1. The anonymous op-ed in The Times, an almost unprecedented public attack on a president’s fitness for office from within his administration, continues to make news. We sent out a Special Report on this story to our readers on Wednesday evening. Like a tocsin rung in the night, the story inspires waves of speculations and commentary. As we said in our Report, this piece has made news all over the world, from The Guardianto The Globe and Mailto Le Mondeto Frankfurter Allgemeine. All three major broadcast networks, and PBS, led with the story on Wednesday night. But, as The Washington Postcorrespondent Rick Noack reports, most Europeans were, frankly, not surprised. They knew the president was dangerously unhinged all along.
But here the commentary and criticism began in earnest. For what it is worth, many have tried to guess the author. The word “lodestar,” meaning a fixed guiding star, has been seized upon by the twitter-verse to point at Mike Pence. He has frequently used the archaic word in speeches, eulogized the John McCain who was labeled a “lodestar” in the op-ed, and is likely to have seen the word used by Christian evangelicals to refer to the Bible (there is also a “Lodestar” series of Christian youth novels). But Pence has denied authorship, and of course the use of the word could be a red herring to throw researchers off the track. Or perhaps someone wrote the piece for him. It may even be a collaboration among several cabinet members, and one was assigned to contact The Times. This is probably futile and distracts us from this calamity. [And, despite Trump’s rants, the author has broken no laws and is certainly not “treasonous.” See the piece by former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti in Politico.]
Here is just a brief summary of reaction, as nicely detailed by David Leonhardt in The Times Thursday morning.
A. “It is a selfish attempt at justification. And it is unlikely to be effective.
“As many other writers have pointed out, the mere act of writing the piece — which has enraged Trump — will make it harder to quietly defy him. He is less likely to trust his aides and more likely to rely on a small cadre of loyalists. ‘He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous,’ The Atlantic’s David Frum writes.
“The author’s real goal, many writers argued, was to justify his or her own decision to continue serving Trump. [emphasis added] ‘Nobody who’s part of the real resistance should be celebrating this,’ The Los Angeles Times’s Jessica Roy writes. The more honorable path, many said, was a public resignation, coupled with an honest description of the president.”
But Leonhardt still believes that the op-ed will damage Trump: “It is one more high-profile description of his unfitness for office and the chaos of his White House. It joins Bob Woodward’s new book, other previous books and journalism on the same subject and John McCain’s extended memorial. Together, they have the potential to persuade a small but meaningful number of former Trump supporters.
B. But as Greg Sargent points out, in The Washington Post, the op-ed is concerned specifically with the violation of traditional Republican norms on foreign relations and trade policy. And Trump’s erratic behavior. Nothing is said about his appeal to white nationalism, or his corrupt self-enrichment, or his attacks on immigrants. The whole op-ed, he says, is self-serving: “What all this really signals is how those who are currently enabling Trump will try to circumscribe the post-Trump reckoning to come. As Chris Hayes notes, this emerging blueprint of the internal resistance is really an ‘insurance policy’ to ‘preserve the reputation of the GOP’s entire political and governing class,’ insulating them when ‘things get much worse.’” [emphasis added] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/09/06/trumps-paranoid-rage-is-getting-worse-but-the-white-house-resistance-is-a-sham/
C. Another sharp and skeptical response to the op-ed comes from The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake Thursday morning. He observes that the writer claimed that the group of “Resisters” avoided invoking the 25th Amendment to avoid a Constitutional “crisis.” But as Blake points out, we already now have a crisis, a crisis of democracy. What we have is a mutiny against an elected president, and who knows where that will lead or what kind of precedent it will set.
He says, “We had four examples in a little more than 24 hours of senior White House officials resorting to subterfuge or outright disregarding or avoiding what the president wanted to do. That’s remarkable. And in any other administration, it would be a scandal in and of itself….
“Most of the country that opposes Trump may cheer that because they dislike Trump, and the officials may justify it to themselves and their like-minded fellow officials by pointing to the potentially calamitous alternative. But in this official’s telling, these officials are essentially trading one type of crisis for another — or perhaps somehow convincing themselves that a president’s own aides and advisers forming a ‘resistance’ isn’t a crisis…. If they were truly that worried, you’d have to think they would be so alarmed that they’d come out publicly about what’s happening. Instead, they seem to want to protect themselves and hope everything turns out okay. They think it best to muddle through with a democratic crisis that could turn into an American crisis, while shunning the constitutional option that was put in place, it seems, for just such a circumstance.” [emphasis added] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/09/06/deep-state-throat-th-amendment-very-real-democratic-crisis/*Highly recommended reading
A good and reasonable point. However, we point our readers to the reality of that 25thAmendment. If you consult the text, you will find that it takes the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet (by DOJ rulings 15 department heads including the Attorney General) to declare that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” and transmit that to the President pro tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. However: the president can object that he is just fine, thank you. In that case, within 21 days, both houses, by a 2/3 majority, would have to overrule him. And there is no limit to how many times the president can go back to congress to declare himself fit. Want to take a guess at the odds of how this would play out?
D. A wry take from abroad comes from Guardian columnist Richard Wolffe, who says, “No doubt there were functionaries around Mussolini who believed the Italian trains had never been so punctual. But Il Duce was also – how best to put it? – detrimental to the health of the republic. If you really believe your boss is a threat to the constitution which you’ve taken an oath to protect, perhaps you should consider quitting or going public. [emphasis added] As in: going on Capitol Hill to hold a press conference to urge impeachment…. Trump’s staffers are enabling the very horrors they claim to hate, while grandiosely pretending to be doing the opposite.” Wolffe actually agrees with Trump on one point: these “rebels” are “gutless” rats deserting a sinking ship, while perhaps doing us the favor of stopping World War III. He concludes: “No fool wants to drown with the captain we all know is plain crazy.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/06/white-house-anonymous-nyt-op-ed-woodward
2. The other news this week was dominated by the mock drama of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Yes, it was well and good to lodge what protests the left could. But in the end, despite the protests and the cries of foul from the left that court seats have been stolen by inaction on Obama’s appointee and the loss of the Senate filibuster on Supreme Court nominations, despite this outrage, the great likelihood is that Brett Kavanaugh will be quickly confirmed and elevated to the Supreme Court. For a lifetime appointment.
A. The hearings opened to chaos, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday morning: “The confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh launched Tuesday as a bitter political brawl, with loud objections from Democratic senators, the arrests of dozens of protesters and questions even from some Republicans about how Kavanaugh would separate himself from President Trump, the man who chose him.
B. Reaction from Democrats on Tuesday, even before the hearings began, was unprecedented in the history of Senate confirmation hearings. The New York Times had the best summaries of the issues: “For more than an hour at the outset, irate Democrats and a frustrated Mr. Grassley parried back and forth. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, denounced the hearing as ‘a charade and a mockery’ and repeatedly moved to adjourn, while Mr. Grassley ruled him out of order over and over again. At one point, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, accused Democrats of engaging in ‘mob rule….’
“It was a chaotic start to what would ordinarily be a staid, albeit deeply consequential, process. And barring an astounding revelation, the path remains clear for Judge Kavanaugh’s ultimate confirmation — probably this month. If he is confirmed, he could shape American jurisprudence for decades to come, replacing the retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a critical swing vote on divisive matters like same-sex marriage and abortion, with an unabashed conservative.” [emphasis added]
Kavanaugh’s stances on social issues like these are the greatest long-term danger, of course. But in the short term, it is obvious to Democrats that the nomination also, more immediately, can seriously affect investigations into Trump and his administration: “Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said that Judge Kavanaugh’s still-hidden White House records could be particularly illuminating on a question of pressing urgency: understanding his views on the scope of executive power — in particular, whether sitting presidents should be immune from the legal process, like subpoenas to testify in a criminal investigation…. [emphasis added] But his views on the topic have evolved considerably since then. In a speech he made at a law school after serving in the Bush White House and then becoming a judge, he said that the distraction of preparing for questions by criminal investigators would make a president do a worse job, so presidents should be excused from that burden until after they leave office.
C. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe amplifies this point, in a Tuesday opinion piece in The Washington Post. “Observers need look no further than Bush v. Gore to conclude that the court’s heightened polarization and the pro-executive leanings of several of its justices point to a closely divided ruling in an increasingly-less-hypothetical ‘United States v. Trump.’ So instead imagine a Trump appointee to the court — one named as impeachment clouds were gathering and seemingly selected with a presidential eye focused sharply on his pro-presidential writings — casting the deciding vote in a future case against Trump, involving an issue such as the president’s obligation to comply with a subpoena to testify or the president’s amenability to indictment. [emphasis added]
“If that doesn’t sit right with you, you’re not alone: It didn’t sit right with the framers, either.”
Tribe points out that the framers at the Constitutional Convention decided it was not right for a Supreme Court to sit alone in judgment of the president who had appointed some of them. They settled on our system of House impeachment and Senate trial, presided over only ceremonially by the Chief Justice. “The framers, however, did not anticipate two major changes to the court that have given it a significant role in the impeachment process. The court has gone from what Alexander Hamilton famously called the ‘least dangerous’ branch to being a muscular and often partisan powerhouse with the ability to halt a criminal investigation before the impeachment process has even begun. [emphasis added] In addition, our increasingly broad and unwieldy law-enforcement and investigative apparatus has given today’s Supreme Court many more opportunities to supervise criminal investigations and prosecutions.
D. In a sharply-worded editorial, “The Supreme Court Confirmation Charade,”The New York Times editorial board says, “In the absence of a direct meteor strike, Brett Kavanaugh is nearly certain to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States…. Whatever Judge Kavanaugh says, all Republican senators are virtually sure to vote for him, and most, if not all, Democratic senators will vote against him. In the olden days — that is, before 2017 — this wouldn’t have been enough to turn Judge Kavanaugh into a justice. Republicans hold only a bare majority in the Senate, and it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. But norms are for sissies. Republicans killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees last year, removing the last speed bump on the road to installing President Trump’s first pick, Neil Gorsuch, in a seat they had stolen from President Barack Obama the year before….
“Now, as a result of brazenly partisan maneuvering, the Supreme Court is on the cusp of having a solid right-wing majority that could last for decades.
Republicans are licking their chops.” What is at stake? The Times editors remind us that “[This] means, for starters, making it harder for minorities to vote, for workers to bargain for better wages and conditions, for consumers to stand up to big business and for women to control what happens to their bodies. It also means making it easier for people to buy and sell weapons of mass killing, for lawmakers to green-light discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, for industries to pollute the environment with impunity, and for the wealthy to purchase even more political influence than they already have.” [emphasis added]
The charade of the hearings, where little is revealed (and now it is reported that Republicans have been drilling Kavanaugh on how to deal with questions), began with the 1987 nomination of Robert Bork. He answered candidly about his extreme views and was roundly rejected by the full Senate. The lesson since then has been to clam up. And now, there is little chance of a nominee being voted down by the party in power, given the lack of filibuster power from the minority. Of course, The Times reminds us that Democrats can now do the same, even attempting to pack the court with their political appointees. So ends the independence of the US Supreme Court. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/opinion/kavanaugh-supreme-court-confirmation.html*Highly recommended reading
E. For some further perspective, we offer this essay in The New York Times from Emily Bazelon, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine and a Creative Writing and Law Fellow at Yale Law School; and Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. They analyze Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence and conclude that he “has proudly said that he’s a textualist, which means that he gives primacy to the ordinary meanings of the words of a statute, or the Constitution itself. Textualists steer away from other sources of meaning, like legislative history. Conservatives have often touted textualism for its neutral deference to the legislature. Three of the court’s conservative members — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — lay claim to textualism as a guiding principle.
“[But] because ambiguous phrasing in laws leaves judges with choices to make, it doesn’t put much of a restraint on judges….
“This is clear from the conservatives’ expansive interpretation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, an approach that has no historical support from the time the First Amendment was written. Despite this, in a series of decisions, from Citizens United in 2010, which opened a faucet of campaign donations and spending, to Janus v. AFSCME in June, which diminished the clout of unions by stopping them from collecting dues from all the workers they represent, conservatives have used the First Amendment to strike down laws that regulate corporations, help unions and limit the influence of money on politics….” Moreover, they write, “The most radical idea is that regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency lack the authority to issue regulations; a more modest version is that they can do so only if Congress is crystal clear about it. [emphasis added] In his opinions and other writings, Judge Kavanaugh has pushed this theme as well.
“He has written that it’s ‘debatable’ that a president can be indicted while in office and criticized a case that allowed Congress to create an independent counsel to investigate executive branch officials. [emphasis added] Again, there is no historical evidence to support that view. Here, once more, principled originalism could give way to the modern conservative position favoring a strong presidency.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/opinion/who-is-brett-kavanaugh.html*Highly recommended reading
We note that on Tuesday, “Kavanaugh refused to answer an inquiry about whether a president must respond to a subpoena.” He also stated that Roe v. Wade was “settled precedent,” but “under questioning from [Sen.] Feinstein, Kavanaugh did not say whether Roe was correctly decided — a punt that could give Democrats and abortion-rights supporters an opening to argue that the nominee could ultimately overturn the decision.” So reportedThe Washington Post.
F. Further, writing in Slate.com, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern explore Kavanaugh’s tortured relationship with “precedent.” His (factual) statement that the Supreme “Court can always overrule its precedent” has implications beyond Roe, and calls into question any of his responses to Judiciary Committee questions in which he relied on a claimed reverence for precedent in making judicial decisions. “It’s already painfully clear that Kavanaugh manipulates precedent to expand the reach of decisions he likes (like pro-gun rulings) while smothering decisions he opposes (like Casey). [emphasis in original] Indeed it’s well-known that he has cited dissents when they serve his purposes. But the nominee’s refusal—throughout his hearings—to acknowledge the impact of [some precedents] on his analysis of the law takes this cherry-picking to a new level. [The authors cite Supreme Court decisions that put teeth into the “undue burden” test for striking down anti-abortion laws and that upheld same-sex marriage.]It’s one thing to be poised to take us back to a time before these seminal cases were even decided. It’s affirmatively shocking to pretend that they are already wiped off the books.” Read the full article at https://amp.slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/09/kavanaugh-confirmation-hearings-on-abortion-and-same-sex-marriage-hes-cherry-picking-precedent.html.
G. “From the very beginning of the Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing on Kavanaugh’s nomination, Democrats made it clear they wouldn’t be passive actors. They’re saying Republicans are changing the rules again.” [emphasis added] Vox on Tuesday reported that the Democrats’ strategy in the hearings is to challenge the unprecedented and politicized process itself: “’I have been on this committee under Republican and Democratic leadership; I never thought the committee would sink to this,’ [Sen. Patrick] Leahy said, directing his comments to Kavanaugh. ‘In fact, you should not be sitting in front of us today. You should be sitting in front of us only after we have completed a review of your record. Your vetting is less than 10 percent complete. In critical ways, our committee is abandoning its tradition of exhaustively vetting Supreme Court nominees.’” https://www.vox.com/2018/9/4/17819022/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-supreme-court-process
3. Readers will be relieved to know that the White House and cabinet members have fiercely denied the FAKE NEWSreports of vicious infighting and name-calling in the Trump White House published in veteran reporter Bob Woodward’s book Fear. The Washington Post reported the denials on Wednesday, the day after it published the scurrilous charges that Trump’s inner circle thinks he is a dangerous moron [the lengths the fake news media will go to!!]. Even this failing Jeff Bezos organ was forced to admit that “hours after The Washington Post first reported several key incidents from Woodward’s book, Fear, the administration mounted a vigorous string of public denials, with statements from top advisers — White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — as well as from Trump’s former personal attorney John Dowd.
“Mattis called the book ‘fiction,’ and Sanders denounced the tome in a statement as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees” without disputing any of the specifics that have been reported in excerpts.
Fortunately for the cause of truth, “White House officials, for instance, recycled a denial from Kelly back in spring — the last time reports emerged of him calling the president an ‘idiot’ — in which he claimed that he and Trump have ‘an incredibly candid and strong relationship’ and that the ‘idiot’ anecdote was ‘total BS.’”
We hesitated to report on these attacks on Trump, so surprising and out-of-character for his close friends and associates. And this characterization of our country’s president just does not ring true, does it?
“Woodward depicts Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry as unrelenting, at times paralyzing the West Wing for entire days. Learning of the appointment of Mueller in May 2017, Trump groused, ‘Everybody’s trying to get me’— part of a venting period that shell-shocked aides compared to Richard Nixon’s final days as president.”
And this is surely unbelievable: “After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “[Defense Secretary James] Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”
And it is hard to believe that a man of Retired Marine Corps General and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s stature would ever “frequently los[e] his temper and [tell] colleagues that he thought the president was ‘unhinged,’ [as] Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: ‘He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.’”
So if these fake news reports were true, why would these distinguished men stay on? At the above meeting on our troop presence in South Korea, “Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.
“’We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,’ Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.”
Your editor can only say this: is preventing World War III really reason enough to bad mouth our beloved leader?
For his part, Woodward’s former colleague Carl Bernsein told CNN that “he does not understand why White House chief of staff John Kelly does not resign from his position and go to Congress to share what he knows about President Trump.”
4. Trump has also denied a story in Woodward’s book quoting “Mr. Trump [as] excoriating Mr. [Jeff] Sessions in particularly personal terms. ‘This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner,’ the president was said to tell advisers. ‘How in the world was I ever persuaded to pick him for my attorney general? He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.’” So reports The New York Times as it remarks on a big story this week, Trump tweeting that the Justice Department indictment of two Republican congressmen on corruption charges was an attempt to hurt the Republican majority in the House and was a betrayal by Sessions.
As The Times reports, “Mr. Trump’s suggestion would have been a major scandal under any other president, veterans of past administrations said. ‘His interference in an ongoing criminal investigation may be the single most shocking thing he’s done as president,’ said Walter E. Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general under President Bill Clinton.
“Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican who has been among the president’s most outspoken critics in his own party, had the same reaction. ‘Those who study this kind of thing say it’s a lot more evidence for abuse of power or obstruction,’ he said. ‘I just know it’s not healthy for the institutions of government to have the president want to use the Department of Justice that way.’” For details on the importance of this story, see the Timessummary here:
5. Though the news this week centered, obsessively, on the above stories, we should remind readers of the ongoing plight of refugee children. A special report in The Huffington Post details the efforts of the ACLU and international agencies to track down their parents. The headline: “Inside The Desperate Search For 343 Parents Deported Without Their Kids: The search for deported parents can involve three-day journeys to crime-ridden remote villages.”
The report begins, “They have a government-provided list of 343 names. But for a group of lawyers and immigration advocates, tracking down the parents who were separated from their children at the border under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy and deported to their home countries has proved a daunting task. The advocates try the phone numbers listed, often calling up to six times before getting a response. If a number doesn’t work or none is given, they try searching for the person’s address in public registries or look for their children’s contact information.
“In some cases, advocates end up searching remote villages of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, trying to find parents, some of whom are hiding from life-threatening violence. Most haven’t seen their children in months, forced to leave them behind in the United States as they were sent back to the countries they had fled. More than a month after a court-ordered deadline for family reunification, almost 500 children are still separated, and in most cases, that’s because the parents have been deported….”
Huff Post concludes, “Lee Gelernt, the lead counsel on the ACLU case against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, plans to argue in court that parents who were deported without due process should have the option of returning to the U.S. and seeking asylum. But for now, the advocates are just focused on trying to locate these 343 parents and figure out their wishes. ‘The government has created an enormous mess from beginning to end,’ Gelernt said. ‘Being placed in the position of tracking down parents in remote and dangerous locations is yet another aspect to what has been a horrific situation.’” The shame of this government-initiated tragedy will endure for years. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/search-for-immigrant-parents-deported-without-their-children_us_5b897eace4b0511db3d8264d*Highly recommended reading
6. In too-easily overlooked news, the plight of immigrant children may get worse. “The Trump administration took the first official step Thursday toward withdrawing from a court agreement that limits the government’s ability to hold minors in immigration jails, a move advocates say could lead to a rapid expansion of detention facilities and more time in custody for children. [emphasis added] The changes proposed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services would terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement, the federal consent decree that has shaped detention standards for underage migrants since 1997.
7. Advocates for overturning Roe v. Wade sometimes argue that such an action by the Supreme Court would only leave the matter up to the states, and that in any case, women would not be arrested for having or attempting to have an abortion. This is not true. As Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women reminds us in a New York Times essay, “Such arrests are happening already. Some states still have pre-Roe laws on their books that specifically authorize prosecution of women who have abortions. In 2011, Jennie Linn McCormack, a pregnant mother of three who lived in southeastern Idaho, used medications she obtained online to carry out an abortion at home. She was charged with violating an Idaho law that makes it a felony for a woman to perform her own abortion. Nearly four months after Ms. McCormack was charged, a state court dismissed the criminal complaint, but in a way that left open the possibility that she could be charged again. Ms. McCormack brought suit in federal court challenging Idaho laws that could be used to punish her for having an abortion. She prevailed. (My organization filed an amicus brief on her behalf.)
“Ms. McCormack is not the only woman to face such charges since Roe…. In recognizing a right to choose abortion, Roe rejected the argument that fetuses, at any stage of development, may be treated as if they are separate constitutional persons under the law. It has been this argument, however, that has been used to justify arrests and detentions of more than 1,200 pregnant women — some of whom sought to terminate a pregnancy but most of whom went to term or experienced a pregnancy loss. Such arrests have occurred in virtually every state, including New York, which is one of the eight states that has a law specifically making self-abortion a crime….
8. How should leftists feel about the adulation showered on John McCain last week by George Bush and Barack Obama? In one of the best analyses we have seen, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg reminds us that the usual categories do not apply to this administration. “On Saturday, the pre-Trump bipartisan political establishment gathered at the Washington National Cathedral to honor Senator John McCain, as well as the small-r republican and small-d democratic ethics he came to symbolize. At McCain’s request, both Barack Obama and George W. Bush eulogized him, their praise an implicit rebuke to the current president, who possesses none of McCain’s virtues or, for that matter, any virtues at all.
“For many who detest Donald Trump, the spectacle of the country’s former leaders championing embattled American principles — principles once shared by even the bitterest political enemies — was fiercely moving.”
Goldberg tackles the difficult question of whether the old order Trump overturned was so corrupt we should not celebrate it or yearn after the quieter days of, say, George W. Bush. “This argument over the meaning of the McCain funeral is part of a deeper left-wing debate over how to understand Trump’s relationship to the Republican Party and official Washington. A few on the left, like The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, have adopted an odd anti-anti-Trumpism, born of the belief that the establishment that abhors the president is as bad or worse than he is. Others see Trump’s distinct malevolence, but still reject attempts to paint him as aberrant. New Republic writer Jeet Heer criticized the way McCain’s funeral sought to juxtapose Trump and the political leaders who came before him. That’s ‘a false dichotomy,’ Heer tweeted. ‘That old establishment created Trump.’”
This leftist suspicion of the old order has its truth. But Goldberg helps us see that Trump is unique, not just a product of the old order but a repudiation of any recognizable American order at all.
True, the old order never lived up to its ideals and was often hypocritical, racist, lying, even murderously imperialistic. “Other presidents haven’t lived up to transcendent American values of human equality and respect for the rule of law. But every president in living memory professed reverence for these values, recognizing a foundation for public life other than blood and soil nationalism. [emphasis added] As Bush — who I still can’t believe I’m quoting positively — said at McCain’s funeral, ‘He saw our country not only as a physical place or power, but as the carrier of enduring human aspirations.’
“This idealism could be destructively self-righteous, but it also created a standard that the dispossessed could appeal to.
“Trump is unique in his indifference to America’s longstanding civic faith; he’s a nationalist but not a patriot. [emphasis added] For some on the left, that faith was always a joke, a sanctimonious alibi for imperialism and plunder. But Trump’s presidency has made me — and, I think, many other liberals — aware of my own deep attachment to much of the American creed, particularly the unrealized promise of Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty.” We encourage readers to study Goldberg’s clarifying arguments, as they wrestle with their nostalgia for even Republican presidents. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/opinion/columnists/trump-mccain-american-values.html*Highly recommended reading
9. There is some optimistic news. ! Let us try that again: ! On the heels of last week’s encouraging poll numbers from a Washington Post / ABC News poll showing Trump’s approval sinking to 39%, a new poll offers hope for turning the House blue. Again,aWashington Post / ABC news poll, this week of registered voters, shows this: “Two months ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats hold a clear advantage over Republicans in congressional vote support, with antipathy toward President Trump fueling Democratic enthusiasm, even among those in the party who stayed home four years ago, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds….
Moreover, polling aggregator FiveThiryEight has Trump approval at about 40%; and, as of Friday morning, they have the odds of a Democratic House at about 77%.
10. In its continuing war on children, here and abroad, the Trump administration has stopped all aid to the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, including funds to educate children. This comes on the heels of the State Department’s announcement that it will cut $200 mln in aid to West Bank Palestinians. As a New York Times editorial on Aug. 31 says, “The decision to stop all funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, formally announced on Friday, goes far beyond questions of respect or negotiating tactics. It affects an agency that provides critical schooling, health, food and other services for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The United States finances about a third of the budget, or about $350 million a year….
“The administration is also demanding a steep reduction in the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees, depriving them of any claim of a right to return, among the chief questions past administrations have sought to resolve through diplomacy.
11. One of our local newspapers here in Chicago, The Chicago Tribune, reported last Wednesday on the discovery of glyphosphate (Roundup) in breakfast oats. In “Making sense of food scares: Day care bans Cheerios following report, but doctors urge parents not to panic,” the paper notes that one national day care center operator, Kids & Co., will ban Cheerios from its locations. This out of an excess of caution and parental concern over the findings by the Environmental Working Group, about which we have been reporting. The pediatricians consulted by the paper point out, reasonably, that this is only a single study from an activist group; no government agency has urged action; and indeed the threat from sugary cereals and drinks is much more of a concern. That is indeed reasonable; but as we have reported, government bodies are not immune from industry pressure, and given the widespread use of this herbicide in cereal crops, it is also reasonable to try to lower one’s overall exposure. http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-life-cheerios-ban-day-care-20180822-story.html
12. We promised to provide some laughs at the end of the news: just like your favorite TV anchors do! So here is another animal story for you all to click on, “Jessie the Pottymouth Parrot.” “Jessie the parrot was decidedly unimpressed when a firefighter came to rescue her from a rooftop in London on Monday morning. The Macaw, who escaped from her owner’s home and perched on a nearby roof for three days, spewed profanity at her attempted rescuer — even after he said ‘I love you’ in a bid to bond with the bird.
15. The Nation magazine weighed in this week on the decision of Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, not to seek a third term. Columnist and Reader reporter Miles Kampf-Lassin is scathing in his criticism. “It’s perhaps fitting that Rahm Emanuel chose Tuesday, the first day Chicago public schools were back in session, to announce that he won’t be seeking reelection as mayor,” he writes. “From the start of his tenure, Emanuel has assailed public education in the city through an agenda aimed at breaking the power of the teachers’ union and shutting down schools in poor communities of color….
“Despite his best efforts at rebranding, Emanuel will be remembered as the mayor who advanced corporate interests and an agenda of austerity at the expense of Chicago’s working-class residents….” Kampf-Lassin quotes former CTU president Karen Lewis, who said in 2013, “’He’s murdering schools. He’s murdering jobs. He’s murdering housing. I don’t know what else to call him. He’s the murder mayor.’”
Moreover, Kampf-Lassin points out, “These were no empty jabs. At the time, Emanuel had just announced a plan to close down 50 public schools in what would become the largest mass school closure in modern US history. This came after Emanuel closed half of the city’s mental-health clinics in one fell swoop. These closures hit poor Latino and African-American areas the hardest—the very communities most in need of investment. Under Emanuel’s administration, the uniquely corrupt Chicago Housing Authority slowedconstruction of new public housing at an alarming rate, while the mayor massively increased property taxes and continued to oversee the widespread displacement of low-income families by wealthier residents across the city….. The jobs that are being created in the city are largely concentrated in the higher-income areas near downtown, while outlying neighborhoods remain starved of resources and opportunities. This deeply inequitable approach to governance has led Emanuel’s Chicago to be dubbed ‘a tale of two cities.’
“Meanwhile, Emanuel has enacted an austerity regime upon city residents, privatizing assets and services from public-transit cards to school custodial services while raising taxes on everything from water and telephone service to garbage pickup.” Read the Wednesday essay, “Rahm Emanuel Will Be Remembered as Chicago’s ‘Murder Mayor’” in The Nation here: https://www.thenation.com/article/rahm-emanuel-will-be-remembered-as-chicagos-murder-mayor/. *Highly recommended reading