August 17, 2017


“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight. One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides.’” -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia

FYI There's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so. -- John McCain @SenJohnMcCain

No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes. -- Mitt Romney @MittRomney

“He is now the President, not only of America, but the white nationalist movement. David Duke saying ‘thank you, Mr. President, for your courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville. David Duke, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Klans members, they stand on one side and apparently the rest of America and the world stands on the other.” -- Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.” -- Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.


We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does. My request—my plea—to everyone involved in our political system is this: set scoring political points aside and focus on what is best for the nation as a whole. The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be. ” -- Brian Krzanich,  CEO of Intel

“You know who’s not golfing? Bob Mueller, that’s who.” — A GOP operative, quoted by Bloomberg.

“There may come a time that requires members to put a lot on the line to try and protect him (Trump). The stuff that he is doing currently will lead to a situation when he is all alone when it matters most.” –– Adviser to Senator McConnell

“Eddie, I have to tell you, you’ve become extremely famous. All over the world the world, they’re talking about Guam, and they’re talking about you, and I think — tourism, I can say this, your tourism, you’re going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money, so I congratulate you. … It just looks like a beautiful place.” — Trump speaking with Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo (R)

“We have two leaks. You have the leaks coming out of intelligence and various departments having to do with Syria, having to do with all sorts of different places, having to do frankly with North Korea. And those are very serious. And then, you have the leaks where people want to love me, and they’re all fighting for love. Those are little inner-White House leaks. They’re not very important. But actually, I’m somewhat honored by them.” — Trump 8/12/17

 “Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him.” -- General Kim Rak Gyom, head of the N. Korea’s strategic forces.

It’s time to say that Democrats are on the side of American values, so we’re going to fight for comprehensive immigration reform, yeah. We’re going to say to every DREAMer in this country, ‘You are an American. This country is your home and we have your back.’ That’s what we’re gonna say. We’re going to fight to wipe the stain of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban off the books once and for all. And by the way, Mr. President, we’re never, ever going to build your stupid wall. -- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaking in support of Democratic ideals and values,  AUGUST 14, 2017



1. Stand up now, Mr. President

Donald Trump can’t bring himself to acknowledge that terrorism committed by white supremacists is, indeed, terrorism. The president’s tepid response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, was telling. He denounced the hate and violence but spread the blame to “many sides.”

No, Mr. Trump, there are not “many sides” to this. There is white supremacy, and there is America. There is good, and there is evil.

It’s not a hard choice. August 13, 2017

Make a tax-deductible donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center at


2. Think Obamacare repeal was hard? Wait for tax reform

Insiders and tax experts say rewriting the tax code will be just as difficult as health care — maybe even more so. While every Republican loves a tax cut, the GOP is divided over how -— or even whether — to pay for them. The fault lines are as much about lawmakers’ parochial concerns as they are about party identity, further complicating the task of cobbling together a majority.

That’s not to mention the procedural hurdles that could stall the tax debate, or the crowded congressional calendar that could push reform to the back burner. And with the 2018 election season kicking off in just four months, time is not on the Republicans’ side. August 13, 2017

3. Scott Pruitt Is Carrying Out His E.P.A. Agenda in Secret

When career employees of the Environmental Protection Agency are summoned to a meeting with the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, at agency headquarters, they no longer can count on easy access to the floor where his office is, the New York Times reports.

Doors to the floor are now frequently locked, and employees have to have an escort to gain entrance. Some employees say they are also told to leave behind their cellphones when they meet with Mr. Pruitt, and are sometimes told not to take notes.

Mr. Pruitt, according to the employees, who requested anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs, often makes important phone calls from other offices rather than use the phone in his office, and he is accompanied, even at E.P.A. headquarters, by armed guards, the first head of the agency to ever request round-the-clock security. August 13, 2017

4. Trump Threat to Obamacare Would Send Premiums and Deficit Skyward

A new Congressional Budget Office report finds “premiums for the most popular health insurance plans would shoot up 20 percent next year, and federal budget deficits would increase by $194 billion in the coming decade if President Trump carries out his threat to end certain subsidies paid to insurance companies for the benefit of low-income people,” the New York Times reports. August 15, 2017

5. Big Majority Say Trump’s Finances Are Fair Game

A new CNN poll finds that 70% of Americans believe the federal investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election in the US should be able to look into President Trump’s finances. August 10, 2017


“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.” -- Trump thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomatic employees from Russia.


"This is so incredibly demoralizing and disrespectful to people serving their country in harm's way," -- A senior U.S. diplomat serving overseas.



“We’ll let Obamacare fail” and “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it.” --Trump after repeal of the health care law failed in Congress, 


60 percent of the public believes that “Trump and Republicans in Congress are responsible for any problems with the ACA.” They also found that most Americans — 78 percent — believe Trump should do what he can to make Obamacare continue to work for millions of people. -- Kaiser Family Foundation poll


“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.” -- Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier  announcing that he would leave the White House’s manufacturing council, citing President Donald Trump’s failure to explicitly condemn white racists.


“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” -- Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Alex Jones: “I mean, quite frankly, I’ve been to these events, a lot of the KKK guys with their hats off look like they’re from the cast of Seinfeld. Literally they’re just Jewish actors. Nothing against Jews in general, but they are leftists Jews that want to create this clash and they go dress up as Nazis.”

Fox analyst dismisses that millions would die in nuclear strike because “they'll be mostly North Koreans” - Thomas McInerney: "Mostly North Koreans" will die, "look how many weapons we dropped on Japan, then we were in there weeks later"


NRATV host: Media criticizing Trump's response to North Korea are "anti-American" - Grant Stinchfield: "The one goal they have in doing it is simply to tear our country apart"

Washington Blade highlights the influence of hate groups on White House policy - Anti-LGBTQ extremists successfully lobbied for Trump to ban transgender people from the military. Now they’re promising action on so-called “religious freedom” guidance.

Fox guest praises Trump's decision to thank Putin for expelling diplomats. Hudson Institute's Rebeccah Heinrichs: "The way I see it is the president's response just took the wind out of the sails of Vladimir Putin"

National Rifle Association TV host: Tell North Korea "Sacramento changed its name to Guam" .

8. Climate change could be a lot worse for America than you thought

Climate change could be a lot worse for America than you thought. That’s one of the messages from deep inside the 600-page final draft of the Congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment (NCA) that was leaked to the New York Times this week.

If America stays on its current emissions path — often referred to as business-as-usual, or for all intents and purposes, the path President Donald Trump seems determined to follow — the assessment identifies four extreme outcomes that could take a substantial toll on people across the country.

Sea level rise of 1 foot per decade after 2050, and 2 feet per decade after 2100.

Devastating drops in soil moisture across most of the country, including our breadbaskets.

Weakening of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation, which would speed up warming and sea level rise.

What the report refers to as “Potential surprises: Compound extremes and tipping elements.”

In essence, the study lays out the choice between manageable warming (if we embrace and then keep strengthening the Paris climate agreement) and unmanageable catastrophe (if we pursue Trump’s policies of undoing global and U.S. climate action).

The plausible worst-case scenario is unpleasant to think about. But it would be unimaginably worse for our children and billions of people around the globe to actually experience. The best way to make sure that nightmare never happens is to slash carbon pollution now.


9. Trump’s Business of Corruption

Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow recently told Adam Davidson that the investigation being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, should focus on one question: whether there was “coördination between the Russian government and people on the Trump campaign.” Sekulow went on, “I want to be really specific. A real-estate deal would be outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.” If he senses “drift” in Mueller’s investigation, he said, he will warn the special counsel’s office that it is exceeding its mandate. The issue will first be raised “informally,” he noted. If Mueller and his team persist, Sekulow said, he might lodge a formal objection with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to dismiss Mueller and end the inquiry. President Trump has been more blunt, hinting to the Times that he might fire Mueller if the investigation looks too closely at his business dealings.

Several news accounts have confirmed that Mueller has indeed begun to examine Trump’s real-estate deals and other business dealings, including some that have no obvious link to Russia. But this is hardly wayward. It would be impossible to gain a full understanding of the various points of contact between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign without scrutinizing many of the deals that Trump has made in the past decade. Trump-branded buildings in Toronto and the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan were developed in association with people who have connections to the Kremlin. Other real-estate partners of the Trump Organization—in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere—are now caught up in corruption probes, and, collectively, they suggest that the company had a pattern of working with partners who exploited their proximity to political power.

10. About President Trump’s claim that low-skilled immigration placed ‘substantial pressure’ on U.S. workers

Trump exaggerates the impact of immigration on U.S. workers’ wages by saying that the immigration of low-skilled workers has created substantial pressures on American workers, taxpayers and resources. Over time, immigrants are a net positive to the U.S. economy.

We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios. Trump’s claim is a mix of statements that are outdated (“for decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-skill immigration system”), exaggerated (“substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers”) and rooted in research (“among those hit the hardest” are minority workers or immigrants). His over-the-top rhetoric, which is more hyperbole than fact, pushed his rating to Three Pinocchios.

11. Trump Appointee Stoked Birther Conspiracy

Sam Clovis, President Trump’s pick to be chief scientist for the Department of Agriculture, pushed unfounded theories about then-President Obama’s upbringing, CNN reports.

A review of Clovis’s writings and radio broadcasts during 2012 and 2013 has found that he “regularly engaged with fringe theories that were prevalent in the right-wing radio and blogosphere during Obama’s presidency.”

One more thing: He’s not a scientist either. August 10, 2017

12. If Trump goes down, Pence will too

This is the vice-presidential prisoner’s dilemma: There is no distance he can achieve, no political support he can muster, no congressional chits he can collect, no donor base he can assemble that can survive the fallout from a failed presidency. A vice president is either implicated as being in the loop or looks foolish if he insists that he was out of it. There’s too much video of any vice president praising, promoting and partnering with his boss to say, ‘President who?'

If Pence seeks the presidency in 2020 because Trump has been forced out of office, or pressured not to run for reelection due to unpopularity, he will suffer the same fate as Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Ford in 1976, Walter Mondale in 1984 and Dan Quayle in 2000: defeat. Nothing Pence is doing now will break him out of a political imprisonment of his own creation.


13. Late Night Jokes for Dems

Tensions with North Korea continue to rise. And you can tell Trump’s nervous because he’s been wearing a “Make America Great Again” helmet. -- Jimmy Fallon

A spokesperson for North Korea called president Trump a senile man who can’t think rationally. But it turns out they just stole that from Trump’s Twitter bio. -- Jimmy Fallon

Archaeologists have just uncovered evidence of a Native American civilization that vanished, completely vanished in the 13th century. Isn’t that amazing? Apparently they died out months after selecting their new leader, Chief Trump. Then they were gone. -- Conan O’Brien

They found a skull with a big orange wig on it. Scowling at them. But it was the best skull you’ve ever seen. -- Conan O’Brien

This morning Donald Trump started another Twitter war. This time he tweeted at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, telling him to “get back to work on a healthcare bill.” I’m impressed. It is extremely difficult to type the words “get back to work” on a phone while simultaneously teeing off with a 3-wood. -- James Corden

Sources say Mitch McConnell is going to shoot back a response — as soon as his grandchildren show him what Twitter is and how to use it. -- James Corden

I mean, McConnell versus Trump, this is big, guys. I don’t know who is going to win this battle. It really is a case of the turtle and the hair. -- James Corden

President Trump’s inauguration singer, whose sister is transgender, recently called the president’s ban on transgender people in the military a disappointment. Well, sounds like someone is not getting invited to sing at his impeachment. -- Seth Meyers

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci — you know, the Mooch — posted a tweet comparing what happened during his firing from the White House to what happened to Monica Lewinsky during the Bill Clinton sex scandal. Now think about this: Scaramucci is comparing himself to someone who helped get a president impeached. I LIKE where this is going. -- Seth Meyers

As of Friday, Donald Trump is on a 17-day vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. He’s there to relax after months of grueling golf at Mar-a-Lago. -- Stephen Colbert

14. From the Late Shows

John Oliver: ‘It doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis’ but ‘f*cking idiot’ Trump screwed it up:

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Trump's Response to Charlottesville: A Closer Look:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Take A Side, Mr. President: Nazis Or Not Nazis.

Jimmy Kimmel on Trump Blames "Both Sides":

15. Andy Borowitz: Americans Demand That Offensive Symbol of Racism Be Removed from Public Property

A growing chorus of Americans is demanding that an offensive symbol of racism be removed from public property.

Creating outrage since it was first installed at a historic landmark in January, the symbol, a figure of a man standing six feet two and weighing approximately two hundred and fifty pounds, has emerged as one of the most despised objects in the country.

Now, less than seven months after the figure’s installation, calls for its removal have spread from home to abroad, with many of the nation’s allies wondering what possessed Americans to put such an odious figure in such a visible position.

Large protests broke out this week in New York City, where the offensive symbol was briefly on display.

“Every time I see [the racist symbol] on TV, I want to change the channel,” one protester said. “I can’t stand looking at it.”

“This symbol is a part of America’s dark, ugly past,” another protester said, echoing the opinions of many. “It has no business being here in 2017.”

16. Trump acts like the president of the Red States of America

Donald Trump often behaves as if he’s first and foremost the president of the states and the people who voted for him. That’s at odds with the American tradition, and it’s problematic as a governing philosophy — especially in a moment of crisis. Trump’s initially tone-deaf response to Charlottesville underscores why.

Animated by grievance and congenitally disinclined to extend olive branches, Trump lashes out at his ‘enemies’ — his 2020 reelection campaign even used that word in a commercial released on Sunday — while remaining reticent to explicitly call out his fans — no matter how odious, extreme or violent.

Channeling his inner-Richard Nixon, who kept an enemies list of his own, candidate Trump often claimed to speak for ‘a silent majority.’ After failing to win the popular vote, President Trump has instead governed on behalf of an increasingly vocal but diminishing minority.” August 15, 2017


17. Bipartisan pressure grows for Trump to remove white nationalists from White House

From the outset of his presidency, Donald Trump has staffed his inner White House circle with people intimately tied to hate groups and white nationalism.

There is chief strategist Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart, who has championed the so-called “alt-right” and wants to curb due process for immigrants.

There is Stephen Miller, who rubbed shoulders with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer at Duke University and attacked the poem on the Statue of Liberty while advocating Trump’s plan to cut nonwhite immigration.

And there is Sebastian Gorka, who claims white supremacists are “not the problem,” refuses to acknowledge Islam is a religion, and received a medal from a Hungarian group with historical ties to Nazi Germany.

There have been alarm bells sounded about all of these men from the moment Trump hired them. But the urgency has grown in the wake of the deadly white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, and Trump’s subsequent inability to issue a basic, straightforward statement condemning violent acts by Nazis.


18. Trump Job Approval Rating Now at 34%, New Low

President Donald Trump's job approval rating in Gallup Daily tracking is at 34% for the three-day period from Friday through Sunday -- by one point the lowest of his administration so far.

Trump's rating of 36% for the week ending Aug. 13 was also by one point his lowest on a weekly basis. The president has talked in recent days about doing well with his "base," but Republicans' latest weekly approval rating of 79% was the lowest from his own partisans so far, dropping from the previous week's 82%. Democrats gave Trump a 7% job approval rating last week, while the reading for independents was at 29%. This is the first time independents' weekly approval rating for Trump has dropped below 30%.

19. The Obama-Trump Voters Swung the Election

The story of the 2016 presidential election is simple. Trump made huge gains among white voters without a college degree. His gains were large enough to cancel out considerable losses among well-educated white voters and a decade of demographic shifts.

There are questions and details still up for debate: whether Democrats can win back these voters, and how to think about and frame the decline in black turnout. But postelection surveys, pre-election surveys, voter file data and the actual results all support the main story: Hillary Clinton lost primarily because of the narrow but deep swing among white working-class voters who were overrepresented in decisive battleground states.

20. Pelosi Renews Call for Firing Steve Bannon After Charlottesville Violence

“The President’s statement on Saturday was a direct reflection of the fact that his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is an alt-right white supremacist sympathizer and a shameless enforcer of those un-American beliefs.  In his long overdue statement today, President Trump called white supremacists ‘repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.’  If the President is sincere about rejecting white supremacists, he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House. 8.14.17



1. Paul Krugman: When the President Is Un-American

Remember back in 2008, when Sarah Palin used to talk about the “real America”? She meant rural and small-town residents — white residents, it went without saying — who supposedly embodied the nation’s true essence.

She was harshly condemned for those remarks, and rightly so — and not just because the real, real America is a multiracial, multicultural land of great metropolitan areas as well as small towns. More fundamentally, what makes America America is that it is built around an idea: the idea that all men are created equal, and are entitled to basic human rights. Take away that idea and we’re just a giant version of a two-bit autocracy.

And maybe that is what we have, in fact, become. For Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn the murderous white supremacists in Charlottesville finally confirms what has become increasingly obvious: The current president of the United States isn’t a real American.

Real Americans understand that our nation is built around values, not the “blood and soil” of the marchers’ chants; what makes you an American is your attempt to live up to those values, not the place or race your ancestors came from. And when we fall short in our effort to live up to our ideals, as we all too often do, at least we realize and acknowledge our failure.

But the man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth — a blood-and-soil argument if ever there was one — clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are as a nation. 8/14/17

2. NY Times Editorial Board: The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of

Let’s discard the fiction that President Trump wasn’t placating white supremacists by responding so weakly to the neo-Nazi violence that killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counterdemonstrator in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. The neo-Nazis heard his message loud and clear.

“He didn’t attack us,” crowed The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, about Mr. Trump’s statement after the two days of racist demonstrations. “Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

The police said a 20-year-old man, who participated in the long-planned protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, plowed his car into peaceful counterdemonstrators on Saturday, killing Ms. Heyer and injuring 19 others. He was charged with second-degree murder. Two Virginia state troopers responding to the protests died in a helicopter crash.

After the attack, and before he spoke, Mr. Trump reportedly consulted advisers. They told him to condemn the white nationalists who fomented the violence.

He did not. Instead, he spoke of an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence that’s on many sides.”

Mr. Trump is alone in modern presidential history in his willingness to summon demons of bigotry and intolerance in service to himself. He began his political career on a lie about President Barack Obama’s citizenship and has failed to firmly condemn the words and deeds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan leaders and other bigots who rallied behind him. A number of these people, including David Duke, the former Klan imperial wizard, and Richard Spencer, self-styled theorist of the alt-right, were part of the amen chorus of bigots in Charlottesville.


3. The Guardian Editorial: Donald Trump and racism: a moral failure that shames America

It would be difficult to imagine any US president of this more recent period, of whatever party, who would not have responded to the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville with anything except explicit condemnation and disgust. Any president, that is, until this one.

There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the fanatical white supremacists who rallied in the Virginia city on Saturday and the equality defenders who demonstrated peacefully against them, one of whom was rammed and killed by a speeding car allegedly driven by a man who had attended the neo-Nazi rally. The supremacists hate black people and Jews, and regard white people as superior. They talk portentously about blood, soil and the right to bear arms. They admire Hitler and give Nazi salutes. They fly the flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy – the ostensible cause of their rallies this summer is Charlottesville’s decision, more than 150 years after the south’s surrender, to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park. And one of them committed the sort of act that was rightly called terrorism when it occurred in Nice, Berlin and London.

Yet, in his first response on Saturday, Mr Trump utterly failed in his primary duty to uphold equality and speak the truth about the racist violence that had taken place. Instead of placing the blame where it belonged, on the supremacists and Klansmen who triggered these events, and rather than stand up for the indivisibility of equality and tolerance before the law, Mr Trump’s words were by turns slippery, banal and morally compromised. It was not true that the violence in Charlottesville came from “many sides”, as Mr Trump evasively said, before repeating his evasion. It is the head of state’s duty to stand up, explicitly and unequivocally, against racists and those who promote racial violence. Mr Trump was found wanting.

4. Scott Lemieux: Don't praise the GOP for calling out Trump's appalling Charlottesville comments

The mobilization of white supremacy is not incidental to Trump's rise, but central to it. Remember, he became a major figure in the Republican Party by aggressively promoting the racist falsehood that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and continued to engage in egregious race-baiting throughout the 2016 campaign. There's a reason former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke declared after the Charlottesville rally that "[t]hat's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back." The "our" in that sentence is represented by the white nationalist and anti-Semitic groups that staged the hate rally this weekend. Trump's lackluster response to such a rally was just another reminder of the very real particular dangers his naked appeals to white supremacy and xenophobia pose.

Trump's pathetic speech was a bridge too far for some of the Republicans who made a devil's bargain with Trump and have been ignoring his overt racism and corruption in the hope that he could serve as a vehicle to advance their unpopular policy agenda. Multiple prominent Republican senators, including Orrin Hatch (Utah), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Ted Cruz (Texas) did what Trump should have done but didn't: They specifically called out the white supremacist hate groups and condemned their destructive ideology.

Calling out Trump's white supremacy is necessary, and it's good that some Republicans are finally doing it. But actions speak louder than words, and until Republicans start showing the American people, particularly those who aren't white, that they care about their rights and well-being, too, the GOP's condemnations of white supremacy will ring hollow. 8/18/17

5. William Falk: When winning isn't possible

President Trump lives in a binary universe. All interactions are transactional, and you either win or lose. You either dominate and humiliate your opponent, as in the case of "Low-Energy Jeb," "Little Marco," or "Crooked Hillary," or you suffer humiliation yourself. It's zero-sum all the way. I'm not psychoanalyzing here — Trump has openly espoused this worldview for decades. "My whole life is about winning," he said early in the campaign. "I almost never lose." That core belief now shapes his presidency. He's furious that we're not still winning the 16-year-old Afghanistan war, so he's threatening to fire the commander and pull U.S. troops out. The Republican failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare so galls him that he's threatening to stop critical payments to insurers, so the whole system collapses. This week he warned he would rain "fire and fury" on North if Kim Jong Un kept making nuclear threats. Exchanging trash talk about incinerating millions of people may seem a bit risky, but for Trump, being laughed at by a third-rate tyrant is just, well, intolerable. You think you have nukes, twerp?

In running for president, a relentless drive to win can be useful. But now that Trump is president, he faces a mounting list of complex problems that do not fit neatly into his binary box. The looming debt ceiling, the budget, health care, tax reform, North Korea, Afghanistan ... all will require negotiation and compromise, and at best, settling for Ronald Reagan's "half a loaf." Frustration is inevitable. Meanwhile, Trump must stomach galling reminders that special counsel Robert Mueller and his 16 crack prosecutors are digging through his tax returns and financial transactions, and summoning family members and campaign aides to a grand jury. What happens when a man who needs to crush and humiliate his enemies cannot? As the president is fond of saying, "We'll see."


6. Michael Gerson: Trump babbles in the face of tragedy

One of the difficult but primary duties of the modern presidency is to speak for the nation in times of tragedy. A space shuttle explodes. An elementary school is attacked. The twin towers come down in a heap of ash and twisted steel. It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul — grief for the lost, sympathy for the suffering, moral clarity in the midst of confusion, confidence in the unknowable purposes of God.
Not every president does this equally well. But none have been incapable. Until Donald Trump.

Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville was alternately trite (“come together as one”), infantile (“very, very sad”) and meaningless (“we want to study it”). “There are so many great things happening in our country,” he said, on a day when racial violence took a life.

Ultimately this was not merely the failure of rhetoric or context, but of moral judgment. The president could not bring himself initially to directly acknowledge the victims or distinguish between the instigators and the dead. He could not focus on the provocations of the side marching under a Nazi flag. Is this because he did not want to repudiate some of his strongest supporters? This would indicate that Trump views loyalty to himself as mitigation for nearly any crime or prejudice. Or is the president truly convinced of the moral equivalence of the sides in Charlottesville? This is to diagnose an ethical sickness for which there is no cure.

If great words can heal and inspire, base words can corrupt. Trump has been delivering the poison of prejudice in small but increasing doses. In Charlottesville, the effect became fully evident. And the president had no intention of decisively repudiating his work.

What do we do with a president who is incapable or unwilling to perform his basic duties? What do we do when he is incapable of outrage at outrageous things? What do we do with a president who provides barely veiled cover for the darkest instincts of the human heart? These questions lead to the dead end of political realism — a hopeless recognition of limited options. But the questions intensify.


7. Andrew Sullivan: Trump’s Reckless Nuclear Bluffing

And then, in an instant, he ended America’s nuclear deterrence.

Isn’t that what happened this week? The president of the United States laid down an ultimatum that if the North Korean dictator issued any more threats to the U.S., there would be a response more ferocious than any military action in human history — i.e., presumably worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Within hours, Kim Jong-un issued a threat to Guam. And nothing has happened … or, we are told, will happen. (Friday morning, Trump came back with more bluster, this time warning that “military solutions are in place” should North Korea act “unwisely.”)

This was a nuclear threat that was exposed as a bluff on the same day it was made. Imagine what Reagan would say about that. Or Truman. Or Eisenhower. Or Nixon. Or Kennedy. For when a superpower makes such a threat and doesn’t follow through, its nuclear credibility — the cornerstone of our deterrence — is damaged well below the waterline. That credibility — sustained by successive presidents of both parties, for decades — is integral to our national security and to global stability and peace.

Trump’s reckless nuclear bluff — more terrifying still — was not run by any aides beforehand. It was not coordinated with the Pentagon or State Department. The language was improvised. He was venting. He was winging it. And so this week confirmed what we already knew: There is no one able to control this rogue president, no one who is capable of preventing him, if he so wishes, from consigning hundreds of thousands of people to a nuclear holocaust. If this does not make for an emergency, what would?

For the Republican Party, this is a particularly dark and surreal moment. A party once defined by its edge in national security is now actively, recklessly, impulsively endangering it with a president manifestly unfit for the office he holds and the power he wields. At what point will they say enough? Will it take a nuclear incident to force their hand? Or are they really prepared to pretend none of this is happening?


8. Emily Jane Fox: Donald Trump, Swamp King, Is Officially Swimming In Washington Money

In what many believed was an improbable coup for a New York billionaire, Donald Trump managed to win the presidency in part by promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington. He would excel in this purgation of corruption, he argued, because he had so much experience benefiting from it. The phrase was repeated at rallies, in debates and television interviews, at town halls and in tweets until it became a sort of mantra. Under his administration, gone would be the days of greedy politicians lining their pockets and looking out for their own interests instead of worrying about the American people, he promised.

Nine months after the election, however, it seems the opposite is true. A distinctly Trumpian swamp has displaced the old as a new breed of G.O.P. and foreign lobbyists have ascended alongside the young administration. At the center of this new Washington power structure is Trump’s D.C. hotel, which has quickly become the best place to see Trump’s swamp creatures at work—mixing and mingling over sabered bottles of champagne while pouring money into the president’s pockets. According to The Washington Post, the Trump Organization has turned a close to a $2 million profit in the last four months at its Trump International Hotel. The historic, gilded building, carved into the Old Post Office Building, sits just five blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House and has drawn the president for dinner several times—becoming a de facto parlor room for members of his Cabinet, his innermost circle, and his most fervent supporters hoping catch a glimpse of it all.

Governing, it turns out, is hard to do, and unbelievably, being president of the United States is not a walk down easy street. Being president and someone who owns a hotel within spitting distance of the White House, however, is much simpler. Certainly, it is more lucrative, and Trump doesn’t need McConnell or Mueller’s help to cash those checks.

9. Joy-Ann Reid: Remove Trump From Office Before He Removes Us from Earth

Did Donald Trump really just walk us to the brink of war with North Korea on a whim this week, or has this all been a figment of our lurid imagination? It seems crazy to contemplate that the world now stands on the edge of disaster because the American president simply lacks self-control. And yet that’s exactly the discussion on the table.

Trump’s bizarre statements about “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” coupled with the follow-up press conference in which he declared a “whole new ballgame” and doubled down on his apparently extemporaneous threats against the North Korean regime should chill the bones of every military family and every American with a child of draft age.

Trump talks in many ways exactly as Kim Jong Un does—in disjointed statements full of bellicose hyperbole. He blusters in a clear effort to shore up his flagging ego; to make himself seem strong when in fact he is weak; an isolated, morose figure lumbering from self-named golf course to self-named golf course and imprisoned by the office whose grandeur he cannot measure up to. He screams into the ether to try and push back the void, when the void is deep inside him.

He is a bitter, angry, frightened man, cornered by prosecutors, rejected by a majority of Americans, declaring his leaking aides are merely fighting to prove who loves him the mostand yet unsure which of his former lieutenants—or maybe even family members—will sell him out to save themselves. His dream of finally commanding global respect by becoming president of the United States and of besting his obsession, Barack Obama, has collapsed before his first year in office is even complete.

If Donald Trump begins to blunder this country into war, with the whip of the prosecutor and the shriek of impeachment at his heels, I think it’s incumbent on the American people to decide that the time has long since come. 8/12/17


10. David Faris: National Lampoon's presidential vacation

After 48 hours of pressure from GOP elites terrified that America will finally understand that the modern Republican Party is the institutional vehicle of fascism, racism, and white terror, the president glumly appeared before the cameras with a long-overdue and half-hearted denunciation of the KKK and the various cosplaying cowards who overran Charlottesville. No one who had been paying attention to the timeline could possibly have believed a word of it. What he proved, instead, was that he needs to open Waze just to navigate himself to the corner of Right Thing Street and Bare Minimum Road. This is a man whose administration reportedly mulled eliminating white nationalist groups from its Countering Violent Extremism program and froze grants designed to combat racist hate groups, who set up a hotline to report crimes committed by undocumented immigrants but who clearly gives zero tweets about the milieu of impunity he has created for hate groups and white nationalist terrorists. This is a man whose allies prioritized helping mediocre white kids get into college over the galloping menace of neo-Nazis. His entire presidency has been a long, unbearable, white nationalist infomercial.

Wake me up when impeachment proceedings begin. Wake me up when they promise to sit on all legislation until Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka are out of the White House. Wake me up when they denounce the president's immigrant crimes hotline. Wake me up when they stop abetting white nationalist initiatives like Kris Kobach's voter fraud farce. Wake me up when they fund programs to combat white nationalist extremism with the same gusto they support countering radical Islam. Wake me up when a single elected Republican leader recognizes the party's Jim Crow voter suppression laws for what they are. Until then it's just more empty posturing from a party that will be remembered for generations as the worst set of cowards to stain American democracy since Reconstruction.

As for America's doddering Clark Griswold and his New Jersey vacation from hell: You can have all of our credit card miles if you promise to go much, much farther away and never come back. August 15, 2017


11. Scott Lemieux: Don't praise the GOP for calling out Trump's appalling Charlottesville comments

The mobilization of white supremacy is not incidental to Trump's rise, but central to it. Remember, he became a major figure in the Republican Party by aggressively promoting the racist falsehood that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and continued to engage in egregious race-baiting throughout the 2016 campaign. There's a reason former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke declared after the Charlottesville rally that "[t]hat's why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he's going to take our country back." The "our" in that sentence is represented by the white nationalist and anti-Semitic groups that staged the hate rally this weekend. Trump's lackluster response to such a rally was just another reminder of the very real particular dangers his naked appeals to white supremacy and xenophobia pose.

Trump's pathetic speech was a bridge too far for some of the Republicans who made a devil's bargain with Trump and have been ignoring his overt racism and corruption in the hope that he could serve as a vehicle to advance their unpopular policy agenda. Multiple prominent Republican senators, including Orrin Hatch (Utah), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Ted Cruz (Texas) did what Trump should have done but didn't: They specifically called out the white supremacist hate groups and condemned their destructive ideology.

This is laudable as far as it goes, but it doesn't let them, or the Republican Party, off the hook. The GOP has nurtured and harbored Trump's explicitly racist appeals. And still quieter, less obvious forms of racism run through the party. After all, it was not Trump who wrote the 2013 opiniongutting the Voting Rights Act, therefore paving the way for various voter identification laws and dubious redistricting. That distinction goes to Chief Justice John Roberts, a man who has long been opposed to expanding voting rights.

And Roberts has a lot of company. As Eric Levitz of New York puts it, "[t]here are plenty of Republican lawmakers who campaign with utmost civility, and then push legislation that objectively advances racial inequity." Congressional Republicans have not acted to repair the Voting Rights Act or to guarantee access to the ballot. Instead, Republicans in state after state have enacted vote-suppression measures targeted at minority voters. As the Republican Party moves increasingly further to the right of the typical voter, the measures have only become more desperate. Trump's fondness for voter suppression doesn't make him an outlier — it makes him a typical Republican in 2017, and that is perhaps the scariest thing of all.

Calling out Trump's white supremacy is necessary, and it's good that some Republicans are finally doing it. But actions speak louder than words, and until Republicans start showing the American people, particularly those who aren't white, that they care about their rights and well-being, too, the GOP's condemnations of white supremacy will ring hollow.