FBI director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month saying that “the majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” Government and watchdog stats have also pointed to a rise in white supremacist violence in recent years, with many Trump critics arguing that the president has emboldened such attackers and hate groups.
This both siderism is the most insidious form of duplicity in covering up evil that I’ve ever encountered in my adult life. At least own up to what you’re about like Bannon, Miller and Gorka.
WarMart is the new battlefield but they’ve not removed the guns; only violent video games.
They’re setting our neighborhoods on fire. And, he’s egging them on.
If you want to follow an intelligent Discourse on Racism and White Supremacy on Twitter, here is you man.
I keep hoping we can find a way out of this situation. I’m glad to see that mass publication of Trump donors that include many businesses allows us to at least boycott his enablers. But, this runs so deep in our history and country and in many communities, it’s easy for me to despair daily.
I think it’s important we truly console each other but also that we stand up by simply being good neighbors and Americans.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Monday Reads and Alternative History: President Swiss Cheese Brain can’t remember Why we had a Civil WarPosted: May 1, 2017 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Andrew Jackson, Civil War, Dictators, Genocide, Samantha Bee, slavery, Trump, white nationalists 33 Comments
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I’ve spent a few hours rereading the latest Trump interviews with his usual displays of argle bargle. Yes. He still is obsessed with the idea Obama wiretapped him. Yes. He is still obsessed with losing the popular vote and screaming fake news!. Then, there’s his obsession with Andrew Jackson that appears to be based on anything but history. It seems America’s genocidal maniac could’ve prevent the Civil War from the grave according to Trump’s Alternative History Facts.
How many people do you know that would ask this question other than maybe a first grader? “Trump: ‘Why was there the Civil War?'” Oh, and how many of you–knowing that Andrew Jackson was responsible for the big win of the War of 1812–would live long enough to be around for say, the Civil War? I assuming you’re reaching down there for the kids you know attending nursery school. I would certainly expect some one who was sent to private military school which is full of old men fascinated by wars would have learned about the entire Civil War and the Battle of New Orleans. Wouldn’t you?
President Trump during an interview that airs Monday questioned why the country had a Civil War and suggested former President Andrew Jackson could have prevented it had he served later.
“I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart,” Trump said during an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito.
“He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.'”
Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, died in 1845. The Civil War began in 1861.
The president further questioned why the country could not have solved the Civil War.
“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?” Trump said during the edition of “Main Street Meets the Beltway” scheduled to air on SiriusXM.
“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
During the interview, the president also compared his win to that of Jackson.
“My campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson, with his campaign. And I said, when was Andrew Jackson? It was 1828. That’s a long time ago,” Trump said.
“That’s Andrew Jackson. And he had a very, very mean and nasty campaign. Because they said this was the meanest and the nastiest. And unfortunately, it continues.”
Andrew Jackson was a racist and he acted on it. He was a slave owner.
“Stop the Runaway,” Andrew Jackson urged in an ad placed in the Tennessee Gazette in October 1804. The future president gave a detailed description: A “Mulatto Man Slave, about thirty years old, six feet and an inch high, stout made and active, talks sensible, stoops in his walk, and has a remarkable large foot, broad across the root of the toes — will pass for a free man …”
Jackson, who would become the country’s seventh commander in chief in 1829, promised anyone who captured this “Mulatto Man Slave” a reward of $50, plus “reasonable” expenses paid.
Jackson added a line that some historians find particularly cruel.
It offered “ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.”
The ad was signed, “ANDREW JACKSON, Near Nashville, State of Tennessee.”
Jackson, whose face is on the $20 bill and who President Trump paid homage to in March, owned about 150 enslaved people at The Hermitage, his estate near Nashville, when he died in 1845, according to records. On Monday, President Trump created a furor when he suggested in an interview an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito that Jackson could have prevented the Civil War.
Just for good measure, let me also point you to Andrew Jackson’s message to Congress on ‘Indian Removal.’ It’s about the policy that sent two Southern Tribes on a Trail of Tears that was nothing short of mass genocide.
“It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.
What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion? The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process. The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.
But hey, in Trump’s swiss cheese-like brain: “Trump proposes an alternate history where Civil War was avoided.”
Trump’s Jackson obsession likely comes from Steve Bannon.
But the reason Jackson has taken on such a physical and rhetorical presence in the Trump White House is, in fact, primarily because of Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and the former head of Breitbart. According to officials in the Trump campaign, presidential transition, and administration speaking to The Daily Beast, Bannon would often discuss Jackson’s historical legacy and image with Trump on and after the campaign trail, and how the two political figures were a lot alike.
“[During the race], Trump would say he had heard this pundit or this person making the comparison, and [Steve] would encourage him and tell him how it was true,” a Trump campaign adviser who requested anonymity to speak freely told The Daily Beast. “It was a way to flatter [Trump], too. Bannon and Trump talked about a lot, but this was the president they had casual [conversations] about the most.”
Another senior Team Trump official said that “as the transition was underway, he would encourage [Trump] to play up the comparison,” and that “Trump’s campaign and message was a clear descendant of Jacksonian populism and anti-political elitism.”
“[Bannon] is why Trump keeps equating himself with Andrew Jackson. That is the reason why,” the aide added.
According to two sources with knowledge of the matter, Bannon had suggested and had given Trump a “reading list” of articles and biographies on Jackson, and reading material on Jacksonian democracy and populism. Stephen Miller, another top Trump adviser, also recommended and offered related reading material to Trump, a senior Trump administration official said.
Quick Baby and Corgi Break before we move on to more depressing stuff about Kremlin Caligula. I’m moving towards the school of thought that we need a happy sanity break of the kind BB provides.
Okay, that’s not enough! Try this from Samatha Bee on what we coulda shoulda had instead of a mentally and emotionally deranged baby man in the nation’s seat of power.
Other news about Brutal, murdering Dictators beloved by Kremlin Caligula:
Trump Says He’d Meet With North Korea’s Kim If Situation’s Right via Bloomberg. Maybe he needs to appoint Dennis Rodman to the State Department. Most of the jobs are open there.
President Donald Trump said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid heightened tensions over his country’s nuclear weapons program if the circumstances were right.
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump said Monday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”
The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and as recently as last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the United Nations that the U.S. would negotiate with Kim’s regime only if it made credible steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
“Most political people would never say that,” Trump said of his willingness to meet with the reclusive Kim, “but I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news.”
“Philippines’ Duterte on Trump’s White House invitation: ‘I’m tied up'” via The Hill.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he could not commit to visiting the White House after President Trump invited him this weekend, saying “I am tied up.”
“I cannot make any definite promise. I am supposed to go to Russia; I am supposed to go to Israel,” he said, according to Yahoo News.
Trump’s invitation to Duterte, who has been accused of backing the vigilante execution of people involved in the drug trade and threatening journalists and political opponents, drew criticism from human rights groups. He invited the controversial leader to the White House without consulting the State Department or the National Security Council.
“By essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings,” John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told the New York Times.
“AFTER A HUNDRED DAYS, TRUMP IS TRUMP IS TRUMP” which contains analysis by John Cassiday of The New Yorker.
If you want Trump to say something nice about you, it helps enormously if you are an authoritarian leader. Now that the continuing investigations into Russian interference in the election have forced him to be more reticent about exalting the virtues of Vladimir Putin, Trump is evidently seeking out other soul mates. On Saturday, he invited Rodrigo Duterte, the brutish President of the Philippines, who human-rights groups have accused of presiding over hundreds or thousands of extrajudicial killings in a drug war, to visit Washington.
In an interview broadcast on Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Trump even had some complimentary things to say about North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, who is widely regarded as unstable. Noting that Kim had acceded to power at a young age and asserted his control over his generals and other family members, Trump said, “So, obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie. But we have a situation that we just cannot let—we cannot let what’s been going on for a long period of years continue.”
One situation that will continue, it seems, is Trump’s inability to take responsibility for any failures or mistakes on his part. When CBS’s John Dickerson asked him, “What do you know now on day one hundred that you wish you knew on day one of the Presidency?” Trump replied, “Well, one of the things that I’ve learned is how dishonest the media is.” Pressed by Dickerson on whether there was anything else he’d picked up, he said, “Well, I think things generally tend to go a little bit slower than you’d like them to go . . . . It’s just a very, very bureaucratic system. I think the rules in Congress and in particular the rules in the Senate are unbelievably archaic and slow moving.”
This comment jibed with something Trump said in an interview last week with Reuters, when he complained that, “This is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” Trump seems to have entered the Oval Office blissfully unaware of how the American political system works, or of the fact that the Founding Fathers purposefully placed strict limits on the power of the Presidency. Since January 20th, Congress and the judiciary have taught him some harsh lessons, and it’s clear he hasn’t enjoyed them. To Dickerson, he went so far as to claim that the system was “unfair—in many cases, you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make.”
So, I saved the most shocking for last and this is from TPM’s Josh Marshall . ” Priebus: Trump Considering Amending or Abolishing 1st Amendment.”
A number of press reports have picked up this exchange this morning between ABC’s Jonathan Karl and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. But people have missed the real significance. Priebus doesn’t discuss changing ‘press laws’ or ‘libel laws’. He specifically says that the White House has considered and continues to consider amending or even abolishing the 1st Amendment because of critical press coverage of President Trump.
Sound hyperbolic? Look at the actual exchange (emphasis added) …
KARL: I want to ask you about two things the President has said on related issues. First of all, there was what he said about opening up the libel laws. Tweeting “the failing New York Times has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change the libel laws?” That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment. Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?
PRIEBUS: I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. But when you have articles out there that have no basis or fact and we’re sitting here on 24/7 cable companies writing stories about constant contacts with Russia and all these other matters—
KARL: So you think the President should be able to sue the New York Times for stories he doesn’t like?
PRIEBUS: Here’s what I think. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news. I am so tired.
KARL: I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. It’s about whether or not the President should have a right to sue them.
PRIEBUS: And I already answered the question. I said this is something that is being looked at. But it’s something that as far as how it gets executed, where we go with it, that’s another issue.
It’s really difficult to know why any of this has come about in our Republic at this point in time. A handful of angry white people in a few states targeted by Russian propaganda and enabled by voter suppression laws brought this on us. How do we get rid of him?
Trump’s critics are actively exploring the path to impeachment or the invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, which allows for the replacement of a President who is judged to be mentally unfit. During the past few months, I interviewed several dozen people about the prospects of cutting short Trump’s Presidency. I spoke to his friends and advisers; to lawmakers and attorneys who have conducted impeachments; to physicians and historians; and to current members of the Senate, the House, and the intelligence services. By any normal accounting, the chance of a Presidency ending ahead of schedule is remote. In two hundred and twenty-eight years, only one President has resigned; two have been impeached, though neither was ultimately removed from office; eight have died. But nothing about Trump is normal. Although some of my sources maintained that laws and politics protect the President to a degree that his critics underestimate, others argued that he has already set in motion a process of his undoing. All agree that Trump is unlike his predecessors in ways that intensify his political, legal, and personal risks. He is the first President with no prior experience in government or the military, the first to retain ownership of a business empire, and the oldest person ever to assume the Presidency.
For Trump’s allies, the depth of his unpopularity is an urgent cause for alarm. “You can’t govern this country with a forty-per-cent approval rate. You just can’t,” Stephen Moore, a senior economist at the Heritage Foundation, who advised Trump during the campaign, told me. “Nobody in either party is going to bend over backwards for Trump if over half the country doesn’t approve of him. That, to me, should be a big warning sign.”
Trump has embraced strategies that normally boost popularity, such as military action. In April, some pundits were quick to applaud him for launching a cruise-missile attack on a Syrian airbase, and for threatening to attack North Korea. In interviews, Trump marvelled at the forces at his disposal, like a man wandering into undiscovered rooms of his house. (“It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant.”) But the Syria attack only briefly reversed the slide in Trump’s popularity; it remained at historic lows.
It is not a good sign for a beleaguered President when his party gets dragged down, too. From January to April, the number of Americans who had a favorable view of the Republican Party dropped seven points, to forty per cent, according to the Pew Research Center. I asked Jerry Taylor, the president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, if he had ever seen so much skepticism so early in a Presidency. “No, nobody has,” he said. “But we’ve never lived in a Third World banana republic. I don’t mean that gratuitously. I mean the reality is he is governing as if he is the President of a Third World country: power is held by family and incompetent loyalists whose main calling card is the fact that Donald Trump can trust them, not whether they have any expertise.” Very few Republicans in Congress have openly challenged Trump, but Taylor cautioned against interpreting that as committed support. “My guess is that there’s only between fifty and a hundred Republican members of the House that are truly enthusiastic about Donald Trump as President,” he said. “The balance sees him as somewhere between a deep and dangerous embarrassment and a threat to the Constitution.”
The Administration’s defiance of conventional standards of probity makes it acutely vulnerable to ethical scandal. The White House recently stopped releasing visitors’ logs, limiting the public’s ability to know who is meeting with the President and his staff. Trump has also issued secret waivers to ethics rules, so that political appointees can alter regulations that they previously lobbied to dismantle.
I’m down with whatever it takes.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?