Trump is recreating his web of chaos at home and abroad in a preview of what a second term could look like


Trump is recreating his web of chaos at home and abroad in a preview of what a second term could look like

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN – April 10, 2024

Marco Bello/Reuters

Some top Democrats worry that Americans have forgotten the chaos that raged every day Donald Trump was president, and that voters’ faded recall of the uproar will end up handing him a second term.

The presumptive GOP nominee is, however, doing a good job of jogging memories as he blazes a trail of disruption through Congress, immigration and national security policy, reproductive health care and the nation’s top courts.

After storming to the Republican nomination, Trump is again the epicenter of controversy. His volatile personality, loyalty tests, rampant falsehoods, thirst to serve his political self-interest and the aftershocks of his first term are compromising attempts to govern the country. And the election is still seven months away.

Many of today’s most intractable conflicts in US politics can be traced to Trump and the turmoil that is an essential ingredient of his political appeal to base voters who want Washington and its rules ripped down – no matter the consequences.

Events this week – and over the first three months of this year – illustrate how much Trump has shaped the political tumult:

— On Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson suffered another stunning defeat, further gutting his authority, after hard right GOP members blocked a bill to reauthorize a critical surveillance spying program at Trump’s behest.

— Another measure critical to America’s capacity to wield its global power and its international reputation – a $60 billion arms package for Ukraine – is still going nowhere. Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is threatening to topple Johnson if he dares to pass it.

— Nationwide chaos is, meanwhile, spreading in the wake of the Trump-built Supreme Court conservative majority overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022. In the latest stunning twist, Arizona is about to revert to a near total Civil War-era abortion ban.

— Bipartisan efforts to solve a border crisis are in tatters after Trump’s House followers in February killed the most sweeping and conservative bill in years. The ex-president appeared to want to deprive President Joe Biden of an election-year win and to continue his searing claims that America is being invaded by undocumented migrants he calls “animals.”

— Some of the nation’s top courts are being tied in knots by Trump’s incessant, and often frivolous, appeals as he desperately tries to postpone the shame of becoming the first ex-president to go on criminal trial. His unchained social media posts may be coming perilously close to infringing a gag order ahead of his hush money trial beginning Monday.

— The Supreme Court will later this month wrestle with Trump’s claims of almost unchecked presidential power – a constitutional conundrum that no other president in two-and-a-half centuries of American history ever raised. The suit is largely a ruse to delay his federal election interference trial – and it is working.

Trump’s entanglement in some of the most intense political storms rocking Washington, and reverberating even beyond US shores, offers fresh evidence of his power – expressed through his capacity to make key elements of the Republican Party bend to his will. It highlights his mercurial personality and a political style that relies on instinct rather than long-term strategy. And it is leaving no doubt that the mayhem that burst out of the Oval Office during his administration would return at an even more intense level if he gets back there in 2025.

Trump delivers a blow to Johnson – then invites him to Mar-a-Lago

Trump dispensed his orders to his acolytes in the House with the words “Kill FISA” on his Truth Social network.

The former president was referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which national security officials say is critical to allowing espionage agencies to listen to communications of suspected terrorists and US adversaries. Some of those key powers need to be reauthorized by Congress by the middle of the month.

Critics of the law, including some civil liberties groups and some conservatives, argue that Section 702 of the act, which allows the surveillance of foreigners outside the US, is unconstitutional because sometimes Americans in contact with those targets get swept up in the net. But Trump is bent on vengeance against the FBI over its investigation into contacts between his 2016 campaign and Russia. He claimed in a social media post that FISA was “ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!”

On Wednesday, 19 Republicans – including some of Trump’s loudest backers in the House – bucked Johnson and voted with Democrats to block consideration of the bill, dealing yet another blow to the speaker’s fast-ebbing authority and provoking a potential national security crisis.

Bill Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, told CNN’s Annie Grayer on Wednesday that the actions of his former boss and allies were “a travesty and reckless.” Barr argued that the ex-president was being driven by “personal pique rather than rationality and sound policy.” He said Trump’s complaints about the investigation into his 2016 campaign had nothing to do with the FISA section that needs to be reauthorized. And in a chilling warning, Barr accused the ex-president of putting US national security at risk. “We’re faced with probably the greatest threat to the homeland from terrorist attack and our means of defending against that is FISA. And to take that tool away, I think, is going to result in successful terrorist attacks and the loss of life,” he said.

Johnson’s latest humiliation came as he’s fighting for his job on another front. He held tense crisis talks on Wednesday with Greene, who is threatening to call a vote to oust him. The speaker may be the most conservative person to ever hold his job, but the Georgia lawmaker is accusing him of becoming a Democrat in all but name. Johnson’s crime was to keep the government open by passing budget bills and his consideration of the delayed Ukraine funding, which is also opposed by the former president.

“If he funds the deep state and the warrantless spying on Americans, he’s telling Republican voters all over the country that the continued behavior will happen more, spying on President Trump and spying on hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Greene told CNN’s Manu Raju on Wednesday. She added: “The funding of Ukraine must end. We are not responsible for a war in Ukraine. We’re responsible for the war on our border, and I made that clear to Speaker Johnson.”

Trump’s role in these two issues that threaten to bring Johnson down make it all the more curious that the speaker plans to travel to Mar-a-Lago on Friday to hold a joint news conference with the Republican presumptive nominee.

Johnson badly needs Trump to wield his influence with the restive GOP majority if he is to survive. And his pilgrimage to the Florida resort will make a strong statement about who really runs the House majority. There is a clue to a potential quid pro quo in the announced topic of their press conference – “election integrity.” That’s the code in Trump’s world for false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Johnson was a prominent purveyor of falsehoods about a stolen election and his continued willingness to buy into them might be the price for securing Trump’s support now.

Ukraine’s future may depend on the speaker sacrificing his future

Trump’s transformation of the GOP from a party that used to laud President Ronald Reagan’s victory over the Kremlin in the Cold War to one that often seems to be fulfilling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy goals is striking.

The GOP’s blockade of more funding for Ukraine threatens America’s global authority and reputation as a nation that supports democracies and opposes tyrants like a Russian leader who is accused of war crimes. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the war will be lost if the US arms don’t arrive. He told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen on Wednesday that “what we have now is not sufficient. If we want to truly prevail over Putin.”

A few hours later, Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of US European Command, backed up Zelensky’s warnings. “If one side can shoot and the other side can’t shoot back, the side that can’t shoot back loses. So the stakes are very high,” Cavoli told the House Armed Services Committee.

Yet Trump has vowed to end the war in 24 hours if he wins a second term. That can only happen one way – by Zelensky giving territorial concessions to Putin, who launched an illegal invasion and to whom the former US president has often genuflected.

News that Johnson is heading to Mar-a-Lago is yet another reason for US supporters of Ukraine to worry.

Abortion chaos

One of Biden’s goals is trying to remind suburban, moderate and independent voters who may be alienated by Trump’s constant chaos how disorientating life could be when he was president.

That’s one reason why the Biden campaign has seized on the fallout of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade to highlight the pandemonium that can result from Trump’s leadership.

The overturning of the nationwide constitutional right to an abortion was based on the reasoning that state legislatures that are closer to the people than the judiciary are the appropriate place for such a divisive moral question. In an ideal world or a political vacuum, that might be the case. But the decision took little account of the corrosive polarization of America’s politics and the result has been a confusing patchwork of state laws and court decisions. Many patients are being deprived of vital health services – for instance after miscarriages. Some IVF fertility treatments have been stopped in Alabama, for example, and the Supreme Court has been forced to consider an attempt to halt nationwide access to a widely used abortion pill.

Anti-abortion campaigners are, meanwhile, pushing hard for total state and national bans on the procedure while abortion rights advocates are seeking to inject the issue into key election races — with significant recent success in even some red states.

Trump this week tried to defuse the growing threat to his campaign from his and the conservative Supreme Court majority’s handiwork, insisting he’d leave the issue to the states. His damage control effort didn’t even last 24 hours. The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate a 160-year-old ban triggered a backlash that went right back to the former president.

Trump had another go on Wednesday, pledging that he wouldn’t sign a federal ban on abortion as president – as many conservatives are pushing him to. But given how many times he’s shifted his position on the issue, it’s hard to know what he really thinks.

For once, Trump could end up being the chief victim of the chaos he wreaks.

US foreign-born population grew 15 percent in 12 years

The Hill

US foreign-born population grew 15 percent in 12 years

Filip Timotija – April 9, 2024

The U.S. foreign-born population has grown by 15 percent in 12 years, per a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau released Tuesday.

The foreign-born population in the country was around 40 million in 2010, making up 12.9 percent of the total population. The number jumped to 46.2 million in 12 years, with now making up 13.9 percent of the total population.

People who are part of the foreign-born population are those living in the country who are not U.S. citizens at birth, lawful permanent residents, foreign students, refugees and unauthorized migrants.

The median age of the foreign-born population went up more than the native population from 2010 to 2022.

The foreign-born population went up by five years, going from a median age of 41.4 to 46.7 years old, while the native population increased slightly, from 35.9 to 36.9 years old.

North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Delaware saw their foreign-born populace increase by over 40 percent.

The percentage of foreign-born individuals went up by close to five points, going from 68.3 percent in 2010 to 75.1 percent in 2022, according to the report.

Half of the country’s foreign-born populace was from South America.

New Jersey, California, Florida and New York are four states where immigrants make up more than one-fifth of the state’s population. California led the way with 26.5 percent, New Jersey was second with 23.2 percent, New York had 22.6 percent and Florida was fourth with 21.1 percent.

Close to 50 percent of all immigrants came into the country before 2000.

The data was based on one-year estimates and came from The American Community Survey (ACS).

More than half of foreign-born people in US live in just 4 states and half are naturalized citizens

Associated Press

More than half of foreign-born people in US live in just 4 states and half are naturalized citizens

Mike Schneider – April 9, 2024

FILE – Women representing more than 20 countries take part in a Naturalization Ceremony, March 8, 2024, in San Antonio. More than half of the foreign-born population in the United States lives in just four states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — and their numbers grew older and more educated over the past dozen years, according to a new report released Tuesday, April 9, 2024, by the U.S. Census Bureau. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)More

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — More than half of the foreign-born population in the United States lives in just four states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — and their numbers grew older and more educated over the past dozen years, according to a new report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2022, the foreign-born population was estimated to be 46.2 million people, or almost 14% of the U.S. population, with most states seeing double-digit percentage increases in the last dozen years, according to the figures from the bureau’s American Community Survey.

In California, New Jersey, New York and Florida, foreign-born individuals comprised more than 20% of each state’s population. They constituted 1.8% of West Virginia’s population, the smallest rate in the U.S.

Half of the foreign-born residents in the U.S. were from Latin America, although their composition has shifted in the past dozen years, with those from Mexico dropping by about 1 million people and those from South America and Central America increasing by 2.1 million people.

The share of the foreign population from Asia went from more than a quarter to under a third during that time, while the share of African-born went from 4% to 6%.

The report was released as immigration has become a top issue during the 2024 presidential race, with the Biden administration struggling to manage an unprecedented influx of migrants at the Southwest border. Immigration is shaping the elections in a way that could determine control of Congress as Democrats try to outflank Republicans and convince voters they can address problems at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The Census Bureau report didn’t provide estimates on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

However, the figures show that more than half of the foreign-born are naturalized citizens, with European-born and Asian-born people leading the way with naturalization rates at around two-thirds of their numbers. Around two-thirds of the foreign-born population came to the U.S. before 2010.

The foreign-born population has grown older in the past dozen years, a reflection of some members’ longevity in the U.S., with the median age increasing five years to 46.7 years. They also became more educated from 2010 to 2022, with the rate of foreign-born people holding at least a high school degree going from more than two-thirds to three-quarters of the population.

Trump’s bizarre, vindictive incoherence has to be heard in full to be believed

The Guardian

Trump’s bizarre, vindictive incoherence has to be heard in full to be believed

Rachel Leingang – April 6, 2024

<span>Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on 16 March, at which he predicted there would be a ‘bloodbath’ if he loses the election.</span><span>Photograph: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on 16 March, at which he predicted there would be a ‘bloodbath’ if he loses the election. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s speeches on the 2024 campaign trail so far have been focused on a laundry list of complaints, largely personal, and an increasingly menacing tone.

He’s on the campaign trail less these days than he was in previous cycles – and less than you’d expect from a guy with dedicated superfans who brags about the size of his crowds every chance he gets. But when he has held rallies, he speaks in dark, dehumanizing terms about migrants, promising to vanquish people crossing the border. He rails about the legal battles he faces and how they’re a sign he’s winning, actually. He tells lies and invents fictions. He calls his opponent a threat to democracy and claims this election could be the last one.

Related: Polls show Trump winning key swing states. That’s partly a failure of the press | Margaret Sullivan

Trump’s tone, as many have noted, is decidedly more vengeful this time around, as he seeks to reclaim the White House after a bruising loss that he insists was a steal. This alone is a cause for concern, foreshadowing what the Trump presidency redux could look like. But he’s also, quite frequently, rambling and incoherent, running off on tangents that would grab headlines for their oddness should any other candidate say them.

Journalists rightly chose not to broadcast Trump’s entire speeches after 2016, believing that the free coverage helped boost the former president and spread lies unchecked. But now there’s the possibility that stories about his speeches often make his ideas appear more cogent than they are – making the case that, this time around, people should hear the full speeches to understand how Trump would govern again.

Watching a Trump speech in full better shows what it’s like inside his head: a smorgasbord of falsehoods, personal and professional vendettas, frequent comparisons to other famous people, a couple of handfuls of simple policy ideas, and a lot of non sequiturs that veer into barely intelligible stories.

Curiously, Trump tucks the most tangible policy implications in at the end. His speeches often finish with a rundown of what his second term in office could bring, in a meditation-like recitation the New York Times recently compared to a sermon. Since these policies could become reality, here’s a few of those ideas:

  • Instituting the death penalty for drug dealers.
  • Creating the “Trump Reciprocal Trade Act”: “If China or any other country makes us pay 100% or 200% tariff, which they do, we will make them pay a reciprocal tariff of 100% or 200%. In other words, you screw us and we’ll screw you.”
  • Indemnifying all police officers and law enforcement officials.
  • Rebuilding cities and taking over Washington DC, where, he said in a recent speech, there are “beautiful columns” put together “through force of will” because there were no “Caterpillar tractors” and now those columns have graffiti on them.
  • Issuing an executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender and other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content.
  • Moving to one-day voting with paper ballots and voter ID.

This conclusion is the most straightforward part of a Trump speech and is typically the extent of what a candidate for office would say on the campaign trail, perhaps with some personal storytelling or mild joking added in.

But it’s also often the shortest part.

Trump’s tangents aren’t new, nor is Trump’s penchant for elevating baseless ideas that most other presidential candidates wouldn’t, like his promotion of injecting bleach during the pandemic.

But in a presidential race among two old men that’s often focused on the age of the one who’s slightly older, these campaign trail antics shed light on Trump’s mental acuity, even if people tend to characterize them differently than Joe Biden’s. While Biden’s gaffes elicit serious scrutiny, as writers in the New Yorker and the New York Times recently noted, we’ve seemingly become inured to Trump’s brand of speaking, either skimming over it or giving him leeway because this has always been his shtick.

Trump, like Biden, has confused names of world leaders (but then claims it’s on purpose). He has also stumbled and slurred his words. But beyond that, Trump’s can take a different turn. Trump has described using an “iron dome” missile defense system as “ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. They’ve only got 17 seconds to figure this whole thing out. Boom. OK. Missile launch. Whoosh. Boom.”

These tangents can be part of a tirade, or they can be what one can only describe as complete nonsense.

During this week’s Wisconsin speech, which was more coherent than usual, Trump pulled out a few frequent refrains: comparing himself, incorrectly, to Al Capone, saying he was indicted more than the notorious gangster; making fun of the Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis’s first name (“It’s spelled fanny like your ass, right? Fanny. But when she became DA, she decided to add a little French, a little fancy”).

He made fun of Biden’s golfing game, miming how Biden golfs, perhaps a ding back at Biden for poking Trump about his golf game. Later, he called Biden a “lost soul” and lamented that he gets to sit at the president’s desk. “Can you imagine him sitting at the Resolute Desk? What a great desk,” Trump said.

One muddled addition in Wisconsin involved squatters’ rights, a hot topic related to immigration now: “If you have illegal aliens invading your home, we will deport you,” presumably meaning the migrant would be deported instead of the homeowner. He wanted to create a federal taskforce to end squatting, he said.

“Sounds like a little bit of a weird topic but it’s not, it’s a very bad thing,” he said.

These half-cocked remarks aren’t new; they are a feature of who Trump is and how he communicates that to the public, and that’s key to understanding how he is as a leader.

The New York Times opinion writer Jamelle Bouie described it as “something akin to the soft bigotry of low expectations”, whereby no one expected him to behave in an orderly fashion or communicate well.

Some of these bizarre asides are best seen in full, like this one about Biden at the beach in Trump’s Georgia response to the State of the Union:

“Somebody said he looks great in a bathing suit, right? And you know, when he was in the sand and he was having a hard time lifting his feet through the sand, because you know sand is heavy, they figured three solid ounces per foot, but sand is a little heavy, and he’s sitting in a bathing suit. Look, at 81, do you remember Cary Grant? How good was Cary Grant, right? I don’t think Cary Grant, he was good. I don’t know what happened to movie stars today. We used to have Cary Grant and Clark Gable and all these people. Today we have, I won’t say names, because I don’t need enemies. I don’t need enemies. I got enough enemies. But Cary Grant was, like – Michael Jackson once told me, ‘The most handsome man, Trump, in the world.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Cary Grant.’ Well, we don’t have that any more, but Cary Grant at 81 or 82, going on 100. This guy, he’s 81, going on 100. Cary Grant wouldn’t look too good in a bathing suit, either. And he was pretty good-looking, right?”

Or another Hollywood-related bop, inspired by a rant about Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade’s romantic relationship:

“It’s a magnificent love story, like Gone With the Wind. You know Gone With the Wind, you’re not allowed to watch it any more. You know that, right? It’s politically incorrect to watch Gone With the Wind. They have a list. What were the greatest movies ever made? Well, Gone With the Wind is usually number one or two or three. And then they have another list you’re not allowed to watch any more, Gone With the Wind. You tell me, is our country screwed up?”

He still claims to have “done more for Black people than any president other than Abraham Lincoln” and also now says he’s being persecuted more than Lincoln and Andrew Jackson:

“All my life you’ve heard of Andrew Jackson, he was actually a great general and a very good president. They say that he was persecuted as president more than anybody else, second was Abraham Lincoln. This is just what they said. This is in the history books. They were brutal, Andrew Jackson’s wife actually died over it.”

You not only see the truly bizarre nature of his speeches when viewing them in full, but you see the sheer breadth of his menace and animus toward those who disagree with him.

His comments especially toward migrants have grown more dehumanizing. He has said they are “poisoning the blood” of the US – a nod at Great Replacement Theory, the far-right conspiracy that the left is orchestrating migration to replace white people. Trump claimed the people coming in were “prisoners, murderers, drug dealers, mental patients and terrorists, the worst they have”. He has repeatedly called migrants “animals”.

“Democrats said please don’t call them ‘animals’. I said, no, they’re not humans, they’re animals,” he said during a speech in Michigan this week.

“In some cases they’re not people, in my opinion,” he said during his March appearance in Ohio. “But I’m not allowed to say that because the radical left says that’s a terrible thing to say. “These are animals, OK, and we have to stop it,” he said.

And he has turned more authoritarian in his language, saying he would be a “dictator on day one” but then later said it would only be for a day. He’s called his political enemies “vermin”: “We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country,” he said in New Hampshire in late 2023.

At a speech in March in Ohio about the US auto industry he claimed there would be a “bloodbath” if he lost, which some interpreted as him claiming there would be violence if he loses the election.

Trump’s campaign said later that he meant the comment to be specific to the auto industry, but now the former president has started saying Biden created a “border bloodbath” and the Republican National Committee created a website to that effect as well.

It’s tempting to find a coherent line of attack in Trump speeches to try to distill the meaning of a rambling story. And it’s sometimes hard to even figure out the full context of what he’s saying, either in text or subtext and perhaps by design, like the “bloodbath” comment or him saying there wouldn’t be another election if he doesn’t win this one.

But it’s only in seeing the full breadth of the 2024 Trump speech that one can truly understand what kind of president he could become if he won the election.

“It’s easiest to understand the threat that Trump poses to American democracy most clearly when you see it for yourself,” Susan B Glasser wrote in the New Yorker. “Small clips of his craziness can be too easily dismissed as the background noise of our times.”

But if you ask Trump himself, these are just examples that Trump is smart, he says.

“The fake news will say, ‘Oh, he goes from subject to subject.’ No, you have to be very smart to do that. You got to be very smart. You know what it is? It’s called spot-checking. You’re thinking about something when you’re talking about something else, and then you get back to the original. And they go, ‘Holy shit. Did you see what he did?’ It’s called intelligence.”

I Listened to Trump’s Rambling, Unhinged, Vituperative Georgia Rally—and So Should You

The New Yorker – Letter from Biden’s Washington

I Listened to Trump’s Rambling, Unhinged, Vituperative Georgia Rally—and So Should You

The ex-President is building a whole new edifice of lies for 2024.

By Susan B. Glasser – March 14, 2024

Former U.S. President Donald Trump gives a speech in Rome Georgia in March 2024. Trump is photographed from above and is...

I’m sure you had better things to do on Saturday evening than watch Donald Trump rant for nearly two hours to an audience of cheering fans in Rome, Georgia. His speech was rambling, unhinged, vituperative, and oh-so-revealing. In his first rally since effectively clinching the Republican Presidential nomination, Trump made what amounted to his response to Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. It’s hard to imagine a better or more pointed contrast with the vision that, two days earlier, the President had laid out for America.

And yet, like so much about Trump’s 2024 campaign, this insane oration was largely overlooked and under-covered, the flood of lies and B.S. seen as old news from a candidate whose greatest political success has been to acclimate a large swath of the population to his ever more dangerous alternate reality. No wonder Biden, trapped in a real world of real problems that defy easy solutions, is struggling to defeat him.

This is partly a category error. Though we persist in treating the 2024 election as a race between an incumbent and a challenger, it is not that so much as a contest between two incumbents: Biden, the actual President, and Trump, the forever-President of Red America’s fever dreams. But Trump, while he presents himself as the country’s rightful leader, gets nothing like the intense scrutiny for his speeches that is now focussed on the current occupant of the Oval Office. The norms and traditions that Trump is intent on smashing are, once again, benefitting him.

Consider the enormous buildup before, and wall-to-wall coverage of, Biden’s annual address to Congress. It was big news when the President called out his opponent in unusually scathing terms, referring thirteen times in his prepared text to “my predecessor” in what was, understandably, seen as a break with tradition. Republican commentators grumbled about the sharply partisan tone of the President’s remarks and the loud decibel in which he delivered them; Democrats essentially celebrated those same qualities.

Imagine if, instead, the two speeches had been covered side by side. Biden’s barbed references to Trump were all about the former President’s offenses to American democracy. He called out Trump’s 2024 campaign of “resentment, revenge, and retribution” and the “chaos” unleashed by the Trump-majority Supreme Court when it threw out the decades-old precedent of Roe v. Wade. In reference to a recent quote from the former President, in which Trump suggested that Americans should just “get over it” when it comes to gun violence, Biden retorted, “I say: Stop it, stop it, stop it!” His sharpest words for Trump came in response to the ex-President’s public invitation to Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to nato countries that don’t spend what Trump wants them to on defense—a line that Biden condemned as “outrageous,” “dangerous,” and “unacceptable.”

Trump’s speech made little effort to draw substantive contrasts with Biden. Instead, the Washington Post counted nearly five dozen references to Biden in the course of the Georgia rally, almost all of them epithets drawn from the Trump marketing playbook for how to rip down an opponent—words like “angry,” “corrupt,” “crooked,” “flailing,” “incompetent,” “stupid,” and “weak.” Trump is, always and forever, a puerile bully, stuck perpetually on the fifth-grade playground. But the politics of personal insult has worked so well for Trump that he is, naturally, doubling down on it in 2024. In fact, one of the clips from Trump’s speech on Saturday which got the most coverage was his mockery of Biden’s stutter: a churlish—and, no doubt, premeditated—slur.

And yet there was the G.O.P. strategist Karl Rove, writing this week in the Wall Street Journal that it was Biden who had “lowered himself with shortsighted and counterproductive blows” in his State of the Union speech. Trump’s entire campaign is a study in grotesque slander, but Rove did not even mention Trump’s Georgia rally while sanctimoniously tut-tutting about Biden. And I don’t mean to single out Rove; it was hard to find any right-leaning commentators who did otherwise. This many years into the Trump phenomenon, they’ve figured out that the best way to deal with Trump’s excesses is simply to pretend they do not exist.

Hanging over both speeches was the increasingly burning question of performance, as the country is now forced to choose between two aging leaders aspiring to remain in the White House well into their eighties. Trump has arguably lowered the bar for Biden, with his constant insults aimed at the President’s age and capacity, and Biden managed to clear it, turning his State of the Union into an affirmation—for fretting Democratic partisans, at least—that he has the vigor and fight to keep going in the job.

Trump’s appearance in Georgia, by contrast, reflected a man not rooted in any kind of reality, one who struggled to remember his words and who was, by any definition, incoherent, disconnected, and frequently malicious. (This video compilation, circulating on social media, nails it.) In one lengthy detour, he complained about Biden once being photographed on a beach in his bathing suit. Which led him to Cary Grant, which led him to Michael Jackson, which led him back to the point that even Cary Grant wouldn’t have looked good in a bathing suit at age eighty-one. In another aside, he bragged about how much “women love me,” citing as proof the “suburban housewives from North Carolina” who travel to his rallies around the country. He concluded that portion of his speech by saying:

But it was an amazing phenomenon and I do protect women. Look, they talk about suburban housewives. I believe I’m doing well—you know, the polls are all rigged. Of course lately they haven’t been rigged because I’m winning by so much, so I don’t want to say it. Disregard that statement. I love the polls very much.

Makes perfect sense, right?

It was no surprise, of course, that Trump began his speech by panning Biden’s: “the worst President in history, making the worst State of the Union speech in history,” an “angry, dark, hate-filled rant” that was “the most divisive, partisan, radical, and extreme” such address ever given. As always, what really stuns is Trump’s lack of self-awareness. Remember his “American carnage” address? Well, never mind. Get past the unintended irony, though, and what’s striking is how much of Trump’s 2024 campaign platform is being built on an edifice of lies, and not just the old, familiar lies about the “rigged election” which have figured prominently in every speech Trump has made since his defeat four years ago.

Trump’s over-the-top distortions of his record as President—“the greatest economy in history”; “the biggest tax cut in history”; “I did more for Black people than any President other than Abraham Lincoln”—are now joined by an equally flamboyant new set of untruths about Biden’s Presidency, which Trump portrayed in Saturday’s speech as a hellish time of almost fifty-per-cent inflation and an economy “collapsing into a cesspool of ruin,” with rampaging migrants being let loose from prisons around the world and allowed into the United States, on Biden’s orders, to murder and pillage and steal jobs from “native-born Americans.” Biden, in Trump’s current telling, is both a drooling incompetent being controlled by “fascists” and a corrupt criminal mastermind, “weaponizing” the U.S. government and its criminal-justice system to come after his opponent. His campaign slogan for 2024 might be summed up by one of the rally’s pithier lines: “Everything Joe Biden touches turns to shit. Everything.”

Indeed, Trump’s efforts this year to blame Biden for literally everything have taken on a baroque quality even by the modern-day standards of the party that introduced Willie Horton and Swift-boating into the political lexicon. Consider their latest cause célèbre, the tragic recent death of a young woman, Laken Riley, in which the accused is an undocumented migrant. Trump explicitly blamed Biden and his “crime-against-humanity” border policies for her death. “Laken Riley would be alive today,” he said, “if Joe Biden had not willfully and maliciously eviscerated the borders of the United States and set loose thousands and thousands of dangerous criminals into our country.” Against such treachery, Trump offers a simple, apocalyptic choice: doomsday if Biden is reëlected, or liberation from “these tyrants and villains once and for all.” Wars will be ended at the mere thought of Trump retaking power; crime will cease; arrests will be made; dissenters will be silenced.

I recognize that a speech such as the one that Trump delivered the other night is hard to distill into the essence required of a news story. His detours on Saturday included complaints about Jeff Zucker, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martha Stewart, Megyn Kelly, “the big plagiarizer from Harvard,” Ron “DeSanctimonious,” the Washington Post, “Trump-deranged judge” Lewis Kaplan, “the fascist and racist attorney general of New York State,” “corrupt Fani Willis,” Merrick Garland, and the F.B.I., which, Trump claimed, “offers one million dollars to a writer of fiction about Donald Trump to lie and say it was fact where Hunter Biden’s laptop from hell was Russian disinformation.” What was he talking about? I don’t know. The man has so many grievances and so many enemies that it is, understandably, hard to keep them straight.

But whether or not it’s news in the conventional sense, it’s easiest to understand the threat that Trump poses to American democracy most clearly when you see it for yourself. Small clips of his craziness can be too easily dismissed as the background noise of our times. The condemnation of his critics, up to and including the current President, can sound shrill or simply partisan. The fact checks, while appalling, never stop the demagogue for whom the “bottomless Pinocchio” was invented.

On Tuesday, days after this performance, Trump and Biden each locked up their respective parties’ nominations. The general election has now begun, and Trump, as of this writing, is the favorite. In the next few months, the Biden campaign and its allies plan to spend close to a billion dollars attempting to persuade Americans not to make the historic mistake of electing Trump twice. My thought is a simpler and definitely cheaper one: watch his speeches. Share them widely. Don’t look away. ♦

Trump Is Losing It

By Jamelle Bouie, Opinion Columnist – February 13, 2024

Jamelle Bouie
A group of Trump supporters in Nevada, many wearing red MAGA hats and taking photos, crowds around the former president, who has his right fist raised.
Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It is unclear whether Donald Trump has forgotten the precise nature of NATO or whether he ever fully grasped it in the first place.

What is clear, however, is that Trump — who ostensibly spent four years as president of the United States — has little clue about what NATO is or what NATO does. And when he spoke on the subject at a rally in South Carolina over the weekend, what he said was less a cogent discussion of foreign policy than it was gibberish — the kind of outrageous nonsense that flows without interruption from an empty and unreflective mind.

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’” Trump said, recalling an implausible conversation with an unnamed, presumably European head of state. “‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted responding. “‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”

The former president’s message was clear: If NATO members do not pay up, then he will leave them to the mercy of a continental aggressor who has already plunged one European country into death, destruction and devastation.

Except NATO isn’t a mafia protection racket. NATO, in case anyone needs to be reminded, is a mutual defense organization, formed by treaty in 1949 as tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union hardened into conflict. “The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all,” states Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.Sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter  Get expert analysis of the news and a guide to the big ideas shaping the world every weekday morning. Get it sent to your inbox.

According to the terms of an agreement reached last year, member states will work to spend at least 2 percent of national G.D.P. on military investment.

But let’s set this bit of fact-checking aside for a moment and look at the big picture.

It is not just that Trump is ignorant on this and other vital questions; it is that he is incoherent.

Consider his remarks at a recent gathering of the National Rifle Association in Harrisburg, Pa. “We have to win in November, or we’re not going to have Pennsylvania. They’ll change the name. They’re going to change the name of Pennsylvania,” Trump said.

Who, exactly, is going to change the name of Pennsylvania? And to what? I don’t know. I doubt Trump does either.

Or consider the time, last November, when Trump confused China and North Korea, telling an audience of supporters in Florida that “Kim Jong Un leads 1.4 billion people, and there is no doubt about who the boss is. And they want me to say he’s not an intelligent man.”

There was also the time that Trump mistook Nikki Haley, his former ambassador to the United Nations, for Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the House.

“Nikki Haley, you know they, do you know they destroyed all of the information, all of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it, because of lots of things like Nikki Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people, soldiers, National Guard, whatever they want. They turned it down. They don’t want to talk about that. These are very dishonest people,” Trump said, repeating his false claim that Pelosi was responsible for the failure of Capitol security on Jan. 6.

If you would like, you can also try to make sense of the former president’s recent attempt to describe a missile defense system:

“I will build an Iron Dome over our country, a state-of-the-art missile defense shield made in the U.S.A.,” Trump said, before taking an unusual detour. “These are not muscle guys here, they’re muscle guys up here, right,” he continued, gesturing to his arms and his head to emphasize, I guess, that the people responsible for building such systems are capable and intelligent.

“And they calmly walk to us, and ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. They’ve only got 17 seconds to figure this whole thing out. Boom. OK. Missile launch. Whoosh. Boom,” he added.

I assume Trump is describing the pressure of actually manning a missile defense system. Even so, one would think that a former president — currently vying to be the next president — would at least try to be a little more articulate.

But this gets to one of the oddest things about this election cycle so far. There is no shortage of coverage of President Biden’s age, even if there’s no evidence that his age has been an obstacle to his ability to perform his duties. Indeed, it is plainly true that Biden has been an unusually successful president in areas, like legislative negotiations, that require skill and mental acuity.

Coverage of Biden’s age, in other words, has more to do with the vibes of an “elderly” president — he isn’t as outwardly vigorous and robust as we would like — than it does with any particular issue with his performance.

In contrast to the obsessive coverage of Biden’s age, there is comparatively little coverage of Trump’s obvious deficiencies in that department. If we are going to use public comments as the measure of mental fitness, then the former president is clearly at a disadvantage.

Unfortunately for Biden, Trump benefits from something akin to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Because no one expected Trump, in the 2016 election, to speak and behave like a normal candidate, he was held to a lower effective standard than his rivals in both parties. Because no one expected him, during his presidency, to be orderly and responsible, his endless scandals were framed as business as usual. And because no one now expects him to be a responsible political figure with a coherent vision for the country, it’s as if no one blinks an eye when he rants and raves on the campaign trail.

It’s not that there aren’t legitimate reasons to be concerned about Biden’s age. He is already the oldest person to serve in the Oval Office. The issue here is one of proportion and consequence. Biden may be unable to do the job at some point in the future; Trump, it seems to me, already is.

One of those is a lot more concerning than the other.

Supreme Court slow to resolve potentially election-altering cases as justices inch toward final arguments


Supreme Court slow to resolve potentially election-altering cases as justices inch toward final arguments

John Fritze, CNN – April 6, 2024

As the Supreme Court turns toward a series of politically charged disputes in its final arguments later this month, it is wrestling with a backlog of controversies on guns, elections and transgender rights that will thrust its conservative majority into the middle of another turbulent presidential contest.

Up ahead are arguments over whether former President Donald Trump may claim immunity from criminal prosecution on election subversion charges and a roiling fight between President Joe Biden and Idaho over whether hospitals must perform an abortion when the health of a pregnant woman is threatened – the second of two blockbuster abortion cases the court must decide this year.

But as the high court moves toward a busy and fraught final sitting this term, it is also once again slipping behind its past pace, issuing fewer opinions than it did at this same point in its nine-month work period just a few years ago. The court has handed down 11 opinions so far this term – most in relatively obscure matters that were decided unanimously.

The Supreme Court has issued opinions in just 22% of its argued cases this year, compared with 34% through mid-April two years ago and 46% in 2021, according to data compiled by Adam Feldman, founder of Empirical SCOTUS. The share of resolved cases is up slightly over last year – a historic low.

The comparison would improve if new rulings land next week.

Taken together, the numbers point to a term in which the court’s decisions could be scrunched into a shorter time fame – potentially giving the court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority an opportunity to reshape the political debate around culture war issues just as Americans begin tuning into the Biden-Trump rematch for president.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, said it had become a “clear trend” in recent years that the court is “very slow” releasing decisions. Though there are many theories about why that may be, the court’s opaque-by-design practice of negotiation and opinion crafting makes it difficult to say with certainty.

A large share of the court’s docket touches on “enormously significant and difficult issues,” Chemerinsky told CNN. “It also is a court that has deep divisions. I assume that all of this leads to delays in releasing decisions.”

Writing a majority opinion is only part of the behind-the-scenes process: Sometimes delays are caused by the concurrences and dissents other justices write. More fractured decisions, in other words, can generate separate opinions and take longer.

The slower pace could prove particularly meaningful this year because of Trump’s assertion of immunity from special counsel Jack Smith’s election subversion charges. Trump asked the justices to block a lower court ruling that flatly rejected those immunity claims. The high court agreed to hear the case in late February, but did not set arguments until the end of this month.

The case has put the Supreme Court on the clock and opened it up to criticism that delay will play into Trump’s broader legal strategy of pushing off his pending criminal trials until after the November election. Unless the court speeds up its work, it’s difficult to see how the Trump immunity decision would arrive before the end of June.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor stand on the House floor ahead of the annual State of the Union address by U.S. President Joe Biden. - Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor stand on the House floor ahead of the annual State of the Union address by U.S. President Joe Biden. – Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images
Trump redefines Supreme Court’s docket

The court heard oral arguments in mid-October over South Carolina’s new congressional map, which a lower court found was a racial gerrymander that violated the Constitution. Both the GOP state lawmakers defending the map and the parties challenging it had asked the Supreme Court to rule by January.

Nearly six months after the court signaled during arguments that it was prepared to uphold the map, it has issued no opinion.

Noting that deadlines for this year’s election were nearing, the state lawmakers filed an emergency appeal last month, asking for permission to use the disputed map while the justices continued their deliberations. Ultimately, a lower court stepped in to allow the state to use the map for now, lamenting that “the ideal must bend to the practical.”

In early November, the court heard arguments over a federal law that bars people who are the subject of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns. Days earlier it heard a First Amendment appeal from a political activist who wants to trademark the suggestive phrase “Trump Too Small” for use on T-shirts.

On the court’s emergency docket, meanwhile, where cases are decided more quickly and without oral argument, the justices have been sitting for weeks on a request from Idaho officials to enforce a strict statewide ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Initially filed in mid-February, the request has been fully briefed since early March.

The go-slow approach is not a new phenomena this year. The pace of opinions fell sharply last year, according to Feldman’s data, which led to speculation that the shocking leak of the court’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade months earlier gummed up the court’s internal works.

Several justices indicated the leak damaged trust, including Justice Clarence Thomas, who described the unprecedented breach as “kind of an infidelity.”

Last year, Justice Brett Kavanaugh downplayed the slower pace by noting many of the court’s biggest cases – which usually are not settled until June – were heard at the start of the term. For instance, the court heard arguments early on that year in a major challenge to the consideration of race in admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The Supreme Court ultimately barred consideration of race in June.

This year, some of the biggest cases have been more spread out. On the other hand, the court has been pummeled by a series of divisive emergency appeals. It also has agreed to take on several high-profile matters involving Trump.

In one, the court ruled that Trump would remain on Colorado’s presidential ballot despite claims he violated the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban” because of his actions leading up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The court was unanimous on the bottom line conclusion but splintered over its reasoning.

In another, the justices agreed to hear arguments April 25 about Trump’s immunity claims.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Tuesday, April 2. - Paul Sancya/AP
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Tuesday, April 2. – Paul Sancya/AP

The Supreme Court will also hear arguments later this month over a federal law the Biden administration says requires hospitals to provide an abortion if the health of the mother is in danger, even in states such as Idaho that have approved strict abortion bans. The rise of state abortion restrictions following the court’s overturning of Roe has become an election-year cudgel for Biden and congressional Democrats.

Also this month, the court will take up the question of whether a federal obstruction law can be used to prosecute some of the rioters involved in the Capitol attack. The decision could also affect Trump, who has also been charged with that crime.

‘Something has to give’ on Supreme Court docket

The court also dealt with a divisive and ongoing dispute over a Texas immigration law that allowed law enforcement in the state to arrest and detain people it suspects entered the country illegally. Over a public dissent from the three liberal justices, the court cleared the way for Texas to enforce that law last month.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the enforcement hours later and the appeals court heard arguments over the law Wednesday.

The emergency cases, which have drawn increased criticism in recent years, take time away from consideration of the court’s regular docket.

“The court only has so many resources,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “Something has to give, and the court really ought to be thinking through ways to avoid putting itself in this position every year.”

In an aerial view, Texas National Guard soldiers load excess concertina wire onto a trailer at Shelby Park on January 26, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. - Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images
In an aerial view, Texas National Guard soldiers load excess concertina wire onto a trailer at Shelby Park on January 26, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. – Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

At the same time, the Supreme Court has always moved at its own pace and the justices have little incentive to worry about timing. By its own standards, the court moved unusually quickly to resolve the Trump ballot dispute this year – handing down a decision two months after the former president filed his appeal.

That kind of speed is the exception.

“If you look systematically over time, they’re becoming slower and they’re taking fewer cases,” Feldman said.

But other than stirring speculation among court watchers, he said, the pace of opinions doesn’t have much practical impact. Taking an extra few weeks to finish an opinion, Feldman said, simply means the justices get more time to write.

“It makes sense to me from their perspective that they might want to be slower,” Feldman said. “For efficiency, it probably makes sense to hold off as much as they can until the end of the term.”

‘Building an authoritarian axis’: the Trump ‘envoy’ courting the global far right

The Guardian

‘Building an authoritarian axis’: the Trump ‘envoy’ courting the global far right

Richard Grenell’s shadow foreign policy campaign is unsettling diplomats and threatens to collapse US interests.

Robert Tait – April 5, 2024

For Donald Trump, he is “my envoy”, the man apparently anointed as the former US president’s roving ambassador while he plots a return to the White House.

To critics, he is seen as “an online pest” and “a national disgrace” – and most importantly, the dark embodiment of what foreign policy in a second Trump administration would look like.

a screen displays the share price for the Trump Media and Technology Group

Meet Richard Grenell, vocal tribune of Trump’s America First credo on the international stage and the man hotly tipped to become secretary of state if the presumed Republican nominee beats Joe Biden in November’s presidential election.

A senior executive in the rightwing Newsmax cable channel, Grenell, 57, has crafted a persona as the archetypal Trump man, keen and ever-ready to troll liberals, allies and foreign statesmen in public forums and social media.

Grenell – who served as a rambunctious ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence during Trump’s first term – has carved a niche as the articulator-in-chief of a Maga approach to global affairs that appears to echo his political master’s voice.

Seasoned analysts fear his hyperactivity is already unsettling US diplomats even while Trump is out of office.

In recent months, he has pitched up in Guatemala, where he tried to stymie US state department pleas for a peaceful transition of power by backing rightwing efforts to block the inauguration of the liberal president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo, on supposed electoral fraud grounds about a poll previously declared “free and fair” by international observers.

Arévalo subsequently took office, but not before Grenell lambasted American diplomats for “trying to intimidate conservatives” over “a phony concern about democracy”.

He has also repeatedly visited the Balkans – building on a previous role as the Trump administration’s special envoy to the region and working on property deals in Serbia and Albania with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

He attempted to broker a meeting between Trump and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at last year’s United Nations general assembly in New York at a time when the Turkish leader was blocking Sweden’s bid to join Nato, although the proposal was subsequently rejected amid security concerns.

Grenell knows who can be seduced, intimidated and destroyed

Fulton Armstrong

Grenell’s high profile has an intimidating effect on serving US diplomats, according to Fulton Armstrong, senior fellow at American University’s Centre for Latin American Studies.

“Grenell’s very cunning and effective. Having penetrated both the intelligence and the policy world, he knows who can be seduced, intimidated and destroyed,” Armstrong, a former senior analyst at the CIA, told the Guardian.

“The state department eventually did the right thing in Guatemala but only after a lot of dawdling and this tells Grenell that it has issues of commitment and allegiance [that he can exploit].

“Weak people at the state department are scared to piss off the right wing because they want to be ambassadors and fear for their careers, which makes them vulnerable. Someone like Grenell knows how this can be used for issues favoring Trump.”

For his part, Grenell has accused the state department of “playing politics” and “pushing leftwing ideas” in Latin America.

Addressing the influential CPAC gathering of conservatives in February, he said US foreign policy cried out for an “SOB diplomat”, a role he apparently envisions for himself.

“What we need right now is diplomacy with muscle,” Grenell told an online video debate last summer on the Balkans hosted by the pro-Trump America First Policy Institute. “We need to stop mocking tough diplomats. What we’ve seen with Ukraine is that when diplomats fail, we have war and conflict.”

There are many aspects to what Grenell is doing. One is grift …

Joe Cirincione

Grenell has become a strident advocate of abandoning negotiations in decades-old territorial disputes in the Middle East and the Balkans in favor of trade and economic agreements that he hails as sidestepping political problems through creating jobs.

“The success that Donald Trump had was that he avoided politics and concentrated on the economy,” he told CPAC. “Young people leave the region because they don’t have help and they don’t have a job. So part of our foreign policy, if we want to solve problems, is to avoid the political talk and figure out ways to do greater trade.”

For detractors, such talk is code for a transactional foreign policy tailored to Trump’s personal and business interests at the expense of America’s traditional democratic alliances – as well as a signal that Ukraine would be pressured to surrender territory to end its war with Russia.

“There are many aspects to what Grenell is doing,” said Joe Cirincione, a veteran Washington foreign policy and arms control specialist. “One is grift, looking for business deals, particularly in Serbia, where Trump has longstanding business interests and Trump seems to be helping him pursue this.

“Another is more sinister. It looks as though Grenell is trying to build up a developing authoritarian network of rightwing leaders to form this authoritarian axis that Trump might govern by – ranging from Putin to [Viktor] Orbán [prime minister of Hungary] to Erdoğan.

“All these are anti-democratic forces and use the simple playbook of using democracy to overthrow democracy.”

Grenell’s own pronouncements give proponents of America’s existing alliances little cause for comfort.

A relentless critic of Germany’s financial contributions to Nato, he trolled Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, when he attended Biden’s State of the Union address in January to mark his country’s accession to Nato, a move Grenell had opposed, purportedly on the grounds that it would not pay its way.

“The leader of Sweden, who currently isn’t paying his fair share of Nato obligations but has promised to do it later, is leaping to his feet to applaud Joe Biden and the far Left spending policies Biden wants to enact,” Grenell posted on X.

All these are anti-democratic forces and use the simple playbook of using democracy to overthrow democracy

Joe Cirincione

The comment echoed Grenell’s crockery-breaking spell as ambassador to Berlin, where he infuriated his hosts on arrival by demanding that they renew sanctions on Iran after Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal agreed by Barack Obama’s administration – even though Germany still adhered to the agreement.

He also ruffled German feathers by telling Breitbart that part of his ambassadorial role was “to empower other conservatives throughout Europe”, a comment seen by some as a tacit olive branch to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party.

For figures like Cirincione, such rhetoric is a harbinger of worse to come.

“If Trump were president and Grenell secretary of state, it would set back American interests by decades, collapse the development of the democratic west and assist the rise of the global right wing, no questions about it,” he said.

Terrified Parents, New Age Health Nuts, MAGA Exiles. Meet the R.F.K. Jr. Faithful.

By Michelle Goldberg, Opinion Columnist – April 4, 2024

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. looks solemnly into the camera.
Photographs by Michael Schmelling

Chris Inclan, an alcohol and drug counselor from Sonoma, Calif., voted for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016. In 2020 he backed Andrew Yang in the Democratic primary and cast a ballot for Donald Trump in the general election. Joe Biden, he said, was “so ingrained in the establishment and politics as usual,” while Trump “went against the grain on a lot of issues,” including wars and government regulation. But Inclan, a big bearded 39-year-old with tattoos on his hands, doesn’t want to have to make that choice again, which is why he’s now enthusiastically supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

I met Inclan at the Oakland rally where Kennedy introduced his new running mate, the 38-year-old political donor Nicole Shanahan. Held in the auditorium of the Henry J. Kaiser Center for the Arts, it was the first political rally Inclan had ever attended.

“The system is corrupt,” he said of what he called the two-party “duopoly.” “We keep playing the same game. But I think Americans are fed up.” He’d joined Kennedy’s We the People Party, formed to help Kennedy get on the ballot in several states, and has aspirations to run for office himself someday.

Three men hold up signs in support of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Setting up banners at Kennedy’s campaign event in Oakland, Calif., to announce his pick for a running mate.

Inclan’s politics are hard to understand in purely left or right terms. The more relevant dichotomy, for him as for many Kennedy voters, is insider versus outsider, which is why Kennedy’s following sometimes overlaps, in unexpected ways, with the MAGA movement.

Matt Castro, a San Francisco bus driver at the rally, described himself as “extremely left-leaning,” but didn’t vote in the last election and said that, if Kennedy isn’t on the ballot, he’d probably vote for Trump in the next one, because of his opposition to military support for Ukraine. Alex Klett, a 33-year-old Kennedy volunteer from Wisconsin who was handing out American flags, described himself as a right-leaning independent who voted for Trump in 2016 and then, in 2020, wrote in Kanye West.

Another Kennedy volunteer, Jaclyn Aldrich, a striking 43-year-old Black woman who sometimes works as a model, has never cast a presidential ballot, because she hadn’t trusted any of the candidates. “I didn’t even vote for Obama,” she said. Among her fellow volunteers, she said, are some former Bernie Sanders voters, but “it’s mostly Trump people.”

This is a paradox of the Kennedy campaign. Many Democratic and Republican insiders view Kennedy as a danger to Biden’s re-election. Timothy Mellon, the top donor to the Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc., is also the top donor to the Kennedy super PAC American Values 2024, suggesting he thinks Kennedy will help Trump. The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, has recently formed a unit, including veteran Democratic operative Lis Smith, devoted to battling third-party candidates, and Kennedy is getting most of its attention.

But on the ground, I haven’t met many Kennedy-curious voters for whom Biden is a second choice. Instead, Kennedy attracts many of the same sort of alienated political eccentrics who in the past have gravitated to Trump. “They keep saying that he’s pulling from Biden, but most of our people are actually coming from the right,” said Leigh Merinoff, volunteer chair of the finance committee of American Values.

Anecdotes aren’t the same thing as data, and people who go to rallies and volunteer for campaigns aren’t necessarily representative of the electorate, which is full of people who are much more disengaged. Nevertheless, there’s a gap between both Democratic and Republican assumptions about Kennedy’s appeal and the character of his real-life movement. He’s much more of a wild card than left-wing third-party candidates like Stein and Cornel West. There’s something distinctly Trumpy in his campaign’s mix of New Age individualism, social media-fueled paranoia and intense, aching nostalgia for the optimistic America of the early 1960s, when Kennedy’s uncle John F. Kennedy was president and his father, Robert F. Kennedy, served as attorney general. It’s not surprising that some otherwise Trump-leaning voters are picking up on it.

Portraits of four people, including a young man with dark hair; an older woman wearing a pink turban; an older man in a newsboy cap; and a woman with golden hair.
Faces at recent Kennedy campaign events in California.

On the surface, Kennedy’s choice of Shanahan, a patent lawyer and former Democrat who has donated to candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Marianne Williamson, might seem as if it would draw more left-leaning voters into the campaign. In introducing Shanahan, an avid surfer who met her ex-husband, the Google founder Sergey Brin, at a yoga festival, Kennedy said, “I wanted a vice president who shared my passion for wholesome, healthy foods, chemical-free, for regenerative agriculture, for good soils,” as well as an athlete who “would help me inspire Americans to heal, to get them back in shape.”

One can imagine voters who frequent farmers markets and follow wellness influencers seeing an idealized version of themselves in her. And while large parts of the New Age and alternative health community moved right during the pandemic in response to lockdowns and vaccine mandates, it’s still a world with plenty of people who think of themselves as progressives.

Indeed, the most interesting thing about Shanahan is the way she dramatizes how Kennedy wins over voters like her. In the week after her debut as a candidate, Shanahan hasn’t made any mainstream media appearances, but she did speak at length on the podcast of Rick Rubin, the music producer and, recently, self-help author, telling the story of her conversion from lifelong Democrat to Kennedy acolyte.

Their conversation is fascinating, demonstrating how frustrations with conventional medicine and the desire for a transcendent order — for a big holistic framework that makes sense of the world’s destabilizing chaos — lead away from technocratic liberalism and toward, well, the unstable political formation that’s coalescing around Kennedy. Listening to it, you can hear a smart and sensitive woman narrating her own journey down the rabbit hole, a portal that took her to a place where she could help swing the 2024 election and thus the course of American history.

Shanahan came to Kennedy the way many desperate parents have. During the pandemic, her 18-month-old daughter was diagnosed, over Zoom, with autism, and she described how none of the interventions offered by experts helped. Another Silicon Valley mom with an autistic child urged her to listen to Kennedy, who has long asserted a false link between vaccines and autism. Though Shanahan was resistant at first — she knew about Kennedy’s reputation as a conspiracy theorist — she tuned into his podcast.

Around the same time, she got deep into the work of Jack Kruse, a neurosurgeon and self-described “biohacker” who emphasizes the importance of sunlight for good health. (Kennedy and Kruse appeared together on Rubin’s podcast last year.) Kruse, said Shanahan, awakened her to the idea that autism could be “related to the way that the brain was responding to some kind of outside influence” — like vaccines — “and how to heal the brain.”

She started her daughter, Echo, on a regimen that included lots of early morning light, swimming in a saltwater pool and music frequencies that send “a signal to brain cells that they can repair.” (“Morning sunlight in particular is like chicken soup for metabolic health,” she told Rubin.) At the same time, she worked to reduce Echo’s exposure to “nonnative light sources,” and cellular and Wi-Fi signals. These interventions, she said, have all helped her daughter. “When it works, maybe we need science to catch up,” she said.

When she met Kennedy last summer, she was impressed by his record of “looking at the environmental exposures and the things that impact human health that are man-created,” she said. Shanahan lamented what she sees as widespread closed-mindedness in the face of the questions she wants to explore. “My daughter has lifted the veil for me,” she said, in an allusion to Aldous Huxley’s work on psychedelics. “If we’re talking about my support for Bobby Kennedy, that is what has brought me to this movement.”

A man in a green baseball cap waves an upside-down American flag.
A Kennedy supporter in Oakland.
Nicole Shanahan smiling at a podium. Behinder his is a Kennedy-Shanahan banner.
Nicole Shanahan, Kennedy’s running mate.

Shanahan was never all that left-wing; she helped fund the recall campaign against San Francisco’s progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin. Still, her presence on the ticket has alienated some right-leaning Kennedy fans. Shortly after she was announced, one erstwhile Kennedy supporter posted a link to an online “Save R.F.K. Jr. Rally” on Kennedy’s campaign website, demanding the firing of Kennedy’s campaign manager for promoting a “C.I.A., feminist agenda” by bringing Shanahan on board. (It was quickly taken down.) “I think the pick was meant to be more about covering his left flank, and I found that an odd calculation,” Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist who has co-hosted a fund-raiser for Kennedy, said on the podcast “All-In.”

In fact, the calculation makes perfect sense: Kennedy needs Shanahan’s money. Her divorce settlement from Brin isn’t public, but she reportedly asked for more than $1 billion, about 1 percent of his net worth at the time, and she’s clearly extremely wealthy. Campaign finance law allows both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to pour unlimited funds into their own races, and the process of getting Kennedy on state ballots as a third-party candidate is going to be expensive. Shanahan has shown she’s willing to spend; she gave $4 million to American Values 2024 to fund a Kennedy ad that ran during the Super Bowl.

Introducing Shanahan in Oakland, Kennedy said, with a straight face, that there is “no American more qualified” than she to serve as vice president. But his speech also gestured at the heart of those qualifications. Shanahan, he said, would help him liberate America from the “predatory cabal” that controls the campaign finance system.

It’s doubtful, however, that Shanahan will be able to help Kennedy in ways that go beyond finances, and not just because the influence of vice-presidential candidates tends to be limited, especially with third-party aspirants. (My guess is that few readers remember either Ralph Nader’s or Jill Stein’s running mates.) Shanahan appears to find negative publicity debilitating, an unusual quality in an aspiring politician and one that may limit her visibility.

Before joining the Kennedy ticket, she was probably best known for her divorce from Brin, which, according to The Wall Street Journal, was precipitated by an affair with Elon Musk. (Both she and Musk deny this.) In an essay in People magazine, she described the scrutiny that followed the Journal article as unbearable. “I was thrust into the public eye; the online images and commentary felt more like a zeitgeist than depictions of my lived experiences,” she wrote. Insisting that she’s “not a public person,” she called the Journal article and its aftermath “a disaster for my work life, my reputation and my ability to communicate the things I care most deeply about.”

This week, “Fox & Friends” promoted an appearance by Kennedy and Shanahan, but Kennedy ended up going on alone. In a post on the social media platform X, Shanahan wrote, “While Bobby’s out there spreading our message on TV right now, I’m working behind the scenes to make sure we’re on the ballot in all 50 states.” So rather than add a new note to Kennedy’s message, Shanahan is mostly just using her fortune to amplify what he’s already been saying. And what he’s been saying is often quite reactionary. (The campaign didn’t respond to my requests to interview Kennedy or Shanahan.)

A person stands in a crowd while holding up a phone.
At a Kennedy campaign event in Los Angeles.

The last time I saw Kennedy speak, in June in New Hampshire, he was still a Democrat, running a doomed primary challenge to Biden in a campaign managed by the quirky former Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich. Seeking to echo the famous 1963 “Peace” speech in which his presidential uncle called for a halt to the Cold War arms race, Kennedy warned against antagonizing Russia over Ukraine, presenting himself as an antiwar candidate.

Some of his followers still see him that way, but now they must either rationalize or overlook his zealous support for Israel’s war in Gaza. In March, weeks after the Biden administration called for a six-week cease-fire, Kennedy was skeptical of the idea, telling Reuters that previous truces have “been used by Hamas to rearm, to rebuild and then launch another surprise attack.” Though he often rails against censorship, he cheered on the hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman’s demand that Harvard do more to crack down on antisemitism, writing, “It’s time to hold college administrations responsible for the epidemic of campus antisemitism by insisting on zero-tolerance policies.”

Kucinich left the campaign in mid-October in ambiguous circumstances, though he’s hinted that disagreements with Kennedy about Gaza had something to do with his departure. (The campaign is now run by Kennedy’s daughter-in-law Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, a former C.I.A. officer.) In November, Sayer Ji, an alternative medicine promoter and key anti-vaccine influencer, withdrew his endorsement of Kennedy over Gaza. Charles Eisenstein, a major intellectual figure in New Age circles, is still advising Kennedy but has been openly critical of his stance on Israel.

While there are still some progressive figures in Kennedy’s orbit, his campaign has an increasingly right-wing vibe. Border security has become a central part of his pitch. Since January, his communications director has been Del Bigtree, a leading anti-vaccine activist who doubts that climate change is caused by human activity and who spoke at the MAGA Freedom Rally near the Capitol on Jan. 6. “I wish I could tell you that this pandemic really is dangerous,” Bigtree said then. “I wish I could believe that voting machines work and that people care. You’ve been sold a lie!”

The conservative talk radio host Randy Economy, one of the leaders of the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, is Kennedy’s senior adviser for ballot access. An opening speaker at the Oakland event was Angela Stanton-King, a Black conservative QAnon promoter who served time for her role in a car-theft ring and was pardoned by Donald Trump.

A man wearing a brown sports jacket and Kennedy campaign button holds his hand on his heart. He is holding a hardcover book.
An attendee at a Kennedy event carried a book of L. Ron Hubbard essays.
A woman in a blue jacket talks with a man in a yellow windbreaker.
Yvette Corkrean, the Republican nominee for a California Senate seat, attended the Oakland event.

Some strains of New Age wellness culture — with its distrust of mainstream expertise, moralistic view of health and weakness for quackery — have long intersected with right-wing politics. (Alex Jones, after all, made much of his fortune shilling health supplements.) The connection between alternative medicine and conservatism grew significantly stronger during the pandemic, as the center of gravity in the anti-vaccine movement moved rightward and longtime right-wingers grew increasingly mistrustful of Big Pharma and, with it, Big Food.

“The globalists want you to be fat, sick, depressed and isolated — the better to control you and to milk you for as much economic value as they can before they kill you,” a pseudonymous far-right figure who goes by Raw Egg Nationalist said on the 2022 Tucker Carlson special “The End of Men.”

Kennedy’s conservationism can sound a lot like that of Raw Egg Nationalist. His commitment to the environment is tempered by paranoia about federal government power that makes him suspicious of regulation. Climate change “is being used as a pretext for clamping down totalitarian controls, the same way the Covid crisis was, and it’s the same people,” he said in a campaign video featuring Jordan Peterson, the anti-woke psychologist and author. Dismissing the efficacy of a “war on carbon,” Kennedy said he’d approach energy issues using “free markets and not top-down control.”

Because of his hostility to the state, Kennedy’s environmentalism often manifests as a belief in the redemptive power of healthy living and closeness to nature, which Shanahan shares. This ethos helps explain Shanahan’s much-publicized criticism of I.V.F. “I believe I.V.F. is sold irresponsibly, and my own experience with natural childbirth has led me to understand that the fertility industry is deeply flawed,” she wrote in People. She’s interested in low-cost, organic alternatives. “I’m not sure that there has been a really thorough mitochondrial respiration study on the effects of two hours of morning sunlight on reproductive health,” she said on a panel last year. “I would love to fund something like that.” Hearing this, I couldn’t help thinking of Carlson’s promotion, on his “End of Men” special, of testicle tanning to raise testosterone levels.

Of course, even though the Kennedy camp has a lot in common with the esoteric new right, Kennedy could still siphon Democratic votes from Biden. A lot of undecided voters don’t follow politics closely, and some who are unhappy about their major-party choices may find themselves drawn to Kennedy’s mythic last name and green-seeming, anti-establishment pitch.

“Anything that splits up the anti-Trump coalition hurts Biden,” said Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump conservative pollster who regularly asks about Kennedy in focus groups. As she sees it, the largest group of persuadable voters in 2024 are the so-called double haters, those who disapprove of both Trump and Biden. “My experience over the years in the focus groups is that when Trump is top of mind for people, people who dislike both him and Biden end up disliking Trump more,” said Longwell. Kennedy, she fears, could give people who might otherwise reluctantly vote for Biden an off-ramp from making a dispiriting decision.

Kennedy waves and smiles while standing in front of a campaign sign.
No one knows how the race will ultimately shake out.

Some polls back up this analysis. A recent Quinnipiac survey shows Kennedy getting 13 percent of the vote; he has support from 9 percent of Democrats, 8 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of independents. The poll shows Biden leading Trump by three points in a head-to-head matchup but Trump ahead by one point when third-party candidates are included. Though both numbers are within the poll’s margin of error, they suggest that Trump could benefit if the election isn’t seen as a binary choice.

Other polls, however, show Kennedy pulling more voters from Trump, and the truth is no one knows how the election will ultimately shake out. “The public polling, if you dig into it, can be really head-swiveling,” said Smith. “It’s very hard to gauge the impact, but it does seem like he pulls from both, and right now — emphasis on ‘right now’ — slightly more from Biden.”

Kennedy certainly has no qualms about spoiling the election for Trump. On CNN on Monday, he argued that Biden poses a “much worse” threat to democracy than Trump because of the Biden administration’s attempts to get social media companies to remove vaccine misinformation, much of it spread by Kennedy.

“President Biden is the first candidate in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, to censor his opponent,” he said. The primary threat to democracy, he added, “is not somebody who questions election returns,” noting that he believed the 2004 election was stolen from John Kerry. “So I don’t think people who say that the election is stolen — we shouldn’t make pariahs of those people,” he said.

This interview was clarifying about Kennedy’s intentions. But precisely because he evidently views Trump, not Biden, as the lesser of two evils, he may prove most attractive to voters who also view the election that way. That, however, would depend on people grasping what he stands for. So it might not be a disaster for Democrats if Shanahan can help Kennedy be more widely heard.

“If anyone is listening who never considered an independent ticket, I want to extend the same invitation to you that my friend did to me last year,” said Shanahan in her Oakland speech. “Please, listen to Bobby Kennedy in his own words.” It’s sage advice.

Michelle Goldberg has been an Opinion columnist since 2017. She is the author of several books about politics, religion and women’s rights, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment. 

1.7 million Texas households are set to lose monthly internet subsidy

The Texas Tribune

1.7 million Texas households are set to lose monthly internet subsidy

Pooja Salhotra – April 2, 2024

A colonia, unincorporated neighborhoods that lack basic services such as street lights, proper drainage, paved roads or waste management, is seen near Edinburg on March 25, 2020.
A colonia, unincorporated neighborhoods that lack basic services such as street lights, proper drainage, paved roads or waste management, is seen near Edinburg on March 25, 2020. Credit: Verónica G. Cárdenas for The Texas Tribune

The $30 per month Daisy Solis has saved off of her internet bill for the past two years stretched a long way.

Those dollars covered new shoes for her three, growing children, dinners out at the Chick-fil-A that popped up in her town of Peñitas in South Texas, and part of a higher-than-usual electricity bill.

Now, Solis worries she might have to sacrifice on her internet speed because a federal subsidy that has helped her pay for her internet plan is set to expire at the end of April.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a $30 monthly subsidy to help low-income households pay for internet service, and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands. The $14.2 billion program was part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and has helped 23 million households in the U.S — including 1.7 million in Texas — save money on their internet bills. The program’s funding is slated to dwindle at the end of April, though, potentially cutting millions off from the internet. In May, limited remaining funding in the program will allow eligible households to receive a partial discount; there won’t be any benefits after May.

“It has really helped me in that I don’t have to stress out about the bill,” said Solis, 27. “Even though it’s $30, $30 goes a long way.”

The program’s termination will disproportionately impact South Texas, where counties along the Texas-Mexico border had higher than average rates of participation. Overall, 1 in 7 Texans used the program. But in some border counties, including Hidalgo County, about half of its residents used the subsidy, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission.

“Some people have told me they might not get internet if [the subsidy] goes away,” said Marco Lopez, a community organizer at La Unión del Pueblo Entero, a nonprofit organization that supports low-income neighborhoods in the Valley. “I don’t know what to tell them because it’s not just cutting off their internet; it’s cutting off their opportunities for jobs, for school, for telehealth.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill that would extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program through the end of 2024. But the bill has not moved and faces considerable pushback from Republican lawmakers who claim the Biden administration has spent “recklessly.”

In a December letter to the chair of the FCC, a group of lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, disputed that the broadband program was necessary. The lawmakers said that most households using the subsidy already had broadband subscriptions. But that’s likely untrue. According to an FCC survey, 47% of respondents reported having either zero connectivity or relying on mobile service before enrolling in the federal program.

On Tuesday, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel sent a letter to Congress urging them to fund the program until the end of the year. She said the funding has been particularly critical for vulnerable populations, including veterans, seniors, and students.

“We know that nearly half of ACP households are led by someone over the age of 50,” she wrote. “The ACP and the broadband service it supports is ‘need to have’ for many seniors, who depend on the program for managing their health and maintaining access to their medical teams.”

The program’s termination comes as the state and federal government pump historic sums of money to expand broadband infrastructure and close the so-called digital divide. Texas is poised to receive more than $3.3 billion federal dollars to help connect the roughly 7 million Texans who lack access to affordable internet. The state will bolster those funds with an additional $1.5 billion that voters approved in November.

Some advocates worry that terminating the Affordable Connectivity Program at this juncture could jeopardize the success of future broadband investments.

“If we build the infrastructure but then all these people lose internet access, we are going to be taking one step forward and two steps back,” said Kelty Garbee, executive director of Texas Rural Funders, a nonprofit focused on rural philanthropy. “It is important to take a long view.”

Rural areas lag behind their urban counterparts when it comes to broadband access. The combination of low population density and remoteness make such areas unattractive to internet service providers, who are hesitant to invest in expensive infrastructure without a guaranteed pool of customers. Garbee worries that ending the government subsidies could shrink the rural customer base and make those areas even less attractive to internet companies.

Jordana Barton-Garcia, who focuses on broadband investments for nonprofit organization Connect Humanity, said that while the termination of ACP will be a significant loss for high poverty areas, the program is a “Band-Aid” solution. She said the subsidy doesn’t address the root of the problem: that the economics of broadband do not work in rural, low-income areas.

“Instead of being ruled by profit-maximizing major corporations, we need other models to serve low and moderate income communities,” she said. “We need to be able to serve without maximizing profits and instead serve for the public good.”

Some communities have found innovative ways to provide broadband to their rural constituents at a low cost. The city of Pharr in Hidalgo County, for example, created a municipal internet service program that offers plans for as low as $25 per month, the price residents in the border community said they could afford. Barton-Garcia said Pharr won’t be affected by the termination of government subsidies because the city has already secured its own funding. Pharr used grant money, a municipal bond as well as American Rescue Plan dollars to create a municipally-run internet service.

Large internet providers such as Comcast said they will continue to support low-income customers with an affordable plan. Comcast offers eligible customers a plan called internet essentials for $9.95 and a slightly higher-speed plan for $29.95.

For smaller providers in rural Texas, though, a low-cost plan is not financially feasible without government support. Charlie Cano, CEO of ETex Telephone Cooperative, said his lowest cost option is $62 per month.

“Anything lower than that is going to jeopardize our business model,” Cano said. “I’m nervous about what we are going to do about that low-cost option.”

In order to qualify as a grantee for the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program — the main broadband program created by the bipartisan infrastructure law — providers must offer a low-cost option to low-income customers. Providers like Cano worry this requirement may make it difficult for companies like his to win federal grant dollars.

Disclosure: Comcast has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.