August 16, 2019

This is how The New York Times summarized President Trump's campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday night: "Typically rambling, veering on and off script seemingly at random over an hour and a half, he repeated points he had already made earlier in the evening as if he did not remember already making them." And this is how Anthony Scaramucci, Trump's short-lived communications director and newly minted critic, described Trump to Vanity Fair's William Cohan in an interview published early Friday:

I think the guy is losing it, mentally. He has declining mental faculties; he's becoming more petulant; he's becoming more impetuous. Okay, you see just by the way he's sweating, his body's not doing well. It's obviously not a guy that takes care of himself, right? ... This is an observational objective thing: the guy's nuts. We've gotta defeat him. Everybody in the Republican Party knows it. They don't want to lose their mantle of power and their mantle of leadership, so let's primary the guy. [Anthony Scaramucci to Vanity Fair]

The Mooch has some nice things to say about Trump's policies, and some sharply negative thoughts on Trump's tariffs and tweets. But the issue that finally pushed him off the "Trump train," Scaramucci said, "was the racism — full-blown racism." It's not that Trump's a racist, he added. "He's actually worse than a racist." He elaborated, colorfully:

He is so narcissistic, he doesn't see people as people. He sees them as objects in his field of vision. And so therefore, that's why he has no empathy. ... And by the way, if you and I were in his field of vision and he had a cold and the two of us had to die for him to get a Kleenex, you're f--king dead. I mean, there's no chance. You understand that, right? [Scaramucci, Vanity Fair]

Read the entire interview, including Scaramucci's very specific prediction that Trump will quit the race, at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber

August 15, 2019

At a Democratic event in Springfield, Illinois, on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) poked at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for proudly killing almost all legislation the House has passed and sent on to the Senate. "'Moscow Mitch' says that he is the Grim Reaper — imagine describing yourself as the Grim Reaper — that he's going to bury all this legislation," she said. The Democratic officials in the audience laughed.

"Grim Reaper" is a name McConnell did give himself back in April, but "Moscow Mitch" was coined by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who tore into McConnell in July for blocking legislation to combat foreign election interference. The nickname gained new relevance after The Washington Post reported this week on a Kremlin-linked Russian company that invested in a Kentucky factory after McConnell helped thwart efforts to kill a White House effort to lift sanctions on the company.

Asked for comment on Pelosi using the nickname in public, McConnell spokesman David Popp pointed CNN to McConnell's July floor speech in which he denounced such sobriquets as "modern-day McCarthyism." Peter Weber

August 6, 2019

There are significant differences between the Islamic State and the white nationalist terrorists who have been ramping up attacks in the U.S., but "the parallels are stunning," terrorism expert Will McCants tells The New York Times. In fact, writes Max Fisher at the Times, "white nationalist terrorism is following a progression eerily similar to that of jihadism under the leadership of the Islamic State, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have suddenly grown so frequent and deadly."

The parallels include an apocalyptic ideology that promotes a world-consuming civilizational conflict — for ISIS, Muslims versus the West; for white nationalists, nonwhites versus whites — showy and indiscriminate murders recorded and shared over social media, purportedly to hasten this global battle as well as recruit and radicalize new adherents, and new forms of communication that allow such violent ideologies to spread virulently, typically among young male loners.

"I think a lot of people working on online extremism saw this coming," J.M. Berger, author of the book Extremism, told the Times. And there are good reasons to be very worried that it came to fruition, Fisher explains:

The feedback loop of radicalization and violence, once triggered, can take on a terrible momentum all its own, with each attack boosting the online radicalization and doomsday ideology that, in turn, drive more attacks. The lessons are concerning. It is nearly impossible to eradicate a movement animated by ideas and decentralized social networks. Nor is it easy to prevent attacks when the perpetrators' ideology makes nearly any target as good as the next, and requires little more training or guidance than opening a web forum. [Max Fisher, The New York Times]

Read more about how the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped foster this new form of nihilistic terrorism and the nearly word-for-word similarities between the ISIS and white nationalist manifestoes at The New York Times. Peter Weber

July 29, 2019

Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen (R) "sincerely apologized" on Facebook over the weekend "to anyone who has been hurt" by comments on immigration she made at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters on July 15, published late last week by the Phoenix New Times. Near the end of her speech, Allen brought up James Johnson, a University of North Carolina business professor who studies demographics, and things got dicey.

"Another thing that Dr. Johnson talked about is the 'Browning of America,' that America is fast becoming — we're going to look like South American countries very quickly," Allen said. "The median age of a white woman is 43. The median age of a Hispanic woman is 27. We are not reproducing ourselves, the birthrates. But here's what I see is the issue. It's because of immigration." She said her concern was "assimilation" and being unable to teach the flood of immigrants what makes America great, but she also worried about "what kind of form of government are we going to live under in 10 years?"

Allen wrote on Facebook that she was "quoting data directly from a speech" she heard by "Dr. Johnson (an African American)," and "The Browning of America" is "Dr. Johnson's title!!" The "reference to South America was the concern that some of these countries are socialist and that we must preserve our Constitutional Republic form of government and that we have not taught the next generation the difference," she said.

Johnson's presentations portray immigration as a net positive, and he told The Washington Post on Sunday that the "browning" of America means "the nice and neat little crucibles we're accustomed to putting people in won't fit in the future because of the growing diversity of our population. ... And I view all of that as a strength, not as a weakness or a problem." It will be increasingly important to "embrace immigrants and people of color" to be globally competitive, he added. Peter Weber

July 12, 2019

In a series of tweets on Thursday night, President Trump hurled insult after insult at former House Speaker Paul Ryan, presumably in response to Ryan's derogatory remarks about Trump in Tim Alberta's new book, American Carnage.

When Ryan announced his retirement in April 2018, Trump hailed him as "a good man" who "will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question." On Thursday, Trump said Ryan's "record of achievement was atrocious (except during my first two years as president)," and called him a "failed V.P. candidate" who doomed running mate Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign, and "blew" his House majority "with his poor leadership and bad timing," ultimately becoming "a long running lame duck failure."

CNN's Chris Cuomo also dressed Ryan down Thursday night, for only slightly different reasons. "If integrity is defined by what you do when no one is looking, then perhaps political principle is somewhat of a practical opposite, meaning it is what you stick to when everyone is looking," he began. And Ryan is "Exhibit A" among all those "who staked their reputation on principle caved to political convenience in this administration."

"When he took the speakership, insisting he would do it his way, his spine softened," Cuomo said. "Now that he's retired, he seems to be trying to recast his reticence to speak truth to power." Forget about Ryan "remounting the moral high horse about this president's personal life — I don't care about his personal life," Cuomo said. "Let's stick to serious politics and policy, and remember where Ryan stood while in office."

Alberta's book has other examples of politicians who "once opposed and then became patsies" of "this POTUS," but Ryan "could well have a second act in politics," and "he's going to have to own that he was just like the rest of them, not the best of them," Cuomo said. "This period that we're all living together right now is going to be remembered for a long time, and people will be counted: What they stood for, what they stood against, and absolutely those who stood still." Peter Weber

July 11, 2019

She's long called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished, but now, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wants its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, eliminated as well.

During an interview with The New Yorker's David Remnick published Wednesday, the freshman representative said that the Department of Homeland Security, which was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, is one of several "large threats to American civil liberties." People "sounded the alarm back then that these agencies are extrajudicial, that they lack effective oversight, and it is baked into the core foundational structure of these agencies."

When Remnick asked Ocasio-Cortez if the department should be dismantled, she said yes, because "we need to undo a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush administration did. I feel like it is a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence and in terms of being able to make the argument that we never should have created DHS in the early 2000s."

Ocasio-Cortez also said she believes the country has a "misunderstanding of the issue of immigration. We think of it as a stand-alone issue. It's like asking, what are you gonna do about homelessness? But these are systemic issues. Once you're at the point where you are mitigating what is happening at the border, you are already dealing with the symptoms of a large amount of other U.S. policies." One example is President Trump withdrawing humanitarian aid to Central American countries. "We think of everything as south of Mexico, and we treat it that way," she said. "And because of that, our largest interaction with Latin America is what happens at our border. And so that's how it manifests in our country." For more on this, and what Ocasio-Cortez considers "sane immigration policy," visit The New Yorker. Catherine Garcia

July 2, 2019

Homelessness is a serious problem, involving drug addiction, mental illness, stagnant wages, and rising housing costs, among other serious issues demanding serious solutions. In an interview from Osaka broadcast Monday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson appeared to ask President Trump about homelessness problems in major U.S. cities, contrasting New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with the "clean" cities in Japan that have "no graffiti," no public urination, and no "junkies." Why do U.S. cities have "a major problem with filth?" Carlson asked. Here's part of Trump's response:

It's a phenomena that started two years ago. It's disgraceful. I'm going to maybe — and I'm looking at it very seriously, we're doing some other things that you probably noticed, like some of the very important things that we're doing now. But we're looking at it very seriously because you can't do that. You can't have what's happening — where police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat. I mean, they're getting actually very sick, where people are getting sick, where the people living there living in hell, too. ...

We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It's inappropriate. ... We've never had this in our lives before in our country. ... If you look at some of these, they are usually sanctuary cities run by very liberal people and the states are run by very liberal people. [President Trump, Fox News]

"Trump did not mention the word homeless during the segment, so it was difficult to glean his exact meaning or how he would address the issue," The Washington Post notes. "The numbers of homeless people in the United States has stayed relatively level in the three years between 2016 and 2018, ticking up from 550,000 to 553,000 last year. But these numbers represent a significant drop over the past decade." You can read Trump's entire response below. Peter Weber

June 21, 2019

President Trump sat down for an interview Monday with Time's Massimo Calabresi, Brian Bennett, Tessa Berenson, and editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal. While they were discussing the 2020 Democratic field, according to a transcript of the interview released Thursday, Trump abruptly told the reporters: "Okay, now I'm going to show you this letter. So this was written by Kim Jong Un. It was delivered to me yesterday. By hand." Then they went off the record and the letter wasn't mentioned again until Trump started pushing back on details from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

The Time reporters noted that Trump confidante Corey Lewandowski had testified "under threat of prison time" that Trump told him to order then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the Mueller investigation. Trump had just denied trying to limit the investigation. Things got weird:

Trump: Excuse me — Under Section II — Well, you can go to prison instead, because, if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you ... confidentially, I didn't give it to you to take photographs of it. So don't play that game with me. Let me just tell you something. You take a look —

Time: I'm sorry, Mr. President. Were you threatening me with prison time?

Trump: Well, I told you the following. I told you you can look at this off-the-record. That doesn't mean you take out your camera and start taking pictures of it. Okay? So I hope you don't have a picture of it. I know you were very quick to pull it out — even you were surprised to see that. You can't do that stuff. So go have fun with your story. Because I'm sure it will be the 28th horrible story I have in Time Magazine. ... With all I've done and the success I've had, the way that Time Magazine writes is absolutely incredible. [Time transcript]

The interview is the basis for Time's June 17 cover article. Peter Weber

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