Has our nation hit rock bottom yet?

Chicago Suntimes

Has our nation hit rock bottom yet?

Why do Trump supporters ignore the ruin he inflicts on the country? Try viewing it through the lens of addiction.
By Neil Steinberg              September 20, 2020

Drug use on Lower Wacker Drive in late 2016.
Drug use on Lower Wacker Drive in late 2016. Using drugs on a street off Lower Wacker Drive in late 2016. Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Almost four years ago I was tagging along with medical workers from the Night Ministry. We found ourselves standing before three people sprawled in a nest of blankets and sleeping bags off Lower Wacker Drive.

At first I held back. Then, I gingerly nudged forward, afraid they’d clam up as soon as I took out my notebook. But they didn’t. They answered whatever question I asked — their names, what drugs they were taking. I could take pictures. They weren’t embarrassed. They didn’t care about anything except getting those drugs inside themselves.

Addiction does that. You are locked into feeling that pleasure, or relief, or passing sense of normality. End of the story. You don’t care about the damage you’re inflicting upon yourself or others. You don’t care that the addiction is killing you. You could shake this emaciated woman and ask what her younger self would think of what she’s become. She’d stare back at you, hollow-eyed and uncomprehending. She doesn’t bother to eat food; what does she care about lost dreams?

That’s why I have to laugh when my somehow still idealistic friends wonder when Donald Trump’s base will abandon him. When they will finally see the ruin his presidency has caused this country and regret their role in supporting it. That’s easy: never. They’ll never give him up, just as many addicts never quit their substances, except by dying.

The concept of addiction is the best way to make sense of our country today. Trump makes his followers feel good. He soothes the ache in their broken parts. Like heroin, he makes them feel safe and secure even while doing the exact opposite. They’re not safe and secure, but on the street, endangered, living in a country wracked by a pandemic that their drug of choice trivializes and ignores. They’re teetering on an economic cliff, while shivering at pipe-dream fears about socialized medicine.

What do they care of deterioration of American democratic institutions? They’re in denial. That’s like asking a drunk driver whether his tires are properly inflated. All he cares about is how much is left in the half pint.

Sure, change is possible. I got sober 15 years ago next week, for those keeping score. But it took a life-jolting crisis. As to why 200,000 Americans dying from presidential incompetence isn’t such a crisis, and why his supporters don’t turn from his confused chaos, well, they’re still lost in their addiction. Anything can be rationalized away. Your friend shoots up, walks into the bathroom and dies. You’re sorry, but you’re still going to shoot up yourself in two hours, because that’s what you do.

Crowd members cheer toward cameras before the arrival of President Donald Trump to a Make America Great Again rally on September 19, 2020 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Crowd members cheer toward cameras before the arrival of President Donald Trump to a Make America Great Again rally on September 19, 2020 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
A crowd waits for President Donald Trump to arrive for a rally Saturday in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Getty

Trump fans can still brush away the whole pandemic: no worse than the flu, numbers exaggerated, whatever Fox News told them last night, lodged in their brain and vibrating. I don’t try to tell Trump fans they’re dupes suckered by a fraud. Why bother? Interventions usually fail. Al-Anon teaches relatives of the addicted to disengage. Let the sufferer figure it out. The addict has to want to change, and for that, they usually have to hit bottom.

Has our country hit bottom yet? I sure hope so, though hope is of very little value here. There are hells below this one, and we may be heading there.

Unless we’re not. If Joe Biden manages to both win the election and keep Trump from holding onto power anyway — and I can’t say which is the greater challenge — Trump supporters won’t automatically reform. Just the opposite. They’ll spend years smearing their faces against liquor store windows, gazing at their lost passion, licking their lips and wishing for just one more slug of Make America Great Again. Hating those who took away the man who made them feel alive. Give them time. Meanwhile, we must care for ourselves, and the United States, and look forward to the day when our fellow citizens may recover clear-eyed love of country and rejoin us at dinner. That day may never come.

Trump supporters will howl, but I’ll share a secret: When you’re an addict, you stop mattering, eventually. That’s the worst fate. You sit there with your barfly friends, complaining about the raw deal you got, or take your drugs huddled in some grimy lower rung of hell, while your far-off family picks itself up and goes on without you.

Sedition Laws Are the Last Resort of Weak Governments

Bloomberg – U.S.

Sedition Laws Are the Last Resort of Weak Governments

Noah Feldman                      

(Bloomberg Opinion) — Attorney General William Barr can’t seem to get out of the headlines. Maybe he doesn’t want to.

Just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Barr suggested to federal prosecutors that they consider charging protesters with sedition — an archaic criminal charge that hasn’t been regularly used by federal authorities since the McCarthy era. Barr also reportedly mused about finding a way to prosecute Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for establishing a police-free protest zone in her city. Then, in a speech at Hillsdale College, Barr defended his penchant for overruling prosecutors, comparing them to children in a Montessori school.

For any normal attorney general, this week’s controversies would have marked a crisis accompanied by demands that he resign and serious speculation that he would be forced to do so. Not so for Barr, who clearly enjoys President Donald Trump’s support. Barr, more than any attorney general in memory, is inserting himself into the business of criminal prosecution by proposing unorthodox strategies that serve the president’s political ends.

Start with the sedition prosecution proposal. To my mind, it’s the most shocking of Barr’s statements. Sedition is, roughly speaking, the crime of either rebelling against the government or inciting other people to do so. It’s the sort of crime that weak governments enforce against their citizens when the government is facing an existential threat — or thinks it is.

Sedition prosecutions in the U.S. have a particularly shameful history. The 1798 Sedition Act was used in a nakedly partisan manner by John Adams’s Federalist administration to prosecute Republican newspaper editors. Dozens were jailed and fined. Although the law was never formally struck down by the courts, it has come to be a model of the kind of law that violates free speech.

The Sedition Act of 1918 was not much better. Passed under conditions of wartime hysteria, it was used to prosecute more than 2,000 people, most of whom spoke against World War I. As a result, we got some of the earliest modern free speech opinions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably from the pen of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The current version of sedition law is the Smith Act, which became law in 1940 and was used well into the 1950s. It prohibits advocating for the violent overthrow of the federal government. Its targets were mostly communists, with the occasional anarchist or fascist prosecuted, too. The law generated a highly problematic Supreme Court precedent, Dennis v. U.S., in which the justices upheld the law as applied to the senior leadership of the Communist Party USA. The really important lasting opinion from that case is a dissent by Justice William O. Douglas pointing out that the Communists were being punished for espousing ideas.

To prosecute protesters for sedition today would require showing that they engaged in conduct aimed at the overthrow of the government and was likely to cause imminent harm. Even if that could somehow be proven in court — highly doubtful — the implicit message would be that people protesting racial injustice are trying to overthrow the U.S. government. It would be hard to imagine a more outrageous attempt to politicize the criminal justice system.

As for the Seattle mayor, it is clearly within the discretion of local authorities to create free-speech zones in which the dangers of confrontation between police and protesters are reduced. To be sure, if a government official knew that private citizens were doing violence to other private citizens and told the police to stand down, that would be highly problematic. It might even possibly violate civil rights, to the extent that the government might be implicated as a cooperative actor in the suppression of speech. But there is no reason to believe that anyone’s civil rights were being violated by virtue of the Seattle zone. Barr’s comments look like an attempt to get the Department of Justice to engage in naked, partisan political intimidation.

As for his remarks on overruling prosecutors, Barr is certainly correct that, as a matter of formal law, he has the authority to intervene in any prosecution brought under the auspices of the Department of Justice. Yet the tradition of the department, hard won in the years since Watergate, has been to respect the independent judgment of U.S. attorneys and career prosecutors. The reason for this is precisely to avoid the appearance or reality of partisan political interference in criminal justice investigation and prosecution. Barr’s comments fly in the face of this Department of Justice tradition.

It seems highly unlikely that anyone will actually be prosecuted for sedition by this Department of Justice, and Durkan can rest assured she won’t be, either. But the harm to the independence of the criminal justice system has already been done.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Noah Feldman is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and host of the podcast “Deep Background.” He is a professor of law at Harvard University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter. His books include “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion

Trump said ‘there will be no God’ if Biden is elected

Business Insider

Trump said ‘there will be no God’ if Biden is elected

John L. Dorman            September 20, 2020

Trump-Fayetteville-1
President Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C. 
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

 

  • At a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., President Trump said that “there will be be no God” if Joe Biden is elected.
  • Trump has increasingly used religion as a wedge issue to attack Biden, despite none of the claims being true.
  • Biden, a lifelong Catholic, has spoken openly for years about the role faith has played in life, especially during times of enormous tragedy.

President Trump on Saturday railed against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in his latest series of faith-based attacks at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

After reveling in the potential installment of another Supreme Court justice, Trump went on a diatribe against Biden on a range of issues, from energy production to gun rights, before pivoting to religion.

“The sleepy campaign has joined forces with those trying to tear down America and our way of life,” Trump said. “He comes out with a platform…There will be no oil. There will be no God. There will be no guns.”

While visiting Ohio in August, Trump leveled similar attacks against Biden as he sought to tout improving economic conditions throughout the state.

“He’s following the radical left agenda, take away your guns, destroy your 2nd Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God,” Trump said, according to the Associated Press. “He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.”

Biden is a lifelong Catholic who has spoken openly for years about the role faith has played in life, most notably during times of enormous tragedy.

In December 1972, a month after he was elected to the US Senate representing Delaware, his first wife, Neilia, and their infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident. His sons, Beau and Hunter, were seriously injured in the accident but survived. In 2016, Beau, who rose to become Attorney General of Delaware, died at age 46 from brain cancer.

In August, the Biden campaign issued a statement in response to Trump’s accusations.

What he really thinks: Trump mocks Christians, calls them “fools” and “schmucks”

Salon – Politics

What he really thinks: Trump mocks Christians, calls them “fools” and “schmucks”

David Cay Johnston, Salon           
Donald Trump
Donald Trump with thumbs up in front of elderly white congregation in church Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Salon

 

Michael Cohen’s book about his years as Donald Trump’s fixer is a clarion call to Christians to wake up; recognize the man many of them revere as a heavenly agent is a religious fraud; and act.

Trump loathes Christians and mocks their faith, but pretends to believe if it suits his purposes.

In Disloyal, published today, Cohen shows how Trump is a master deceiver. He quotes Trump calling Christianity and its religious practices “bullshit,” then soon after masterfully posing as a fervent believer. In truth, Cohen writes, Trump’s religion is unbridled lust for money and power at any cost to others.

Cohen’s insider stories add significant depth to my own documentation of Trump’s repeated and public denouncements of Christians as “fools,” “idiots” and “schmucks.”

In extensive writing and speeches, Trump has declared his life philosophy is “revenge.” That stance is aggressively anti-Christian. So are Trump’s often publicly expressed desires to violently attack others, mostly women, and his many remarks that he derives pleasure from ruining the lives of people over such minor matters as declining to do him a favor.

Cohen describes himself as an “active participant” with Trump in activities ranging from “golden showers in a sex club in Vegas” to corrupt deals with Russian officials.

The author offers new anecdotes about Trump’s utter disregard for other people and his contempt for religious belief. Cohen’s words should shock the believers who were crucial to his becoming president, provided they ever read them.

By denouncing the book Trump has ensured that many of those he has tricked into believing he is a deeply religious man will never fulfill their Christian duty to be on the lookout for deceivers.

None of the evangelicals I have interviewed in the past five years knew Trump has denounced in writing their beliefs and written of the communion host as “my little cracker.”

Trump detests Christianity

Despite the irrefutable evidence that Trump detests Christianity and ridicules such core beliefs as the Golden Rule and turning the other cheek, America is filled with pastors who praise him to their flocks as a man of God. Trump himself has looked heavenward outside the White House to imply he was chosen by God.

Pastors who support Trump were scolded two years ago by Christianity Today, a magazine founded by Billy Graham, for not denouncing Trump as “profoundly immoral.” Many evangelical pastors then attacked the magazine rather than following the Biblical exhortation to examine their own souls.

Cohen writes that as a young man who grew up encountering Mafioso and other crooks at a country club he fell into the “trance-like spell” of Trump, whom he describes as an utterly immoral, patriarchal mob boss and con man.

Trump is “consumed by the worldly lust for wealth and rewards,” Cohen writes, which puts him at odds with the teaching of Jesus Christ about what constitutes a good life.

“Places of religious worship held absolutely no interest to him, and he possessed precisely zero personal piety in his life,” Cohen writes.

Prosperity gospel embraced

Cohen explains that the only version of Christianity that could possibly interest Trump is the “prosperity gospel.” That is a perverse belief that financial wealth is a sign of heavenly approval rooted in 19th Century occult beliefs that is anathema to Christian scripture.

Many actual Christians regard the prosperity gospel as evilChristianity Today, calls it “an aberrant theology” promoted by disgraced televangelists including Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Baker.

Early in Trump’s aborted 2012 presidential campaign, Cohen writes, he was ordered to reach out to faith communities. Soon Paula White, now the White House adviser on faith, proposed a meeting at Trump Tower with evangelical leaders. Cohen writes that Trump liked White because she was blonde and beautiful.

Cohen said that among those attending were Jerry Falwell Jr., who recently resigned in disgrace over sex and greed allegations as head of Liberty University, and Creflo Dollar, who solicited donations for a $65 million corporate jet and who was criminally charged that year with choking his daughter. Dollar said those charges were the work of the devil.

Once the evangelical leaders took their seats, Cohen writes, Trump quickly and slickly portrayed himself as a man of deep faith. Cohen writes that this was nonsense.

Laying on hands

After soaking in Trump’s deceptions, the leaders proposed laying hands on Trump. One purpose of laying on hands is to call on the Holy Spirit for divine approval.

Cohen was astounded when Trump, a germa-phobe, eagerly accepted.

“If you knew Trump as I did, the vulgarian salivating over beauty contestants or mocking Roger Stone’s” sexual proclivities “you would have a hard time keeping a straight face at the sight of him affecting the serious and pious mien of a man of faith. I knew I could hardly believe the performance or the fact that these folks were buying it.

“Watching Trump I could see that he knew exactly how to appeal to the evangelicals’ desires and vanities – who they wanted him to be, not who he really was. Everything he was telling them about himself was absolutely untrue.”

To deceive the evangelicals, Cohen writes, Trump would “say whatever they wanted to hear.”

A perverse epiphany

Trump’s ease at deception became for Cohen an epiphany, though a perverse one.

In that moment, Cohen writes, he realized the boss would someday become president because Trump “could lie directly to the faces of some of the most powerful religious leaders in the country and they believed him.”

Later that day, Cohen writes, he met up with Trump in his office.

“Can you believe that bullshit,” Trump said of the laying on of hands. “Can you believe that people believe that bullshit.”

Cohen also writes about Trump’s desire, expressed behind closed doors, to destroy those who offend him. Trump has said the same, though less vividly, in public.

“I love getting even,” Trump declared in his book Think Big, espousing his anti-Christian philosophy: “Go for the jugular. Attack them in spades!”

He reiterated that philosophy this year at the National Prayer Breakfast. Holding up two newspapers with banner headlines reporting his Senate acquittal on impeachment charges, Trump said, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”

Trump spoke after Arthur Brooks, a prominent conservative, told the breakfast meeting that “contempt is ripping our country apart.”

Brooks went on: “We’re like a couple on the rocks in this country…Ask God to take political contempt from your heart. And sometimes, when it’s too hard, ask God to help you fake it.”

Everyone in the room rose to applaud Brooks except Trump, though he finally stood up as the applause died down.

Taking the microphone, Trump said, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you… I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say.”

Trump then said he didn’t believe in forgiveness. That is just as Cohen wrote: “Trump is not a forgiving person.” Trump’s words at the prayer breakfast made clear that he rejects the teaching of Jesus at Luke 6:27: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

The question pastors should raise in their Sunday sermons, the question Cohen’s book lays before them, is how can any Christian support a man who mocks Christianity, embraces revenge as his only life philosophy and rejects that most basic Biblical teaching—forgiveness.

The ugly numbers are finally in on the 2017 Trump tax rewrite

Salon

The ugly numbers are finally in on the 2017 Trump tax rewrite

David Cay Johnston, Salon                     September 7, 2020
Donald Trump; Tax Forms
Donald Trump; Tax Forms.      Getty/Salon 

The first data showing how all Americans are faring under Donald Trump reveal the poor and working classes sinking slightly, the middle class treading water, the upper-middle class growing and the richest, well, luxuriating in rising rivers of greenbacks.

More than half of Americans had to make ends meet in 2018 on less money than in 2016, my analysis of new income and tax data shows.

The nearly 87 million taxpayers making less than $50,000 had to get by in 2018 on $307 less per household than in 2016, the year before Trump took office, I find.

That 57% of American households were better off under Obama contradicts Trump’s often-repeated claim he created the best economy ever until the pandemic.

The worsened economic situation for more than half of Americans contradicts Trump’s frequent claims that he is the champion of the “forgotten man” and his vow that “every decision” on taxes “will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

The figures in this story come from my annual analysis of IRS data known as Table 1.4. The income figures are pre-tax money that must be reported on tax returns.  I adjusted the 2016 data to reflect inflation of 4.1% between 2016 and 2018 (slightly more than 2% a year).

This is the first data on the first full year when Trump was president. It also is the first year of the Radical Republican tax system overhaul, passed in December 2017. The Trump tax law, the most significant tax policy change since 1986, was passed without a single public hearing or a single Democratic vote.

High income households multiply

Trump policies overwhelmingly favor the top 7% of Americans. And, oh, do they benefit!

Prosperous and rich people, the data reveal, include half a million who are not even filing tax returns. Yet they are not being pursued as tax cheats, a separate report shows.

The number of households enjoying incomes of $200,000 or more soared by more than 20%. The number of taxpayers making $10 million or more soared 37% to a record 22,112 households.

Who saves on taxes

The Trump/Republican tax savings were highly concentrated up the income ladder with hardly any tax savings going to the working poor and only a smidgen to the middle class.

Those making $50,000 to $100,000 for example, paid just three-fourths of 1 percentage point less of their incomes to our federal government. People making $2 million to $2.5 million saw their effective tax rate fall by about three times that much.

Now let’s compare two groups, those making $50,000 to $100,000 and those declaring $500,000 to $1 million. The second group averaged nine times as much income as the first group in 2018.

Under the Trump tax law, the first group’s annual income taxes declined on average by $143, while the second group’s tax reduction averaged $17,800.

Put another way, a group that made nine times as much money enjoyed about 125 times as much in income tax savings.

This disparity helps explain Trump’s support among money-conscious high-income Americans. But given the tiny tax benefits for most Americans, along with cuts in government services, it is surprising Trump enjoys significant support among people making less than $200,000.

But realize none of the biggest news organizations do the kind of analysis you are reading, at least not since I left The New York Times a dozen years ago. Instead, the major news organizations quote Trump’s claims and others’ challenges without citing details.

Understating incomes

The figures I cite here understate actual incomes at the top for two reasons. One is that loopholes and Congressional favors allow many rich and superrich Americans to report much less income than they actually enjoy. Often they get to defer for years or decades reporting income earned today.

Second, with Trump’s support Congress has cut IRS staffing so deeply that the service cannot even pursue growing armies of rich people who have stopped filing tax returns. The sharp decline in IRS auditing means tax cheating—always a low-risk crime—has become much less risky.

Trump ignores rich tax cheats

In the three years ending in 2016, the IRS identified 879,415 high-income Americans who did not even bother to file. These tax cheats owed an estimated $45.7 billion in taxes, the treasury inspector general for Tax Administration reported May 29.

Under Trump more than half a million cases of high-income Americans who didn’t file a tax return “will likely not be pursued,” the inspector general wrote.

One of the Koch brothers was under IRS criminal investigation until Trump assumed office and the service abruptly dropped the case. DCReport’s five-part series last year showed, from a thousand pages of documents, that William Ingraham Koch, who lives one door away from Mar-a-Lago, is collecting more than $100 million a year without paying income taxes.

Borrowing to help the rich

Trump’s tax law will require at least $1.5 trillion in added federal debt because it falls far short of paying for itself through increased economic growth even without the pandemic. Most of the tax savings were showered on rich Americans and the corporations they control. Most of the negative effects will fall on the middle class and poor Americans in the form of Trump’s efforts to reduce government services.

The 2017 income tax law caused only a slight decline in the share of adjusted gross income that Americans paid to Uncle Sam, known as the effective tax rate. Adjusted gross income is the last line on the front page of your tax return and is in the measure used in my analysis.

The overall effective tax rate slipped from 14.7% under Obama to 14.2% under Trump.

Curious anomaly

In what might seem at first blush a curious development, Americans making more than $10 million received a below-average cut in their effective tax rate. The effective tax rate for these 22,000 households declined by less than half a percent.

The reason for that smaller-than-average decline is that these super-rich Americans depend less on paychecks and much more on capital gains and dividends that have long been taxed at lower rates than paycheck earnings.

The new tax data also show a sharp shift away from income from work and toward income from investments, a trend which bodes poorly for working people but very nicely for those who control businesses, invest in stocks and have other sources of income from capital.

Overall the share of American income from wages and salaries fell significantly, from almost 71% in 2016 to less than 68% in 2018.

Meanwhile, if you look just at the slice of the American income pie derived from business ownership and investments, it expanded by nearly one-tenth in two years. Income from such investments is highly concentrated among the richest Americans.

Infuriating fact

There’s one more enlightening and perhaps infuriating detail I sussed from the IRS data.

The number of households making $1 million or more but paying no income taxes soared 41% under the new Trump tax law. Under Obama, there were just 394 such households. With Trump, this grew to 556 households making on average $3.5 million without contributing one cent to our government.

Again, Trump seems to have forgotten all about the Forgotten Man. But he’s busy doing all he can to help the rich, then stick you with their tax bills.

Fox News Reporter Snaps Back As Trump Demands Her Firing For Confirming War Dead Story

Fox News Reporter Snaps Back As Trump Demands Her Firing For Confirming War Dead Story

Mary Papenfuss              September 5, 2020

Fox News reporter staunchly defended her work Saturday after President Donald Trump demanded she be fired for confirming parts of The Atlantic’s bombshell story revealing the president’s insults about military service members.

“I can tell you that my sources are unimpeachable,” Fox News’ national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin said on-air (in the video above). “I feel very confident with what we have reported at Fox.”

She didn’t confirm “every line” of the report, but did confirm “most of the descriptions and the quotes in that Atlantic article … so I feel very confident in my reporting,” Griffin said. She also discovered as part of her reporting that Trump had once said that including “wounded guys” would not be a “good look” at a Fourth of July parade honoring the military, according to a source.

The Atlantic article cited multiple accounts of shocking incidents when Trump denigrated military service members, including referring to fallen war heroes as “losers” and “suckers.” It also revealed details of the president’s refusal to visit the graves of America’s war dead at Aisne-Marne Cemetery while he was in France in 2018. Trump has denied everything.

Griffin said she wasn’t able to confirm the “suckers” and “losers” portion of the Atlantic report about dead military heroes. But a source did confirm that Trump once said that anyone who served in the Vietnam War was a “sucker.”

While reporters at other news operations confirmed the Atlantic report, Trump singled out Griffin because a hit from Fox News, which is usually supportive of the president, is particularly damaging for him.

Trump cited a Breitbart article pointing out that Griffin had failed to confirm the “most salacious” (“suckers” and “losers”) details of the Atlantic story, written by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, whom Trump called a “slimeball.” The president also declared that Fox News was “gone.”

Fox News was confused about where it stood on the story Friday. News hosts bashed the story before it was confirmed (by Griffin), then it was bashed again, then reconfirmed. News hosts also attacked the use of anonymous sources by The Atlantic, but then used anonymous sources to attack — and confirm — the story.

At least seven of Griffin’s colleagues — and a Republican congressman — supported her after the president’s tweet and after being bashed by Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway for using anonymous sources.

Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger also spoke up for Griffin on Saturday, calling her “fair and unafraid.”

Twitter critics are calling on two retired Marine Corps generals — former Defense Secretary James Mattis and ex-White House chief of staff John Kelly — to speak out about the Atlantic article.

Former NATO supreme commander and Navy Admiral James Stavridis tweeted Friday that the men’s “lack of denial” speaks volumes.

 

Why Trump’s ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ slurs cut especially deep for Marines

The Week

Why Trump’s ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ slurs cut especially deep for Marines

Peter Weber, The Week           September 4, 2020

 

The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg dropped a bombshell on Washington, D.C., late Thursday, publishing a compilation of anecdotes about President Trump disparaging U.S. service members, frequently referring to those killed or captured in the line of duty as “losers” and “suckers.” Trump and his aides pushed back hard against the reports, but then James LaPorta, a Marine Corps veteran and investigative reporter at The Associated Pressgot confirmation from two sourcesThe Washington Post and The New York Times followed up with their own sources confirming Trump’s dismissive comments about POWs and slain soldiers.

Goldberg begins his article with Trump declining to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018:

In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 Marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed. Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” [The Atlantic]

Goldberg’s report is “quite shocking,” LaPorta told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday night. “I actually didn’t believe it — which is why I started reaching out to sources. … Belleau Wood is one of those things that is sort of hammered into young Marines as they’re going through boot camp. I mean, Marine Corps folklore comes out of Belleau Wood, the idea the German army called Marines ‘Teufel Hunden,’ which translates into ‘Devil Dog.’ That’s where we get that name from.”

Maddow also played a previously unseen part of her interview with Mary Trump in which the president’s niece recounts a family story about Trump threatening to disinherit Donald Trump Jr. if he joined the military.

Goldberg told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday he thinks Pentagon officials are mostly baffled at Trump’s attitude toward military heroes. “I think he’s genuinely confused by service,” Goldberg said. “I think the volunteer force in particular kind of confuses him, because why would you ever possibly put your life at risk for a salary of $64,000 a year? It doesn’t make any sense, is my point, in his worldview.” Watch below.

 

Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’

The Atlantic 

Donald Trump greets families of the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2017. CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” He also said that he didn’t understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies.

There was no precedent in American politics for the expression of this sort of contempt, but the performatively patriotic Trump did no damage to his candidacy by attacking McCain in this manner. Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Trump remained fixated on McCain, one of the few prominent Republicans to continue criticizing him after he won the nomination. When McCain died, in August 2018, Trump told his senior staff, according to three sources with direct knowledge of this event, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. “What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” the president told aides. Trump was not invited to McCain’s funeral. (These sources, and others quoted in this article, spoke on condition of anonymity. The White House did not return earlier calls for comment, but Alyssa Farah, a White House spokesperson, emailed me this statement shortly after this story was posted: “This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact.”)

Trump’s understanding of heroism has not evolved since he became president. According to sources with knowledge of the president’s views, he seems to genuinely not understand why Americans treat former prisoners of war with respect. Nor does he understand why pilots who are shot down in combat are honored by the military. On at least two occasions since becoming president, according to three sources with direct knowledge of his views, Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II. (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers.)

When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him. But his cynicism about service and heroism extends even to the World War I dead buried outside Paris—people who were killed more than a quarter century before he was born. Trump finds the notion of military service difficult to understand, and the idea of volunteering to serve especially incomprehensible. (The president did not serve in the military; he received a medical deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War because of the alleged presence of bone spurs in his feet. In the 1990’s, Trump said his efforts to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases constituted his “personal Vietnam.”)

On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”

I’ve asked numerous general officers over the past year for their analysis of Trump’s seeming contempt for military service. They offer a number of explanations. Some of his cynicism is rooted in frustration, they say. Trump, unlike previous presidents, tends to believe that the military, like other departments of the federal government, is beholden only to him, and not the Constitution. Many senior officers have expressed worry about Trump’s understanding of the rules governing the use of the armed forces. This issue came to a head in early June, during demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in response to police killings of Black people. James Mattis, the retired Marine general and former secretary of defense, lambasted Trump at the time for ordering law-enforcement officers to forcibly clear protesters from Lafayette Square, and for using soldiers as props: “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Mattis wrote. “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

 

Another explanation is more quotidian, and aligns with a broader understanding of Trump’s material-focused worldview. The president believes that nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.” (According to eyewitnesses, after a White House briefing given by the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, Trump turned to aides and said, “That guy is smart. Why did he join the military?”)

Yet another, related, explanation concerns what appears to be Trump’s pathological fear of appearing to look like a “sucker” himself. His capacious definition of sucker includes those who lose their lives in service to their country, as well as those who are taken prisoner, or are wounded in battle. “He has a lot of fear,” one officer with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s views said. “He doesn’t see the heroism in fighting.” Several observers told me that Trump is deeply anxious about dying or being disfigured, and this worry manifests itself as disgust for those who have suffered. Trump recently claimed that he has received the bodies of slain service members “many, many” times, but in fact he has traveled to Dover Air Force Base, the transfer point for the remains of fallen service members, only four times since becoming president. In another incident, Trump falsely claimed that he had called “virtually all” of the families of service members who had died during his term, then began rush-shipping condolence letters when families said the president was not telling the truth.

Trump has been, for the duration of his presidency, fixated on staging military parades, but only of a certain sort. In a 2018 White House planning meeting for such an event, Trump asked his staff not to include wounded veterans, on grounds that spectators would feel uncomfortable in the presence of amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” he said.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor in chief of The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.

The Platform the GOP Is Too Scared to Publish

SHUTTERSTOCK / PAUL SPELLA / THE ATLANTIC

 

Republicans have decided not to publish a party platform for 2020.

This omission has led some to conclude that the GOP lacks ideas, that it stands for nothing, that it has shriveled to little more than a Trump cult.

This conclusion is wrong. The Republican Party of 2020 has lots of ideas. I’m about to list 13 ideas that command almost universal assent within the Trump administration, within the Republican caucuses of the U.S. House and Senate, among governors and state legislators, on Fox News, and among rank-and-file Republicans.

Once you read the list, I think you’ll agree that these are authentic ideas with meaningful policy consequences, and that they are broadly shared. The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform; it’s why they’re so reluctant to publish the one on which they’re running.

1) The most important mechanism of economic policy—not the only tool, but the most important—is adjusting the burden of taxation on society’s richest citizens. Lower this level, as Republicans did in 2017, and prosperity will follow. The economy has had a temporary setback, but thanks to the tax cut of 2017, recovery is ready to follow strongly. No further policy change is required, except possibly lower taxes still.

3) Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It’s probably not happening. If it is happening, it’s not worth worrying about. If it’s worth worrying about, it’s certainly not worth paying trillions of dollars to amend. To the extent it is real, it will be dealt with in the fullness of time by the technologies of tomorrow. Regulations to protect the environment unnecessarily impede economic growth.

4) China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United States. Military spending should be invested with an eye to defeating China on the seas, in space, and in the cyberrealm. U.S. economic policy should recognize that relations with China are zero-sum: When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.

5) The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are outdated. America still needs partners, of course, especially Israel and maybe Russia. But the days of NATO and the World Trade Organization are over. The European Union should be treated as a rival, the United Kingdom and Japan should be treated as subordinates, and Canada, Australia, and Mexico should be treated as dependencies. If America acts decisively, allies will have to follow whether they like it or not—as they will have to follow U.S. policy on Iran.

6) Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make their own best deals in the insurance market with minimal government supervision. Those who pay more should get more. Those who cannot pay must rely on Medicaid, accept charity, or go without.

7) Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege in such a way as to minimize voting fraud, which is rife among Black Americans and new immigrant communities. The federal role in voting oversight should be limited to preventing Democrats from abusing the U.S. Postal Service to enable fraud by their voters.

8) Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants. Federal civil-rights-enforcement resources should concentrate on protecting them.

9) The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating the mistake made in 1965, when women’s sexual privacy was elevated into a constitutional right.

10) The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. Overly strict conflict-of-interest rules will only bar wealthy and successful businesspeople from public service. Without endorsing every particular action by the president and his family, the Trump administration has met all reasonable ethical standards.

12) The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of police. Police misconduct, such as that in the George Floyd case, should be punished. But the priority now should be to stop crime by empowering police.

13) Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump by the media and the “deep state,” his occasional excesses on Twitter and at his rallies should be understood as pardonable reactions to much more severe misconduct by others.

So there’s the platform. Why not publish it?

There are two answers to that question, one simple, one more complicated.

The simple answer is that President Trump’s impulsive management style has cast his convention into chaos. The location, the speaking program, the arrangements—all were decided at the last minute. Managing the rollout of a platform as well was just one task too many.

The more complicated answer is that the platform I’ve just described, like so much of the Trump-Republican program, commands support among only a minority of the American people. The platform works (to the extent it does work) by exciting enthusiastic support among Trump supporters; but when stated too explicitly, it invites a backlash among the American majority. This is a platform for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country. And for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.

The challenge for Republicans in the week ahead is to hope that President Trump can remember, night after night, to speak only the things he’s supposed to speak—not to blurt the things his party wants its supporters to absorb unspoken.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

David Frum is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Trumpocalypse: Restoring America Democracy (2020). In 2001 and 2002, he was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

The US is in a water crisis far worse than most people imagine

The US is in a water crisis far worse than most people imagine

Erin Brockovich           August 24, 2020

 

When I was a little girl, my father would sing songs to me all the time about water. Sometimes, we would be playing down at the creeks and he would make up little tunes: “See that lovely water, trickling down the stream, don’t take it for granted, someday it might not be seen.”

My dad worked for many years as an engineer for Texaco and later for the Department of Transportation. Before he died, he told me that in my lifetime water would become a commodity more valuable than oil or gold, because there would be so little of it. Sadly, I believe he was right.

Our water has become so toxic that towns are issuing emergency boil notices and shipping in bottled water to their residents. In 2016, as I started research for my new book Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About Itmembers of our very own US Congress had their water shut down in Washington due to unsafe lead levels.

We are in a water crisis beyond anything you can imagine. Pollution and toxins are everywhere, stemming from the hazardous wastes of industry and agriculture. We’ve got more than 40,000 chemicals on the market today with only a few hundred regulated. We’ve had industrial byproducts discarded into the ground and into our water supply for years. This crisis affects everyone – rich or poor, black or white, Republican or Democrat. Communities everywhere think they are safe when they are not.

Each water system is unique, but some of the most toxic offenders include hexavalent chromium (an anticorrosive agent), PFOA (used to make Teflon pans), PFOS (a key ingredient in Scotchgard), TCE (used in dry cleaning and refrigeration), lead, fracking chemicals, chloramines (a water disinfectant), and more. Many of these chemicals are undetectable for those drinking the water. Many cause irreversible health problems and people in communities throughout the country are dealing with these repercussions.

Like a blood test for disease, you can only find what you test for. If you don’t order a specific test for one of these chemicals, you won’t know it’s there. And you can’t treat water unless you know what’s in it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. What about the EPA, Erin? What about corporate remediation departments? Aren’t the experts handling it?

The short answer is no.

These issues start with tiny seeds of deception that add up over months and years to become major problems. Our resources are exhausted. Corruption is rampant. Officials are trying to cover their tracks. People are not putting the pieces together when it comes to the severity of this crisis. I’ve got senators and doctors calling me, asking me what to do.

As if poisoned water wasn’t a big enough issue, the last six years (2013–2019) have been the hottest years on record. As our climate changes, and we experience more droughts, floods, superstorms, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, we are seeing greater strains on our water supplies and infrastructure.

Superman is not coming. If you are waiting for someone to come save you and clean up your water, I’m here to tell you: no one is coming to save you. The time has come for us to save ourselves.

But before you despair, I want to remind you that we are in this together. No one person must – or can – fix it alone. No one senator, one community member, CEO, mom, or dad. We’ve got to work together.

Even in the movie that shares my name, we had a team working around the clock. I went door-to-door to talk with residents who had concerns and were asking good questions. We hosted community meetings. We worked with some of the best legal teams, researchers, and academics in California. It was not a one-woman or one-man job. We fought together.

I’ve noticed over the years that when I visit towns and work with people, the number one thing everyone seems to need is permission. They are looking for someone to tell them that it’s OK to move forward or speak out.

It’s not always easy. We’re taught from the time we’re young to ask for permission: permission to leave the dinner table, permission to use the bathroom during class. As we get older, we must get permits to build an addition onto the house. We sign permission slips for our kids to go on field trips. All these little acts add up and then we think: who am I to stand up at a city council meeting and ask a question? We all have these doubts and questions. In the end, I think that the permission we are seeking is more about support. We want to know that if we take action, it will be successful and that our community will stand by us.

Consider this your personal permission slip. Yes, you have permission to ask questions. Yes, you have permission to scrutinize your water professionals to see if they have the right credentials. Yes, you have permission to start a Facebook group to make more people aware of your cause. You have permission to stick up for yourself when it comes to your health, your family, your life.

The first action that you can take is to become part of what I hope will be the first-ever national self-reporting registry. This crowd-sourced map allows individuals and community groups to report and review health issues (cancer being the most prevalent) and community environmental issues by geographic area and by health topic. The research is intended to connect the dots between clusters of illness and environmental hazards in specific communities and regions of the country. If you or someone you know is sick or suffering, please report it.

None of us need a PhD or a science degree, or need to be a politician or a lawyer, to protect our right to clean water. We have the power together to fight for better enforcement of environmental safety laws, to push for new legislation, and to storm our city halls until our voices are heard and the water is safe for everyone to drink.

  • Adapted from Superman’s Not Coming, copyright © 2020 by Erin Brockovich. Used by arrangement with Pantheon Books, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC