Trump Tries to Flip the Script on Democracy After Biden’s Withdrawal Democracy After Biden’s Withdrawal

The New York Times

Trump Tries to Flip the Script on Democracy After Biden’s Withdrawal

Nick Corasaniti and Jim Rutenberg – July 23, 2024

Supporters of former President Donald Trump outside the Senate chamber during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Supporters of former President Donald Trump outside the Senate chamber during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Ever since rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Democratic Party has sought to claim the mantle of democracy, painting Donald Trump and his allies as extremists willing to deny the will of voters to cling to power.

Now, after President Joe Biden dropped his reelection bid and Democrats swiftly aligned behind Vice President Kamala Harris as a replacement, Republicans are trying to flip the argument.

In a series of statements and social media posts, Republicans have argued that Democrats, by pressuring Biden to quit, have “disenfranchised” the 14 million people who voted for him in the party primaries.

The accusation isn’t based on any party rule or supposed legal violation. Instead, it is the Republicans’ latest attempt to muddy the waters on an issue that helped Democrats win key races two years ago. Since Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat in 2020, which led to the Jan. 6 riot and criminal charges against the former president, Democrats have cast Republicans as a threat to democratic norms.

They have used images from the Jan. 6 riot in attack ads and mobilized Democratic voters against Republican-backed legislation restricting voting. The issue was especially potent for Democratic governors and secretaries of state in critical swing states, who won every election for statewide office except for governor in Nevada and Georgia in 2022.

On Monday, Trump tried a new tactic to neutralize that threat, zeroing in on the “stolen” nomination claim. “They stole the race from Biden after he won it in the primaries — A First!” Trump posted on his social media site. “These people are the real THREAT TO DEMOCRACY!”

The two most senior Republican congressional leaders — House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — echoed the claim.

“Having invalidated the votes of more than 14 million Americans who selected Joe Biden to be the Democrat nominee for president, the self-proclaimed ‘party of democracy,’ has proven exactly the opposite,” Johnson said. McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said Democrats were “trying to upend the expressed will” of primary voters.

There is nothing in Biden’s withdrawal or his endorsement of Harris that appears to violate any party or election rules. Under party rules, when a candidate withdraws after the primary elections but before officially securing the nomination, delegates are free to vote for another candidate of their choosing. Republican Party rules outline a similar process.

Democrats and voting rights experts dismissed the criticism as a specious, and argued that Republicans lacked credibility on the subject.

On Monday, Alex Floyd, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said it was Trump who was trafficking in “anti-democratic rhetoric as part of his campaign,” adding that the former president “himself inspired a violent insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.”

He said that Democrats were “committed to an open process” to select Biden’s successor on the ticket. That process includes a vote by the party’s nearly 4,000 delegates. Other Democrats noted that the 14 million people who voted for Biden certainly did so knowing he was on a ticket with Harris, the current front-runner.

Civil rights groups and democracy activists did not appear to share the Trump campaign’s concerns about Democratic disenfranchisement. Polling from this summer showed a majority of Democrats wanted Biden to step aside.

“I don’t think this is anti-democratic in the slightest,” said David Becker, director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. Becker noted that Trump sought to throw out millions of votes in the states where he contested his defeat, as part of his attempt to hold on to power after losing the 2020 election.

It’s unclear whether Republicans’ attacks about the “stolen” Democratic primary will land with swing voters. But Trump has been trying to reframe the political debate over democracy for years, with some signs of success. He has cast the Jan. 6 rioters as patriots and accused Democratic prosecutors of using indictments to interfere with the election.

A recent Washington Post poll found that voters in six battleground states were more likely to trust Trump than Biden to handle threats to democracy. The survey found 61% of voters in those states listed “threats to democracy” as extremely important to their vote. The only issue rating higher was the economy.

“I am the only one saving democracy for the people in our country,” Trump said as he accepted his party’s nomination last week.

Trump and his allies also sought to use the attempt on Trump’s life at his July 13 rally in Pennsylvania to portray him as a “defender” of democracy.

They have painted the shooting as an anti-democratic attempt to remove Trump from the race. (Virtually nothing is known about the motives of his shooter, Thomas Matthew Crooks.)

In making the argument that Biden’s exit from the race disenfranchised millions of primary voters, Trump and his party picked up a theme the president’s campaign had also emphasized. When Biden was resisting calls to drop out, he and his surrogates often pointed to those votes to defend his decision to stay in the race.

“We had a Democratic nominating process where the voters spoke clearly,” Biden had told MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. “I won 14 million of those votes.”

The Republican attempts to seize on that argument as their own, democracy activists say, is part of a broader, yearslong effort to erode trust in the electoral process.

“I see this all as just a continued effort to try to cast doubt on our elections, to try to undermine pro-democracy candidates,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center.

Hillary Clinton: How Kamala Harris Can Win and Make History

The New York Times – Guest Opinion

By Hillary Rodham Clinton – July 23, 2024

Mrs. Clinton was the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

Kamala Harris, seen outside the White House.

Credit…Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

History has its eye on us. President Biden’s decision to end his campaign was as pure an act of patriotism as I have seen in my lifetime. It should also be a call to action to the rest of us to continue his fight for the soul of our nation. The next 15 weeks will be like nothing this country has ever experienced politically, but have no doubt: This is a race Democrats can and must win.

Mr. Biden has done a hard and rare thing. Serving as president was a lifelong dream. And when he finally got there, he was exceptionally good at it. To give that up, to accept that finishing the job meant passing the baton, took real moral clarity. The country mattered more. As one who shared that dream and has had to make peace with letting it go, I know this wasn’t easy. But it was the right thing to do.

Elections are about the future. That’s why I am excited about Vice President Kamala Harris. She represents a fresh start for American politics. She can offer a hopeful, unifying vision. She is talented, experienced and ready to be president. And I know she can defeat Donald Trump.

There is now an even sharper, clearer choice in this election. On one side is a convicted criminal who cares only about himself and is trying to turn back the clock on our rights and our country. On the other is a savvy former prosecutor and successful vice president who embodies our faith that America’s best days are still ahead. It’s old grievances versus new solutions.

Ms. Harris’s record and character will be distorted and disparaged by a flood of disinformation and the kind of ugly prejudice we’re already hearing from MAGA mouthpieces. She and the campaign will have to cut through the noise, and all of us as voters must be thoughtful about what we read, believe and share.

I know a thing or two about how hard it can be for strong women candidates to fight through the sexism and double standards of American politics. I’ve been called a witch, a “nasty woman” and much worse. I was even burned in effigy. As a candidate, I sometimes shied away from talking about making history. I wasn’t sure voters were ready for that. And I wasn’t running to break a barrier; I was running because I thought I was the most qualified to do the job. While it still pains me that I couldn’t break that highest, hardest glass ceiling, I’m proud that my two presidential campaigns made it seem normal to have a woman at the top of the ticket.

Ms. Harris will face unique additional challenges as the first Black and South Asian woman to be at the top of a major party’s ticket. That’s real, but we shouldn’t be afraid. It is a trap to believe that progress is impossible. After all, I won the national popular vote by nearly three million in 2016, and it’s not so long ago that Americans overwhelmingly elected our first Black president. As we saw in the 2022 midterms, abortion bans and attacks on democracy are galvanizing women voters like never before. With Ms. Harris at the top of the ticket leading the way, this movement may become an unstoppable wave.

Time is short to organize the campaign on her behalf, but the Labour Party in Britain and a broad left-wing coalition in France recently won big victories with even less time. Ms. Harris will have to reach out to voters who have been skeptical of Democrats and mobilize young voters who need convincing. But she can run on a strong record and ambitious plans to further reduce costs for families, enact common-sense gun safety laws and restore and protect our rights and freedoms.

She has a great story to tell about the accomplishments of this administration. Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris led America’s comeback after Mr. Trump bungled the pandemic and left our economy in free fall. Under their leadership, the United States has created more than 15 million jobs, and unemployment is near a 50-year low.

When inflation spiked around the globe, many economists said the only way to tame it would be a painful recession with major job losses. But Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris kept Americans working as inflation fell back toward normal levels and real incomes for working people rose.

When many thought bipartisanship was dead, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris brought Republicans and Democrats together to pass major legislation on infrastructure and clean energy, microchips and national security. From drug prices to student debt, they’ve delivered results that have made our country stronger and people’s lives better.

Ms. Harris is chronically underestimated, as are so many women in politics, but she is well prepared for this moment. As a prosecutor and attorney general in California, she took on drug traffickers, polluters and predatory lenders. As a U.S. senator, she rigorously questioned squirming Trump administration officials and nominees and was inspiring to watch. As vice president, Ms. Harris has sat with the president in the Situation Room, helping make the hardest decisions a leader can make. And when the extremist Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, she became the administration’s most passionate and effective advocate for restoring women’s reproductive rights.

I look forward to hearing her prosecute a compelling case against Mr. Trump, who failed as a president the first time and is running on a dangerous agenda. A second Trump term would be much worse than the first. Mr. Trump’s plans are more extreme, he is more unhinged, and the guardrails that constrained some of his worst instincts are gone.

Ms. Harris can explain to the American people that inflation would surge again under Mr. Trump, thanks to his proposed across-the-board tariffs, sweeping tax cuts for the rich and mass deportations. The policies outlined by Mr. Trump’s allies in Project 2025, from further restricting abortion rights to dismantling the Department of Education, are a recipe for a weaker, poorer, more divided America.

The vice president’s law enforcement experience gives her the credibility to rebut Mr. Trump’s lies about crime and immigration. The facts are on her side: After spiking under Mr. Trump, the murder rate is plummeting under the Biden-Harris administration. Illegal border crossings are also dropping fast and are now the lowest they’ve been since 2020, thanks in part to Mr. Biden’s recent executive order. We’d be making even more progress if Mr. Trump hadn’t killed a bipartisan immigration compromise in Congress this year for his own selfish political purposes.

As a friend and supporter of Mr. Biden, I find this a bittersweet moment. He is a wise and decent man who served our country well. We have lost our standard-bearer, and we will miss his steady leadership, deep empathy and fighting spirit. Yet we have gained much as well: a new champion, an invigorated campaign and a renewed sense of purpose.

The time for hand-wringing is over. Now it’s time to organize, mobilize and win.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 and is a former U.S. secretary of state and senator from New York.

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.

Dozens of Local Police Officers Were at Trump’s Rally. Very Few Were Watching a Critical Area.

The New York Times

Dozens of Local Police Officers Were at Trump’s Rally. Very Few Were Watching a Critical Area.

Campbell Robertson – July 21, 2024

Law enforcement officers survey a scene after former President Donald Trump’s campaign event at Butler Farm Show Inc. in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024.  (Eric Lee/The New York Times)
Law enforcement officers survey a scene after former President Donald Trump’s campaign event at Butler Farm Show Inc. in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (Eric Lee/The New York Times)

BUTLER, Pa. — A key question after an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump a week ago is why the Secret Service excluded from its secured zone a nearby warehouse that the gunman used for his assault.

But another possible flaw in the Secret Service’s plans for the campaign rally at the farm show grounds in Butler, Pennsylvania, is emerging. The protection agency expected the sizable contingent of officers from local law enforcement agencies to contain any threats outside the secured zone but assigned almost all those officers to work inside it, according to numerous interviews with local law enforcement and municipal officials.

None of the law enforcement agencies that assisted the Secret Service that day — the Pennsylvania State Police, the Butler Township Police Department, the Butler County Sheriff, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police or the multicounty tactical teams — say they were given responsibility for watching the zone outside the Secret Service’s security perimeter.

More specifically, the local law enforcement officials say that none of them were assigned to safeguard the complex of warehouses just north of the farm show grounds. The gunman was able to use the roof of the warehouse closest to the stage — about 450 feet from the podium — from which to shoot.

“I am going to defend those guys, because it wasn’t their job to secure the building,” said Richard Goldinger, the district attorney in Butler County, who oversees the multicounty tactical teams that were used at the rally July 13.

Rather, an overwhelming majority of the dozens of local and state officers called upon to aid the Secret Service were given other duties at or inside the secured perimeter — an area that was protected by a fence, metal detectors and the Secret Service itself.

With law enforcement focused elsewhere, a would-be assassin roamed freely outside the perimeter. The only officers who got close to him were ones who left their designated posts to do so.

Their job had been to direct traffic.

The assigned responsibilities of local law enforcement officers raise questions as to whether these resources were effectively deployed. The assignments also suggest there was a breakdown in the Secret Service’s communication with local law enforcement.

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle will almost certainly face sharp questions about why that rooftop was left unguarded during a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on Monday. In an interview with ABC News this past week, Cheatle said local police — not the Secret Service — had been responsible for the area in which the warehouses were located.

“In this particular instance, we did share support for that particular site and that the Secret Service was responsible for the inner perimeter,” Cheatle said. “And then we sought assistance from our local counterparts for the outer perimeter. There was local police in that building — there was local police in the area that were responsible for the outer perimeter of the building.”

Local agencies quickly issued statements disputing her account, saying that no officers were deployed in the building the gunman used. She has not spoken publicly since.

The gunman, later identified as Thomas Matthew Crooks, 20, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, shot at Trump, leaving his ear bloodied, and injured three rally attendees, one fatally. A Secret Service sniper then shot and killed Crooks.

Anthony Guglielmi, a Secret Service spokesperson, said his agency took responsibility. He said the agency would cooperate with all relevant investigations and was committed to better understanding what happened before, during and after the shooting.

But Guglielmi could not answer detailed questions about who was assigned to guard the area that included the warehouses, owned by AGR International.

On July 3, the Trump campaign called the Butler Farm Show, an annual fair and livestock show, to ask if Trump could rent their fairgrounds July 13.

“It just seemed like an awful quick turnaround,” said Ken Laughlin, president of the farm show’s board.

Laughlin said the campaign did not ask questions about the venue, which includes a few barns and a fence around the outside to stop people from attending the show without buying tickets.

Laughlin said that three agents from the Secret Service came to visit the grounds five days later, on July 8.

Retired agents said that collaborating with local law enforcement on unfamiliar sites is essential to their work.

“We cannot do our job without the locals; we come from nowhere, and these are our partners,” said Beth Celestini, who worked on protective details assigned to President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama before retiring in 2021.

In the days that followed their first site visit, the Secret Service made its requests for local assistance. The law enforcement presence at the site on the day of the rally — federal, state and local — ending up totaling more than 100 officers, a Secret Service official said.

Butler County Sheriff Michael Slupe said he had about six deputies at the rally, whose primary jobs were to secure the perimeter and “make sure people didn’t jump the fence” into the event.

Keeping watch over the complex of warehouses, Slupe said, “wasn’t our role or responsibility.” Instead, his deputies were detailed to the metal detector areas and command communications posts.

Local agencies had a security briefing on July 8 with Secret Service agents to plan assignments, the sheriff said.

“If people could have prevented that roof issue,” he said, referring to the building from which the gunman had shot, “we’d have no issue, right?”

The State Police said in a statement that its 30 to 40 troopers were there “to assist with securing the inside perimeter.” The statement said the agency “was not responsible for securing the building or property at AGR International.”

Tactical law enforcement teams compiled from Butler County and neighboring counties provided two counter assault teams and a quick-response team. They were placed in the secured zone in case something went wrong.

Between the July 8 walk-through and another to finalize plans July 11, the Secret Service had another request. It asked for two police sniper teams to supplement the two sniper units that were to be deployed by the agency’s forces.

The emergency service units, another name for the county tactical teams, provided seven counter snipers. Four of the seven were given duties within the security perimeter, according to a local law enforcement official.

The three others took a position in a warehouse directly behind the one that Crooks ultimately used. Even those snipers were assigned to use their second-floor window view to survey the crowd inside the secured zone — not to watch over the warren of buildings where they were stationed, a law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the continuing investigation.

The Secret Service’s counter snipers were placed on barn rooftops, directly behind Trump.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had 16 Homeland Security Investigations agents at the rally assisting the Secret Service, according to two U.S. officials. One of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the continuing investigation, said the ICE agents were deployed in various roles such as screening members of the news media as they entered the secured area and helping direct traffic.

A Pittsburgh police spokesperson said its team had officers on motorcycles to lead and follow Trump’s vehicle. “They were ABSOLUTELY NOT responsible for monitoring any buildings or anything else at the site,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Officers from the Butler Township Police Department also helped out. But they were not security, according to Butler Township Commissioner Edward Natali.

“There were seven officers all assigned to traffic detail. Period!! The BTPD was NOT responsible for securing AGR or any other location,” Natali said in a post on social media. “Anyone who says so, reports on it, implies it, etc… is uninformed, lying, or covering their own backsides.”

Once there was notification of a suspicious person in the crowd outside of the secured area at the rally, four Butler Township police officers left their traffic posts and went hunting for him, officials who briefed members of Congress said this past week.

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.