Archive for the ‘Blow’ Category

Blow, solo

October 2, 2017

In “Divert, Divide, Destroy” Mr. Blow says Trump shields his ignoble attacks by talking about veterans and first responders.  Here he is:

In one week’s time, President Trump has again demonstrated that his sympathies stretch no further than his personal fortunes and personal favors.

He is using the power of the presidency and the might of the federal government in his own petty game of sticks and carrots. His responses depend solely on whether he, as a person, and his family empire, are being complimented or criticized.

Last week, Trump diverted attention from his dying health reform plan and failing Republican senatorial choice in Alabama by denigrating N.F.L. players protesting for racial justice and equality. That got people talking, and arguing. It was all over TV, Trump’s gauge of all things good.

Furthermore, Trump saw the issue as a winning one for him. Indeed, a CNN/SSRS poll released Friday found that about half of respondents overall and nearly nine in 10 Republicans believed that “protesting players are doing the wrong thing to express their political opinion when they kneel during the National Anthem.”

But I would argue that first, if a majority agreed with a protest it would partially negate the need to protest, and second, majorities are not the measure of what is moral.

Using the majority-equals-morality argument, Bull Connor was on the right side of the civil rights protests. According to Gallup polls conducted in the early 1960s, a majority of Americans disapproved of the “freedom riders,” and thought “sit-ins” at lunch counters, “freedom buses” and other demonstrations were more likely to hurt than help integration in the South.

So Trump ran with his crusade against the players, even as he paid little attention to the suffering of millions of American citizens on the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico. (They are not Trump’s base. They can only vote in primaries, and in the Republican primary there last year, Marco Rubio trounced Trump.)

When the television coverage shifted to the suffering of the Puerto Rican people — a week after the most recent hurricane hit, by the way — the lag in aid and support and the relatively ineffective and inefficient government response, Trump finally focused more attention on it.

But when Carmen Yulín Cruz, the female mayor of San Juan, dared to advocate for the lives of the people in her city by pushing back on the Trump administration’s “good news story” narrative, Trump released a bullet spray of injurious tweets — some from the bucolic grounds of his Bedminster golf club — not only about the mayor but also about the people of Puerto Rico.

He said that the mayor was being “nasty,” a coded appellation he seems to favor when his target is female. These he wrote in two successive tweets:

The subtext here — or perhaps the actual text — was to blame the victim and berate them as a group: These brown people want/need help, but won’t/can’t help themselves because their community/culture is inferior/ineffective.

It was a revolting, racialized attack, but one delivered in much the same way that his racialized attack on the N.F.L. players was delivered: by using hijacked glory.

He used the nobility of veterans and active service member to shield his ignoble attack on the N.F.L. players, and he used the nobility of first responders to shield his ignoble attack on Puerto Ricans.

The mayor was right, of course. No one wants their plaintive wails drowned out by a cacophony of premature, self-congratulatory pats on the back. Also, what kind of man demands praise from the mourning?

Just as in the racial case against the players, Trump again raised the idea of the ingratitude of minorities, tweeting:

As Jelani Cobb brilliantly observed last week in The New Yorker, “Ungrateful is the new uppity.”

I would argue that it isn’t even all that new. In the wake of the March on Washington in 1963, the segregationist Strom Thurmond (who in the irony of all ironies fathered a secret child with a black woman) used the same you-should-be-happy-and-grateful line of attack on black protesters.

As MSNBC reported in 2013, Thurmond argued after the march that black people in America were not “deprived of freedom” because, “The Negroes in this country own more refrigerators, and more automobiles, than they do in any other country.”

The argument that material things divests minorities of moral grievance is a fallacious one.

But this is Trump’s America, a conjuring of a darker American past. It’s as if Donald Trump has strolled into the political equivalent of a hospice for racist ideologies with a miracle elixir. Ideas we had hoped were near death have a new verve and vigor.

Trump is dividing this country with the delicacy of a meat cleaver.

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Blow and Collins

September 28, 2017

In “‘The Flag Is Drenched With Our Blood'” Mr. Blow says that for black Americans, patriotism is a paradox.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump’s Worst: An Update,” says his cabinet’s behavior has us wondering again who should be the first to go.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Yes, Donald Trump has once again used racial hostility to rouse his base and is reveling in the achievement.

According to The New York Times, when Trump’s advisers appeared lukewarm about the uproar he created by chastising, in the coarsest of terms, N.F.L. players who chose to quietly kneel to protest racial inequality and police violence, “Mr. Trump responded by telling people that it was a huge hit with his base, making it clear that he did not mind alienating his critics if it meant solidifying his core support.”

Every way he is manipulating his majority-white base to oppose a majority-black group of private citizens is disgusting. Trump is disgusting.

But I am also infuriated by his framing: that this has nothing to do with race (whenever you hear that, know that the subject at hand must have everything to do with race) and that this is just about patriotism, honoring national ritual, celebrating soldiers, particularly the fallen, and venerating “our flag.”

What this misses is that patriotism is particularly fraught for black people in this country because the history of the country’s treatment of them is fraught. It’s not that black people aren’t patriotic; it’s just that patriotism can be a paradox.

Many black people see themselves simultaneously as part of America and separate from it, under attack by it, and it has always been thus.

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote over a century ago about this sensation:

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

It is through that haze of hurt that black people see the flag, because the blood memory of the black man is long in this country.

Let’s start this story from its ghastly beginning.

Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., citing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database, writes that an estimated 10.7 million people survived the voyage — called the Middle Passage — from their homelands to North America, the Caribbean and South America, between 1525 and 1866. Of those, about 390,000 made it to North American soil. This was about 3 percent of the total who survived.

PolitiFact wrote: “Historian Herbert Klein of Columbia and Stanford Universities, who worked on the database, said that the data suggest about 85,000 people destined for North America did not survive the trip across the Atlantic.”

The overall slave trade in North and South America caused about 1.8 million deaths. There was so much human flesh being tossed over the sides of those boats — or jumping— that sharks learned to trail the boats to feast on it.

As Haaretz wrote in 2014 in an interview with Marcus Rediker, the author of “The Slave Ship: A Human History”:

“There are descriptions of coerced cannibalism, the hanging of innocent individuals by their toes, the amputation of limbs, feeding by means of the ‘speculum oris, the long, thin mechanical contraption used to force open unwilling throats to receive gruel and hence sustenance,’ branding with white-hot metal rods, starvation to death, shackling with handcuffs or by chains to other captives, and rape.” And this was just onboard the ships.

And while the percentage of slaves brought to the United States was relatively small, American owners bred slaves like cattle.

As the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History put it, “Well over 90 percent of enslaved Africans were imported into the Caribbean and South America.” Only a small fraction of African captives were sent directly to British North America, and “yet by 1825, the U.S. had a quarter of blacks in the New World.”

Furthermore, “While the death rate of U.S. slaves was about the same as that of Jamaican slaves, the fertility rate was more than 80 percent higher in the United States.”

Those children faced a harsh and uncertain future, including a strikingly high mortality rate. As Rebecca Tannenbaum’s book “Health and Wellness in Colonial America” points out:

“While good data is hard to come by, estimations of infant mortality (deaths among infants up to a year old) among African-Americans during the 18 century ranges from 28 to 50 percent. Child mortality (children from one year to 10 years old) was also high — 40 to 50 percent.”

This says nothing of the untold number of older children and adults who died during captivity in America due to cruelty, starvation, exposure, assault, and lynching and other forms of murder.

We often hear about the 620,000 people who died during America’s Civil War (in recent years, scholars have estimated the number was actually higher), trying either to eradicate slavery or save it, but what we hear less often is that black people were included in that number.

According to the National Archives:

“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war — 30,000 of infection or disease.”

After the war and the Emancipation Proclamation, the terror continued. According to the N.A.A.C.P.:

“From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched, 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7 percent of the people lynched.”

Then, there are America’s heinous and racially biased state-sponsored executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 1,460 executions since 1976, when the Supreme Court effectively lifted a moratorium on the death penalty. Almost 35 percent of those executed were black, although the proportion of black people in the country hovers around 13 percent.

In fact, the the youngest person executed in America in the 20th century was a 14-year-old black boy named George Stinney. He was convicted in a rushed miscarriage of justice in which the jury was selected (all white), the trial was conducted (it lasted only a few hours, and his appointed lawyer didn’t ask a single question) and the verdict was rendered (after only 10 minutes of deliberation) all in the span of single day.

The 5-foot-1, 95-pound Stinney was so small in the electric chair that they had to use a book as a booster seat. Some say it was a phone book; others say it was the Bible.

This is to say nothing of the disastrous effects of mass incarceration and the chaos unleashed by sucking so many young people, particularly young men, out of communities.

As the Pew Research Center put it in 2013, “The incarceration rate of black men is more than six times higher than that of white men, slightly larger than the gap in 1960.”

Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” has put it more starkly: “More African-American adults are under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

And then come police shootings. According to a database maintained by The Washington Post, there have been 730 police shootings so far this year, putting 2017 on track to match or surpass the number of shootings in 2015 and 2016. But here again there is a racial imbalance: black people represent nearly a quarter of those shot but only about an eighth of the general population. When you look at unarmed victims, blacks make up nearly a third of that cohort.

Throughout most of this pain and bloodshed, some version of the flag has waved.

So how dare anyone suggest that people simply rise and conform to custom when they feel the urgent need to protest. How dare America say so cavalierly, “Forgive us our sins and grant us our laurels,” when forgiveness has never been sufficiently requested — nor the sins sufficiently acknowledged — and the laurels are tainted and stained by the stubbornness of historical fact. How dare we even pretend that the offenses have been isolated and anomalous and not orchestrated and executed by the nation?

So those football players should take a knee if they so choose. If America demands your respect it must grant you respect and the first order of that respect is equality and eradicating the ominous threat of state violence.

People upset with those who kneel seem to be more angry about black “disrespect” than black death. (Here, I need to applaud the non-black players who demonstrated their solidarity in the cause of free speech and equality.)

We have to accept that different Americans see pride and principle differently, but that makes none of them less American.

Indeed, we Americans see the flag itself differently. As the civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “The flag is drenched with our blood.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump has just voted in the Worst Cabinet Member contest.

“We’ll see,” he said when asked by reporters if he was going to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. I believe I speak for us all when I say this does not sound like a vote of confidence.

Price recently became famous as the guy who enjoys traveling by private charter plane at the taxpayers’ expense. You would think that Trump, who loves his private planes like a family member, would be a little sympathetic to someone’s distaste for commercial travel. But no.

“I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.

Now Price is also the guy who is waging a war against birth control that’s cratering teen pregnancy prevention programs. But in this administration you can ruin federal initiatives aimed at avoiding unwanted pregnancy and Donald Trump — no fan of unwanted pregnancy — will completely ignore it. If Price goes down, it will be over his travel bills, which is sort of like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion.

Price claimed that a majority of the private charters he’d taken “were for the opioid crisis or the hurricanes.” No indication of whether it was a weather disaster or drug emergency that took him to the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Still not quite as bad as attempting to cut $6 billion from next year’s National Institutes of Health research. But I say, go with what you can get. Tom Price is terrible and whatever sends him out of government is fine.

Do you think he’s the Worst Cabinet Member? There’s so much competition. Consider Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who attempted to get rebellious House members to support Trump’s budget deal with the Democrats by asking them to do it “for me.” Apparently Mnuchin had no idea that Republican lawmakers’ affection for him was about on par with their feelings for special work sessions over holiday weekends.

Policy-wise, Mnuchin is an awful Treasury secretary, unless you’d been hoping the post would go to someone whose strong point is a keen understanding of all the hopes and needs of the hedge fund industry.

Plus, there’s a plane thing! At one point Mnuchin tried to get a government jet to take him on his honeymoon. More recently, he used one to fly him and his wife to Fort Knox.

Mnuchin argued that Fort Knox was an important stop for a Treasury secretary because, you know, there’s all that gold. When cynics speculated that the couple just wanted to be somewhere where they could get a good view of the eclipse, Mnuchin told Politico, winningly, that was silly: “You know, people in Kentucky took this stuff very serious. Being a New Yorker … I was like, the eclipse? Really? I don’t have any interest in watching the eclipse.”

It’s true. We New Yorkers do not care a bit about planetary phenomenon. We are only interested in jaywalking and hedge funds.

The Trump cabinet is worth trashing on so many important levels that it does seem unfair to judge the members simply on the basis of stupid moves of self-gratification. You would like to see the country denouncing Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, for having stripped his agency of scientists. (“Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington D.C.”)

However, that seems to be working well for Pruitt in Trump Washington. So as a fallback, let’s encourage discussion of the $25,000 he’s spending to put a soundproof phone booth in his office.

Is there anybody in this cabinet who you can like? A Morning Consult/Politico poll of registered voters found Defense Secretary James Mattis had the most support — although to be honest, none of Trump’s appointees exactly elicited enthusiasm. Mattis is frequently mentioned as a man standing between our president and Armageddon, so you could understand him being popular even if he got caught flying in the wrong plane.

The Trump administration has clearly gotten American people very interested in the presidential cabinet. For instance, 24 percent of the respondents in that poll said they liked Sonny Perdue, and the idea that many people even know Perdue is secretary of agriculture is sort of a wow. Although of course it’s possible that some of them thought he had something to do with chicken.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was at the bottom, presumably because a whole lot of people believe that she is trying to reorganize public education into a private venture.

DeVos — who also came in last in a readers poll I did a few months back — has been a particular foe of government attempts to crack down on for-profit colleges that cheat their students. Recently, she picked a former official in a for-profit college to lead a department anti-fraud unit.

And on this one, we know that it’s the policies people don’t like. DeVos is so godawful rich, she rides in private planes she pays for herself.

Blow and Krugman

September 18, 2017

She’s baaaack…  Thanks to those of you who left comments concerned about how I was.  There were some family illnesses, and then a visit from Hurricane Irma.  (Who, thankfully, wasn’t as bad as we were expecting.  Matthew last year was much worse.)

Today Mr. Blow asks a rather silly question:  “Is Mr. Trump a White Supremacist?”  He is struggling with accounting for Trump and those who surround him.  Charles, by their fruits ye shall know them.  Prof. Krugman say “Complacency Could Kill Health Care,” and that Graham-Cassidy is the Donald Trump of health reform.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

That was only one in a string a tweets on Sept. 11 by ESPN host Jemele Hill in which Hill goes on to say that Trump is “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” that he hired and courted white supremacists, that “His rise is a direct result of white supremacy,” that “if he were not white, he never would have been elected.” Hill insinuates that the Republican Party “has done nothing but endorse/promote white supremacy.”

These tweets caused quite a stir. The White House perpetual lie-generator and press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that it was a fireable offense for ESPN. Sanders’s statement, of course, was not without its own controversy. As AOL reported:

“The Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump Super PAC, has filed an ethics complaint against White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders with the Office of Government Ethics for her comments calling on ESPN host Jemele Hill to be fired.”

AOL continued:

“The group claims federal law prohibits government employees from influencing ‘a private entity’s employment … solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.’”

Then on Friday, Trump himself weighed in, because obviously there are no more pressing matters that need his attention, oh like, say, North Korea continuing to launch missiles over Japan, for one.

Trump tweeted:

“ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

This tweet, for me, changed the conversation. It moved the discussion from propriety and in-house rules of conduct by a brand, to a question of veracity. Was what Hill said untrue, as Trump’s tweet suggests, or is Trump in fact a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with white supremacists and whose party courted white supremacists?

Two of those points can be quickly put to rest. First, there is no question that Trump has hired someone who was at least a booster of white supremacists: Steve Bannon. In a sinister act of double signaling, Bannon was hired as the Trump campaign’s chief executive on the same day that Trump started his fake outreach to black voters in Milwaukee.

Also, while the Republican Party clearly stands for more than white supremacy and the promotion of that intellectually fallacious concept, the party has often turned a blind eye to the racists in its midst and done far too little to extricate them.

But then the question remains: Is Trump himself a white supremacist?

This question is almost unanswerable in the absolute, but there is mounting circumstantial evidence pointing in a most disquieting direction.

First, we must submit that Trump is not particularly discerning in the administration of his insults. As The New York Times’s Upshot pointed out in July, “Trump is on track to insult 650 people, places and things on Twitter by the end of his first term.” He is often reflexive with his derisions, attacking those who criticize or condemn him. Many of Trump’s lackeys laud his instinct to counterpunch. When Trump attacked MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, Huckabee Sanders explained, “When the president gets hit, he’s going to hit back harder.”

They paint it as strength, although it is clearly weakness. It is a masking of fragility with aggression. And the traditionally marginalized — women, racial, religious and ethnic minorities — are treated to a particularly personal strain of Trump’s venom. In Trump’s eyes, Barack Obama wasn’t simply a bad president, he was illegitimate and inferior, a person who couldn’t possibly be as talented as the world thought he was. He questioned whether Obama had actually attended his prestigious colleges and insisted that Obama’s memoir was too well-written for him to have written it, that it must have been written by a white man.

Is Trump patriarchal and misogynistic? Definitely. But, what of white supremacy?

It is clear that Trump is hero among white supremacists: He panders to them, he is slow to condemn them and when that condemnation manifests, it is often forced and tepid. Trump never seems to be worried about offending anyone except Vladimir Putin and white supremacists.

What does that say about him? How can you take comfort among and make common cause with white supremacists and not assimilate to their sensibilities?

I say that it can’t be done. If you are not completely opposed to white supremacy, you are quietly supporting it. If you continue to draw equivalencies between white supremacists and the people who oppose them — as Trump did once again last week — you have crossed the racial Rubicon and moved beyond quiet support to vocal support. You have made an allegiance and dug a trench in the war of racial hostilities.

Hill may have pushed into the realm of hyperbole with a few of her statements — it was Twitter after all — but I judge the spirit of her assessment to be true.

Either Trump is himself a white supremacist or he is a fan and defender of white supremacists, and I quite honestly am unable to separate the two designations.

That’s because they’re exactly the same thing.  Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

I haven’t yet read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” but it seems pretty clear to me what did, in fact, happen in 2016.

These days, America starts from a baseline of extreme tribalism: 47 or 48 percent of the electorate will vote for any Republican, no matter how terrible, and against any Democrat, no matter how good. This means, in turn, that small things — journalists acting like mean kids in high school, ganging up on candidates they consider uncool, events that suggest fresh scandal even when there’s nothing there — can tip the balance in favor of even the worst candidate imaginable.

And, crucially, last year far too many people were complacent; they assumed that Trump couldn’t possibly become president, so they felt free to engage in trivial pursuits. Then they woke up to find that the inconceivable had happened.

Is something similar about to go down with health care?

Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare have repeatedly failed, and for very good reason. Their attacks on the Affordable Care Act were always based on lies, and they have never come up with a decent alternative.

The simple fact is that all the major elements of the A.C.A. — prohibiting discrimination by insurers based on medical history, requiring that people buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion that make insurance affordable even for those with lower incomes — are there because they’re necessary. Yet every plan Republicans have offered would do away with or undermine those key elements, causing tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance, with the heaviest burden falling on the most vulnerable.

All this should be clear to everyone by now. So you might be tempted to assume that no plan along these lines can possibly pass, let alone one that, if anything, looks worse than what we’ve seen so far. But it’s precisely because so many people assume that the threat is behind us, and have turned their attention elsewhere, that health care is once again in danger.

The sponsors of the Graham-Cassidy bill now working its way toward a Senate vote claim to be offering a moderate approach that preserves the good things about Obamacare. In other words, they are maintaining the G.O.P. norm of lying both about the content of Obamacare and about what would replace it.

In reality, Graham-Cassidy is the opposite of moderate. It contains, in exaggerated and almost caricature form, all the elements that made previous Republican proposals so cruel and destructive. It would eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid. There are a few additional twists, but they’re all bad — notably, a funding formula that would penalize states that are actually successful in reducing the number of uninsured.

Did this bill’s sponsors — Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, Ron Johnson and Dean Heller — manage to get through months of health care debate without learning anything about the issue? Maybe. But surely the rest of the Senate, not to mention much of the public, has wised up about false Republican promises. A huge majority of voters, almost two to one, consider it a good thing that previous attempts at repealing and replacing Obamacare failed.

Yet there is a real chance that Graham-Cassidy, which is similar to but even worse than previous Republican proposals, will nonetheless become law, because not enough people are taking it seriously.

As in the presidential election, we start from a baseline of extreme tribalism, in which 48 or 49 Republican senators will vote for anything, no matter how awful, that bears their party’s seal of approval. To make a bill the law, its sponsors only need to win one or two more votes.

The main reason Republican leaders couldn’t do that on previous health bills was public outrage and activism. Letters and phone calls, demonstrators and crowds at town halls, made it clear that many Americans were aware of the stakes, and that politicians who voted to take health care away from millions would be held accountable.

Now, however, the news cycle has moved on, taking public attention with it. Many progressives have already begun taking Obamacare’s achievements for granted, and are moving on from protest against right-wing schemes to dreams of single-payer. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of environment in which swing senators, no longer in the spotlight, might be bribed or bullied into voting for a truly terrible bill.

The good news is that for technical reasons of parliamentary procedure, Graham-Cassidy has to pass by the end of this month, or not at all. The bad news is that such passage is a real possibility.

So if you care about preserving the huge gains the A.C.A. has brought, make your voice heard. Otherwise we may wake up to another terrible morning after.

Blow and Krugman

August 21, 2017

Mr. Blow points out the obvious in “Failing All Tests of the Presidency.”  He tells us, as if we needed reminding, that there are no good Nazis.  Prof. Krugman asks “What Will Trump Do to American Workers?”  He says we should pay less attention to taxing and spending, more to power.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

We are leaderless. America doesn’t have a president. America has a man in the White House holding the spot, and wreaking havoc as he waits for the day when a real president arrives to replace him.

Donald Trump is many things — most of them despicable — but the leader of a nation he is not. He is not a great man. Hell, he isn’t even a good man.

Donald Trump is a man of flawed character and a moral cavity. He cannot offer moral guidance because he has no moral compass. He is too small to see over his inflated ego.

Trump has personalized the presidency in unprecedented ways — making every battle and every war about his personal feelings. Did the person across the street or around the world say good or bad things about him? Does the media treat him fairly? Is someone in his coterie of corruption outshining him or casting negative light on him?

His interests center on the self; country be damned.

What some have always known about Trump, others are slowly coming to realize, and with great shock and horror. The presidency is revealing the essence of the man and that essence is dark.

What America saw clearly in Trump’s disastrous handling of the violence in Charlottesville was a Nazi/white nationalist apologist if not sympathizer, a reactionary rage-aholic, a liar, and a person who has absolutely no sense or understanding of history.

By claiming that there were some “very fine people” among the extremists marching in Charlottesville, the president made a profound declaration: The accommodation of racists is his creed.

As Susan Bro, whose daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed in Charlottesville, said last week, “You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ ” Heather Heyer was killed when James Alex Fields Jr. used a speeding car to mow down a crowd of protesters who had gathered to rebuke the Nazis and white nationalists.

According to The Chicago Tribune, one of Fields’s high school teachers said he once “wrote a three-page homework paper that extolled Nazi ideology and the prowess of the Führer’s armed forces,” and that even before then, the teacher said, “he had been well aware of Fields’s racist and anti-Semitic beliefs from private discussions he had with Fields during his junior year.”

And even worse, The Tribune reported:

“At least four times when the boy was in the eighth and ninth grades, Florence police were summoned to his home, mostly by his frantic mother, Samantha Bloom, an I.T. specialist. It was just the two of them living together, and young James, among other incidents, was reported to have spat in her face, smacked her head with a phone and frightened her with a foot-long knife, according to records of the 911 calls. Neighbors, in interviews, similarly described a troubled youth who treated his mother cruelly.”

This was no fine person, and no person who walked shoulder-to-shoulder with him is a fine person. There are no good Nazis. There are no good white nationalist accommodators. There are no good people who see racists and don’t want to retch.

But somehow, the person we now call “president” saw what happened in Charlottesville, saw that a car had been used to kill Heyer, and still found it appropriate to say that there were bad people on “both sides.”

He cleaned that up in a teleprompter speech, but the next day returned to the defense of the indefensible, this time with even more verve and venom.

He apparently felt that the media had unfairly condemned him for his original remarks and he was going to be the counterpuncher and strike back at the media. Again, it was all about him, not us. But when he lashed out at the media, the cameras were rolling. There were no prepared remarks. There was no teleprompter. Trump stood exposed and in the raw, the deepest, truest thoughts of his soul erupting from his face, and what came out were bitterness and bile.

He was not there to heal the nation or to uplift it. He was there for personal exoneration and redemption. He wasn’t there to plead the case that America could rise on the wings of its better angels. He was there to defend the demons.

But, when one attempts to do a thing that can’t be done — that shouldn’t be done — one must employ the tools of deception: obfuscation, revisionism and flat-out lying.

Trump said that he had not initially condemned both sides because he wanted to wait to get all the facts, because that’s what he likes to do.

Lies.

On Saturday, when tens of thousands of protesters turned out to counter a small group of radical racists, Trump’s first response was to tweet: “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.”

This man doesn’t wait for facts. This man doesn’t care about facts, or much else for that matter. He only cares about himself, his image and his positioning.

America is functioning, barely, without a functioning president. Trump is failing every test of the office. How frightening is that?

Terrifying, Mr. Blow, terrifying.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

With Steve Bannon out of the White House, it’s clearer than ever that Donald Trump’s promise to be a populist fighting for ordinary workers was worth about as much as any other Trump promise — that is, nothing. His agenda, such as it is, amounts to reverse Robin Hood with extra racism — the conventional Republican strategy of taking from struggling families to give to the rich, while distracting lower-income whites by attacking Those People, with the only difference being just how blatantly he plays the race card.

At first sight, however, the Trump version of this strategy doesn’t seem to be going very well. The attempt to repeal Obamacare was almost a caricature of trickle-down policy — take health coverage away from 20-plus million Americans while cutting taxes on a handful of wealthy individuals. But it was massively unpopular, and appears to have failed in Congress.

The next item on the agenda, tax “reform,” may not fare much better. I use scare quotes because a true reform, reducing some tax rates but making up for the lost revenue by closing loopholes, was never going to happen. Straight-out tax cuts, which benefit corporations and the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, might still go through, but even that looks doubtful.

So is the Trump agenda dead? Not necessarily, because trickle-down has never been the whole story of the Republican assault on workers. Or to put it another way: Don’t just watch Congress, keep your eyes on what federal agencies are doing.

When you step back and take the long view on trickle-down policies, what you realize is that Trump’s legislative failure is more the rule than the exception. The election of Ronald Reagan was supposed to have set America on a path toward lower taxes and smaller government — and it did, for a while. But those changes have largely been reversed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, back in 1980 the top 1 percent paid 33 percent of its income in federal taxes. Under Reagan, that share briefly fell below 25 percent. But as of 2013, the most recent year covered, Obama’s tax hikes had brought federal taxes on the 1 percent back up to 34 percent of income.

What about safety net programs? Some were savagely cut — but others have grown, a lot. Take Medicaid, which in 1980 covered only 7 percent of nonelderly Americans. Today that number is up to 21 percent.

Looking only at taxing and spending, then, one might conclude that the conservative economic agenda has largely failed. But here’s the thing: While the rich still pay taxes and the safety net has in some ways gotten stronger, the decades since Reagan have nonetheless been marked by vastly increased inequality, with stagnating wages for most, but soaring incomes for a tiny elite. How did that happen?

Yes, globalization probably played some role, as did technology. But other wealthy countries, just as exposed to the winds of global change, haven’t seen anything like America’s headlong rush into a new Gilded Age. To understand what happened to us, and in particular to American workers, you need to look at policy — and especially the kind of policy that often flies under the media’s radar.

Take one example, covered a few months ago in a striking Times essay: the decline in the fortunes of truck drivers, whose pay used to make them members of the middle class. No more: Their real wages have fallen about a third since the 1970s, with most of the decline taking place during the Reagan years.

Now, globalization and technology haven’t destroyed trucking jobs; on the contrary, the industry is facing a labor shortage. What happened to truckers was, basically, the collapse of their bargaining power due in part to a changed ideological climate — not least at the National Labor Relations Board — that encouraged private employers to fight unionization, and in part to deregulation that undercut the position of unionized firms.

Take another example, at the opposite end of the spectrum: Does anyone doubt that financial deregulation played an important role in surging incomes at the very top of the income distribution?

Which brings us back to Trump and the effect he’ll have on America’s working class. Right now it looks as if he may have much less impact on taxing and spending than most people expected. But other policies, often made administratively by federal agencies rather than via legislation, can matter a lot.

True, Trump failed in his attempt to appoint a deeply anti-labor fast-food executive to head the Department of Labor. But the fact that he even tried to appoint Andrew Puzder tells you a great deal.

The point is that progressives shouldn’t celebrate too much over Trump’s legislative failures. As long as he’s in office, he retains a lot of power to betray the working people who supported him. And in case you haven’t noticed, betraying those who trust him is a Trump specialty.

Blow and Collins

August 17, 2017

I do apologize for doing this later and later and later…  I’m battling a bout of PTSD — President Trump Stress Disorder.  Mr. Blow considers “The Other Inconvenient Truth” and says the Republican Party should acknowledge how it has fueled white supremacy.  They will, Charles, just as soon as pigs fly.  Ms. Collins tells us “How To Handle Donald Trump” and that what we don’t need to hear is what’s really on his mind.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump chose Trump Tower, the place where he began his presidential campaign, as the place to plunge a dagger into his presidency.

Trump’s jaw-dropping defense of white supremacists, white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., exposed once more what many of us have been howling into the wind since he emerged as a viable candidate: That he is a bigot, a buffoon and a bully.

He has done nothing since his election to disabuse us of this notion and everything to confirm it. Anyone expressing surprise is luxuriating in a self-crafted shell of ignorance.

And yet, it seems too simplistic, too convenient, to castigate only Trump for elevating these vile racists. To do so would be historical fallacy. Yes, Trump’s comments give them a boost, grant them permission, provide them validation, but it is also the Republican Party through which Trump burst that has been courting, coddling and accommodating these people for decades. Trump is an articulation of the racists in Charlottesville and they are an articulation of him, and both are a logical extension of a party that has too often refused to rebuke them.

It’s not that Democrats have completely gotten this right, either. Too often, in response to the conservative impulse to punish, the liberal impulse is to pity. Pity does not alleviate oppression; it simply assuages guilt. The pity is not for the receiver but for the giver.

But in the modern age one party has operated with the ethos of racial inclusion and with an eye on celebrating varied forms of diversity, and the other has at times appealed directly to the racially intolerant by providing quiet sufferance.

It is possible to trace this devil’s dance back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the emergence of Richard Nixon. After the passage of the act, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln to which black people felt considerable fealty, turned on those people and stabbed them in the back.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The era Ehrlichman referred to was the beginning of the War on Drugs. Nixon started his offensive in 1971, declaring in a speech from the White House Briefing Room: “America’s public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”

The object of disrupting communities worked all too well — more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses since 1971, with African-Americans being incarcerated in state prisons for these offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that for whites, according to Human Rights Watch.

In 1970, Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips told The New York Times, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”

The Republican Party wanted the racists. It was strategy, the “Southern Strategy,” and it too has proved wildly successful. From there this cancer took hold.

The party itself has dispensed with public confessions of this inclination — at least until Trump — but the white supremacy still survives and even thrives in policy. The stated goals of the Republican Party are not completely dissimilar from many of the white nationalist positions.

If you advance policies like a return to more aggressive drug policies and voter suppression — things that you know without question will have a disproportionate and negative impact on people of color, what does that say about you?

It says that you want the policies without the poison, but they can’t be made separate: The policies are the poison.

And yes, this is all an outgrowth of white supremacy, a concept that many try to apply only to vocal, violent racists but that is in fact more broadly applicable and pervasive.

People think that they avoid the appellation because they do not openly hate. But hate is not a requirement of white supremacy. Just because one abhors violence and cruelty doesn’t mean that one truly believes that all people are equal — culturally, intellectually, creatively, morally. Entertaining the notion of imbalance — that white people are inherently better than others in any way — is also white supremacy.

The position of opposing racial cruelty can operate in much the same way as opposition to animal cruelty — people do it not because they deem the objects of that cruelty their equals, but rather because they cannot countenance the idea of inflicting pain and suffering on helpless and innocent creatures. But even here, the comparison cleaves, because suffering black people are judged to have courted their own suffering through a cascade of poor choices.

This is passive white supremacy, soft white supremacy, the kind divorced from hatred. It is permissible because it’s inconspicuous. But this soft white supremacy is more deadly, exponentially, than Nazis with tiki torches.

This soft white supremacy is the very thing on which the open racists build.

The white nationalists and the Nazis simply take the next step (not an altogether illogical one when wandering down the crooked path of racial hostility) and they overlay open animus.

This is apparently what draws the ire, what leaves people aghast: open articulation of racial hatred. That to me is a criminal act of denial that refuses to deal with the reality that racism is also signified far more subtly than through the wielding of slurs and sticks.

White supremacy, all across the spectrum, is what lights the way to the final step as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated in his “The Other America” speech in 1967:

“In the final analysis, racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. And he ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about six million Jews. This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.”

Republicans, these people and this “president” are your progeny. That is the other inconvenient truth.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump is still president. Hard to know what to do with this, people.

In less than a week he’s managed to put on one of the most divisive, un-helpful, un-healing presidential performances in American history. It’s been a great stretch for fans of Richard Nixon and James Buchanan.

On Wednesday Trump had to dissolve his business advisory councils because the C.E.O.s were fleeing like panic-stricken geese from a jumbo jet. We now have a president who can’t get the head of Campbell Soup to the White House.

Trump also announced plans to hold a rally next week in Arizona, where he’s said he’s “seriously considering” a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the loathsome racial profiler who never met a constitutional amendment he didn’t ignore. Arpaio’s treatment of Latinos won him a criminal contempt conviction, but of course that’s nothing to our leader.

We had no idea how bad this guy was going to be. Admit it — during the campaign you did not consider the possibility that if a terrible tragedy struck the country involving all of our worst political ghosts of the past plus neo-Nazism, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz would know the appropriate thing to say but Donald Trump would have no idea.

George W. Bush would have been at the funeral for the slain civil rights demonstrator in a second. About the best Trump could do was to praise Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, for writing “the nicest things” about him. Bro did indeed express appreciation for the president’s denunciation of “those who promote violence and hatred.” That was his written-by-someone-else statement, which preceded the despicable impromptu version.

We’re only safe when he’s using prepared remarks. The extemporaneous Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville wasn’t just tone-deaf and heartless; you had to wonder about the overall mental balance of a man who managed to both defend the alt-right demonstrators in Virginia and brag about his real estate in the neighborhood.

“Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?” Trump asked the stunned reporters. “I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville.”

It was truly the kind of performance you expect from a deranged person, brought out to explain why he blew up a large government building and inquiring cheerfully: “Has anybody seen my car? It’s really nice. A Ford Pinto.”

Also, Trump does not own one of the largest wineries in the United States. Trump Winery is one of the largest wineries in Virginia, which is like bragging you own one of the largest ski resorts in Ohio.

(There’s something about catching these wild misstatements and lies of self-aggrandizement that can actually be soothing in the worst of times. It’s a diversion that gives you a little break from wondering what’s going to happen to the country.)

Meanwhile, business executives were concluding it was morally compromising to be on the White House manufacturing council. It’s hard to imagine what else could happen before autumn kicks in.

We are just beginning to fully understand how critical it is for a president to have at least a minimal understanding of American history. This one seems to have only recently discovered he belongs to the same party as Abraham Lincoln. “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump told a political gathering. “Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that. We have to build that up a little more.”

His response to the biggest challenge of his presidency began by blaming “many sides” for the crisis. Then there was the reading of an appropriate, if way overdue, statement. Then came the disastrous press conference on Tuesday, when he was just supposed to read a brief description of the administration plan for infrastructure — something about giving road-builders a reprieve from having to consider the possibility of future flooding.

But he started to take questions and actually say things from his own mind. His staff looked worried, then nervous, then despairing.

Even when Trump is not historically wrong, or making things up to extol his own self-image, or failing to do even the least modicum of national healing at a time of crisis, he’s so incoherent that it’s possible to misunderstand what should be a simple thought.

“I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts,” he blathered at one pointthen lapsed into that terrible tendency to refer to himself in the third person. “And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. …”

This can’t go on. We don’t have time to wait for impeachment. Patriotic Republicans and administration officials have to get together and find a way to make sure that Donald Trump will never again say anything in public that is not written on a piece of paper. It’s their duty to the country.

Blow and Krugman

August 7, 2017

In “America’s Whiniest ‘Victim'” Mr. Blow says Trump is a reflection of the new Whiny Right.  Prof. Krugman asks “What’s Next For Progressives?” and tries to make a case for prioritizing children, not single-payer.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump is the reigning king of American victimhood.

He is unceasingly pained, injured, aggrieved.

The primaries were unfair. The debates were unfair. The general election was unfair.

“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he laments.

People refuse to reach past his flaws — which are legion! — and pat him on the back. People refuse to praise his minimal effort and minimal efficacy. They refuse to ignore that the legend he created about himself is a lie. People’s insistence on truth and honest appraisal is so annoying. It’s all so terribly unfair.

It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved. Trump won because he whines. He whines in a way that makes the weak feel less vulnerable and more vicious. He makes feeling sorry for himself feel like fighting back.

In this way he was a perfect reflection of the new Whiny Right. Trump is its instrument, articulation, embodiment. He’s not so much representative of it but of an idea — the waning power of whiteness, privilege, patriarchy, access, and the cultural and economic surety that accrues to the possessors of such. Trump represents their emerging status of victims-in-their-own-minds.

The way they see it, they are victims of coastal and urban liberals and the elite institutions — economic, education and entertainment — clustered there. They are victims of an economy evolving in ways, both technical and geographic, that cuts them out or leaves them behind. They are victims of immigration and shifting American demographics. They are victims of shifting, cultural mores. They are victims of Washington.

No one speaks to these insecurities like the human manifestation of insecurity himself: Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is their death rattle: That unsettling sound a body makes when death nears.

But, Trump’s whining is not some clever Machiavellian tactic, precisely tuned for these times. Trump’s whining is genuine. He pretends to be ferocious, but is actually embarrassingly fragile. His bravado is all illusion. The lion is a coward. And, he licks his wounds until they are raw.

Now, pour into this hollow man Steve Bannon’s toxic, apocalyptic nationalism and his professed mission — “deconstruction of the administrative state” — and you get a perfect storm of extreme orthodoxy and extreme insecurity.

Trump becomes a tool of those in possession of legacy power in this country — and those who feel that power is their rightful inheritance — who are pulling every possible lever to enshrine and cement that power. Suppressing the vote. Restricting immigration. Putting the brakes on cultural inclusion.

Make America great again. Turn back the clock to a time when privileges of whiteness were supreme and unassailable, misogyny was simply viewed as an extension of masculinity, women got back-alley abortions and worked for partial wages, coal was king and global warming was purely academic, and trans people weren’t in our bathrooms or barracks. The good old days.

Now the power of the presidency is deployed in this pursuit. The only thing that holds the line against absolute calamity is the fact that Trump lacks focus and hates work.

I have found that a close cousin of extreme caviling is sloth. As Newsweek puts on this week’s cover, he is a “Lazy Boy.”

He may keep himself busy with things he considers to be work, but his definition of that word and mine do not seem to be in alignment. Twitter tantrums, obsessive television viewing, holding campaign-style rallies to feed his narcissistic need for adulation. Those things to me do not signal competence, but rather profound neurosis. True productivity leaves little space for this extreme protestation.

And, not only is he a lazy whiner, he’s also a projectionist: He is so consumed by his insecurities that he projects them onto others. Trump branded Ted Cruz a liar, when he himself wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped him in the face. He blasted Hillary Clinton as being crooked, when he himself was crooked. He sneered at President Obama’s work ethic — among many other things — but Trump’s own work ethic has been found severely wanting.

In 2015, Trump said, “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.” He continued: “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.”

Lies.

Trump has spent an unseemly amount of time away from the White House, playing golf, and is at this very moment on a 17-day vacation.

Trump is like the unfaithful spouse who constantly accuses the other of infidelity because the guilt of his or her own sins has hijacked their thinking and consumed their consciousness. The flaws he sees are the ones he possesses.

This projection of vice, claiming of victimhood, and complaining about vanishing privileges make Trump an ideal front man for the kind of cultural anxiety, desperation and anger that disguises itself as a benign debate about public policy.

Today’s Republicans could teach IMAX a thing or two about projection.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

For now, at least, the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act appears dead. Sabotage by a spiteful Trump administration is still a risk, but there is — gasp! — a bipartisan push to limit the damage, with Democrats who want to preserve recent gains allying with Republicans who fear that the public will blame them for declining coverage and rising premiums.

This represents a huge victory for progressives, who did a startlingly good job of marshaling facts, mobilizing public opinion, and pressuring politicians to stand their ground. But where do they go from here? If Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House, what will they do with the opportunity?

Well, some progressives — by and large people who supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries — are already trying to revive one of his signature proposals: expanding Medicare to cover everyone. Some even want to make support for single-payer a litmus test for Democratic candidates.

So it’s time for a little pushback. A commitment to universal health coverage — bringing in the people currently falling through Obamacare’s cracks — should definitely be a litmus test. But single-payer, while it has many virtues, isn’t the only way to get there; it would be much harder politically than its advocates acknowledge; and there are more important priorities.

The key point to understand about universal coverage is that we know a lot about what it takes, because every other wealthy country has it. How do they do it? Actually, lots of different ways.

Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.

Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All — it’s even called Medicare. But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.

And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change. Further evidence for this view is how relatively well Obamacare, imperfect as it is, already works in states that try to make it work — did you know that only 5.4 percent of New Yorkers are now uninsured?

Meanwhile, the political logic that led to Obamacare rather than Medicare for all still applies.

It’s not just about paying off the insurance industry, although getting insurers to buy in to health reform wasn’t foolish, and arguably helped save the A.C.A.: At a crucial moment America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobbying organization, and Blue Cross Blue Shield intervened to denounce Republican plans.

A far more important consideration is minimizing disruption to the 156 million people who currently get insurance through their employers, and are largely satisfied with their coverage. Moving to single-payer would mean taking away this coverage and imposing new taxes; to make it fly politically you’d have to convince most of these people both that they would save more in premiums than they pay in additional taxes, and that their new coverage would be just as good as the old.

This might in fact be true, but it would be one heck of a hard sell. Is this really where progressives want to spend their political capital?

What would I do instead? I’d enhance the A.C.A., not replace it, although I would strongly support reintroducing some form of public option — a way for people to buy into public insurance — that could eventually lead to single-payer.

Meanwhile, progressives should move beyond health care and focus on other holes in the U.S. safety net.

When you compare the U.S. social welfare system with those of other wealthy countries, what really stands out now is our neglect of children. Other countries provide new parents with extensive paid leave, provide high-quality, subsidized day care for children with working parents and make pre-K available to everyone or almost everyone; we do none of these things. Our spending on families is a third of the advanced-country average, putting us down there with Mexico and Turkey.

So if it were up to me, I’d talk about improving the A.C.A., not ripping it up and starting over, while opening up a new progressive front on child care.

I have nothing against single-payer; it’s what I’d support if we were starting fresh. But we aren’t: Getting there from here would be very hard, and might not accomplish much more than a more modest, incremental approach. Even idealists need to set priorities, and Medicare-for-all shouldn’t be at the top of the list.

Blow and Collins

August 3, 2017

In “Feasting on False and Fake” Mr. Blow says the lies are the root of all this evil.  Ms. Collins has a question in “A Week Without Trumps…:”  Why — WHY — is the White House not giving us any more theme weeks?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump continues his savage assault on truth, honesty and candor.

In two weeks time, one of Trump’s lawyers has been proven a liar for repeatedly claiming that Trump had not been involved at all in the drafting of the misleading statement that his son Donald Jr. issued about his now-infamous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.

As The Washington Post reported Monday:

“Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children’ when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to The New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was ‘not a campaign issue at the time.’ ”

Then, on Tuesday, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the elder Trump had played a role, saying, “The president weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had.”

In short, this whole line of defense that White House had maintained for weeks was a complete fairy tale, another blatant lie from the perpetual fountain of lies.

During a July 25 interview with the Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker, Trump said of his debased speech at the Boy Scouts’ Jamboree: “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The only problem is that, as Politico reported this week: “The Boy Scouts of America, however, apologized to its members after the speech and then said Wednesday that the organization was not aware of any calls between its leaders and Trump.”’

Monday, Trump said: “As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and they’re close to 80 percent stoppage. Even the president of Mexico called me — they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

The problem: As ABC News reports, “The Mexican government says President Enrique Peña Nieto did not call U.S. President Donald Trump to compliment his immigration policies, as Trump had claimed” and “An American official confirmed that no telephone conversation recently occurred between Trump and Peña Nieto.”

But perhaps most disturbing and despicable is an allegation in a lawsuit filed by Rod Wheeler, a private detective who was hired by the family of Seth Rich, an aide for the Democratic National Committee who was fatally shot last summer in Washington, to investigate his death.

The claim is that the White House and a wealthy friend of Trump used Fox News to manufacture and promote a fake news story — using this dead man’s body, and ignoring his family’s agony — to “shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election.” Wheeler is also a Fox News contributor.

Fox published the article but was forced to retract it. According to The New York Times, “The retracted article, citing law enforcement sources, said Mr. Rich had shared thousands of D.N.C. emails with WikiLeaks — a theory that would undercut the assertions that Russia had interfered in the election on behalf of Mr. Trump.”

If this is true, it is the lowest of the low. It would implicate the White House in a most callous lie and it would further make laughable the “News” in “Fox News.”

All politicians try to manage news coverage and messages. They all try to put the most positive spin on things. They all are prone to hyperbole.

But this is another thing altogether. It is separate, distinct and unique. We have never seen an occupant of the Oval Office who is actually allergic to the truth. We have never had an enemy of honesty.

I keep coming back to the lying because I believe everything else flows from it.

If Trump had been upfront and candid about his and his cohorts’ dealings with Russia, had not lied about President Barack Obama supposedly wiretapping phones in Trump Tower, had released his tax returns and not tried to make James Comey commit to some sort of oath of allegiance, maybe we wouldn’t need a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s Russia connections.

If Trump hadn’t lied about three million people voting illegally, we wouldn’t be diverting resources to a ridiculous voter integrity commission. Maybe we could focus on the real problems: voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering. As Nate Cohn pointed outWednesday on the Upshot: “Heading into the 2018 midterms, data and conventional wisdom agree: Gerrymandering is a big reason the G.O.P. has a real chance to retain control of the House, even if the Democrats score a clear win” in the overall popular vote.

If Trump had been honest in his fake outreach to black voters during the campaign — “What the hell do you have to lose?” — the attack on civil rights by this Justice Department would make sense. The reversal on private prisons, the review of consent decrees, the return to the failed drug policies of the ’90s would make sense. If Trump had been honest, the absolutely outrageous news reported by The Times this week would make sense:

“The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.”

The lies are the root of all this evil. It not only impedes normal functioning and normal processes, it has destroyed a common basis on which to operate. The presidency is being used as tool of degradation rather than uplift.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

So much outcry about chaos at the White House. Who’s in? Who’s out? Yet we’ve failed to consider one important question.

What happens to the Weeks?

They’ve been such an administration highlight. Who can forget White House Infrastructure Week? Or Energy Week? Or the current American Dream Week, which the president celebrated by calling for a 50 percent cut in legal immigration?

Reince Priebus was said to have been a big Week maven, and he’s been, um, disappeared. Which is why I’m sort of worried about the end of a great new national tradition.

We still haven’t heard what the next Week is supposed to be. Do you think John Kelly got rid of them? That man cannot stop cleaning house.

All modern presidents have promoted themes they want us to think about, but the current administration has been a pioneer in packaging things into Weeks and then staging lots of events to remind us about their topic. President Trump also generally proposes a bill on the same subject, which Congress promptly rejects.

This happened even during Infrastructure Week — who among us doesn’t like infrastructure? But Trump hasn’t been able to get his act together on a package of projects, so he started the week off with a call for privatizing the air traffic control system, which the Senate commerce committee cheerfully vetoed.

Also, to be fair, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a letter from a 10-year-old boy from Virginia who wants to mow the White House lawn. And that’s going to happen. “It’s our responsibility to keep the American dream alive for kids like Frank,” she told the media.

Because this administration has been so danged exciting, it’s easy to merge the Weeks with unrelated presidential events of the moment. So we’ll also remember Infrastructure Week as the one when the fired F.B.I. director testified before Congress. And that during American Dream Week, a golfing story revealed that Trump had called the White House “a real dump.”

But even when the White House is in control of the timing, the Weeks tend to go awry.

Obviously, the idea of having the president give a speech to the Boy Scouts during Heroes Week was planned. But it’s a good bet the planners didn’t expect him to brag to the kids about winning the election, snipe at his political opponents and tell a really long story about a friend who sold his business and bought a big yacht.

Scout leaders were somewhat unnerved by the performance, but Trump, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said “the head of the Boy Scouts” had called him to say “it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The head of the Boy Scouts immediately denied that. Sanders told a press briefing that the president was talking about someone else.

So that was American Heroes Week. Plus the speech to law enforcement officials in which Trump appeared to advocate police brutality. Which Sanders told a press briefing was just a joke.

“The president went out of his way this week to give a special honor to some very special people,” said Lara Trump, the host of a brand-new news program on the president’s Facebook site, as she recounted some of the White House events. She is the wife of Eric Trump, otherwise known as the adult son not currently under investigation for talking with Russians.

Until now we have known Lara as an animal rights activist. Perhaps she could get us a White House Be Kind to Animals Week, in which her father-in-law would have to appear in public with a dog or a cat. This is the first president since James K. Polk who does not have a pet. All this could change in a wink of a Week.

There are all kinds of ways we could turn the Weeks around to the national interest. For instance, the State Department appears to be struggling to get the normal day-to-day business done for lack of staff. Perhaps we could have a Who Wants to Be Ambassador to Norway Week. The press secretary could read letters from 10-year-old volunteers, and on Friday the president could draw a name from a hat.

One of my favorite Weeks was Energy Week, when Trump and Rick Perry went around vowing to make the nation “energy dominant,” a concept so much more manly than energy independent. But still educational. “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand,” Perry said during a coal mining promotion. “You put the supply out there and the demand will follow.”

And then, of course, there was Made in America Week, which Trump observed by requesting visas to hire foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago.

And Workforce Development Week, when Trump and daughter Ivanka met with C.E.O.s to discuss worker training. And Tech Week, when Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with top executives of technology companies.

“I bet you haven’t heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week because there’s so much fake news out there,” Lara Trump told her audience.

What about a Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Week?

Blow and Krugman

July 31, 2017

In “Satan in a Sunday Hat” Mr. Blow says the White House is a jungle of wild accusations, out-of-control egos and slithering strivers.  Prof. Krugman has a question: “Who Ate Republicans’ Brains?”  He outlines four decades of intellectual and moral deterioration.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump’s foul-mouthed, preening, narcissistic flack, Anthony Scaramucci, made a string of jaw-dropping statements last week — including accusing chief strategist Steve Bannon of using the president for rapacious self-aggrandizement, comparing this impulse in Bannon to autofellatio — but perhaps none were more telling and important than this statement on White House leaks Scaramucci made last week on CNN:

“There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president.”

There are countless Americans — among them the nearly 74 million American voters who voted for someone other than Trump in November, and likely an increasing number of those who did vote for him — who have taken it as their mission to save America from Trump.

But the idea that, in addition to liberals, progressives, resisters, and, oh, I don’t know, anyone with an inkling of patriotism, this desire to protect the country may well exist among some rock-ribbed Republicans and may in fact extend all the way to the corridors of the White House offers some solace.

Acknowledging this is by no means an act of exaltation or absolution. Quite the contrary: It illustrates these Republicans’ absolute depravity and ideological ambition. They know well that this man is unfit and ruinous, and yet they remain his parasitic henchmen. They are willing to use Trump for gain, and leaks for leverage.

They may love the country, but not enough. They may be loyal to Trump, but not enough. They may relish their newfound power, but that power is also not enough.

This White House is now a jungle of wild accusations, out-of-control egos, lurking bigotry, and slithering strivers: The grass outside the Oval Office is full of snakes, and the person inside that office is no better, maybe even worse. Watching them turn on one another, devour one another, in what has become a grotesque, animalistic spectacle of dysfunctions, might for some bring a perverse pleasure because it exposes Trump and his supposed managerial acumen as an abject fraud.

I am not one of those people.

I take no joy in it; I am utterly embarrassed by it. But I also know that this war of West Wing rivals serves a beneficial purpose of distracting Trump from his disastrous agenda, undermining his efforts at obfuscation and outright lying, and casting sunlight on the scheming that Trump would like to keep hidden from the media truth-tellers he tries to defame and discredit.

These leakers — whether they are people who are angling to harm a White House adversary and thereby increase their positions on this totem of travesties, or actual moles animated by a sense of civic morality — have exposed this administration as a marauding band of incompetent, unprincipled, self-mutilating posers.

You can’t transform mountebanks into menschen. Character is like concrete: You can make an impression when it’s freshly poured, in its youth, one could say, but when it sets, it’s impervious to alteration. Trump has always been vile, dishonorable and dishonest. That hasn’t changed even when draped by the history, majesty and pageantry of the presidency.

The leakers continue to reveal this fact and Trump’s fraudulence, something that has sent mini-Trump Scaramucci into a fit of pique. This is why Scaramucci said in his profanity-laced interview with The New Yorker: “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the president’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people.”

But there seemed to be one target in particular of Scaramucci’s bloodlust: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

In that same New Yorker interview, Scaramucci said of Priebus, “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” The reporter, Ryan Lizza, also wrote that Scaramucci said that Priebus will “be asked to resign very shortly.”

On Thursday on CNN’s New Day,” Scaramucci compared his relationship with Priebus to that of infamous biblical brothers: “Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along. I don’t know if this is repairable or not. That will be up to the president.”

For the record, in the religious text Cain lures Abel into a field and kills him.

On Friday, as Scaramucci had foretold, Priebus was driven out as chief of staff. The accursed Cain wins again.

It is clear that Scaramucci is trying to create a work environment of terror and timidity in which no one will talk to reporters without fear of extreme retribution. Whatever little trust had survived among the White House staff has been trampled by Scaramucci’s arrival.

He is Trump’s mercenary, looking to pile up bodies on the White House funeral pyre. For Scaramucci, this is all about access, power and, oh yes, money. The only thing Scaramucci seems to care more about than what he makes is how people look — he oddly keeps making hair and makeup jokes, and he once asked, inappropriately and apropos of nothing, a female interviewer from New York magazine, “How old are you?” He continued: “You look good. No lines on your face. What are you, a Sagittarius?”

No, Mooch, she’s a professional, and the sign is “stop.” This man is what we used to call a “Satan in a Sunday hat.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

When the tweeter-in-chief castigated Senate Republicans as “total quitters” for failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, they showed zombie-like relentlessness in their determination to take health care away from millions of Americans, shambling forward despite devastating analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, denunciations of their plans by every major medical group, and overwhelming public disapproval.

Put it this way: Senator Lindsey Graham was entirely correct when he described the final effort at repeal as “terrible policy and horrible politics,” a “disaster” and a “fraud.” He voted for it anyway — and so did 48 of his colleagues.

So where did this zombie horde come from? Who ate Republicans’ brains?

As many people have pointed out, when it came to health care Republicans were basically caught in their own web of lies. They fought against the idea of universal coverage, then denounced the Affordable Care Act for failing to cover enough people; they made “skin in the game,” i.e., high out-of-pocket costs, the centerpiece of their health care ideology, then denounced the act for high deductibles. When they finally got their chance at repeal, the contrast between what they had promised and their actual proposals produced widespread and justified public revulsion.

But the stark dishonesty of the Republican jihad against Obamacare itself demands an explanation. For it went well beyond normal political spin: for seven years a whole party kept insisting that black was white and up was down.

And that kind of behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. The Republican health care debacle was the culmination of a process of intellectual and moral deterioration that began four decades ago, at the very dawn of modern movement conservatism — that is, during the very era anti-Trump conservatives now point to as the golden age of conservative thought.

A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

The problem is that once you accept the principle that it’s O.K. to lie if it helps you win elections, it gets ever harder to limit the extent of the lying — or even to remember what it’s like to seek the truth.

The right’s intellectual and moral collapse didn’t happen all at once. For a while, conservatives still tried to grapple with real problems. In 1989, for example, The Heritage Foundation offered a health care plan strongly resembling Obamacare. That same year, George H. W. Bush proposed a cap-and-trade system to control acid rain, a proposal that eventually became law.

But looking back, it’s easy to see the rot spreading. Compared with Donald Trump, the elder Bush looks like a paragon — but his administration lied relentlessly about rising inequality. His son’s administration lied consistently about its tax cuts, pretending that they were targeted on the middle class, and — in case you’ve forgotten — took us to war on false pretenses.

And almost the entire G.O.P. either endorsed or refused to condemn the “death panels” slander against Obamacare.

Given this history, the Republican health care disaster was entirely predictable. You can’t expect good or even coherent policy proposals from a party that has spent decades embracing politically useful lies and denigrating expertise.

And let’s be clear: we’re talking about Republicans here, not the “political system.”

Democrats aren’t above cutting a few intellectual corners in pursuit of electoral advantage. But the Obama administration was, when all is said and done, remarkably clearheaded and honest about its policies. In particular, it was always clear what the A.C.A. was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it — and it has, for the most part, worked as advertised.

Now what? Maybe, just maybe, Republicans will work with Democrats to make the health system work better — after all, polls suggest that voters will, rightly, blame them for any future problems. But it wouldn’t be easy for them to face reality even if their president wasn’t a bloviating bully.

And it’s hard to imagine anything good happening on other policy fronts, either. Republicans have spent decades losing their ability to think straight, and they’re not going to get it back anytime soon.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 27, 2017

In ” ‘First They Came For…’ ” Mr. Blow says all the targets of Trump’s ire must push back with a united front before it is too late.  In “No Insurance, But For 3 Days, Health Care Is Within Reach” Mr. Kristof says aid group set up to help in poor nations now focuses on U.S. needs.  Ms. Collins says “Wow, Trump Can’t Terminate,” and that coming soon we’ll have American Irony Week.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It is no longer sufficient to brand Donald Trump as abnormal, a designation that is surely applicable but that falls significantly short in registering the magnitude of the menace.

The standard nomenclature of normal politics must be abandoned. What we are witnessing is nothing less than an assault on the fundamentals of the country itself: on our legacy institutions and our sense of protocol, decency and honesty.

In any other circumstance, we might likely write this off as the trite protestations of a man trapped in a toddler’s temperament, full of meltdowns, magical thinking and make believe. But this man’s vindictiveness and mendacity are undergirded by the unequaled power of the American president, and as such he has graduated on the scale of power from toddler to budding tyrant.

This threat Trump poses — to our morals, ethics, norms and collective sense of propriety — may be without equal from a domestic source.

Everything he is doing is an assault and matters on some level.

His desecration of the Boy Scouts’ national jamboree matters. Not only did he turn his appearance before the boys into a political rally in which they booed both former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he seemed to be appealing to their basest instincts.

What exactly did Trump mean when he regaled the boys with the story of the real-estate developer William Levitt, who, as Trump put it:

“Sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.”

As the boys start to make noise, Trump responds, “Should I tell you? Should I tell you?” and then proceeds to say:

“You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.”

Is this a version of Trump’s “locker room talk,” that phrase he used to excuse his genital-grabbing comments on the “Access Hollywood” tape? This may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme, but it matters. The fact that its shelf life felt like only a few hours before the next outrage underscores the degree to which our national consciousness is being barraged by the man’s violations.

But yes, it matters too, just as Trump’s obsession with Obama and Clinton matters.

Also, his public trolling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions matters. The fact that he’s enraged at Sessions for taking the appropriate ethical step and recusing himself from the Russia investigation matters. The fact that Trump essentially told The New York Times on the record that he would not have chosen Sessions if he’d known Sessions wouldn’t have stood firm in protection of him, matters.

Trump’s continuous attacks on the media matter.

His pushing of the Republicans’ callous Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan — a plan that would strip health insurance coverage from tens of millions of Americans, and a plan that Trump has demonstrated no particular policy knowledge of — matters.

Trump’s tweet yesterday — on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman desegregating the armed forces, no less — that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” matters. There are thousands of trans people already serving in the military. The idea that a man with five draft deferments would dictate that people who volunteer to serve should not be allowed to is beyond outrageous — and it matters.

Trump’s pushing us closer to international military conflict matters.

And yes, the plodding Russia investigation, which to Trump is an agitation and threat, like an irremovable thorn in his flesh, matters.

This has come as a great shock and demoralizer to many Americans, not necessarily because they didn’t think Trump was capable of such depravity, but because they simply were unprepared for the daily reality of living a nightmare.

There is an enduring expectation, particularly among American liberals, that progress in this society should move inexorably toward more openness, honesty and equality. But even the historical record doesn’t support that expectation.

In reality, America regularly experiences bouts of regression, but fortunately, it is in those regressive periods that some of our greatest movements and greatest voices had found their footing.

President Andrew Jackson’s atrocious American Indian removal program gave us the powerful Cherokee memorial letters. The standoff at Standing Rock gave us what the BBC called “the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years.”

Crackdowns on gay bars gave us the Stonewall uprising. America’s inept response to the AIDS epidemic gave us Act Up and Larry Kramer. California’s Proposition 8 breathed new life into the fight for marriage equality and led to a victory in the Supreme Court.

The racial terror that followed the Emancipation Proclamation gave us the anti-lynching movement, the N.A.A.C.P., W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells and James Weldon Johnson.

Jim Crow gave us the civil rights movement, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Congressman John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer and James Baldwin.

The latest rash of extrajudicial killing of black people gave us Black Lives Matter.

The financial crisis and the government’s completely inadequate response to it gave us Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent.

A renewed assault on women’s rights, particularly a woman’s right to choose, gave us, at least in part, the Women’s March, likely the largest march in American history.

This is not an exhaustive list, but just some notable examples.

It is a way of illustrating that the fiery crucible is where the weapons of resistance are forged; it is where the mettle of those crusading for justice, equality and progress are tested.

Unlike the examples listed above, Trump’s assault is intersectional and nearly universal. Multiple populations are being assaulted at once, across race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual identity.

So, in this moment of regression, all the targets of Trump’s ire must push back with a united front, before it is too late.

As Martin Niemöller so famously put it:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Now here’s Mr. Kristof, writing from Wise, VA:

For a man who needed 18 teeth pulled, Daniel Smith was looking chipper.

Anxious, too, for he was facing a pair of forceps. But Smith, 30, a contractor with no health or dental insurance, who hadn’t seen a dentist in more than 20 years, was looking forward to an imminent end to the pain and rot in his mouth.

“I’ve always worked, since I was 14, but I’ve never had dental insurance,” Smith told me. After his teeth are out, he has a lead on low-cost dentures.

“I’d like to have a straight smile,” he said. “I’ve never had one in my life.”

All around Smith were uninsured patients receiving free dental or medical care, including dozens of men and women in side-by-side dental chairs in the open air. Organizers mercifully arranged the long line of people waiting to have teeth pulled so that they were facing away from those currently enduring extractions.

The patients swamped the county fairground here for a three-day health extravaganza of free care organized by Remote Area Medical, an aid group that holds these events across the country. This one involved about 1,400 volunteers serving 2,300 men and women who needed care of every kind.

Some patients camped out for three days at the fairground gate before the clinic opened to make sure they would be treated.

The health fair reminded me of scenes I’ve witnessed in refugee camps in South Sudan. But here in America?

The sight is a wrenching reminder of how many Americans slip through the cracks. No other advanced country permits this level of suffering — and if the G.O.P. health care plan goes through, millions more will lose their health coverage.

“Walking around, listening to people, it breaks your heart,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, whom I encountered on the fairground. “We need a healthy work force, and this is a disgrace.”

“Shame on us as a nation,” McAuliffe added. “This is an embarrassment to our country.”

That’s what I feel, too: humiliation that Americans need to be rescued by a group originally intended to help people in the world’s poorest countries (mixed with pride at the altruistic spirit that attracted so many volunteers, paying their own expenses to come here). To me, the fundamental lesson is that even under Obamacare, too many people don’t have coverage, and we urgently need a single-payer universal health care system along the lines of Medicare for all.

Remote Area Medical is the brainchild of Stan Brock, 81, a onetime British cowboy who in the 1950s managed one of the world’s biggest ranches, overseeing 50,000 cattle in Guyana in South America.

When he was badly injured by a wild horse, Brock was told it would be a 26-day hike to the nearest doctor. So he recovered on his own — but began to think about supplying health care to deprived areas.

Brock ended up founding Remote Area Medical to work in places like the Amazon, Haiti and Uganda. But then one day he had a call from Sneedville, Tenn., where the hospital had just closed and the dentist moved out. “Can you come here?” the caller asked.

Brock loaded a dental chair on the back of a pickup truck and brought in a dentist as well — and 150 people lined up, desperate for oral care. The result is that while it continues some international work, Remote Area Medical also treats people in the world’s superpower.

Brock is a character: He discovered a species of bat that is named for him, and today he has no home but unrolls a pad each evening and sleeps on the floor of Remote Area Medical’s permanent offices in Tennessee. At 5 a.m. on the first day here, Brock opened the gate and began admitting people eager for care.

As they surged past, many stopped to thank him; one man had tears in his eyes as he did so.

“I wish Mr. Trump would come,” Brock told me. “The health of these people is appalling.”

Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid have helped, but this health fair underscores glaring gaps in American coverage, especially for dental and vision care, in ways that affect us all.

In the vision tent, a patient couldn’t see even the biggest letter at the top of the eye chart. As he waited for glasses, a volunteer asked, “And how did you get here?”

“Oh, I drove.”

Jennifer Jolliffee, a volunteer, told of a 6-year-old boy who had behavioral problems, couldn’t read and struggled at school. Then he had his first vision screening, and his parents learned that he could barely see. Soon he was looking around in wonderment through glasses.

In another area of the fairground, doctors saw patients in private “rooms” created by sheets dangled from strings with clothespins. In one such room, Dr. Ross Isaacs saw William Powers, a former bulldozer operator with severe kidney problems, and outlined how Powers could maximize his chances of a kidney transplant. “I’ve got hope again,” Powers told me as he left.

As for Dr. Isaacs, he put it this way: “The success of this event is an indictment of our health care system.”

And I wonder how many of the people treated there voted for Trump, because of “economic anxiety.”  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Pick your favorite irony:

1) Donald Trump turns out to be terrible at firing people.

2) The White House celebrates its “American Heroes Week” by banning transgender volunteers from serving in the military.

3) Thanks to the president’s harangues, we are actually starting to feel sympathy for Jeff Sessions.

I can definitely understand if you want to pick No. 2, especially since Trump just finished observing “Made in America Week” with an application to hire 70 foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago.

But let’s talk for a minute about the way our president gets rid of unwanted members of his administration. It’s a monument to passive-aggressive ineptitude. With Sessions, Trump has been broadcasting his displeasure to the world for more than a week without making the obvious follow-through.

And this was the guy who made “You’re fired!” his calling card. Clearly, he brought a lot of fiction to reality TV. Clay Aiken, a onetime contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” recently told an interviewer that Trump actually “didn’t decide who got fired on ‘Apprentice,’” and had to be fed his lines by producers.

Not exactly a shock, but watching the president in action over recent weeks, you have to wonder how he’d have functioned if he ran that show without prompting.

On Sunday, “Celebrity Apprentice” promises “fireworks” when Donald Trump tells other people he has no confidence in Rhoda, the beleaguered fashion model and ferret breeder. It will be the seventh week in which the real estate superstar has said unpleasant things about Rhoda to her friends, family and American viewers. Tension rises as contestants wait to see if their mentor will continue his strategy or send a bodyguard to deliver the bad news to Rhoda in person.

Trump’s attempts to drive Sessions out of office without actually confronting him began last week with his famous New York Times interview and then escalated through press conferences and the social media (“VERY weak”). In one tweet Trump referred to Sessions as “our beleaguered A.G.” Now “beleaguered” means under attack, and this was sort of like taking a jackhammer to the street in front of your house and then complaining to the city about potholes.

On another occasion Trump said he was “disappointed” in Sessions. This was during a press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in which the president took a few questions after praising Hariri for being “on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah.” Carping minds noted that Hariri actually has a power-sharing arrangement with Hezbollah, which controls most of the people in his cabinet. But if you wanted a president who was going to split hairs, you should have voted for somebody else.

O.K., I know, I know.

Trump appears completely unaware that he’s beginning to look like the worst terminator in history. Introducing Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, at an event this week, the president jovially said that Price had better get the health care bill passed through Congress, “otherwise, I’ll say: ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ I’ll get somebody.”

This was at that Boy Scouts jamboree when Trump did such a great job of impersonating your Uncle Fred Who Gets Drunk at Family Dinners. How many of you think the Boy Scouts have been yearning for the day when the president would come to their big event, tell the teens that their federal government is a “sewer,” recount a long and incoherent story about a real estate developer who went off to make whoopee on his yacht, and brag incessantly about having won the election? On the plus side, Trump did not misrepresent the Scout position on Hezbollah.

Trump has been complaining a lot about Sessions’s lack of loyalty, which might have confused people who remembered that Sessions was the first senator to endorse his presidential campaign, back in February of 2016. You’d think that standing up to fellow Republicans who regarded Trump as a dangerous lunatic should have merited a little bit of long-run gratitude.

Trump cleared all that up, however, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal where he explained that Sessions’s endorsement was “not like a great loyal thing,” but merely an insignificant politician trying to feed off his star power and crowd-drawing charisma. (“He was a senator from Alabama. … He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me.”)

Now Trump wants Sessions gone so he can replace him with an attorney general who will fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions can’t do it because he recused himself from all things Russia-related.

Mueller’s probe into the Trump camp’s relationship with Russia terrifies the president, especially if it involves an investigation of Trump family finances. So obviously, we are rooting for Sessions to stay right where he is … and, um, keep persecuting immigrants, ratchet up imprisonments for nonviolent crimes and maybe go back to his old dream of imposing the death penalty on marijuana dealers.

Well, I told you this was about irony.

Blow and Krugman

July 24, 2017

In “The Kook, ‘the Mooch’ and the Loot” Mr. Blow says the communications problem in this administration is that no one cares about the truth.  Prof. Krugman tells us “Health Care Is Still in Danger” and that the cruelty remains, and the lies just keep coming.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Friday, a “president” with no political experience brought on a communications director with no communications experience.

Trump tapped Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street snake investment huckster, to be the new communications director, a move that caused Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who The New York Times reported“vehemently disagreed with the appointment,” to resign.

So, let me get this straight: Spicer was just fine with regularly walking out to that podium to spew and spin Trump’s lies, but hiring “the Mooch,” as Scaramucci is known, was the back-breaker? O.K., whatever, Sean.

This illustrates best what is wrong with this communications shop, and by extension, this administration: No one is concerned with the truth; they are only concerned with their own trajectories.

Nothing about this White House communications department was ever about communicating. On the contrary, it has always been about deception, concealment and equivocation. Informing the public was never the mission. Flattering Trump was the mission. But in the end, Trump will never be satisfied, because successful communications for him is to get people to buy his pack of lies, and that isn’t really working the way it once did.

Nothing will change with jthe arrival of the Mooch Communications Office because nothing has changed about the kook in the Oval Office. (Some may find that descriptor harsh, but I find no appellation too coarse to express my outrage over Trump’s character, behavior and agenda. If anything, no word feels grave enough to properly express it.)

Trump is suffering horrendous approval ratings, an impotent legislative agenda and his irrepressible impulse to shove his foot in his mouth. There is no real way to better package this disaster.

For that reason, I found this shake-up far less interesting than the developments last week about the inexorably advancing Russia investigation.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not interested in palace intrigue; I’m interested in the increasing possibility of prison and maybe even impeachment.

Think about all that happened last week: Donald Trump Jr. and the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were invited to testify in open session before the Senate Judiciary Committee about that shady meeting they had in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer. And Trump gave an astoundingly bizarre interview to The New York Times in which he publicly slammed his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and drew a “red line,” warning that Mueller should not investigate the Trump family’s business dealings.

Reuters reported: “The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election counted Russia’s F.S.B. security service among her clients for years, Russian court documents seen by Reuters show.”

The Times also reported: “Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly.”

The Times report continued: “Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.”

Not only did NBC report that “Marc Kasowitz is no longer leading the president’s group of private lawyers,” Politico reported that Mark Corallo, spokesman for the Trump legal team, resigned because he “was concerned about whether he was being told the truth about various matters.”

If people on Trump’s legal payroll are worried that they aren’t being told the truth, how worried should the rest of us be? Very, I would venture.

Then there was the Washington Post report: “Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut” Mueller’s Russia investigation, “building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.”

The Post continued: “Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people.”

I understand the press giving a lot of attention to the drama of changing press people, but that doesn’t even register against the import of what’s happening on the Russia investigation front.

All those things that have never made sense — Trump’s warm-and-fuzzies for Vladimir Putin, the mass amnesia about meetings with Russians by people connected to the Trump campaign, Trump’s prickly protectiveness about releasing financial details and documents, including his tax returns — must be made to make sense.

Mueller will not be threatened, the investigation will not be closed or constricted and the truth will be known. Incriminating personal communications are often hard to find, but financial records are often also kept by third parties and tell their own story.

As they say, follow the money.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Will Senate Republicans try to destroy health care under cover of a constitutional crisis? That’s a serious question, based in part on what happened in the House earlier this year.

As you may remember, back in March attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act seemed dead after the Congressional Budget Office released a devastating assessment, concluding that the House Republican bill would lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans. Faced with intense media scrutiny and an outpouring of public opposition, House leaders pulled their bill, and the debate seemed over.

But then media attention moved on to presidential tweets and other outrages — and with the spotlight off, House leaders bullied and bribed enough holdouts to narrowly pass a bill after all.

Could something similar happen in the Senate? A few days ago the Senate’s equally awful version of repeal and replace — which the C.B.O. says would leave an extra 22 million people uninsured — seemed dead. And media attention has visibly shifted off the subject, focusing on juicier topics like the Russia-Trump story.

This shift in focus is understandable. After all, there is growing evidence that members of the Trump inner circle did indeed collude with Russia during the election; meanwhile, Trump’s statements and tweets strongly suggest that he’s willing both to abuse his pardon power and to fire Robert Mueller, provoking a constitutional crisis, rather than allow investigation into this scandal to proceed.

But while these developments dominate the news, neither Mitch McConnell nor the White House have given up on their efforts to deprive millions of health care. In fact, on Saturday the tweeter-in-chief, once again breaking long-established rules of decorum, called on the audience at a military ceremony, the commissioning of a new aircraft carrier, to pressure the Senate to pass that bill.

This has many people I know worried that we may see a repeat of what happened in the spring: with the media spotlight shining elsewhere, the usual suspects may ram a horrible bill through. And the House would quickly pass whatever the Senate comes up with. So this is actually a moment of great risk.

One particular concern is that the latest round of falsehoods about health care, combined with the defamation of the C.B.O., may be gaining some political traction.

At this point the more or less official G.O.P. line is that the budget office — whose director, by the way, was picked by the Republicans themselves — can’t be trusted. (This attack provoked an open letter of protest signed by every former C.B.O. director, Republicans and Democrats alike.) In particular, the claim is that its prediction of huge losses in coverage is outlandish, and that to the extent that fewer people would be covered, it would be due to their voluntary choices.

In reality, those C.B.O. predictions of coverage losses are totally reasonable, given the Senate bill’s drastic cuts to Medicaid — 26 percent by 2026, and even deeper in the next decade. You have to wonder how someone like Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia could even consider supporting this bill, when 34 percent of her nonelderly constituents are on Medicaid. The same goes for Jeff Flake of Arizona, where the corresponding number is 29 percent.

And on those claims that it’s O.K. if people drop coverage, because that would be their own choice: It’s crucial to realize that the Senate bill would degrade the quality of subsidized private insurance, leading to a huge rise in deductibles.

Current law provides enough in subsidies that an individual with an income of $26,500 can afford a plan covering 70 percent of medical expenses, which, the C.B.O. estimates, implies an $800 deductible. The Senate bill reduces that standard of coverage to 58 percent, which would raise the implied deductible to $13,000, making the insurance effectively useless. Would deciding not to buy that useless insurance really be a “choice”?

By the way, remember when Republicans like Paul Ryan used to denounce Obamacare because the insurance policies it offered had high deductibles? It’s hypocrisy all the way down.

In short, the Senate bill is every bit as cruel and grotesque as its critics say. But we need to keep reminding wavering senators and their constituents of that fact, lest they be snowed by a blizzard of lies.

I’m not saying that everyone should ignore Trump-Putin-treason and all its ramifications: Clearly, the fate of our democracy is on the line. But we mustn’t let this mother of all scandals take up all our mental bandwidth: Health care for millions is also on the line.

And while ordinary citizens can’t yet do much about the looming constitutional crisis, their calls, letters, and protests can still make all the difference on health care. Don’t let the bad guys in the Senate do terrible things because you weren’t paying attention!