Monday, September 28, 2020

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 09/25/2020

 "Shields and Brooks on Ginsburg’s legacy, Trump’s election rhetoricPBS NewsHour 09/25/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the battle over filling her Supreme Court seat, President Trump’s continuing rhetoric about the integrity of voting by mail and concerns over election confusion or dissent.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  It feels like a world away since we last heard the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  A lot has happened.

But that is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you on this Friday night.

Not much to ask you about, Mark.

But why don't we start with not only Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I had planned to begin with, but now we have learned in the last hour or so, our colleague Yamiche Alcindor confirmed that the President does plan to name the appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next nominee to the court.

I guess I'm asking you to wrap it together.  Early reaction to Barrett, but also final thoughts about Justice Ginsburg, whom we have seen honored this week.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Honored, indeed, in a wonderful send-off.

I was just, quite frankly, amazed and touched by how much she had touched women in this country.  I mean, I knew she was a folk hero and a rock star, but the real emotion that her passing generated.

In a marvelous way, she probably meant more as a litigator than she did as a jurist, not to offend anybody.  But she was the person who pleaded those cases before — and won them before the Supreme Court, especially on expanding the 14th Amendment, which was written after the Civil War, to extend not simply the — against racial discrimination, but gender discrimination.

And she won five of the six cases.  She changed America in the process.  And she gave us a marvelous example of how to reach across partisan divide.  Her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia should be an example for all of us in Washington.

Judy Woodruff:  And, David, she did come to the court with a legacy already.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, it's amazing to me first that she's the first woman to lie in state.  That is mind-boggling in 2022, that this is the first time that has happened.

She — judges, when they go and go to before their confirmation hearings, they all say their personal feelings won't affect how they judge; it's the legal automatons.  I think that's never true.  It was certainly not true with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

She comes from a neighborhood and a culture I know very well, the Flatbush in Brooklyn, the Jewish immigrant culture there.  And when you grew up in that culture, A) you have a strong preference for the underdog.  You have a strong love of America.  She said one of her heroines was Emma Lazarus, the author of the poem on the Statue of Liberty.

[B]You have a reverential respect for law.  And I think she carried those values, not being unfaithful to being a judge, to the judicial system, but carry those values.  And I think she's admired because of those values.

Amy Coney Barrett also has values.  She's a conservative.  She is well-regarded.  When she was Supreme Court clerk to Antonin Scalia, all of the clerks, regardless of party affiliation, admired her.  When she was on the Notre Dame Law faculty, all of the faculty members, regardless of party ideology, admired her, that, personally, she seems — I have never met her.

She seems reputed to be a wonderful person.  But she has a conservative record.  She was a law professor for a long time and wrote a lot of articles, some of which were controversial and, in her 2017 confirmation hearings, were brought up.

I think it'll be hard to mount personal attacks, given what we know now.  But there will be some conservative attacks.

Judy Woodruff:  And, Mark, she does come with a record, as David say.  It's a conservative record.

Mark Shields:  She does, Judy.

She — you could say, if you're a conservative, she's probably not going to be John Roberts.  She is a true-blue and committed conservative.

But I would point out, as David laid out sort of the political land mines for Democrats, she has admirable personal credentials, the mother of seven, two adopted children.  She brought a Down syndrome pregnancy to birth, a child, is raising it, and was endorsed by both, not only the conservative members of the law faculty at Notre Dame, but all the liberals as well.

I think it's a potential land mine for both sides.  To the degree that abortion becomes the centerpiece issue, it's going to be a problem for Republicans among suburban women.  To the degree that it becomes an issue and the Democrats go on the offensive against Amy Coney Barrett, then Joe Biden's hopes of reaching out across to blue-collar white voters who had flirted with Trump in the past, maybe former Democrats, becomes a problem.

And I think if, in fact, there is any sort of a mean personal attack mounted against her, it will only — it will only hurt the Democrats.

So, I think it's very, very delicate politically for both sides.

Judy Woodruff:  Let's talk about that and the process.

David, we look back.  There's never been, in an election year, someone nominated to the Supreme Court in 230 years of the republic this close to an election.  The closest we could find was, what, 1892.  It was four months before the election.

We're now within weeks, even days, by the time there'd be a vote.  What does that say about where we are, Republicans and Democrats, and what we should look forward to in the next several weeks?

David Brooks:  Well, in a platonic, ideal world, I think Presidents should be able to nominate justices until Inauguration Day.  You're elected to a four-year term, not a three-and-a-half-year term.

So I think, in an ideal world, Trump is right.  You should be able to nominate somebody.

The problem is with Merrick GarlandOnce the Republicans set a standard, to then shred the standard so quickly shows a complete sign of opportunism, a complete sign that we're not a nation of laws and precedents, that we're just a ruthless power grab.

And so, in this case, I think it's an error.

As for the process, I think it favors the Democrats, frankly.  I think it would not favor the Democrats if they go after, as Mark said, Barrett personally, or if they go after her faith, that she's a member of a Christian community people have praised.  And some people have said that's a kind of cult.

I have been reading their magazine, "Vine & Branches."  It's a very good magazine, very intelligent magazine.  They seem to be a completely mainstream, charismatic Christian community.  And I don't find anything creepy about it at all.

But I think it's going to be an advantage for a Democrat, because I don't think it's going to be abortion as the main issue, as it normally is in the Supreme Court.  I think it's going to be health care.

I think the Democrats are smart enough not to go after her faith.  They're smart enough to say, health care is a real issue.  People are concerned about losing Obamacare.  And this could tip the balance in the court, so that Obamacare comes under threat.

And I think that's a very strong argument that Democrats can make, and it puts one of their best issues at the top of the agenda.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, it does look like Democrats are focusing on health care.

How does that shift what's going on?  And just, if you would, address the speed of this.

Mark Shields:  Well, health, health care, Judy, workers' rights, immigrant rights, women's rights, consumer rights, I think they have to expand it, no question about it.  And it is legitimate.

I mean, the Affordable Care Act faces extinction in the Supreme Court on the 10th of November.  There were 20 million people added under the Affordable Care Act who got health insurance during Barack Obama's last six years in office, while that — while it was in effect.

During Donald Trump's time in office, 2.8 million Americans have lost their health insurance.  And that number will be increased dramatically with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that goes with it, and all the empty promises that Republicans have made about a health care act.

I would simply point out that, since Richard Nixon in 1969, there has never been a Republican health care plan offered by any President or any Congress.

John Boehner, the speaker of the House said:  In 25 years, I have never seen a Republican health care plan.  I have worked on health care, and there has never been one.

And that is the reality.  And I think it has to be central to the debate.  So I think — and Democrats would do well on that issue.

And what you — we saw today was that a Washington Post/ABC poll, by a margin of 3-2, over — close to 60 percent believe that the decision, naming of Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Ginsburg ought to be done by the next President, the one who is elected in November.

And so I think the Democrats have that on their side.

The only thing worse than a liar, said Tennessee Williams, is a liar who's a hypocrite.  And that's exactly where Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Republican — the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and too many of his colleagues stand tonight.

Judy Woodruff:  David, I do want to ask you both about what President Trump has been saying, raising questions about the legitimacy of the results if he's not the winner, casting doubt about mail-in ballots, virtually every day talking about that.

And you just heard the interview that William Brangham did with Bart Gellman.

Are we — should Americans be worried, as we are almost — we're just, what, a little more than five weeks from this Election Day?

David Brooks:  Yes, I was in a call, a conference call, with a bunch of scholars and political observers yesterday, and we all said, how scared are you, from one to five?  And we were pretty much at 4.5.  Some people were at nine and 10.

I have never been more pessimistic about where this country is than I am right now, I mean, in my whole life.  We have had a bad few years with the social fabric fraying.  We have had a President ripping us to top from the — ripping us apart from the top.

The Supreme Court fight maximizes the sense that people have on both sides of the other side is completely illegitimate and not playing by the rules.  And then we walk into an election night, as Barton Gellman said, where all sorts of bad things could happen.

And I think he makes the core point.  I mean, the two moments that I think I'm most afraid about is, one, election night, when we're sitting there and it looks like Trump is ahead, and what that psychology does to the country, and then the crucial distinction that he makes, which is, it's not that Trump is going to lose and refuse to go.

It's that the results could be genuinely unclear, and then we start monkeying with the electors, especially in states like Arizona and Florida, where you have a Republican governor, Republican state legislator.  A lot of key states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, you have got a Republican legislator, Democratic governor.

There's all sorts of mayhem.

And one of the things we have learned is that our system depends on the goodwill of the players involved.  And if that goodwill isn't there, then the spiral of accusation and animosity and enmity — I don't think we're going to see physical violence, but we will see a level of psychological violence that we just haven't seen since 1865.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, less than a minute.

Words of reassurance for the American people or not?

Mark Shields:  Reassurance, Judy, I mean, let's just hope the example of Al Gore in 2000, who won the popular vote and said, this is a time when partisanship must yield for patriotism.

Donald Trump, this is not a new song for him.  He lost by 2,868,686 votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016.  And what was his explanation?  Three to five million illegal undocumented immigrants voted.  That's the only reason he didn't win the popular vote.

So he appointed a commission to examine all those.  There were no examples, Judy.  There were no examples of fraud.  They came up with nothing.

This is a total fraud.  And we will find out, I mean, what this man is made of.  Is there a scintilla of patriotism in his soul?  Will he abide by the judgment, as John McCain did so gallantly in 2008, in saying, I called Senator Obama, who was my opponent, and is now my President?

That's the example.  And I stand with David.  I'm concerned deeply.  And I just hope an aroused country and citizenry will not tolerate that kind of behavior, as well as Republicans.

I'm looking, they are — hoping not that they're an invertebrate, that there is some beat of a soul still left in the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, time for reflection for all of us and for as much transparency as possible in covering this election.

Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.



AMERICAN POLITICS - The "Orange King" Threatens Democracy


"Trump prompts controversy with refusal to accept a potential election defeatPBS NewsHour 09/24/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  The U.S. presidential race is preoccupied Thursday with a stunning question: Might President Trump refuse to abide by the results of an election he loses?  So far, Trump has declined to confirm he would accept defeat, prompting widespread criticism and disbelief.  But Republican lawmakers are insisting that if Trump loses, a peaceful transition of power will occur.  Amna Nawaz reports.





"Trump says voting by mail isn’t reliable.  What does the evidence show?PBS NewsHour 09/24/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power is tied to his criticism and false statements about voting by mail, which is expected to reach record levels in this election.  Trump insists it can't be trusted -- but many state and local election officials disagree.  Miles O’Brien reports on how voting by mail works -- and what past experience indicates about its reliability.





"Why Trump’s statements on mail-in ballots, election results are ‘extremely problematic’PBS NewsHour 09/24/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Amid President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, new scrutiny is being applied to the security and integrity of American voting.  Kathleen Hall Jamieson is director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, and she joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Trump’s “deeply problematic” statements and what they say about U.S. democracy.


VOTE 2020 - Reminder, Vote Accordingly



 "How Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the ‘Notorious RBG’PBS NewsHour 09/23/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Ruth Bader Ginsburg made legal history in academia beginning in her 20s, working her way through the legal ranks to become a Supreme Court justice at age 60.  But when she was in her 80s, something surprising happened: she became a pop culture icon.  Jeffrey Brown reports as part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.



U.S. SENATE - Push to Confirm Trump's SCOTUS Nominee

aka "Saving Trump's Presidency"


"Sen. Hassan: GOP ‘changed the rules’ about SCOTUS hearings in 2016" "The Senate’s tight timeline to confirm Trump’s SCOTUS nomineePBS NewsHour 09/21/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death leaving an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court mere weeks from the presidential election, a political battle is escalating over whether President Trump and Senate Republicans should push through a nominee before the country votes.  Can Democrats stop them?  New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Ginsburg's legacy and what comes next..





"The Senate’s tight timeline to confirm Trump’s SCOTUS nomineePBS NewsHour 09/22/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  President Trump has said he will announce his choice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court this Saturday.  And although it appears the Republican-led Senate will have enough votes to move forward with confirmation hearings for the nominee, the timeline for them to approve the appointee before Election Day is tight.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.





"Barrasso: Why this Supreme Court battle is different from that of 2016PBS NewsHour 09/22/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death has left an opening on the Supreme Court only weeks before Election Day.  President Trump and the Senate GOP say they plan to fill the vacancy before the country votes.  Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Senate’s third-highest ranking Republican, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he supports moving forward with confirmation hearings for Trump’s choice of successor.



AMERICAN POLITICS - The Ginsburg Battle


"Supreme Court vacancy sparks political battle just weeks before electionPBS NewsHour 09/21/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death has created an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court -- mere weeks before a presidential election.  Now a major political battle is brewing over whether that spot should be filled by President Trump now or by the candidate who is elected in November and inaugurated in January.  The result could determine the Court’s trajectory for decades to come.  John Yang reports.





"What’s next in the fight over Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat?PBS NewsHour 09/21/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already launched a high-stakes political battle over whether President Trump and Senate Republicans can push through a nomination and fill her seat before the November election.  Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss names being considered to replace Ginsburg and the logistics involved in nominating and confirming a justice.




"Justice Ginsburg leaves a legacy of fighting for equal rightsPBS NewsHour 09/19/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, a position she held for 27 years.  Marcia Coyle, Chief Washington Correspondent for The National Law Journal and Amy Howe, Co-Founder of SCOTUSblog joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss Justice Ginsburg’s long storied career and her fight for equal rights.




"‘She really didn’t give up’: Remembering the life and career of RBGPBS NewsHour 09/19/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Nina Totenberg, NPR’s correspondent for legal affairs, first met Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg over the phone nearly 50 years ago, beginning a professional relationship, which eventually morphed into a close friendship.  In a conversation with Hari Sreenivasan, Totenberg shares anecdotes about their bond and what she learned about life, law and even death from Justice Ginsburg.




"Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be immortalized with statue in Brooklyn, NYCPBS NewsHour 09/19/2020 Excerpt
SUMMARY:  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy began in Flatbush, Brooklyn in New York where she was born and raised.  On Saturday, New York Gov. Cuomo announced that a statue honoring her contribution will be built in the NYC borough.  NewsHour Weekend Correspondent Ivette Feliciano joins Hari Sreenivasan from outside Ginsburg’s childhood home.

THE NOTORIOUS RBG - The Memoriam, the Legacy

""Remembering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dead at 87"  PBS NewsHour 09/18/2020 Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who long stood for women’s rights issues and became the court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington.  She died at the age of 87 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

TRUMP FUEL - The Promotion of Violent Imagery

"Trump employs images of violence as political fuel for reelection fight" by Michael Scherer, The Washington Post 9/8/2020

President Trump has reverted to using graphic depictions of violence as a centerpiece of his reelection campaign strategy, using his Twitter account, his stump speech and even the White House podium as platforms for amplifying domestic conflict.

His 2016 focus on radical Islamist terrorism and undocumented-immigrant crime, which he credited with helping him win the Republican nomination, has been replaced by warnings of new threats as he elevates gruesome images of Black-on-White crime, street fights involving his supporters and police-misconduct unrest nationwide.

The pattern continued over the holiday weekend, when he tweeted video of a melee in Texas between protesters and security officers during an event for a Trump-affiliated group and two celebratory videos of a protester in Portland, Ore., with his feet on fire.  One of the videos was scored to the Kenny Loggins song “Footloose,” and the second featured mocking play-by-play commentary by a mixed-martial-arts announcer.

“These are the Democrats ‘peaceful protests,’?” Trump wrote.  “Sick!”  On Monday, he retweeted a prediction that political unrest “could lead to ‘rise of citizen militias around the country.’?”

The strategy echoes the approach that fueled his climb in politics as he shocked the political world with graphic warnings about “rapists” crossing the border illegally from Mexico, welcomed the families of crime victims to speak at his events and said he favored instructing the military to target the families of Islamist extremists, a probable war crime.  He also repeatedly encouraged assaults on protesters at his events.

In each case, the unprecedented focus on violence by a high-profile American politician allowed Trump to attract attention, turning his rallies into unpredictable and raucous affairs that were widely viewed.  It also set the stage for Trump to establish his political persona as a strongman itching to dominate threats foreign and domestic.

Nearly four years after winning that race, Trump is making the same argument, albeit about different dangers, using the specter of violence amid Black Lives Matter protests to claim superior toughness and promising forceful resolution if given the chance.

“These people only know one thing, and that is strength,” he said Wednesday in Wilmington, N.C., of violent street protests in Oregon and Wisconsin.  “That’s all they know — strength.  And we have strength.”

On Monday, Trump retweeted footage of Black protesters in Pittsburgh screaming at White outdoor diners, drinking from their glasses and knocking over their dishes during a protest over the weekend.

“Disgraceful.  Never seen anything like it.  Thugs!” Trump wrote.  “And because of weak and pathetic Democrat leadership, this thuggery is happening in other Democrat run cities and states.  Must shut them down fast.”

Amid a pandemic that has killed more than 186,000 Americans, the jarring political gambit has shifted the focus of the Presidential campaign, forcing Trump’s Democratic opponent, former vice President Joe Biden, to air an ad, titled “Be Not Afraid,” [video link] focused on his own opposition to the recent violence in Oregon and Wisconsin.

“The President is on offense, and that is always a good thing,” said Roger Stone, a former Trump political adviser who received a presidential commutation after seven felony convictions this summer.  “The law-and-order issue really motivates the President’s base, and it also appeals to independents.”

Although Trump has received no big boosts in polling, he unapologetically promoted a video last week of his supporters attacking protesters in Portland, later arguing at the White House that their firing of paintball guns and pepper spray in city streets from the back of pickup trucks was “defensive.”  On Twitter, he said the conflict was a logical response to provocation by liberals.

“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected,” Trump wrote in a tweet that included a video of the incident.

He also has returned to using his Twitter account to broadcast falsehoods that perpetuate racial conflict.  For the third time this summer, on Aug. 30 he retweeted a video of a Black man brutally attacking a White person, this time with a caption falsely suggesting that the assailant in a New York subway assault in 2019 was connected to Black Lives Matter or antifa.

The posts echo a 2015 Trump retweet that showed a picture of a Black man with a gun and falsely claimed that Black people commit a majority of homicides against White people, a racist trope for which he never apologized.  The White House argued this month, as Trump did in 2015, that he was not responsible for the accuracy of his retweets.

Politically motivated street fights have become more common during his presidency.  Conflicts at protests have led to injuries in recent weeks in places such as Kalamazoo, Mich.; Bloomington, Ind.; and Weatherford, Tex., as protesters of police misconduct have clashed with counterprotesters who are sometimes dressed in Trump-branded apparel and claim to be helping to keep the peace.  In one case, a gun-wielding Trump supporter in Kenosha, Wis., was charged with murder after allegedly killing two protesters and injuring a third.  (A supporter of a far-right group was fatally shot during a counterprotest by Trump backers in Portland last month.  The suspect, a backer of the far-left antifa movement, was killed by law enforcement Thursday.)

In the face of this violence, Trump has condemned the actions of left-wing rioters but declined to condemn violence by his supporters, even as he falsely claims that Biden is refusing to denounce violence on the left.

“I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point,” Trump said last year in an interview with Breitbart News when asked about fights over free speech on college campuses.  “And then it would be very bad, very bad.”

From his start in politics, Trump has brushed aside the idea that he has a responsibility for any violence that results from his campaign style.  When a reporter asked in 2015 whether he was concerned that his rhetoric against protesters and immigrants might lead to additional violence in American streets, he recoiled at the question.

“People are getting hurt.  People are being decimated by illegal immigrants.  The crime is unbelievable,” he said, an argument belied by statistics.  “Now in my way, I don’t want anybody hurt.  But people are being hurt.  So when you ask that question, it’s very unfair.”

His answer was notable for its zero-sum view: Suffering in the country was inevitable — the question was who suffered more.

Trump’s return to focusing on violent threats and conflict follows summer months in which he appeared politically adrift as the coronavirus pandemic overtook the nation, infecting at least 6.2 million people and dampening the economy.

He initially wavered about whether to focus campaign advertising on touting his pandemic response or on attacking his opponent, before eventually launching attacks on Biden’s ties to China, his mental acuity and his policy positions.  Biden’s polling advantage widened.

When nationwide protests against police misconduct led to violence this summer, Trump’s strategy shifted again.  A July 9 set of talking points distributed around the White House by Stephen Miller, an adviser who wrote Trump’s 2016 nomination speech, previewed the message that Trump would settle on for the final push to the Republican National Convention.

The solution Miller described, which Trump soon incorporated into his rhetoric and advertising, was to portray Biden as a fundamental threat to public safety.  “No one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” the document read.  The Democratic nominee, Miller’s document continued, “will surrender America and its citizens to the violent left-wing mob” and “abolish the American Way of Life.”

The shift sought to rehabilitate Trump’s political message of dominance and turn the discussion away from the pandemic, which public polling showed had become a drag on the President’s support.

“You can’t really tell people that there is no COVID crisis, because they are surrounded by it.  The only thing you can do is make something else louder,” said Matthew Baum, a political scientist at Harvard University who studies political persuasion and misinformation.  “You don’t have to persuade people.  All you have to do is say: ‘Don’t look over there.  Look over here.’?”

Biden has argued that Trump is trying to distract Americans from his inability to better address the health, economic and race-relations crises facing the nation.

Trump’s message is, “?‘The whole country is up in flames.  Everything is burning.  Law and order,’ ” Biden said Friday at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., “because he doesn’t want to talk about anything, anything at all, about the job he hasn’t done.

Biden has mocked Trump’s effort to cast him as responsible for any street violence, no matter the alleged perpetrator.

“Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” Biden asked during a speech on Aug. 31 in Pittsburgh.  “I want a safe America — safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.  Let me be crystal clear — safe from four more years of Donald Trump.”

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said the President is focused on helping communities affected by the violence.  “These riots are destroying the life’s work of Black, Hispanic and Asian business owners, and they have to stop,” he said.

Expressions advocating violence were central to Trump’s early political endeavors.

“I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you,” Trump said about a protester at an event in Las Vegas.  When a nonviolent Black protester was beaten at a rally in Birmingham, Ala., by a White crowd, Trump responded the next day, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”

He argued repeatedly at rallies for the extrajudicial abuse or even killing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had left his post in Afghanistan.  “Thirty years ago, he would have been shot,” Trump said.  At another event, he said of Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, “They beat the crap out of him, which is fine.”

Rather than recoil, his crowds embraced the tough talk, and Trump has delivered more as President.  After Greg Gianforte, then a Montana congressional candidate, physically attacked a reporter in 2017, Trump turned the incident into an applause line.  “Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” the President said.

When Trump addressed a law enforcement group in 2017 on Long Island he urged incaution in policing.

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” he said, “you just see them thrown in, rough.  I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’?”

The new threat Trump has focused on is depicted as no less ominous than his previous targets — and it is similarly inflated with rhetoric that mixes descriptions of actual events with conspiracy theories for which he offers no evidence.  In recent days, he has described “rioters, anarchists, agitators and looters” who he claimed in a Fox News interview, without evidence, have been traveling the country in commercial planes to create havoc, funded by “people you have never heard of” who operate in “dark shadows.”

He also has tried to adjust the historical record by claiming federal actions he instigated have proved that his solution of physical toughness and law enforcement domination is responsible for clearing streets of violent protesters.  On a visit to Kenosha, he claimed that his push to deploy the National Guard saved the city from further rioting after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man.

“If I didn’t INSIST on having the National Guard activate and go into Kenosha, Wisconsin, there would be no Kenosha right now,” Trump tweeted last week.  Federal officials did work with local law enforcement in quelling the protests, but Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) had ordered the Guard to the city a day before Trump’s public call for their deployment.

Pollsters have noted a shift in polling around the Black Lives Matter movement, which was initially broad and bipartisan in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.  Support for the movement in Wisconsin, according to a Marquette University Law School poll, fell from 59 percent to 49 percent between June and August.

But national polls continue to show that Biden leads Trump on questions of which candidate would make the country safer.  A recent national Quinnipiac University poll found that 50 percent of likely voters said Trump made them feel less safe, compared with 35 percent who said he made them feel more safe.

By contrast, 42 percent of voters said Biden would make them feel more safe as President, compared with 40 percent who said they would feel less safe.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

DEPLORABLE - The GOP's Even Worst Behavior

"I speak with a computerized voice.  Republicans used it to put words in my mouth." by Ady Barkan, The Washington Post 10/2/2020
Ady Barkan is a lawyer and co-founder of the Be A Hero PAC.

I speak with a computerized voice — think Stephen Hawking.  It’s a result of ALS, the neurological disease I’ve had since 2016.  And of all the painful parts of this entire ordeal, which has now almost completely paralyzed me, one of the worst is the way the disease has robbed me of my natural voice.

Last week, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise tried to use my computer-assisted voice to rob me of my agency, too.  In a video aimed at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, shared his team’s manipulated footage of an interview I conducted with Biden to make it appear I had said words that I never uttered, in an effort to distort Biden’s views and harm his electoral prospects.

Scalise eventually scrubbed the video from his Twitter feed after being criticized for the manipulation, but the ominous lessons of the episode remain: the ability to use technology not only for good but to mislead and manipulate; the willingness of those with political agendas to resort to such disinformation and propaganda; and the way in which America has cleaved into two separate information universes, with a conservative media ecosystem amplifying falsehoods that then take root.

The entirety of the Scalise video painted a bleak picture of the country, with cleverly spliced scenes designed to make major cities look like places of anarchy and violent chaos.  That’s already disingenuous; protesters demanding an end to centuries of racial violence have largely been peaceful.  But what made it so remarkable wasn’t just that Scalise twisted the truth about Black Lives MatterHis video went a step further, altering a question I had asked Biden about law enforcement to make it sound as though Biden had agreed to defund the police.  I’m in favor of defunding the police, so I wish that were the case.  But Biden has been clear that isn’t his position.

Now, I am of course grateful I can still speak, even if very slowly, using eye-gaze technology: A camera tracks the movements of my eyes on a screen-based keyboard, and then the resulting text is converted into speech by a synthetic voice generator.  But because of my Hawking-esque voice, it’s particularly easy for others to manipulate what I say.  Scalise’s team just went the extra mile in seeming to find the exact voice generator I use when they whipped up the extra words meant to damn Biden.  (Scalise’s team denies this.)

Scalise has since conceded the video “shouldn’t have been edited” in an interview on Fox News — even as he attempted to claim there was an underlying truthfulness to the message.  That isn’t the same as an apology to me, or, more important, the more than 2 million people in this country who communicate using assistive technology like I do.

It’s specifically insulting to witness actors with the worst intentions hijack the technology that has allowed me to speak to try to speak for me, but this duplicity also exposes the broader information crisis in our society.  When President Trump claimed, as he did in the run-up to the 2018 election, that a “migrant caravan” threatened the safety of the United States, he was bolstered by a vast conservative media that runs coverage amplifying his claims from morning to midnight.  The inauguration crowd size, the repeated lies about voter fraud, claims about wiretapping, all of it is part of an attempt to shear one half of America away from the other by creating an alternate reality for Trump’s supporters.

That reality isn’t based on facts, but on polarized partisanship.  Trump, like many other leaders around the world with authoritarian aspirations, understands that shaping reality is the most powerful tool at an autocrat’s disposal.  His goal is a society in which it doesn’t matter whether what you say is true as long as your side loves it.

In that context, “deepfakes” such as the one Scalise posted aren’t missteps.  They’re disinformation test balloons that should put every single one of us on alert.  If they can without consequence make it seem as though I said something I didn’t, what else can they do?  What else will they do?  What fearmongering words can they put in Biden’s mouth in a video doctored to tip the election?

I’m not sure I know how to solve this problem.  The collective outrage that got the video stricken from Twitter is a good place to start; that must not let up.  Another might be looking at the polarizing effects of FacebookScalise took it off his page, but elsewhere on the site, the video remains, gathering views.

That’s just the beginning, though.  We need far more aggressive action across the board to identify and stop the spread of false information, because more is coming.  But I can’t do that on my own.  Every letter I’m typing here is difficult, each sentence its own hurdle, and my words aren’t enough.  What we desperately need is others ready to speak their own — not speak false ones for me.