Trump’s America

True believers in the cult of Trump, courtesy of The New York Times:

NOW Trump Must Ask God For Forgiveness?

He has accused President Obama of lying about his American birthplace.

He has forgotten he knew who David Duke was.

He has condemned John McCain and other POWs for not living up to draft-evading Trump’s standards of what a war hero is—not getting captured in the first place.

He has called Mexicans “rapists” and lied about getting Mexico to pay for a big, beautiful wall to keep those rapists out of our country.

He has attacked a federal judge born in Indiana by calling him a “Mexican.”

He has said countless horrible things about women.

He has said we should punish women who get abortions.

He has mocked a disabled reporter.

He has enthusiastically embraced a Russian thug who has ordered the murder of reporters.

He has called Pope Francis “disgraceful.”

He has suggested Ted Cruz’s father was involved in killing John Kennedy.

He has invited a hostile foreign government to spy on Hillary Clinton on his behalf.

He has suggested doing away with the Geneva Conventions.

He has said “NATO is very obsolete.”

He has expressed a strange and disturbing interest in using nuclear weapons.

He has promised to ban all Muslims from entering the country.

He has said he would intentionally kill the families of suspected terrorists.

He has said our military is a “disaster.”

He has smeared U.S. troops by haphazardly accusing “soldiers” of stealing money in Iraq.

He has attacked the mother and father of a fallen American soldier.

He has said the father of that fallen soldier had “no right” to attack him.

He has handled what he thought was a genuine Purple Heart medal like it came out of a Cracker Jack box.

He has said he “always wanted” a Purple Heart.

He has lied with such audacity and frequency that fact-checkers are applying for disability.

He has said and done all this and much, much more. And he has said and done such things without the slightest urge to apologize or seek forgiveness from the gold-plated God he says he worships. But now things are different. He may need to get down on his cowardly knees in Trump Tower—Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at his side—and beg the Almighty to forgive him for this:

Trump refuses to endorse Paul Ryan in GOP primary: ‘I’m just not quite there yet’

He can be a racist. He can be a bigot. He can be a misogynist. He can make fun of disabled people. He can embrace authoritarian thugs. He can insult war heroes and disparage our military and Gold Star families and treat a Purple Heart like a trinket. He can tell lies at light speed. He can demonstrate breathtaking ignorance about the world. But, by God, he has gone too far by withholding his blessing from a white Republican from Wisconsin.

 

The America Donald Trump Will Never Understand

Khizr and Ghazala Khan were on MSNBC this morning. No, America was on MSNBC this morning. The America I was taught in school. The America that aspires to live up to its ideals. The America that good and grateful people put on the uniform to defend. And, perhaps, to die for.

Watch the segment below, not to hate on Donald Trump for his crassness and inability to empathize with the Khans—he has continued his thoughtless attacks this morning—but to feel sorry for Trump. To pity him because he will never know what it means to be an American in the truest sense of the word. He will never know what Khizr Khan meant when he said of his family this morning, “we are, really, testament to the goodness of this country.” He will never understand, in the way the Khans do, that “this nation is unique in the history of mankind.”

More than that, Donald Trump will never in a thousand lifetimes understand what Mr. Khan meant when he responded to a request that he say something about his son that would help Americans better understand Capt. Humayun Khan. Here is what the amazing American father said, as he pointed to his wife:

I would ask this Gold Star mother, this brave lady, to say that. Share that conversation she had that defines him, that explains to America what a wonderful son they raised, this country, this nation, raised. We were only a vessel.

I have never heard anyone express a more moving and more powerful sentiment about America. U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan was our son. He belonged to all of us. All of us were in some way responsible for raising him, for instilling in him the values that make America “unique in the history of mankind.” Values that we sometimes fail to appreciate and too often fail to honor but always need to keep before our eyes and the eyes of our children.

And this November we need to appreciate and honor those values. Because America has more children to raise.

Yes, Donald Trump Has Sacrificed A Lot

When Khzr Khan, father of war hero U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, spoke at the Democratic convention last week, he now-famously chastised Donald Trump:

Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

Trump, stupidly, replied on ABC’s This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: How would you answer that father? What sacrifice have you made for your country?

TRUMP: I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done — I’ve had tremendous success.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are sacrifices?

TRUMP: Oh, sure. I think they’re sacrifices. I think when I can employ thousands and thousands of people, take care of their education, take care of so many things. Even in the military, I mean, I was responsible along with a group of people for getting the Vietnam Memorial built in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for. I’ve raised millions of dollars for the vets.

Leaving aside how dumb it was for Trump to compare what he listed as his sacrifices to the sacrifices of families who have given up flesh and blood, or leaving aside the dubious claims he made, Trump could simply have demonstrated how much he has sacrificed by showing Stephanopoulos this portrait done by artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan:

Guests are greeted by a portrait of the young Trump in a tracksuit

That puke-inducing gem apparently hangs on a guest-greeting wall in Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach. The artist who gave it to the world said:

I saw him there working, getting the pools changed and such. But I didn’t want to paint him in his blue suit. Those were his New York clothes. I wanted to give him a Florida look.

“Florida look”? Somehow I don’t think you’ll ever see that image in a tourist brochure saying, “Come here and get the Florida look!” But in terms of sacrifices, it does show how far Trump will go to make white people feel at home in his club with its $100,000 initiation fee (plus $14,000 a year thereafter). And if he’ll do that for those wealthy white people, if he’ll sacrifice his blue-suit-red-tie brand by donning a tennis ensemble from the roaring 1920s to remind people just how great White America used to be, just think what he’ll do for all those working stiffs in Ohio and Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Khzr Khan should apologize to Trump, who obviously has sacrificed so much for his country.

“It Made Me Weep For Our Country”

After what can only be called a spectacular Democratic Convention, I am republishing in full Josh Barro’s latest piece for Business Insider because, well, it pretty much says it all about how far the GOP has fallen. Barro, as far as I know, still calls himself a Republican, albeit an almost-extinct thoughtful one.

Hear him and pass on the sentiment to every Republican you happen to know:

I rewatched Khizr Khan’s speech — and it made me weep for our country

If you haven’t yet seen it, you really need to watch Thursday night’s Democratic convention speech by Khizr Khan, the father of Army Cpt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim immigrant who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004 while protecting his unit from a car bomb.

Khan demanded to know whether Donald Trump had even read the Constitution, pulled out his pocket copy, and offered to lend it to Trump.

I watched this moment live and was awed by it. I watched it again Friday morning, and I cried.

We are having an election that is about whether we, as a nation, value people like Khizr and Humayun Khan. Whether they are real Americans. Whether we will define our nation by shared values, as both parties have claimed we do for decades, or by ethnicity, as Donald Trump would have us do.

Of course, Trump supporters object to the claim that this is what Trump wants. Donald Trump is talking only about immigrants living in the US illegally, they say. He’s talking only about barring foreign Muslims. David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, may love Trump, but Trump’s fans will insist that the Republican nominee’s politics are distinct from white supremacy.

This is a load of nonsense, as we can all tell by Trump’s attacks on “Mexican” Judge Gonzalo Curiel and by his demands for President Obama’s birth certificate. Trump’s concept of the nation he speaks for is not about values or citizenship or even birthplace. It is about ethnicity.

If you are a white model from Europe, like Antonio Sabato Jr. or Melania Knauss, you are welcome in Trump’s America. If you are a brown or black person, you are suspect, even if you are a citizen, and even if you were born in Indiana or Hawaii (as in the cases of Curiel and Obama).

This is the philosophy of a major-party candidate for president, who has most of his own political party lined up behind him. It is enraging, it is scary, and it is sad. And I cried Friday morning because it was even necessary for someone to stand up at a party convention and explain why that candidate is wrong.

I am angry at Donald Trump, and I am angry at the people who voted for him. But most of all I am angry at the senior Republicans who are standing by and acting as if this is fine – endorsing him in the belief that he will lose but that standing together will stem the loss of congressional seats, or endorsing him in the hope that he will grow up if he wins.

I genuinely thought mainstream Republican leaders knew better, that they understood there are matters more important than fiscal policy, and that if a candidate were terrible enough, they would reach a point at which they realized their responsibilities to their country exceeded those to their political party.

I did not expect people like House Speaker Paul Ryan to behave so indecently as to line up behind this hateful man, who does not even agree with them on public policy. I was naive, and I am sad, because it means we have a less durable democracy than I thought.

Please, No Intelligence Briefings For Trump

Huffpo’s Sam Stein published an article (“Clinton Campaign: Trump Needs To Guarantee He Won’t Leak Before Getting Briefed”) that began this way:

PHILADELPHIA ― The chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign urged U.S. intelligence agencies on Wednesday to get an ironclad agreement from Donald Trump that he would not leak information to the Russians before providing him with presidential candidate briefings.

“I think it’s an issue that … Jim Clapper’s going to have to come to grips with,” John Podesta said in an interview with The Huffington Post, referring to the director of national intelligence. “And I think they’ll have to find a way to negotiate with him and with his campaign to get … more than assurances ― sort of some proof that they can be able to hold on to that information.”

Podesta went on to say,

This isn’t a normal political story, and it’s not funny … And for Donald Trump to suggest that a foreign power should hack the candidate of the opposing power is beyond outrageous. I think it is really disqualifying.

If he thinks it is really disqualifying, then he should be arguing that Trump shouldn’t get any intelligence briefings at all. There should be no deal with him. What good would it do to get “assurances”from Trump?

The truth is that we can’t trust the unstable Trump with our secrets. And if that means neither of the candidates get briefings, so be it.

“He Is Our End”

trump and russia

If This Doesn’t Do It, Absolutely Nothing Will

I just finished watching a troubled man give a press conference. Unfortunately that troubled man could be your next president, if you don’t tell your friends, family, and neighbors—again and again and again—how dangerous he is and how they must vote for Hillary Clinton no matter what they think of her.

Today Trump invited the Russian government to continue its attacks on our democratic process:

If they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted…Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

If the Republican Party’s leaders don’t abandon him now, there isn’t anything left to say.

 

From Russia, With Love

Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.”

—Franklin Foer

Slate’s Franklin Foer (former editor of The New Republic) has been all over the whole Trump-Putin/Putin-Trump ticket (and you thought Mike Pence was his running mate).

Today Foer published a piece titled, “The DNC Hack Is Watergate, but Worse.” He wrote,

To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party. The hackers installed the cyber-version of the bugging equipment that Nixon’s goons used—sitting on the DNC computers for a year, eavesdropping on everything, collecting as many scraps as possible. This is trespassing, it’s thievery, it’s a breathtaking transgression of privacy.

While it is pretty obvious why Putin is interested in the outcome of our election, Foer did the work last week (“Putin’s Puppet“) of pointing out what he says is a “clear pattern” for all to see, if they want to see it:

Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He’s been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.” Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexit—a campaign Russia’s many propaganda organs bombastically promoted.

Trump fits right in:

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)Donald Trump is like the Kremlin’s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trump’s statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he added, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush.” When Putin ripped American exceptionalism in a New York Times op-ed in 2013, Trump called it “a masterpiece.” Despite ample evidence, Trump denies that Putin has assassinated his opponents: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.” In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven: “At least he’s a leader.” And not just any old head of state: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”

Foer documented instances “of Trump carelessly sucking up to Russian power in the hopes of securing business,” which should come as no surprise. Making money, ethically or otherwise, is all he thinks about in depth. And that is why last night on Fox, George Will, who used to be the darling of the conservative intellectual class but now has left Trump’s Republican Party in disgust, said the following:

Perhaps one more reason why we’re not seeing his tax returns — because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, it’s probably the reasonable surmise.

Another conservative, Bill Kristol, wrote the other day (“Putin’s Party”):

Honest and patriotic Republicans who support Trump, or are tempted to do so, should review some of the publicly available evidence. Trump’s business seems to be heavily dependent on Russian investment. His top campaign advisor, Paul Manafort, was theadvisor to the Putin-backed stooge Viktor Yanukovich, and has deep ties to the Putin apparat. One of Trump’s national security advisors, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, was paid to give a speech at a Russian propaganda celebration and was seated next to Putin. Trump’s Russia advisor Carter Page, who does much of his business with Russian companies, has argued, among other things, that “a few officials in Washington” annexed Ukraine and that the “so-called annexation” of Crimea by Russia was a rational response to this injustice.

Kristol went on to point out that “practically the only change Trump’s campaign made to the GOP platform was to weaken language supporting Ukraine.” He also noted that “Trump heartily approves of this interference by a foreign power in an American election” and that Trump “has said he will not uphold our NATO commitments.”

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer went further when he said on Sunday that “the prime objective of the foreign policy of Putin has been to destroy NATO,” and followed with, “[Putin] may have a partner in the White House, if Trump wins.” 

None of this disturbing news has caused much of a disturbance among Republican politicians. Kristol’s call for a “a Republican member of Congress” to “lead an urgent investigation into whether Putin is interfering in the current American election” didn’t get any takers. They seem to just shrug it all off, with Mitch McConnell calling Trump’s NATO statements “a rookie mistake,” to which Trump responded that the Majority Leader was “100 percent wrong.” Mitch hasn’t had much to say since then. Apparently, it is too dangerous for a Republican big-leaguer to challenge the Russian-backed rookie. Or maybe McConnell also has some business he wants to do in Russia.

Whatever the reason for the stunning Republican silence, we don’t need a robust imagination to see what would have happened if Putin had aided, say, Barack Obama’s 2012 election and Obama had said the things Trump has said. There would have been a dozen committee hearings—just before the lynching.

[Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP]

 

Going High

This is how the White House describes her:

First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

Last night, this is how Michelle Obama described the United States:

That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So, look, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!

I’m not ashamed to admit I teared up during her speech last night. I’m not ashamed to admit I felt something of a restoration of my faith in the idea of America, a faith that has been under assault by that country-bashing racist in an orange mask. Delivered in less than 15 minutes, Michelle Obama’s speech was able to counter months and months and months of negative talk about our country—depressing, debilitating, damaging talk about a nation constructed on principles that, so far, have survived every test.

Below is her remarkable speech, one for the ages, but I want to first quote another beautiful passage, one where Mrs. Obama touched on just what it is that has made the Obamas such special people—such special Americans—despite the indignities and insults they have endured for nearly eight years now:

When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

See, because at that moment I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level.

No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

I can’t promise that if the country goes low in November that I will go high. I can only say that if the country does go low, there will be no doubt that its highest point will have been Barack and Michelle and Sasha and Malia Obama “in a house that was built by slaves.”

Calm Down, Dems

As breathless reporters at the Democratic convention continue to run down and interview every stupid Bernie supporter in Philadelphia—I don’t know how many I have heard say that they would prefer four years of Trump, no matter the damage he might do—I suggest you take some time and read an article by Paul Waldman at The Washington Post.

Waldman’s article (“Despite what you’ve heard, Democrats aren’t in disarray. Their party is under attack from the outside“) tells us a truth Democrats need to hear. What we see on cable news right now is not “Democrats fighting with Democrats.” I have yet to hear interviewed one anti-Hillary demonstrator willing to admit any attachment to the Democratic Party. Most are openly hostile to the party. They are mostly people who haven’t voted in the past or who are leftist extremists demanding to have it all their own way or else. Here’s how Waldman put it:

As you may have heard, there already seem to be many more protests from the left around the Democratic convention than there were around the Republican convention. If it seems strange to you that leftists would be protesting not the candidate who wants to deport 11 million people, ban Muslims from entering the country and roll back civil rights gains for gay Americans, but the candidate who wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand Social Security and enact universal child care, well, that would only mean that you’re unfamiliar with leftist politics. For a certain kind of activist on the left, the real enemy is never the right; it’s always the liberals who are insufficiently committed to their brand of revolution.

I have sparred with those kind of leftists, off and on, for years now. There’s no talking to them. They “see through” everything, which, as C.S. Lewis told us a long time ago, is the same as not seeing at all. They are blind to the realities of politics. Again, listen to Waldman:

…what unites the holdouts is their self-absorption and complete inability to distinguish between political action that makes you feel good and political action that actually accomplishes anything real. These are the kind of people who think that giant puppets are the key to creating lasting social change.

He goes on to call out Code Pink, who virtually ignores the Republican Party’s sins and attacks, viciously, Democrats:

Like everything else the group does, it’s utterly masturbatory, meant to make the group feel virtuous and noble and brave, but will accomplish exactly nothing on any of the issues it says it cares about.

People like that don’t care as much about the issues as they care about making themselves feel good. They are another version of the Tea Party, albeit in fading “Feel the Bern” t-shirts. They are not loyal to any party. And despite their shouted loyalty to Bernie Sanders, they are proving they are not even loyal to him. Many of them are ignoring his late-in-the-game pleas to focus on the real menace to a progressive agenda and to the country, Donald Trump. They won’t have it. Too much hate for Hillary to embrace reality.

Fortunately, the adults will mostly unify behind Hillary Clinton when it is all said and done. They may not be out in the streets of Philadelphia right now with goofy signs saying goofy things to eager cable TV reporters, but they will be there when it matters: on election day.

It remains to be seen whether there are enough of them to keep Trump away from the power he needs to enrich himself and, perhaps in the process, destroy the lives of countless people with his dangerous ignorance. Time will tell. Meanwhile, my Democratic friends, take a deep, deep breath and know that help is coming tonight and the rest of the week.

Don’t forget: Big O has yet to have his say.

[Photo credit: Tracie Van Auken]

While Television News Focuses On Trivia, Vladimir Putin Tries To Get Trump Elected

All day Sunday, and it didn’t matter what cable news channel you watched, the talkers were all excited that they had themselves a “no unity” angle with which to cover the Democratic National Convention this week.

Sadly, that is part of why there is a real possibility that Donald Trump can ruin the world.

One would think Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, was some kind of household name. Hardly. She is known mostly to people who follow politics closely, which is not most people. Her resignation, though, has been treated like it was the worst day in the history of the Democratic Party. And the whole email nonsense associated with her resignation has been treated like the worst thing to happen to the country since the JFK assassination.

Meanwhile, there is this from Defense One:

How Putin Weaponized Wikileaks to Influence the Election of an American President

The lede:

Close your eyes and imagine that a hacking group backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin broke into the email system of a major U.S. political party. The group stole thousands of sensitive messages and then published them through an obliging third party in a way that was strategically timed to influence the United States presidential election. Now open your eyes because that’s what just happened.

Why would Putin want to see Trump elected? Come on. You know why. The Russian despot wants an ignorant buffoon in the White House so he can be even more aggressive in Europe. Period.

But most of the television news time the past 24 hours—with lots and lots more to come—has been focused on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is obviously the most dangerous person in the world.

Jesus.

Thwack!

Don’t know how it could have been any better.

Tim Kaine’s introduction to the country Saturday morning was nothing short of fantastic. It was perfectly orchestrated and fresh. It was surprising and reassuring. And it demonstrated that Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff know what they’re doing. They are professionals. They are good at this stuff. The chaos and confusion we have seen from the other side looks even worse today. The smallness and narrowness of the other side looks even smaller and narrower today.

We have hope.

The only way to fully appreciate what happened is to watch it. So, here it is:

Wise Advice To Hillary Clinton From A Wise Liberal

Franch Rich is the executive producer of HBO’s “Veep” and writer-at-large for New York Magazine. He’s a smart guy. He asks and answers an important question:

So what is the future of the GOP? Win or lose this fall, it will remain, as it has been for some time, the last outpost of old white America. Riding in on a wave of anti-Obama rage, Trump has made explicit the racial animus that was implicit in the Nixon-Reagan-Bush years. He not only wants to be the new Nixon, but the new Spiro Agnew, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwater, Pat Buchanan, and all of the rest combined. Even if he goes down, his followers are going to be creating havoc for years to come, doing their best to make real the horrific Armageddon-tinged portrait of the nation that Trump drew in his dark and corrosive acceptance speech. The white dead-enders are doomed by demography in the end, but not at the pace one might wish.

Amen to that. The end of that old GOP can’t come soon enough for me.

Rich also made a great point about how television journalists are covering Trump, followed by some advice for Hillary Clinton, advice I am afraid she won’t follow:

Watching [Trump’s acceptance speech], I was struck once again by how ill-prepared the so-called liberal press is to deal with the Trump phenomenon. Commentators on CNN and MSNBC noted some of the downsides of his speech but gave high marks for style (“very forceful,” according to Wolf Blitzer; “rousing” at its conclusion, according to Chris Matthews) as if it were just another business-as-usual political speech to be graded (on a curve). There was lots of in-the-moment fact-checking by our top news organizations — no mean task given the dense web of deceit Trump was spinning — but the appeal of the Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with facts and will not be countered by facts. Trump is about anger, resentment, hatred — stark emotions that override rationality and are immune to its niceties. Trump is utterly ignorant about any issue you can name, and always has been, but those who will vote for him don’t care. He is their voice — of rage — as he reiterated constantly from the podium.

No, the only defense we have against Trump is his opponent. She must make sure that the other America, the America that is appalled, victimized, and scandalized by Trump and what he represents, goes to the polls to vote “no.” Is Hillary Clinton up to it? I don’t know. Yes, she could win by a landslide. But she could well lose, and to believe otherwise is to live in the cocoon of, yes, the liberal media — the cocoon that gave us all of those poll analysts who said Trump could never win the nomination and who kept saying it was only a matter of time before the Republicans’ “best candidate” (that would be Marco Rubio, remember him?) would emerge from the pack to save the day.

A chilling article by Aaron Blake of the Washington Post tracking Clinton’s downward trajectory as the convention convened makes it clear how close this is going to be. While 49 percent of registered voters “strongly dislike” Trump, 47 percent feel the same way about Clinton — in other words, a statistical dead heat of detestation. She has got to rise above that — with a vice-presidential pick, to be announced imminently, who will rally voters rather than bore them, with a convention that isn’t a smug and relentlessly rational legal brief but a fierce rallying cry that also speaks to the emotions, if higher emotions than Trump’s. This is a war in which the country hangs in the balance. You don’t win wars with civility and bullet points.

A lot is riding on the Democratic convention next week and the campaign to follow. Let’s hope the convention is more than a wonk-fest. Let’s hope it is Rich’s “fierce rallying cry” that will make clear there is no one to stop Donald Trump but Hillary Clinton, her running mate, and voters set on fire with passion, if not for Clinton herself, at least for a Trump-less future.

I Alone

There is only one thing to say about that dreadful and shuddersome speech last night. If a majority of Americans are willing to embrace a man who stood before a country of 320 million people—320 million people—and told them, “I alone can fix it,” then turn out the lights, the experiment is over.

Air Kissing Putin

Mike Pence isn’t the only one on the receiving end of a Trump air kiss.

Although television journalists continue to be fascinated by the farce that is the Republican National Convention; although those same journalists are hoping against hope that Donald Trump will give a rehabilitative speech this evening so they can talk about it for several hours into the night and pronounce him fit for office, print journalists aren’t ignoring perhaps one of the most dangerous things Trump has said to date:

Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack

That frightening New York Times story begins this way:

CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”

Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be the first time that a major candidate for president had suggested conditioning the United States’ defense of its major allies. It was consistent, however, with his previous threat to withdraw American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection.

If that doesn’t scare every American with a measurable IQ, then nothing will. Here’s how The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg began his article on the matter, an article titled, “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladmir Putin”:

The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower.

Goldberg notes that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, “was for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine.” And Goldberg goes on to say this:

Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.

It may be entertaining for some people to watch what is going on at the circus in Cleveland this week, but this is serious business, people. It’s time television journalists started taking it that way. Trump is a very dangerous man whose election could cost a lot of people their lives and could, quite realistically, lead to a global nuclear war.

Enough with the pretending that this is just another presidential race. It isn’t.

Now, Back To The Madness

Oh. My.

Wanna Get Away From The Madness For A Few Minutes?

We have to share the planet with Donald Trump. Nothing we can do about that. But just for a few minutes we can get a million miles away. Watch this in full screen mode:

How Roger Ailes May Have Helped Destroy The World

“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

—Tony Schwartz, real author of The Art of the Deal

A a headline in the New York Post reads:

The end is near for Roger Ailes

Let’s hope that the end is only near for him.

From the article:

Ailes, 76 — who built Fox News into an influential $3 billion business — is reportedly being shunted aside in the wake of a sexual-harassment suit filed against him by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Ailes has strongly denied the accusation.

I’m going to apply the standards of Fox “News” to this case. I’m going to evaluate the accusations and evidence in the case just like the typical Fox anchor or pundit would do if this were a claim made against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat. Ready? I find Ailes guilty as charged. He did it. Everything Gretchen Carlson—and the other women who have come forth alleging the same kind of harassment since the 1960s—said is true. It must be true because I want it to be true.

With that out of the way, think about something with me.

Roger Ailes, piggybacking on the success of right-wing talk radio, created in 1996 a fact-ignoring environment on television and disguised it as “fair and balanced” news. He sold it to gullible conservatives anxious to see on television what they were hearing on the radio each and every day since the emergence of Rush Limbaugh and his imitators in the late 1980s. That fact-ignoring environment at Fox eventually became a place where a fact-free demagogue and bigot and racist like Donald Trump could thrive. Ailes is therefore guilty of establishing and profiting from a media culture that not only nourished a factless fungus like Trump for the last year, but helped him take over and make over a once-great political party.

Roger Ailes also created a culture at Fox “News” where women were subjected to his male aggression. He created a hostile environment for certain women. He tried to exploit them and, again using Fox truth standards, likely did exploit some of them. Trump’s history of remarks about women indicate he is in Ailes’ league. In fact, they have both harassed the same woman, Megyn Kelly. And Trump tweeted last year:

If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?

Given such sexism, it is no surprise that the first two days of the Ailes-Trump Republican National Convention have featured the most aggressive and shameful verbal attacks on a woman one can imagine at such an event. The delegates have become a hate-filled mob. By Thursday night, when mercifully this madness will end, the crowd may be so frenzied that someone may round up a posse and bring Hillary Clinton to justice, the old-fashioned way.

The theme of Monday night’s convention was dark and disturbing. Essentially, America is a dangerous shithole. Speakers included people like Scott Baio—who essentially called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” on Twitter just ten days ago—and Rudy Giuliani who angrily riled up the crowd, calling both Clinton and Obama liars and saying that Clinton didn’t care “how or why people serving America are killed.” The crowd went wild as Rudy became unhinged. I thought I had stumbled on WrestleMania.

Monday night also brought us perhaps the worst moment in big-time politics I have witnessed. Organizers of the convention, no doubt mostly men, managed to exploit a still-grieving mother, who turned her grief into a despicable and hostile speech in which she, without the slightest bit of evidence, blamed Hillary Clinton for the death of her son. “How could she do this to me?” said Patricia Smith, whose son was killed in Benghazi in 2012. Then, quite tastelessly, Mrs. Smith said in response to someone in the crowd, “That is right. Hillary Clinton for prison! She deserves to be in stripes.” Needless to say, the congregation of merciful, forgiveness-loving Christians were quite pleased.

Tuesday night showcased more Hillary-hating. Mitch McConnell—who mentioned her name 24 times in his few minutes of vitriol—dutifully called Clinton a liar and said,

I’m here to tell you Hillary Clinton will say anything, do anything, and be anything to get elected president.

That’s the equivalent, in this context, of saying a woman will bang the boss to get that promotion. Icky stuff.

Chris Christie, former prosecutor, failed governor of New Jersey, and now a second-class Trump butt-wiper, went after Hillary Clinton like it was Salem, 1692. And the crowd was eager to see the witch behind bars, if not burned at the stake. “Lock her up! Lock her up!” they shouted in Jesus-approved orgasmic unity.

That’s enough. I couldn’t take any more. Off went the TV.

Next week Democrats will nominate a woman for the presidency. That woman, should she be elected, will become the most powerful woman in the history of the world. That bothers a lot of people for a lot of reasons. But let’s not discount the fact that it bothers a lot of people because she is a woman. Which leads me back to Roger Ailes.

Among other things, Gretchen Carlson has accused Ailes of sabotaging her career because of her refusal to quietly work in a hostile environment. Her legal complaint says:

After learning of Carlson’s complaints, Ailes responded by calling Carlson a “man hater” and “killer” and telling her that she needed to learn to “get along with the boys.”

The boys are in charge. The boys should stay in charge.

The complaint also states:

Ailes had made it clear to Carlson that he had the power to make anything happen for her if she listened to him and “understood” what he was saying.

You see? These things are tacitly expressed and then “understood.” Roger shouldn’t have to say it out loud all the time. Women should just understand what they’re up against and submit. Or else.

Or else they will face a witch hunt at the Republican National Convention.

Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned: The Real Author of “The Art of the Deal” On Trump

Someone sent me a link this morning to an article published on The New Yorker website,
“Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All.”
 The article is written by Jane Mayer.

It is a must-must read.

A writer named Tony Schwartz actually wrote The Art of the Deal and he seriously regrets doing so. And I mean seriously regrets it. He feels he sold out for money. He feels he turned a seriously disturbed man into someone appealing. And Tony Schwartz should know. He spent 18 months with Trump beginning in 1985, as Mayer says, “camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate.”

Mayer’s article and Schwartz’s confessions cover some things that we already know. Trump is mostly not a good businessman. Mostly not as rich as he claims. Is a consummate liar and is “pathologically impulsive and self-centered.” Mayer informs us,

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

The article goes on to tell us how The Art of the Deal came to be and how hard it was for Schwartz to write it because Trump wasn’t able to concentrate long enough on one subject for Schwartz to learn anything about his childhood or anything else of importance. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” Schwartz says. Mayer writes,

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Again, this isn’t much of a surprise to anyone paying attention since June of 2015. To call Trump’s knowledge “superficial” is to grossly overrate his knowledge. He is stunningly ignorant of almost any subject he discusses, or attempts to discuss. You can’t really cTony Schwartzcharacterize any interaction he has with reporters or others as a “discussion.” He’s simply not capable of carrying on a normal conversation.

Eventually, having given up on learning anything about Trump from Trump himself, Schwartz decided to try another way. As Mayer described it, Schwartz “would propose eavesdropping on Trump’s life by following him around on the job and, more important, by listening in on his office phone calls.” Thus, the 18 months with Donald. Mayer said that in the journal he kept during this time Schwartz “describes the hours he spent with Trump as ‘draining’ and ‘deadening.'” Yes. Sort of like his presidential campaign.

There is new stuff about Trump in Mayer’s article. Despite what you hear about how close Trump is with his family, Schwartz said that wasn’t the case when he was hanging around him. Mayer writes,

As far as Schwartz could tell, Trump spent very little time with his family and had no close friends.

Well, now that he is on his third wife, maybe things have changed.

I particularly liked a quote Schwartz shared about Trump from Roy Cohn, who had helped Joe McCarthy do his nasty deeds in the 1950s and who became Trump’s personal lawyer. Cohn was a secret homosexual and became ill with AIDS, which eventually killed him. Apparently, Trump abandoned Cohn, prompting the lawyer to say, “Donald pisses ice water.” Think about that every time you hear Mika Brzezinski or Joe Scarborough or Chris Cuomo or anyone else on television tell you what a great guy Trump is in person.

As I said, Mayer’s article is must reading. And I want to leave you with the most important reason you should bother reading it and why you should try to get others to do the same. You need to pass onto everyone you know, everyone in your circle of influence, something Schwartz said about Trump:

I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.

Perhaps Tony Schwartz will deserve some of the blame, should the end of civilization come at the hands of a dangerously impulsive and ignorant Donald Trump. But the real blame will lie squarely on those voters who are either too blind to see, or are too eager not to see, the dreadful, terrifying picture of Trump the candidate himself has painted for over a year now.

Baton Rouge, Body Language, And Black Lives Matter

President Obama, addressing the nation after yet another shooting, said on Sunday:

Regardless of motive, the death of these three brave officers underscores the danger that police across the country confront every single day.  And we as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.  Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.

Regarding the killer’s motive, we know the African-American shooter from Kansas City wasn’t at all interested in black lives. Clearly black lives didn’t matter to him. He wasn’t part of any movement to make black lives better. Among the dead on Sunday was montrell jacksonan African-American officer who had movingly expressed his concerns about both being an officer who was not appreciated and, out of uniform, being a black man who had to live with some cultural anxiety. So, the killer, despite his rhetoric in days leading up to his cowardly act, wasn’t interested in affirming the value of black lives.

What the killer was interested in doing was the same thing that other anti-government sociopaths want to do: destroy the fabric of civilized society. As President Obama said, violent attacks on police officers are attacks on every single one of us, those of us who want to live in something called “society,” defined as a group of people committed to living together under rules and laws that respect the rights and dignity of all. The cop killer in Baton Rouge was, apparently, involved to some degree in the anti-social “sovereign citizen movement,” a group of creepy people who hate government and claim laws don’t apply to them or other Americans who declare themselves independent of those laws.

I must confess that up until the last few weeks, I mostly associated such lawless movements with small pockets of angry white people, like those who started the horrific Posse Comitatus movement in the 1960s, which featured members who would later kill law enforcement officers who dared enforce the law against them. Now, though, we all know that the sovereign citizen virus has infected a tiny, but increasing, minority of black people, too.

Way back in 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted an article (“‘Sovereigns’ in Black”) describing how the sovereign citizens movement was starting to gain some adherents of color. The article described,

a growing number of black Americans who, as members of outlandishly named “nations” or as individuals, subscribe to an antigovernment philosophy so extreme that some of its techniques, though nonviolent, have earned the moniker “paper terrorism.” Communicating through social media and learning from an ever-expanding network of websites and online forums, they perplex and often harass law enforcement officials, courts, and local governments across the country.

With the killing of officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, we can see how quickly paper terrorism can turn into the real thing. Ideology has its consequences. And nasty hate-filled ideology has its nasty consequences. When you expose a disturbed mind to such disturbing and dangerous ideas, and when you make firearms easily available to those with disturbed minds, you will eventually have a Baton Rouge.

We need to remind ourselves, and our family, friends, and neighbors, that the African-American killers who targeted police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were not representatives of any movement created to help secure promised civil rights and equal treatment for black people. Those killers were not interested in furthering the interests of any society, black or white.

Nevertheless, there will be people, some in positions of responsibility, who will use the latest murders of police officers to attack groups like Black Lives Matter, a movement that focuses on systemic racial discrimination in America, including but not limited to in our criminal justice system. The attacks have been ongoing, but they ramped up last night with the appearance, on CNN, of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke—an African-American—who had a heated exchange with Don Lemon, saying,

This anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country has turned out some hateful things inside of people that are now playing themselves out on the American police officer.

sheriff clarkeI watched as he called Black Lives Matter “purveyors of hate.” Apparently, Sheriff Clarke thinks police officers are above criticism and their behavior should not be subject to scrutiny. Apparently, to him you are “anti-police” if you dare question some officer for seemingly shooting in haste an unarmed black man. Apparently, Sheriff Clarke thinks, oddly, that law enforcement is above any attempt to hold it accountable.

Sheriff Clarke also suggested President Obama was part of the problem. Of course. Everything, essentially, is Obama’s fault to these folks. Steve Loomis, head of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, went so far as saying that Obama “has blood on his hands” because in addition to condemning the killing of the police officers in Dallas, the president also noted that police departments aren’t “entirely immune” from bias. How dare the president tell such an obvious truth.

Loomis went on:

The president of the United States validated a false narrative and the nonsense that Black Lives Matter and the media are pressing out there to the public. He validated with his very divisive statements and now we see an escalation.

It appears to me that, like the comments of Sheriff Clarke, such criticism contains within it the idea that officers of the law are somehow in a separate class, a class that always gets the benefit of every doubt and who, if they are criticized for questionable behavior, aggressively pronounce the critics guilty.

But such people like Sheriff Clarke and Steve Loomis should think before they speak. They have offered us ample criticism of President Obama, who essentially is our chief enforcer of the law. If, God forbid, someone in law enforcement plotted to kill the president, based on rhetoric coming from leaders in the law enforcement community, would Sheriff Clarke and Steve Loomis take responsibility for it?

Or will Donald Trump? Will he take responsibility for his racially-charged nonsense about President Obama’s birthplace? For the hate-filled demagoguery and racism that has characterized his nasty and dark campaign? Just this morning, responding to Steve Loomis’ ridiculous comments about Obama, Trump once again attempted to appeal to those who think our president is not one of us. Talking Points Memo reported:

In an interview on “Fox and Friends” addressing the fatal shootings of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, Trump even suggested that Obama was using his body language to implicitly signal support for Black Lives Matter protesters over police.

“I watched the president and sometimes the words are okay,” Trump said, a day after Obamacondemned the “cowardly and reprehensible” attacks on law enforcement. “But you just look at the body language and there’s something going on. Look, there’s something going on.”

“What does that mean, there’s something going on?” host Brian Kilmeade asked.

“There’s just a bad feeling, a lot of bad feeling about him. I see it too. There’s a lot of bad feeling about him,” Trump replied.

Trump repeated the phrase “there’s something going on” five times during the interview, referring at different moments to the Baton Rouge shooter’s unconfirmed links to the Nation of Islam, Obama’s sympathy towards Black Lives Matter and the racial profiling endured by black Americans.

Clearly, by using such devious language, Trump is sending a message to his mostly white audience. Obama is not only not “one of us,” he is working against the interests of “law and order” whites. Obama remains a foreigner. Outside the dominant tribe. His “body language” gives him away, and Trump is suggesting that Obama is somehow conspiring to get cops killed in the streets.

But President Obama, fortunately, will not be distracted by such divisive and destructive talk. Speaking yesterday, he said this:

Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there.  I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other.  Nor will today’s killer.  It remains up to us to make sure that they fail.  That decision is all of ours.  The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst — that’s up to us.

We have our divisions, and they are not new.  Around-the-clock news cycles and social media sometimes amplify these divisions, and I know we’re about to enter a couple of weeks of conventions where our political rhetoric tends to be more overheated than usual.

And that is why it is so important that everyone — regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of — everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.  We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric.  We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda.  We need to temper our words and open our hearts — all of us.  We need what we saw in Dallas this week, as a community came together to restore order and deepen unity and understanding.  We need the kind of efforts we saw this week in meetings between community leaders and police — some of which I participated in — where I saw people of good will pledge to work together to reduce violence throughout all of our communities.  That’s what’s needed right now.  And it is up to all of us to make sure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Someone once wrote, “A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

My fellow Americans, only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided.  And we’re going to have to keep on doing it “again and again and again.”  That’s how this country gets united.  That’s how we bring people of good will together.  Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children.

That’s who we are, and that’s who we always have the capacity to be.  And that’s the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning.

It remains to be seen whether we are who the president says we are. November will either help validate his optimism or prove him wrong.

Trump, War Hero

So, in response to what happened in Nice, France, and despite the fact that he can’t possibly know right now what motivated the mass killer, Donald Trump wants to declare war.

It should surprise exactly no one that the draft-avoiding presidential candidate’s first response to the Nice tragedy was to essentially ask for the authority, should Americans lose their minds and make him commander-in-chief, to send other people’s sons and daughters to die for his ignorance and impulsiveness. If you are surprised by his response, you haven’t been awake for the past year.

What would be a genuine surprise, though, is if some television journalist—if there are any journalists left on television—would actually ask the tough-talking blowhard just how his war declaration would have stopped a sociopath in France from driving a truck through a gathering of people celebrating French independence, or how it will stop a similar attack in the future. But don’t hold your breath waiting for such a journalistic breakthrough on television. TV journalists are way too busy covering the phony drama surrounding who will be dumb enough to become Trump’s official ass-kissing adulator. And by that I mean Mike Pence.

RBG Speaks Truth, Media Goes Nuts

Dammit! RBG has now apologized. She said,

My recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them.

As far as I’m concerned, she should have hung in there. When you are 83 years old, you are entitled to walk out on the national stage and tell the country the truth.

What exactly was the truth she told? Here’s what Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually said about Trump:

July 7: The AP interviewed her and asked her what would happen if Trump won the election in November:

I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.

Truth. Next:

July 8: The New York Times interviewed her. She said,

I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.

Truth. Next:

July 11: CNN interviewed her. She said of Trump,

He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.

Truth. Every single word. All of it. No one actually disputes it. No one is saying that what she said isn’t true. Her critics, though, are saying she should not have said it. Huh? I thought these were, as everyone says, extraordinary times. Well, then, what’s the problem? Why can’t a distinguished jurist tell the country the truth about Trump?

All of a sudden, after years and years of Scalia and Thomas and Alito waging ideological war on the country via their reactionary rulings, Republicans are worried about Supreme Court justices being “objective.” Yes. That’s right. Texas Senator John Cornyn said of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

I think she should reconsider and change her course of conduct because I think she’s got into an area that is out of her control.. And that I think will reflect poorly not only on her but on the objectivity that we request and demand out of our federal judiciary.

Cue the laughter. What a knee-slapper.

Speaker Paul Ryan is also suddenly worried about objectivity on the Court. “This clearly calls into question her bias,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. More laughter. Ryan even brought up Bush v. Gore in the context of bias and objectivity. What a funny guy!

Hear me, my peeps. It’s a fiction that the Supreme Court isn’t a political institution. It most certainly is. Bush v. Gore itself proves it. Beyond that, though, it is a political institution because the presidents who pick its members and the senators who confirm or SPDTC ... because Justice is not blinddeny them are all politicians, politicians with political agendas who want judges to validate those agendas, not strike them down.

Why do you think Republicans are doing what they are doing now to President Obama? They are denying him his constitutional right—duty, really—to appoint another justice to the Court. Remember Judge Merrick Garland? Why isn’t he sitting on the Court right now? Politics. (For the record, Justice Ginsburg told the Times: “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.” There might not be anything in the Constitution, but there is something in Mitch McConnell’s political head that says our African-American president has no rights a white man is bound to respect.)

And don’t forget an important fact about today’s Supreme Court. On almost any big issue before the Court, one can, with a high degree of accuracy, predict on what side most of the justices will come down. Especially Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and, before God decided to kill him in his sleep, Antonin Scalia. Again, it is a fantasy that our highest court is somehow immune to bias and politics and ideology. The best we can hope for, and we need to keep hoping for it, is that through the fog of bias and politics and ideology some justice will shine through.

Speaking of Scalia, he was the perfect example of obvious ideological bias on the Court. He (along with Clarence Thomas) spoke at least once at a secret fundraising event sponsored by right-winger Charles Koch. As ThinkProgress also reported,

Scalia also came under ethical fire when he skipped Chief Justice Roberts’ swearing in ceremony to attend a junket to a Ritz-Carlton resort funded by the right-wing Federalist Society.

Objectivity anyone? This is so much fun I’ll go on:

  • In Arizona v. United States—Scalia was on the losing side—the famous conservative justice famously offered negative opinions of President Obama’s immigration policies.
  • In another case, Scalia essentially endorsed ideas that Senator Harry Reid said were “racist in application, if not intent.”
  • Speaking before law students at Georgetown, he criticized the Court’s protection of gay rights by suggesting homosexuals were in the same class as “pederasts” and “child abusers.”
  • Three weeks after the Court agreed to hear a case involving former Vice President Dick Cheney’s desire to keep secret the details of his energy policy strategy sessions, Scalia went duck hunting with Dick. Responding to a question about the propriety of that Dick duck hunt, Scalia said,

It’s acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack.

Side-splitting humor.

One more thing about Scalia, may he rest in peace. His bias was actually quantified by political science. A couple of years ago researchers did a study that focused on Supreme Court rulings, going back over 50 years, in cases involving freedom of expression. The study examined whether justices tended to favor free speech in those cases where the speaker’s ideology lined up with their own, either liberal or conservative. Guess what? Here’s how one of the researchers, Lee Epstein of Washington University in St. Louis, put it:

The most pronounced in the data set is Scalia … Just in terms of the pure percentages, if it were a liberal speaker he’d support the free exercise claim in about 21 percent of the cases. But if it were a conservative speaker, [he’d support free exercise claims] in 65 percent of the cases.

Whoops. I don’t remember too many editorials denouncing Scalia’s lopsided preference for conservative speech, do you?

Finally, I want to get to what really bothers me about all this. It is Trump’s reaction and the lack of proper reaction to Trump’s reaction. He first tweeted,

Justice Ginsburg has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot-resign!

Wait a minute. Did he really say “her mind is shot”? Donald Trump—Donald Bleeping Trump—is actually sitting in judgment of someone’s mental ability? Yep. He later said, “there’s almost something wrong with her.” Think about that for a second or two. What kind of muddled mind talks that way? In any case, he was asked if he was questioning her mental capacity, to which he said,

Yes, I think I am. I think I am questioning her mental capacity.

Okay. You have a presidential candidate—one who recently launched a racist attack on a federal judge—openly questioning whether a sitting Supreme Court justice is in her right mind. Isn’t that unprecedented? Isn’t that a problem far greater than Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling the truth about Trump? I mean, she didn’t question his mental capacity. She questioned his sincerity and his consistency and his ego and the lack of transparency on his finances. All of those things are legitimate concerns about Trump. Yet, journalists and pundits, even liberal ones, are all torn up about what RBG has done, in terms of how the public might now perceive the impartiality of the Court. The reaction to what Trump said is to ignore it and continue to criticize her. What utter hooey. Doesn’t questioning the sanity of a Supreme Court justice do more to harm the institution than what RBG did?

Let me end this with some wise words from Paul Butler, a law professor and former federal prosecutor, who wrote an op-ed for The New York Times:

When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.

In speaking out, Ginsburg has refused to elevate the appearance of justice over justice itself. The Washington chattering classes may not appreciate the breach of protocol, but history — should the United States remain a democracy – will be a kinder judge.

That, my friends, is absolutely right. Despite her second thoughts now, RBG has done the country a favor by doing what too many journalists, especially those on cable television, refuse to do: she spoke truth to Trump.

______________________

[photo credit: Ginsburg: Allison Shelley/Getty Images; peeping justice: Southern Defender; Scalia: Allen West]

Once More An Amazing Speech

About Americans he said,

At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions. And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens, and finding our better selves in the process.

Those weren’t the words of Barack Obama today. Those were the words of George W. Bush. But they beautifully presaged what President Obama would try to do with his own speech in Dallas: help heal the recent wounds of a community, unify a nation, and call us to really find “our better selves” by “learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens.”

I won’t quote from Obama’s speech at the interfaith memorial service for the five police officers murdered last week in Dallas by an African-American man, an angry, radicalized man who sang and laughed at police after he gunned them down. I don’t really want to quote from Obama’s speech because you really should read, and see, it all. But I do want to say, once again, just how lucky we are to have Barack Obama as our president in times like these. As someone said to me, they couldn’t imagine Donald Trump giving such a speech. Very true. But honestly I can’t imagine Hillary Clinton giving a speech like that either. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone we currently know in American politics giving such a speech. For so many reasons, it really was remarkable.

Maybe, and sadly, it’s because President Obama has had so much practice.dallas memorial.jpg

Bernie, Finally, Joins the “Stop Trump” Movement

Bernie Sanders unequivocally endorsed Hillary Clinton today. Good for him. Good for the Democratic Party. And, hopefully, good for the country.

Since I have spent a lot of time criticizing him for his behavior up until today, I owe him my thanks for belatedly doing the right thing. I watched his speech today in New Hampshire, and when he got around to talking about Hillary Clinton, he didn’t mince words. He actually endorsed her like he meant it, even though he knew that doing so would disappoint and aggravate some of his most loyal supporters. He effectively contrasted her positions on the issues with those of Trump and reminded everyone of something essential:

If you don’t believe this election is important, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump will nominate, and what that means to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.

I don’t think those of us who have been critical of Sanders should ignore just how important today is. Sure, Bernie’s delay was somewhat damaging, as was some of the things he and his supporters said and did during the primary season. But it was close to essential to get Bernie on board Clinton’s campaign. His passion and energy, as well as the passion and energy of those who will follow his lead, will help Democrats at all levels. We need all hands on deck. As Bernie mentioned today, Democrats not only need the White House, but the Congress, if there is any hope of getting progressive policies enacted.

Bernie also said something that Democrat-friendly people, who don’t necessarily like Hillary Clinton personally, should think about:

This campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or any other candidate who sought the presidency. This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face. And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.

If you have any amount of sympathy for what Bernie Sanders was fighting for, if you have any amount of sympathy for the principles the Democratic Party represents, then it is imperative to get past your difficulties with Hillary Clinton’s personality or with her much-examined history. There is just too much at stake.

clinton and sanders.jpgBut Bernie statement above isn’t quite correct this election cycle. In an important sense, in a sense Bernie never touched on today, this election is about a candidate, a very unusual and unstable candidate. Trump’s utter unfitness for office, his manifestly disqualifying temperament, should be on voter’s minds. If Hillary Clinton is to win, she must focus not just on addressing the needs of the American people, but in reminding them, again and again, of just how existentially dangerous Trump is. Those tempted to not vote for her because they think she’s not progressive enough or because she has taken money from big shots or because they just can’t stand her personality need to know what they are risking.

I was talking to a neighbor the other day, a highly educated neighbor who said she was considering voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. I asked her why. She said she thought Hillary Clinton was too ambitious, and it was clear she didn’t much like her. It really didn’t seem to have all that much to do with Clinton’s policy positions. It just appeared she didn’t like Clinton. Of course I challenged her on that “ambitious” remark, saying that I don’t often hear people criticize male politicians for their ambition. But I also challenged her to think about the fact that a vote for Johnson, or any third-party candidate, is in effect a vote for Trump. It’s a vote that Hillary should get but won’t. And multiplied that could mean a Trump victory that would hurt a lot of people, both here and around the world.

I don’t know what she thought about my challenge, but I do know that people need to think about not just the policies that would flow out of a Clinton or Trump administration, or the personnel that would populate the government by virtue of a win by either, but people need to think long and hard about the damage—long-term damage—that Trump can do to our country by the sheer force of his incorrigible ignorance and chronic bigotry and self-obsessed temperament.

It occurred to me, after hearing Trump cynically say last night, “I am the law and order candidate,” that no one would be all that shocked to hear him say, upon taking office, “I am the law.” That is why Sanders’ endorsement today was so important. And that is why, again, I want to thank him for not being Ralph Nader.

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