Category Archives: Donald Trump

Would you hire this man?

Well, this is a particularly awesome ad on any level. I especially like it because when it comes to voting, or endorsements, I’ve always thought in these terms — I’m hiring someone for a job. It’s one reason I make such a fuss about people’s resumes — and also about their characters.

The thing about Trump is, I’ve always found it unimaginable that anyone would consider hiring him for anything, anything at all — much less the highest office in our land (in the world).

Oh, by the way — if you have hearing trouble the way I do, you might like this version with subtitles:

In any case, enjoy. And think. And run out and vote, if you haven’t yet…

interview ad

I can’t vote for a single Republican this year. I just can’t.

sample ballot

I don’t when this has happened before. Or if it’s happened.

I know it didn’t happen during my years as a guy who made endorsements and shared them with the world (or in the years since). I know that because I kept records. And with one or two exceptions, I pretty much voted a straight editorial-board ticket. If we endorsed them, I almost always voted for them. So, I know that at no time between 1994 and 2008 was there a year when I couldn’t support anybody of one party. Or the other.

Oh, there were those awkward years at the paper in which we supported — for that one year — mostly Democrats or mostly Republicans. For instance, in 2006 we endorsed 12 Democrats and only 5 Republicans. That was the most lopsided ever, exceeding even 2000, when we backed 10 Republicans and only 7 Democrats.

But I didn’t really worry about those lopsided years, because I knew — and reminded everybody — of what the mix had been the time before. And that it would likely be balanced to some extent in the next election. For instance, the election year after the one when we went with 12 Democrats was 2008, when we supported eight Republicans and only five Democrats.

It worked out. And anyone with a halfway fair mind could see that what we said was true — that we didn’t consider party. Not even to make it work out evenly in a given year — which we could have done, had we chosen to stack things. We just made determinations as to who was the better candidate in each contest, and let the chips fall.

Of course, the partisans on both sides accused us of being partisans for the others side — because like Donald Trump, they didn’t let facts get in their way.

But now, I’m out here alone, and people are going, “Let’s see what Brad really is, when he’s not speaking for an institution.”

I haven’t really kept track of every vote since 2008, the way I did at the paper. But I know I’ve voted for Republicans as well as Democrats, mainly because I usually have voted in Republican primaries. (If you live in Lexington County and don’t vote in the GOP primary, you don’t get any choices.)

Since leaving the paper, of course, I actually worked in a campaign — for a Democrat. Which didn’t mean I was a Democrat. The Democrats understood that. Some of them are still ticked at James for hiring me when I obviously wasn’t a member of the tribe. I don’t know if he still hears about it — probably not — but I do. It was my fault he lost, you see. That’s what I occasionally hear, anyway. Because I wasn’t the real deal.

Of course, I’m just talking about serious Democrats. And just some of them. Republicans, and other people who are not partisan Democrats, think, “You worked for a Democrat, so you’re a Democrat. You ever work for a Republican? No? OK, then you’re a Democrat.” Because, you see, we (including the media, or course) have trained people to think you can only be one of two things. So if you’re not one, you’re the other. Even when you’re not.

So anyway, it would have been great — now that I’m a guy who puts signs in his yard — if I could have put a Republican or two out there this year, the way I did the first time I had signs, in 2018. It might not persuade anybody, but to quote Tippi Turtle, it would “bother those hammerheads.” Anything I can do to get partisans to scratch their heads is in theory good, because the stimulation might lead to thought.

But Donald Trump made that impossible. I cannot possibly support someone who actively and regularly supports him, so there go all the Republicans I used to support in the past on the national level. My hero John McCain stood up to him, but he’s gone. And I wouldn’t have had a chance to vote for McCain again anyway, after I did in 2008 (and back in the 2000 primary — which is one of those times I didn’t vote a straight editorial-board ticket, since I lost that endorsement debate).

Let’s look at the Republicans on my ballot.

Did Joe Wilson vote to impeach Trump? No, he did not. There are plenty of other problems with Joe, but that would be enough. He’s my representative, and I couldn’t trust him to do something that really shouldn’t have taken any thought, for anyone who believed there should be standards for the office of president. I have no problem applying that as the bare minimum for my vote. We didn’t even need an impeachment investigation, after Trump put out the official White House summary of that phone call. That, without anything else, would have caused you to vote for impeachment if you were someone I would have represent me in Congress.

Is that an unfair standard to apply to a poor ol’ Republican? No, it is not. Yes, it sounds absurd for me to expect that of a South Carolina Republican. Of course it does. And that fully explains why I can’t vote for any Republicans now. None of them will consider for even a second doing the right thing.

So I’m voting for Adair. I’m not crazy about everything she runs on — too populist for me — but I think she’ll do a better job than Joe, if we give her a chance. If she’d say, “I would have voted to impeach Trump,” I’d put up a sign for her in a second.

Then, of course, there’s Lindsey Graham. I don’t think I’ve ever been let down to this extent by anyone, especially someone I used to respect as much as I did him — as a stand-up guy, a guy who actually took political risks to try to address the worst excesses of partisanship (such as the insanity over confirming judges), and even the worst impulses within his own party (think “immigration”). We could respect and admire Lindsey as recently as 2016, when he was such a no-holds-barred critic of Trump that he was fun to have around. No more. That’s all gone, and he’s the guy who threw it all away — with extreme prejudice.

And we know, because we knew him in 2016 and all those years before, that he knows better.

He’s got to go. He’s disgraced himself, and the rest of us, enough. And fortunately, his opponent is someone I’ve liked for years. And he actually seems to have a chance. Which is something of a miracle, and if that miracle happens, I’m going to be part of it. You go, Jaime.

And of course, of course, I’ll be voting for my senator, Nikki Setzler. I even have a sign for him in the yard, too.

So that just left my own incumbent state House representative, Micah Caskey, as the one Republican I’d be happy to vote for. I had a sign for him in my yard in 2018, along with the one for James. Ditto with bumper stickers. So imagine my dismay when I realized, just before the primary, that Micah had no opposition. Meaning he wasn’t going to be spending money on yard signs and bumper stickers this year.

Oh, I could vote for him anyway, or one of the many other Republicans on my ballot who are unopposed. But it doesn’t really mean anything unless unless you’re choosing somebody over somebody else.

So I’m still going to be voting for just Democrats on the 3rd. Which is weird, and uncomfortable, if you’re me.

Why do I care? Why does it matter whether people think I’m a Democrat, or a Republican, or whatever?

Because, on one level, I absolutely cannot stand to be misunderstood. I want people to place some value in the precise reasons I give for voting the way I do in a given race. Otherwise, I wouldn’t offer them. And frankly, if I always vote for the Democrat, or always vote for a Republican, my reasons don’t matter. They only matter if I go into it fairly, and judge based on the relative merits of each candidate in the race. At least, that’s the way it was before now, before the Republicans I had supported for years suddenly make it impossible to keep doing so.

That’s the selfish reason.

But it’s not just an ego thing. What I’m trying to say, in this instance, matters. It actually matters that a guy like me is telling you this: That we have reached a moment in which there is not a single Republican out there in a contested race that a guy like me, with my track record, can vote for. So you should pay attention. This is serious.

But if I’m not what I say I am, then never mind. Just ignore the partisan. (That’s what I do with partisans.)

Also, there are so many Democrats out there I would never vote for — and I don’t want anyone thinking I would. (The clash between those Democrats and the ones like Joe and Jaime is probably going to be a huge issue after the election. But we can’t worry about that now. The house is on fire, and we have to put it out. We can worry about how it’s decorated later.)

That’s why I care. But I can’t help it. The Republicans in contested races on my ballot have made it impossible even to consider voting for them.

And that’s on them…

 

NYT runs out of room for the people who are NOT sick

Tuesday chart

Yesterday morning I screenshot an interesting graphic from the NYT. It showed people in the White House who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and on the bottom line showed some people in the drama who, thankfully, were still officially OK — such as Joe Biden, Mike Pence, and so forth.

You can see that Monday-morning chart below.

Anyway, they’re still running the chart, but now it doesn’t have any room for well people. As you can see above. The new one has newer cases of infection, such as Stephen Miller and Adm. Charles W. Ray. I’m not sure why it says “And at least 8 others” when there was still room for three of them on the chart. Maybe the guy in chart with the graphic was having trouble keeping up.

To me, it’s sometimes helpful to see a chart. This is sort of one of those time. If you want to dig further, click on the chart above and go to the page where the movements — together, off and on — of these people are tracked over a number of days…

COVID chart

 

 

 

Well, he’s got it.

3D_medical_animation_corona_virus

Thought I’d better put up a post in case y’all want to discuss Trump (and his wife, and Hope Hicks, and who knows who else) having the coronavirus.

Joe said about all that really needs to be said:

But of course, a lot more will be said. And we’ll have a lot to think about. Some of the things I’ve thought include:

  • I really hope he doesn’t die. I hope that about anyone, of course, but such a private tragedy would in this case lead to a chaotic situation at a particularly chaotic moment for the country. I could probably write a couple of thousand words about the political possibilities, but I won’t. I’ll just hope and pray he gets better, and we can go ahead and have this election, and get a rational, sensible, decent person into the Oval Office.
  • At the same time, imagine what happens if he has one of those super-light “mild-cold” cases (as people around him, so far, are suggesting). This would confirm him in his “it’s no worse than the flu” carelessness, which would be bad for us all, and likely lead to a lot more people dying. As awful as it is to hope someone feels bad (and it is), other people’s lives depend on him realizing, for the first time, that this is a serious illness. So… I don’t know what to think or say along these lines. As for his wife, I hope she suffers as little as possible.
  • I’m glad Joe and his wife tested negative. Although you can’t really bet on negative tests. Fortunately, we know Joe will be careful, as always, not to infect others.
  • Of course, if Joe did get it, we’d know how it happened. It happened from you-know-who shouting at him across a stage for an hour and a half. Sure, they were technically “safe-distanced,” but since Joe is careful, when else has he been exposed like that?

Anyway, I’ll just stop now, and let y’all share your thoughts…

Did you see that ludicrous display last night? (Thoughts?)

chart

Major national newspapers — I’m thinking here of The Washington Post and The New York Times, since I subscribe to them and read them every day — have to go way out of their way to find opinion writers who will defend Donald Trump. No established, accomplished writer with a reputation — whether on the left or right — will do that, so they’ve had to dig.

For instance, the Post enlisted this guy who made news in 2016 when his little paper actually endorsed the guy. So they’ve been running columns by him ever since. And we’ve also gotten used to the Trumpist stylings of former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. We sort of knew who he was before, but he’s gotten a lot more play since the disaster that befell our nation four years ago. The State, which is also desperate to find people who will say such things, has run him a good bit.

I had not heard of the Chris Buskirk guy who was the only person the NYT could find who might applaud Trump’s behavior last night — behavior that would cause a 4-year-old to be sent to stand in the corner in preschool. He is described as “the editor and publisher of the journal American Greatness and a contributing opinion writer.” That’s from the NYT; he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page or anything. Anyway, mission accomplished! They got somebody to occupy the right-hand side of that chart.

You’ll note that the only one of the NYT’s most prominent conservatives who participated — Ross Douthat — is over in the middle of the “Biden won” crowd. No actual thinking conservative can stand up for Trump’s increasingly more outrageous boorishness. You have to go hunting for relative unknowns. Preferably ones who are hungry, I would guess.

Anyway, I have nothing to add about that ludicrous display last night, except to thank Joe Biden for standing there for all that time rather than walking out — which is probably what I would have done, and which would not have helped my electoral chances.

I cannot believe there will be two more of these. There must be a way that our country can be spared that. As I’ve said so many times before, if only we could just vote today and have an end to all this!

If you want to know what I had to say when I was forcing myself to watch last night, here’s my Twitter feed.

Other than that, if you have thoughts to add, please go ahead…

ludicrous

Bob Woodward’s book

Rage_(Bob_Woodward)

Hey, if you thought the Five Points picture fully illustrated how messed up our world is, check out this tweet, which was brought to my attention by Chad Connelly:

I think he was serious. I think maybe this guy actually thinks a “fantasy baseball” list of candidates for nonexistent SCOTUS vacancies is more interesting and newsworthy than the bizarre things POTUS said on the record about REAL policy actions in a series of 18 extraordinary interviews with one of the two journalists most credited with bringing down Richard Nixon.

Really. I think he means it.

I mean… why didn’t Trump release a list of candidates for openings on the Court a century from now? He won’t get to nominate those, either.

You want something else to worry about? That guy has 279,300 followers, all of whom presumably live on the same planet as you.

Anyway, the Woodward book

I haven’t read it. I’ve just read about it. But here’s enough points to get you started:

  • As the headline in the Post reported, “Trump says he knew coronavirus was ‘deadly’ and worse than the flu while intentionally misleading Americans.” I mean, you know — he doesn’t want us to think he was stupid or something. Because he’s a real stable genius.
  • Two days after forcibly clearing Lafayette Square so he could wave a Bible around (but not open it, of course), Trump called Woodward to boast about it. When Woodward suggested maybe white men such as themselves should try to better understand “the anger and pain” of black Americans, Trump said, “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”
  • The Hill pulled this from the book: “Trump lashed out at generals, called them ‘a bunch of pussies'”… So… do you think that meant he wanted to grab them or something?

Oh, regarding that last item about disrespect toward the military… for those of you sufficiently detached from reality to dismiss the report the other day in The Atlantic about the gross things Trump has said about dead American heroes (ones other than John McCain) because the sources declined to be named, well… there are some unnamed sources in this one, too — I guess because Woodward wanted to get some perspective from people with normal, functioning brains. But a great deal of the book comes from 18 on-the-record interviews with Donald John Trump. As noted above, sometimes, Trump called Woodward to say these things.

How’d you like to be this guy’s campaign manager?

Obscene foolishness on the lawn of the People’s House

White House desecrated

I guess the McCloskeys were right when they warned that mobs of crazed people were coming for all of us. There they were Thursday night on our own lawn, the lawn of the White House. A great mass of people crowded together, mostly without masks, in the midst of the pandemic, standing repeatedly to cheer lie after trite lie coming from the strange orange man who is their master.

A truly disturbing display.

I had wisely taken Jennifer Rubin’s advice and stayed away for most of two nights. When I clicked it on sometime well after 10 and saw one of the orange man’s children — the only supporters he fully trusts — standing on that monstrous platform in that location, I figured he’d be out soon, so I kept the tube on with the sound off until he made his big entrance with OUR house as his backdrop.

I saw all the comments out there about the listlessness of his delivery, which I chalked up to the fact that he was reading a speech put together by people with a passing familiarity with the English language. Which is not his thing. Later, I started hearing the kinds of things he says on his own, as he built toward the end, and the suicidal crowd tried their best to evince enthusiasm, apparently hoping to please him.

I heard the usual lie after lie as he faithfully followed the Bernie strategy. He and his campaign had failed to come up with another approach after the Democrats rejected Bernie and went with Bernie’s opposite, the very personification of what their party traditionally stands for. But what were they going to do? There’s nothing frightening or outrageous about Joe, so they have to fulminate about the socialists.

Beyond that, nothing is memorable.

But I’ll share some things I read this morning, so you can have the benefit of other views.

Fact Checker: First the boring business of reviewing some of the lies themselves and dissecting them. As the Fact Checker says, “President Trump ended the Republican National Convention on Thursday with a tidal wave of tall tales, false claims and revisionist history. Here are 25 claims by the president that caught our attention, along with seven claims by speakers earlier in the evening.” Unfortunately, they don’t do Pinocchios in these roundups, which removes some of the fun.

The rage that fuels Trumpism still burns — David Ignatius provides a warning for everyone to heed, that “smoldering at the center of the populist Republican Party, there’s still the bright orange ball of fury that is Donald Trump — wounded and angry and promising White men in his trademark, code-worded slogan that he’s going to ‘Make America Great Again.'” He warns Joe Biden as well as the rest of us that we have to do more than beat Trump; we have to address the loss of hope among uneducated white men that brought us to this pass. (Of course, now we have a bigger problem than that. Those guys might have brought Trump to prominence, but then the entire Republican Party decided to prostrate itself at his feet. I doubt you’d find many in the audience at the White House who fit in the demographic Ignatius is describing.)

Trump presented the mother of all fabrications on the White House lawn — Dana Milbank addresses the weirdest falsehood on display this week: “Four years ago, when the United States was in the eighth year of an economic expansion and enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity, Donald Trump saw only carnage. ‘Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,’ he told the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, describing a nation full of ‘death, destruction . . .’ and ‘weakness.’ Now, America actually is in crisis… And Trump, accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term on Thursday night, offered a most counterintuitive assessment: Everything is awesome!”

Biden needs a Sister Souljah moment — George Will’s column basically says that Joe needs to find a way to distinguish himself from the more extreme elements in his constituency. Of course, he’s done that over and over, contrary to all the lies this week about him wanting to “defund the police” and such. But I think Will is trying to tell us he needs to do it in a way that will be understandable to the kind of people who are actually susceptible to Trump’s lies, such as those Ignatius wrote about. Not sure he’s right, but I can see how that would occur to someone this week.

The perfectly logical case for Donald Trump — Alexandra Petri makes similar points to Dana Milbank, but as is her wont, has more fun with it: “Under Donald Trump, America has never been safer. It has also never been more dangerous. We must elect Donald Trump to make us safe again, which he has already made us, never more than we are now, although we also aren’t, and won’t be, unless we elect him! If you see.” Yeah, that’s pretty much what I heard.

And now I look forward to YOUR thoughts…

orange 3

Those who were there for a night of weirdness, and those who were not

Yikes.

Yikes.

I just thought I’d throw out a few scattered thoughts, which is probably an appropriate way to deal with the odd time I spent watching weirdness on the Boob Tube last night.

I’ll divide this into two chapters: People who were there, and people who were not.

We’ll start with the weirdness — people who were there.

The McCloskeys. I would see these people as a parody, an SNL skit — except there was nothing about them that was in the slightest way funny. You’d think there would be, after having seen photos of them on the day that brought them celebrity. I mentioned a couple of days ago that after I rewatched “Spaceballs” during a workout, it hit me “that the tubby guy with the pink shirt, too-long khakis, bare feet and ‘Look at me; I’m a soldier!’ rifle reminds me a lot of Rick Moranis spoofing Darth Vader. The McCloskeys looked so absurd holding their weapons, like they’d never held such objects before, and had no idea what they were for. Like Trump holding that Bible. But then, they came on television unarmed, and all the humor of the situation disappeared. Sitting there, they were like some disorienting twist on “American Gothic.” And then I heard them speak, and their words seemed to have been written by some BLM wokester trying to show us what modern racist white people sound like. All I could say on Twitter was, “Wow, they actually did it! They actually trotted out that sad, strange couple from St. Louis! Now that I’ve heard them speak, I feel MORE embarrassed for them…”

Kimberly Guilfoyle. Wow, OMG, etc. I had recently heard of this person in a context that caused me to Google her. But I had never seen her “live.” It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen on a convention stage, real or virtual, and I’m including Clint Eastwood talking to the empty chair. All I said was, “So THAT’S Kimberly Guilfoyle, huh? All righty, then. What’s she on?” Initially. Later, I added, “My, my. She got MORE worked up at the end…” Someone explain to me the thought process that led whoever was screening speakers to put this person on the program. Or her strange boyfriend, for that matter — although we know why he was on the agenda, don’t we? I later heard that the word “cocaine” was trending during his performance. I’m glad I missed it.

The rest of the Trump family. I’m sort of looking ahead here, since I see several others of his familial entourage are going to be on tonight. Everyone except, perhaps, his sister. Because, of course, this is not a Republican Party convention. It’s a Trump personality cult convention. As I’ll mention below, you don’t have the usual dignitaries who would place the event within a historical GOP context. You have the kinds of whackadoodles who will pledge everlasting loyalty to the Trump brand. Which includes the family, and a family member’s girlfriend. Which I guess answers my question above as to how Kimberly “I Want to Bite the World with My Big Teeth” Guilfoyle got onto the podium.

Nikki Haley. I missed this. I’m going to go back and find and watch it. But my understanding is that she was sort of the calming influence to set up fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott. Part of the process of transitioning from the loudly crazy. I’ll bet she was good at that. Disappointing that she was there, though. For some time, she’s distanced herself from the Trump circus. It’s rather awful, and something that will always attach to her name to her discredit, that she showed up now to pledge her fealty.

Tim Scott. This was the highlight of the evening. It was a stunning contrast to everything that had gone before, a speech that would not have been out of place at a real Republican convention 30 or 40 years ago. Which is the moment Sen. Scott seems to think he’s living in, speaking of a GOP that’s all about personal responsibility, fiscal restraint, and loving America. I don’t know Tim Scott, by the way. He emerged beyond local Charleston politics after my time dealing professionally with state leaders. I’ve never even met him. But I have the impression that he’s a nice man, a sincere man. A good man, although a terribly deluded man to let himself be used this way. And he brought that to the screen last night. A person who saw nothing but his speech might convince himself, “It’s OK to vote Republican this year! It really is!” But that person would have to do what Tim Scott has done: Ignore everything we’ve seen over the last four years. It was a stroke of towering manipulation to put this nice, decent thoughtful black man on in the slot of honor on the first night, after a couple of hours of manic racist rants. Surely no one’s buying it. Right?

Then, there were the people who were not there:

Any former president or nominee. OK, so only one former president is alive. But this is pretty jarring — the complete lack of anyone whose presence puts a stamp on the legitimacy of the gathering, who says Yes, this is the convention of a party that is both Grand and Old. We’ve never seen this before, and surely no one has missed the point — that all this is about is Donald J. Trump and those who will remake themselves in his image.

Lindsey Graham or Henry McMaster. Not that I missed them at all. But it’s interesting. Before becoming Trump’s mindslaves, these guys pretty much represented what Republicanism was about, in South Carolina anyway. Remember, Henry was Ronald Reagan’s appointee as U.S. attorney, and that sort of affiliation was what defined him for decades. But these South Carolinians were set aside for two who represented a momentary, shockingly bold attempt to pretend that the rest of the evening hadn’t been about white people being terrified by dark people (I mentioned the McCloskeys, right?). So it’s worth noting.

Bob Inglis. God Bless Bob. Bob, of course, was one of the original religious-right conservatives who took over the party in the first half of the 1990s. He was the prototype of the sort of Republican Tim Scott sees himself as. He was a man of principles then, and he’s a man of principles now. Which we saw yesterday.

That’s enough to start a discussion. Have at it…

I shot this in 2004, on actual film -- which I had to take to a Duane Reade and have digitized so I could send it back to Columbia. As you see, a typical GOP convention of the past -- with Bush 41, and Rudy before he became Trump's boy.

I shot this in 2004, on actual film — which I had to take to a Duane Reade and have digitized so I could send it back to Columbia. As you see, a typical GOP convention of the past — with Bush 41, and Rudy before he became Trump’s boy.

‘Trump plays tic-tac-toe with Jared, who lets Trump win…’

As you can see, the TV in my home office is an old SD model. But the resolution is usually better than THIS. Weird...

As you can see, the TV in my home office is an old SD model. But the resolution is usually better than THIS. Weird…

Lately, what with the weather, I’ve been doing more of my steps on the elliptical in my home office — indoors, with the A/C. And that means watching the Roku more.

So, of course, I’ve been rewatching “The West Wing” yet again. And of course, suffering the pangs of watching a show about a White House full of competent, decent, intelligent people who care deeply about serving their country — while I live (for the moment) in Trump World.

Anyway, the synopsis of this episode really jumped out at me. Boy, would that need rewriting to be current and relevant.

In case you can’t read it on that low-res screen, it says, “Bartlett engages both Sam and Toby in intricate chess matches that mirror the wily game of brinksmanship that Bartlett is playing with the Chinese.”

Today, we’d have to say something more like, “Trump plays tic-tac-toe with Jared, who lets Trump win to boost his confidence before he goes to the Chinese to beg them to help him get re-elected.”

Or maybe you can think of better words.

Oh, and before someone says “Aw, ‘The West Wing’ is fiction,” I’ll say that it’s fiction based on the reality that we knew, no matter which party held the White House, for all of our lives before 2016. I was reminded of that when I (re)watched a subsequent special episode in which presidents and their aides — from both parties — shared the kinds of observations about working in the West Wing in reality that the show worked so diligently, and brilliantly, to mirror…

Thanks, senator. It’s good to hear our votes count

text from Graham

Just got this text from Lindsey Graham’s campaign on my phone a few minutes ago.

I look forward to the day when he realizes that the support of those of us here on the blog — and millions of others who are just as disgusted by him for taking pride in attaching himself to Donald J. Trump — was what really mattered all along.

Maybe we can prove that to him in November.

Expect to see more about that in the coming months…

Finally, Mattis speaks up — powerfully

mattis atlantic

I made a passing reference to this in the last post, but I’m going to elevate the profile, because since then I’ve actually had the chance to read what the Warrior Monk, James Mattis, had to say today when he broke his long silence about the Trump administration in which he once served.

I urge you to read this piece in The Atlantic, which I think originally broke the story.

And now I’m going to give you the whole statement. Because not a word of what he said should be left out:

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict— between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part.

Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.'” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

Amen to all of that. Thank you, general.

The 2020 Rorschach Test

What the president of the United States did Monday was so horrific — having peaceful demonstrators attacked and swept away so that he could walk unimpeded across a park and stand awkwardly waving a Bible around in front of a boarded-up church for no discernible purpose — was so grossly inappropriate, so evocative of what a two-bit foreign autocrat would do in a country that didn’t give a damn about the ideals that animate this country, that, well, it shouldn’t have to be explained.

And yet, I’ve actually seen instances of his defenders, well, defending it. Some of it was pretty stunning.

Basically, this is obviously yet another national Rorschach Test in which you either recoil in horror, or don’t have a clue what is wrong. And the latter portion of our population is the one Trump is trying so clumsily to appeal to.

For those who get it, it doesn’t have to be explained. But I read a lot of stuff eloquently explaining it anyway.

In case you find it helpful, here are some of that, and related stuff:

I don’t know what else to say right now.

I’m just going to share this picture and hope I don’t get in Fair Use trouble. I was told to watch video of all this, but I haven’t yet. For now, the photo is enough:

bible

Magazine kills two pieces that criticized Dolan for flattering Trump

email promo

We live in a time when major institutions are failing us left and right. And as you know, with my communitarian leanings, that concerns me greatly.

But at the moment, I’m concerned about the Roman Catholic Church in America. I don’t write about that all that much for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to be misunderstood, and so much that I might comment on is apparently very difficult for nonCatholics to fully understand, for a lot of reasons. (And no, I’m not saying nonCatholics are dumb. I’m saying the way these things get framed by nonCatholic media make conversations difficult and often counterproductive.) So my concerns could be seen as meaning something they do not.

Secondly, I just don’t feel educated enough myself to comment coherently and intelligently. I just don’t know enough about the clash of ideas in and around the Church. I lack the expertise — or at least, the confidence — of, say, a Ross Douthat. I think I disagree with Douthat about a lot of things, but I don’t feel equal to contesting him. (His columns about Church matters start in a place where people who have read a lot of books I haven’t read dwell, and take off into real esoterica from that point.)

I think I agree far more often with my friend Steven Millies. I know Steven from having served with him for years on the committee that has run the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin lectureship at USC. We got to be friends, serving on some panels together, and usually sat together during the dinners the committee had on lecture nights, so we could catch up. Steven is an academic, and is now the director of the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Anyway, awhile back Steven started writing regularly for U.S. Catholic. I signed up for the magazine’s regular email alerts, which caused me to read some of their content, although I was mostly looking for stuff by Steven. I never really formed a full impression of the journal itself, and I only learned in the last couple of days that it was published by the Claretians — something that means little to me, but might mean a good deal to Douthat and Steven.

This past week, Steven wrote a piece that National Catholic Reporter has since characterized as “critical of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s flattering comments about President Donald Trump.” I didn’t know about Dolan’s comments, so when I saw the link to the piece in an email from U.S. Catholic, and then saw it was by Steven, I read the column with particular interest.

I noticed that the magazine was also promoting a piece by another writer addressing the same comments by Dolan (and others), headlined, “President Trump cannot have the Catholic endorsement,” followed by the blurb, “Politics is the duty of the laity—not the clergy.” I didn’t read that, I now regret — just Steven’s piece, headlined “Cardinal Dolan’s public flattery of Trump forgets a few things.” An excerpt:

I wonder whether the U.S. Catholic bishops have crossed a sort of Rubicon recently.

When their Roman predecessor, the general Julius Caesar, brought his army illegally over the Rubicon River, he set in motion the events that ended the Republic and saw him presented with a crown. “The die is cast,” he is reputed to have said as he marched his army toward Rome: there was no going back. What he had done could not be undone and it would change the shape of history.

I do not think that New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan is in any danger of being crowned emperor (or, anything else). But I do believe that his public flattery of President Donald Trump from the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and on Fox News may prove to be a moment from which American Catholicism cannot turn back….

When I finished, I wrote to Steven to compliment the piece, but also (I confess as an unreconstructed editor) to quibble about something he said in passing about Caesar — something irrelevant to his point. But mostly, I wrote to praise him. As I told him at the time:

I had not heard about what Dolan did until I read this. It is highly disturbing. It really should not be this easy to buy the political influence of our church. Of course, Democrats have done all they can to help this happen. It’s a failure of all sorts of institutions. But of them all, I care about the failure in the Church most…

Steven acknowledged the minor Caesar problem. I looked later (in part checking to see how he had changed it), and… the piece was gone. I clicked on my original link, and all I got was what you see in the image below.

I checked with Steven, and that’s when I learned that his piece had been, as National Catholic Reporter would later say, “unpublished.” So had the other piece by political scientist Stephen Schneck.

At first, Steven asked me to hold off on writing about it, hoping that U.S. Catholic would simply change its mind. That didn’t happen, and when the story broke in National Catholic Reporter, he told me “the lid is off.” An excerpt from NCR:

U.S. Catholic magazine, a storied national outlet published by the Claretian Missionaries, has quietly unpublished from its website two recent articles that were critical of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s flattering comments about President Donald Trump.

Users who click the separate links to the articles, originally published around April 29 and April 30, are now greeted with a note that reads “You are not authorized to access this page.”…

Now, I should say this before someone else does: I’ve looked at what Dolan said publicly, and on its own, I don’t find it that shocking. What he said during Mass, with the president watching, was mostly relatively neutral. If you want to give the cardinal a break, you might say it was the usual thing you might offer an elected leader: Hey, we are encouraged to pray for our leaders, and we do, and that includes you, and we thank you for being with us.

You know, the kind of thing a smart religious leader might say when he’d like to see some stimulus money go to Catholic schools.

But it’s more cringe-inducing to see him schmoozing with “Fox and Friends” about his awesome interactions with the president, and to hear him tell them, “I’m in admiration of his leadership.”

It’s bad enough that Trump got as many Catholic votes as he did in 2016. The last thing we need is to see a cardinal even imply that Trump being elected was a good thing. We should expect more from our faith leaders than craftiness with regard to school funding. We have a right to expect something higher than Trumpian transactionalism.

Perhaps it’s too much to hope that our leaders will point to the obvious: That nominating certain judges does not make you pro-life — at least, not according to any definition that native Columbian Cardinal Bernardin would have recognized.

As Steven noted:

Dolan forgot other things, too. He forgot children separated from their parents at our border, being kept in cages and sleeping on cold, concrete floors. He forgot the physical and sexual abuse that many of those children have suffered because of the Administration’s disinterest in policing the foster care system they made necessary. He forgot the racist and xenophobic language that Trump deploys routinely to do the other thing that Dolan forgot: Trump’s main preoccupation is not to build up the political community toward the common good, but to divide us so he can conquer.

What’s regrettable is that those of us who attended the same Catholic schools that Dolan may have been trying to save do remember those things. And, we see why it is problematic for a Catholic bishop to forget them. Being formed in our faith, we see the ugly transaction at work here….

Yes, we do. And we have every reason to be disturbed when someone in a lofty position in our church admires that sort of leadership.

And it’s further disturbing to see anyone who points that out silenced — especially in a way that gives us no reasoning. If I had done something like that as editorial page editor, you’d have seen a public airing of all the issues involved. It would have been the subject of, at least, a column in the paper, and plenty of public discussion on my blog.

To see those pieces “disappeared” without explanation is very unsettling.

The good news is that NCR has not only reported on this, but published the two pieces. So everyone can read them and decide what they think about them. Here’s Steven’s, and here is the piece by Schneck.

That much I’m glad to see.

U.S. Catholic

Finally, it’s over: Bernie quits

Joe at 701

It’s taken a year, and we’ve finally gotten here. The place where we had to end up, if we’re serious about replacing the guy who’s so excited at the fantastic ratings his coronavirus briefings are getting.

It always had to be Joe. So we had to endure all those months of interminable “debates,” with this or that person being the hot new thing for a week or two, reminding me of the games the Republicans played back in 2012. (Seriously, remember when Herman Cain was the “front-runner?”)

Finally, on the last day of February, South Carolina gave the national Democratic electorate a good slap in the face, and it said “Thanks, I needed that,” and from then on has been giving Joe Biden overwhelming support. The other candidates started dropping out and giving their support to the one guy, out of the couple of dozen, who came into this thing with the qualifications for the job. (As I said last April, I was for any candidate who could be found in this picture.)

It was almost like they were all coming out of a trance and looking around them and saying, What were we thinking? It had to be Joe all along, from the moment he announced. Duh…

Except, of course, for Bernie Sanders.

Because Bernie was about Bernie. His campaign wasn’t about coming up with the most qualified nominee, or the one most likely to beat Trump. It was about Bernie, and Bernieism.

And so for a month we’ve had this Phony Campaign, sort of like the Phoney War of 1939-40, during which we pretended there was still a contested nomination. Or we would have, if we hadn’t been too busy staying alive.

But now that’s over, too. About time. Long past time, really.

So let’s all hunker down and stay safe and let this virus thing pass, and then get back on with the campaign to elect a normal, sane, qualified, decent human being as president of the United States….

Who would take coronavirus advice branded this way?

Trump card 1

Seriously, what use is this postcard I got in the snail mail the last couple of days (I forget which day now — probably Saturday or Monday)?

What is its practical purpose, other than as a campaign mailer? The point seems to be the “President Trump’s” part. Look! The Donald is looking out for you! You know, the guy with the great ratings!

Who, among those of us who are not suicidal, would turn to this quarter in a desperate bid for useful advice? This is the guy who, after this card was mailed, was assuring us we’d be back like gangbusters by Easter.

Yeah, I’ve got it. The idea of this card is entirely defensible, even laudable in the abstract. Any president has the duty to give out information that might protect someone from this national threat. And no doubt some folks, particularly among the most vulnerable, still turn to snail mail as a source of timely information.

But why does it have to be branded “President Trump’s…?” That’s almost like saying, look to almost any other source of information, not this one! If it said “Dr. Fauci’s…,” it might do some good.

This is dated March 16, but it feels like it must have been mailed sometime in February.

“IF YOU FEEL SICK, stay home. Do not go to work.” As of tomorrow, I will have been working from home for two weeks. You? (Admittedly, that was after the date on this card. But it feels like years ago.)

There was one bit of good news in this:

“Avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants — USE PICKUP OR DELIVERY OPTIONS.”

Bars deliver? Why has no one told me this? I could have used that information.

Anyway, perhaps the card was sincerely meant to help, even to reassure, making us think a benevolent entity had things well in hand.

Perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for it…

Look, the card recommends we go for more information to CORONAVIRUS.GOV. I recommend that, too. There’s probably good advice there, timely advice, advice that doesn’t bear the taint of “President Trump’s”…

Trump card 2

 

I couldn’t believe even Trump did this

Look at me! I have the most popular show on TV! Isn't this great? I'm a hit!

Look at me! I have the most popular show on TV! Isn’t this great? I’m a hit!

My wife showed me this last night, and I assumed it was a joke. It looked like a real Tweet, but I figured it was from The Onion or something like that, spoofing Trump’s obsession with his own popularity.

I thought it was carrying things a bit far, suggesting even as a joke that he would brag about his TV ratings when he’s giving national briefings about something that could kill 200,000 Americans.

But then I looked. And there it was, in his Twitter feed:

Even after I saw that, I figured something was missing that would explain it. I started looking around for news stories about it, and didn’t find any right away — although there was a lot of buzz about it on social.

This morning, I found some coverage, buried way down below other stuff. But basically, they treated it as routine.

This is how far we’ve fallen in normalizing his behavior. The president of the United States puts out something you would only expect from a profoundly maladjusted child, bragging about how everyone’s watching him while thousands of people are dying around him. In the world we knew before 2016, his aides would be trying to gently maneuver him into a padded room, and preparing to invoke the 25th Amendment…

Meanwhile, from the leader of our once-great country…

trump tweet1

For what it’s worth, he did send out a followup seven minutes later saying, “Federal Government is working very well with the Governors and State officials. Good things will happen! #KILLTHEVIRUS”

Maybe someone had a word with him. I don’t know who that would be, though, since pretty much all of the grownups have left his administration.

And yeah, I’m still using that plug-in on my Chrome browser that renders Trump’s tweets in a special typeface. They come in the regular old way on my phone and iPad. But somehow this seems to bring out their essence….

You know, there’s nothing new about this. But as many times as we’ve seen this kind of childishness, I still have to ask my self occasionally, What kind of person, in a leadership position, thinks that is something appropriate to publish for the world to see?

trump meeting

Et tu, Bernie? The Russian plot sickens

Well, boys, I reckon this is it - electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

Well, boys, I reckon this is it – electoral combat toe to toe with the Roosskies.

I hadn’t even had a chance to post about the Russians working to help elect Trump again, when we learned they were trying to help Bernie, too.

Which makes sense, of course. It fits their M.O., and their interests, in two ways:

  1. Their priority is helping Trump, because having Trump as president hurts America, sends us on a downward slide as a nation, and keeps us bitterly divided. And they feel quite sure, like many U.S. observers, that Bernie is the best possibly opponent for their boy.
  2. If they can’t have Trump, might as well elect the most divisive figure on the Democratic side as a backup. Because the point is weakening America, and having us all stirred up and angry is a great way to do that. (It’s working for them so far, after their successful efforts in 2016.)

Putin may be evil, but he’s not stupid.

All of that said, I want to give Bernie a big pat on the back for showing how a presidential candidate should react to such news:

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also told reporters that he was briefed about a month ago.

“The intelligence community is telling us Russia is interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,” Mr. Sanders said on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was to hold a rally ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. “And what I say to Mr. Putin, ‘If I am elected president, trust me you will not be interfering in American elections.’”…

If only a certain other party would take a hint.

Basically, this is all part of a pattern that began in 2016. Then, workers at a Russian troll factory were told, “Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump — we support them.”

Which brings me to the point I was going to post about all this before we learned about the Bernie wrinkle…

Remember that we learned several months ago that the key CIA asset who had let us know that the Russians were trying to elect Trump in 2016 had to be exfiltrated to save his life back in 2017? As the NYT reported at the time:

The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest….

OK, well… if this guy was so golden, so well-placed, so irreplaceable… how do we know they’re doing the same in 2020?

Obviously, we don’t know everything. Which is probably a good thing, if we’re still getting such good intel. Better that the new source not be compromised, too.

Or, is this one of those hyperclever inside-out deals where the idea of our key source being extracted was disinformation, which news media eagerly lapped up, meant to protect the real source?

If so, I hope these news revelations aren’t endangering him. Or her

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?

Did our top asset really come in from the cold? Or is he, or she, still out there?