Thursday, August 8, 2019

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Rip, Attack, Threaten, Blame, Torch, Blast, Slam

A day’s headlines from divided America:

President Trump, White House staff rip ‘Trump Hating Dems’ on Twitter following visit to Dayton

Trump attacks local leaders as he visits two cities grieving from mass shootings

Twitter locks McConnell campaign account over video of protesters hurling threats

If Trump is to blame for El Paso, Democrats are to blame for Dayton

Biden, in Iowa, torches Trump’s divisive rhetoric

Billionaire boss of Equinox, SoulCycle blasted for hosting Trump fundraiser

Cummings slams Trump’s ‘racist language’ after mass shootings

My take: 453 days until Election Day.  Please email me if you see a single reason to believe that the political thermostat is going to be turned down for even a moment before then. 

As has been true since at least the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Robert Bork, every incentive for both sides empowers the loudest, angriest voices on the national town square to have the most influence.

To paraphrase “The Untouchables,” they pull a knife, you pull a bazooka. 

It is politics, Old Media, New Media, culture.  It is corrosive and ugly.

This isn’t about moral equivalency debates or even who wins the next election. It is about the soul of our country and the souls of our children. 

Changing the incentives is a big project.  The United States had three straight two-term presidents who put fixing all this at the center of their original candidacies for the Oval Office. Now we have a president who calls himself a “counter puncher” who punches wildly and widely even on a day of solemn grieving. Progressives also believe in take-no-prisoners counter punching.

America is a lot of things, but it isn’t this cruel and self-destructive. It isn’t.

If you are a political or partisan person reading this and thinking to yourself, “The other side has a monopoly on destructive animosity,” you are wrong. 

If you are a media person reading this and thinking to yourself, “My caustic tweets and acidly written stories don’t contribute to the corrosion,” you are wrong. 

As the great Tom Lehrer said, “I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!”


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In other news:

Gun Safety Update

The president suggested in comments to the public Wednesday that his support for background checks will lead to congressional action and/but said there is no appetite for new restrictions on assault weapons. 

My take:  The first statement is likely inaccurate and the second is misleading. 

Despite Democratic congressional leaders (and a few Republicans) pushing Mitch McConnell for action, the familiar kabuki drama is playing out. 

With Congress in recess, the president knows he can say he is for very popular background check legislation without having to actually try to make that a reality. And he knows he can pretend away polls that continue to show significant public backing for dealing with assault weapons, in part because surveys are mixed on the views of Republicans.

This essential reading Washington Post story sums up where the president is on new gun safety laws quite well: the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre told him this week that such measures are a bad idea politically and substantively; the president is wondering if the NRA is still powerful; his own aides “question how far he will go on any effort”; he is waffling “between wanting to do more and growing concerned that doing so could prompt a revolt from his political base”; and he “has discussed with aides the idea of a Rose Garden bill-signing ceremony for gun-control legislation.”

Most significantly for reading where things are headed, the Post quotes one presidential aide saying this about Donald Trump and new gun safety legislation: “He would not be blocking it, but he’s not going to be the one forcing it to happen.” 

Unless that last point changes, and nothing that happened Wednesday (or in history) suggests that it will, we have seen this movie before and we know how it ends.

The president will ratchet down his talks with members of Congress who want action; ratchet up his talks with pro-gun members and activists; come to believe he can’t risk alienating his base by acting without substantial Republican support; let McConnell do his thing by not bringing the Senate back into session, on the assumption that the fervor and focus will dissipate by September; and let the fierce urgency of now become the fierce lack-of-urgency of never.

Harris, For the People

The Wall Street Journal news pages says Kamala Harris is positioning herself smartly ideologically between her main rivals, and its editorial page runs an op-ed praising her support for Medicare Advantage.

My take: Harris is garnering over a third of the votes of the Gang of 500 for whom they want to be the nominee and closing in on that level for whom the Gang thinks will be the nominee, trailing only Biden and Warren in both categories.  Critics point out the flaws in her candidacy, as if her rivals are not also imperfect. 

The four biggest practical questions still loom. Can she put up a big third-quarter fundraising number that demonstrates grass root support? Can she do well enough in Iowa and New Hampshire? Can she take a punch? Can she capture the public imagination with a theory of the case about why she wants to be president undergirded by her unique American story?

The Annals of the Era of Trump

The president teases commuting the sentence of former Governor/”Celebrity Apprentice” participant Rod Blagojevich

My take: This action would be controversial and not just because it would be one of the most time-capsule-worthy moments of the Trump presidency.

Top sports story: Yanks mash 5 more HRs vs. O’s, break MLB mark

Top business story: FDA investigating 127 reports of seizures after vaping

Top entertainment story: Fox Entertainment Names Amy Carney Chief Operating Officer

Big Four


Joe Biden, in Iowa, says Trump has ‘fanned the flames of white supremacy’; Trump, on Twitter, calls Biden ‘boring’.

Amy Klobuchar details plan to boost Iowa’s energy and agriculture industries, end child poverty.

2020 Democrats target Trump gains in rural areas.

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