The increasingly incompetent, ignorant and immoral actions by the corrupt president Donald Trump in Syria finalizes his efforts to destroy America’s foreign policy and turn the nation’s back on its allies.
Until now, it was possible to hope that the damage caused by President Trump’s terrible incompetence, ignorance and impulsivity in foreign policy was largely theoretical, and possibly reparable. That is no longer true. The cost of his latest Syria blunder is unfolding before our eyes: Innocent lives lost. U.S. servicemen and -women betrayed. Butchering dictators emboldened. Dangerous terrorists set free. A ghastly scene is playing out, and it almost surely will get worse.
Mr. Trump — with no consideration, no warning, no consultation with allies, no regard for the other nations that have fought alongside the United States and risked their men and women in the fight — has turned tail. In the past two years, courageous U.S. troops cooperated with our Kurdish allies to defeat the deadly Islamic State caliphate. These allies lost more than 11,000 men and women killed; the United States, a dozen. It was a rare U.S. success in the Middle East.
The president has thrown it all away. His surrender is so hasty that U.S. forces could not execute a long-standing plan to take dozens of high-profile Islamic State detainees with them; we can expect to hear from those terrorists before long, in the region, in Europe or in the United States. The Islamic State is likely to exert its malign force again. The allies who fought alongside us are being slaughtered, and noncombatant women and children, too. Iran is strengthened, which threatens Israel. The murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is strengthened, too. Russia is taking charge. America’s adversaries could not have scripted a better outcome.
In Syria, U.S. soldiers ordered to pack up and leave calls the order “a dagger to the heart to walk away from people who shed blood for us.”
“It will go down in infamy,” an Army officer who served in the Syria campaign told David Ignatius, who covered the efforts in Syria for The Post. “This will go down as a stain on the American reputation for decades.”
“What do these American soldiers feel as they watch Trump retreat from the Syrian battlefield and leave their former comrades to die? They feel sick,” Ignatius writes.
“For these soldiers, abandoning an ally on the battlefield is about the worst thing that can happen,” he adds.
To make matters worse, the orders to pull out come from a disgraced president who allies himself with vicious dictators who are enemies of the United States.
In other words, the actions of a traitor who betrayed the Constitution, the nation and the allies who trusted us.
Consider this: Donald Trump may not want to remain president of the United States, and he privately hopes impeachment removes him from office before the 2020 election hands him the one thing he cannot abide: A loss.
Losing is alien to Trump’s massive ego. Even when he loses, he claims a win.
But removal from office by Congress give him a platform upon which he can start a new, Trump-praising cable TV news service, and use it to build more power as a dissident.
Impossible? Maybe not.
Nancy Gibbs, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, suggests just such a scenario.
What if the president wants out? There’s much about the job he never liked, which is one reason he spends so much time watching TV rather than actually doing it. Under normal circumstances, it involves any number of things he once avoided; shaking hands with germy people, being talked at by experts who know more than he, sitting still for extended periods, being criticized no matter what he does, empathizing — all important parts of the job. He has gone to considerable lengths to reshape the role, fired the experts, cleared his schedule, kept up his golf game … but still. The campaigning was fun, but the best evidence of how little he likes presiding is how seldom he’s actually done it.
Trump escapes the frustration of failing to accomplish his agenda by not having ever had one, beyond his continued exaltation. He could count this moment as a high point: record-low unemployment, still soaring stock markets, judicial transformation. It’s easy to imagine it’s all downhill — and fast — from here. His confidence in his supreme wisdom leads him to make even reckless decisions, such as his abandonment of America’s trust with its Kurdish partners, with no evidence of regret or remorse other than disliking the criticism for doing it. But ever since the Ukraine scandal erupted, his rage-tweeting and Wagnerian self-pity suggest that the incoming fire for his misconduct, occasionally even from his defenders and enablers, has made these days even less fun than usual.
All of which raises the question: the release of the Ukraine information, the double-dare-you defiance of congressional oversight, the sellout in Syria, even the rising profanity of his Twitter stream each seem expertly suited to inflaming one constituency or another, and not just the people who have loathed him from Day One. The polls are moving for a reason: Republicans and independents, even those serving in Congress, may not agree where the line is, but they know there’s one somewhere, and it does not involve a shooting on Fifth Avenue.
Consciously or not, might he conclude that impeachment and removal is his least bad option for escaping the “great white jail”? Resigning is out; that’s for quitters. Defeat in 2020 is worse; losing is for losers. But being impeached and removed from office is the one outcome that preserves at least some ability to denounce the deep state and the quislings in the Senate who stabbed him in the back, maintain his bond with his tribe, depart the capital and launch a media business to compete with the ever more flaccid Fox News. (This all presumes that President Pence pardons him, for which there’s some precedent.) Impeachment lets him go down fighting, and he will call it rigged and unfair and illegitimate and a coup, all of which would be harder if the verdict was rendered next November by millions of voters.
Gibbs, a former managing editor at Time magazine, says we should look for signs that Trump want out. If we see Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump leave Washington and return to Manhattan would be a big sign. Trump renaming Reagan National Airport after himself is another (which fits into Trump’s massive ego and one to piss off the Republicans who still kowtow to him) is another.
When you think about it, with a choice of bad options, impeachment doesn’t look so bad, and gets you home to your gilded tower sooner. Assuming, that is, that you don’t think you can just burn the Constitution to the ground and be the last one standing.
Three mental health professionals say, without hesitation, America’s questionable president, Donald John Trump, “is mentally unfit” and add that no further exam is needed to prove their point.
Leonard L. Glass, professor at Harvard Medical School, Brandy X. Lee of Yale School of Medicine and Edwin B. Fisher of Global Public Health of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, wrote “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” two years ago and issued a new statement this week reconfirming their findings.
As mental health professionals, we have felt a duty to address a public health crisis: a mentally unfit person in charge of the world’s most powerful military and its nuclear weapons. We have found ample evidence of his instability and grandiosity in the president’s own words and public statements, most recently confirmed in his referring to “my great and unmatched wisdom,” coupled with yet another threat to “totally destroy and obliterate” a foreign country.
Mr. Trump’s now familiar affinity for violence is manifest in his verbal threats and his incitement to violence at his rallies. He reacts viscerally and without reflection or consultation, now claiming “treason” and an attempted “coup.” As he confronts the humiliating prospect of impeachment, his psychological deterioration represents a clear and imminent risk.
And they conclude:
Our observations are not “diagnosing” and do not refer to mental illness; rather, they speak to a lack of fitness that can be determined based on sufficient sources outside of a personal examination.
Those who witness the unstable actions of Trump in recent weeks, and his fits of insanity, should agree.
The man is a lunatic who must be removed from office. He has destroyed the democratic republic of America, turned our nation into a laughingstock around the world, and presides over a disturbing maniacal monarchy that should be alien to all Americans who adhere to a Constitution that is being shredded and ignored.
President Donald Trump Tuesday declared himself above the law and is refusing to cooperate or even acknowledge the impeachment inquiry by the Congressional House or Representatives.
“To fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the executive branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone claimed in a scathing eight-page letter to top congressional Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is not surprise or deterred by Trump’s latest antics.
“The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the President’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction,” Pelosi’s response said in a statement. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”
Trump’s actions come as new polls show growing support for the impeachment inquiry. A new poll from Washington Post-School says a clear majority of Americans now endorse the decision by House Democrats and close to half of all adults say Congress should move to remove Trump from office.
Legal scholars note that the letter from the White House counsel “lacks substantive legal arguments” and repeats Trump’s “political broadsides” instead of valid claims. House Democrats say his failure to comply with the legal requests for information bolsters their case for at least one article of impeachment.
Trump’s latest actions come just a week he promised to cooperate with the inquiry.
“I always cooperate,” he said. “We’ll work together.”
Instead, the White House blocked an appearance Tuesday of Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, to testify on the impeachment inquiry.
The White House has put “a full halt” on any cooperation.
“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify,” the president wrote on Twitter Tuesday, “but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away.”
House leaders responded with a subpoena ordering Sondland to appear next week and turn over documents they are seeking.
“The president is obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we need,” Pelosi told reporters. “It is an abuse of power for him to act in this way.”
Text messages provided to Congress last week shows Sondland worked with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on a statement for the president of Ukraine committing to an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden while Trump was holding up $391 million in security aid to the country as leverage.
That effort led to the top American diplomat based in Ukraine to question Trump’s actions.
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” William B. Taylor Jr., the diplomat, wrote in early September.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin later told The Wall Street Journal that Sondland confirmed to him that release of the aid was contingent upon Ukraine opening the investigation of Biden.
Robert Luskin, Sondland’s lawyer, said Tuesday that his client, as a State Department employee had to comply with Trump’s demand that he not testify, but added that Sondland was “profoundly disappointed” that he not allowed to appear and promised he would do o “in the future if allowed.”
“We were looking forward to hearing from Ambassador Sondland,” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee.
Legal experts say Trump is on thin ice by trying to block what is considered a legal Congressional impeachment inquiry.
“I think the goal of this letter is to further inflame the president’s supporters and attempt to delegitimize the process in the eyes of his supporters,” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, tells The Associated Press. “It does not strike me as an effort to provide sober legal analysis.”
Philadelphia attorney Gregg Nunziata calls the White House letter a “direct assault on the very legitimacy of Congress’ oversight authority.”
“The Founders very deliberately chose to put the impeachment power in a political branch rather the Supreme Court,” Nunziata told The Associated Press. “They wanted this to be a political process and it is.”
University of Louisiana political science professor G. Pearson Cross calls the latter “an accelerant on a smoldering fire.”
“It’s a response that seems to welcome a constitutional crisis rather than defusing one or pointing toward some strategy that would deescalate the situation,” Cross added.
A whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump’s dealings with the new president of Ukraine lays out concerns about multiple actions taken by the Trump White House and its allies that suggest the president was using his office “to solicit interference from a foreign country” to boost his reelection prospects. The complaint, written by an unidentified member of the U.S. intelligence community, was released Thursday. The House Intelligence Committee grilled the acting U.S. spy chief on details of the redacted complaint.
A few key takeaways from the complaint and the hearing:
IT’S ABOUT FAR MORE THAN JUST THAT CALL
The complaint discusses a July 25 phone call in which Trump prodded Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to dig up dirt on the son of Democratic rival Joe Biden.
But it goes well beyond the call. For example, the complaint details how Ukrainian leaders met with the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations and others on how to “navigate” the demands made by Trump. Giuliani met with Ukraine advisers in August as a “direct follow-up” to the call.
A COVER-UP IS ALLEGED
The complaint says that in the days after the July 25 phone call, the whistleblower learned that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the call, especially the rough transcript produced by note-takers in the White House Situation Room.
White House officials told the whistleblower they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system where such records are typically stored.
“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the report said.
The officials raised concerns that the transcript was moved to a separate computer system. White House officials told the whistleblower that “this was ‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information,” the complaint said.
RUDY, RUDY, RUDY
“The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort.”
The report says that many U.S. officials told the whistleblower that they were deeply concerned about Giuliani’s efforts to circumvent the national security decision-making process to engage Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth.
In the call, Trump prodded Zelenskiy to work with Giuliani and Barr to investigate Biden and said that Giuliani would be calling him.
The whistleblower said in the complaint that Giuliani traveled to Spain in early August to meet with one of Zelenskiy’s advisers and that U.S. officials characterized the meeting to the whistleblower as a “direct follow-up” to Trump’s call.
The complaint also states that several U.S. officials told the whistleblower that Giuliani had privately reached out to other advisers to the Ukrainian leader.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Giuliani said that he had spoken to a Ukrainian official at the request of Trump’s State Department.
CAN’T EXPLAIN THE MONEY
The whistleblower said the National Security Council and Office of Management and Budget didn’t know why Trump held up millions of dollars in aid for Ukraine.
A few days before his call with Zelenskiy, Trump ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. The president said he did so to fight corruption and urge European nations to do more to help Ukraine.
The whistleblower alleges in the complaint that in two separate meetings in July, OMB officials said Trump had personally directed the money to be frozen but that they “were unaware of a policy rationale” for the decision.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER MUST BE PROTECTED
Joseph Maguire, the acting national intelligence director, repeatedly defended the whistleblower during Thursday’s hearing and insisted the person would be protected if that person wanted to appear before Congress. Maguire said he does not know the whistleblower’s identity.
It was a stark contrast from Trump’s characterization in a tweet last week that the person was “highly partisan.”
Maguire said the U.S. “must protect those who demonstrate courage to report alleged wrongdoing.”
“I think the whistleblower did the right thing,” he said at one point.
Maguire also told members of the House committee that he was working with the whistleblower’s lawyers to ensure they could appear before Congress and he pledged not to take any action to block their testimony.
PICK YOUR SPIN
The House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and other Democrats played up the urgency of the complaint and allegations that Maguire delayed it by going first to the White House and Justice Department before handing it over to Congress. Schiff said the account of Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s leader detailed by the whistleblower “reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.”
Republicans zeroed in the fact that that whistleblower’s account was based on secondhand information from other White House and administration officials. They dismissed Democrats’ concerns as conspiracy theories.
Trump tweeted his own review after the hearing: “Adam Schiff has zero credibility. Another fantasy to hurt the Republican Party!”
A whistleblower’s complaint over President Donald Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader is testing the political and practical power Democrats can use against a Republican in the White House who so brazenly ignores protocol and presidential norms.
Democrats were unanimous in their condemnation of Trump for going to extraordinary lengths to tear down a chief political rival by asking the new leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. But even as calls for impeachment amplified — Elizabeth Warren blasted Congress as “complicit” in Trump’s transgressions — there were no signs that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would move quickly to try to remove the president.
Allies of Biden, the early front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, seized on the developments to portray him as the candidate Trump least wants to face next fall.
But the controversy could just as easily revive interest in the business activities of Biden’s son, which would do little to further his campaign. Taken together, the developments bear a striking resemblance to the tumult of the 2016 campaign, in which Trump was accused of enlisting a foreign power to help him win an election.
The president on Saturday denied any wrongdoing, and his most vocal allies and critics were energized. Political operatives in both parties suggested that for many increasingly numb to a constant sense of crisis, the fresh explosion of political drama may not seem so alarming.
One thing is becoming clear: Trump is more than willing to cast aside norms to gain a political advantage.
Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and former top aide to Hillary Clinton, said the country “has to be ready for the president to try to weaponize the government against them in a way we’ve never seen before in American history.”
The president on Saturday embraced the parallels to the 2016 campaign and predicted he would prevail again in 2020.
Trump said the latest allegations from a government whistleblower are “just as ridiculous as the others,” branding it “the Ukraine Witch Hunt” — a nod to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which he mocked as a “witch hunt.”
“Will fail again!” Trump tweeted.
The complaint from the intelligence community whistleblower is based on a series of events, including what sources now say is Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The conversation happened on July 25, just a day after Mueller wrapped up his own work by testifying on Capitol Hill.
Trump urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of Biden’s son Hunter, who had worked for a Ukrainian gas company, according to a person who was briefed on the call.
For legal scholars and ethics watchdogs, the interaction between Trump and the foreign leader is seen as nothing less than a pressure campaign that cuts to the core of the nation’s public corruption and bribery laws. It came as the White House was holding up $250 million in military aid for Ukraine. Even if there was no quid-pro-quo from the president, the conversation could be seen by legal experts as improper.
“It appears that the president might have used his official powers — in particular, perhaps the threat of withholding a quarter-billion dollars in military aid — to leverage a foreign government into helping him defeat a potential political opponent in the United States,” wrote lawyer George T. Conway III, who is married to a top Trump adviser, and Neal Katayal, a Georgetown University law professor and former acting solicitor general, in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “If Trump did that, it would be the ultimate impeachable act.”
Campaigning in Iowa on Saturday, Joe Biden said the president “deserves to be investigated,” but he stopped short of calling for impeachment.
“He’s using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me,” Biden told reporters.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Trump’s actions show “Joe Biden is correctly perceived by President Trump as the greatest threat to his re-election.”
It’s less clear whether the situation may ultimately hurt Biden, who has claimed the moral high ground in his 2020 campaign. When speaking about his experience as vice president, Biden often says he’s most proud of the lack of scandal during his eight years in the Obama White House. Trump’s allies hope that the focus on Biden’s involvement in Ukraine may begin to chip away at his squeaky clean image.
“The longer we talk about what the Bidens did in Ukraine, the better,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, who dismissed those who believe Trump will pay a political price for the latest controversy.
The questions about Hunter Biden have circulated for years, particularly in conservative circles, after he was hired in 2014 by Burisma Holdings, whose founder had been a political ally of Russia-friendly former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. At the time questions were raised about whether the Ukrainian firm was seeking to gain influence with the Obama administration through its employment of Joe Biden’s son.
This year, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani revived interest in the issue and said he reached out directly to the Ukrainian government.
Joe Biden said he’s never spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings. Hunter Biden has denied the claims that he used his influence with his father to aid Burisma, saying the criticism is false and stoked by far-right political critics.
While Sen. Warren and other Democrats say there’s no choice but to start impeachment proceedings, other Democrats have been reluctant to launch a process they say could scare away more moderate and centrist voters, especially for lawmakers in Congress.
Pelosi showed no signs of moving off her position that Congress must continue to investigate the administration and not start impeachment proceedings unless the American public demands it. Instead, she said that Trump faces “repercussions” if the whistleblower’s allegations prove true and she said it’s time to change the law to make sure future presidents can be indicted for wrongdoing.
Democratic strategist Jefrey Pollock, who was a pollster for former presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, suggested that the latest explosive allegations against the Republican president would have little impact on the broader 2020 debate.
“To date, no scandal has seemed to impact Donald Trump on its own,” Pollock said. “And the fact that this one involves a political rival I suspect is no different.”
Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe and Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, and Stephen Braun in Washington contributed to this report.
Joe Biden is the Democratic front-runner. And there were moments in Thursday night’s debate when he looked the part.
Standing between a pair of liberal senators offering radical change, he unabashedly embraced his more moderate position on health care, forcefully pressuring Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to level with Americans about the steep cost of implementing a fully government-run system. He was more polished and practiced than in previous contests. And he repeatedly leaned on the legacy of former President Barack Obama, who remains the most popular Democrat in the nation.
“I’m for Barack — I think the Obamacare worked,” he declared.
But the debate was punctuated by moments that highlighted why Biden can’t shake questions about his consistency and whispers about his fitness for office, despite his lead in most national polls and early state surveys. Most glaringly: a meandering answer near the end of the debate about his past statements on racial inequality. Biden said poor parents should play the “record player” for their children before veering off into comments about Venezuela.
Biden’s standing in the Democratic contest is the source of much debate within the party. Is he an experienced elder statesman who can calm an anxious nation and peel back some of the white working class voters who helped send President Donald Trump to the White House? Or is the 76-year-old past his prime and out of step with a party that is growing younger, more diverse and more liberal?
Thursday night’s contest provided fresh fodder for each of those theories.
Biden was at his best in his lengthy exchange with Sanders and Warren over the future of health care in America. He confidently pressed them over the cost of their sweeping “Medicare for All” proposals, exposing Warren’s unwillingness to say whether middle class Americans would see a tax increase under her plan (Sanders says they would, but argues the rise would be offset by lower health care costs).
In a retort to Sanders, who has said he expects employers would pass on health care savings to their workers, Biden exclaimed: “For a socialist you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.”
Biden was the focus of fierce criticism from his rivals in both of the previous Democratic debates. But those attacks did little to diminish Biden’s standing atop polls, nor has a series of verbal flubs and misstatements throughout the summer.
The other reality: The candidates who have launched the sharpest attacks on Biden have gained little ground or already dropped out of the race. Sen. Kamala Harris, for example, bested Biden in the opening debate with a highly personal critique over his decades-old position on federally mandated school busing, but any boost for her candidacy was short-lived.
Perhaps mindful of that reality, most candidates sidestepped overt criticism of the vice president in Thursday’s debate.
The one notable exception was Julián Castro, who served as Obama’s housing secretary and is in need of a jolt to break out of the lower tier of candidates. In a highly charged moment, Castro challenged Biden’s memory — a barely veiled reference to questions about the former vice president’s age.
“Are you forgetting already what you just said two minutes ago?” Castro said during an exchange on health care.
In a post-debate interview, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker laid into Biden as well, saying there were many people concerned about Biden’s ability to carry the ball “across the end line without fumbling.”
Castro and Booker were zeroing in on real questions that are being asked about Biden. Is he too old to serve as president? If he were the nominee, would he make a mistake at a critical moment that could clear the way for Trump?
Biden’s stumbles later in the debate magnified those questions. He struggled through an answer about the war in Iraq and gave a grab-bag answer to a question about how to repair the legacy of slavery in America. He appeared to suggest that poorer families needed help learning how to raise their children.
Biden’s supporters argue that ultimately, those answers — and the questions they raise — matter less to voters than their overall impressions of the former vice president. Indeed, there is a deep reservoir of goodwill for Biden in the Democratic Party, shaped in large part by the eight years he served as Obama’s No. 2.
Which leaves little doubt as to why Biden spent much of the debate reminding Americans about those years, urging them to see him as the rightful heir to legacy of the last Democrat to occupy the Oval Office.
“I stand with Barack Obama all eight years — good, bad, indifferent,” Biden said.
Editor’s note: Washington bureau chief Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for AP since 2007. Follow her at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC
“This nonsense has never happened to another President,” claims nonsensical president Donald Trump while bitching about coverage of his mistake claiming Alabama faced potential hurricane damage from Hurricane Dorian and his then dumbfounding attempt to doctor official National Weather Service reports to back up his lie.
Perhaps, Mr. Trump, this happened because we’ve never had such a nonsensical president as you
The weather service had to issue an immediate “fact check” on Trump’s claim to try to avert panic and other problems.
Creating panic, however, is a Trump trademark. So are exaggerations and outright lies to support unfounded claims.
Trump is the president who claimed he had the largest inaugural crowd in American history, a lie easily documented but that did not stop him from sending his former press secretary — the discredited Sean Spicer — into the press room to promote the lie.
As a candidate, he promoted the discredited claim that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had a fake birth certificate and was not American born. He later said he “accepted” the fact that Obama was a citizen, but he never apologized for his lies.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this and similar arguments to Trump’s politics. Trump, according to Trump, is uniquely targeted by the news media, a function of the media’s purported alliance with Trump’s political opponents. The reality, of course, is primarily that Trump is willing to make untrue and misleading claims with far less trepidation than past presidents. Or, really, mayors. Or dog catchers.
Adds James Poniewozik, the chief television critic of The New York Times, who says the real Donald Trump is really nothing more than the reality TV show host he played on TV:
The institution of the office is not changing Donald Trump, because he is already in the sway of another institution. He is governed not by the truisms of past politics but by the imperative of reality TV: never de-escalate and never turn the volume down.
This conveniently echoes the mantra he learned from his early mentor, Roy Cohn: always attack and never apologize. He serves up one “most shocking episode ever” after another, mining uglier pieces of his core each time: progressing from profanity about Haiti and Africa in private to publicly telling four minority American congresswomen, only one of whom was born outside the United States, to “go back” to the countries they came from.
The taunting. The insults. The dog whistles. The dog bullhorns. The “Lock her up” and “Send her back.” All of it follows reality-TV rules. Every season has to top the last. Every fight is necessary, be it against Ilhan Omar or Debra Messing. Every twist must be more shocking, every conflict more vicious, lest the red light grow bored and wink off. The only difference: now there’s no Mark Burnett to impose retroactive logic on the chaos, only press secretaries, pundits and Mike Pence.
To ask whether any of this is “instinct” or “strategy” is a parlor game. If you think like a TV camera — if thinking in those reflexive microbursts of adrenaline and testosterone has served you your whole life — then the instinct is the strategy.
And to ask who the “real” Donald Trump is, is to ignore the obvious. You already know who Donald Trump is. All the evidence you need is right there on your screen. He’s half-man, half-TV, with a camera for an eye that is constantly focused on itself. The red light is pulsing, 24/7, and it does not appear to have an off switch.
And so we repeat to Mr. Trump. You, sir, are the most nonsensical president ever to accidentally occupy the White House in America.
Why don’t you follow the advice you tried to mistakenly give to four American citizens: “Go back to wherever you came from” and crawl back into whatever shit hole you find there.
For all the strategic calculations, sophisticated voter targeting and relentless talk about electability in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential nomination will be determined by a decidedly different group: black voters.
African Americans will watch as mostly white voters in the first two contests express preferences and winnow the field — then they will almost certainly anoint the winner.
So far, that helps explain the front-running status of former Vice President Joe Biden. He has name recognition, a relationship with America’s first black president and decades long Democratic resume. Black voters have long been at the foundation of his support — his home state of Delaware, where he served as a U.S. senator for nearly four decades, is 38 percent black — and until another presidential candidate proves that he or she can beat him, he is likely to maintain that support.
In the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton held a strong lead among black voters over Barack Obama until he stunned her by winning the Iowa caucuses and proved to black voters that he was acceptable to a broad spectrum of Democrats. Those same voters returned to Clinton in 2016.
This cycle, many black voters are also making a pragmatic choice — driven as much or more by who can defeat President Donald Trump as the issues they care about — and sitting back to see which candidate white voters are comfortable with before deciding whom they will back.
At the same time, the early courtship of black voters, overt and subtle, is part of a primary within the primary that includes detailed plans on issues like criminal justice reform, reparations, maternal mortality among black women, voter suppression and systemic racism.
“As black voters and movers and drivers of national politics, our self-image and awareness of our power and influence is evolving,” said Aimee Allison, founder of the She the People network, which hosted the first presidential forum aimed specifically at female voters of color.
Trump appealed to black voters during the 2016 campaign by saying “What the hell do you have to lose?” and ended up with only 8 percent of the black vote. But the Republican president again is saying he will try to win over black voters, frequently citing low unemployment and his own success in signing criminal justice legislation. So far, there is no evidence to suggest that he will succeed.
But the first test of the decisiveness of black voters will come in the primaries. African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population but 24 percent of the Democratic primary electorate. That number is more formidable in the early primary state of South Carolina, where black voters are two-thirds of primary voters, and in other early voting states like Georgia, Alabama and Virginia.
Biden reminded black reporters in a recent roundtable that his strength is not just with working class whites, but with the black voters he’s known for more than half a century in politics.
“After all this time, they think they have a sense of what my character is and who I am, warts and all,” Biden said. “I’ll be surprised if you find any African Americans that think I’m not in on the deal, that I’m not who I say I am … I’ve never, ever, ever in my entire life been in circumstances where I’ve ever felt uncomfortable being in the black community.”
He acknowledged that his familiarity is no assurance of success. And he noted that black voters may ultimately prefer black candidates like Sens. Kamala Harris of California or Cory Booker of New Jersey. First, though, one of them would have to prove to black voters that they were viable alternatives.
Black voters can be decisive not only in determining the Democrats’ nominee but also the ultimate winner. While Democrats have peaked in recent cycles with white voters at around 40 percent, black voters have been their most loyal constituency.
But in 2016, a drop-off among black voters had consequences. Black voter turnout dropped from 65.3 percent in 2012 to 59.6 percent, and Hillary Clinton received 89 percent of the black vote, compared with 93 percent for Barack Obama in 2012 and 95 percent in 2008.
“It comes down to a strategy decision that campaigns have to make: Do they believe that the way to win the White House is to win white voters, or do they believe that the way to White House is to mobilize voters of color?” said Leah Daughtry, who recently hosted a 2020 Democratic forum for black faith voters in Atlanta.
“Is there a strategy that allows you to do both? Perhaps,” Daughtry said. “But one is a sure bet. If you get us to the polls, we are most likely to vote Democrat. If you get white folks to the polls, you don’t know what they’re going to do.”
In the past, Biden would have been a prohibitive favorite, said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. But black voters are demanding that candidates deliver on their priorities in a way they haven’t done in recent history.
“Black folks are looking to figure out who white voters are going to align with, but I don’t think that’s the driver that it has been in the past,” she continued. “Black voters, like white voters, are increasingly frustrated with the process. No longer is it good enough to choose between the devil or the witch.”
America’s bombastic, and usually lying, president complains over and over that Fox News no longer works for him.
“Fox isn’t working for us anymore,” Donald Trump says in one of his usual tsunami of Twitter “tweets.”
“We have to start looking for a new News outlet,” he adds. “The new Fox News is letting millions of great people down.”
The response by Fox?
“I don’t think Fox cares about Trump’s attacks,” Republican communications consultant Alex Conant, tells the Associated Press. “They just care about their audience.”
Some say this could be just another dog and pony show by Trump and Fox.
“Not for nothing was Donald Trump inducted into the WWE wrestling hall of fame in 2013. The man knows how to stage a fake fight—like his current brawl with the Fox News Channel,” says media writer Jack Shafer of Politico.
It’s possible that Trump is once again laying the groundwork to start his own, Foxier than Fox TV channel or conservative news website—annoyed to have his 2016 campaign plan interrupted by a presidency. But it’s far likelier that this is all make-believe.
Trump so adores Fox that he’s peppered his administration with former Fox News staffers, and five of his former employees have moved on to jobs at Fox or its parent company. Just recently, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, among the most loyal of all Trumpies, took a job as a Fox News contributor.
Trump’s faux-fight with Fox is designed 1) to add drama and excitement to where there is none; 2) make him the primary focus of events; and 3) temporarily complicate the storyline so viewers keep watching. Fox benefits from Trump’s periodic attacks (remember when he boycotted one of Fox’s 2016 presidential debates because it wouldn’t dump Megyn Kelly from the broadcast). They make the channel look like it’s standing up to the president, and Fox ends up looking more independent and credible.
Is is possible to make Fox look either independent or credible?
We doubt either is possible. Watch the Showtime series, “The Loudest Voice,” about how Roger Ailes took time from molesting female staffers to turn Fox into a right-wing shill operation that is better called “faux news.”
It depicts Ailes for what he was: An obnoxious pig who knew that lies could become “facts” when presented as news. He fed the birtherism fantasies of Donald Trump, lied outright when it served his purpose and turned cable news into a carnival of misinformation fed to a cult like audience.
During my time on the dark side of political activity, I worked with Ailes on campaign spots for GOP candidates in the 1986 elections. He was a pig then.
“One time he asked me if I was wearing underwear, and was he going to see anything ‘good,’” a former Fox News employee told investigators who were hired by Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch to look into Ailes’ behavior. “It’s happened to me and lots of other women… He’s a disgusting pig.”
Other staff members said Ailes judged a female news anchor’s talent by the amount of skin she was willing to display on camera. One said he ran Fox News “like his personal fiefdom The about showing lots of bare legs on screen was not a secret. It was open company policy.”
Gretchen Carlson, the fired news anchor whose lawsuit started Ailes’ journey to the exit door at Fox, said Ailes wanted sex on his terms and whenever he felt he needed it.
Randi Harrison, a segment producer hired by Ailes, asked for a higher salary.
If you agree to have sex with me whenever I want I will add an extra hundred dollars a week.
“I was in tears by the time I hit the street,” she said.