Monday, August 31, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He told a very old, very ugly lie.

Trump's re-election campaign telescoped down this week to a single issue: convincing voters that they are in danger from protests against racism, and that he alone can fix the problems that have arisen on his watch.

In attempting to sell the idea that he personally is a victim of Americans' anger at systemic racism and police violence, Trump today reached for a slur with an ugly history. In an interview with Fox News tonight, he painted a picture of "thugs"—the Black Lives Matter movement—who were being manipulated by unnamed "ideological" paymasters. But according to Trump, the "foolish" wealthy people pulling the strings would in turn be destroyed by the "thugs."

TRUMP: We wouldn't have— they were going after Thomas Jefferson, they were coming after Lincoln, and they were going after the Washington Monument, they were gonna knock that one down. They were going after — and I actually don't even think they know, I think they're just thugs, I don't think it's — it's, it may be an ideology, and it may not. It is an ideology for the people that are paying them, and the funny thing is, and the strange thing is, the people that are paying them at all this money, cause somebody's doing it, they travel — well, wait — the people paying them, those people will be overthrown, their lives will be taken away, their lives will in danger, they're all gonna be gone. They're just stupid foolish people that made a lot of money.

Trump is fond of referring to African-Americans as "thugs," but this is as much an old anti-semitic trope as it is racist. The idea of a secret Jewish cabal stirring up trouble by funding anarchists and inciting riots among the underclass was one promoted by Nazi Germany and by American segregationists, although it's older than that. Regardless of what government is using it, the point of the story is to explain away genuine anger by the people at their leaders as the result of "agents" of the secret Jewish conspiracy sowing unrest.

Recently, though, it's found a new life in online conspiracy theories featuring the billionaire George Soros, a donor to liberal causes, which Trump has openly endorsed on quite a few occasions.

In the same interview tonight, Trump also claimed that an RNC attendee told him a horror story of traveling "on a plane from a certain city, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that." Asked for details, Trump wouldn't say who had supposedly told him this story.

It's not clear whether Trump, who is easily manipulated and susceptible to flattery—he is usually cast as the hero in the modern internet-troll versions of this conspiracy theory—actually believes this, or simply thinks his supporters will if he tells them to. 

Why does this matter?

  • Literal Nazi propaganda should never come from the mouth of the President of the United States.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He had an emotional day on Twitter, even for him.

Trump sent more than 100 tweets or retweets today, many of them in a two-hour binge this morning. Even by his own standards, the rant contained a lot of raw emotion and a lot of lies, mostly aimed at proclaiming himself the only person who can restore "LAW AND ORDER" to the country he has been president of for the past three and a half years. 

Trump, who almost never uses the "like" feature on Twitter, used it today to promote a tweet supporting Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Trump supporter who shot and killed two protestors last week in Kenosha, and injured a third.

Rittenhouse, who is too young to legally carry a weapon in Wisconsin, was part of an all-white "militia" calling itself the Kenosha Guard—though Rittenhouse, at least, was not from Kenosha. The group traveled to Kenosha to "protect" businesses from "evil thugs." 

Rittenhouse, a vocal supporter of Trump, filled his social media feeds with pictures of himself posing with guns like the one he used in Kenosha. He was apparently involved in a fight last month where he punched a teenage girl

As part of his re-election strategy, Trump has been actively trying to stoke tension between police and their "supporters" in so-called militias, and protestors who oppose his policies. The result has been what is known as "stochastic terrorism," where supporters of a political figure act on the message behind the words while allowing the leader to claim he's not responsible.

So what?

  • Embracing violence and even murder when it's committed against political enemies is what dictators do.
  • Donald Trump is responsible for what happens during Donald Trump's presidency.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He worried about TV ratings.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic that is affecting the United States far more drastically than any other first-world country, both parties held "conventions" this year that were four-day-long prime-time TV specials. 

Nobody disputes that the two parties were trying to accomplish different goals. Democrats were seeking to expand Joe Biden's advantage with independent voters and anti-Trump Republicans. Moderates and high-profile Republicans like Ohio Gov. John Kasich were front and center, to the annoyance of some in the party's left wing. Trump, by contrast, was trying to hold on to his base of support, and it showed in the lineup: the biggest headliners, besides Mike Pence, were all either named Trump or dating someone who was.

The only real way to measure whether either party accomplished its goal is in the polls, which showed essentially no "convention bump" for either. Biden led Trump by an average of 8.4 points on August 17, the day the DNC opened, and leads by 9.1% today.


But Trump spent much of today reacting badly to the measure he really cares about—TV ratings, with which he is famously obsessed, even as president. The DNC beat the RNC three out of four nights, and Biden's acceptance speech was seen by just under a million more Americans than Trump's.

To be clear, TV ratings don't actually matter here. Very few voters are undecided at this point, and very few of those watched both conventions—because of the unusual situation, far fewer voters tuned in than in 2016, for example, when far more people watched Trump accept the nomination than watched Hillary Clinton. 

But Trump was unable to accept this, claiming against all evidence that he had, in fact, had more viewers. He lashed out repeatedly today at the numbers released by TV ratings firm Nielsen, insisting that they were "FAKE NEWS" and that his own self-reported streaming numbers proved he was, in fact, getting more attention than Joe Biden.

The RNC online streaming numbers, which can't be verified, were not released until after Trump started complaining about losing in meaningless TV ratings to the Democrats.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if being president and having tens of millions of people paying attention to you still isn't enough attention.
  • Claiming you are popular doesn't make you popular.

Friday, August 28, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He talked about what kinds of Black people he likes, and what kinds are "thugs."

This morning, with television cameras covering it live, Trump issued a pardon to Alice Marie Johnson, who had been sentenced to life in prison for her role in a drug operation. This was at least the fourth time Trump has trotted out Johnson, who is African-American, for the cameras. Previously, he had granted her clemency, then invited her to the State of the Union Address. And last night, Johnson spoke on Trump's behalf at the Republican National Convention. 

Trump made a point today of saying that the idea hadn't occurred to him until after Johnson gave her speech. This puts Johnson in the company of most other convicted criminals who have gotten a pardon from Trump: almost all of the ones still alive when pardoned have done political favors for Trump, like Johnson, or been convicted of crimes he himself is credibly accused of.

Later, in front of a virtually all-white rally crowd in New Hampshire, Trump spoke about protestors marching in support of Black Lives Matter movement. He called them "thugs" and "bad people," and tried to associate them with rioting and acts of violence unrelated to the protests. 

Trump did not mention the two people killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by a fervent supporter of his who had crossed state lines to "protect" the city with an assault weapon he couldn't legally carry in Wisconsin. But Trump did attack the NBA, whose players are predominantly Black, for refusing to play for three days in support of the peaceful protests against police violence and systemic racism that are happening in Kenosha.

Why is this a problem?

  • If you see the overwhelming majority of an entire racial group as "thugs," except for a few who support you, you're a racist.
  • Giving out pardons in exchange for political support is very, very wrong.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He threatened a reporter.

Washington Post reporter David Farenthold won a Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles exposing Trump's long history of lies and illegal behaviors around charities. He's also known for breaking the Access Hollywood tape story, where Trump was recorded admitting to sexual assault of women and claiming he could get away with it because he's famous.

Today, Farenthold was on the byline of a new story about Trump's ongoing attempts to profit from the presidency. It ran under the headline "Room rentals, resort fees and furniture removal: How Trump’s company charged the U.S. government more than $900,000."

In response, a White House spokesperson was dispatched to threaten Farenthold with blackmail. In a statement, spokesman Judd Deere wrote, "The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop.” 

He added, “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.”

Deere is a government employee. The Trump Organization is Trump's private business. The statement did not dispute the accuracy of the article's claims.

Farenthold appeared unworried by the threat, but blackmail is one thing Trump knows a thing or two about. He is famous for his attempts to hush up uncomfortable truths about himself with nondisclosure agreements—even forcing White House employees to sign legally invalid ones as a scare tactic. 

Trump has also dabbled on the supply side of blackmail. According to his former "fixer" Michael Cohen, it's how he got the unexpected endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr. Cohen described a quid pro quo in which Trump got Falwell's endorsement—at a time when he was widely disliked among the evangelical community—in exchange for Trump getting the National Enquirer not to run sexually compromising photographs of Falwell's wife.

Why does this matter?

  • The United States government doesn't exist to protect Donald Trump's private interests above everyone else's.
  • Threatening the press when it publishes things that make the leader look bad is what authoritarians do.
  • Making unlikely threats doesn't make you look strong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He forgot he's not the commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Today, Trump threatened to call out the National Guard to patrol the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The city has seen protests, but also unrest and violence in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Trump has no authority to do so. The Wisconsin National Guard doesn't answer to him. They do answer to Wisconsin's governor, Tony Evers, who had already activated them by the time Trump tweeted. 

Trump didn't mention the reason for the unrest in Kenosha—nor did he talk about the fact the most serious crimes committed in Kenosha were the killing of two people by a 17-year-old Trump supporter who attended one of his rallies earlier this year. 

The suspect in the shootings, Kyle Rittenhouse, was "patrolling" the streets of Kenosha last night with a rifle similar to the one brandished by the wealthy suburban St. Louis couple who pointed weapons at peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors in St. Louis. Trump celebrated that couple, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, on the Republican National Convention telecast Monday night.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey: What really went on in St Louis that day? -  BBC News Kyle Rittenhouse arrested and charged with murder of two protesters - REVOLT

Rittenhouse does not live in Kenosha, or even in Wisconsin. He was part of a self-described "militia" that was roaming the streets last night. Trump has famously praised such groups when the Americans they take aim at are his political opponents.

What's wrong with this?

  • Presidents who don't know, don't care, or can't remember what authority they have to use military force are unfit for office.
  • One way to get "LAW AND ORDER" is not to encourage untrained vigilantes with assault weapons to "LIBERATE" themselves from your political enemies.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He used the presidency as a prop.

Today, Trump used the White House and the powers of the presidency itself as a prop in at least five different ways as part of the virtual substitute "convention" the RNC is airing this week. In one taped segment, Trump issued a pardon—supposedly as a "surprise," which if true, would mean the recipient was unaware he was taking part in a political ad. In another segment, Trump attended a naturalization ceremony in the White House. He had his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, deliver a campaign speech praising Trump's foreign policy from Jerusalem, where he was on official business. And his wife, Melania Trump, delivered a similar speech from the Rose Garden of the White House, which is not part of the first family's residence, where political activities are allowed. Trump also put Marines in dress uniforms as part of the backdrop for some taped segments.

It's illegal to use the powers of a federal office, or government property, or authority over military personnel, for political purposes. There are a number of anti-corruption laws that address this, but the main one is the Hatch Act of 1939. It doesn't apply to the president or the vice-president, but that doesn't mean that—for example—a president could rent out the White House to raise money for a re-election campaign. It would just mean that the people breaking the law wouldn't be the president. 

For example, Pompeo's own State Department issued a memo last December barring him—or other high-ranking political appointees—from even attending a convention, much less endorsing a candidate as part of their official duties.

Why does this matter?

  • Using the privileges of office for personal gain is pretty much the definition of corruption.
  • The president is supposed to serve the government of the people, not the other way around.
  • It's bad if the only time a president seems interested in doing his job is when it can benefit him personally.

Monday, August 24, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He told his "joke" about how no election he loses counts again.

Trump returned once again to the basic theme of his campaign: that when and if he loses, it won't count and his supporters shouldn't accept it. "The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election," he told a small gathering of supporters. 

The group Trump was addressing today was the Republican National Convention—which officially began and ended today in its entirety in Charlotte, North Carolina. That is the city the RNC was originally scheduled for, before Trump suddenly moved it to Jacksonville at enormous expense when the state's governor couldn't guarantee that 50,000 attendees would be allowed to gather indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly thereafter, Trump was forced to cancel the Jacksonville convention as well and move the political telecast airing this week online instead.

Speaking of the pandemic that remains uncontrolled in the United States, and caused him to scrap two planned conventions, Trump said, "We're handling it very well."

Why should I care about this?

  • Nobody attacks the results of an election in advance unless they know they can't win honestly.
  • Americans' right to choose their own government is more important than Donald Trump's need to be president.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He put a dangerous COVID-19 spin on his usual voting lies.

Trump lost a lawsuit today to prevent Pennsylvania officials from putting out collection boxes for ballots. This is a common form of early voting that allows voters to drop off absentee ballots, rather than stand in line at a polling place, or risk them being delayed past the deadline in the mail.

With the airborne COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread where people are gathered in large numbers indoors—for example, at polling places—and Trump openly admitting that he is trying to prevent the USPS from being able to handle the expected surge in absentee ballots, many states are turning to collection boxes. 

That appears to be why Trump lashed out today in a tweet so inaccurate that Twitter was forced to hide it as both vote suppression and COVID-19 disinformation.

In other words, Trump is claiming that touching a collection box is more dangerous than standing in line—possibly for hours—at a polling place.

This is not a theoretical risk. When voters in the heavily Democratic city of Milwaukee were forced to stand in long lines at a small number of polling places to vote in April, it led to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Cities have been hit first and hardest by the pandemic, which has led to closing of polling places, which makes it harder and more dangerous to vote in person.

Who cares?

  • Nobody tries this hard to suppress the vote in an election they think they can win honestly.
  • Americans should not have to choose between their health and their basic constitutional rights.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lied about the Pledge of Allegiance.

Today, Trump said that Democrats had omitted the words "under God" from their recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance during their four-day virtual convention this week.

Trump is losing votes he cannot afford to lose from white evangelical Christians, which is presumably why he told this lie. He recently claimed that Joe Biden, an observant Catholic, would "hurt God." Trump, by contrast, was once openly confused about whether Presbyterians—in theory, his own denomination—were Christians. 

The last time Trump was seen near a church was in June, after he sent federal troops to clear a path through peaceful protestors with tear gas so that he could hold a Bible in front of it. The clergy of that church were among the people gassed.

Trump Denounced for Using the Bible As a Prop

White House tear gas

Why does this matter?

  • Evangelical Christians might not like the idea that they're supposed to love Donald Trump more than they love the ninth commandment.

Friday, August 21, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He indulged in paranoid fantasies about a crazy world in which he's not re-elected.

Speaking to a conservative lobbying group today, Trump managed to get a few boos out of the crowd when he suggested a scary outcome to the election: President Pelosi. "You know, there’s a theory that if you don’t know by the end of the year Crazy Nancy Pelosi becomes president," he said.

There is one extremely unlikely way that Nancy Pelosi could become president, at least temporarily, but Trump seems to be trying his hardest to make it a reality. Here's what would need to happen.

If Trump, as he's all but promised to do, refuses to accept the results of an election he lost to Joe Biden, he could put pressure on some Republican-led state governments to invalidate their own elections and deny Biden a majority in the electoral college. (In fairness to Republican-led state governments, this is pretty unlikely.) 

Without a clear winner in the electoral college, the presidential election would then be decided by the House, shortly after the new year had begun. Democrats are very likely to maintain control of the House, but (uniquely) this vote is cast by state delegations as a bloc, not individual representatives. Depending on the results of the elections for Congress, a tie vote is possible.

Meanwhile, the Senate would vote on the vice-presidential election—but the vice-president-elect would immediately become president on January 20th if the House were deadlocked. And this vote, too, could be thwarted if Trump prevailed on enough Republican senators to flee the Capitol, because the Constitution specifies that a two-thirds quorum of senators must be present for the vote.

Under that extremely narrow and unlikely set of circumstances, Nancy Pelosi (or whoever was Speaker of the House at the time) would become the Acting President after noon on January 20th, and would remain in office until enough Senators were present to choose either Kamala Harris or Mike Pence as the vice-president-elect.

In other words, if Trump loses the election but sows enough chaos, he could theoretically provoke a constitutional crisis so great that it would leave the United States with no elected president. 

All that having been said, Nancy Pelosi cannot become president in any scenario in which the losing candidate accepts the will of the people and peacefully supports the winner of the election, as has happened in every single one of the 58 presidential elections held so far.

Trump has absolutely refused to say he'll accept any result in which he loses.

So what?

  • In a democracy, politicians don't get to just ignore the results of elections they don't like.
  • The Constitution of the United States isn't a "theory."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to distance himself from yet another indicted campaign manager.

Steve Bannon was indicted today in federal court. He and three other defendants are accused of defrauding donors to a non-profit that promised to crowdfund the building of a border fence with Mexico. The US Attorney in the case, Geoffrey Berman, is the same person Trump unsuccessfully tried to purge from the job earlier this summer.

Asked about Bannon's arrest, Trump said this:

Well, I feel very badly. I haven’t been dealing with him for a long period of time, as most of the people in this room know. He was involved in our campaign, he worked for Goldman Sachs, he worked for a lot of companies, but he was involved likewise in our campaign, and for a small part of the administration very early on.

Bannon was "involved" in the Trump campaign as its CEO. Once Trump took office, his "small part" was as a senior advisor with a national security portfolio usually reserved for military generals and virtually unfettered access to Trump.

Trump also tried to distance himself from the donor-supported "We Build The Wall" scheme that Bannon and his co-defendants siphoned money from. 

I know nothing about the project, other than I didn’t like, when I read about it I didn’t like it. I said this is for government, this isn’t for private people, and it sounded to me like showboating and I think I let my opinion be very strongly stated at the time.


In reality, it's difficult to keep track of all the ways Trump is involved with Bannon's scheme. The general counsel for the project, failed Senate candidate Kris Kobach, said publicly in 2019 that the private wall had Trump's explicit blessing, which the White House did not deny when asked. Donald Trump Jr., whose main job is as a political surrogate for his father, appeared in a video with one of the people indicted today and praised it as "private enterprise at its finest."

But the most damning connection between Trump and the private fence scheme comes in the form of a $1.4 billion contract awarded to a construction company involved in it. Trump himself "personally and repeatedly" pressured the Army Corps of Engineers to award a lucrative contract for the "real" border fence. 

The beneficiary, Tommy Fisher, is a major Republican donor and conservative media star. Fisher put up at least $25 million towards the private fence scheme, but that appears to have sealed the deal in terms of getting Trump to lean on government contractors.

Bannon joins Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen as top Trump campaign officials indicted for or convicted of federal crimes.

Why does this matter?

  • Presidents who care about "law and order" generally have fewer criminals than this running their campaigns.
  • Donors to a cause endorsed by the Trump family whose money was stolen by Trump's campaign manager might not think Trump really "knew nothing" about this.
  • Billion-dollar government contracts should go to the most qualified low bidders, not political cronies who kick money back to a president's other associates.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got tricked into calling for a boycott of a major American manufacturer in a swing state.

At 10:33 A.M. this morning, Trump tweeted this a call to boycott Goodyear.

This is false. No such "ban" exists at Goodyear.

The tweet came during the long daily hours euphemistically referred to as "executive time" in which Trump watches TV and tweets from the White House residence. In this case, he appears to have been triggered to tweet by a Fox News segment that had run just moments before.

Manipulating Trump through television is an old trick by now. It's not clear how much of the Fox segment Trump saw or understood, but in reality, Goodyear has a policy that encourages employees to keep all campaign gear—MAGA hats and Biden T-shirts alike—out of the work place. The company was forced to put out a statement explaining this. 

Goodyear is the sixth-largest manufacturer in the industrial swing state of Ohio. It employs 3,000 people in the city of Akron alone, and approximately 64,000 nationwide. Unemployment in Ohio currently stands at 11%. It's also the only American tire company in the top ten worldwide. Its stock dropped sharply after Trump's tweet.

Of course, consumers can choose to buy or not buy Goodyear tires for any reason they like—including Trump's demands. But the company is a major contractor for the United States government, including the military and the Secret Service. (It makes the puncture-proof tires on Trump's armored limousine.) He hasn't said whether his call for a boycott means he'll use the federal contracting process to punish Goodyear for the anti-Trump policy it doesn't have.

Goodyear joins a long list of American manufacturers Trump has savaged in public, including US Steel, Boeing, Harley Davidson, and General Motors.

How is this a bad thing?

  • American workers keeping scarce manufacturing jobs during the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression is more important than the president's feelings.
  • This wouldn't be a good thing even if Trump weren't completely wrong about what Goodyear had done.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He repeatedly attacked Michelle Obama, as only he can.

At last night's all-virtual Democratic National Convention, former First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech. For most of it, she didn't mention Trump's name—but when she did, it was to say that he'd proven that he wasn't up to the job. Echoing Trump's now-infamous dismissal of the COVID-19 death toll, Obama said of Trump's presidency: "It is what it is."

Trump, clearly outraged, responded in a lengthy Twitter tirade with even more than his normal vitriol when publicly challenged by a woman or person of color

Still fuming when addressing reporters later in the day, Trump fixated on the fact that Obama's speech—like many in the tightly scripted virtual convention—was pre-recorded. Bizarrely, he "proved" this by pointing out that she had under-reported the number of people who had died of COVID-19. 
In her speech, Obama referred to "more than 150,000" Americans having died from the coronavirus on Trump's watch. That's not inaccurate, but she could have quoted a much higher number. As of earlier today, that figure was just over 174,000. The reported death toll rose above 150,000 on July 25, and past 160,000 on August 4. 

In other words, in his eagerness to criticize a woman who had pointed out his failure to respond to a crisis that had killed 150,000 Americans, Trump called attention to the fact that it's killed 24,000 more people than that.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if presidents can't control their temper.
  • Americans dying during a disease outbreak should be a higher priority for a president than grading political speech techniques.
  • People who don't have a problem with women or people of color don't get especially angry when challenged by them.

Monday, August 17, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He projected on various things.

This afternoon, possibly only now realizing the political damage his attacks on the USPS had done, Trump tweeted this:

This comes less than a week after Trump explicitly admitted that he was withholding $25 billion in emergency funds that the USPS needed to ensure that absentee ballots could be delivered on time. Trump's newly appointed Postmaster General, a staunch political ally named Louis DeJoy, has recently disrupted service all across the country. DeJoy ordered mailboxes taken off streets in large cities, pulled 671 high-volume mail sorting machines in predominantly Democratic-leaning areas, and has refused to pay postal workers for enough hours to get mail delivered. Substantial delays have already resulted, including in the delivery of essentials like prescription drugs.

Accusing other people of what he himself has done is a long-established Trump tactic. That may provide context for his remarks at campaign stops today, in which he said his political opponents were "fascists" who were trying to rig the election.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong to accuse other people of things you're doing.
  • When it's the president doing it, it doesn't really matter if it's an intentional lie or a symptom of larger psychological issues.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He picked and chose who should have to risk illness to vote.

Today, Trump approvingly tweeted out a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's chief infectious disease specialist. Trump has been openly hostile towards Fauci in recent months, because Fauci's advice frequently contradicts Trump's insistence on opening up schools and businesses immediately. But he found at least one sentence from Fauci that he liked:

Trump has made no secret of his intention to win the election by suppressing or spoiling absentee ballots, which everyone expects to skew heavily towards Democratic voters.

The problem for Trump is that "according to guidelines"—the standards his own administration has published and then ignored—almost no part of the country would allow the kind of large indoor gatherings needed for a polling place. 

Virtually everything Trump has called for or done in terms of reopening has been in flagrant violation of his own guidelines. That includes the Oklahoma rally which caused a local spike in infections and the death of one of his most prominent supporters, former presidential candidate Herman Cain. 

In other news reported today, Trump's campaign is sending out absentee ballot requests to potential supporters in at least one crucial swing state, instructing them to vote by mail.

Who cares?

  • If health policies are only followed when it's politically convenient, a lot more people die.
  • Nobody who thinks they will win fairly tries to subvert an election that hasn't happened yet.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

 Donald Trump's younger brother Robert Trump died today at the age of 71. 

Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Friday, August 14, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He winked at an insane conspiracy theory.

Marjorie Taylor Greene won the Republican primary for a seat in a deep-red Georgia district this week. Trump promptly congratulated her on Twitter. 

But Greene claims to believe in the weird mix of conspiracy theories known as QAnon, which—for example—has Trump and some (but not all) of the military locked in a secret battle against child sex slavery with Tom Hanks and online furniture companies. 

Greene herself has also called liberal Jews Nazi collaborators, said the mass shooting that killed 58 people in Las Vegas was carried out by anti-gun activists, and had a long history of social media posts attacking Muslims and people of color.

Asked today about his support for Greene, Trump—who has promoted QAnon himself, said "Well, she did very well in the election. She won by a lot. She was very popular and she comes from a great state and she had a tremendous victory. So absolutely, I did congratulate her."

Trump also revived another conspiracy theory this week, coyly suggesting that vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris might be ineligible for the office because her parents were immigrants. Trump's first real foray into politics came as a hype man for the "birther" conspiracy about President Obama.

Why does this matter?

  • A president who didn't want to rule as a dictator probably wouldn't cuddle up to a movement that wanted to make him one.
  • There has to be something evil, stupid, or racist enough for a president to distance himself from.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He explicitly said he was starving the Post Office so that it couldn't deliver ballots.

In a phone interview on Fox Business today, Trump said out loud what critics have been saying for weeks: that he's trying to sabotage the Postal Service's ability to deliver ballots on time.

Now, they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it. Sort of a crazy thing. If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it. 


With more than 170,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, and polling places expected to be crowded—especially in Democratic strongholds in cities—voting by mail has taken on an unusually partisan dynamic. Trump appears to be counting on winning the election-night vote, claiming victory, and then spoiling the mailed ballots that would cost him the race.

Later, Trump partially backtracked, saying that—in essence—he was merely holding the election hostage as leverage in negotiations over the next pandemic relief bill.

That message was amplified by Trump's economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who was asked about progress on that bill today. "So much of the Democratic asks are really liberal, left wish lists — voting rights," he responded. "That's not our game."

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out, the request for $25 billion to keep the USPS functioning came from its board of governors, every single member of which is a Trump appointee.

Trump received his own mail-in ballot for an upcoming Florida election at his luxury resort in Florida yesterday.

How is this a problem?

  • The only reason to sabotage voting is if you think you'll lose if you don't.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He decided he and his policies were very popular.

Much of Trump's 4.5-hour workday today was spent insisting that his demands that schools reopen full-time no matter what. He held a public event (titled "Kids First") with parents who he invited to praise his stance on the issue. (Trump sends his own youngest son to a school that will not be reopening.)

The end of the transcript caught a reporter trying to ask him a question as he left:

Q: Mr. President? Mr. President, what do you say to the families that are not — that don’t feel safe with their kids going back to school?

TRUMP: We’ll (inaudible). We’ll talk about it (inaudible) a little while. Too much respect for these people to discuss anything. Okay?

Coincidentally, a new poll on the subject was released today. It showed 59% of voters disapprove of fully reopening schools. For suburban voters, 60% were opposed.

Trump also declared that those same suburban voters—or at least the "housewives" among them—would be voting for him in November because his ending an anti-discrimination program would result in "low-income" people "invading" their neighborhoods. 

Trump doesn't really try to hide that by "low-income" he means non-white. He continues to insist that African-American Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) would somehow be put in charge if the anti-discrimination rule were reinstated. At a press conference today, he made it explicit:

In the real world, "suburban" isn't the same as white and wealthy, but that's not why Trump is wrong. He's losing every category of women in most polls: white, nonwhite, wealthy, working-class, with or without college education. 66% of suburban women disapprove of his performance in office, and an average of polls taken since June show Joe Biden with a 23% edge among women.

Why is this a problem?

  • One way to get voters to support you is to not have policies a clear majority of them hate.
  • Saying you're popular doesn't make you popular.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He compared himself favorably to George Washington.

During a radio interview this morning, Trump claimed he would be more popular than George Washington, if not for the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to rage out of control in the United States (but not most other wealthy countries). 

I don’t know if you’ve seen, the polls have been going up like a rocket ship. George Washington would have had a hard time beating me before the plague came in, before the China plague. And then, you know, like every other nation, like other countries, when you get hit, it affects you, and we went down a little bit.

Here is the state of Trump's "rocket ship" in the polls:

Even by Trump's standards, comparing his popularity to Washington's is absurd. Opinion polls, political parties, and even the popular vote didn't exist during George Washington's presidency, but he was elected unanimously twice. Trump lost the popular vote by three million votes, and his approval rating has never once hit 50%. 

Washington could easily have won a third term, but declined to run because he was afraid that if he died in office, it would encourage Americans to think of the presidency like a monarchy. Trump routinely "jokes" about staying in office for a third term or longer, and has quite un-jokingly refused to promise that he will leave office peacefully if defeated in the election. 

Trump's remarks came before the announcement that Joe Biden has picked Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. As a former prosecutor, a woman of color, a political moderate, and relatively young by presidential standards, Harris is widely viewed as a politically smart choice for this election. 

Trump presumably agrees—he's a political supporter of hers. He donated a total of $6,000 to her campaigns for state attorney general in 2011 and 2013. (Harris gave Trump's money to a charity that helps Central Americans.)

Why should I care about this?

  • Trump may actually believe this, which is a very bad sign for his mental stability.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to cast the Republicans who don't think he's all-powerful out of the Republican party.

Trump made a big show of signing documents this weekend that he called executive orders providing emergency relief for Americans hurt by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In reality, most of them were simply toothless memos suggesting his own executive branch look into the possibility of doing something. Republicans and Democrats alike condemned Trump for trying to rule by fiat. 

Today, Trump singled out one of those Republicans, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), and called him a "Republican in name only." 

Sasse won his primary by 50 points, so it's safe to say he didn't need Trump's endorsement. In fact, it's the other way around. Nebraska is one of two states that allots its electoral votes by Congressional district, and Trump is very likely to lose one of them if he offends Omaha-area Republicans and independents.

As Sasse pointed out today, he did not seek Trump's endorsement, nor did he use it during the campaign. In an open letter to Trump, signed "Gym Rat"—a reference to another Trump insult—he wrote:

Mr. President,

I understand that you're mad. A few thoughts....

(1) As we've discussed before, I don't think Twitter is the best place to do this. But, since you moved our conversation from private to public, here we are...

(2) I understand you've been frustrated I didn't join your re-election committee & that I a ran a primary ad admitting to Nebraskans that we sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. You also know I never asked for your endorsement nor did I use it in the campaign.

(3) None of my disagreements are personal. (In fact, you know — from our many conversations, even in the last few weeks — that I care about you personally and have tried to help you repeatedly, even on those issues where our prudential judgements differ widely.)

(4) You also know that I've never asked you for anything personal. I have pleaded with you but for bigger things like better U.S. policy on the Chinese Communist Party — and on this, you've done a very good job.

(5) Now, on the topic that had you mad this weekend: No president — whether named Obama or Trump or Biden or AOC — has unilateral power to rewrite immigration law or to cut taxes or to raise taxes. This is because America doesn't have kings. Under our Constitution, we're supposed to have public servants — Article I folks who pass laws; an Article II "presiding officer" who executes those laws; and Article III judges who have to put on boring black robes to remind them that they are not activist players like the folks in Articles I or II.

Happy to move the conversation back to a private channel if you're interested.


Why does this matter?

  • When a president's own party is telling him that he's acting like a dictator, he should probably listen.
  • Conservative voters who believe in limited government might not like being told they're not really Republicans.
  • It's pretty embarrassing if a junior senator has to take this tone with a sitting president.
  • There were more important things for Trump to be worrying about this morning.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got trolled into a Twitter fight.

Anthony Scaramucci served a memorable 11-day tenure as Trump's communications director, one of six people to fill that role so far. Like many Trump appointees, he got the job over the objections of people who knew better, left abruptly, and then had a public falling out with Trump.

Tonight, Scaramucci was interviewed on Fox News. He called Trump a "bully" and a "divider" who was shrinking the Republican party

Trump, who spent the day golfing and and asking people for campaign money, was immediately baited into a response.

Trump frequently tells stories about people "begging" him for things, but as usual, there's no evidence Scaramucci asked him for anything after being fired.

Trump's tweet drew far more attention to the interview—and Scaramucci's criticisms of him—than it would have gotten otherwise. It was the top trending topic on Twitter Sunday evening.

Why should I care about this?

  • There might be more important things for the President of the United States to be worrying about right now.
  • If you are constantly explaining how horrible your former employees are, they may not be the problem.
  • It's bad if the president can't control his emotional outbursts.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to take credit for something President Obama did, for the second day in a row.

Trump has held his last two press appearances at his luxury golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, with club members in attendance as well as reporters. The idea seems to be that Trump supporters will clap for him on cue—which they have.

That came in handy for Trump today as he claimed, for the second straight day, to have done something that was actually done President Obama. Yesterday, it was guaranteeing health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. Today, it was the Veterans' Choice program, which allows servicemembers to seek medical care outside the VA system. It was signed into law in 2014.

TRUMP: We passed Choice, as you know, Veterans' Choice and Veterans' Accountability, and they've been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president's ever been able to do it, and we got it done.

Again, a president was "able to do it" in 2014. Trump signed a technical update in 2018, a totally uncontroversial bill that passed Congress with huge majorities.

Trump has told this lie more than 150 times

When reporter Paula Reid of CBS news pointed out that Trump's claim to have signed a bill that became law three years before he took office was false, Trump abruptly ended the press conference and fled the podium without answering.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things other people have done.
  • Telling a lie over and over again doesn't make it true.
  • Running away from simple questions isn't a great look for a president.

Friday, August 7, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He promised to give Americans health care protections they've had for ten years.

Today, Trump announced that he would be issuing executive orders "requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions for all companies." He then said that this was something that had "never been done before."

Of course, as Americans who actually pay for health insurance know, it has been done before—in a law that Trump has spent his entire term trying to overturn.

The Affordable Care Act—better known by the nickname given to it by Republicans, Obamacare—was passed more than 10 years ago. One of the most significant provisions in the law barred insurance companies from declining coverage or charging more because of pre-existing conditions. This made private health insurance affordable for tens of millions of Americans.

Trump, who failed to repeal the ACA even with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, has resorted to attacking it in the courts. His administration's official policy, which they are suing to try to enforce, is that the act must be repealed immediately, in its entirety. 

As is often the case, it's not clear whether Trump knows that Americans already have already had this protection for ten years, and is simply ignoring the truth, or if he genuinely believes this would be a new thing. Trump has had private "concierge" health care his entire life, and is easily confused on the subject of the health insurance he's never needed to buy. 

It's also not clear what, if any, legal authority Trump has to accomplish this by executive order. Presidents can only issue executive orders to accomplish things they're already authorized by laws to do—something Trump used to understand.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things you haven't done, and that someone else already did.
  • Promising voters what they want works better if they don't already have it, and if you're not working hard to take it away from them.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He discussed race, as only he can.

This morning, in a discussion about diplomatic relations with Cuba, Joe Biden noted that the Latino community in the United States is much more politically diverse than the African-American community.

Factually, this is correct. Black Americans with a party preference favor Democrats over Republicans by 83% to 10%. By contrast, Hispanic Americans affiliate with Democrats over Republicans by 63% to 29%. Pointing out that as Biden did that, for example, Cuban-Americans tend to have different political views than Americans with family history in Mexico or Central America isn't really controversial.

Addressing reporters today, Trump claimed to take offense, although it wasn't clear if he knew what it was he was accusing Biden of:

So I just watched a clip.  And Joe Biden, this morning, totally disparaged and insulted the black community.  What he said is incredible.  And I don’t know what’s going on with him, but it was a very insulting statement he made.  And I guess you’ll figure that out.  You’ll see it in a little while.  But it was a great insult to the black community.

Trump's haziness may be because he was prompted to mention the issue by a staffer. His campaign is desperately trying to rehabilitate him with African-Americans, who may be the margin that delivers Texas and the election to Biden. Those efforts suffered a setback today when Facebook shut down a foreign "troll farm" of bot accounts posing as Black supporters of Trump. 

In other recent remarks on , Trump responded to a softball question asking about recently deceased civil rights hero John Lewis's legacy by complaining that Lewis didn't attend his inauguration. In the same interview he scoffed at the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sneering, "How has that worked out?" 

And his own campaign's lawyers were caught trying to secretly help Kanye West—whose wife, Kim Kardashian, is openly worried about his mental health—file as a presidential candidate in swing states, apparently in the belief that Black voters who support Biden will drop the opportunity to vote against Trump if a celebrity is on the ballot.

So what?

  • One way for a politician to improve his standing with people of color is to avoid being openly racist.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got his campaign in trouble for repeating lies he'd told about children and COVID-19.

Twitter briefly restricted Trump's campaign's account today until it deleted a tweet that violated its policy against spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. The tweet included a clip of Trump telling a Fox News host that children were "almost immune" to COVID-19. Facebook deleted a similar post.

In reality, children have no immunity to the virus. They are less likely to die, but they are not immune, and they are no less likely to pass the virus to others than adults.

It's not clear if Trump knew was deliberately lying by saying that, or was confused again. He routinely gets basic facts wrong about the virus.

Trump has demanded that schools reopen at full capacity no matter what, even though this is extremely unpopular with voters. He's threatened to cut federal funds to public schools if they don't reopen face-to-face, although he has very little legal authority to do this, and public schools are almost entirely locally funded. (Trump's youngest son Barron attends a private school that will start the year with online classes only.)

More than 161,000 Americans of all ages have died of COVID-19.

Why does this matter?

  • The heath and safety of American children, their teachers, and their families is more important than Trump's political campaign.
  • Spreading misinformation about fatal diseases gets people killed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He blurted out that the Beirut explosion was an "attack," then lied about the military having told him that.

This morning, Lebanon's capital city Beirut suffered an absolutely catastrophic explosion. Dozens of deaths have already been confirmed, and thousands were injured. 

At a press conference this afternoon, Trump called it a "terrible attack." This was the first suggestion by anyone in the United States government—or any government—that this was the case. The working theory was that a fire had ignited stored chemicals and explosives known to be stored in the area. (Lebanon's government later confirmed this theory.)

Asked how he knew the explosion was the result of an attack, and not an accident, Trump said, "Well, it would seem like it was, based on the explosion." He added, "I met with some our great generals, and they just seemed to feel that it was." He did not identify which generals, or why only he—and nobody else in his administration—was talking about it.

Defense department officials later said they had no idea what Trump was talking about.

Why does this matter?

  • It's really bad if a president is this careless with the facts about major world events.
  • It's wrong to lie to cover your own mistakes.