Daily Brian / Flickr Donald Trump Goes to War James...
Daily Brian / Flickr

Donald Trump has caused a coarsening of the national language. That’s certainly true in terms of relaying Trump’s own words. From “sh!#hole countries” to “locker room talk,” quoting Donald Trump too directly is prone to generate articles that get filtered out by software making sure that text is “safe for work.”

It’s also true of attempts to report about Donald Trump. Filter-flipping words appear in response to Trump’s actions because words like vile, depraved, despicable, loathsome, and disgusting simply feel inadequate to the task. They need that boost that comes with something based on a four-letter root before they have anywhere near the potency suitable to describing Trump’s actions.

If there’s one great example of reporting on Trump where the words used in the media simply can’t keep up with the vile, depraved, despicable, loathsome and simply disgusting depth of what Trump is doing, it’s this: Trump lies. Over the last week, the attempts of the media to stay within the bounds of traditional newsroom statements with terms like “misstated” or “embellished” or “made unsupported claims” have been particularly unsatisfying—because Trump has been lying. Lying. Lying. Trump has been lying at a rate, and at a level, that even for Trump seems particularly shameless. Especially flagrant.

It’s almost as if, no, it’s exactly as if, Trump is resting comfortably on the bed of lies already told, and already too lightly challenged. As if the weeks, months, and years of statements he’s been making on or about the media, with little correction, have done their corrosive work: Stripping the ‘guardians of the truth’ of their ability to guard, or even sound an alarm. Now he feels free to lie at a whole new level. Because if the thesaurus can’t cough up a word sufficiently charged to describe Trump’s depravity, what is it going to produce to match his level of lying? Prevarication? Hardly. Whopper? With fries, please.

In a torrent of weekend tweets, Donald Trump has lied about the investigation into his crime-riddled campaign, the favors he is working for China, police violence, trade laws, and particularly the kidnapping and detention of thousands of immigrant children by ICE. None of these were subtle, difficult to check, or involved information not available to the press and the public. They were blatant lies. They were deliberate lies. And, especially when it comes to the treatment of immigrant children, disgusting, vile, loathsome lies.

Trump even denied the existing of a White House source behind a widely-reported story, though that source was not some obscure and nameless aide, but an official who made the quoted statements on an regular call to the media with dozens of reporters listening in. Trump lied anyway. Because Donald Trump is a fucking liar.

Now … let’s go read pundits.


Leonard Pitts on the driving force of the Trump coalition.

We’re going to try something different today. Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I’ll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words.

Here, then, is “Robert” with a comparative analysis of the 44th and 45th presidents:

“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. …

And here’s “Gary’s” take on demographic change:

“[America] has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”

The ‘economic anxiety’ often attributed to Trump voters is over an economy that vanished decades ago. Those coal mines and steel mills closed before many of the Trump supporters were even born. They’re not looking for their old jobs back, they never had those jobs. They’re looking for a sickly-romanticized version of the 1950s that comes complete with Whites-only lunch counters and a sidewalk to themselves.

It’s still an article of faith for many that the Trump phenomenon was born out of fiscal insecurity, the primal scream of working people left behind by a changing economy. But I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen an email from a Trump supporter who explained himself in terms of the factory or the coal mine shutting down.

I have, however, heard from hundreds like “Matthew,” who worries about “immigrants” and “Gerald,” who thinks people of color have an “alliance” against him. Such people validate the verdict of a growing body of scholarship that says, in the words of a new study by University of Kansas professors David N. Smith and Eric Hanley, “The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …”

The role model for Donald Trump isn’t Reagan or Lincoln or Washington. It’s P. W. Botha. And that’s just what his supporters want.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Sterling Brown incident.

Another day, another black man violently assaulted by five rogue police officers for the ever-increasing crime of BWB (breathing while black). This time it was NBA player Sterling Brown. In January, the Bucks rookie was confronted by Milwaukee police at Walgreens for a parking infraction, which resulted in a compliant Brown being wrestled to the ground, handcuffed, tased, arrested – and given a parking ticket. The recently released police body-cam footage was called “disturbing” by Milwaukee’s mayor. Particularly in a city that Bucks president Peter Feigin once called “the most segregated, racist place I’ve ever experienced in my life”. The officers involved have since been disciplined. Now what? Bygones?

What Abdul-Jabbar points out is that it’s not just that middle class black men occasionally run afoul of police who are randomly making stops for blackness. It’s that middle and upper class black men are being especially targeted for rough treatment. Why? Check the Pitts column again.

The Milwaukee police who confronted Sterling Brown weren’t just assaulting the man, they were damaging the dreams of young people of color who imagine a more accepting world on the other side of the finish line. But the loneliness of these long-distance runners just got lonelier, harder and a little more hopeless.

Jessica Gillooly and the rash of while not-white police calls.

The news about the white Yale University student who called 911 on a black classmate who fell asleep in the common room of a dorm didn’t surprise me. Nor was I surprised by the white woman in Colorado who called 911 on two Native American brothers taking a campus tour because they joined the tour late and were acting “just really odd,” or the Philadelphia Starbucks employee who called 911 on two black men for not making a purchase.

What Gillooly brings to this problem as a 911 dispatcher is: Where is the best place to intervene? It would be great if people with a massive race-filter on their actions never jumped to bring police into a situation where they’re not needed. But that’s unlikely. Making dispatchers into gatekeepers means asking them to evaluate situations about which they have limited information, opening up fears of failing to respond to genuine problems. And still …

Yet activating the police, however innocent the callers’ motives, has unpredictable, sometimes serious, results. The call at Yale meant the African American student had to justify her presence to the police for 20 minutes, the call from the woman in Colorado ruined a college visit for two teens, and the call from the Starbucks employee resulted in the arrest of two men. In their book, “In Context,” police detective Nick Selby and co-authors Ben Singleton and Ed Flosi wrote that in 2015, 83 of the 153 police killings of unarmed civilians began with a 911 call. Although most calls do not end like this, erring on the side of caution by indiscriminately sending the police overlooks the associated risks to families, communities and police officers.

Gillooly’s conclusion is that, imperfect as it may be, dispatchers need more training in how to filter calls to 911, and how to ask the questions that will separate real concerns from attempts to use the police for policing race.

Memorial Day and Immigration

David Von Drehle on immigrants in the military.

Before the burgers and beer, let’s take a few minutes to think about what it is that Memorial Day commemorates.

Drehle gives a brief history of four immigrants—one in World War I, another in World War II, one in Viet Nam, and a final example in Afghanistan—who didn’t just join the American military but, like thousands of other immigrants, served with honor and distinction.

If it seems that I’m shorting this column, it’s because telling these stories means telling these stories, which is beyond what I should do through the wonders of copy-paste. For that you need to go read the original. So go.

North Korea

Anne Applebaum on the aftereffects of Trump’s erratic engagement with North Korea.

It was mocked when it first appeared a few days ago. But now the White House commemorative coin — the one struck to mark the great peace summit between President Trump and “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong Un — will go down in history. Like the famous “ Inverted Jenny ” — a 1918 stamp with the image of an airplane printed upside down — the coin has already become a collectible. It pompously marks an event that isn’t going to happen, and its price will rise sharply as a result.

The other results of the canceled summit are less amusing. Remember, Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal didn’t automatically return the Middle East to where it was before the pact was signed in 2015: It returned us to a worse place. We’re now unable to reimpose sanctions on Iran because the coalition that enforced them is broken. Trump’s withdrawal from the Kim summit doesn’t return the Korean Peninsula to status quo ante either. Even if he returns to the negotiating table next month, we do not live in the same world that we lived in on March 7, the day before a plan for the now-canceled summit was announced. Actions have consequences. Here’s a list of them.

The list of damages brought by Trump’s actions is a long one, but it includes a further loss of credibility of the United States as a negotiating partner, giving North Korea the legitimacy that was their only real demand, and making it harder to keep in place the sanctions that were there before Trump blithely began his “deal making.” It also includes this item of damage:

A U.S. president’s ignorance has been on naked display. I was with apolitical Polish friends in Warsaw just after the summit cancellation was announced. Normally they don’t pay much attention to North Korea, but this time they were filled with questions: Doesn’t Trump have any advisers? Kim is a famously unpredictable leader from a famously unpredictable country; shouldn’t someone have warned the president that Kim might start spouting threats again? It’s easy to forget, inside the United States, that everyone else around the world is also watching the president, also following his thoughtless actions, and also drawing the conclusion that he’s not listening to expert advice, or any advice. Other national leaders — in Russia, China, Europe — who may negotiate with the United States in the near future are also watching, and also drawing conclusions: This is a man who is easily tricked, easily swayed — and easily spooked into changing course.

Michael Fuchs on Trump’s ‘negotiating skills.’

Just as soon as North Korea began playing hardball, Donald Trump took his toys and went home. Who knew dealing with North Korea was so hard? Well, just about everybody. Everybody except Trump, that is.

Trump’s cancellation of the 12 June summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reaffirms that Trump and his team don’t have a North Korea strategy. And when you’re dealing with a nuclear-armed rogue regime like North Korea, that’s dangerous.

This one is worth reading just for the visceral satisfaction … and then wincing because Trump’s failures are the nation’s failures.

Sexual Violence

Deborah Tuerkheimer has a straightforward suggestion that could help break the connection between powerful men and sexual violence.

The arrest of Harvey Weinstein on sexual assault charges in an incident that took place more than a decade ago almost didn’t happen. In fact, it wouldn’t have happened in many other states that, unlike New York, impose a statute of limitations in cases of rape. …

Ironically, New York’s decision to remove the statute of limitations for forcible sexual assault prosecutions had nothing at all to do with the kind of predatory behavior alleged in Weinstein’s case. Instead, in New York and elsewhere, the rationale for extending or removing statutes of limitations was largely a response to new possibilities for DNA testing in cases of stranger rape; the emergence of DNA testing meant the prospect that, even many years after an incident, an assailant could be matched to the crime.

Removing the statute of limitations on rape would mean that women who were shocked, embarrassed, threatened, or even bound by some kind of ‘settlement agreement’ would not find themselves facing a point where a person responsible for a violent crime could admit to their actions and face no punishment.


Ruth Marcus can quantify how much power Trump wants — all of it.

The line between appeasement and deflection is inevitably blurry. It tends to be written in invisible ink, discernible only in the clarifying light of retrospect, when the damage has already been done.

This tension, and this danger, has been evident in the recent outbreak of open warfare between President Trump and his Justice Department. The president, always itching to yell “Witch Hunt,” has switched to claiming “spy” with wild assertions of improper campaign infiltration and loud demands that this pseudo-scandal be investigated.

Trump’s actions in the last two weeks forced the DOJ to buckle, providing the name and details of an FBI informant in mid-investigation, and putting in danger both that operative and the cause of justice.

The dispute is a subset of the broader dilemma for any political appointee in the age of Trump: Is it possible to serve both this president and the greater good? Is it better to be inside, attempting to mitigate the damage he is capable of causing? Or is that a sucker’s game, one that Trump, uncontainable, will always win, leaving subordinates stained in the process?

No. No. Yes.

Harry Litman offers the only real defense that Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray have against Trump.

President Trump has taken to perpetrating daily outrages on the Constitution and the rule of law, generally before breakfast. On Wednesday morning, he accused the FBI and Justice Department of being a part of a “Criminal Deep State” and opined that the (utterly routine) use of a confidential informant in the Russia probe “could be one of the biggest political scandals in history.”

Confronting these deep violations of constitutional norms and political decency, observers of all political stripes have begun to ask whether the Justice Department and FBI — presumably in the persons of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — have to try to stanch the damage and stand up to the president.

Ultimately, however, Rosenstein and Wray have one weapon and one weapon only here, and it can be deployed only once, at very substantial cost: They can resign their offices.

Would Trump just then appoint someone who would do his bidding? Almost certainly. But if Rosenstein and Wray buckle to Trump’s demands without resigning, even if they do so reluctantly … that’s actually worse.

Trump famously averred that he has an “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” As a theory of raw power, this is dubious; but as a theory of constitutional order, it is bankrupt.

Blue Wave

Dana Milbank finds the right’s hoped-for Democratic civil war isn’t visible on the ground.

There’s been mention of a “battle between progressives and moderates” (the Guardian), a Democratic “identity crisis” (The Post), a “full-blown Democratic war” (CNN), a “civil war” (Fox News) and a “fight for the future of the Democratic Party” (BuzzFeed).

But if a civil war has been declared, somebody forgot to tell Democratic voters. They are stubbornly refusing to view 2018 through the progressive/moderate, insurgent/establishment lens.

In recent primaries, very progressive candidates have won. So have ordinary merely infinitely-more-progressive than any current Republican candidates like Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath.

Those trying to plot these races on the progressive/centrist axis or the insurgent/establishment axis will have trouble discerning a pattern. That’s because those are false choices this year. Those distinctions are not driving voters in 2018.

Overriding all other considerations this year in Democratic voters’ minds (and candidates’ messages) is stopping President Trump and his congressional enablers. Related to that is the other major influence of this primary season: a huge rise in support for female candidates among men and women alike, likely driven by Trump’s misogyny, the #MeToo movement and Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016.

If there’s a clear pattern, it’s that good candidates—those who worked their butts off and appealed to the voters—won races.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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