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Aug 12 2019

Stupid or Evil?

I have a soft spot for Bill Curry because I voted for him.

Donald Trump’s week from hell: After the horrors of El Paso and Dayton, GOP is in full retreat
by Bill Curry, Salon
August 12, 201

In the Great Trump Debate, there are fine people on both sides: those who say he’s an evil genius pursuing a diabolical master plan and those who say he’s evil, but too impaired, too compulsive and too impulsive for any strategy needing forethought or self-discipline. The truth may lie in between, but last week was a big week for Team Impairment, and a terrible one for Trump.

After the carnage unleashed on El Paso and Dayton, Trump felt he had to visit both cities despite being welcome in neither. Trump taught the world how to diagnose malignant narcissism; he has no capacity for empathy or even a poor politician’s gift for pretending. He’s spent four years inciting racial hatred, slandering immigrants and kowtowing to the NRA. The El Paso shooter used Trump’s racist rhetoric in his online manifesto. Trump could have made his excuses and everyone would have understood.

Trump’s day of mourning began with his usual rage-based tweet fusillade. Of 29 tweets, 20 were attacks: on Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro and his twin brother Joaquin, the mayor of Dayton, the Federal Reserve Board, the State of California, others. Of six tweets pertaining to El Paso or Dayton, four were candid photos of Trump caught in the act of being admired. He mentioned the tragedy once (“They’ve been through so much. Sad!”) in a tweet that also bemoaned his suffering at the hands of his critics and rhapsodized over how much Dayton and El Paso loved him.

Trump fumed over a leaked video in which he lied to hospital personnel about the crowd size at an O’Rourke rally, but photos he released on purpose hurt him more. When all eight victims being treated at El Paso’s University Medical Center declined a Trump visit, the hospital lured two discharged patients back for a meet and greet. One of those was a two-month-old infant, whose parents had just died shielding her from gunfire. The pic of a grinning Trump giving thumbs up as Melania held the baby was bizarre and exploitative. (While we’re on the topic, hospital infections are a notorious public health risk. For a hospital to expose an infant to such risk for a mere photo op seems utterly reprehensible.)

As Trump comforted the afflicted, ICE was hauling in 680 undocumented Latinos at seven Mississippi poultry processing plants. Under Trump, ICE has never had a Senate-confirmed director. It has had five acting directors. At the time of the raid, current director Mark Morgan had been on the job for a week. Days later, children had not been reconnected to parents. ICE said the raid was conducted “in the normal course of business,” but it was the biggest in a single state in U.S. history. The agency called the timing a coincidence, but you’d think a president who called off a bomber strike on Iran in mid-flight could postpone a raid on a poultry plant if he thought it served his interests.

Trump thought the raids served his interests. They didn’t. For one thing, the children were not in ICE custody and were thus freer than border children in cages to give press interviews. When 11-year-old Magdalena Gómez Gregorio sobbed convulsively into a camera, “I want my daddy … my dad didn’t do anything … he is not a criminal,” it tore at the hearts of all decent people.

Trump says he prioritizes criminal deportations, but like July’s 10-city ICE “sweep” meant only to rally his base and terrify families, the raids reminded voters outside his base of several things: The people Trump targets do jobs we don’t want for wages we can’t live on; they pay taxes to support programs that benefit us, not them; they’re the very people to whom we want to offer a path to citizenship. Even on his signature issue, Trump’s a soulless con man.

Investigating Trump remains a growing, diversifying industry, comprised of state prosecutors and attorneys general, plaintiffs’ lawyers, opposition researchers, hundreds of reporters and the U.S. House of Representatives, among others.

The news in Nadler’s pronouncement is that House Democrats have found a way to pursue impeachment without implicating every freshman caucus member in the decision. If they get their hands on the real impeachment road map — Trump’s tax returns — he’ll look back on weeks like this with fond nostalgia.

None of these stories was the bombshell of the Democrats’ dreams; the one that forces every American to see Trump as he really is: a racist, a fascist, a narcissist, a criminal and a liar. What they do reveal is a man running out of moves who feels a net tightening.

Trump loves to brag about his coolness under pressure, but as always, the truth is the opposite of whatever he just said. Last week his compulsion and impulsivity were on full display. We expect presidents to console us in times of tragedy, but knowing he can’t even appear outdoors in Dayton or El Paso, he should have stayed home. He should not have taunted his opponents, to say nothing of his hosts, but he truly can’t help himself. Henceforth, his stage-crafted immigration raids will serve mostly to expose his hypocrisy.

Democrats must also make smarter choices. It’s time to clear out the presidential field, to clarify the race but also to win the Senate. Of the seats worrying McConnell, two are in Colorado and Montana. John Hickenlooper and Steve Bullock, respectively, should run for those. A third is in Texas. In the Democrats’ first presidential debate, Julián Castro seemed to imply he’s smarter than Beto O’Rourke. Who’s really smarter? Whoever drops out to run in the Texas Senate race first.

Trump has ceded all the moral high ground to the Democrats. To take full advantage they need to make their best case. It’s far from clear they know how to do that.

Trump has also given Democrats a chance to forge a new conversation about racial justice. Three weeks ago, it seemed his attacks on “the Squad” might actually work. Then he savaged Rep. Elijah Cummings, most of Baltimore and all of San Francisco. Then came El Paso. Now Democrats have a chance to lay out a vision of racial justice that inspires every decent American. Trump gave us this teachable moment and the perfect teaching tool: himself.

It’s not like getting rid of the Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio alone is going to solve the problem. He merely articulates the policy of the Republican Party.

There is no ‘capture’, no ‘surrender’. This is what they always believed.

I like to think they have become bolder because they sense defeat is near.

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