Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Reading

Losing It Over Kamala — Molly Jong-Fast in Vogue.

Since Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate, the last week has seen an onslaught of alternating sexism and racism from both the president and the Trump industrial-media-complex (Fox News, The Federalist, OANN, the lunatic-fringe conspiracy site The Gateway Pundit). Ditto the Republican office-holders who increasingly seem to compete with each other over who can out-Trump Trump. Example A: Soon after Harris was added to the Democratic ticket, John Kennedy, the U.S. senator from Louisiana, went on Fox and joked that his Senate colleague was like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “but without the bartending experience.”

I shouldn’t be surprised – but I am furious, in a way that I don’t think I was back in 2016 when Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency. In 2016, I was “with her” but I was a sweet summer child filled with the belief that sexism was a problem that we could overcome.

What a difference the Trump administration makes. The last three days have been absolutely infuriating. But they’ve also seemed kind of pathetic, with Trump trying to figure out how he can make his attacks land on Harris, in ways that worked for him in 2016 with the risible chants of “Crooked Hillary”and “Lock her up.” Harris is not as easy a target, which Trump knows. (Despite a tweet he sent out saying Harris was “the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!”, White House insiders have been telling reporters he would have preferred either Susan Rice or Karen Bass on the ticket.) And, as a former prosecutor, Harris can give as good as she gets. She flashed a glimpse of what Trump can look forward to on the campaign trail this fall when she declared on Wednesday that, based on their mishandling of the pandemic, “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”

A few hours after she had been announced as Biden’s running mate, Trump used term “nasty” four times to describe the presumptive Democratic nominee. The president’s dumbest child Eric “liked” a tweet referring to Kamala as a “whorendous pick.” The Trump fundraising campaign sent a New York Times reporter an email calling Harris “the meanest, most disrespectful, MOST LIBERAL of anyone in the U.S. Senate.” And later, Trump himself called her a “madwoman” for her questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, adding, “she was so angry and — such hatred with Justice Kavanaugh. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. She was the angriest of the group and they were all angry.” The idea of a woman doing her work the she was elected to do  and not being motivated by her emotions seemed inconceivable to Trump.

It took only a day for Trumpworld to bring back birtherism, which Trump used as his foray to originally get into politics. It all started with an opinion piece in Newsweek, written by John Eastman, who a few years earlier wrote a piece about how Ted Cruz could be president despite the fact that he was born in Canada. (An aside: The opinion section of Newsweek is now run by Josh Hammer, who writes for the far right blogs Amgreatness and Townhall and was described in one profile as someone who “has spent years stoking anti-Palestinian sentiment and is now fighting Black Lives Matter.”) Trump ran with this immediately discredited claim during one of his daily “coronavirus” briefings, saying “I heard today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.” And then, later,  Marc Short, the chief of staff to Mike Pence. suggested during an appearance on Fox Business that Harris has “imported” socialist policies “from overseas.” This idea that Kamala is “the other” plays to the fundamental racism that lies deep in the heart of Trumpism.

And that’s not where it ends. Trumpworld is furious! Earlier this week, I watched Tucker Carlson during his basement studio meltdown about mispronouncing Kamala’s name, and then becoming even more apoplectic when he was corrected, as if the vice presidential candidate didn’t merit having her name pronounced correctly. Then, Trump’s favorite TV pundit, Judge Box of Whine (aka Jeanine Pirro) said “I believe Joe Biden isn’t even going to be on the ticket in the end because I can’t believe he would pick this woman.” The implication here is that Kamala is being controlled by some other force or that Biden is being controlled by some other force or that Judge Box of Whine is being controlled by some other force.  And that’s not the only disgusting attack against Kamala. After all the coverage about her being the first Black woman to join a national ticket, members of the conservative media immediately hit back, saying she wasn’t really Black, which for those of you keeping track at home is what we call racism and also something the right wing media did to Obama.

But I think these sexist racist assaults on the senator from California are going to backfire. It’s possible that American women have finally had enough of the racism and the sexism and the being put in our place by the president with all the sexual assault allegations. You know, the president who paid off two women during his campaign. The president who is currently being sued by the E Jean Carrol for defamation. The president that his former fixer, Michael Cohen, is about to come out with a new book about that, according to The New York Times, promises “stories involving the president and everything from ‘golden showers in a sex club in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the former Soviet Union.’” Yes, that president.

It’s been an extremely annoying four years for American women. We saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford harassed, degraded and ignored, while, in the end, Kavanagh was confirmed by just two votes, the narrowest margin for a Supreme Court justice since 1881. Trumpworld still heralded this as an enormous victory, but for a lot of us women it was yet another moment of degradation, of humiliation – of Trumpworld saying women’s voices don’t matter. (Are you listening Susan Collins?)

And it’s not like white men have been killing it or anything. For the last almost four years we have been governed a government made up almost entirely of white men, and they have been a complete disaster. They have been corrupted like Scott Pruitt who spent his time in the Environmental Protection Agency ordering tactical pants and used mattresses. They have been moronic, like the comically inept Jared Kushner, who predicted the economy would be “really rocking again” by July. (Hey, Jared, it’s August. Have you seen the latest unemployment figures?) They have ignored a pandemic, they have refused testing, they have focused on making themselves and their friends richer. Now they are furious by the idea that they may actually be replaced by people who know what they’re talking about. And one of them is a woman and she’s Black!

Payback is a bitch. On 2016, we did not get the first female president that many thought was an inevitability. Instead we got a reality television host with a raft of sexual assault allegations. Well, now we have Kamala Harris, and Kamala Harris is brilliant and tough and smart and very forceful in a way women of the older generation might have been afraid to be. I, for one, am counting down the days until Kamala Harris gets to question Mike Pence during the October 7th vice presidential debate, because Trumpworld is really going to melt down and I will drink a one big cup of their tears.

Signal to Noise: How Trump Plans to Sabotage the Election — Sasha Abramsky in The Nation.

The Noise? After Biden picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, Trump resorted to one of his favorite insults against female opponents: “nasty.”

What an extraordinarily worn soundtrack he’s falling back on.

In 2016, when Trump called Hillary Clinton “nasty,” he was an outsider, a mold-breaker, a shock-jock-style entertainer, an alt-right punk, and didn’t yet have the responsibilities that come with political power.

In 2020, Trump is president, the man who is, at least ostensibly, in charge of this country—the leader who is supposed to craft grand coalitions, alliances, and brain trusts to beat back a pandemic and bring economic relief to the tens of millions of families at risk of destitution in the face of Covid-19.

At a Wednesday afternoon campaign event with Biden, Harris issued a full-throttle call to conscience against the Trump administration. She used her prosecutorial skills to construct what sounded almost like the introduction to a legal case against this corrupt, nepotistic, incompetent, and cruel administration. It was succinct and powerful—and, I suspect, an opening shot in a campaign that will use Harris to brutal effect to concisely and clearly detail Trump’s failings.

It strikes me that calling Harris “nasty” will neither get under her skin nor scare off potential Biden-Harris voters.

Which brings me to the Signal: Trump isn’t just going to lob juvenile insults and then retreat. The insults may get the attention, but the actions behind the scenes will be far more consequential. He’s going to resort to every dirty trick under the sun in the next 11 weeks to retain his hold on power.

Hence his campaign’s ludicrous efforts to help Kanye West get on the ballot in swing states, in the hope that he will siphon votes away from Biden. Jared Kushner has met with the rap star, and the two reportedly talk frequently to discuss strategy.

Hence the ratcheting up of Trump’s rhetoric against voting by mail. He has recently threatened to withhold federal funds from states that make it easier to vote by mail, and on Thursday he openly admitted that he refused to sign off on desperately needed funding to shore up the US Postal Service because he knew it would inhibit voting by mail. Trump has even alleged that household pets are being sent ballots in a nefarious animal-Democrat alliance to rob him of power.

Hence Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr.’s recycling of Russian-troll-generated misinformation about alleged Bible-burning episodes among Portland protesters.

Hence Trump’s overtly racist appeals to “suburban housewives,” whom he believes can be scared into supporting him if he tells them often enough that Biden wants poor Blacks to move into their neighborhoods. He’s upped the ante by averring that Senator Cory Booker (yes, a Black man, horrors!) might be put in charge of these alleged efforts to eviscerate the suburbs.

Meanwhile, as Trump fiddles and faffs, Rome continues to burn. Last week marked the 20th week in a row that more than 1 million Americans filed new unemployment claims. Trump has no coherent anti-poverty strategy, and no ability or desire to force the GOP-led Senate to negotiate with House Democrats to forge a relief package. What he does have, in abundance, is animus.

In addition to the funding crisis afflicting the Postal Service, an even bigger funding crisis is about to swamp USCIS, the agency responsible for passport, visa, and naturalization services. At month’s end, absent an injection of cash that the Senate and White House are in no hurry to grant, the agency is going to have to furlough more than half of its staff. Analysts predict the entire immigration system will grind to a halt—which would suit Trump, Stephen Miller, and the other anti-immigration hard-liners in their orbit just fine.

Want to renew that passport? Prepare for a months-long wait. Want to get that visa processed so you can visit loved ones or arrive in time to start work at your new job? Don’t hold your breath. Want to naturalize in time to vote in the election? That’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Meanwhile, the administration is mulling something extraordinary even by its debased standards: It wants to allow border officials discretion to deny entry into the country to any US citizen who officials believe might have been exposed to Covid-19.

Not surprisingly, their efforts are reportedly focused on the border with Mexico. As a result, hundreds of thousands of US citizens who live south of the border could find themselves at the mercy of officers at ports of entry.

Doonesbury — You gotta believe…

One bark on “Sunday Reading

  1. An observation on Jong-Fast’s comments: In 2016, Trump had the benefit of a 30-year hate campaign by the right against everything Clinton. He doesn’t have that now.

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