Trump’s latest stunt pisses off both sides

The latest ploy to ensure partisan discord by Donald is not sitting well with Republicans or Democrats. While it may play well with his extremist “base,” it does not do so with the leadership of both parties in Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking elected Jew in America says Trump’s encouragement to Isreal to ban two Muslim Democratic members of Congress from visiting the country “will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support in America.”

“Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength,” Schumer adds.

Trump urged Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting Israel this weekend.  Netanyahu originally approved the visit but reversed himself at Trump’s urging.

Adds The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the strongest lobbyists for Israel:

We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.

Trump claims that anyone who disagrees with his actions on Israel is “anti-Semitic.”

But those who are critical of Trump say he has crossed a dangerous threshold in diplomacy.

Notes Matthew Dallek, a political historian at George Washington University:

It’s both a sign of deep insecurity on his part and also just a litany of abuse of power. I don’t think anyone really has done it as consistently or as viciously as Trump has. No one has used the power of the bully pulpit in such a public way.

That, says The Washington Post, is typical Trump:

By pressuring the Israeli government to bar entry by two members of Congress, President Trump once again used the power and platform of his office to punish his political rivals.

It’s a pattern that has intensified during the first two and a half years of Trump’s presidency, as he has increasingly governed to the tune of his grievances.

The president has grounded a military jet set for use by the Democratic House speaker, yanked a security clearance from a former CIA director critical of him, threatened to withhold disaster aid from states led by Democrats, pushed to reopen a criminal investigation targeting Hillary Clinton and publicly called for federal action to punish technology and media companies he views as biased against him.

Tweets Trump:

Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!

Trump knows a lot about hate.  It dispenses his hatred, racism, bigotry and homophobia at will.

“He’s willing to break any norm and abuse any power to cater to his most hard-right supporters,” Dallek tells The Post.

A lawsuit filed by Andrew McCabe, former acting director of the FBI, says Trump abused his power tie and again to force out any Justice Department official “not seen as loyal to the president.” Trump fired McCabe just before the longtime official was set to retire with a full pension.

“It was Trump’s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him,” the lawsuit claims.

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, said blocking the admission of the only two Muslim women in Congress, will backfire on Israel.

McFaul tweets:

Trump will not be president forever. The people of Israel who care about preserving US-Israeli ties might want to remind their prime minister of that obvious fact.

Trump doesn’t care.  He has claimed he could gun someone down on the streets of Manhattan and still be re-elected president.

Let’s hope he’s wrong.

Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Dem dilemma: How hard to hit Trump on his racism

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Hillary Clinton took the stage in Reno, Nevada, with an urgent warning about the consequences of a Donald Trump administration: “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of president he’d be.”

Seventy-five days later, Trump would be president-elect.

As a new crop of Democrats competes for the chance to take on Trump in 2020, they are going even further than Clinton did, with some saying the president is a white supremacist. But Clinton’s experience poses difficult questions for the White House hopefuls. Pointing out then-candidate Trump’s racist actions wasn’t enough to defeat him in 2016 — and may not help Democrats next year.

“Hillary Clinton took every sling and arrow imaginable when she called out Trump on his courtship of white supremacy in the 2016 race,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who worked on Clinton’s campaign. “When our campaign named and shamed Trump’s behavior, we were accused of playing the race card. Her predictions may have actually understated how much of an existential crisis the Trump presidency would be for minorities in America.”

The issue has taken on greater urgency this month following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that’s believed to be motivated by racism. The shooting suspect echoed Trump’s warnings of a Latino “invasion.”

Trump insists he’s not a racist and throws the label back at Democrats, accusing them of political correctness and recklessly wielding the term.

Still, Trump gained notoriety in the late 1980s for taking out a newspaper ad calling for the death penalty for five black and Hispanic teenagers who were wrongly convicted of rape. He launched his 2016 campaign with a speech that referred to Mexicans as “rapists” and a pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country. Weeks before the 2016 election, he denigrated cities with large black populations as poor and dangerous, asking black voters, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

In office, he has equated torch-bearing white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, with peaceful protesters opposing their efforts to preserve a Confederate statue. He referred to African and Caribbean nations as “shithole” countries and told four American congresswomen of color to “go back” to countries “from which they came.”

There’s near unanimity among Democrats that candidates can’t ignore Trump’s racist actions. But there is debate over how far to go and whether to focus on more traditional issues like health care, prescription drugs, infrastructure and education.

Candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have agreed that the white supremacist label is appropriate for Trump. Joe Biden accused Trump of “fanning the flames of white supremacy.”

But some Democratic voters questioned whether such labeling might prove counterproductive. After all, Trump supporters wore Clinton’s denunciation of them as “deplorables” as a badge of honor.

“If every candidate jumps on that same bandwagon, it just throws everybody into the same pot,” said Erick McEnaney, 57, of Kansas City, Missouri. “I would refrain from even talking about him, actually. Talk about what’s important to the American people.”

As nearly two dozen candidates swung through Iowa recently, the issue was prominent. Democrats in the state that kicks off the presidential nomination process still take pride in Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa win. That victory proved that a black candidate could win in a state that’s more than 90% white, sealing his status as a viable candidate.

Buttigieg, who has been outspoken on matters of race in the campaign, told a diverse gathering at a house party just outside Des Moines, Iowa, that a “big part of this conversation” regarding race “has to happen with white audiences.”

“White nationalism is a white problem,” said Buttigieg, who is white. “It has victims of color and is wrecking the whole country. But it is a problem among white people, which is why I think somebody who has some of the benefits and advantages of my own profile needs to be out there as vocal as anybody talking about it.”

Karin Derry, a state representative who is white, watched Buttigieg speak from across the room. She questioned whether labeling the president a white supremacist is “particularly helpful,” but welcomed the conversation overall, saying it would resonate in Iowa.

“I want to see them talking about it because quite frankly the way President Trump talks, it’s unacceptable,” said Derry, who hasn’t endorsed a candidate. “I think candidates need to call him out on it.”

During his swing through Iowa, Biden stopped short of directly calling Trump a white supremacist. But he said the “distinction” isn’t as important as how Trump uses the megaphone of the presidency.

That approach was good enough for Vicky Beer, a retired schoolteacher.

“I certainly think you can call him a white supremacist because it might open somebody’s eyes to what he is,” said Beer, 62, who hasn’t yet committed to a candidate for February’s caucus. Still, Beer said she’s not necessarily caught up in how the candidates assail Trump, if they do so.

“It’s a given,” she said, that whichever Democrat emerges as the nominee will “have more authority than he does.”


Associated Press writers Bill Barrow, Alexandra Jaffe and Steven Sloan contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Media challenge: Dealing with a racist president

People visit a makeshift memorial, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, at the site of a mass shooting at a shopping complex, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Revulsion over the weekend’s twin mass shootings and the nagging sense that it’s all an inconclusive rerun has frustrated the news media and those who rely upon it — and triggered the stirrings of a new debate over how such tragedies should be covered.

“It’s time for journalists to take sides,” tweeted prominent Columbia University professor Bill Grueskin, and he’s not just a voice in the wilderness.

News outlets have been dominated by coverage of the shootings that killed 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Editors at The New York Times discovered the extent to which nerves are frayed when they put together the newspaper’s Tuesday edition.

The first edition’s lead headline, “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM,” provoked a social media backlash. Some tweeters said they canceled subscriptions in disgust.

“Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by — and often relies upon — the cowardice of mainstream institutions,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet.

The newspaper called the headline flawed and changed it to, “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS” in later editions and online.

Similarly, The Associated Press got online criticism for using the phrase “mass shootings” to refer to the carnage, with some readers suggesting “murder” was more appropriate. The news service’s rules forbid using the word murder unless an assailant was convicted of a crime.

Fox News’ Shepard Smith wearily captured the impotence of the by-now-rote response to each mass shooting.

“We hear you,” he told viewers in an essay that opened his show Monday. “We heard you the last time. And the time before that and we will likely do it all soon, yet again in America.”

The ritual makes journalism seem futile, said John Temple, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who was a newspaper editor in Colorado at the time of the Columbine shootings.

Journalists feel the need to bear witness, Temple wrote in Atlantic magazine, but to the same horror, again and again?

“I can’t say any more that I believe we learn from terrible things,” Temple said. “I can say that I’ve seen the limits of journalism — and of hope. And I’m struggling with what to do about it.”

The futility led Columbia’s Grueskin, a veteran of the Miami Herald and Wall Street Journal, to suggest taking sides. He said the issue reminds him of the civil rights movement, where the moral importance led many reporters to cast aside doubt as to who was right and wrong.

Gun violence and climate change are issues that deserve the same treatment today, he said.

“Politicians who are too craven or mealy-mouthed to acknowledge the depth and breadth of these problems, and the need to enact serious reforms, will someday be looked upon the way we now think of Strom Thurmond or James Eastland,” Grueskin said, referring to the segregationist senators from South Carolina and Mississippi. “Journalists have every right, and every obligation, to point that out.”

How to put this idea into practice is the hard part.

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather suggests journalists refrain from quoting President Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets without better context. The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin said every story on the issue should mention that Trump never condemned white nationalism until Monday’s speech, and consistently abetted it.

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke went even further, urging reporters to “connect the dots” and say Trump is inciting racism and violence.

“O’Rourke’s words were a moment of moral clarity that America so desperately needs,” wrote Will Bunch, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We just need a lot more. This cannot be business as usual.”

Not everyone agrees, as O’Rourke’s primary opponent, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, found out when he pointed to Trump’s words in an appearance on Fox News Channel. Host Neal Cavuto argued that his guest was taking things too far to suggest Trump inspired the El Paso shooter.

They went back and forth, before Cavuto cut off the interview with Ryan in mid-sentence.

Cable news advocacy has damaged the reputation of journalism in general, said Will Norton, dean of the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.

Many people already expect news served up with a point of view. So if journalists more actively take sides, Norton said it will make things even worse with people who already believe the media is biased.

“You just wonder why an incident like this happens and the media covers it like crazy and then it doesn’t come up again until the next killing,” Norton said. “The way that you cover these things is you keep it before the public and let them know how important it is.”

For Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, it was working with surviving journalists from the Capital Gazette after the 2018 attack that killed five staff members at the Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper that led her to question her old assumptions.

For generations, journalism students have been told to check their feelings at the door when it’s time to work, she said.

“It’s becoming tougher and tougher to do that,” Dalglish said, “because the way we’re covering this doesn’t seem to matter anymore.”
Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Trump’s visit to shooting sites: Unity or hypocrisy?

Migrants turn themselves in to border agents in El Paso, Texas, after crossing the US – Mexico border. El Paso has swiftly become one of the busiest corridors for illegal border crossings in the U.S. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

President Donald Trump is bringing a message aimed at national unity and healing to the sites of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. But the words he offers for a divided America will be complicated by his own incendiary, anti-immigrant rhetoric that mirrors language linked to one of the shooters.

It is a highly unusual predicament for an American president to at once try to console a community and a nation at the same time he is being criticized as contributing to a combustible climate that can spawn violence.

White House officials said Trump’s visits Wednesday to Texas and Ohio, where 31 people were killed and dozens were wounded, would be similar to those he’s paid to grieving communities including Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, with the Republican president and the first lady saluting first responders and spending time with mourning families and survivors.

“What he wants to do is go to these communities and grieve with them, pray with them, offer condolences,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. He said Trump also wants “to have a conversation” about ways to head off future deadly episodes.

“We can do something impactful to prevent this from ever happening again, if we come together,” the spokesman said.

That’s a tough assignment for a president who thrives on division and whose aides say he views discord and unease about cultural, economic and demographic changes as key to his reelection.

At the same time, prominent Democrats have been casting blame on Trump more often than calling for national unity in the aftermath of the shootings, a measure of the profound polarization in the country.

Trump, who often seems most comfortable on rally stages with deeply partisan crowds, has not excelled at projecting empathy, mixing what can sound like perfunctory expressions of grief with awkward offhand remarks. While he has offered hugs to tornado victims and spent time at the bedsides of shooting victims, he has yet to project the kind of emotion and vulnerability of his recent predecessors.

Barack Obama grew visibly shaken as he addressed the nation in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre and teared up while delivering a 2016 speech on new gun control efforts. George W. Bush helped bring the country together following the Sept. 11 attacks, notably standing atop the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center, his arm draped over the shoulder of a firefighter, as he shouted through a bullhorn. Bill Clinton helped reassure the nation after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City and the mass school shooting at Columbine High School.

Trump, too, has been able to summon soothing words. But then he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements — just recently painting immigrants as “invaders,” suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should “go back” to their home countries even though they’re U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.

In the Texas border city of El Paso, some residents and local Democratic lawmakers said Trump was not welcome and urged him to stay away.

“This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who served the area for three terms as a congressman. “We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here.”

Trump, on the eve of his El Paso trip, snapped back on Twitter that O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!”

In Dayton, Mayor Nan Whaley said she would be meeting with Trump on Wednesday, but she told reporters she was disappointed with his scripted remarks Monday responding to the shootings. His speech included a denunciation of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” and a declaration that “hate has no place in America.” But he made no mention of new efforts to limit sales of certain guns or the anti-immigration rhetoric found in an online screed posted just before the El Paso attack.

The hateful manifesto’s author — police believe it was the shooter but investigation continues — insisted the opinions “predate Trump and his campaign for president.” But the words echoed some of the views Trump has expressed on immigration, including claiming that Democrats “intend to use open borders, free HealthCare for illegals, citizenship and more to enact a political coup by importing and then legalizing millions of new voters.”

Dayton Mayor Whaley said simply, “Everyone has it in their power to be a force to bring people together, and everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people apart — that’s up to the president of the United States.”

Democrats vying to challenge Trump in the 2020 election have been nearly unanimous in excoriating him for rhetoric they warned has nurtured the racist attitudes of the El Paso shooter as they sought to project leadership during a fraught moment for a bruised nation.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner in the 2020 Democratic primary, is slated to speak on white nationalism on Wednesday in Iowa and, according to excerpts from his campaign, will declare Trump “lacks the moral authority to lead” because he has “aligned himself with the darkest forces in our nation” and “in both clear language and in code … has fanned the flames of white supremacy.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was delivering a speech on gun violence and white nationalism Wednesday at the Charleston, South Carolina, church where nine black parishioners were killed in 2015. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, released a detailed plan for gun control and deterrence.

Gidley and other White House officials denounced suggestions that Trump’s rhetoric was in any way responsible for the shooting. They called it “dangerous,” ″pathetic,” ″disgusting.”

“It’s not the politician’s fault when somebody acts out their evil intention,” he said, pointing to other shooters who have expressed political preferences for Democratic politicians including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.

“It is shameful that Democrats are unable to prevent themselves from politicizing a moment of national grief,” added Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Trump, quoting one of the hosts of his favorite “Fox & Friends” show, tweeted: “Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of control. Mass shootings were happening before the president even thought about running for Pres.”

Warren spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said leaders have an obligation to speak out.

“Let’s be clear,” she said in a statement. “There is a direct line between the president’s rhetoric and the stated motivations of the El Paso shooter.”

Recent Pew Research Center polling found 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate in the country has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse. And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely.


Associated Press writers Elana Schor, Deb Riechmann and Darlene Superville and AP polling editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

In today’s America, who is or is not an American?

As a newspaperman, I view most attempts to “redefine America” through skeptical eyes.  Every such attempt appears to be based on hidden agendas driven by a lust for power.

As a mostly-white American with some Native American mixed into the DNA, I see myself as a product of mixed environments: Born in Tampa, Fla.,I spent my first five years of life in nearby Gibsonton, where carnival workers (carnies) spent their winters, then my mother and I transplanted to rural Floyd, Va, for three years after my father died in an industrial accident.

I was 8 when my mother remarried a divorced man with three kids who lived in Farmville, Va. — a larger town in tobacco-dominated Prince Edward County.  I had a bicycle and paper route, played Little League baseball and joined the Boy Scouts.  I was a child of the 50s who rode his bike into town on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and a matinee feature at the local theater, had milkshakes at the local drug store luncheon counter and listened to baseball games on my transistor radio.

Farmville and Prince Edward County had a dark side as well, a racist school board and supervisors who refused to integrate the public school system and closed it down, replacing it with a private school for whites only.  Suddenly, I was going to classes in church basements, American Legion halls, and other spots while African-American kids had no schools.

Even at age 10, I thought that was wrong.  Maybe it was the time in Gibsonton, where I played with the kids of carnival workers of different ethnic backgrounds.   It wasn’t right.  I had a budding interest in photography and crawled on my belly through woods to sneak up on Ku Klux Klan meeting near Farmville and shot photos with my YaschicaMet Twin-Lens reflex camera.

I took my film to the Farmville Herald, a twice-a-week paper and asked then Editor Ben Bowers to have them develop the film and take a look at an essay about being a kid who didn’t agree with the racism I saw in the area.  He liked the photos and the essay, but the local owners of the paper did not so he shopped the story to the Richmond News-Leader and other papers.  Some published the photos and the story,

A Klan Rally

At age 10, I was a published reporter and photographer and, from that day, I wanted to be a newspaperman who would report on what America was and what it should be.

That desire became a career when Pete Hallman, owner of The Floyd Press when we returned to live in the county in 1961, hired me as a full[time reporter and photographer while still in high school.

Today, 61 years later, I’m still trying to report on what American is or is not and what it should or should not be.

I’m not alone.  At The New York Times, Will Wilkerson, writes:

The question of who “we” are as “a people” is the central question on which we’re polarized. High-minded calls to reunite under the flag therefore tend to take a side and amount to little more than a demand for the other side’s unconditional surrender. “Agree with me, and then we won’t disagree” is more a threat than an argument.

The way the nationalist sees it, liberals always throw the first punch by “changing things.” When members of the “Great American Middle” (to use the artfully coded phrase of Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri to refer to nonurban whites) lash out in response to the provocations of progressive social change, they see themselves as patriots defending their America from internal attack.

In a nation defined by political stereotyping, I should be one of those “nationalists.”  I’m white, a product of mostly rural America and a college dropout — a stereotyped supporter of the nationalism defined today by many conservative supporters of Donald Trump.

But I’m not.  I fled Floyd County after high school graduation, working first as a reporter and photographer at The Roanoke Times, where I again covered meetings of the Klan and wrote about racial strife. I then moved to the St. Louis metro area as a reporter, photographer and columnist for The Telegraph in Alton, IL, on the metro-east side of the city, across the Mississippi River.

A column written in the rough and tumble days of The Alton Telegraph.

Alton is a town with a complicated history surrounding the Civil War.  Even though it was the Land of Lincoln and part of the Union, a pro-slavery mob attacked the local newspaper before the war and killed the editor and publisher, Elijah Lovejoy, honored in a statue atop a hill in the city as a martyr to Freedom of the Press.

Alton was also the birthplace of James Earl Ray, who may or may not have killed Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tenn. in 1968,  A hellhole housed Confederate prisoners of war in Alton.  Some of those stones are now found in many older homes in the city, including the townhouse where wife Amy and I lived.

I wrote often about the racism that still existed in Alton. Simmering racism still thrived in the area.  I tracked down the house where James Earl Ray was born and found it now owned by an African-American family.  When I wrote about that irony, someone burned it down.

After 12 years in Alton, Amy and I moved to the National Capital Region of Washington, DC — an even larger metro area.  We lived in Arlington County for 23 years.  It provided a pleasant mixture of cultures:  “Little Saigon,” the area of Vietnamese restaurants, grocery stores, and shops owned by those who fled Vietnam after the North took control of their homeland; and a thriving Lebanese community that Amy enjoyed because she is Lebanese-Irish.

Staff members at various consulates lived in our high-condo.  We got to know several of them and learned about their homelands and cultures.  Muslims invited us to their mosques and into their homes.  So did Buddhists and Jews and others who came to America seeking diversity and acceptance.

In many ways, living in Arlington and working out of the nation’s capital let us enjoy a rich, culturally-mixed environment.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 changed some of that on Sept. 1, 2001.  We saw hate slogans sprayed on mosques, broken windows at a Lebanese grocery and shouts of “America First!” at protests.

It bothered us when people we know began talking “hate speak” about those of differing nationalities, particularly those of Arab descent.   I drove to work each morning and passed an armored personnel carrier with a 50-cal machine gun manned by a Marine on the George Washington Parkway by the Pentagon.

One of my favorite photos: Shot on Sept. 15, 2011 — four days after 9/11 in Falls Church, Va.

Washington changed.  So did our attitudes about making the area our home.  When we decided to move to our new home in Floyd, Va. in 2004, we had hope when we saw Oddfellas owned and operated by a mixed-race couple, an African-American chief deputy sheriff, a growing gay community and those who practiced Quaker, Catholic, Buddhism, Muslim and other religions that weren’t visible in the county when I left in 1965.

But we also still found people using the “N-word” and sporting the Confederal battle flag.  When Barack Obama won the presidency, we saw the lunacies of a tea party rise from some toxic swamp.  John McCain carried the county in 2008.  So did Mitt Romney in 2012. Donald Trump won the presidential count in Floyd County in 2016 and probably will in 2020

Such traces of bigotry hang on.

Because I have written about the racism of Donald Trump, George Allen, and other politicos, some Floyd Countians see me as a Democrat.  During a sabbatical from journalism in the 1980s, I worked for three Republican members of Congress and as a political operative for the national party.

I’m not.  I’ve never registered as a member of any political party.  I’ve never contributed to any candidate of any party or for any office.

Being a Republican does not make one an American.  Neither does being a Democrat.  Americans are individuals from a variety of ethnic and racial origins, unique in their views, their goals, and their pursuits.  Instead of being told to “go back home,” we should recognize that all of us are home.

Writes Wilkerson:

But what, today, do Americans call “home”? The next logical step would be to observe that the contemporary sum of rooted, lovable American elements includes the black culture of Compton, the Mexican culture of Albuquerque, the Indian culture of suburban Houston, the Chinese culture of San Francisco, the Orthodox Jewish culture of Brooklyn, the Cuban culture of Miami and the “woke” progressive culture of the college town archipelago, as well as the conservative culture of the white small town.

To reject pluralism and liberalizing progress is to reject the United States of America as it is, to heap contempt upon American heroes who shed blood and tears fighting for the liberty and equality of their compatriots. The nationalist’s nostalgic whitewashed fantasy vision of American national identity cannot be restored, because it never existed. What they seek to impose is fundamentally hostile to a nation forged in the defining American struggle for equal freedom, and we become who we are as we struggle against them.

Whether couched in vulgarities or professorial prose, reactionary nationalism is seditious, anti-patriotic loathing of America hiding behind a flag — our flag. We won’t allow it, because we know how to build a nation. We know how the American story goes: We fight; we take it back.

I’m proud to be an American.  I’m not proud of the nation’s current president, Congress or leadership of either political party.

That’s my right, as a voter, a newspaperman, and an American.

Is Trump finally pushing America too far?

President Donald Trump is surrounded by first responders after signing H.R. 1327, an act ensuring that a victims’ fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs short.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

An unrepentant President Donald Trump has been testing the limits of the nation’s tolerance from the day he took office. Now he has cast off one of the few remaining voices trying to curtail his at times mercurial impulses.

Trump nudged out national intelligence director Dan Coats, a rare cautionary influence in his foreign policy apparatus, while he escalated his attacks on minority members of Congress and went so far as to call a majority-black U.S. city of 600,000 a “disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess” on Twitter. Both moves underscored Trump’s longstanding belief that he is his own best political strategist.

The president’s volatile management style has shocked the nation before. But the drumbeat of provocation emanating from the White House has grown undeniably louder in recent months. Trump aides such as economic adviser Gary Cohn, who blocked impulsive actions by going so far as to remove rogue paperwork from the Resolute Desk, are gone.

The president has rid himself of many of the aides who once challenged him, either by attrition or replacement, and in doing so illustrated his preference for loyalty over know-how. He’s inflamed racial tensions, betting that such divisions will help ease his path to victory in 2020. And he’s replaced gut instinct and tweets for the sober analysis of professionals on matters of war and peace.

On Sunday, Trump had his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, defend the offensive tweets on national television and furthered his divisive attacks on a veteran African-American congressman, claiming without evidence that Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a prominent administration critic, was himself “racist.”

While Republicans nervously consider an unconstrained Trump 15 months from the election, few have stepped up to challenge a president who has been emboldened by the conclusion of the Russia probe and a divided Democratic Congress to conduct foreign policy and domestic politics as he alone sees fit.

The temptations for Trump are only set to increase this week, before two nights of debates by his would-be 2020 Democratic rivals. Then on Thursday in Ohio, he’ll have his first rally since the offensive chants of his supporters about Democratic lawmakers of color. Trump disavowed the chants, then backtracked on his disavowal.

Like so many of Trump’s political impulses, the president’s attacks this weekend on Cummings, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and the racist tweets he sent two weeks earlier were born not of strategy meetings with aides, but of cable television.

He first laced into four Democratic congresswoman of color, claiming they hated America and should “go back” to where they come from, even though all are U.S. citizens and three were born in the U.S. The remarks drew condemnation from both parties. Yet when a North Carolina rally crowd chanted “send her back” about Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia before moving to the U.S. as a child, Trump let the chant roll unchallenged before later falsely claiming he stopped it.

Last weekend, it was a Fox News segment on Cummings’ Baltimore district that set off Trump. Aides said Trump was already agitated with Cummings for his treatment of acting Homeland Security head Kevin McAleenan during a congressional hearing and because of the lawmaker’s acquisition of subpoena power to search the emails of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, senior White House aides who are the president’s daughter and son-in-law.

Former chief of staff Reince Priebus once nicknamed Trump’s inflammatory weekend tweets, often triggered by something he saw on Fox News, products of “the devil’s workshop” and said they could derail carefully choreographed White House plans. But while Priebus and his successor, John Kelly, each tried with varied intensity to steer Trump away from the treacherous combination of television and Twitter, Mulvaney has made no such attempt. He’s given the president space to tweet as he wishes, according to nine administration officials and outside allies.

After his attacks against Cummings, Trump asked advisers on Monday how the tweets played on television — yet made clear he was not asking them whether he should have posted them, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The president has also, in recent days, expressed to Kushner, who many regard as Trump’s de facto campaign manager, and other advisers on his re-election team that he believed his broadsides against the minority Democrats would help excite his core supporters.

Though polling suggests the attacks could hurt Trump with suburban voters — and especially women — whom he may need to win again next year, Trump has been unmoved, telling those around him that he can compensate for that by turning out voters who did not cast a ballot in 2016. Unlike that election, when the novice candidate sometimes would listen to advice from advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s whims now regularly go unchallenged.

Coats’ departure accelerates a similar reshaping of Trump’s foreign policy team. Previously, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, would sometimes rein in the president’s foreign policy impulses, loudly or subtly.

But if Trump tolerated that early in his administration, he quickly tired of their cautious attitudes, officials said, as he developed confidence in his own abilities to choose the right path, whether by stepping into North Korean territory or disregarding the Iranian downing of a U.S. unmanned drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

All those officials have departed, replaced by those far less willing to challenge the president.

Coats developed a reputation for sober presentations to the president of intelligence conclusions that often conflicted with Trump’s policy aims, whether for rapprochement with North Korea, warning of Russian election interference, tearing up the Iran nuclear accord or declaring the fight against the Islamic State group to be over.

The president’s chosen replacement for Coats, Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week. He lacks extensive intelligence or foreign policy experience.


Lemire reported from New York.


Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire cover the White House for The Associated Press.

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Last chance for GOP members of Congress to show leadership?

Sources inside Republican Congressional offices say response back in home districts and states may decide how to deal with troublesome president Donald Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior that ramps up racism, nationalism and hate.

House members want to hear from constituents in open meetings and forums in their home districts while Senators are commissioning polls to sample statewide public opinion on Trump’s behavior.

“Obviously, something must be one,” says one senior staff member of a Republican senator, “but we must tread carefully and make sure we have the support of our constituents.”

“The silence of Republican leaders appeared to suggest either that they agreed with the views expressed by their standard-bearer or that he has so effectively consolidated his control over their party that they have grown disinclined to voice dissent,” writes Isaac Stanley-Becker in The Washington Post.

While some Republicans (11 so far) are speaking out about Trump’s controversial statements, most hide from the public and stay silent.

Democrats have denounced Trump and so have leaders around the world but no member of the president’s Cabinet has said a word in criticism.

Most GOP members of Congress who have called out Trump for his racism are now ex-members, including former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who called one of Trump’s racist comments “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Former Republican Senator Bob Corker, once considered for a Cabinet post by Trump, later said: “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence fo demonstrate in order to be successful.”

That comment sent Corker’s poll numbers down in Tennessee and he retired.

Notes Amber Phillips in the Post:

Seeing a theme here? Republicans who have spoken out forcefully and memorably about Trump are no longer Republican officeholders. It is overly simplistic to say these Republicans retired because of their battles with Trump — though in Ryan’s case, a new book suggests that might be true. But all of them saw the writing on the wall: I can either speak out about Trump, or keep my job. In this Republican Party, you can’t do both.

This is why GOP Senators and Representatives want to listen to constituents back home over the August recess.

Some are still willing to speak out.

Fred Upton of Michigan said what Trump said is “really uncalled for, very disappointing.”  Paul Mitchell of Michigan said “these comments are beneath leaders.”

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said Trump “was wrong to say any American Citizen, whether in Congress or note, has any ‘home’ besides the U.S.” but then tempered his criticism with praise for the president’s immigration antics.

“That’s the way Trump has engineered the Republican Party, to be able to get away with whatever he wants to say,” adds Amber Phillips.  “And it’s working.”

In the end, the decision of whether Trump stays or goes, rests with the voters.

Perhaps enough of them will confront their Representatives or their Senators over the August recess and convince them to be leaders.

Or we may have to wait until November of next year to see if the voters can retake control of what little is left of the country that a tyrant named Trump is destroying.

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