With Biden out, Michelle Obama would be Donald Trump’s worst self-inflicted nightmare | Opinion

Miami Herald – Opinion

With Biden out, Michelle Obama would be Donald Trump’s worst self-inflicted nightmare | Opinion

Dion Lefler – July 21, 2024

If there’s one thing you can generally count on with Republicans, it’s political efficiency.

This time, they may have been too efficient.

The news that Joe Biden is dropping his campaign to be reelected president is about the worst thing that could have happened for Donald Trump.

Let’s face it, this race has always been a contest between age-related forgetfulness and age-related anger and aggression.

Now, instead of running against a man who appears too old to keep his thoughts together, Trump will have to face off against a younger and more vital opponent — at exactly the time the American people have said in a loud, clear voice that they’re tired of the same old men and the same old rhetoric.

Trump, and his party, brought this on themselves. They turned their remarkably efficient attack machine on too early.

The debate last month pretty conclusively showed that Biden isn’t up to what Americans expect from their president anymore.

It’s not his fault. Biden has been a man of great accomplishments in the Senate, as vice president, and as president over a long and productive career.

But age catches up to everyone.

From The Opinion Team

President Joe Biden withdrew Sunday from the 2024 presidential race. Read more on this developing news event, from our Opinion team:

Biden’s withdrawal solves one of Dems’ many problems. But it creates one, too

With Biden stepping down as nominee, Democrats make history book for the wrong reasons

Once again, Joe Biden is giving America its best chance to defeat Donald Trump

Four years ago, Biden was the bulwark against the continuation of Trumpism. That’s what Democrats want and what the country needs again in 2024.

The way for Republicans to ensure their victory would have been to go along with the Democrat-created illusion of “Joe’s fine,” until after the Democrats held their convention and it was too late to turn back and pick someone else.

In the first debate, Trump should have tried to channel Ronald Reagan, politely smiling and answering the questions that were put to him. He should have waited for the second debate to pounce on Biden’s infirmity.

It’s the difference between tactics and strategy.

Now, no matter whom the Democrats choose to run against Trump, he’ll have a much harder case to make for himself.

He’s going to have to defend a Republican Party that, as we saw at their convention, basically supports restoration of the Soviet Union and seems terrified of fruit-pickers and hotel maids at the border.

To keep his vital right-wing evangelical base, Trump’s going to have to embrace their demands to ban abortion by any means necessary, which Americans in states blue and red (even Kansas) have voted repeatedly not to do. Against a more agile opponent, he won’t get away with claiming Democrats support abortion up to the moment of birth, or after, as he did against Biden in their debate.

And to keep his billionaire mega-donors, he’ll have to defend the Heritage Foundation’s God-awful Project 2025, a blueprint for dismantling just about everything in the United States that makes it a decent place to live.

So now, let’s see if the Democrats can be more strategic than Republicans (which, admittedly, they seldom are).

While they have several candidates who could potentially beat Trump, the Democrats have only one sure thing: Michelle Obama.

Polls show that other possible contenders, including Vice President Kamala Harris — who Biden endorsed shortly after announcing that he was stepping down — run slightly behind Trump. They’d start out playing catch-up.

In those same polls, Michelle Obama crushes Trump by 11 points.

Since her husband left the White House, she’s been the good soldier, supporting others for the top job while always saying she’s not interested in it herself.

But she’s also said she’s “terrified” at the potential outcome of the November election. While she might not actively campaign for the nomination, I’d think she’d find it pretty hard to turn it down if delegates at the Democratic National Convention were to draft her next month.

Dawn Staley, women’s basketball legend, head coach at the University of South Carolina and a four-time Olympic gold medalist (three as a player, one as coach), called the right play in a recent appeal to former president Barack Obama on X:

“Now please let us borrow @MichelleObama for just 4 short years! First Gentleman is a good look for you.”

Nobody knows better than Staley that when you’re down by a couple of points late in the fourth quarter, you want to get the ball in the hands of your best player to take the final shot.

The Democratic Party would do well to listen to her.

Larry Hogan blasts Project 2025 as a ‘dangerous path’ for GOP

The Hill

Larry Hogan blasts Project 2025 as a ‘dangerous path’ for GOP

Lauren Irwin – July 20, 2024

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) criticized Project 2025 in a recent op-ed, calling the policy priorities outlined in the conservative agenda “absurd and dangerous.”

Hogan, in the piece published Friday by The Washington Post, argued that “traditional American Values” are under threat on both sides of the aisle.

“On the left, the refusal by some to clearly stand up to radicals such as antisemitic and pro-Hamas protesters, advocates of defunding the police, and the open-borders movement has done substantial damage,” Hogan wrote. “However, on the right, there is no clearer example of the threat to American values than Project 2025.”

The 900-age policy agenda, led by the conservative Heritage Foundation, is gaining traction as the unofficial presidential transition project. It is divided into sections based on five main topics — “Taking the Reins of Government,” “The Common Defense,” “The General Welfare,” “The Economy” and “Independent Regulatory Agencies.”

Project 2025 has gained support from more than 100 other right-wing organizations and conservatives who critics argue could staff a second Trump administration if he’s reelected in November.

Trump, however, has called attempts to link him to the document “pure disinformation” and claimed he has “nothing to do” with it.

Hogan said to call the ideas in the plan radical would be “a disservice,” even as Republicans downplay the influence of the plan.

“In truth, Project 2025 takes many of the principles that have made this nation great and shreds them,” he wrote in the opinion piece.

Hogan, who is running for the vacant Senate seat left by retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), noted that one of the primary goals in the plan targets federal workers, and could affect more than 150,000 Maryland residents.

“The goal is to remove nonpartisan civil servants, most of whom patriotically do their jobs without fanfare or political agendas, and replace them with loyalists to the president,” Hogan said. “Republicans who believe this power grab will benefit them in the short term will ultimately regret empowering a Democratic president with this level of control.”

The former governor, whose father was an FBI agent, also highlighted an aspect of the plan that he said would weaken the Department of Justice’s independence from the president. Impartial justice should not be abandoned by choice and design, Hogan argued.

Of the “absurd and dangerous” policies in the plan, Hogan highlighted that the Education Department and the Federal Reserve could potentially be disbanded, as well as mass deportations.

“This radical approach is out of touch with the American people,” Hogan said. “Most Americans — regardless of party affiliation — have more in common than many realize.”

“They want common-sense solutions to address the cost of living, make our communities safer, and secure the border while fixing the broken immigration system,” he continued. “Instead of addressing these problems, Project 2025 opts for total war against the other side, making it impossible to find common ground.”

Biden hits Trump over RNC speech: ‘What the hell was he talking about?’

The Hill

Biden hits Trump over RNC speech: ‘What the hell was he talking about?’

Lauren Irwin – July 20, 2024

President Biden took to social media Friday evening to blast former President Trump over the speech he gave while accepting the GOP presidential nomination at the final night of the Republican National Convention (RNC).

“I’m stuck at home with COVID, so I had the distinct misfortune of watching Donald Trump’s speech to the RNC,” Biden posted on social media platform X. “What the hell was he talking about?”

The president announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and had plans to isolate in his Delaware home. Meanwhile, Trump closed out the RNC in Milwaukee after choosing Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) to be his running mate earlier in the week, and there was no shortage of glitz and glamor.

The former president made a rock-star entrance on stage Thursday to officially become the GOP nominee for president in November.

His speech, the first since a gunman attempted to assassinate him a week ago, lasted more than 90 minutes and was the longest acceptance speech by a major party candidate in RNC history.

Biden highlighted some moments in Trump’s speech during his rant, which stretched well past midnight.

“Let’s start with this. Donald said he ‘did a great job’ with COVID,” Biden said. “Folks, this is the same guy who told us to inject bleach while over a million Americans died.”

He also pointed to the former president’s comments about protecting Social Security and Medicare, calling it a “flat-out lie.”

“Trump proposed cutting Social Security and Medicare every year he was in office,” he said. “And he’ll do it again.”

His thread on X targeted his 2024 rival over his rhetoric on tax cuts, ending inflation, electric vehicle mandates and immigration. Biden also mocked the former president for his praise of the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lector, whom Trump has called a “wonderful man.”

“Donald, Hannibal Lecter is not real,” Biden wrote. “And he is a cannibal.”

Biden asked Trump to “look at the facts” when it came to domestic job growth.

“Honestly, I thought the worst lie he told all night was when he said, ‘in conclusion’ and then kept going,” the incumbent said. “I’ve heard enough. And if you’re with me, pitch in to our campaign.”

Trump made it a point to only mention Biden once in his speech. The start of his remarks showed a difference side of the former president, but he quickly changed his tune back to a normal rally-like speech, criticizing Biden and the “crazy” former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

As Biden battles both COVID and a rising number of calls for him to step aside from members of his own party after a poor debate performance raised concerns about his mental fitness to serve another term in office, his campaign said Trump’s speech only made him “more determined than ever.”

Scientists sound the alarm after new research points to growing invisible threat putting coastal cities at risk: ‘We need very dramatic action’

The Cool Down

Scientists sound the alarm after new research points to growing invisible threat putting coastal cities at risk: ‘We need very dramatic action’

Susan Elizabeth Turek – July 19, 2024

new study that accounts for seawater intrusion between ice sheets estimates that other projections about future sea level rise could be too modest.

What’s happening?

As detailed by the Guardian, researchers used computer models to analyze how ocean water intruding into ice sheet cavities impacted melting rates. They believe this could create a “tipping point” where the sheets lose ice much faster than expected.

“[Seawater intrusion] could basically be the missing piece,” study leader Dr. Alexander Bradley told the news outlet. “… And there’s a lot of evidence that when you do include it, the amount of sea level rise the models predict could be much, much higher.”

The Guardian also highlighted a previous study that suggested seawater intrusion could cause some Antarctic ice sheets to lose ice around two times more quickly. The latest findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Why is this concerning?

As it stands, models by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration project large swaths of the West and East Coasts will eventually succumb to the oceans, but the latest analysis suggests the tipping point could be closer than initially believed.

Almost 40% of the global population lives less than 65 miles from a coast, according to the UN Environment Programme. If sea levels continue to rise, those communities could be at a further increased risk of property and livelihood loss, as well as displacement.

Watch now: Alex Honnold shows off his new Rivian

Human activities have directly impacted our seas, with the burning of dirty fuels like gas, oil, and coal overwhelmingly driving the overheating of our planet.

According to NOAA, the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred in the past decade, with 2023 being the warmest ever recorded. These warmer temperatures are causing ice sheets to melt and ocean water to expand, thus contributing to rising sea levels.

The higher water levels also increase the risk of costly damage and deadly flooding during extreme weather events. Strong hurricanes, for example, have become more frequent as a result of our changing climate, with rapid intensification a growing phenomenon.

What can be done about rising sea levels?

Floating homes and land reclamation projects are among the initiatives providing hope that we can adapt to rising sea levels. However, Dr. Bradley also called for bold action to help preserve our coastal communities.

“With every tenth of a degree of ocean warming, we get closer and closer to passing this tipping point…” Dr. Bradley told the Guardian. “So we need very dramatic action to restrict the amount of warming that takes place and prevent this tipping point from being passed.”

The global community still has a ways to go to reduce its reliance on dirty fuels and meet its agreed-upon pollution-reduction goals, but there have been promising developments. For example, in 2023, clean energy accounted for a record 30% of electricity worldwide, with wind and solar installations leading the way, according to a report by Ember.

While the appointment of 2024 United Nations Climate Change Conference president Mukhtar Babayev has been criticized because of his past ties to an oil company, there is also optimism that November’s COP29 event will lead to continued cooperation to protect our planet.

Supporting eco-friendly policymakers at home can support efforts at a systemic level. There are also simple ways to reduce the pollution you generate, like by unplugging energy vampires. Doing this can even save you around $165 on your electric bills every year.

Teamsters exec announces challenge to O’Brien after RNC speech

The Hill

Teamsters exec announces challenge to O’Brien after RNC speech

Lauren Irwin – July 19, 2024

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Vice President at large John Palmer announced he is mounting a challenge to current President Sean O’Brien after he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention.

In a letter, Palmer said he was officially announcing his candidacy for Teamsters national office in the 2026 election and invited all Teamsters to join him in forming an opposition slate to “send Sean O’Brien back to the truck.”

“This administration rode into power on a wave of excitement generated by our members’ desires and frustration. We were promised a more engaged leadership and a more militant union. What we have received so far is a PR blast furnace of misinformation and betrayal,” Palmer wrote in the letter, first reported by In These Times’ Kim Kelly.

Palmer also appeared to post the letter to a Teamsters Facebook group.

Of the many speeches given at the RNC this week, one of the first ones was delivered by O’Brien.

Palmer laid out several reasons why O’Brien has shown he is not fit for his leadership position, including fear of retaliation among members and failing to support members in contracts.

“This has all culminated in his presence at the anti-union, anti-worker Republican national convention, kissing the ring of a man that scabbed a picket line, failing to pay workers, discriminating against people of color as a landlord, falsely accusing five black men in New York of murder, orchestrating an insurrection against the United States, dodging the draft, and appointing Union busters from the Jones Day law firm to create the most anti-union Labor Board in history,” Palmer wrote.

Palmer argued that its “naïve to believe” that people who attended the RNC will support unions in “any way, shape, form, or manner.”

“We have successfully estranged ourselves from the rest of the labor movement through the actions of one man. Should we really go out and seek more enemies right now?” his letter said.

The Hill has reached out to Palmer for comment.

What JD Vance’s conversion to Catholicism adds to Trump’s ticket

MSNBC – Opinion

What JD Vance’s conversion to Catholicism adds to Trump’s ticket

Vance ticks boxes with anti-abortion groups upset that the RNC watered down the party platform by removing its long-stated goal of a nationwide abortion ban.

Anthea Butler,  MSNBC Columnist – July 18, 2024

How JD Vance is an example of how people in the GOP will do anything to get close to power.

Sen. JD Vance of Ohio made his prime-time debut on Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention. While a relative newcomer politically, it already seems clear that Vance will be an asset to former President Donald Trump’s third run for president because his hard-line stance against abortioncoupled with his Catholicism, will push back critics of the Republican National Committee’s watered-down platform. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, is “good friends” with Vance and was reportedly elated that Trump had chosen him as his running mate.

Besides running alongside Trump, Vance and former Vice President Mike Pence have one thing in common: both have adult conversion stories. Pence was raised Catholic and converted to evangelical Christianity as an adult. Vance was raised Protestant and was baptized into the Catholic Church in 2019 by Dominicans.

The similarities end there. Pence was of the Republican establishment, but Vance has embraced MAGA and Trump just like he has the Catholic Church. And he may ultimately end up the vanguard of the next MAGA generation.

Vance has the fervor that new converts to religion always have when they want to change the world. In a piece about his conversion, titled “How I joined the Resistance: On Mamaw and becoming Catholic,” Vance says that after his Protestant upbringing, he became an atheist out of a desire for social acceptance among American elites. His conversion to Catholicism came not as a blinding flash of light, he says, but by reading Augustine and being persuaded by a passage from Augustine’s “City of God” on Genesis.

The senator said that another pivotal part of his journey to Catholicism was an encounter he had with Peter Thiel, who gave a talk at Yale Law school when Vance was a student there. Thiel, founder of PayPal, Palantir Industries, one of the first investors in Facebook and a big financial supporter of MAGA, is a venture capitalist with a particular kind of religiously inflected axe to grind. Thiel, a staunch supporter, donated $15 million to Vance’s 2022 Senate campaign. Just last month, Thiel said, “If you hold a gun to my head, I’ll vote for Trump,” but he said he wouldn’t donate to Trump’s super PAC. That may change now that Trump has chosen Vance.

Perhaps most importantly, Vance ticks boxes with anti-abortion groups upset that the RNC watered down the party platform by removing its long-stated goal of a nationwide abortion ban. Vance is strongly opposed to abortion. Although his views on the specifics of how anti-abortion restrictions should work have sometimes shifted — his office declined to tell NBC News what his current abortion stance is — he has previously voiced support for a nationwide ban on abortion and has likened abortion to slavery.

Nicolle Wallace: ‘JD Vance’s extremism is what won him the spot for Trump’s number 2’. 10:54

What’s the need to put a nationwide abortion plan on the platform when the vice presidential pick has been vocal about wanting one? Having Vance on the ticket signals to Republicans who are upset at the way the platform was changed that a national abortion ban is still on the table.

Vance has a story that lends itself to a triumphal American story. His first book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” was a hit, but the second book he was contracted to write, titled “A Relevant Faith, Searching for a Meaningful American Christianity,” was called off with mutual agreement of publisher Harper Collins and Vance before his successful Senate run in 2022.

Vance seems to always be looking for acceptance through belonging to what he perceives to be powerful groups or leaders. By going from faith to atheism to a different faith, and by going from a full-on criticism of Trump to a full-on embrace of Trumpism, Vance keeps remaking himself. His obsequiousness to Trump includes pledging to do what Mike Pence would not do in 2020 and 2021: accept an alternate slate of electors. That fealty has led to Vance becoming the vice presidential candidate despite his withering critiques of Trump in the past.

Vance may be the perfect MAGA candidate, yet some would also squarely place him as a political religious actor. In May 2024, in “First Things,” Matthew Schmitz called Vance a “religious populist” because he’s not only concerned with abortion but also with economic and religious issues, and has shown a willingness to work with senators he disagrees with to achieve his aims. I believe, however, that Vance is more aligned with what is called Catholic integralism, the belief that Christians can use a “soft power” approach to exert influence over society. Wallace Throckmorton talks about the potential for Vance to be an integralist and to use his religious views to influence government. This falls in line with how Vance is not only concerned with curtailing reproductive choices but also with promoting economic prosperity for families.

Vance may not tick every box of what the Republicans wanted as a vice presidential candidate, but he will be able to tap into his Catholicism and his story of poverty to wealth. He is also a much more fervent MAGA believer, someone who can bridge the intellectual and populist wings of the Republican Party. Most importantly, he is the perfect white male candidate because of his antiquated beliefs about women and reproductive rights. It will be instructive to see how Catholics, as well as other religious groups in the party, receive Vance as running mate and if his presence will give absolution to Trump the same way Pence’s did.

Anthea Butler is a professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her most recent book is “White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America.”

The worst thing about Ted Cruz’s dystopian RNC speech

MSNBC – Opinion

The worst thing about Ted Cruz’s dystopian RNC speech

From immigration to crime to fentanyl, stoking fear mattered a lot more than getting the facts right.

By Radley Balko, investigative journalist – July 18, 2024

Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz on the second day of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last nine years, it’s that when reality proves inconvenient for MAGA, MAGA simply creates its own reality. This was certainly true of Tuesday’s “Make America Safe Once Again” night at the Republican National Convention, at which the speaker’s podium was the rhetorical equivalent of a wrench-opened fire hydrant, as one speaker after another recklessly sprayed lies, fear and demagoguery in every direction. 

Sen. Ted Cruz’s undiluted rage was particularly dishonest, and because it was Ted Cruz, it was as awkward as it was angry. His clumsy attempt to coax the crowd into a refrain of “every damn day” — a reference to how often he claimed that “teenagers, girls and boys” are raped, murdered and “sold into a life of sex slavery” because of “our open border” — mostly fell flat. 

Sen. Ted Cruz’s undiluted rage was particularly dishonest, and because it was Ted Cruz, it was as awkward as it was angry.

There are, of course, some documented examples of horrific crimes committed by undocumented people, as there are with any demographic group that numbers in the millions. But on the whole, immigrants both legal and undocumented commit crimes (violent crimes, in particular) at rates lower — often much lower — than the native-born population

The much-maligned “sanctuary cities” have lower crime rates than other cities. Cities that have been hospitable to migrants seeking asylum have seen less crime than other cities. Crime in most of those cities has dropped since they began receiving migrants from the most recent wave of immigration, including the cities where Republican governors have been shipping migrants

If such gruesome crimes were really happening “every damn day,” you’d think Cruz, R-Texas, could find more a recent horror story than, for example, the death of Kate Steinle, who died, as Cruz put it, after a man who “had been deported five times” fired a bullet that “ripped through her heart.” 

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Donald Trump also mentioned Steinle in his acceptance speech at the 2016 RNC. Steinle died nine years ago, after a man named José Inez García Zárate found a gun wrapped in cloth under a bench on a pier in San Francisco.

Watch highlights from Night 2 of the Republican National Convention in 3 minutes. 03:05

It’s true that Zárate had been deported five times. He was also a felon, though for nonviolent drug crimes. The gun had been stolen from an agent with the Bureau of Land Management, who left it unsecured in his car. Zárate testified at his trial that the gun went off when he picked it up. Ballistics reports confirmed that the bullet ricocheted off a concrete block and struck and killed Steinle, who was 90 feet away. There is no evidence that he intentionally fired the gun, much less that he intended to kill Steinle. A jury acquitted him on all charges but one (being a felon in possession of a firearm), and that charge was later thrown out by a judge. He pleaded guilty to related federal charges in 2022 and was deported this year.

Steinle’s family has repeatedly asked politicians to stop politicizing her death. For politicians like Cruz, a family’s grief is legitimate only when it can be harnessed to hoover up votes. 

Cruz also claimed that “Democrats cynically decided they wanted votes from illegals more than they wanted to protect our children,” reiterating the central claim of conspiracists who push the racist “great replacement theory.” There is, of course, no evidence that undocumented people vote in significant numbers, that there’s some coordinated campaign to get them to the polls or that voting plays any role in the Biden administration’s immigration policy. (There is also evidence that Biden has actually been tougher on illegal border crossers than Trump.)  

Beyond immigration, speaker after speaker attempted to terrify viewers into the voting booth with claims about crime that have been disproven over and over again.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., repeated Trump’s brazen lie about other countries’ “emptying prisons” by sending their felons to the U.S. (Trump often includes “mental institutions” in his claim). There’s no evidence this is true. Ironically, it’s a line first used by Fidel Castro to denigrate refugees fleeing his communist regime and that Republicans today often use to slander Venezuelan migrants fleeing the socialist government of Nicolás Maduro. 

Several speakers also repeated the tired claim that fentanyl has been flowing through the border because of the Biden administration’s lax enforcement. 

According to data compiled by Dan Bier of the Cato Institute, just 2 of every 10,000 people caught trying to enter the country illegally possess any fentanyl at all. Over 90% of fentanyl seizures come at legal points of entry, and 86% of people convicted of smuggling the drug are U.S. citizens. Moreover, smuggling of fentanyl, which is easier to conceal and far more concentrated than other illicit drugs, actually increased during the Covid travel restrictions. The idea that Biden has been lax on border enforcement will come as a surprise to the immigrant advocates who are furious with him.  

There’s also no evidence that progressive or reformist prosecution policies more broadly correlate with an increase in violent crime.

There’s also zero evidence that terrorists are traipsing across the southern border, as several speakers claimed. There has yet to be a single documented case of an American citizen killed or injured by a terrorist who illegally crossed the southern border, and since 1975 there have been only nine documented cases of any person’s ultimately being convicted of terrorism after illegally entering the country. 

Beyond immigration, speaker after speaker attempted to terrify viewers into the voting booth with claims about crime that have been disproven over and over again. We heard much about “Soros-funded” prosecutors’ unleashing a wave of crime and violence on America’s cities. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lamented that these prosecutors “care more about coddling criminals than protecting their own communities” and that they “impose their will on us without our consent.” 

This is a particularly rich accusation to come from DeSantis, who removed two prosecutors overwhelmingly elected (and re-elected) by their constituents and replaced them with the very sort of law-and-order prosecutors those voters had rejected. Though DeSantis accused the prosecutors of being “soft on crime,” there’s little evidence that crime has been higher in their districts than in similar districts around the state. There’s also no evidence that progressive or reformist prosecution policies more broadly correlate with an increase in violent crime. 

Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde claimed the Biden administration has “made us less safe at home with their ‘defund the police’ movement.”  

That statement may be the most impressive lie-to-word-count ratio yet.  

‘Humiliation parade’: DeSantis, Haley speak at RNC after Trump’s relentless attacks. 10:51

Biden didn’t support the “defund” movement; he was openly critical of it. The Biden administration hasn’t cut federal funding to law enforcement; it has increased it (sometimes over the objections of Republicans). In the two years after the George Floyd protests, 8 in 10 departments’ funding increased at least 2%. A handful of departments saw marginal cuts in funding, but no police department was “defunded.” There’s also zero evidence that more police funding corresponds with a reduction in crime or that less funding corresponds with an increase. (Otherwise, Hovde’s claim is accurate!) 

Finally, here’s some context you didn’t hear: When Trump took office in 2017, he inherited the lowest murder rate of any president in half a century. He was then the first president in three decades to finish his term with a higher murder rate than when he started.

Trump isn’t to blame for all of that. He presided over a once-in-a-generation pandemic that disrupted black markets, took witnesses off the streets and brought a wave of desperation and despair. His term also included the largest civil rights protests in U.S. history, which only reinforced the (understandable) antipathy toward police in many marginalized communities. 

Back in 2016, Trump and his surrogates blamed Obama for a surge in crime that never happened.

For the most part, presidents and their policies have little effect on crime. But there is some research suggesting that crime tends to go up when people see the government as corrupt, incompetent or hostile to their interests, particularly among marginalized groups. The theory here is that when people lose faith in government, they’re less likely to cooperate with state institutions like police and the courts. And it seems safe to say that from 2017 to 2021 there was ample reason to see the government as corrupt, incompetent and discriminatory. Immigrants, in particular, were less likely to report crimes and cooperate with police during the Trump years, most likely out of fear that they or their families would be subjected to immigration investigations. 

All of that having been said, most of what drove the surge in crime was beyond Trump’s control. But this isn’t a courtesy Trump has given his opponents. 

Back in 2016, Trump and his surrogates blamed Barack Obama for a surge in crime that never happened. They’re now doing the same thing to Biden. So it only seems fair to point out that the only major surge in crime in 40 years occurred while Trump was in the White House.  

There is at least one class of crimes that has increased exponentially since Biden took office: crimes committed by former presidents. But that probably isn’t a trend the RNC wants to emphasize. 

Jon Stewart still has some soul-searching to do. His first RNC show proved it.

MSNBC – Opinion

Jon Stewart still has some soul-searching to do. His first RNC show proved it.

Stewart interviewed his longtime interlocutor, frenemy and sparring partner Bill O’Reilly, but failed to address the most important question of all.

By Jacques Berlinerblau, MSNBC Columnist – July 17, 2024

Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” on Tuesday executed what Deadline.com called a “Milwaukee pivot” — a programming change forced upon them by last weekend’s tragic violence in Butler, Pennsylvania. Originally, the idea was to air the popular fake news show live from the site of the Republican National Convention. The attempted assassination of Donald Trump, Stewart revealed, scuttled the plan. His Milwaukee venue was placed under lockdown. With “cages built around the theater,” Stewart and his team decided that it wouldn’t be prudent to perform live comedy “without,” the host deadpanned, “people.” 

What exactly are entertainers as influential as Jon Stewart supposed to be doing at a point in American history as troubling as this one?

Taped on Tuesday, the episode was stuck rehashing RNC highlights from Monday. Stewart thus missed an opportunity to skewer the speeches of former Trump detractors Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and Marco Rubio. Each performed variations, albeit less deserving of our enduring awe, of JD Vance’s ability to forget he once called his new boss “America’s Hitler” and “cultural heroin.” (Vance’s opioid analogy must be the most remarkable observation I’ve ever read about Trump). 

Stewart also interviewed his longtime interlocutorfrenemy and sparring partner Bill O’Reilly, and quipped about the two of them being “somewhat fossilized practitioners of the rhetorical arts.” In relation to their past popularity and influence on this generation of political rabble-rousers, Stewart observed, “We made a pretty spectacular living pushing those envelopes.”

This isn’t the first time Stewart has wondered aloud whether he is predator or prey (or peripheral) in the new social media ecosystem. In February he called himself “the captain of this dying medium.” He does seem to intuit that what worked artistically, and maybe even politically, in the Bush and Obama eras is perhaps outdated or irrelevant or actually not entirely helpful in this MAGA moment. 

If Stewart is pondering that, then good on him. I guess the venue change, and the terror that prompted it, should compel him to pose hard questions about the intersection between art and politics. Questions like: What exactly are entertainers as influential as Jon Stewart supposed to be doing at a point in American history as troubling as this one?

I’m starting to believe that Stewart and his team actually don’t know how to answer this question. No disgrace in that. I don’t either. The current moment is as baffling as it is frightening. Although, when your theater is caged in and your audience can’t attend for their own safety because yet another young white male tried to murder people with a perfectly legal killing machine — then, well, maybe it’s a good time to reflect.  

Tuesday night’s program indicated that the usually self-aware Stewart is still thinking this through, and has not yet made any discernible pivot. His jokes about odd noises made by Marjorie Taylor Green were funny enough. The analysis of how Lee Greenwood refused to cede the stage while introducing Trump was fairly hysterical. Trump himself gestured that the long-winded singer-songwriter should move this along (“Is it possible to bring out another band to play a band off?” Stewart quipped).

The Last Thing: Mr. Stewart goes to Washington. 01:33

The Bill O’Reilly interview best encapsulated many of these contradictions that Stewart has to confront. These men, by my count, have interviewed each other some two dozen times over the years. They have excellent chemistry. They like each other. (Or, perhaps, they like to hate each other.) O’Reilly even recently attended Stewart’s show. The hard-charging conservative “newsman,” who was fired by Fox News in the wake of five sexual harassment suits (which he has denied), is sort of avuncular when conversing with Stewart.

O’Reilly made reasonable points about rage and today’s politics. “We are now in a society,” he opined “where hatred is rewarded.” Stewart jumped in: “It’s incentivized, it’s monetized!” Dialogue. Consensus. I like it!

One problem, though, is that the same O’Reilly who was bemoaning “the hate brigade” Tuesday night has been eminently hateful himself. I am not going to rehash his views on Trayvon Martin’s murder, on gay marriagevictim blamingcomparing the ACLU to terroristsblatant and pervasive sexismanti-LGBTQ and transgender rantsreligious fearmongering (such as his yearly diatribe against the “war on Christmas”), or his discomforting white power vibes

I am going to say that Jon Stewart has to figure something out. When he’s choppin’ it up with Bill O’Reilly is he: a) fostering open and honest discussion across the ideological divide, thereby enriching our liberal democracy? Or, b) platforming a voice that is both cause and effect of the lethal danger that is threatening the existence of liberal democracy itself? Because it sure as hell can’t be both. 

When O’Reilly started reading off unflattering statistics about Biden’s economy, Stewart did push back, literally. He prompted his guest to explain how Biden is solely responsible for high food prices, gas prices, mortgage rates, etc., given what he inherited from his predecessor. When O’Reilly responded he didn’t know, Stewart guffawed, comically pushed back his own chair, got up and walked away. 

An interesting gesture, that was. No one is asking Stewart to walk away from his comedic throne. But I’d hope the events of the past few months might stimulate deeper reflection on what artists are supposed to do in dark times. 

Jacques Berlinerblau is a professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University. He has authored numerous books about the subject of secularism, including the recent “Secularism: The Basics” (Routledge). He has also written about American higher education in “Campus Confidential: How College Works, and Doesn’t, For Professors, Parents and Students” (Melville House). With Professor Terrence Johnson, he is a co-author of “Blacks and Jews in America: An Invitation to Dialogue” (Georgetown). His current research concentrates on the nexus between literature and comedy on the one side and cultural conflicts on the other.

Real hillbillies like me don’t trust JD Vance. You shouldn’t trust him either.

MSNBC – Opinion

Real hillbillies like me don’t trust JD Vance. You shouldn’t trust him either.

In his bestseller memoir, JD Vance uses a wide brush to paint Appalachians as lazy, ignorant and unwilling to try at life.

By Willie Carver, poet and writer – July 17, 2024

Maddow outlines JD Vance’s radical extremism on Ukraine, abortion rights

It’s easy to understand why “Hillbilly Elegy,” the 2016 memoir by JD Vance, piqued the interest of the American people. It recycles a narrative America has relied on for a century to sleep soundly despite the everyday horrors of our society: Rich people do well because they are morally better than the poor.

Add some powerful tropes — a firebrand “pistol packing lunatic” mamaw who protects at all costs, a rags-to-riches story in which Vance, a Marine,  escapes the “worst of my cultural inheritance” (p. 253) of unsophisticated, drug-addicted, murderous hillbillies — and you’ve got a bestseller.

You’ve also got a dangerous lie, one relying on ugly stereotypes that harm real Appalachians in order to advance a political career. Former President Donald Trump announced Monday that Vance, the junior senator from Ohio, is his pick for his running mate.

Unlike me, Vance is not Appalachian.  He was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio, well outside any maps of the distinct geographical and cultural region. Trump picking this Rust Belt charlatan as his running mate Monday sparked a resounding and unifying rant among conservative and liberal hillbillies alike in my social media feed: We do not acknowledge him.

Why would we? Vance introduces his reader to Appalachia by immediately profiling the worst behaviors of each of his uncles, including a scene of grotesque violence. He calls us a “pessimistic bunch” living in a “hub of misery” (p. 4), and over and over again he uses a wide brush to paint Appalachians as lazy, ignorant and unwilling to try at life.

Though there are dozens of offensive stories to choose from in “Hillbilly Elegy,” perhaps the most ridiculous one occurs when, during boot camp, Vance says he meets an eastern Kentuckian who, never having heard the term, asks “What’s a Catholic?” because, as Vance presents it, “down in that part of Kentucky [where he says that man is from], everybody’s a snake handler.” (p. 160). It’s an addictively stereotypical image: the ignorant, isolated, snake-handling hillbilly. But it’s not reality. There are a half dozen churches in that Kentuckian’s county seat, mostly Baptist and Methodist.  Just 20 miles away, in Hazard, there’s a Catholic Church. Another 20 miles away, where Vance’s family lives, there’s a Catholic Church with more than 4,000 Facebook followers.

Vance’s memoir of Appalachia, full of gun-toting, drug-addicted “lunatics” aimlessly awaiting death, is at best a cherry-picking of the worst moments of his life. At worst, it’s a concoction of real memories and some of television’s worst stereotypes of what Appalachia is.

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author on 2016 campaign. 04:37

I am not alone.

Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll’s “Appalachian Reckoning,” a response to Vance’s bestseller, anthologizes more than 400 pages of responses from real Appalachians describing their lives in all the nuance they deserve.

But nuanced stories aren’t useful in politics.

Appalachia is simply a rhetorical device for Vance that he used to launch a political career. If your political goal is to blame the poor for their own problems, then using the regional ethnicity of your grandparents to present yourself as “authentic” can compel readers to believe your narrative or to feel good about having already believed it. After all, the narrative of the lazy hillbilly has existed for as long as rich folks outside of Appalachia needed an explanation for mountain poverty that doesn’t include blaming themselves.

Did the poverty come from the rest of the country ignoring a region they thought had no resources?

Did the poverty come from coal barons stealing resources once they were discovered.

Did the poverty come from outside coal companies not paying coal miners actual money for decades?

Why blame complex issues that implicate rich white folks when “lazy” is only two syllables?

Vance builds on this narrative, ignoring nuance and context, presenting supposed anecdote after supposed anecdote of cultural depravity and portraying himself as a hillbilly who survived and knows the answer to what ails Appalachia is political conservatism.

Joy Reid on ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author, U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance recanting Trump critiques. 02:57

For Vance, issues of poverty, drug abuse and neglected children are “issues of family, faith, and culture.” (p. 238) He goes so far as to claim that these “problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else.” (p. 255)

That’s insulting. Individuals living in poverty did not invent opioids. Individuals living in poverty did not refuse to regulate opioids.

He puts the blame entirely on poor Americans, on mothers on food stamps and on fathers who are out of work, extending the roots of that blame directly to Appalachians and some inherent moral flaw. In convincing readers outside of Appalachia that they need the solution he is selling, he paints the Appalachian as the moral problem in America:

The dog whistle is pretty clear: The immoral hill folks are already in your area. Trust me, I escaped them. I know the answer to save you from them.

“If there is any temptation to judge these problems as the narrow concerns of backwoods hollers, a glimpse at my own life reveals that Jackson [Kentucky]’s plight has gone mainstream. Thanks to the massive migration from the poorer regions of Appalachia to places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, hillbilly values spread widely along with hillbilly people.” (p. 20)

The “hillbilly” twist is a particularly clever political move because it allows poor white folks living in swing states (like those listed above) to draw a quick line of demarcation around themselves — hardworking but poor Americans — and the supposed immoral, lazy welfare queens and absent, violent hillbilly fathers spreading into their cities and towns.

Trump’s choice of JD Vance ties Project 2025 even closer to his campaign. 09:33

Vance paints himself as having narrowly escaped  “the deep anger and resentment” (p. 2) of those who raised him and laments the supposed white working class feeling that “our choices don’t matter.” (p. 176)

Wednesday morning, my sister, who has known overwhelming pain and difficulty, signed up for nursing classes at a community college. Last week, my nephew, a young man with everything stacked against him, asked me to meet him to talk about vocational school.  

I see people making choices.

I see no anger.

Vance confuses frustration in a difficult system with anger and resentment.

Vance confuses frustration in a difficult system with anger and resentment; he misrepresents  Appalachians acknowledging that the choices they have are few and far between and require great levels of personal sacrifice as their belief that the choices they make don’t matter. He sees the drowning person and decides they lack determination in swimming. He ignores those creating the flood.

Vance does identify one hillbilly trait that I will, at this moment, agree with: We can be distrustful of outsiders. I might add that I am most distrustful of outsiders pretending to be insiders and of outsiders with a political agenda. 

This hillbilly does not trust JD Vance.

Today’s GOP has no past, present, or future. It’s just Trump.

MSNBC – Opinion

Today’s GOP has no past, present, or future. It’s just Trump.

It’s as if MAGA wiped the GOP slate clean and made 2016 its Year Zero.

Michael A. Cohen, MSNBC Columnist – July 17, 2024

Image: politics political trump supporters

Delegates hold up signs during the second day of the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, on July 16, 2024.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images

In his seminal dystopian novel, “1984,” George Orwell wrote “who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

Suffice it to say, Orwell would have had a field day at the 2024 Republican National Convention

Indeed, there is no better example of former President Donald Trump’s hold over the modern GOP than this week’s near-total erasure of the Republican Party’s past.

You might not be aware of it by watching the Republican convention this week, but the Republican Party is, in fact, 170 years old. It was formed in 1854 as an abolitionist movement opposed to the expansion of slavery into western territories. Its first standard-bearer was Abraham Lincoln, which is why the GOP is sometimes referred to as the “Party of Lincoln.” Nineteen presidents have been Republicans.

But if you watch the 2024 Republican convention, you are likely to hear about only one: Donald Trump. It’s as if MAGA wiped the GOP slate clean and made 2016 its Year Zero.

Other than Trump, there’s only one other living Republican ex-president: George W. Bush. He’s one of only four Republican presidents in history to win two presidential elections and serve eight years in office. And the chances of hearing Bush’s name mentioned in a positive light by convention speakers in Milwaukee this week are close to nil. 

Twenty years ago, Bush was a revered figure within the GOP (for those of you who are younger, you’ll have to take my word for it). 

But in the 16 years since he left office, Bush’s presidency has largely been stuffed down the memory hole — and it has been a bipartisan effort. Even Democrats don’t bother talking about his disastrous presidency anymore. While Bush left office with a historically low approval rating and a cratering economy, that’s not necessarily why he is persona non grata in the party he once led.

Bush was an internationalist. Trump is an isolationist. W was pro-immigration and, by and large, opposed to demonizing people of color. Trump is, of course, the exact opposite. And Bush is part of a multigenerational political dynasty. In other words, for MAGA he is the embodiment of the dreaded political establishment.  

But it’s not just Bush who has been kicked to the curb. There are also three living Republican vice presidents not in attendance — Dan QuayleDick Cheney and Mike Pence. Quayle has been out of the limelight for years; Cheney is the father of Liz Cheney, whom Trump despises for her role in co-chairing the House Jan. 6 committee, and, of course, on Jan. 6 Trump helped whip up a mob that threatened the life of Pence, his former vice president — so it’s probably best he didn’t make the trip to Milwaukee. (Incidentally, it was Quayle who told fellow Hoosier Pence that he didn’t have the authority to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election.)

How about the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney? He’s retiring from the Senate, in large measure because of his revulsion at the direction the party has taken since Trump won its presidential nod in 2016. (Of course, Trump hates him, too, as Romney was the only Republican who voted to convict at both of Trump’s impeachment trials.)0 seconds of 2 minutes, 38 secondsVolume 90% 

‘The devil came to Pennsylvania’: Sen. Tim Scott calls Trump’s survival a ‘miracle’

Romney’s 2012 running mate, Paul Ryan, a former speaker of the House, might be in attendance in Milwaukee (he is, after all, from Wisconsin), but he’s not speaking. The same goes for 2008 nominee Sarah Palin. Her running mate, John McCain, passed away in 2018, but there won’t be any glossy tributes for him. Trump, infamously, mocked McCain’s time as a POW in Vietnam. The national convention where McCain is most likely to show up is the Democratic National Convention. McCain’s widow, Cindy, spoke there in 2020.

The 1996 presidential nominee (and 1976 vice presidential nominee), Bob Dole, passed away in 2021. What are the chances that there will be a tribute to him at this year’s Republican convention? There wasn’t one in 2020 to honor former President George H.W. Bush, who died in 2018. Will there even be a reference to Ronald Reagan, the president to whom Republicans tied themselves for decades after he left office? It’s hardly a guarantee, which once would have been sacrilegious at a GOP event but today is practically par for the course (although if one wants to see the new Reagan biopic starring Dennis Quaid, it’s showing every day in Milwaukee).

Historically, political parties have a tendency to turn their backs on failed presidents or losing candidates. There weren’t many Republican conventions that extolled the virtues of Herbert Hoover after his disastrous one term in office. The same goes for Richard Nixon, the only president who was forced to resign. But even Nixon got a shoutout from the party’s presidential nominees in 1992 and 1996. 

For Democrats, Jimmy Carter might have lost re-election in 1980 and is generally considered a failed president — but that didn’t stop Democrats from giving him a prime-time speaking slot at the next three conventions. This year, one can fully expect prime-time speeches from Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Al Gore, John Kerry or Tim Kaine made appearances. 

But at this year’s RNC, it’s as if there was no Republican Party before Trump came along. And, in a sense, that’s true. The current incarnation of the GOP bears no resemblance to the party of Lincoln, Reagan or the Bush family. The only real blast from the past is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. I could identify only two speakers who worked in the Bush administration. It’s now the party of Trump and Trumpism, of political outsiders and rebels — and the only price for entry is pledging one’s fealty to the leader (not the party).

Donald Trump’s choice of JD Vance ties Project 2025 even closer to Trump’s campaign

Of the dozens of speakers over four days in Milwaukee, virtually all came to prominence in just the past decade or so — and largely on Trump’s coattails. People like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kari Lake, Tom CottonMarco Rubio and Matt Gaetz are the faces of the modern GOP. Their rises to prominence have little to do with adherence to GOP policy orthodoxy or even their political chops but rather their willingness to prostrate themselves before Donald Trump — and fully embrace his many lies. 

In Trump’s GOP, there are no legacy, no coherent ideological beliefs and no enduring political tradition. There is no past, present or future. There’s just Trump.

Michael A. Cohen is a columnist for MSNBC and a Senior Fellow and co-director of the Afghanistan Assumptions Project at the Center for Strategic Studies at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. He writes the political newsletter Truth and Consequences. He has been a columnist at The Boston Globe, The Guardian and Foreign Policy, and he is the author of three books, the most recent being “Clear and Present Safety: The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans.”