Sit Up and Uncross Your Arms, Donald

On a day in which massive wildfires are burning in 10 western states and the covid-19 death toll has reached 196,970, observing September 11 seems weird. Especially with the big lump sitting through the ceremony like this:

Seriously, Donald, you could have stayed home and played with your toy trucks, or whatever you do. I doubt anyone wanted you there, especially with you acting like a petulant three- year- old.

“There” was the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Last week New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that Trump stay out of town

“He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City,” Cuomo said on Wednesday night. “Forget bodyguards, he better have an army if he thinks he’s going to walk down the streets in New York. … He is persona non grata in New York City, and I think he knows that, and he’ll never come back to New York, because New Yorkers will never forget how gratuitously mean he has been.”

… so perhaps that discouraged Trump from attending the New York City commemoration. Mike Pence went to New York in Trump’s place.

Also, this was reported yesterday in the New York Daily News:

The Trump administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses, the Daily News has learned.

The Treasury Department mysteriously started withholding parts of payments — nearly four years ago — meant to cover medical services for firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, documents obtained by The News reveal.

The payments were authorized and made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which oversees the program. But instead of sending the funds to the city, the Treasury started keeping some of the money.

“This was just disappearing,” the program’s director, Dr. David Prezant, told The News. “This is the most amazing thing. This was disappearing — without any notification.”

So, yeah, not a good day for Trump to be in New York City. See also Trump, Biden marking 9/11 with very different tones.

The 20th anniversary is next year. I sincerely hope that ever after there are no more big, whoop-dee-doo observances that involve the President or a surrogate showing up. Scale it down and make it for the locals, for the survivors and eyewitnesses. Everybody else can stay away.

Panic Might Have Helped

Let’s get this straight — we’re talking about the guy whose entire political career has been about fear mongering, the guy who kicked off his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination with the famous line about Mexicans entering the U.S. — “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He has since devoted considerable time to scaring us about caravans of “illegals” and the Salvadoran-American street gang MS-13. He’s gone on to “rioters and looters,” stirring up hysteria over antifa and the destruction of (affluent, white) suburbs through Democratic housing policies. And did I mention socialism? What does he ever talk about but to tell lies to stir up fear in his base?

But when it came to the pandemic, the one thing that really was and is a danger to the United States, he decides to “play it down” so that people don’t “panic”? Seriously?

Truthfully, a little panic might have helped. We couldn’t possibly have overreacted to what was coming, I don’t think.

Here is NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett from last night’s All In With Chris Hayes. Sums it all up pretty well.

Today, the Trump campaign is trying to pretend Trump lied for the benefit of the American people. Like not being prepared for the coming pandemic was in everyone’s best interest. See Greg Sargent, There’s a big hole in Trump’s frantic spin about the Woodward revelations.

Throughout February, Trump was utterly obsessed with the impact that public news about the coronanvirus was having on the markets. And as Slate’s William Saletan demonstrated at the time, Trump openly cast the markets as inextricably linked to his own political fortunes, regularly suggesting efforts to use the coronavirus to rattle them were the work of political enemies out to tank him.

Indeed, Trump repeatedly raged at the media for deliberately trying to panic markets to harm him politically. Trump approvingly tweeted a media ally accusing CNN of trying “to stoke a national Coronavirus panic” as part of its “anti-Trump” agenda. He blasted the media for trying to make the coronavirus “look as bad as possible” and “panicking markets” to help Democrats.

Worse still, Trump’s obsession with panicking the markets — and harming his reelection chances — deeply hampered his governmental response to the coronavirus crisis.

This is Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone, February 25:

The warning isn’t surprising considering the virus — of which over 80,000 cases resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths have been reported — is now making its way through Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, after originating in China last year. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to President Trump discuss the disease. “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away,” Trump said Tuesday during a press conference in India.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” he added on Twitter. “We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

Though Trump wants Americans to believe otherwise, the coronavirus is very much a problem, one his administration still doesn’t seem to grasp. …

… The confusion can be traced back to the president, who seems utterly unwilling to acknowledge the reality of the virus, opting instead to stick his fingers in his ears and repeatedly insist everything is going to be fine and the administration is taking care of it. His belief that the virus will simply “go away” is likely based on how past pandemic scares have come and gone, but those diseases were contained in part because the government was working in tandem with the CDC. Now that Trump is in charge, there’s appears to be a disconnect as the White House tries to project a rosy view of the crisis while the agencies tasked with handling it are forced to work in reality.

Back to Greg Sargent:

In late February, after one of Trump’s most senior health officials publicly warned about the threat of the virus spreading, which Trump’s own officials wanted to do so the American people could protect themselves and each other, Trump privately raged because it “was scaring the stock markets,” as The Post reported.

Even into early March, Trump was still resisting pressure from senior officials to take big steps to halt the spread, such as making a full-throated call for major social distancing efforts and lockdowns, out of fear that it would harm the markets.

Trump actually knew on some level that the pandemic was terribly dangerous, and he not only chose to lie about it to the public; he chose to not respond out of fear that any kind of response, preparation, or warning to the public would spook the stock markets. It would have been one thing if he had downplayed the danger publicly back in February while ordering an all-hands-on-deck response from federal agencies to prepare for a pandemic. But other than the disasterous testing fail from March, there was no response and no preparation. And there still hasn’t been on a federal level, including whatever mysterious thing Mr. Ivanka was doing about ventilators and PPE.

See also Thanks to Trump, We Have No Good Options from May 19

Today the Trump campaign put out a press release arguing that it was Joe Biden, not Donald Trump, who was behind the curve on the coronavirus. One, I hadn’t noticed that Joe Biden has been POTUS any time this year. Two, Biden didn’t have access to the same intelligence and briefings from public health experts that Trump enjoyed. Three, it’s not hard to find examples of Biden (and many others) being way ahead of Trump. See, for example, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Rebuke Trump Over Virus: ‘The Clock Is Ticking’ from March 12.

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, spoke Thursday afternoon from the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Del., about the grave challenges the country faces, and he detailed his ideas for managing the outbreak. He also aimed to draw sharp contrasts with Mr. Trump a day after the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office, establishing a preview of what Mr. Biden hopes will be a general election matchup. …

… In his remarks, Mr. Biden offered his own plan for combating the virus, with proposals that included rapidly and vastly expanding testing — tests, he said, should be available at no charge — moving aggressively to boost hospital capacity and supporting an accelerated push for a vaccine that he said should be “again, free of charge.” And he argued that “the administration’s failure on testing is colossal.”

This was the day after Trump’s disasterous Oval Office address in which he announced travel and cargo restrictions from Europe, as if the virus wasn’t already spreading like a California wildfire here already. Travel from the UK and Ireland — where Trump owns resorts — was exempted, of course.

Charles Pierce wrote at the time:

This was not a speech. This was a cry for help, an SOS from a guy who knows, as Micheal Ray Richardson once put it, that the ship be sinking. You could almost imagine thousands of tiny feet running for lifeboats behind his eyes. You could see him reacting to storm sirens only he could hear. He is thrashing and floundering and he is surrounded by thrashers and flounderers who owe their entire careers to him now. This isn’t chaos. It is surrender to it.

Trump made so many misstatements in the speech that White House staff spent the next several hours issuing “clarifications.” The big takeaway, though, was that Trump was more interested in “protection theater” than dealing with the hard choices somebody should have been making at the time.

For that matter, here is Joe Biden on February 26 slamming Trump on his inaction on the coronavirus.

And here is Joe on February 1 slamming Trump’s response to the coronavirus.

“We have, right now, a crisis with the coronavirus,” Biden said in Iowa Friday. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia – hysterical xenophobia – and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.”

The former vice president accused the president of curtailing progress on global health oversight that was made during the Obama administration.

Biden cited “draconian cuts” to the budgets of agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Where was Trump? Let’s review:

Bob Woodward is facing criticism for not releasing the “downplaying” tape sooner, but that would have been the end of his research for his new book. We’re getting other valuable bits of information now, such as Trump’s bragging that he protected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder. Do tell, Bob? And Woodward provides more information on Russian hacking of election systems in 2016. See also The most outrageous revelations in Bob Woodward’s book ‘Rage’ aren’t the ones you’ve heard about.

The Home Stretch Begins

Now that Labor Day is over, we are officially in the home stretch of the election! Unfortunately, the track looks like this:

However, be of good cheer. The signs we can see are not so bad. You may see headlines saying the race between Biden and Whoozits is tightening. This usually happens as election day gets nearer. However, the FiveThirtyEight nerds say the opposite. It did tighten a bit after the end of the Republican convention, but now it’s widening up again.

On August 27– the last day of the Republican convention — the nerds were giving Biden a 70 in 100 chance of winning, and Trump 30 in 100. By August 31, it had tightened to 67 and 32, respectively. Today it is 74 and 29. However, it’s also true that on June 26 it was 79 and 21.

Last June, about the time Trump poll numbers were hitting bottom, there were reports that many Republicans seeking re-election were going to give Trump until Labor Day to turn things around, but after that they would start defecting. This is Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair, July 2:

Nervous Republicans worried about losing the Senate are now debating when to break from Trump. Trump campaign internal polls show Trump’s level of “strong support” dropping from 21 to 17 points since last week, a person briefed on the numbers said. A source close to Iowa Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign said Ernst advisers are upset that a solid seat is now in play. “Joni’s campaign is pissed. They should not be in a competitive race,” the source said. (“This is completely false,” an Ernst campaign spokesperson said in a statement. “Folks are energized about re-electing Joni Ernst, President Trump and the rest of Republican ballot in Iowa this November.”) A Republican strategist close to Mitch McConnell told me that Republicans have Labor Day penciled in as the deadline for Trump to have turned things around. After that, he’s on his own.

Is anyone defecting? It was widely noted that several Republican senators in close re-election contests were not speakers at the RNC convention, which was odd. This is Amber Philips, August 24:

Not speaking for the second time at a convention nominating Trump is the only living past Republican president, George W. Bush — a break from tradition. (All three past Democratic presidents offered remarks at that party’s convention last week.)

We also won’t see a ton of Republican senators and House lawmakers who are running for reelection in potentially competitive races. Republican senators running for reelection from swing states for both the White House and the Senate — such as Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Maine — won’t be making an appearance to speak on behalf of Trump. A number of them have started running ads that don’t mention Trump.

… many of these lawmakers are facing a difficult political reality in which Trump’s popularity is sinking in their states, largely because of concerns about how the president and his administration have failed to get the novel coronavirus pandemic under control. Voters also give the president poor marks on his handling of racial relations, which is unhelpful to senators representing increasingly diverse suburbs, especially in Southern states.

The conclusion is not to speak prominently at the president’s convention, which would almost certainly make it to their Democratic challengers’ TV ads. The one exception to this is Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in Iowa, who is in Republican leadership and facing a tough reelection but has apparently calculated that speaking will help her.

Another sign of Trump re-election problems is that he has blown through way too much of his campaign cash. I wrote a couple of days ago that Trump had canceled a $580,000 television ad buy in Arizona. This seemed odd, I said, because he won Arizona in 2016 and is trailing Biden right now. I can’t see how he can afford to lose any state he won before if he’s going to draw another straight in the Electoral College, so to speak, and $580,000 seems a relatively small amount of money.

Now, thanks to reporting by Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, we know that Trump’s campaign has been spending money like a hundred thousand proverbial drunken sailors. Five months ago, Trump and the RNC had a nearly $200 million cash advantage over Biden and the DNC.

Five months later, Mr. Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, has until recently been running a minimalist campaign because of the pandemic, and then he pulled in a “record shattering” $364 million in August. Biden can afford to run all the television ads in Arizona he wants.

The Trump campaign just released its August fundraising numbers today — $210 million. This is actually the Trump campaign’s best fund-raising month so far. Keep in mind that Trump filed the paperwork to run to re-election on his inaguration day in 2017. His re-election campaign appears to have officially begun in February 2018, although since then he has announced that his campaign was “kicking off” every few weeks. He seems to forget where he put his campaign and has to start over. See also The Trump Reelection Campaign Begins Its Third (at Least) Reboot. The point is, though, that he had a big head start on Biden for raising money, and it’s done him no good.

Back to Goldmacher and Haberman:

“If you spend $800 million and you’re 10 points behind, I think you’ve got to answer the question ‘What was the game plan?’” said Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist who runs a small pro-Trump super PAC, and who accused Mr. Parscale of spending “like a drunken sailor.”

I want to add that I’ve never personally met a drunken sailor and have no reason to think that drunken sailors by nature are bigger spendthrifts than, say, drunken soldiers or drunken air traffic controllers or drunken accountants. But let’s go on … Goldmacher and Haberman say that nearly half of Trump’s cash was spent on fund-raising efforts that appear not to have been cost effective. Starting early also meant hiring early, and the campaign has been paying big salaries to consultants and other questionable people. They also spared no expense renting high-end office buildings. They’ve been using Air Force One for campaign traveling, which has to be reimbursed, and it ain’t cheap.* Trump blew nearly $11 million on Super Bowl ads. A record amount of legal bills have gone on the campaign tab. And at least $4 million has been paid to the Trump family business for hosting lavish donor restreats.

(*Trump seems not to have learned the time-honored trick of tacking a campaign event onto a trip for real presidential business, to save his campaign the money. But since Trump never seems to do real presidential business …)

And, do not forget all the Republican donor money spent on preparations for the convention(s) in Charlotte and Jacksonville, money that was more or less flushed down the toilet. The Democrats avoided that mistake by committing to a virtual convention many weeks sooner.

See also David Graham, Trump Is Running His Campaign Like He Ran His Businesses, at The Atlantic and Nancy LeTourneau, Why No One Should Ever Trust Trump With Their Money at Washington Monthly.

And then there are the campaign messages. Trump’s big appeal is that he’s an asshole the law and order candidate. A significant percentage of likely voters trust Biden over Trump to restore calm and order to the nation.  Biden is seriously addressing the pandemic, which many experts warn is likely to get worse as the weather gets colder. Many schools that opened are closing already. The official death toll is now at 194,624. The good news is that the daily numbers of new cases and deaths are down a bit from what they were in August, possibly because more people are catching on that the pandemic is not a hoax. Here in Gooberland I’m seeing more people wearing masks.

Even so, it appears Trump still wants to hold big, live rallies. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported today that two Nevada rallies Trump had planned for this weekend have been canceled because of the pandemic.

We hear today that Trump is not prepping for the upcoming debates.

According to a new report in NBC News, Trump has not once prepped for the upcoming debates, and has no intention of doing a formal practice round. Multiple people familiar with discussions told NBC that Trump doesn’t think he needs to practice because he’s “been preparing for debates since he was born,” in NBC’s words. Trump also apparently thinks his ability to respond on the fly is innate.

All par for the Trumpy course. But the President has also reportedly told aides that he’s confident Biden will have a gaffe moment or stutter, which the President anticipates will help do his work for him. Aides are, according to NBC, “worried that Trump appears to be banking on a Biden misstep in the first 2020 debate.”

But then again, Trump’s confident in his own cognitive abilities. Person, woman, man, camera, TV.

A lot will depend on the moderators. And I’m sure we’ve all noticed that the candidates’ actual debate performance often bears little resemblance to how that performance was framed later. This year there will be only one moderator per debate, beginning with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Wallace’s July interview of Trump was subtly brutal; it’s possible Trump himself didn’t appreciate how badly he came off.

Trump has been stepping in doo-doo on a daily basis lately. At a time when he really needed to keep his mouth shut about the military, in a press conference Monday Trump said this:

But Biden shipped away our jobs, threw open our borders, and sent our youth to fight in these crazy endless wars. And it’s one of the reasons the military — I’m not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.

It’s like he doesn’t know how decisions get made to go into war. The generals don’t decide these things. You really ought to read the whole press conference. It’s insane. In the next paragraph Trump brags that ISIS is entirely gone, for example. It isn’t.

And CNN has tapes of interviews of Trump by Bob Woodward for Woodward’s new book, Rage. Among other revelations, Trump admitted in February to knowing the covid-19 pandemic was far more deadly than the flu, but in March he admitted he kept that information from the public because “I wanted to play it down.”

We shouldn’t be complacent about the election, but damn.

Here Are Your Thugs and Anarchists

Yesterday in Oregon:

From the Washington Post:

More than 1,000 supporters of President Trump, including some aligned with white nationalist extremist groups, gathered in northwest Oregon on Monday night in a show of force against left-wing protesters, creating even more tension in a region that has been rocked by weeks of protests.

On Monday evening, despite National Weather Service warnings of an extreme wind storm, hundreds of cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and at least one RV hoisted Trump flags and blasted “God Bless The U.S.A.” from truck bed speakers for a “cruise rally” through the suburbs of Portland. Some members of the group then drove about 50 miles to Salem, where they gathered in front of the state capitol.

Armed with rifles, pistols, knives and clubs, the far-right demonstrators at one point charged into a smaller group of liberal counterprotesters, knocking at least one activist to the ground.

This was part of the twitter thread about the, um, disturbance.

I doubt many of the Trump thugs in the videos were from “the community.” More likely outside agitators. And it doesn’t appear anyone needed protecting, except from them.

We’ve learned a bit more about last week’s shooting in Portland, although probably we’ll never know exactly what happened since the suspect was killed in a “hail of gunfire” by police. Convenient, that. Court documents say that both the victim, Aaron “Jay” Danielson, and the alleged and now dead perpetrator, Michael Forest Reinoehl, were armed with handguns. Before he was killed, Reinoehl made a video claiming he shot Danielson in self-defense.  Unfortunately no video has come to light of the actual shooting, just the immediate aftermath, so there is no way to know if Reinoehl was telling the truth about being in danger.

The bottom line, though, is when you’ve got a bunch of hotheaded men pumped up with anger and self-righteousness running around with guns, people will be shot. I’m sure there will be more before this terrible year is over.

Donald Trump, of course, is trying to stir up fears of thugs and anarchists as part of his re-election campaign, since he can’t very well run on his gawdawful record.

President Trump has reverted to using graphic depictions of violence as a centerpiece of his reelection campaign strategy, using his Twitter account, stump speech and even the White House podium as platforms for amplifying domestic conflict.

His 2016 focus on Islamic radical terrorism and undocumented-immigrant crime, which he credited with helping him win the Republican nomination, has been replaced by warnings of new threats, as he elevates gruesome images of Black-on-White crime, street fights involving his supporters and police misconduct riots nationwide.

The pattern continued over the holiday weekend, when he tweeted video of a melee in Texas between protesters and security officers during an event for a Trump-affiliated group and two celebratory videos of a protester in Portland, Ore., with his feet on fire. One of the videos was scored to the Kenny Loggins song “Footloose” and the second featured mocking play-by-play commentary by a mixed-martial-arts announcer.

So presidential.

But this is Trump’s campaign. He doesn’t speak to the pandemic any more except for dropping BIG HINTS that a vaccine will be available “before a very special day,” apparently referring to election day, which is not going to happen. He is bragging about economic recovery but seems to not be interested in doing anything to help it along. James Downie wrote this at WaPo yesterday:

It’s been a busy weekend for President Trump. With millions still out of work thanks to the pandemic, the president was focused on important issues: attacking the Atlantic for reporting that he called fallen soldiers “losers,” demanding that a Fox News reporter be fired for confirming parts of the Atlantic’s story, revising federal agencies’ racial sensitivity trainings and urging the Big Ten conference to play football this fall.

You might have noticed that list offered nothing for those looking for work. On that front, the president was content to tweet praise about the new jobs report on Friday before turning back to more substantive issues like vandalism at Graceland. The employment numbers were encouraging, to be sure: 1.4 million jobs added, and an unemployment rate down to 8.4 percent. But as The Post reports, “just over half of the 22 million total jobs lost between February and April have not returned,” and new outbreaks and decreasing government assistance could easily derail the slow recovery. Much hard work lies ahead. Another president might hail Friday’s report yet promise to keep working to improve the economy. This one clearly feels the economy is doing just fine and is no longer worth his time.

Trump’s twitter feed today is all about antifa, Joe Biden’s alleged plans to force low-income housing into suburbs, and Big Ten Football.

Nicholas Kristoff at the New York Times has a lovely rundown of all the promises Trump made in 2016 and how he didn’t keep them. See also Paul Krugman, Gross Domestic Misery Is Rising.

Bottom line: There are thugs and anarchists in the streets of the U.S., and the bulk of them appear to be Trump supporters.


Lost to Facts or Reason

Yesterday the Creature called on his culties to harass Steve Jobs’s widow.

It’s going to get worse. Trump supporters sincerely believe their guy cannot lose unless Democrats cheat, and they are preparing. See The Warning Signs of a Combustible Presidential Transition by Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic.

The weeks after the election could be “a very dangerous period” for the country, says Miles Taylor, a former senior official in the Homeland Security Department, whose agents were deployed to quell recent police-violence protests in Portland, Oregon, against the wishes of the state’s leadership. Taylor left the agency last year and has since emerged as an outspoken critic of the president. “I talk to law-enforcement officials all the time who I used to serve with, and they’re nervous about November and December,” he continued. “We’re seeing an historic spike in gun sales. There’s some of the worst polarization in United States history. This is beyond a powder keg. This is the Titanic with powder kegs filled all the way to the hull.” …

… “It’s absolutely terrifying,” says Rosa Brooks, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration who’s been running war-games-style exercises about the election outcome. “People who study political violence have been warning for a long time that conditions that we’re seeing in the United States resemble those that you see in countries that slide all the way down into civil conflict. We’re only going further down that chute.”

We must assume the worst. Trump culties have been primed to take up arms to keep Trump in power, which is why I have been urging people to vote in person if you can. We need a Biden victory within hours of the poll closings, if not election night. If knowing the outcome depends on a slow count of mail-in ballots, Trump’s, um, people are likely to swarm election offices to destroy ballots.

See also Peter Wehmer, Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He Really Is, also at The Atlantic.

To understand the corruption, chaos, and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now, it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies.

During last week’s Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. Charlie Kirk, the young Trump acolyte who opened the proceedings, declared, “I am here tonight to tell you—to warn you—that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.” President Trump, who closed the proceedings, said, “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens. And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.” And in between Americans were told that Democrats want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door” and that they “want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear.”

“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether,” a St. Louis couple who had brandished weapons against demonstrators outside their home, told viewers. “Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And “anything” turns out to be quite a lot.

See also What’s the Worst That Can Happen by Rosa Brooks at WaPo. Teams of “Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists” were asked to imagine what they would do in a range of election scenarios. A lot of what was imagined was pretty damn awful.

With the exception of the “big Biden win” scenario, each of our exercises reached the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse. In two scenarios (“Trump win” and “extended uncertainty”) there was still no agreement on the winner by Inauguration Day, and no consensus on which candidate should be assumed to have the ability to issue binding commands to the military or receive the nuclear codes. In the “narrow Biden win” scenario, Trump refused to leave office and was ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service — but only after pardoning himself and his family and burning incriminating documents. …

… In each scenario, Team Trump — the players assigned to simulate the Trump campaign and its elected and appointed allies — was ruthless and unconstrained right out of the gate, and Team Biden struggled to get out of reaction mode. In one exercise, for instance, Team Trump’s repeated allegations of fraudulent mail-in ballots led National Guard troop to destroy thousands of ballots in Democratic-leaning ZIP codes, to applause on social media from Trump supporters. Over and over, Team Biden urged calm, national unity and a fair vote count, while Team Trump issued barely disguised calls for violence and intimidation against ballot-counting officials and Biden electors.

We have to be prepared for the worst, including the fact that many police departments will side with Team Trump. I fear that a lot of the mail in ballots will be destroyed before they can be counted, which is why I keep urging people to vote in person if they can vote in person.

Going back to the Peter Wehmer article — at this point most of the vote may be set in stone. Trump supporters do not see Trump; they see a projection of what they want Trump to be, and they believe his absolutely absurd claims about Biden and the Democrats. I don’t see that changing before election day. Wehmer writes that Trump supporters are ruled by fear, however irrational, and they cling to Trump because they see him as their protector. His meanness and ruthlessness are virtues to them.

In my experience, if Trump supporters are asked to turn their gaze away from their perceived opponents, and instead to focus and reflect on him and on his failures, they respond in a couple of consistent ways. Many shift the topic immediately back to Democrats, because offering a vigorous moral defense of Donald Trump isn’t an easy task. It’s like asking people to stare directly into the sun; they might do it for an instant, but then they look away. But if you do succeed in keeping the topic on Trump, they often twist themselves into knots in order to defend him, and in some cases they simply deny reality.

“Motivation conditions cognition,” Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, wisely told me. Very few Trump supporters I know are able to offer an honest appraisal of the man. To do so creates too much cognitive dissonance.

All political partisans tend to suffer confirmation biases. But with Trump supporters, we’re looking at people living in a twisted, medieval myth in which their side represents absolute good and those other people are absolutely evil. This is more religion than politics. Policy doesn’t matter. Ideology doesn’t matter. And, since this is war, morality and decency don’t matter, either. There is just winning and losing, survival or death, with them. Whatever it takes to win and destroy the other is what at least a portion of them will do.

In other news: Here is an eyewitness account of the Trump boat parade on Lake Travis. Basically, the big, fast boats created wakes that swamped the small boats, and the owners of the big, fast boats didn’t care. They didn’t even slow down as rescue efforts were going on.

See Paul Waldman, Louis DeJoy could hardly be more emblematic of the Trump administration. The more we learn about DeJoy, the scummier he looks.

Trump on Defense

There are 59 days until the election, and Trump is on defense. That’s unusual in a presidential election; usually the Republicans are on offense and Dems are on defense. This is a good sign.

In spite of Trump’s being on defense, not many Republicans not drawing paychecks from the White House or his campaign are defending him.

AMID ALL THE FURIOUS responses to the Atlantic article alleging that President DONALD TRUMP had called American troops “suckers” and “losers,” one thing leaps out: You didn’t see Republican members of Congress leaping to defend the president’s character.

SOME OF THIS may be the late summer recess talking. But I’m told telephones and the internet still work outside of Washington — and Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill did not exactly rally to his defense. Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), for one, managed to praise the president for saving the military publication Stars & Stripes, but said nothing directly about the big story White House aides and loyal alumni were scrambling to discredit. Other prominent GOP members ignored the subject altogether.

The GOP has positioned itself as the champion of military glory since the end of World War II. Trump has been accused of doing the most unforgivable thing a Republican POTUS can do, which is trash the troops. High-level Republicans aren’t defending him because they realize it’s probably true. If they go out on a limb for him a tape could turn up, or John Kelly might speak out.

It’s rare to find an analysis of the race that doesn’t include a big, fat disclaimer that nothing is set in stone and either Biden or Trump could win. Yet the signs point to some serious floundring on the Trump side. For example, the AZ Mirror reports that the Trump campaign canceled an ad blitz in Arizona, a state they probably will need and in which they are currently behind.

On Thursday, records filed with the Federal Communications Commission by Phoenix-area television stations showed that the Trump campaign cancelled all of its ads between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14. The air time totaled approximately $580,000 in the Phoenix media market, which includes most of the state except for the areas surrounding Tucson and Yuma.

A campaign spokeswoman confirmed Trump was suddenly going dark in a state where he has consistently trailed Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the polls — a state that has only voted for a Democratic presidential candidate once since 1948.

The excuse is that the campaign is going to focus its ad buys on early voting states and will resume ads in Arizona at a later date. But $580,000 seems a small amount given the hundreds of millions Trump has raised. He won Arizona in 2016 and, given that his only hope is to squeak out another Electoral College win, he can’t afford to lose it.

I couldn’t find anything at Open Secrets to suggest the Trump campaign is having money trouble. But then he’s been burning through campaign funds to pay legal bills.

In New York, Mr. Trump dispatched a team of lawyers to seek damages of more than $1 million from a former campaign worker after she claimed she had been the target of sexual discrimination and harassment by another aide. The lawyers have been paid $1.5 million by the Trump campaign for work on the case and others related to the president.

In Washington, Mr. Trump and his campaign affiliates hired lawyers to assist members of his staff and family — including a onetime bodyguard, his oldest son and his son-in-law — as they were pulled into investigations related to Russia and Ukraine. The Republican National Committee has paid at least $2.5 million in legal bills to the firms that did this and other legal work.

In California, Mr. Trump sued to block a law that would have forced him to release his taxes if he wanted to run for re-election. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have paid the law firm handling this case, among others, $1.8 million.

Mr. Trump’s tendency to turn to the courts — and the legal issues that have stemmed from norm-breaking characteristics of his presidency — helps explain how he and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015, according to a tally by The New York Times and the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

It’s not unheard of for a presidential campaign to run up some legal bills, but $58.4 million worth of legal bills is off the charts. And someday we’ll probably learn that some astonishing amount of all those donations was paid to the Trump family business, somehow.

It’s also the case that none of his campaign messaging appears to be working for him. If he did get any bounce from the convention, it’s gone now, per the FiveThirtyEight forecast. After a week of attempting to terrify Americans of the Coming Democratic Anarchy, all that law and order messaging isn’t moving the needle for Trump. Polls show that more voters think Trump is just making the chaos worse, and more voters prefer Biden on race relations and public safety and think Biden would do a better job of unifying the country.

Dan Balz at WaPo has a good analysis of the race right now.

Trump has tried many things over the past months in an effort to avoid becoming a one-term president. So far, nothing has proved to be the magic potion the president seems to believe is out there.

Trump has claimed Biden is mentally challenged. He has gone after Biden’s son Hunter as corrupt. The president has accused Biden of being a radical leftist, a socialist. He says the former vice president is weak. He says his challenger is soft on China. He has said Biden supports violent protesters and doesn’t support the police. Oh, he’s also said Biden’s 1994 crime bill was too tough on crime (and by implication, therefore, on the side of the police).

And now he’s moved on to law and order and terrifying suburban housewives into thinking that a vote for Biden is a vote to give their neighborhoods over to scary housing projects. So far, nothing. The polls are remarkably stable.

Trump’s mistakes, record and history plague his candidacy. He paints his record in glorious superlatives: “The greatest economy in history.” Or, “No one has done more for (fill in the blank) than I have.” The reality is something else, and it shows in how people continue to view him: negatively in terms of his job approval and distrustful of what he says about the coronavirus pandemic.

A real leaders would be speaking frankly to the American people about the problems we’re having and what he intends to do about it. But not Trump.

The pandemic is far worse and more deadly because of how he handled it in the early stages and how he is still handling it. He speaks about it as if it is almost history. He mocks Biden for wearing a mask. He predicts the readiness of a vaccine by late October, a scenario that he obviously sees as a lifeline to his political resurrection. This rosy outlook runs contrary to the assessments of medical experts. Meanwhile, one forecast of the covid 19 death toll by early next year has been revised upward to 410,000.

See also White Voters Are Turning Away from Donald Trump at Washington Monthly. Barring an unforeseen event, Trump’s next chance to change the trajectory will be the first presidential debate, scheduled for September 29.

In other news: A Trump boat parade on Lake Travis outside Austin appears to be in big trouble; several boats are sinking. No idea why.

President Donald Trump arrives for a news conference the White House on September 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trump Versus the Troops

In an apparent move to lose even more of the military vote than he’s already lost, Trump has ordered the complete shutdown of the American military newspaper Stars and Stripes. The last issue will be at the end of this month, assuming Congress doesn’t save it.

Exactly why Trump wants to do away with this venerable bit of military tradition is not clear. He says it is to save money, but Stars and Stripes is a tiny blip of the ginormous military budget. Something in it must have pissed him off.

The history of Stars and Stripes goes back to Union troops in the Civil War. It has been published daily since 1918 and began the careers of many legends of journalism and publishing, such as Alexander Woollcott and Bill Mauldin. The paper is funded by the Pentagon but is editorially independent.

This news comes within hours of Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic exposé of Trump’s contempt for the dead and wounded of war. If you haven’t read it, please do so. I assume you’ve heard a lot about it by now. The White House is denying all of it, of course, but a lot of this story was already public.

Trump’s no-show at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial In November 1918 to honor the dead of the Battle of Belleau Wood, for example, was widely noted at the time. His excuse was bad weather, which didn’t stop other heads of state and dignitaries from being there. Winston Churchill’s grandson had some words.

Nicholas Soames, a British politician and grandson of Winston Churchill, ripped President Trump on Saturday for canceling a cemetery visit in France due to bad weather.

“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen,” Soames tweeted.

Soames, who is a member of Parliament for Mid Sussex, included a hashtag saying Trump is “not fit to represent his great country.”

There was plenty more of that. Trump was thoroughly roasted for not being there. A couple of days later, Trump lashed out at his staff for not explaining to him that skipping the ceremony would be bad PR. I wrote at the time, “As if any American wouldn’t care enough to want to go; as if any American wouldn’t realize how it would look to cancel. He has no sense whatsoever of American history and tradition; anything that happened before him is of no interest to him.”

Sometimes Trump acts as if he were just pulled out of a petri dish and has never lived on this planet before. There have been a handful of presidents — including some great presidents — without personal experience in the military, but I believe Trump is the first president who hasn’t even been related to someone who served in the U.S. military.  And time and time again he reveals himself to be utterly ignorant of U.S. military history. Someone had to explain to him what happened at Pearl Harbor before he toured the memorial, for example. How do you not know that? Especially at his age? What American boy grew up in the 1950s not watching classic 1950s war movies like From Here to Eternity and To Hell and Back and re-creating D-Day and Iwo Jima with his buddies in the back yard? It’s not normal, I tell you.

Anyway — some of Trump’s denials of the Atlantic article have been fact checked. He denied he had ever called John McCain a “loser,” for example. Oh, yes he did. And enough of it is on video, such as his famous “I like people who weren’t captured” putdown of John McCain’s years as a POW, that Goldberg’s new revelations are entirely believable. They are part of a well-established pattern. The Associated Press says it has corroborated much of the new information.

One of the saddest stories in Goldberg’s exposé is of the time Trump and Gen. John Kelly were at Arlington, standing over the grave of Kelly’s son. And Trump said of the Marines buried there, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” I notice that Gen. Kelly has yet not spoken up to deny this story.

The problem, of course, is that Goldberg’s sources were all off the record, meaning they are anonymous. This makes the story easy for the Trumpers to just ignore. Fake news!

At Slate, Fred Kaplan calls for the brass to go on the record.

This would be unusual. Generals don’t like to go on the record when talking about anything controversial, and certainly not when dissing a sitting president. This is true for retired generals as well, who feel no less bound by the ethos of respecting civilian authority and staying out of politics.

But by talking to Goldberg about these events at all, these generals waded deep into the political swamp. They must have thought it important for the public—for voters—to know this side of the man in the White House. They must, deep down, feel despair over the possibility that this man—who holds their professions, their values, and their patriotism in such contempt—might serve as president for another four years.

One or more of these generals should weigh the competing values: their loyalty to the president versus their loyalty and lifelong dedication to the security of the nation and the lives of their fellow service members.

Charles Pierce is harsher. See Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic Piece Shows the Difference Between Battlefield and Political Courage.

Kelly and the president* went to Arlington five months into the president*’s term. Kelly worked for the president* for another year and, since then, until just now, he has maintained his silence as the president*’s assault on the rule of law and the Constitution only intensified. All of them—Kelly, H.R. McMaster, James Mattis—have been Good Soldiers rather than patriots. (Mattis did call the president* a threat to the Constitution in another Goldberg piece that ran in June. Of this year. Barn. Lock. Missing horse.) This is also the case for all the anonymous people behind Goldberg’s opus. Personally, I have more respect for the average kid marching in the streets than I do for all of them combined.

I don’t want to hear about “duty” and “service,” either. They took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to hold their tongues until they could get a book deal as a reckless vandal takes the Republic down, brick by brick. Of all the people whom history will account as being complicit in the attempted demolition of constitutional government, I rank them ahead even of the invertebrate Republicans in the United States Senate. I do not expect political courage from the likes of Mitch McConnell or Ben Sasse. I expect it of men who have demonstrated physical courage under extreme circumstances, but never has the difference between battlefield courage and political courage been more clearly drawn. I am glad that Goldberg has written this piece. I’m glad it’s out in the world. I’m glad that people are outraged about it, and I’m glad for whatever role it may ultimately play in lifting this scourge from the land. But I am sorry, and angry, that it has come to this, in 2020, when the vandals are still on a rampage that seems as though it can only end in annihilation.

Gen. James Mattis’s public rebuke of Trump last June ought to make this easier for them. Trump must not be allowed to be Commander in Chief any longer.

Update: Get this:

Having ordered Stars and Stripes to be destroyed, now he’s pretending to save it.

The CDC and FDA Are Just Arms of the Trump Re-election Campaign

The CDC alerted states to be ready to distribute a covid-19 vaccine by November 1. Two days before election day. Seriously.

Federal health officials are urging states to get ready for coronavirus vaccine distribution by Nov. 1, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO.

The letter from CDC Director Robert Redfield to governors is the latest indication that the Trump administration is preparing to deliver on the president’s promise for a coronavirus vaccine this year. But it’s unclear if any vaccine could be ready by Nov. 1, just two days before Election Day.

It’s not unclear at all. there’s no way a vaccine will be ready for mass distribution just two days before Election Day  Even if one were approved by the FDA already, manufacturing vaccines in large quantities isn’t a matter of just pushing a button at the vaccine manufacturing plant. It’s a complex process that can take months.

From the New York Times:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has notified public health officials in all 50 states and five large cities to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to health care workers and other high-risk groups as soon as late October or early November.

The new C.D.C. guidance is the latest sign of an accelerating race for a vaccine to greatly ease a pandemic that has killed more than 184,000 Americans. The documents were sent out last week, the same day that President Trump told the nation in his speech to the Republican convention that a vaccine might arrive before the end of the year.

In other words, this was coordinated with the Trump campaign.

“This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications,” said Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist based in Arizona. “It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine.”

The science people have been saying all along that while we might get a vaccine approved for use this year, it won’t be available for most of us until some time next year. And so far I’m not seeing anything to contradict that projection. At best, before the end of this year we might see limited distribution to health care workers, or more likely to people with connections to the Trump family. But not to most of us.

The worst part of this is that it undermines — I should say, further undermines — the credibility of the FDA and CDC at a time we really need to be able to trust the FDA and CDC. We need honest information about what’s going on. And when there is a vaccine, people have to be willing to take it.

The FDA and CDC were already being slammed for political decisions before this latest announcement. This is from August 28.

The credibility of two of the nation’s leading public health agencies was under fire this week after controversial decisions that outside experts said smacked of political pressure from President Donald Trump as he attempts to move past the devastating toll of the coronavirus ahead of the November election.

The head of the Food and Drug Administration grossly misstated, then corrected, claims about the lifesaving power of a plasma therapy for COVID-19 authorized by his agency. Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its guidelines to suggest fewer Americans need to get tested for coronavirus, sparking outrage from scientists. …

… On Friday, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn removed a conservative public relations official involved in the botched plasma announcement from her role heading the agency’s press office, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

The move came less than two weeks after the White House tapped Emily Miller for the role. Miller previously worked as a reporter for the right-wing One America News Network and as a staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz’s reelection campaign. She did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

I want to inject here that there is no way Emily Miller would have been hired if Trump hadn’t demanded it. Politico: “Colleagues said that Miller, with no prior medical or science experience, was a bad fit inside an agency rushing to fight a pandemic. ‘There was an inability to do anything inside the agency,’ said one health official. ‘She couldn’t even pronounce convalescent plasma.'”

Trump administration officials said Wednesday that the CDC testing guidance was revised by the White House virus task force “to reflect current evidence,” but did not detail what that was. The new recommendations say it’s not necessary for most people who have been in close contact with infected people, but don’t feel sick, to get tested. Outside experts said that flies in the face of the scientific consensus that wide-scale testing is needed to stamp out new infections.

The week began with Hahn forced to backtrack after using an erroneous statistic describing the effectiveness of the blood plasma therapy granted emergency use for COVID-19, as Trump twisted the facts and inflated the significance of the move.

Hahn “hurt his own credibility, he hurt that of his agency and he probably hurt the credibility of the next vaccine that will get approved,” said Daniel Carpenter, a Harvard University professor of government.

So medical and health professionals aren’t trusting the CDC and FDA these days. What hope do the rest of us have?

The Trump Administration may already have hurt U.S. chances for getting the most effective vaccine by refusing to join with other countries in the effort. See 172 countries and multiple candidate vaccines engaged in COVID-19 vaccine Global Access Facility from the World Health Organization. This effort, called the COVAX initiative, is “a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, once they are licensed and approved.” Most of the world is involved, but not the U.S., of course. Because Trump does not play well with others.

Charles Pierce, today: “[T]he US bail on the WHO program not only could put this country on the outside looking in, but also will hamstring the effort to prevent hoarding, and to guarantee an equitable distribution of a safe vaccine once one is developed.”

So the same pack of clowns who botched getting an effective test distributed a few months ago will be in charge of getting a vaccine distributed,. We’re doomed.

Kaiser Health Network/Associated Press:

In a four-page memo this summer, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told health departments across the country to draft vaccination plans by Oct. 1 “to coincide with the earliest possible release of COVID-19 vaccine.”

But health departments that have been underfunded for decades say they currently lack the staff, money and tools to educate people about vaccines and then to distribute, administer and track hundreds of millions of doses. Nor do they know when, or if, they’ll get federal aid to do that. …

… An ongoing investigation by KHN and the AP has detailed how state and local public health departments across the U.S. have been starved for decades, leaving them underfunded and without adequate resources to confront the coronavirus pandemic. The investigation further found that federal coronavirus funds have been slow to reach public health departments, forcing some communities to cancel non-coronavirus vaccine clinics and other essential services.

States are allowed to use some of the federal money they’ve already received to prepare for immunizations. But KHN and the AP found that many health departments are so overwhelmed with the current costs of the pandemic — such as testing and contact tracing — that they can’t reserve money for the vaccine work to come. Health departments will need to hire people to administer the vaccines and systems to track them, and pay for supplies such as protective medical masks, gowns and gloves, as well as warehouses and refrigerator space. …

…Many health officials say they feel burned by the country’s struggle to provide hospitals with ventilators last spring, when states found themselves bidding against one another for a limited supply. Those concerns are amplified by the country’s continuing difficulties providing enough testing kits; supplying health workers with personal protective equipment; allocating drugs such as remdesivir; and recruiting contact tracers — who track down everyone with whom people diagnosed with COVID-19 have been in contact.

Although Ehresmann said she’s concerned Minnesota could run out of syringes, she said the CDC has assured her they will provide them.

Given that vaccines are far more complex than personal protective equipment and other medical supplies — one vaccine candidate must be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit — Plescia said people should be prepared for shortages, delays and mix-ups.

“It’s probably going to be even worse than the problems with testing and PPE,” Plescia said.

Those are just highlights; you need to read the whole thing to get an inkling of the scope of the problem. And Trump’s political hires are not the people who can pull this off, even assuming Mitch McConnell will agree to spend the money.

Right now, only about half of Americans say they are willing to take a covid vaccine, and I can’t say I blame them. If Trump’s people rush out a vaccine that turns out to have unfortunate side effects, we can kiss off being rid of the virus until long after the rest of the world has moved on. No point renewing your passport, folks; you ain’t goin’ anywhere.

If Joe Biden wins the November election, his first task will be to have replacements ready to take charge of the FDA, CDC, and every other agency connected to public health so that they can hit the ground running immediately after the inauguration. In 139 days. A lot can happen until then.

Close-up medical syringe with a vaccine.

Trump Rolls Dice With Right Wing Violence

I’m seeing a shift in the usual pearl clutching about how violence will hurt Democrats in the election. See, for example, Jamelle Bouie, Trump Needs His Own Sister Souljah Moment.

What he needs to do right now is condemn those responsible for violence and disavow those who act in his name. He needs, in other words, what political observers have come to call a “Sister Souljah moment,” a pointed repudiation of a radical element within one’s own coalition, named for Bill Clinton’s rebuke of the eponymous hip-hop artist while speaking to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition during the 1992 presidential campaign. A display like Clinton’s would show the country that Trump can be trusted to govern on behalf of all Americans.

Bouie doesn’t expect Trump to do this, of course.

It’s beyond clear that Trump’s entire re-election strategy is to amp up violence to terrify white voters. And as part of that strategy, is he actively encouraging right-wing supporters — many of whom have itched for a race war or civil war or some kind of war for years — to do their worst.

Yesterday, Joe Biden gave a speech that clearly and unequivocally condemned all violence, no matter who is commiting it. Yesterday, Trump had several chances to do the same thing. He failed. Instead of distancing himself from right-wing violence,  instead he made excuses for it.

Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark, The Essence of Late-Stage Trumpism:

Last night, Trump prepared for his visit to the ravaged Wisconsin city by comparing the police shooting of a Black man to a golfer who choked and missed a three-inch putt.

He defended the 17-year-old Trump enthusiast who shot and killed two persons and wounded a third in Kenosha last week. Speaking from the White House, the president also made excuses for his supporters who engaged in a deadly confrontation in Portland over the weekend. “By the end of the news conference,” writes the Wapo’s Aaron Blake, “Trump not only pointedly declined to condemn right-wing violence at the same demonstrations, he voluntarily defended it.”

He spoke hours after Joe Biden denounced both the riots and Trump’s incitements.

It was (to say the least) a clarifying moment.

And this is Trump in an interview with Laura Ingraham:

Trump: We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that. They’re on a plane…

Ingraham: Where—where was this?

Trump: I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation right now, but they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention, and there were like seven people on the plane like this person, and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage. They were coming for…

Ingraham: Planning for Washington?

Trump: Yes, this was all—this is all happening.

As Charlie Sykes says, this is bat guano level crazy. It’s also a political opportunity that even Democrats ought to be able to drive a truck through. And Biden appears to be giving it his best shot.

Biden argued that in street clashes between left- and right-wing extremists, real political courage consists of standing up to the miscreants on your own side. Trump hasn’t just failed that test, Biden said; he’s ducked it. “He’s got no problem with right-wing militia, white supremacists, and vigilantes with assault weapons, often better armed than the police,” said Biden. Trump’s “failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is.”

More hours have passed, and Trump still hasn’t offered even a hint of fake concern for Kyle Rittenhouse’s victims, or the family of Jason Blake, for that matter. Trump is in Kenosha right now, meeting with law enforcement but not the Blake family, who wouldn’t talk to Trump without a lawyer present. Smart.

Dana Milbank says Trump is acting like a cornered animal.

Biden quoted from departing Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s acknowledgment that “the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is” for the president. Said Biden: “He’s rooting for chaos and violence.”

When the president’s supporters, often armed, drive into cities to provoke racial-justice demonstrators, Trump calls them “GREAT PATRIOTS!” His convention glorified vigilantes who took up arms against protesters — “disgraceful anarchists” and “thugs” in Trump’s telling. The president declares that the backlash against demonstrators by his supporters “cannot be unexpected” and says that “the only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!” He proposes that the far-right militia member who allegedly killed two protesters in Wisconsin acted in self-defense.

See also Charlotte Klein, Trump All But Gave His Supporters the Green Light to Get Violent at Protests and Zak Cheney-Rice, Trump Is an Arsonist Masquerading As a Firefighter.

At Talking Points Memo, Matt Shuham writes With Itchy Trigger Fingers, Some Right Wingers Predict The Next Civil War Has Finally Arrived.

“The first shot has been fired brother,” said Stewart Rhodes, founder of the armed anti-government group Oath Keepers, in a tweet Sunday. “Civil war is here, right now. We’ll give Trump one last chance to declare this a Marxist insurrection & suppress it as his duty demands. If he fails to do HIS duty, we will do OURS.”

Do read the whole article. Oath Keepers and other right-wing groups have been craving a new civil war for years. They really do want blood in the streets. And Trump encourages this.

And the challenge is, make Trump own it. Every time he condemns racial justice protesters but makes excuses for the violent aggression of his own supporters, make him own it. Every time he babbles about some left-wing conspiracy to stir up fear, make him own it. Democrats need to stop being on the defensive about violence. Make Trump own it.

David Graham at The Atlantic thinks Kenosha could cost Trump the election.

The gulf between Trump’s indulgent view of Rittenhouse and his swiftness in defending police prerogatives in the Blake case is enormous and easy to interpret. Partly, he loves to stir up racial tension for political gain; partly, he has long taken a dim view of Black people, especially in legal matters; and partly, he cannot bring himself to criticize anyone who has been friendly to him, whether that’s Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, or Rittenhouse, an avowed supporter of his.

This causes Trump endless problems. His campaign dared Biden to denounce violence, and though Biden had already done so, he did so once more in a speech today. “Looting is not protesting,” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change; it will only bring destruction.”

Biden also took the opportunity to throw the challenge back to Trump, and asked him to condemn violence. This should have been a softball, but instead Trump took the strike looking, declining the easy swing. He refused to even acknowledge any violence by people aligned with him.

Americans aren’t blind. They can see the violence, they can see that Trump won’t condemn it, and they can see that Biden has. As the former vice president said today, “Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” …

… Meanwhile, Trump is eagerly seizing onto an issue that seems to harm him. Even though each previous round has ended poorly for Trump, he keep doubling and tripling down on exacerbating racial tension. Maybe once he goes big enough, it will work for him. Or maybe Trump, a man who went bankrupt running a casino, just isn’t all that clever a gambler.

Make him own it.

This Perilous Moment

Yes, in this perilous moment there is chaos and danger. Trump is causing a lot of it. I am not going to say he’s causing all of it, as the root causes of the chaos and danger are older than his administration. Indeed, many of the root causes are older than he is. And just as there is fear and anger across the political spectrum, there are hotheads across the political spectrum throwing fuel on the fire.

Today we’re learning that a man under investigation for the shooting of a Trump operative in Portland Saturday night is known to be aligned with antifa. He is a white man, which doesn’t surprise me. I was sorry to hear this, because until now there were no deaths that could be associated specifically with antifa, compared to multiple deaths caused by right-wing violence in recent years. But now that there’s one, Trump and his goons will make the most of it and want every leftie in the country rounded up.

Charles Pierce, after noting that police departments are on the side of Trump’s thugs:

I honestly don’t know where this all leads. The president* is all but encouraging this behavior. (His planned trip to Kenosha on Tuesday already is grotesque.) It’s becoming more clear by the day that many law enforcement officials have chosen sides. It’s come to guns already and who’s to say we won’t have armed and rowdy caravans turning up at polling places on election day? Will the cops block intersections to let them pass through? I certainly wouldn’t bet against it. And what would the reaction to this be from the other side? I hope nobody’s counting on the Feds to maintain order the way they did in Mississippi in 1962, because the teams have switched jerseys. The only short-term answer I can see is de-escalation and, unfortunately and unfairly, that may have to come from the side with legitimate grievances. I have been fairly nauseated over the past few days as white pundits instructed black people on proper civil disobedience etiquette. But I have no problem telling the Caucasian auxiliaries/hangers-on/vandals to back the hell off.

De-escalation doesn’t mean surrender. It doesn’t mean you abandon the field. It means discipline and intelligence and a willingness to sublimate your emotions to both. A former Black Panther once told me that “Spontaneity is the art of fools.” That still holds. It is incumbent upon all of us not to help the president* wreck what’s left of the country.

Why doesn’t it surprise me that the alleged Portland shooter is a white man? Because the white guys as a rule never learned to be disciplined, never learned when to back off, never had to be careful. In all my years of going to demonstrations and protests it was always white guys who were the biggest assholes in the crowd.

But now it’s clear that Trump’s plan going forward is to foment as much chaos and destruction as possible and blame it on the Left. Let’s not help him.

Here’s your reading assignment:

Paul Waldman, Trump’s strategy: If you feel uneasy enough, you’ll turn to the strongman.

Greg Sargent, Trump’s vile tweetstorm reveals the ugly core of his ‘law and order’ campaign

David Atkins, White Supremacists Are Invading American Cities To Incite a Civil War

Charles Blow, Trump, Vicar of Fear and Violence

Nicholas Kristof, The Lawbreakers Trump Loves

Franklin Foer, How Donald Trump Is Killing Politics

Yoni Appelbaum, How America Ends

That last one was first published in December 2019, but it’s very much worth reading. It argues that the U.S. Right is facing an existential threat from changing demographics, and it isn’t likely to go down without a fight.

Instead of reaching out and inviting new allies into its coalition, the political right hardens, turning against the democratic processes it fears will subsume it. A conservatism defined by ideas can hold its own against progressivism, winning converts to its principles and evolving with each generation. A conservatism defined by identity reduces the complex calculus of politics to a simple arithmetic question—and at some point, the numbers no longer add up.

Trump has led his party to this dead end, and it may well cost him his chance for reelection, presuming he is not removed through impeachment. But the president’s defeat would likely only deepen the despair that fueled his rise, confirming his supporters’ fear that the demographic tide has turned against them. That fear is the single greatest threat facing American democracy, the force that is already battering down precedents, leveling norms, and demolishing guardrails. When a group that has traditionally exercised power comes to believe that its eclipse is inevitable, and that the destruction of all it holds dear will follow, it will fight to preserve what it has—whatever the cost.

See also Joe Biden smacks down Trump in Pittsburgh.