Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday Reading

NOTE: In the process of doing some tree-trimming, my landlord accidentally cut off my internet at home. So I am relying on the kindness of friends to post this morning. AT&T has promised to come by on Monday to repair the damage.

Whistling Dixie — Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker on Trump’s embrace of losers.

From ordering in the military to bludgeoning the media, Trump has certainly been doing a pretty good impersonation of a hack dictator. In the two weeks since Floyd’s killing ignited a profound national conversation about America’s terrible legacy of racism, the President’s contribution to this dialogue has been to consistently misrepresent what is happening as an outbreak of lawless anarchy that he is heroically cleaning up, as part of his newly rebranded “LAW & ORDER” campaign.

Mostly, though, Trump, being Trump, has tried to tweet his way through the interlocking crises. It has not worked. On Tuesday, he began the day with a post suggesting that a septuagenarian protester who had been pushed to the ground by Buffalo police and suffered a serious head injury was somehow an Antifa conspiracist who did it to make the police look bad—an absurd conspiracy theory, which had just aired on Trump’s new favorite TV channel, the One America News Network.

On Capitol Hill, a by-now-familiar dance quickly began as Republican senators desperately sought to avoid comment on another incendiary Trump tweet. This time, they contorted themselves so foolishly that they would have been better off simply saying something, anything, instead of ridiculously pretending not to have anything to say about something so reprehensible and stupid. Burgess Everett, a Politico reporter, took to showing a printed-out copy of the tweet to senators when they claimed not to be familiar with it. So did Manu Raju, of CNN, who elicited a gem from Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, when he tried to read him the tweet. “I would rather not hear it,” Johnson said, as he ducked into an elevator, which might as well be the official new motto of the Senate G.O.P. when it comes to Donald Trump.

They would rather not hear it because, of course, as a senior White House official told one reporter, the tweet speaks for itself. Res ipsa loquitur. It sure does. Trump, in all things, speaks for himself. It’s just that what he says is often so bizarre, alarming, false, and politically problematic that it is hard to process. It has been especially so in recent days, as the country has found itself in need of a leader but stuck with a loudmouth wannabe strongman.

On Wednesday, with Washington still in a furious buzz over the President’s attack on the brutalized senior citizen, Trump distracted from that distraction by deciding to tweet in favor of keeping certain U.S. military bases named for Confederate generals, in what appeared to be a spectacularly ill-timed intervention on behalf of traitorous slaveholders who lost the Civil War. Trump could not have seemed more out of step with the moment. A few hours after that tweet, with the country experiencing a rare outbreak of bipartisanship on the subject of racism, protesters toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, while Nascar announced that it was banning all displays of the Confederate flag. On Capitol Hill, on Thursday morning, even the normally quiescent Senate Republicans on the Armed Services Committee suggested that Trump had gone too far and approved, by voice vote, a proposal by the liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren that would require the U.S. military to rename all bases which currently honor Confederate officers within three years. That vote, striking as it was, was quickly overshadowed by an even more consequential rebuke of the President: Milley’s extraordinary statement repudiating his participation in Trump’s militarized photo op. Trump, for once, was silent. At least, for a few hours.

I know it is hard to remember all the crazy things that happen in the course of a week in Trump’s America, but I will try hard to remember this one: a week when I saw troops in the streets and worried about a years-long economic crisis; a week when an untamed pandemic killed up to a thousand Americans a day; a week when massive nationwide protests suggested that our dysfunctional, gridlocked political system might finally actually do something about the plague of police brutality and systemic racism. And then there was the President, who chose to spend the week refighting the Civil War—on the losing side. This, too, I will remember, and so, dear reader, should you.

Doonesbury — Mourner in Chief

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