The Racist in Chief Discovers Article II

Before commenting on the reaction to Trump’s moronic comments about certain House Democrats, I want to point to something he said Friday:

So — so there’s no collusion and there’s no obstruction.

Now, we have a great Attorney General now — he’s strong and he’s smart — and he read it and he studied it — along with Rod Rosenstein, who worked it from the beginning.  And Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr said, “There’s no obstruction.”

It’s also interesting — number one, there’s no crime.  And how do you obstruct when there’s no crime?

Also, take a look at one other thing.  It’s a thing called Article II.  Nobody ever mentions Article II.  It gives me all of these rights at a level that nobody has ever seen before.  We don’t even talk about Article II.

Let’s repeat that last paragraph:

Also, take a look at one other thing.  It’s a thing called Article II.  Nobody ever mentions Article II.  It gives me all of these rights at a level that nobody has ever seen before.  We don’t even talk about Article II.

It has been noted that whenever Trump says something along the lines of “no one ever talks about” or “no one knows about” someting, that means he was just told something the rest of the world learned in second grade. It seems the imbecile has noticed there is this thing called “Article II” that gives him presidential powers. Whether he understands that “Article II” is part of the Constitution isn’t clear, but he does seem to assume that this “Article II” thing has been lost in a drawer somewhere all these years, and he is the first one to find out about it. And so now he knows he has power! Lots of power!

If he were to actually read the Constitution — I know, but let’s pretend — he might notice that Congress has lots and lots of specific power and that the president has very little in comparison. But I think it’s safe to say “Trump reading the Constitution” is an event unlikely to happen in this time-space continuum. And even if he read it, he wouldn’t understand it.

But now let’s talk about the outrage du jour, which is Trump’s racist comments on certain Democratic congresswomen of color. For the record, here’s a screen shot of the initial tweets. He’s since doubled down with crazier and crazier rants.

First, speaking as someone descended from soldiers of the American Revolution, let me say that from my perspective Trump just got off the boat last week. I don’t have anything against someone just off the boat, but don’t get off the boat and start making demands about who gets to stay or go. That pisses me off. As Richard Wolff said, “What is it about this German-American that makes him think he can tell native-born citizens what to say and how to behave?”

Note that all but one of the progressive Democratic congresswomen Trump is talking about was born in the United States. They also were all elected to Congress, which means they are authorized by We, the People to determine how our government is to be run. But good luck explaining that to the moron who won’t, and probably can’t, read the Constitution.

Good luck also explaining any of this to right-wing bloggers, such as the always moronic Ann Althouse and her rabidly racist readers. My own fantasy deportation list would start there. See also The Worst Responses to Trump’s Racist Tweets at Mother Jones.

Charles Blow, Trump’s Tweets Prove That He Is a Raging Racist:

Trump — and many of his supporters and defenders — spew their racism and tell themselves that it is perfectly acceptable when it is read back to them, in much the same way that a dog will eat its own vomit. …

…There can be no more discussion or debate about whether or not Trump is a racist. He is. There can be no more rhetorical juggling about not knowing what’s in his heart. We see what flows out of it.

White people and whiteness are the center of the Trump presidency. His primary concern is to defend, protect and promote it. All that threatens it must be attacked and assaulted. Trump is bringing the force of the American presidency to the rescue of white supremacy. And, self-identified Republicans absolutely love him for it.

We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation’s history unfold in real time. We are watching as a president returns naked racism to the White House. And we are watching as fellow citizens — possibly a third of them — reveal to us their open animus for us through their continued support of him.

Eugene Robinson, Republicans embrace Trump’s racism. Blame them as much as him.

“Trump is a Racist” does not exactly qualify as breaking news. But the silence from prominent Republicans is staggering — and telling. It amounts to collaboration — perhaps collusion is a better word — with the president’s assault on diversity and pluralism. In the coming campaign, you will hear Republican candidates at every level claim to be colorblind and embrace all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. Do not believe them. Their failure to speak out now tells us everything we need to know about their true feelings.

Jamelle Bouie, Trump’s America Is a ‘White Man’s Country’:

Much of Trump’s agenda rests on this idea that the boundaries of rights and citizenship are conterminous with race. Those within Trump’s boundaries enjoy the fruits of American freedom, while those outside them face the full force of American repression. White European immigrants like the first lady, Melania Trump, are welcomed; dark-skinned migrants from Latin America are put into cages and camps.

But also note this:

With that said, what’s more striking than the president’s blood-and-soil racism is how Democratic Party elites — or at least one group of them — are playing with similar assumptions. No, they haven’t held out the white working property owner as the only citizen of value, but they’re obsessed with winning that voter to their side — convinced that this group is the path to victory. It helps explain the current feud between Pelosi and the four congresswomen, with House Democratic leaders attacking progressives on behalf of moderates in the caucus — some of which represent districts Trump won in 2016, but most of whom represent districts that gave Democrats the majority last November.

Indeed, it is instructive — and frankly disturbing — that top Democrats leaked a poll to Axios showing broad dissatisfaction with Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Omar. Not from the entire public or Democratic voters, but from “1,003 likely general-election voters who are white and have two years or less of college education.”

That kind of thing has to stop, Democrats. The party cannot continue to pay lip service to the virtues of “diversity” while simultaneously telling “diversity” to sit down and shut up. The Democrats are either open to genuine diversity, or they are a diluted version of the Republicans.

Finally, see Inae Oh, Trump Stages Full-Blown, Racist Meltdown at “Made in America” Event about remarks Trump made today.

“If you’re not happy here, then you can leave,” Trump told reporters in a chaotic news conference for a “Made in America” event at the White House. “As far as I’m concerned, if you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave.”

This is the guy who ranted about “American carnage” in his inauguration speecy. He clearly hates this country and isn’t happy here. He should go first.

Stuff to Read

I’m visiting with family. Here’s what you can be reading —

Dahlia Lithwick, How Alex Acosta Got Away With It for So Long

In point of fact, the system did work perfectly. To protect a child predator, that is. What you are witnessing here is Acosta seeking refuge in a country that allows jurisdictions to both point fingers at one another and reverse-engineer their own fact-finding to highlight only the smallest quantum of evidence. As was the case with the federal “investigations” into claims about White House chief of staff Rob Porter’s brutal and persistent battery of his partners, and Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct toward women, investigations are only as effective as the investigator’s willingness to look. Alex Acosta did not look very hard. Instead, Alex Acosta chose to sign a non-prosecution agreement around what he opted to see, which is what he wanted to see, which was close to nothing.

Michelle Celarier, Real Hedge-Fund Managers Have Some Thoughts on What Epstein Was Actually Doing

When a reporter came to interview Kass about Bernie Madoff shortly before that firm blew up in the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, Kass told her, “There’s another guy who reminds me of Madoff that no one trades with.” That man was Jeffrey Epstein.

“How did he get the money?” Kass kept asking.

For decades, Epstein has been credulously described as a big-time hedge-fund manager and a billionaire, even though there’s not a lot of evidence that he is either.

Paul Waldman, The Trump administration has been a personnel disaster

We all know why Acosta resigned: He had become an embarrassment to the president. I doubt Trump had any idea whether the labor secretary was doing a good job or not, though of late, Acosta had been under siege from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who apparently felt Acosta was insufficiently vigorous in crushing the rights of working people and advancing corporate interests.

Stuff to Read

Here’s someone else asking what the bleep is going on with Nancy Pelosi. Paul Waldman:

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Pelosi can’t just say, “I get where they’re coming from but we just happen to disagree on this, and that’s fine,” and leave it at that. But she seems unable to keep herself from showing contempt for the fact that younger members such as Ocasio-Cortez have large social media followings (“their public whatever and their Twitter world”), as though she doesn’t understand this newfangled technology and therefore it must be stupid and irrelevant. She’s often equally dismissive of their policy priorities, calling the Green New Deal “the green dream or whatever they call it.” …

… The broader context in which this is taking place is a disagreement about the best way for the Democratic Party to oppose President Trump, and in particular to make it less likely that he’ll win reelection. Among the party’s activist base there’s a growing belief that Pelosi has essentially decided to sit back and wait for Trump to do himself in.

So for instance, Pelosi and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal acted as though getting Trump’s tax returns was a matter of no particular urgency, waiting months before filing an official demand for them, and then months more before suing when the administration refused. The response to the administration’s refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas has been less than vigorous.

And then, of course, there’s impeachment. There are various legitimate opinions you might have on its merits, but here’s what Pelosi told Dowd: “The thing is that, he every day practically self-impeaches by obstructing justice and ignoring the subpoenas.” This “self-impeachment” idea is one she has brought up repeatedly.

Liberals hear that and are disgusted, because saying the president is “self-impeaching” means Democrats don’t actually have to do anything, they just need to wait for him to destroy himself. Which was what a lot of Democrats thought in the summer and fall of 2016.

One might think the older Democrats don’t actually want to fight Trump.

Speaking of which — here’s a very smart opinion piece by Jamelle Bouie asking why Trump isn’t reaching out to the center. Bouie doesn’t spell this out, but one does realize that it’s only Democrats who incessantly are being told they must appeal to moderates and “reach across the aisle” to compromise with Republicans. Republicans, apparently, don’t need to bother.

Greg Sargent discusses William P. Barr’s role as hidden enabler of the president’s deepening corruption.

Nice historical perspective on I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump.

Posting will be light this week because I will have company,

The Nancy (and Chuck, and Joe) Problem

Just six months after Nancy Pelosi trimphantly re-took the speaker’s gavel in the House — she is under fire, big time, Democrats who are not at all happy with her leadership.

She is under fire, in part, because of her repeated belittling and marginalizing of the freshman progressive House members, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Pelosi slammed them again recently in an interview with Maureen Dowd.

 “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” she said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

David Atkins:

Nancy Pelosi has been one of the most effective Democratic leaders the modern era. She is at least partly responsible for most of the good things Democrats have done at the federal level in the last many decades, and for stopping an enormous amount of terrible conservative policy. But this is pointless.

The young freshmen in Congress including Katie Porter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Katie Hill, Rashida Tlaib and Pramila Jayapal are providing more energy and excitement than the party has seen since Barack Obama ran for president. From the Green New Deal to the concentration camps on the border, they are doing more to push the Overton Window to the left and hold the conservative movement accountable for its moral debasement than anyone has in years.

Atkins goes on to say that Pelosi’s words make no sense even if you think the main body of the party must remain passive in the face of atrocity and fascism to remain politically viable.

Even in a world dominated by that level of cynicism, it would still make sense to have some part of the caucus give voice to the outrage shared by the tens of millions of Americans who want to see some level of justice done for tortured children and the beleaguered country. If everything Democrats do in the House is just a show for a small segment of Midwestern swing state voters pending the next election, it would make more sense to put on an entire kabuki performance: let the leadership do what it theoretically must, let the outraged moral compass of the party fume indignantly, and then let leadership admire its courage and clarity while rejecting it tactically, or preferably say nothing at all.

Actively dissing the party’s most energized base to a national columnist makes no sense unless you actively believe that the energized base isn’t just potentially losing the votes of a handful of people who would be irrelevant but for their irrational empowerment by the electoral college in a deeply divided country, but rather that the energized base truly speaks for only a tiny minority of the country.

See also

On Thursday morning, a reporter asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) what her party planned to do about writer E. Jean Carroll’s recent rape allegation against President Donald Trump.

Pelosi’s response was not a profile in courage.

“I haven’t spent any time on that,” she said, raising her arms in frustration. “I don’t know the people you’re referencing, I don’t know the person making the accusation. I haven’t paid that much attention to it.”

Not only was the top Democrat in Congress oddly unfamiliar with one of the biggest political stories of the past month, she did not believe her caucus had a responsibility to do anything about it.

“I don’t know what Congress’ role would be in any of this. But in any of these things, this isn’t about what Congress would do, this is about what the president’s own party would do. You’d really have to ask them. I’m busy worrying about children not being in their mothers’ arms,” she added.

Okay, but she’s been pretty helpless to deal with that, also, which takes us to the issue at hand.  I wrote last week that the “establishment” Dems like Pelosi have been oddly quiet about the border crisis, allowing the Dem presidential candidates and the freshman progressives to make most of the noise. How is this helping the Democratic Party brand?

While not pressing for impeachment or visibly calling out Trump, the House Democrats have been busily passing all kinds of worthwhile legislation that will never be voted on in the Senate and which most Americans will never hear about. Is this really the best path to re-election?

See Will Bunch, Can Democrats grow a spine before American democracy collapses in a limp, lifeless heap?

The plan backed by many House Democrats would have taken money away from ICE —which any hour now may launch disruptive raids in cities across the United States — and unnecessary military activity at the border and put the savings into true humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing murder and rape in Central America. It also had much stronger safeguards for how migrants would be treated. This plan —much truer to American values than the gulag archipelago run by Team Trump — never stood a chance. Bullied by McConnell, the Trumpists, and their allies to pass a harsh Senate bill before the July 4 break or be called a bunch of bad names, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her moderate clique of House Democratic leaders caved faster than the epicenter of a Southern California earthquake.

It was not a good deal. While about half the Democratic caucus was fighting to save lives, Pelosi was negotiating for House members to be informed within 24 hours after a kid dies in the camps.

I understand the argument that had the Dems not passed the bill, Trump would have been all over the place hollering that it was the Democrats, not him, who denied soap and toothpaste to little children. This is the same scam Republicans have been using to blackmail Dems for years — vote for our pointless war or we’ll tell America that you’re with our enemies. Vote for our tax cuts for the rich or we’ll tell Americans you don’t want them to have jobs. After all these years, why is it the Democrats remain helpless about being blackmailed in plain sight?

Barring a bombshell revelation that goes beyond anything we’ve seen before, I simply can’t imagine a scenario where Congress holds Trump accountable for his abuses of power and impeaches him between now and Jan. 20, 2021. Can you? And the blame for that falls squarely on Pelosi and other House moderates.

But Pelosi — whose people-management skills in holding together an unruly Democratic caucus are admirable, but who fails to grasp how seriously democracy is threatened in the Trump era — doesn’t deserve all of the blame. On the Senate side, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — the dictionary definition of a Wall Street Democrat — also signed on to the terrible border bill and has shown no skill in blocking a rapid Trumpist takeover of the federal judiciary. The Democrats’ current front-runner (albeit slipping fast) for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, has a 1973 mentality about how politics works in Washington — delusional that his magical powers of persuasion and congeniality will somehow convince our norms-murdering Republicans to abruptly put down the gun.

Mehdi Assan writes at the Intercept:

In the wake of November’s midterms, Pelosi mocked calls from AOC and her allies for a Green New Deal: “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?”

To be clear: none of these freshmen Democrats have personally attacked Pelosi and all four of them backed her bid for the speakership. As CNN’s Nathan McDermott tweeted, “It is pretty notable that the most vocally anti-Pelosi Democrats (ala the moderates in swing districts who opposed her leadership) don’t get as much criticism from her as the left-wing of the party.”

How about Donald Trump? Pelosi is willing to criticize Trump — “I’ve never encountered, thought about, seen within the realm of my experiences as a child or an adult, anybody like this” — but only criticize. Nothing more. Not impeachment, that’s for sure. The top Democrat in the House told Dowd that the president has engaged in criminal behavior but — wait for it — “you can’t impeach everybody.”

Last year when we were arguing about whether Pelosi should be speaker again, her supporters kept telling us how effective she is. And that’s true; she is damn effective. Nobody has ever done a better job of holding a fractious caucus together as she has, I’m sure. But those who questioned her weren’t concerned about her effectiveness; they were concerned that she is out of touch with the times and would effectively mis-lead. And time has shown us those concerns were well founded.

Ryan Grim’s article at WaPo — Haunted by the Reagan era — analyzes the generational divide among Democrats.

Frustration with the refusal to stand up for principle is boiling over among younger Democrats. On issue after issue — impeachment, Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage, free public college, a Green New Deal — the answer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders is consistent: Now is not the time; the country isn’t ready. Push too fast or too far, and there’ll be a backlash.

For newer members of the party’s caucus, the older generation’s fear of a backlash is befuddling. “Leadership is driven by fear. They seem to be unable to lead,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez and a co-founder of Justice Democrats, the insurgent political organization that powered her rise, while also backing Omar and Tlaib. “I’m not sure what caused it.” …

…The way the older and younger House members think about and engage with the Republican Party may be the starkest divide between them. Democratic leaders like Pelosi, Joe Biden, Steny Hoyer and Chuck Schumer were shaped by their traumatic political coming-of-age during the breakup of the New Deal coalition and the rise of Ronald Reagan — and the backlash that swept Democrats so thoroughly from power nearly 40 years ago. They’ve spent the rest of their lives flinching at the sight of voters. When these leaders plead for their party to stay in the middle, they’re crouching into the defensive posture they’ve been used to since November 1980, afraid that if they come across as harebrained liberals, voters will turn them out again.

The Ocasio-Cortezes of the world have witnessed the opposite: The way they see it, Democratic attempts to moderate and compromise have led to nothing but ruin. Republicans aren’t the ones to be afraid of. “The greatest threat to mankind is the cowardice of the Democratic Party,” Trent told me.

I am closer to Pelosi’s age than I am to AOC’s, but I have to say it — the kids are right. The landscape has changed. We have to stop playing defense. We should have stopped playing defense many years ago. I said as much back in 2016. I’ve said it a few times before that, I’m sure. One can make an argument that Bill Clinton’s move to the right in 1992 was the only way a Democrat could have won back when Reagan was still an object of worship in most of the country. But the young folks who aren’t old enough to remember Reagan as president — or FDR, JFK, RFK  or even Hubert Humphrey — have been turning away from the Democrats in disgust as the irrelevant party that betrays their trust as often as not.

Do read all of Grim’s essay, which is very good.

Tradition on the 4th of July

Happy July 4th. I hope everyone gets to do something traditional, like eat hot dogs, watch a baseball game, or go see fireworks. Of course, they didn’t have hot dogs and baseball in 1776, but “tradition” is an ever-changing thing.

And then there’s the abomination that will play out this evening in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Dahlia Lithwick explains all the many ways Trumpalooza could turn into an illegal act.

While the president himself is not bound by the [Hatch] act, the July 4 event turns into a taxpayer-funded Trump campaign rally if any of the following happens:

• Trump uses one of his campaign slogans: “Make America Great Again” or “Keep America Great.”
• Trump mentions the election, his reelection, or a desire to stay in office.
• Trump mentions election polling, his approval rating, or his fundraising efforts.
• Trump mentions a candidate vying for a rival party’s nomination for president.
• Trump mentions his political party or a rival political party.
• Volunteers hand out campaign signs, banners, or flyers.
• Other speakers onstage mention Trump’s campaign, reelection, or a desire for Trump to remain in office.
• Other speakers on the stage mention one of Trump’s political rivals, Trump’s political party, or a rival political party.
• Trump campaign officials are present at the event.
• any other indicia of political activity

Also, too:

Also of note is the fact that there will be a VIP section in front of the Lincoln Memorial, with tickets distributed by the White House and the Republican National Committee. As HuffPost reported this past week, the RNC is offering major donors tickets, as are political appointees at the White House, but the Democratic National Committee was not given any tickets to give away. HuffPost further reports that on Tuesday, the Trump campaign sent an email to its list inviting supporters to the event that included the following phrases: “We believe this is an important way to reach our grassroots supporters with the most up-to-date information regarding the efforts of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and we’re glad you’re on our team. It’s because of grassroots supporters like you that we will Make America Great Again, and we appreciate your support.
Thank you for all that you do!”

None of what Trump plans is traditional. Well, unless you consider avarice to be traditional. Rooms at Trump’s Washington hotel are sold out at twice a standard rate, Lithwick says. Those profits go straight into the pockets of the Trump family.

I’ve been in Washington on the 4th. Beside being hot as blazes, normally there’s an open air concert on the West Lawn. Was there a parade? I remember seeing the Old Guard fife and drum corps march down Constitution Avenue, which was cool. The mall is kind of a permanent, stationary parade, what with all the monuments and museums, and putting a lot of whoop-dee-doo on the street seems extraneous to me. And then there was a fireworks display at night, which was quite good, although nothing like Macy’s on the East River. But there were no roped-off VIP areas on the mall when I was there. You just sat where you found an open spot. Bring your own blankets or lawn chairs.

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” –Erma Bombeck

Whatever Trump does is never patriotism.

Update: I’m just hearing that most of the mall around the Lincoln Memorial has been fenced off.

The Lincoln. Memorial. Is. Closed. to. the. Public. Anyone visiting DC right now can’t get anywhere close to it, unless you are a Trump crony gifted with a ticket to the VIP area.

Trump’s Vanity Campaign Parade

Garish? Gaudy? Tacky? Wasteful? Utterly inappropriate? Thy name is Trump …

Greg Sargent:

New details are emerging about Trump’s plans. The Post reports that the National Park Service will now divert millions of dollars previously earmarked to improve parks across the country to fund Trump’s celebration on the Mall.

Meanwhile, a White House official tells The Post that the plans include a plane from Air Force One’s fleet soaring overhead at precisely the moment that Trump takes the stage. Tanks will take part in the display.

Finally, the White House is handing out tickets to the event to GOP donors and political appointees. Passes are being distributed by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign.

As many critics have pointed out, by politicizing July 4th so nakedly, Trump has inevitably transformed the celebration into a campaign event. It remains to be seen whether he will do so explicitly in his speech, but either way, that conversion has already been implicitly accomplished.

There’s no way his speech won’t be a campaign speech. He doesn’t know how to give any other kind of speech.

A never-Trump Republican named Tim Miller put it this way:

President Donald Trump is planning the #InternationalChocolateDay version of July 4th.

It’s all phony branding, no history.

It will be a gaudy TRUMP extravaganza, replete with tanks on the mall, “USA” spelled out across the sky, a rendering of the president’s massive hands with USA tattooed across the palm, a musical extravaganza hosted by Uncle Jesse from Full House, an “enormous” American flag, and a “special appearance” by the Sesame Street muppets. (Only one item in that list is made-up, the rest were provided, unironically, by the Department of Interior).

The TRUMP version of Independence Day swaps out liberty and self-government for owning the libs and self-aggrandizement.

There are reports that Trump has ordered military top brass to stand next to him on the reviewing stand. He is wrapping himself in the power and authority of American military might, in other words. As Charles Pierce put it, “This is out-and-out banana republic authoritarian performance art.”

To what end, other to glorify himself and get himself re-elected? Oh, and to make some money, as we can assume a lot of visiting dignitaries sitting in the roped-off VIP seats will be staying in Trump’s Washington hotel.

Trump is a weak and cowardly man who craves to be seen as stong and heroic. So he is armoring himself in displays of military glory. Back to Greg Sargent:

The authoritarian nationalist leader typically rewrites the story of the nation in his own image. Our own homegrown authoritarian nationalist has proved particularly devoted to this fusion of national mythmaking and self-hagiography, often delivered in his own unique language of crass, gaudy spectacle.

The historians tell us that this is what authoritarian nationalists do. As Harvard’s Jill Lepore puts it, they replace history with tried-and-true fictions — false tales of national decline at the hands of invented threats, melded to fictitious stories of renewed national greatness, engineered by the leader himself, who is both author of the fiction and its mythic hero.

Sound familiar?

But at the core of Trump’s celebration there actually will be a vision of America — or, at least, of American greatness, and more to the point, of his own imagined restoration of that greatness. For you cannot disentangle Trump’s vision of both those things from his paeans to the strength of our military.

Trump campaigned on the false story of an America in steep decline. He embellished this story with endless lies and demagoguery about immigrants, and about how international engagement supposedly resulted in foreign leaders “laughing at” and “humiliating” us. Central to this tale was the constant refrain that our military has been “depleted,” the ultimate symbol of that national decline.

Trump’s claim to having rebuilt the military is also foundational to his tale of revived American greatness — and his own authorship of it. He pulled out of the Iran deal — international diplomacy had produced a “weak” solution — and will now force Iranian capitulation by threatening unilateral “obliteration.”

There is no doubt that Trump envisions this July 4th speech — delivered amid a show of military might — as a display of his own imagined role in “restoring” U.S. greatness.

Trump is all id and instinct; it’s possible he actually believes he somehow magically restored the military — in just two years — from ruin to greatness. I can’t tell if there have been any significant changes in U.S. military strength from what it was in 2016, and I can’t find anyone other than Trump and right-wing think tank “fellows” who say otherwise. But we know that Trump cares nothing about national defense, or he wouldn’t have insulted NATO and Japan, kissed Kim Jong Un’s ass for a photo op, and winked at Russian interference in our elections. The military exists only to reflect Trump’s glory.

There may be another reason Trump is surrounding himself with symbols of might. He’s afraid of being booed.

The Fourth of July celebration exposes Trump to the sort of crowd from which he has been traditionally insulated. The event is held in Washington, which (along with its surrounding suburbs) is heavily Democratic. It is also drawing protesters who will fly the famous Baby Trump blimp. Trump is also alienating nonpolitical attendees who might resent him turning a hallowed ritual that is a traditional venue for unity and a respite from politics into another divisive spectacle.

Trump’s efforts to control the rally should be seen in the context of his fear that the crowd will boo him. He is advertising the event on his Twitter feed, cordoning off the immediate area around his speech for ticket holders, and giving tickets away to Republican donors. Trump has “requested that the chiefs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines stand next to him.”

Get it? The service chiefs have to stand next to Trump as human patriotism bodyguards.

But does anyone on the planet look more ridiculous trying to be a Big Man? Not that I can think of.

Border Crisis: Where Is the Democratic Establishment?

Greg Sargent notes that the portion of the Democratic Party most visibly making a Big Bleeping Deal over the atrocities on the border is the left-leaning part of the party.

Our national debate over the horrific treatment of migrants is becoming deeply confused. Because the most prominent progressive House members have taken the lead in spotlighting these emerging conditions — for which they deserve credit — this story is increasingly coming across in media coverage as pitting only the left of the Democratic Party against President Trump’s cruelties.

And, thinking about it, he’s right. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been all over the news about what she witnessed at a border station in El Paso, along with several other congressional Democrats. Last week presidential hopefuls Liz Warren, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg — plus John Hickenlooper, who should give up hope — went to a privately run shelter in Homestead, Florida to call attention to conditions there. And of course, the candidates have reason to try to get publicity for themselves. But where is the rest of the party on this issue?

Right now, Democrats are consumed in a searing internal debate over whether some immigration positions of some presidential candidates are pulling the party too far left. These include things such as “decriminalizing migration” by downgrading the seriousness of illegal border crossing.

Yes, boys and girls, back in Washington they are fretting that doing the right thing may pull them too far to the left.

Some are warning that Democrats are veering away from the strategy that enabled them to win the House by triumphing in very tough districts, including ones carried by Trump.

A variation on a theme. The worry is that by showing compassion to migrant children (which amounts to “moving left”) Dems will lose in red districts.

In truth, Sargent writes, this is an issue that ought to be uniting all factions of the Democratic Party. Instead, we saw them splinter over a $4.6 billion emergency spending bill. House progressives, plus Nancy Pelosi, wanted a bill that provided better safeguards for children and restrictions on what Trump could do with the money. The “moderates,” including Chuck Schumer, passed the bill Trump and McConnell wanted.

In other news: The House Ways and Means Committee finally filed suit to obtain Trump’s tax returns. They should have done this months ago. The legal maneuvering to stall the suit might not be resolved until after the 2020 general election.

The Idiot Abroad

The news from the G-8 summit is that trade negotiations with China are on again. Apparently Trump blinked and offered concessions. Basically, Trump made a crisis of his own making slightly less bad. The Right will turn this into a major victory.

Trump also continues to embarass our species every time he opens his mouth. One does wonder where his head is, or even if he has one. His inane complaint about the U.S.-Japanese alliance — basically, that Japan should be paying more protection money — reveals not just ignorance of history but shows he is utterly oblivious to the fact that Japan’s prime minister has been bending over backwards to be nice to him

Mr. Trump’s words are also a pointless slap to Japan’s right-wing prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who has ardently sought to cultivate a relationship with Mr. Trump and is trying to mediate a way out of the crisis between the United States and Iran. The 1960 treaty was signed by Mr. Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, another prime minister. During a four-day state visit to Japan in May, Mr. Abe flattered Mr. Trump with an extraordinary meeting with Japan’s new emperor, a sumo wrestling match and a lavish state banquet at the Imperial Palace. Yet standing next to Mr. Abe at a news conference in Tokyo, Mr. Trump shrugged off Japanese fears about North Korea’s recent tests of short-range ballistic missiles that could kill thousands of Japanese civilians.

This level of obliviousness goes beyond mere psychopathy, IMO, because even a psychopath can appreciate how other people think and what they want. They just don’t care. Psychopaths can put on a show of courtesy and consideration if they feel there’s something in it for them. But Trump is even worse; he can’t “think” outside of his own self-gratification. Not even self-interest; self-gratification. Anything that doesn’t immediately trigger happy tingles in his limbic system has no interest to him. Showing some reciprocal consideration to Shinzo Abe is very much in Trump’s self-interest, not to mention the U.S.’s interest, but he can’t be bothered.

But it gets worse. Vladimir Putin made some comment that western-style liberalism has become obsolete. Putin obviously was referring to the common political system of the western world that values the freedom of the individual. The New York Times’s Peter Baker asked Trump to comment on that, and Trump took “western-style liberalism” to mean “Democrats in California.”

Well, I mean he may feel that way. He’s sees what’s going on, I guess, if you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look, and what’s happening in San Francisco and a couple of other cities, which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but he does see things that are happening in the United States that would probably preclude him from saying how wonderful it is. At the same time, he congratulated me, as every other leader of every other country did for what we’ve done economically, because we probably have the strongest economy we’ve ever had, and that’s a real positive. But I’m very embarrassed by what I see in some of our cities, where the politicians are either afraid to do something about it, or they think it’s votes or I don’t know what. Peter, I don’t know what they’re thinking. But when you look at Los Angeles, when you look at San Francisco, when you look at some of the other cities — and not a lot, not a lot — but you don’t want it to spread. And at a certain point, I think the federal government maybe has to get involved. We can’t let that continue to happen to our cities.

The moron also was asked about the confrontation between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden over his record from way back when on court-ordered busing. Trump clearly had no idea what the “busing” exchange was about. His response:

ABC NEWS’S JONATHAN KARL: I’m sure you saw the exchange between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the issue of federal busing — federally mandated busing. Biden thought that was a bad policy; he tried to stop it. Kamala Harris said it was an important part of desegregation, including in her own experience. Where do you stand on that issue of federally mandated busing?

TRUMP: First of all, before we get into that, I thought that she was given too much credit. … And as far as that, I will tell you in about four weeks, because we’re coming out with a certain policy that’s going to be very interesting and very surprising, I think, to a lot of people. 

What the bleep? And then …

WELKER: I just wanted to follow up on the question about busing. Do you see it as a viable way of integrating schools. Does that relate to the policy that you’re —

TRUMP: Well, that’s something that they’ve done for a long period of time. You know, there aren’t that many ways you’re going to get people to schools. So this is something that’s been done. In some cases, it’s been done with a hammer instead of a velvet glove. And, you know, that’s part of it.. But this has been certainly a thing that’s been used over the — I think if Vice President Biden had answered the question somewhat differently, it would have been a different result. Because they really did hit him hard on that one. But it is certainly a primary method of getting people to schools.

WELKER: And does it relate to the policy that you’re going to unveil that you just floated?

TRUMP: It relates to everything we’re doing. And you’ll be hearing about it over the next couple of months.

In other words, he had no clue what Harris and Biden were talking about, but he’s pretending he’s on top of it and will have a fix for it really soon.

Debate Part II

And the winner is …

She’s not my first choice on policy, but damn would I pay money to see Kamala Harris on a debate stage with Trump.

And what’s that noise about Joe Biden being the best person to take on Trump? I never believed it, but after last night you’d have to be a Biden cult follower to still think he’s the Only One Who Can Beat Trump. His affable Uncle Joe act was not working for him, at all.

Greg Sargent has an interesting analysis. Biden has simultaneously been selling himself as a champion of civil rights while, at the same time, signaling to white working class voters that he’s still the guy who fought busing.

When we discuss Biden’s electability in the industrial Midwest, race is central to what we’re talking about, and we all know it.

The most charitable way to put this is that Biden comes from a Democratic Party that precedes its new “wokeness,” so those voters might be more comfortable with him. A less charitable way is that Biden’s past association with things like his opposition to busing — which meant capturing the political energy of white racial backlash — carries an implicit racial and cultural signaling that will reassure them.

One key reason that Biden’s nostalgia over white supremacist senators blew up on him is that it ripped the lid off of all this. Just as Harris does, I believe Biden when he insists he was, and is, horrified by their white supremacy.

But what still remains ambiguous is whether Biden does or does not conceive the source of his claimed appeal to conservative whites as rooted in subtle appeals to blue collar white identity politics, as Jamelle Bouie has detailed.

This ambiguity was pushed forward when Biden adamantly refused to back off his praise for segregationist senators and, worse, when he dressed down African American Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) over the matter.

Harris put Biden on notice that he’s not going to get away with it. And he won’t, with younger voters, although I’ve seen polling saying that older voters are willing to give him a pass. Well, we’ll see what the polls do.

If Harris was the biggest winner and Biden — who had the most to lose — the biggest loser, what about the rest of the field? My impression is that it came down to who did and did not hurt themselves. For example, Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, and if you love Bernie you still love him, and if you don’t, you still don’t. I don’t think he was much of a factor last night, but he didn’t hurt himself.

Likewise Pete Buttigieg, who is mostly getting good reviews, didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t know if he helped himself. I suspect he mostly reinforced the impression he had already made on voters.

Michael Bennet had little speaking time, but when he did have the mic he managed to not be obnoxious. He may have helped himself with moderate voters, for what that’s worth.

I’m not sure about Kirsten Gillibrand. She was working hard at being assertive and did more than her share of interrupting. I remember agreeing with a lot of what she said. But no one is talking about Gillibrand this morning. She didn’t “break out.”

Andrew Yang had nothing to lose and little speaking time. He is mostly remembered today for not wearing a tie.

Now, to the second-tier losers. The Mr. Obnoxious Award goes to Eric Swalwell for his repeated bellowing of “pass the torch!” at Biden and Sanders.

John Hickenlooper remains The Candidate From the Past Century. I might have given him a second look in the 1980s. Well, no probably not then, either.

And last and least, there is The Candidate From Another Galaxy, Marianne Williamson, whose performance last night deserves to be re-enacted in an SNL skit. Last night I posted “Marianne Williamson is annoying” on my Facebook page, and the first person who agreed with me is a Zen priest. Really.  She must have some following or she wouldn’t have been on the stage, but I seriously hope she’s gone before the next round.

For those just tuning in, here is Debate Part I.

Update: Frank Rich, Kamala Harris’s Debate Performance Should Scare Trump

Debate Part I

It was messy, but it managed not to be a train wreck, and some things were clarified. I’ve been browsing through opinion pieces on the debate, and no two people agree who the winners and losers were. What I think, from worst to best:

Tim Ryan and John Delaney should not have been there, and I fervently hope they drop out before the next round of debates in July so they don’t continue to waste space. Delaney especially must have realized he had a problem when he expressed support for Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment and the crowd, which had been cheering a lot, was silent.

Beto O’Rourke needs to re-think his decision to run for president instead of for John Cornyn’s Senate seat. And he needs to do that really soon, because as a presidential candidate his image is deflating like a leaking balloon.

A lot of commenters want Jay Inslee to drop out, but I don’t mind him staying in a bit longer to keep reminding us that climate change is the paramount issue we’re not facing.

People found Bill De Blasio either surprisingly effective or really annoying. I expect him to get a little bit of a bump in the polls, but I fervently hope not enough of a bump to put him in the next round of debates.

Tulsi Gabbard was, to me, better than expected, but she’s being tagged by many as a debate loser nonetheless. If she gets no bump from the debate she might as well close shop and go home.

I think Cory Booker helped himself, but we’ll see. A lot of debate viewers may have been seeing Booker for the first time, and IMO he’s very likable. Maybe he’s not the strongest candidate on the stage, but whenever I see him on the teevee I feel an urge to take him home and cook him a nice dinner. Don’t ask why.

Amy Klobucher is still a contender. She’s still too moderate for my taste, but she did well last night.

Lots of people are calling Julián Castro the night’s big winner. He may move into the top tier.

Liz Warren is still far and away my favorite candidate of this group, and I think her momentum will continue. Her endorsement of Medicare for All was one of the most interesting moments of the evening.

So tonight the lineup is Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell. It may be a very different evening from last night.