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#EndorseThis: Remembering The Legendary Reporter Who First Exposed Donald Trump


Wayne Barrett was a legendary investigative journalist, whose early reporting on Donald Trump's "moral larceny" blazed the way for every news outlet that has ever given serious coverage to the 45th president and his misdeeds. Sadly, my old colleague Wayne didn't live to report on Trump's presidency, passing away on the night before his inauguration in January 2017. But now Bold Type Books has issued a new anthology of Wayne's work -- including his pathbreaking stories on Trump and Rudy Giuliani -- with new essays by many of his colleagues (and a preface contributed by me).

Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism That First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption is "indispensable," said New Yorker investigative ace Jane Mayer, who added that Wayne's stories "are essential reading, alive with fresh insights and information illuminating today's politics, and remind us that rigorous journalism is still democracy's best defense."

Recently I discussed Without Compromise and Wayne with Lisa Birnbach, renowned author and journalist, for her superb podcast 5 Things That Make Life Better. If you're interested in how investigative reporters work and why they do their often thankless jobs -- along with other pertinent and impertinent topics -- follow the links to this episode of Lisa's podcast. It's on every podcast platform (and I recommend subscribing).

Apple Podcasts: http://bit.ly/LB120ApplePodcasts

Spotify: http://bit.ly/LB120Spotify

Google Podcasts: http://bit.ly/LB120GooGlePodcasts

Stitcher: http://bit.ly/LB120Stitcher

iHeart Podcasts: http://bitly.ws/ank3

YouTube: http://bit.ly/LB120YouTube


As Those Biden Smears Collapse, Look Harder At Trump

If you were a Trump supporter anticipating a ruinous assault on Joe Biden's integrity during that final debate, too bad. What you got instead was a series of incomprehensible outbursts from Donald Trump, who seems to assume that everybody believes whatever nonsense they hear on Fox News, just like he does.

The day after the debate was even more disappointing. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch himself, dropped a front-page investigative report that directly contradicted Trump's accusations about Biden and China. The only candidate with unseemly business over there is Trump himself, whose secret account in a Chinese bank was just exposed.

For months, Trump and his minions have hyped allegations of financial corruption against Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump got himself impeached, with the help of legal genius Rudy Giuliani, over his attempt to force Ukraine's president to open a fake corruption probe of the former vice president and Burisma, the energy firm that once employed Biden's son Hunter. Their deception collapsed when Trump and Obama administration officials testified – with ample documentary evidence – that Biden had done nothing to protect Burisma and only carried out United States and European initiatives against corruption in Ukraine.

But that failure didn't discourage Giuliani, former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon, or the other fabricators in the Trump entourage. In recent days, they have unveiled a mysterious laptop computer that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden and reached Giuliani and then the New York Post through a series of implausible events. There are clues that the electronic data on the laptop was invented or altered. Who might do that? Let's see: The Kremlin is seeking to harm Biden politically, and Giuliani has openly welcomed the assistance of Russian intelligence assets, so the answer is fairly obvious. Especially because Russian agents provided similar services for the Republican candidate four years ago.

When the laptop gambit flopped, the Trumpsters still didn't give up.

On the eve of the debate, a Wall Street Journal columnist published a claim that Joe Biden personally profited from investments in China fronted by Hunter. Her column was based on assertions by a shadowy but euphoniously named businessman, a certain Tony Bobulinski. In a move worthy of that old pardoned felon Roger Stone, Bobulinski actually attended the Nashville debate (after staging a "press availability" where he refused to answer any questions.)

Unfortunately for both Bobulinski and that eager Journal columnist, her newspaper on Friday published the investigation that cratered their nefarious tale. After months of actual reporting, the Journal's real journalists found that the venture cited by Bobulinski "never received proposed funds from the Chinese company or completed any deals." Moreover, corporate records reviewed by the Journal's reporters "show no role for Joe Biden."

So far the Biden "scandal" most closely resembles Whitewater and the entire panoply of Clinton finance scandals that never revealed any wrongdoing whatsoever. Whatever Trump may spew and sputter, there is no plausible evidence that has been subjected to examination by journalists of integrity.

And fortunately for Biden, the nation's traditional news outlets are approaching the allegations against him with a cool and appropriate skepticism. That wasn't the case in 2016, the last time Steve Bannon played the same games. For Bannon and Giuliani, as well as their echoes across right-wing media, the objective was always to launch their false narratives into the mainstream. They succeeded brilliantly in 2016, with the assistance of the New York Times and other news organizations that should have known better and done better. This time they are failing.

In promoting these serial smears, the risk for Donald Trump is always that someone competent will inspect his record. That's what should have happened four years ago, when he and Bannon falsely attacked the Clinton Foundation while concealing the sordid truth about the Trump Foundation, a brazen criminal enterprise.

That 2016 frameup was a classic instance of projection – and we can assume the same dynamic is at work today. So now is the time to scrutinize all of the Trump Organization's crooked, conflicted deals overseas – and how he and his family have profited from his presidency.

Rudy's Latest Variation On The Same Dirty Trick That Got Trump Impeached

What a stroke of luck for Donald Trump, just when the president's election prospects look irretrievably bleak: A trove of incriminating emails has turned up that supposedly connect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to a dubious businessman in Ukraine. Uncovered by the president's own intrepid lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his former adviser Steve Bannon, the newly discovered emails suggest that Biden is as corrupt as they've been saying for months.

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Excerpt: Wayne Barrett's 'Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism That First Exposed Donald Trump'

What follows is my preface to Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism That First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption, published on Sept. 29 by Bold Type Books. Among the many revelations in this new anthology of the work of Wayne Barrett -- my longtime friend and reporting partner at The Village Voice -- is the fundamental nature of Trump's character that Wayne discovered more than 40 years ago. But the work of this legendary investigative reporter goes far beyond the story of one very bad man who became president. MSNBC's Chris Hayes described it as an "instantly classic collection by one of the greatest reporters New York ever produced, and one of the greatest of his era."

By the end of his life, on the day before President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration, Wayne Barrett was already a legendary figure in American journalism. His tenacious investigative reporting on New York City politics and corruption had made him the scourge of City Hall, the bane of several mayors, and an essential member of New York's pugnacious press corps. He had published a hard-hitting biography of Rudy Giuliani as well as an eye-opening book on that mayor's failures and omissions leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Barrett had been covering Donald Trump since the real-estate scion turned reality-TV personality first began lining up public subsidies for private gain in the 1970s. He had published a scathing biography of the man in 1990, during one of Trump's periodic financial collapses.

The rise of his old nemesis to the American presidency lent historical drama and even a touch of glamor to a life spent in relentless toil. The unscrupulous businessman and the conscientious journalist who chronicled his corruption had lived on opposite sides of a profound moral chasm. In the years following his death Wayne would continue to haunt Trump, his byline invoked by a legion of reporters as they pursued the 45th president down trails he had blazed.

Wayne's lifelong project was to muster journalistic truth on behalf of the downtrodden and against their oppressors. Pursuing that goal, he developed a method that produced some of the most rigorous, purposeful, and dogged investigative reporting ever written. It is a method worth revisiting now, when essential facts often fail to penetrate public consciousness -- even amid a deadly pandemic -- and cable pundits seem to outnumber working reporters.

He didn't deign to hide his point of view. His writing was propulsive, emphatic, even damning, and always candid. As a champion scholastic debater he knew that rhetoric can inspire, but he also learned that facts matter more. His approach to reporting was exhaustive, requiring the assistance of literally hundreds of former interns -- who eventually went on to distinguished careers after months of checking off Wayne's impossibly long lists of interviews, document searches, archive visits, data crunches, and stakeouts. He never stopped believing in the evidence-based inquiry that spurred America's founders and undergirds every functioning democracy.

Wayne first achieved notoriety for his scathing investigative profiles of celebrated figures in politics and business. Among the earliest Barrett targets was Donald Trump who contrived his initial venture into Manhattan real estate with enormous state subsidies via connections with the shadiest elements in Brooklyn and Queens clubhouse politics. Indeed, Wayne scorched nearly every important politician of either party who crossed his path, from Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani to Mario and Andrew Cuomo.

While he enjoyed dueling with politicians, however, Wayne brought equal passion to probing the faceless forces that immiserated the city's most defenseless communities. He had a deft touch with the personal interview and, despite his ferocious reputation, could charm almost any source into talking too much. But he was just as keen to spend hours poring over public budgets, city records, and all the eye-glazing data points that reveal how brutally society treats the most vulnerable – as in his classic series documenting Koch's "war on the poor," or his pioneering dissection of the original "poverty pimp," Bronx political operative Ramon Velez.

He was born on July 11, 1945, and raised in Lynchburg, Va., where he attended Catholic schools with his two brothers and two sisters. His father was a nuclear physicist and his mother became a librarian. He became editor of his high school's newspaper and led its debate team to second place in a national championship, a performance that earned a full scholarship to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. (Some might observe that Wayne was very much the product of a Jesuit education.) There he met a Philly girl named Frances Marie McGettigan, whom he married in 1969. By then, he had graduated from Columbia Journalism School (where he later taught for more than 30 years) and moved on to teach school in Brooklyn's impoverished Brownsville community.



Like many bright young people who grew up in the 1960s, Wayne underwent a radical transformation even before he arrived in Brownsville. Going off to college as a Goldwater conservative who despised student leftists, he emerged as a long-haired Vietnam war protester and supporter of black liberation movements -- although unlike his hippie peers, he never smoked a joint and, for that matter, scarcely ever drank alcohol. If his teaching job began as a means to escape the draft, it quickly turned into a lifelong commitment to that very poor, highly segregated, and heavily African-American neighborhood.

It was in Brownsville that Wayne came to understand investigative reporting as his instrument to confront inequity, injustice, and corruption. With a group of local activists, he founded a small newspaper called The People' Voice, aiming its mimeographed fusillades at the predatory landlords, failing schools, uncaring bureaucracies – and crooked politicians.

Within a few years, Wayne's exposes of local corruption drew the attention of Jack Newfield, the Village Voice's premier political columnist and investigative chief. Jack brought Wayne into the Voice, where he published hundreds of articles over the next four decades -- frequently in partnership with other reporters (including me). We both joined the paper as staff writers in 1978, just after Ed Koch was sworn in for his first term as mayor.

Our mission at the counter-cultural Manhattan weekly was not so different from what Wayne and his fellow activists had tried to do in Brownsville, except on a much broader stage, with substantial resources, top editors, and thousands of paying readers. We exposed the real power relationships in a city where real estate kingpins like Trump routinely greased elected officials – and exercised an unwholesome influence over policy and budget decisions.

Although the Voice's circulation was smaller than the city's major dailies, the passionate engagement of savvy readers endowed us with clout. The dailies paid us the compliment of routinely lifting our stories, with or without credit. And in that era, before the Internet and social media, newspaper stories mattered – even in an "alternative" weekly.

From a warren of cramped, rather nondescript offices and cubicles below Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, we scoped the political landscape of city and state, holding elected officials accountable for their deviations from political integrity and public interest. Working at a "writer's paper," as the Voice was known, meant that we set our own course, pursuing stories that reflected the electoral calendar, the urgent issues of the moment, and the enduring priorities of our politics.

Every year, for instance, we shamed the city's worst landlords with a list that named names and catalogued atrocities. We spent months as a team in 1980 to produce an exhaustive three-part series on Republican corruption and mob influence in Nassau County – our bouquet to its favorite son, U.S. Senate candidate Alfonse D'Amato. (He won that election, but Wayne finally took him out with a devastating story on his absentee voting record almost two decades later.)

We pursued this vocation with a certain ferocity, nobody more so than Wayne. As he explained on the occasion of the Voice's 50th anniversary in 2005, "we thought a deadline meant we had to kill somebody." He was only half joking. Every public figure in New York had good reason to fear and respect him.

Wayne expected the same fierce determination from everyone who worked with him, whether colleagues or interns. Scratching out scores of tasks on a yellow legal pad, he could get quite testy if someone failed to match his formidable work ethic. A caring friend with a wonderful sense of humor, he was also known to torment his editors and didn't always tolerate disagreement well, to put it politely. When we were producing a two-page news spread every week, he would occasionally stop speaking to me – and for a couple of days I could only communicate with him via messages left with Fran.

Of course he could be lighthearted and funny, too; he loved to banter and gossip, and over the years he attracted a wide circle of friends that was even larger than his impressive list of enemies. But he was tough because he took the work seriously, and he kept working until his last day. He never stopped believing that investigative reporting could reveal wrongdoing, provoke outrage, spur reform, and change people's lives for the better. And after four years of a lying president who has done so much to damage people's lives – and the vulnerable most of all – that faith seems more essential than ever.

With his innate consciousness of mission, Wayne defied the cynicism that too often infects modern journalism. Even as he grew into a highly sophisticated analyst of elections, media, finance, and government, he nurtured an idealism about democracy and the role of the press that could sound almost naïve. The tragedy is that we lost him just when we were about to need him most.

As a devout believer in the Church's social justice doctrine, he naturally had lived in a state of perpetual indignation. The prayer card at his funeral, held in a Brownsville church where he remained a parishioner, displayed a cartoon of Wayne preparing to pepper the Almighty with tough questions. Even in the afterlife, he would surely hold the most powerful to account.

What follows in this book is a collection of that indefatigable sleuth's most compelling and salient adventures. What stands out in every single one is his drive for justice, which he charged us all to carry on.

This article has been excerpted from Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism that First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption by Wayne Barrett, edited by Eileen Markey. Copyright © 2020. Available from Bold Type Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The White House Under A Black Sky

After months of unscientific experimentation, the president of the United States has completed his transformation into a biological weapon.

Infected with the coronavirus because he rejected the advice of government experts, Donald Trump can no longer evade the consequences of the policy and political choices he has made since last winter. With every wrong move, he brought himself and the country closer to this fateful moment. How many lives his terrible exercise in deception and self-deception will cost remains to be seen, but we now know that he does not hesitate to endanger even those closest to him.

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Hey, Hands Off Those Military Ballots

When President Donald Trump demands that we "get rid of the ballots," everyone knows exactly what he means. Since last spring, the aspiring tinpot dictator in the White House has spit out daily tweets full of falsehoods about mail ballots, which he calls "awful," "terrible" and "ripe for FRAUD." He pretends to draw a distinction between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots — the method used by him and many others in the White House to vote — but in actual practice, there is no such difference.

Among the malignant effects of that Trump dictate would be the disenfranchisement of millions of American soldiers, their families and other military personnel when the time comes to vote.

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The Destructive Cult That’s Eating The Republican Party Alive

For a certain kind of Republican, it is hard to imagine anything worse than the party founded by Abraham Lincoln transmogrified into the party of Donald Trump. Some of those Republicans have openly abandoned the once Grand Old Party, while others quietly await a reform or restoration. Only a few have acknowledged so far that the authoritarian and racist trends in their party cannot be blamed on Trump alone and were visible well before he took over.

Yet as awful and dangerous as Trump undeniably is, there may be something worse ahead for Republicans. That thing is called QAnon, the online phenomenon that has declared war on an international conspiracy of elitist pedophiles and cannibals, which, of course, doesn't exist.

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For The Generals, A Duty To Speak Up Now

So far nobody in the United States military, including those retired from service, has expressed great surprise over President Donald Trump's alleged remarks about soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Anger and disgust, yes, but not surprise.

Given his record of disrespect toward those who have worn the uniform, the comments reported in The Atlantic magazine are no longer surprising. Despite his responsibilities as commander in chief, Trump has never spared the armed services or their officers from his narcissistic bile.

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Neither Law Nor Order, But Bloody Chaos

On the eve of her departure from the White House, after the arrest of a 17-year-old "militia" gunman for a double homicide, Kellyanne Conway blurted a gloating observation: "The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order."

To anyone familiar with the methods of fascism, the Trump adviser's ugly boast was telling. Authoritarian parties and regimes, dating from the era of the Reichstag fire and Kristallnacht, have always covertly encouraged violent disorders to justify their own repressive acts. Beneath President Donald Trump's rhetoric of "law and order" lies not only the notorious lawlessness of the president and his cronies but also his incessant instigation of crime and brutality on the far right. He is assuredly not the choice of anyone who hopes to improve the nation's security.

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How The Clinton Diversion Shields Trump

Only hours before Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 18, a strange thing happened. The tabloids published newly discovered photos of the former president receiving a neck massage from a young woman. The pictures were allegedly taken in 2002 during a Clinton Foundation trip to Africa on the jet owned by Jeffrey Epstein, who was revealed years later to be a rapist, thug and serial exploiter of young women. The woman in those photos is Chauntae Davies, then 22 years old and a massage therapist employed by Epstein. She accused him many years later of having raped and mistreated her.

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Republican Reaction To Kamala Reveals Same Old Pathologies

What was for most Americans a moment of inspiration — the ascent of Sen. Kamala Harris, a woman of African and Indian descent, to a national party ticket — has instead provoked paranoia and rage on the Republican right. Along with the usual petty insults spat by President Donald Trump, his minions in the media are returning to their habitual obsessions of nativism, racism and misogyny.

It is a repellent and buffoonish spectacle, but it is unlikely to make any impression on voters who don't already share Trump's narrow, delusional worldview.

In the barrage of confused attacks on Harris, there is much to be learned about the psychopathology of the far right. So-called conservatives have little interest in the senator's actual record in public office or views on substantive issues, only in assaults on her background and character. Somehow, they miss the irony of calling her "nasty" while they launch hundreds of these vicious broadsides.

From Rush Limbaugh and Joe Pagliarulo, we hear the insinuation that Harris somehow used her sexuality to rise to the political pinnacle she now occupies. They're just "putting it out there," as Pagliarulo smarmily intoned, but why bother? Only someone very stupid would believe that a romantic relationship that concluded decades ago elevated Harris from the district attorney's office to statewide office in California, a seat in the United States Senate, and then her party's vice presidential nomination. Life and politics obviously don't work that way.

The only reason to "put it out there" is to detract from Harris' impressive achievements, with the kind of innuendo that is never inflicted on men. These Trump toadies dismiss the Access Hollywood tape, the Jeffrey Epstein photos, the Stormy Daniels affair, and the multiple credible rape and assault allegations against their idol -- yet they're troubled by those dates that Kamala Harris once had with the mayor of San Francisco. (Let's not even delve into Limbaugh's own problematic personal life, which is colorful in all the wrong ways.)

From former George W. Bush administration flack Ari Fleischer, and sundry other self-styled white experts on African American affairs, comes the suggestion that Harris is somehow not truly Black (or at least not Black enough). Those old racial dog whistles were blown when Barack Obama first ran for president, too, because his mother was white and he grew up in the home of his white grandparents. Does anyone believe that Fleischer — a ludicrous figure on his best days — knows what will "excite" Black female voters, as he put it?

African Americans supposedly won't embrace Harris because her father was from Jamaica and her mother from India. Indeed, according to the pardoned felon and provocateur Dinesh D'Souza, Harris is really white because one of her ancestors was a white slaveholder.

Again, this is a profoundly idiotic jape. Where would Kamala Harris' paternal forebears have originated other than Africa? She is an American of African descent. And how many other Black Americans, like Harris, have a white slaveholder somewhere in their ancestry? Many millions, surely, and like them, that fraction of her lineage is tiny.

The plain truth is that like so many Americans, Harris is proud of the ethnic variety in her background. And like many Black Americans of mixed heritage, she has chosen to identify strongly with the Black community throughout her life. It isn't a contradiction but represents what David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City, likes to call "the gorgeous mosaic."

The unappetizing tableau of Republican race baiting wouldn't be complete without a reversion to "birtherism" — in this case, fake concern over Harris' eligibility for the presidency based on her parents' immigration status at the time of her birth. Desperate for clicks, Newsweek dredged up a right-wing law professor to claim that she just might not pass constitutional muster. It's a feeble argument, fully consistent with the professor's unimpressive, highly ideological resume. But is anybody surprised that the falsehoods flung at Obama for years are now aimed at the next person of color nominated for national office?

I'm not.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Ripping Down Trump’s Phony ’Treason’ Conspiracy

History matters, especially when an unscrupulous president constantly seeks to revise and distort fundamental facts as events unfold. This week, a courageous law enforcement official stepped forward to correct the record at last, and under oath.

Over the past two years, as the Russia and Ukraine investigations unfolded, President Donald Trump has tried repeatedly to turn the expanding indictment of his own criminal misconduct into a case against his political adversaries. "Treason!" he tweets every few days, punctuating his outlandish claim that the investigations of sleazy and potentially unlawful behavior by him, members of his family, his campaign aides and his appointees represented a nefarious "deep state" conspiracy.

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Republicans Skirmish Aboard Their Sinking Ship

Even if November's electoral tsunami is still just a rumor on the horizon, that big blue wave already is rocking Republican boats. We can sense something different in the distance, not only because the polls say so but because political journalism has departed from its banal narrative.

Instead of the repetitious dullness of "Democrats in disarray," there is the freshly entertaining spectacle of "Republican civil war."

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Biden Seizes Our Last Chance

One of the worst failings of political journalism in our time was just illustrated again. When Joe Biden delivered a path-breaking address on climate change, he drew less media coverage than a rumored shakeup in the Trump campaign. Do you care more about the fate of Republican grifters — or the fate of the Earth?

Even reporters who prefer process over substance could find an angle in Biden's speech, because it represented such a clear break with his own past positioning on the climate issue. In a radical departure from his "moderate" stance during the Democratic primaries, the former vice president is proposing a far more intense program, on a faster schedule that will cost a lot more money.

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Let’s Not Kill Our Heroes

Among the lessons taught by the pandemic is to value the people who make life possible in this country. They are hospital employees, ambulance drivers, cops and firefighters, of course, but also delivery workers, grocery clerks, utility workers, mail carriers and a panoply of others who confronted danger every day for months and still do. Most of us didn't notice how routinely they were overlooked, underpaid, dismissed and even disparaged until they helped us survive a lockdown.

Millions of parents have lately discovered, if they didn't already know, that teachers are among the most undervalued professionals in America. Trying to wrangle children at home every day, let alone induce them to learn, has schooled anyone who might have felt that our educators make more money than they deserve. So if we've discovered how essential these workers truly are, shouldn't we treat them as we would hope to be treated ourselves? And if we're committed to redressing fundamental inequities, shouldn't we start now — not wait until some distant day when the crisis is over?

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What No Patriot Would Ever Do

"Performative patriotism" is a fancy way of describing what my father — a veteran of World War II who rarely spoke about his service — called "jelly-bellied flag flappers." Dad always laughed at those phonies, but we now suffer a president who is exactly that type, only worse. And Donald Trump's flag-flapping fakery is no joke.

A performative patriot is someone who, like Trump, oversells his supposed love of country, his reverence for the Stars and Stripes and, especially, his indignation at those whom he suspects of lacking his deep fervor. Such a figure will, like Trump, attempt to market these counterfeit emotions for his own benefit. And like Trump, that loud jingo is someone whose character will lead to a betrayal of American values.

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Biden And Trump: A Contrast Stark As Life Or Death

Protecting the lives and health of citizens ought to be the most basic duty of any government. But the Trump administration, abnormal and toxic, is evidently determined to inflict illness and death on as many Americans as possible.

Consider what President Donald Trump and his minions have done over the past few days (not to mention the past several months). Owing to their feckless insistence on reopening the economy, the coronavirus has again surged across the country, from Florida to Texas to California, infecting tens of thousands — many of whom will soon need care in overburdened hospitals. Yet the federal government has simultaneously announced a drastic cutback in testing funds. They're suppressing the numbers rather than the disease.

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