The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.


In the 2019 State of the Union address, Donald Trump revealed yet again that his administration is based on reality television practices, not the faithful execution of duties assigned by our Congress.

His speech was also bad with numbers—very bad, especially for anyone concerned about winning the war on cancer.

That said, to those who believe that Trump is their self-proclaimed economic and white-skin-privilege savior, a demi-god rather than a demagogue, this was a powerful speech, rich with dog whistles to those who favor authoritarianism over the messy business of democratic self-governance.

The text was written largely by Stephen Miller, a white supremacist Trump adviser. Interestingly, you won’t find the text of the speech at, at least not the morning after, only the video.

Trump began behaving in his wannabe-dictator style and with the social graces of a modern Philistine. He was late.

Trump was there as a guest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opened the House chamber doors to him only after she marshaled the political power to force him to reopen the government. Pelosi could have just told Trump to write a letter, as many presidents have done, instead of giving him the platform he wanted so badly that he caved on his shutdown.

In polite or merely civil society the host introduces guests both in private gatherings and State of the Union speeches. But while Trump tepidly took her hand, he did not wait for Pelosi to introduce her guest before launching into a speech whose main goal was to call for everyone to do as Trump says.

His rude action was from the same vein as when he shoved Duško Marković, the prime minister of tiny Montenegro, out of the way at a May 2017 NATO meeting so the news cameras would focus on Trump.

Marković, like all people who understand a bully they cannot defeat, meekly said later that he did not mind. That’s how it goes now that America has the third-generation head of a white-collar crime family in the White House. And that fearful reaction was also on display as Republican lawmakers praised Trump the way in and out even though much of what he had to say is a contradiction of Republican party platforms, principles being too strong a word for these views given their current convertibility into ideological mush.

Trump called for everyone to get behind whatever he wants, regardless of their differences. In doing so he revealed that he slept through history classes from grammar school through college.

As part of his call for everyone to get behind what Trump wants and ignore their differences he declared “if there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”

Actually, that is exactly the way it has always worked, even when our union was rent asunder by civil war.

Just before the inevitable entry of America into World War II, which military planners expected would last well into the 1950s with no certain defeat of Berlin and Tokyo, debate on the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran at full throttle.

And who led the investigations into the FDR administration’s military preparedness and then prosecution of the war? That was a member of Roosevelt’s own party, Missouri Democrat Harry S Truman, who became FDR’s 1944 running mate. Contrast that with the craven refusal to investigate by Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican leadership to oversee the Trump administration during the just-finished 115th Congress.

Much of the speech was closer to reality television than reality.

Trump called for national unity, not to defeat actual threats to America such as the Putin regime, but against invading women and children fleeing the brutal streets of Guatemala and Honduras, where violence traces back to decades of American foreign-policy mistakes including the endless war on drugs.

Seeking to rebut Pelosi’s description of the Mexico border wall as immoral, Trump said: “This is a moral issue.”

To prove this, he introduced some guests who deserve our sympathy having lost a loved one to violence from a criminal illegally in the United States.

But anecdotes are not a sound basis for policy, especially when both data and logic tell us that most of the people who live in the United States without official permission try to avoid any activity that would bring them into contact with police. The data show they are much less likely to commit crimes than native-born. Smart reform of our immigration laws would do more to deal with the crimes that Trump exploits to advance his desires than the wall with Mexico that is never going to be built.

Trump then plunged right into promoting class divisions in a way that revealed his shallow thinking and inability to speak without making stuff up.

“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” Trump declared.

There are no signs that Americans are about to turn to pitchforks and knives to address their grievances, but if they ever do it is likely that plutocrats, or in the case of Trump people who claim to have great wealth, will be the ones who get the points from the mob.

There is, of course, no national politician calling for open borders. Rather the call is for comprehensive immigration reform that avoids making America a pariah among the nations of Earth, which is what Trumpian walls and Muslim country travel bans foster.

Trump did try to make himself a champion in the war on cancer. He introduced a 10-year-old cancer survivor and then pledged to propose in his next budget $500 million of funding over 10 years.

That’s just $50 million annually, which is less than one percent of the money spent by our government currently on cancer research. Given that inflation is running north of two percent annually, this vague pledge could be reasonably seen as a plan to cut cancer research funding. It certainly is when examined as a share of the economy, which Trump insisted is growing because of an “economic miracle.”

Of course, we should not forget that Trump’s first budget proposed massive cuts in cancer research funding, as even the rightwing Washington Examiner reported.

What we saw in SOTU 2019 was not the faithful execution of the laws that Congress passes, but a star from the faux reality of “Celebrity Apprentice” dividing America because he has no idea how to govern so he must cling like a barnacle to his political base.



Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}