Ocasio-Cortez Sued For Blocking People On Twitter

Just days after a Federal Appeals Court upheld a lower court ruling that President Trump had violated the First Amendment by blocking users from accessing his Twitter account, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has found herself the Defendant in two lawsuits for ostensibly the same activity:

President Trump and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are diametrical opposites in nearly every way, except perhaps for their shared home state of New York and their social media dominance.

But now there may be another thing that binds the two: a federal appeals panel ruling on Tuesday found that Mr. Trump, a Republican, has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following him on Twitter because they criticized or mocked him.

That ruling is now the basis of two lawsuits filed against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, accusing her of blocking people because of their opposing political stances.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has 4.7 million followers on her personal Twitter account, @AOC, which she uses to frequently discuss policy and advocate her proposals, such as the Green New Deal and her belief that the camps holding children and other undocumented immigrants seeking asylum at the Texas border are “concentration camps.”

Dov Hikind, a former assemblyman from Brooklyn who is the founder of Americans Against Anti-Semitism, said he regularly replied to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets, but was blocked on July 8.

Joseph Saladino, a YouTube personality known as “Joey Salads” who is running for a congressional seat representing Brooklyn and Staten Island, said he was blocked on May 9.

But because Ms. Ocasio-Cortez uses the account to discuss policies that affect them, she cannot use it to “suppress contrary views” and violate his First Amendment rights to free speech, Mr. Hikind said in his lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

“It’s very clear based on the court’s ruling that A.O.C. is violating my constitutional rights to free speech by excluding me,” Mr. Hikind said in an interview. “She doesn’t want me to be a part of the discussion and conversation.”

Mr. Hikind said he was blocked after criticizing Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for her concentration camp comments.

“She has a right to have that position. That’s not the issue. The question is why is she afraid of other people’s positions?” he added.

Mr. Saladino, whose pranks have been criticized as racist, filed a separate lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan. He said that as a practical matter, he does not care if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez blocked him because he can still access her Twitter comments from an anonymous account.

He said his complaint is a test of whether there is a double standard in the courts for liberals and conservatives.

“At the end of the day, it’s like a social experiment to see if the standards will apply equally,” Mr. Saladino said. “Will the courts rule the same way against A.O.C. as Trump?”

Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment about pending litigation.

Based on the ruling of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Trump case, it seems fairly clear that the Plaintiffs in these cases ought to prevail in their respective lawsuits. While @AOC is not Ocasio-Cortez’s “official” Congressional Twitter account, which is @RepAOC, she frequently, indeed almost exclusively, uses the first account to communicate political messages to her supporters and constituents. This makes is essentially identical to Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump account, which he utilizes far more than he does his “official” @POTUS account. Because of that, the Court’s conclusions regarding the “personal” Trump account, that it essentially amounts to a forum that he uses to conduct business related to his office, apply just as equally to AOC’s “personal account.

Since these cases were filed in the same Circuit as the Trump case, the District Court Judge that presides over them will be bound by the precedent established by the panel in the Trump case unless and until that case is reversed by the en banc 2nd Circuit or the Supreme Court. Given that, the best strategy for Ocasio-Cortez would be to unblock everyone she has blocked and agree that she won’t block anyone in the future, with the possible exception of people who make threats against her. Of course, those people should immediately be reported to law enforcement since it’s illegal to threaten the life of a Member of Congress, or anyone else for that matter. It would save a lot of time and a not-insignificant amount of legal fees.

Trump’s Racism Reveals The Moral Cowardice Of The GOP And Conservatives

Donald Trump’s unhinged racist attack on four Democratic Congresswoman, which he doubled down on in an appearance outside the White House yesterday, are drawing at best muted criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill and other supporters, confirming yet again what the modern-day Republican Party and so-called conservatism have turned into in the Trump Era:

Even as a few Republican lawmakers spoke out against Trump’s language, with some specifically calling it racist, most stayed quiet or sought to soften their admonishment of the president by mixing it with criticism of the women he attacked.

“They’re just terrified of crossing swords with Trump, and they stay mute even when the president unleashes racist tirades,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who has been critical of Trump. “Republican leaders are now culpable for encouraging this kind of rank bigotry. By not speaking out, by staying mum, they are greenlighting hate rhetoric.”

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that a group of liberal freshmen congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of origin. His targets included Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.).

The Republican lawmakers who did speak out against Trump waited more than 24 hours after the tweets were posted, which Democrats swiftly condemned as xenophobic.

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Reps. Will Hurd (Tex.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Fred Upton (Mich.) and Pete Olson (Tex.) were among Republicans who criticized Trump for his attack on the four congresswomen, collectively known as “the Squad.”

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump added. “Then come back and show us how it is done.”

All four of the freshmen lawmakers are U.S. citizens, and only Omar was born outside the United States. In a news conference Monday, the women said Trump was seeking to distract the country.

“I encourage the American people and all of us — in this room and beyond — to not take the bait,” Pressley said. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on.”

On Twitter, after the Democratic lawmakers held their news conference, Trump tweeted the political endgame driving his attacks.

“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them,” Trump wrote about the liberal lawmakers who had recently feuded with party leaders. “That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!”

While Republicans in the past have tried to cast their party as welcoming to immigrants and Americans from all backgrounds, the fact that so few spoke out against Trump’s comments undercut that message, Brinkley said.

“They’ve just figured if they criticize Trump, it’ll boomerang on them and they’ll become the piñata of right-wingTa media,” he said.

The president’s allies defended his remarks.

“AOC, Tlaib and Omar criticize America so often and so viciously preferring Soviet, Chinese, Venezuelan socialism to our free market economy that saying they would be happier somewhere else is a fair response,” said Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s lawyer and a former New York mayor. “To say it’s racist is almost as ignorant as their statements.”

As Carl Hulse puts it in The New York Times, the near-total silence of Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the efforts by some conservatives who claim not to support the President but nonetheless defend him even when he engages in rhetoric like this, speaks volumes about what has happened to the right side of Ameican politics in the Trump Era:

WASHINGTON — The lack of widespread Republican condemnation of President Trump for his comments about four Democratic congresswomen of color illustrated both the tightening stranglehold Mr. Trump has on his party and the belief of many Republicans that an attack on progressivism should in fact be a central element of the 2020 campaign.

While a smattering of Republicans chastised Mr. Trump on Monday, most party leaders in the House and Senate and much of the rank-and-file remained quiet about the president’s weekend tweets directing dissenters to “go back” where they came from. He followed up on those comments on Monday with harsh language directed at “people who hate America” — an inflammatory accusation to be leveled against elected members of the House.

With Mr. Trump far more popular with Republican voters than incumbent Republican members of Congress, most are loath to cross the president and risk reprisals. The case of Representative Justin Amash, the Michigan lawmaker who was forced to leave the party after he dared to suggest Mr. Trump should be impeached, serves as a cautionary tale.

At the same time, many Republicans are seeking to label the four congresswomen and their ideas as “far left,” seeing it as a potential foundation of a sweeping critique of Democrats in 2020. In an appearance on Fox News, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called the four “a bunch of communists,” a step beyond the president, who said he was at the moment only willing to go so far as calling them “socialists.”

Both the willingness of Republicans to attach extremist labels to Democrats and the Democratic assault against Mr. Trump as a racist and white supremacist presage a particularly bitter 2020 campaign.

Even those lawmakers who took Mr. Trump to task were careful to underscore their differences with the political and policy views of the House Democrats at the center of the storm — Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the few Republicans who has criticized Mr. Trump since he became president, told a Boston TV station that while the president might have gone too far, “I certainly feel that a number of these new members of Congress have views that are not consistent with my experience and not consistent with building a strong America.”

“I couldn’t disagree more with these congresswomen’s views on immigration, socialism, national security and virtually every policy issue,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. “But they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be.”

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who faces a potentially difficult re-election campaign next year, sought to dodge the debate over the president’s comments and focus on the differences between the parties. “The reality is I want to shift back to the issues and the America they represent versus the America that I want to see,” Mr. Tillis told reporters.

The rapid approach of the 2020 campaign has drawn Mr. Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill closer as the lawmakers see their fate inextricably linked to the president, diminishing any possibility that they would break from Mr. Trump.

And the spotlight put on the Democratic presidential candidates and the advocacy by some of them for eliminating private health insurance in favor of a government program, sweeping revisions in the tax code and the institution of liberal immigration policies have galvanized Republicans.

They see Mr. Trump, as outrageous and unpredictable as he might be, as far preferable to any of the Democrats.

“I’m not going to vote for a socialist,” said Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, perhaps the most endangered Republican in the Senate, who has made clear he is firmly allied with the president.

Republicans may cringe at some of Mr. Trump’s crude comments and insults. They may wince at his easily unmasked falsehoods. They may roll their eyes at his lack of understanding of government fundamentals. To many, his personality itself is off-putting. But he is now their guy.

Despite occasional rifts, Republicans have in the main tried to ignore Mr. Trump’s nearly daily Twitter battles.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, routinely refuses to engage when pressed about remarks by Mr. Trump that have electrified social media. Other Republicans say they do not see it as their job to be political pundits or to join with the news media and Democrats in castigating Mr. Trump. They also believe that, in most cases, the firestorm lasts only so long and will be quickly followed by the next iteration, making it pointless to get caught up in the repeating cycle.

(…)

Those hoping for a wide rupture between the president and the more conventional Republican politicians on Capitol Hill say they have finally come to terms with the reality that no break is in the offing with the economy prospering, the election looming and the Trump administration so far avoiding a cataclysmic foreign policy blunder.

“They have made their bed and are trying to sleep in it and hope they don’t have nightmares,” said William Kristol, the conservative Trump critic. “They don’t feel like they are paying a huge price.”

Mr. Kristol said he once believed that the combination of the 2018 election results, the extended government shutdown and the departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — a source of comfort for Republicans who feared Trump would do something rash with the military — might give congressional Republicans pause. But any deep distress that existed seems to have dissipated.

“I am more pessimistic about the notion that the Republican Party will throw off Trump than I was a year ago,” he said

Nobody who has watched Trump in the four years since he became a candidate for President, or indeed in the years immediately before that, can claim to be surprised by what this latest Twitterstorm reveals about the President. This, after all, is the same person who engaged in housing discrimination in the 1970s. The same person who in the 1990s took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty for the so-called Central Park Five, a group of five African-American teens who were falsely convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park. Even to this day, Trump refuses to apologize for that position and refuses to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of their innocence. It’s the same candidate who first dipped his toes in the political waters by embracing the racist birther conspiracy. When he became a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, he did so by attacking Mexicans, Muslimsdisabled people, a Federal District Court Judge who happened to be Mexican-American and a Gold Star Family who happened to be Muslim.  In response to N.F.L. players who were peacefully kneeling to protest racially biased police violence, he responded by calling the largely African-American players “sons of bitches.” Both during the campaign and since becoming President, he has used campaign-style speeches to turn his crowds of supporters into raving lunatics by throwing them red meat on the most divisive issues facing the nation. More importantly, he has done so not only knowingly but with a rather obvious sense of glee at the chaos that he is causing.

Trump continued to openly display his racism after becoming President, most notably in response to the Nuremberg-style rally in Charlottesville that occurred two years ago that resulted in the death of a young woman. In the wake of that rally, the purported intent of which was to protest against plans by the city to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a prominent location in the city, it quickly became obvious what the real intent of the rally was. Rather than being just a simple rally about a statue, the event clearly had overtones of a Nazi rally at Nuremberg in the 1930s with Nazi-era slogans like “Blood and Soil!” and “The Jews will not replace us!” chanted by torch-bearing me. The events, of course, took on a national tone thanks to the President’s response to the tragic events of that Saturday.

In his initial response, Trump blamed ‘both sides’ for the violence, referred to the participants in the rally as “very fine people,” and  refused to directly condemn groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which was present at the rally, or the broader so-called alt-right movement whose supporters made up the vast majority of the participants. The outrage over these comments was sufficiently broad, even from fellow Republicans in Washington, that the White House was compelled to have Trump deliver a follow-up comment the following Monday that was more measured and emphatic than what he had said before. Whatever damage had been repaired by that statement, though, was short-lived, though, because less than twenty-four hours later Trump repeated his ‘both sides’ argument in a press conference at Trump Tower in New York and then repeated it again a month later in the wake of a meeting purportedly intended to discuss race with Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate. Last year, near the one-year anniversary of the incident, the President doubled down on his assertion that his initial reaction was the correct one.

No Republican or conservative who has been paying attention can claim to be surprised or shocked at this latest display of racism and xenophobia on the part of this President, and the fact that nearly all of them are defending him and repeating his unhinged attacks on four relatively powerless Members of Congress shows exactly where they, the Republican Party, and conservatism stand today. During the campaign, I argued that Republicans were facing a time for choosing between their country and their party and, by and large, they chose to put their party’s interests before their country, thus we are faced with the prospect of this man being President for at least the next year and a half.

It didn’t have to be this way. Republicans on Capitol Hill and around the country could have stood up and spoken out at any time over the past four years about the President’s vulgarity, xenophobia, and obvious racism. Instead, they have for the most part chosen to stand by and let him get away with what he is doing in the name That doesn’t mean, though, that Republicans are required to sit idly by and tolerate whatever nonsense may spew forth from the White House and the President’s Twitter account, though. If they chose to, they could stand up and denounce him by name. With very few exceptions, though, that isn’t happening. Instead, we see Republican officials saying all the right things about denouncing the hatred that came out in Charlottesville but failing to denounce by name the President who has implicitly endorsed that hatred. As long as that continues, their party will continued to be tied to Donald Trump, and the consequences for that, though it may be some time before they emerge, are likely to be quite severe.

In the past, both James Joyner and I have pointed out that the Republican Party is now Trump’s party. It’s times like this that make that clearer than ever. Any pretense that Republicans may have had that they were tolerating Trump in the name of getting Judges and Justices, or tax cuts, or to ‘repair and replace’ Obamacare is laid bare in the fact that they are now openly or tacitly defending a racist. The fact that this is happening in a party that was established to support the abolition of slavery is just another sad example of what has happened to a party and a conservative movement that cares more about power than principles, and more about party than country.

Why Republican Leaders Won’t Condemn Trump

This work is in the Public Domain, CC0

It’s frustrating to those of us who long supported the Republican Party that essentially none of its delegation in Congress have been willing to condemn President Trump’s bigotry. Obviously, some outright agree with him and many, like the spineless Lindsey Graham, are simply afraid to risk the outrage of primary voters. But there’s more to it than that.

CNN’s Harry Enten argues “Most moderate GOP voices on immigration were wiped out in the 2018 Democratic wave.”

It would be easy to say the minimal response from Republican lawmakers is because they don’t go after Trump in general. But that ignores Republicans who vocally disagree with him on trade, for example.

We can peg Republican silence (for the most part) on the fact that many Republicans who might be willing to go after Trump on issues related to immigration are no longer in Congress. They either retired, died or were beaten in the 2018 midterm elections.

Last year, I looked at a group of 23 of the most pro-immigration House Republicans. These were lawmakers “who signed onto a discharge position to force a vote on a bill that would have created a [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program] fix,” after Trump terminated DACAthrough an executive order and asked Congress to act.

Of this group of 23, 14 (61%) are no longer in the House, including Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Of those nine remaining, a number have come out against the President. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas called Trump’s tweet “racist.” Rep. John Katko of New York said, “The President’s tweets were wrong.” Another, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, said he was “appalled by the President’s tweets.”

Outside of this group, a low percentage of Republicans commented on the President’s tweets. One of the few was Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, who said they were “racist.” Rogers, like many of that group of 23, has a history of taking more moderate positions on immigration.

[…]

Turner’s record is closer to those Republicans in 2018 whose seats are now held by Democrats. Among that group, their average score was a C+. Additionally, eight of the 16 who had a D or worse are no longer serving.
In other words, the House lost a lot of moderate Republican voices on immigration.

We see basically the same pattern when we expand our analysis to the Senate. The elected Republican senators who stepped down, died or were defeated in 2018 tended to be more moderate on immigration. Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi (C+), Bob Corker of Tennessee (C+), Jeff Flake of Arizona (C-), Orrin Hatch of Utah (C), Dean Heller of Nevada (C) and John McCain of Arizona (D) were all below the average Republican senator’s score of a B.

Now, you can obviously critique Trump’s tweets, even if you are hawkish on immigration. Rep. Pete Olson of Texas did so.

For most Republican lawmakers, however, there isn’t much electoral incentive to call out the President. Just three Republican House members in Congress are from districts Trump lost in 2016. That means most of the electoral pressure comes from intraparty (i.e. a primary). Only 11% of Republican voters nationally called Trump racist in a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll. Just 15% of Republicans disapproved of Trump’s job performance on immigration in a June 2019 CNN poll.

Arguably, that’s just cowardice by another name. But it’s also circular: the party leadership is more supportive of Trump because moderates either lost to Trumpists in the 2018 primaries or to Democrats in the 2018 general.

Enten’s colleague Ron Brownstein points to an additional, related factor: “Republicans represent almost none of the places most immigrants live.”

President Donald Trump’s openly racist and xenophobic attacks on four Democratic House women of color, like his threatened immigration enforcement raids in major cities and the sweeping proposed new restrictions on asylum seekers that he announced Monday, underscores his transformation of the Republican Party into a coalition centered on the voters and places in America most hostile to immigration in particular and demographic change in general.

This latest flurry of activity continues the drive by Trump and other Republicans elected mostly from the parts of America least touched by immigration to impose a restrictionist agenda on migration over the nearly undivided opposition of Democrats elected by the areas where most immigrants, both undocumented and legal, actually live. Though greeted without complaint by Republicans in Congress, Trump’s promised raids provoked astoundingly open resistance from the mayors of virtually every large American city, from New York and Los Angeles to Chicago and Houston.

[…]

This week’s stark divide on both fronts, coming immediately after battles that also polarized the parties over Trump’s border detention policies and his failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, crystallize how Trump is accelerating a long gestating shift in the axis of American politics from class interests to cultural attitudes.

As I’ve written before, attitudes toward demographic, cultural and economic change have become the central fault line between the parties. Republicans mobilize what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration” centered on older, blue-collar, evangelical and non-urban whites who polls show are uneasy or frightened about the fundamental demographic, cultural and even economic trends reshaping America in the 21st century.

Democrats counter with a competing “coalition of transformation” revolving around the groups — young adults, minorities, singles, secular voters, and college-educated whites, mostly concentrated in large metropolitan areas — who are most comfortable with the change.

“Clearly we’re headed down a path where there is one party for older white Americans and then there’s another party for people of color and immigrants,” says Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican US representative who was defeated last fall in a heavily diverse Miami-area district. “And this is very dangerous. It divides our society in a dangerous way. It paralyzes our political system.”

Both parties have doubled down on appealing to their base, seeing that as more fruitful than courting the mythical moderate voter. While both focus too much for my tastes on identity politics, at least the Democratic version has the virtue of trying to expand the American ideal rather than hew to an outdated vision of it. While both are too intolerant of diverging viewpoints, I prefer an over-eagerness to charge bigotry against those insufficiently woke to, well, bigotry.

The silver lining, perhaps, is that at least some Republican leaders seem to understand that this is all bad for the party.

Over at POLITICO, Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan note that “After a day of silence, many GOP lawmakers harshly criticized the president.” They argue that Trump’s scurrilous attacks on minority Democratic lawmakers came as a shock.

The ambush plunged Trump back into a political crisis with his own party, with no coherent GOP response and little apparent coordination between the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill over how to grapple with Trump’s comments that the liberal lawmakers, all women of color, “go back” to where they came from.

Senate GOP leaders briefly discussed the matter on Monday afternoon in a private meeting as they compared their responses to the tweets, according to two attendees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave no indication of how he plans to respond at his weekly news conference on Tuesday.

That largely left it up to GOP senators and House members to devise their own responses to Trump’s latest firestorm. And so after a day of silence, congressional Republicans began to harshly criticize the president — with some GOP lawmakers decrying his comments as “racist” and calling on him to apologize and delete his tweets.

Monday’s pushback marked some of the strongest condemnations Trump’s received from his party, which began with a trickle and then widened as Trump escalated his attacks in remarks to reporters.

“Yeah, I do,” Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of GOP leadership, said when asked whether Trump’s tweets attacking the House Democrats were racist. “They are American citizens.”

Several additional GOP lawmakers, such as Rep. Mike Turner of -Ohio, called Trump’s comments “racist,” a description rarely used against the president by members of the GOP.

Others wouldn’t go that far, but Republicans were downcast Monday as they moved to respond to the president’s remarks, which Trump refused to back away from. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called Trump’s comments “a mistake, an unforced error” but said he does not “think the president’s a racist,” declining to elaborate.

And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he would vote to condemn Trump’s tweets if such a measure came before the Senate, adding that straying from the unifying principles of the United States “for political purpose is, in my opinion, a very grave mistake.”

“A lot of people have been using the word [racist]. My own view is, that what was said and what was tweeted was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying and, frankly, was very wrong,” Romney said. “It’s clearly destructive and it has the potential to being dangerous as well.”

Alas, even that tepid criticism was often tempered with bothsiderism.

Still, much of the congressional GOP is still navigating the episode gingerly — trying to break with Trump’s rhetoric while avoiding blowback from the president. It’s a familiar quandary made more difficult than most of the daily controversies of the Trump presidency given the inflammatory nature of his latest statements.

“It just really, really grates on him that they are beating on the people at the border trying to do the best they can,” said Graham, who largely defended Trump on Monday. “The rhetoric is over the top. But the underlying problem is real.”

As much as I hate it, Trump is the face of my old party. And Graham is its spine.

Hat tip to Taegan Goddard for all three links.

Republicans Learned Right Lesson from 2012, Went Wrong Direction

Kevin Drum points out that the famous “autopsy” conducted by the Republican National Committee after Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama correctly identified the GOP’s problem and pointed to the logical conclusion:

In 1980, exit polls tell us that the electorate was 88 percent white. In 2012, it was 72 percent white….According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2050, whites will be 47 percent of the country….The Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.

Rather obviously, they . . . did. not. do. that. not do that.

Drum’s analysis as to why not:

But there was always a glaring problem with this strategy, one that everybody was keenly aware of: reaching out to black voters would only work if Republicans also ceased their tolerance of white bigotry. In other words, they’d almost certainly lose votes on a net basis at first, which would mean handing over the presidency—and maybe much more—to Democrats for upwards of a decade or so. That’s just too big a sacrifice for any political party to make.

So instead they took another route: they went after the white vote even harder. In Donald Trump they found a candidate who wasn’t afraid to appeal to racist sentiment loudly and bluntly, something that simply hadn’t occurred to other Republicans. They never thought they could get away with something like this in the 21st century, and normally they would have been right: it would have lost them as many votes among educated whites as it won them among working-class whites. But after eight years of a black president in the White House, racial tensions were ratcheted up just enough that Trump could get away with it. Only by a hair, and only with plenty of other help, but he did get away with it, losing 10 points of support among college-educated whites but gaining 14 points among working-class whites.

The entire Republican Party is now all-in on this strategy. They mostly stay quiet themselves and let Trump himself do the dirty work, but that’s enough. Nobody talks anymore about reaching out to the black community with a spirit of caring or any other spirit. Nor is there anything the rest of us can do about this. Republicans believe that wrecking the fabric of the country is their only hope of staying in power, and they’re right. If working-class whites abandon them even a little bit, they’re toast.

Now, I think that’s slightly off. Mostly, because it treats the GOP as though it were a tightly-controlled organization rather than a decentralized collective.

The people who commissioned the post-2012 autopsy likely knew the answer ahead of time and were, I think, genuinely ready to steer the party in the right direction. The problem is that there is no party to steer.

Reince Priebus, who was RNC chair from January 2011 until resigning to become President Trump’s first chief of staff in 2017, was more apparatchik than ideologue. He focused most of his energy into streamlining the party’s fundraising, communications, and organization. But he understood early on that the party needed to move in the direction the “autopsy” would recommend.

For ease of effort, I’m relying here on Wikipedia’s summary of his tenure:

After the Republican loss in the 2012 presidential election, Priebus called for Republicans to embrace comprehensive immigration reform that would afford illegal immigrants in the U.S. legal status.[38] He also ordered reviews of RNC operations, including the party’s messaging to young people, women, and Hispanics.[39] The analysis of the election cycle would include gathering feedback from numerous volunteers and staffers who were involved at various levels.[40][41] He began development of a political plan including a long-term strategy to reach demographic groups that had voted mainly Democratic in the November 2012 elections. The plan was labeled “The Growth and Opportunity Project”.[37] […]

For Priebus’s second term he set the goal of “transforming the party – to be a force from coast to coast.”[44] In his re-election speech he stated that the party would no longer approach electoral politics from a “red and blue state” perspective.[44]

On March 18, 2013, Priebus presented the completed Growth and Opportunity Project report developed from a listening tour and four-month analysis[45] carried out by Priebus and Republican strategists including Ari Fleischer, Henry Barbour, Sally Bradshaw, Zori Fonalledas and Glenn McCall.[37] The report outlined a comprehensive plan for the party to overhaul its operations.[45] Specific plans outlined in the report included: improving the Republican Party’s digital and research capabilities; a $10 million outreach effort to minority communities; supporting immigration reform; and reducing the length of the presidential primary season.[45] […]

Also following the Growth and Opportunity Project report (also called “the autopsy” and “the post-mortem”[52]), Priebus led efforts to reach out to black, Latino and Asian American voters. In July 2014, he spoke at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, where he said that to support these efforts the Republican Party was spending approximately $8.5 million per month and had established offices in 15 states.[53]

But the 2016 campaign demonstrated how little control the RNC has over the party:

In December 2015, Priebus publicly criticized then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to temporarily suspend Muslim immigration in response to terrorist attacks. “I don’t agree”, Priebus told The Washington Examiner.[68] Following Trump’s controversial remarks about Mexican illegal immigrants in early 2015, Priebus reportedly delivered a “stern 40-minute lecture” to Trump.[69] In May 2016, Priebus again publicly criticized Trump, saying Trump was not the head of the Republican Party and that Trump must “change his tone.”[70]

On August 1, 2016, after Trump criticized the Gold Star family of Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq and whose father criticized Trump, Priebus yet again criticized Trump publicly, stating “I think this family should be off limits, and we love them and I can’t imagine being the father of a little girl and boy going through the unbelievable grief of them not coming home one day in battle.”[71]

A December 8, 2016, New York magazine article by Gabriel Sherman reported that “some Trump advisers are dismayed by Priebus’s influence because they question the Washington insider’s loyalty to the president-elect … Three sources told me that shortly after the Access Hollywood tape leaked in early October, Priebus went to Trump’s penthouse and advised the candidate to get out of the race,” Sherman reported. This article contains no named sources aside from two members of the current Trump administration, both of whom were cited to clear discrepancies in the otherwise unsourced article.[72] Priebus announced days afterward in October that the RNC would continue to support Trump.[73]*

Priebus would almost certainly have preferred a more mainstream nominee than Trump. But he had limited tools, indeed, to shape the outcome.

Moreover, I think many of the state-level Republican apparatuses made the calculation Drum describes. That is, whether they agreed with Priebus and company about what was good for the party in the long run, they calculated that their present interests were best served by a combination of race-baiting, nativism, and voter suppression.

That it wound up working in 2016 was, frankly, a fluke.

Trump was and is sui generis in his ability to generate free publicity from the news media. Further, whether by luck or design, scandals that would fell any other candidate merely graze him because there are so many that people grew weary of paying attention. And Hillary Clinton had been in the spotlight so long and accumulated so much baggage that Democratic enthusiasm was unusually low.

Voter suppression efforts likely helped turn a statewide race or three in the 2018 midterms but the tide continues to turn overall. A handful of historically red states, including my own home state of Virginia, have turned purple if not blue and none have gone in the other direction. (Going back a bit further, California, by far our most populous state, went from reliably Republican to reliably Democratic.) Texas is likely to flip within a couple of cycles unless the GOP can find a way to appeal to Latino voters.

The lessons of 2012, then, continue to apply. Trump’s racism/nativism and the failure of all but a handful of Republican leaders to condemn it have not only delayed the necessary course correction but made it far more difficult.

______________________________

*I’ve left in the footnote indicators. While I didn’t click the links for verification, a glance at the sources shows them to be mostly solid (there are a few Newsmax-type stories mixed in) and the narrative comports with my own recollection of events.

Washington, D.C. Wants Reimbursement For Costs Of Trump’s July 4th Rally

The District of Columbia is asking the Federal Government to reimburse the city for the costs it incurred during President Trump’s self-congratulatory July 4th event:

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked President Donald Trump to reimburse the city for approximately $1.7 million in costs related to his July 4 “Salute to America” celebration that featured military displays and a Trump speech.

Bowser said in a letter to Trump dated Tuesday that the city’s expenses for the celebration, including police assigned to demonstrations, will further deplete an emergency fund intended to protect the nation’s capital from terrorism and to provide security for special events. The mayor said the fund, which was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses related to Trump’s 2017 inauguration, would have a $6 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year in September.

“As we continue to gather estimates for the next Inauguration, we ask your help with ensuring the residents of the District of Columbia are not asked to cover millions of dollars of federal expenses and are able to maintain our high standards of protections for federal events,” Bowser wrote.

Trump’s Salute to America has drawn heavy criticism for injecting politics into what has traditionally been a nonpartisan celebration, and for its military extravagance.

Last week, it was reported that the National Park Service would divert $2.5 million from its already strapped budget to help pay for Trump’s holiday celebration. The Defense Department said this week it spent $1.2 million on Trump’s festivities, not including costs borne by service branches for flyovers and other expenses.

Mayor Bowser was joined in her request by House Democrats, although it’s unclear if they are putting together any legislation on the matter:

Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Friday sent a letter to President Trump asking that he reimburse a special D.C. government security fund that was exhausted by the president’s overhauled Fourth of July celebration and demonstrations through the holiday weekend.

The letter — signed by committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress — reinforces a similar request made of Trump earlier this week by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).

District officials say Trump’s “Salute to America” event on Independence Day cost the city about $1.7 million for security and logistics — six times the cost in past years. Combined with additional police expenses for a set of volatile demonstrations that took place July 6, the event drained a fund used to protect the nation’s capital from terrorist threats and provide security at events such as rallies and visits by foreign leaders.

The letter urges the president to repay the fund for the July 4 costs and the $7.3 million that was never reimbursed from Trump’s 2017 inauguration, expressing “concern about the financial impact that your hastily-produced expansion of recent July 4 celebrations had on the budgetary resources for key security measures in the District of Columbia.”

“The security of Congress, the White House, and federal agencies in the D.C. area requires a partnership between the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia,” the letter states. “We ask that you stand by this partnership to ensure the District, its citizens, visitors, and the federal officials who work here are provided the proper and adequate protection.”

Without that reimbursement, D.C. residents will be put in the unprecedented position of funding federal security needs with local tax dollars after Sept. 30, city officials say.

A White House spokesman declined to comment Friday on the new letter. In a statement earlier this week, spokesman Judd Deere said the Trump administration was reviewing Bowser’s letter and would respond to it.
Trump’s rebranded and reorganized Independence Day event entailed millions in new costs for local and federal agencies. The celebration included a flyover by military aircraft, a display of armored vehicles on the Mall and a speech by the president at the Lincoln Memorial. Fireworks were moved to West Potomac Park.

The Pentagon estimated this week that it spent $1.2 million for the event. In a letter Wednesday to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Interior Secretary David Bernhardt confirmed he had diverted $2.8 million from existing accounts to cover expenses associated with “Salute to America.”

Bernhardt tapped $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees, intended to improve parks across the country, to cover the president’s ceremony, along with $354,000 from a challenge-grant program to pay for fireworks-related expenses.

The District’s Emergency Planning and Security Fund was already headed into the red by the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Trump’s Lincoln Memorial event, as well as the relocation of the fireworks from their traditional spot on the mall, came as something of a surprise to District legislators and added to the expenses that the city was already incurring thanks to the annual concert that takes place on the South Lawn of the Capitol Building. Holding both events at nearly the same time, along with other events going on that day on the National Mall, meant that the city’s security budget, already stretched thin, was essentially bankrupted with the addition of the President’s event. The problem is made worse by the fact that the city still has not been reimbursed for costs associated with Trump’s 2017 Inauguration, which total some $7 million, despite the fact that it has been more than two years since that happened. It’s unclear if that reimbursement is supposed to come from the Federal Government or the Trump Inaugural Committee.

In any case, this is an issue that the District faces on a regular basis due to the fact that it is the site of the Capitol. This means that it ends up incurring expenses that aren’t directly related to city functions and which are, for better or worse, directly related to the fact that it is the capital of the United States. In that sense, it’s an issue that would exist regardless of the status of the District’s representation in Congress, although it would arguably have more clout if it actually had a vote in the House of Representatives. That being said, there’s no good reason why District residents should be expected to pay for these things out of taxpayer funds. This is especially true when it comes to something such as the July 4th rally hosted by the President, which was little more than a vainglorious exercise of self-congratulatory nonsense on the part of a President who loves to use the military to make himself look better.

On Foreign Policy, Biden Is The Anti-Trump

Former Vice-President Joe Biden made the first major foreign policy address of his campaign for the Democratic nomination, seeking to highlight what many believe is a distinct area of advantage for him over his challengers:

After spending two weeks sparring with his presidential primary opponents, Joseph R. Biden Jr. sought once more to rise above the Democratic fray on Thursday, delivering a sweeping foreign policy address that denounced President Trump as incapable of global leadership and called for a new commitment to multilateral diplomacy.

In broad but unequivocal terms, Mr. Biden offered a scathing assessment of Mr. Trump’s leadership, saying the president’s judgment has tarnished the country’s reputation abroad and undermined its ability to achieve its foreign policy goals. As a counterpoint, Mr. Biden set forth his own foreign policy vision that he said was needed to restore America’s position as a global leader, including working with other countries toward collective aims.

“The threat that I believe President Trump poses to our national security and where we are as a country is extreme,” Mr. Biden said in a midday speech in New York City. He criticized the president’s “chest-thumping” and called him inept at global and domestic leadership.

Returning again and again to themes of democracy and American values, Mr. Biden delivered a message of unity over division and promised to reverse many of Mr. Trump’s decisions. He referred to President Barack Obama, for whom he served as vice president for eight years, with a tone that seemed intended to soothe and fortify voters disenchanted with Mr. Trump’s brash style of statecraft and “America First” philosophy. Mr. Biden spoke of American values — freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press — and alluded to the Statue of Liberty.

Among his specific proposals was a plan to convene and host a summit of the world’s democracies in his first year as president “to put strengthening democracy back on the global stage.”

“Leaders who attend must come prepared to cooperate and make concrete commitments to take on corruption and advance human rights in their own nations,” Mr. Biden said. The summit, he said, would also challenge the private sector, including technology companies and social media giants, to commit to countering both censorship and the spread of hate.

Mr. Biden said he would also rejoin the Paris climate accord as a component of his global plan to confront climate change, and he pledged to reverse Mr. Trump’s “detrimental asylum policies.”

“If we focus, this is not a moment to fear,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s a time for us to tap into the strength and audacity that took us to victory in two world wars and brought down the Iron Curtain.”

The former vice president’s initiatives would constitute a renewed embrace of multilateralism, and a rebuke of Mr. Trump’s policy of spurning international agreements and denigrating institutions like NATO.

Mr. Biden’s speech on Thursday also represented an effort to bring the campaign back to where he is most comfortable: above the crowded Democratic field, seeking to cast the contest as a head-to-head matchup against Mr. Trump.

In a seven-page fact sheet that accompanied Mr. Biden’s speech, he provided a three-pronged blueprint for accomplishing his foreign policy agenda, including specific early actions he would undertake as president, both domestically and abroad. He pledged, for instance, to reform the criminal justice system and to dedicate resources to protect the election system — a nod to the foreign meddling that bedeviled the 2016 presidential election. He also vowed to end family separation at the southern border and to discontinue Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

“Democracy is the root of our society, the wellspring of our power, and the source of our renewal,” he wrote. “It strengthens and amplifies our leadership to keep us safe in the world. It is the engine of our ingenuity that drives our economic prosperity. It is the heart of who we are and how we see the world — and how the world sees us.”

From the outset, Mr. Biden assailed Mr. Trump for his cozy relationships with authoritarian leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea. “He undermines our Democratic alliances while embracing dictators who appeal to his vanity,” Mr. Biden said of the president. “Make no mistake about it — the world sees Trump for what he is: insincere, ill-informed and impulsive.”

He also criticized Mr. Trump’s approach to China, saying the president’s plan was shortsighted while China was “playing the long game.”

“We need to get tough with China,” he said. “The most effective way that we need to change is to build a united front of friends and partners to challenge China’s abusive behavior, even as we seek to deepen cooperation on issues where our interests are converged like climate change and preventing nuclear proliferation,” he said.

Jennifer Rubin gives Biden’s speech a mostly positive review:

Biden’s main message was that Trump has — by his impulsive actions and refusal to stand for democratic values — given up our position in the world, hurt our alliances, made it hard to enlist our friends and made us less secure. Perhaps with an eye toward polls showing Americans care most about what is happening at home, he argued that “foreign policy is domestic policy and domestic policy is foreign policy.” He proceeded to explain what had been lost with Trump’s “chest thumping.” And from the time that Trump equated Nazis and neo-Nazis with counterprotesters in Charlottesville; and to Helsinki, when the president gave one of the most “shameful” performances by a president on foreign soil in taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side over our own intelligence services. Biden argues that Trump undermines our democratic alliances by appealing to dictators who “play to his vanity.” Foreign leaders know who Trump is, and as a result, we’ve lost their respect. He vowed to tell the world, “We do not coddle dictators. . . . There will be no more Charlottesvilles, no more Helsinkis.”

“America First,” Biden argued, too often means “America alone.” As we have lost allies, illiberal regimes are gaining influence. Freedom is under attack but Trump “seems to be on the other team,” Biden asserted, and bereft of anything to offer besieged democracies.

It is in our “enlightened self-interest” to enhance and support democracy, which is the basis for our alliances and the source of our economy and ingenuity.

Biden made the case that our democracy at home must be strengthened to reassert our leadership internationally. That means everything from education reform to criminal-justice reform to voting rights to anti-corruption efforts to campaign finance reform, even to regular news conferences. Biden also argued that we must restore our moral position in the world which, in turn, means pursuing a long list of immigration reforms (e.g., end child separations and the travel ban) and supporting women’s rights around the world.

Biden pointed to his own role in founding member of the Transtlantic Commission on Election Integrity to fight back against Russia’s attacks on Western democracies, which included a pledge committing to transparency in campaign finance and to reject the use of fabricated or hacked material. The Democratic front-runner called on his presidential rivals to sign that pledge as well.

He then presented an original idea: A global summit for democracy during his first year in office to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world. The summit participants would focus on: fighting corruption; defending against authoritarianism, including election security; and advancing human rights in their own nations and abroad. Biden said he would implore civil society organizations to enlist these ideals in the cause of preserving open democracies and free speech.

Daniel Larison, meanwhile is somewhat more sanguine, calling the speech “Ho-Hum”:

Biden made some fair points about Trump’s embrace of authoritarian rulers, and I certainly won’t argue with him when he describes the president as “dangerously incompetent.” But then the former vice president went overboard by claiming that if he is president he would “remind the world that we are the United States of America and we do not coddle dictators.” If Biden wants to argue that the U.S. should no longer coddle dictators, he will get no complaints from me, but as a description of what our government has done prior to Trump it is simply a fairy tale. This points to one of the weaknesses in Biden’s anti-Trump argument. He wants to attack Trump as being unlike, and much worse than, any other president before him, and so he has to invent a mythical past that lets many previous presidents off the hook for similar or worse abuses. It also reinforces the impression that Biden’s candidacy amounts to an attempt to go back before 2016 and pretend that our political class hadn’t been failing for decades before Trump showed up on the scene. Biden’s framing sends a message of complacency and lack of imagination, and for a candidate who already seems to be out of step with his party that is the last message he should want to be conveying.

It should be possible to attack Trump on his record without whitewashing all of pre-2016 U.S. foreign policy as Biden did. Then again, Biden may not want people thinking about his role in pre-2016 U.S. foreign policy, and that points us to another weakness of his candidacy.

(…)

Biden’s foreign policy speech contained some decent pledges, but its coverage of foreign policy issues was scattershot. No single speech can address all important issues, but despite Biden’s frequent disapproving references to Putin and his one statement about New START I have no idea what Biden’s proposed Russia policy would be. He name-checked some countries and mentioned Latin America in passing, but he said nothing about the crisis in Venezuela or what he would differently in response to it. He berated Trump for being too cozy with authoritarian rulers, but he didn’t tell us how U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt would differ if he became president. He checked off the box of endorsing continued aid to Israel, but had nothing to say about the illegal occupation, the settlements, or Trump’s recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights. Even if we grant that Biden was painting in broad strokes about general principles, his foreign policy platform seems weirdly underdeveloped and half-baked for someone who has worked on these issues for decades.

It goes without saying that the President who follow Trump, whether that comes in 2021 or, lord help us, 2025, will have much repair work to do regarding the damage that this President has done to our domestic institutions and political norms. Perhaps even more important than that, though, and it is vitally important, is addressing the damage that Trump has done to our standing in the world, to our alliances, to the causes of human rights and the Rule of Law internationally, and to our vital national interests. Previous Presidents have made foreign policy mistakes, of course, but with the exception of George W. Bush’s decision to engage in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, none of them have engaged in policies that have inflicted so much damage in so little time.

As I’ve said before, you don’t have to be a foreign policy genius to recognize the fact that Trump’s foreign policy has been a failure and that he’s done immense damage to our national interest and our international credibility. t doesn’t take a foreign policy genius to recognize the fact that this President is acting far differently, and far more destructively than even the worst of his predecessors in the years since World War II. This is, after all, a President who has spent the better part of his two and a half years in office doing everything that he can to ruin our relationships with allies such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan, something that I have made note of several times here at OTB — see hereherehere, and here  — and the extent to which he has succeeded in driving a wedge between the United States and its most important allies. Additionally, he has repudiated international agreements that were working as they were intended to such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Accords, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and thereby sent the message that the United States simply cannot be trusted to keep its agreements or to be the force for international stability. He has largely abandoned the idea that the United States should stand out as a champion of human rights and the Rule Of Law, and looked the other way while authoritarian rulers such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Mohammed bin Salman murder journalists, dissidents, and anyone who threatens their hold on power. He has expressed obvious admiration for dictators in Russia, China, North Korea, Egypt, The Philippines, and Saudi Arabia. Finally, he has demonstrated that he has no understanding of the norms of diplomacy and shows no inclination of wanting Given all of this, one must say that Ambassador Darroch’s words are if anything, understated and even a bit too diplomatic.

Even if Trump ends up being a one-term President, repairing all of this is going to be something of a full-time job for his successor and it is going to require a President and foreign policy team that knows what they are doing from day one. This is where the former Vice-President has an advantage over all of his opponents. There is quite simply nobody in the field who has the experience in foreign policy that Biden does. In addition to his eight years as President Obama’s Vice-President, during his more than 30 years in the Senate Biden was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served as either the Ranking Member or the Chairman of that committee from 1997 forward through 2008 depending on whether or not the Democrats held majority control of the Senate. While Larison is correct to note that he was frequently mistaken at some points during this period, especially in his vote for the war in In Iraq, that experience puts him well ahead of any of his challengers for the nomination on this issue, and clearly the only Democrat running who would not require on-the-job training in the area of foreign policy. Given the work that will need to be done to clean up the mess that Trump would leave behind if he was forced to leave office in 2021, that arguably makes Biden the best candidate for the job.

As for the specifics of Biden’s speech, there is much about Biden’s speech that I find myself agreeing with. Specifically, his call for an end to America’s “forever wars” is one that is long overdue, as is his call for an end to the Saudi-led genocidal war on Yemen. Larison is correct to note, of course, that Biden was part of an Administration that extended those forever wars and that it was under the Obama Administration began its war on its southern neighbor with the acquiescence of the United States. However, this speech seems to me to indicate that Biden has learned the lessons of those years. In any case, as I said we’re going to need a President who knows what they’re doing on the world stage from day one if we’re going to repair the damage that Trump has done. With this speech, Biden has made a strong argument in his favor.

Here’s the video of Biden’s speech:

Trump Unleashes Racist Twitter Attack On Democratic Congresswomen

Inserting himself in the middle of a dispute that had developed between the Democratic Leadership in the House and more progressive members of Congress such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, President Trump called out four Freshman Congresswoman, telling them to go back where they came from:

President Trump said Sunday that four minority, liberal congresswomen who have been critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” prompting other Democrats — including Pelosi — to rally to their defense.

Pelosi denounced Trump’s tweets as “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation.”

Trump’s remark, made in morning tweets, comes as the infighting between Pelosi and the four freshman women of color — Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) — has spilled into public view. It also comes as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are preparing to round up migrant families that have received deportation orders across the country.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted.

Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Tlaib was born in Detroit and Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York — about 20 miles from where Trump was born. Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia; her family fled the country amid civil war when she was a child, and she became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

All four women won election to Congress in 2018.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump suggested that the four Democrats should leave Washington.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” he said. “Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Trump’s tweets prompted a sharp response from Pelosi, who described them as racist and divisive.

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” she said in a tweet. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”
She also called on Trump to halt the planned ICE raids on Sunday and “work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values.”

Other Democrats also responded with outrage, with some pointing out Trump’s history of birtherism as well as the fact that the president’s wife, Melania, immigrated to the United States. Melania Trump immigrated from Slovenia in 1996 for modeling.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who is running for president, called Trump’s tweets “another effort to divide people along lines of religion, ethnicity, origin, and create a country where there can’t be unity.”

“Unfortunately, there’s an American tradition of telling people to go back where they came from,” de Blasio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a very bad tradition that we need to weed out of our nation, because we are a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are by our nature for hundreds of years. But you don’t expect to hear it from the president of the United States.”

Here are the President’s Tweets:

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As noted, of the four Congresswomen that Trump attacked in these tweets, three of them were born in the United States. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, was born in New York City to parents of Puerto Rican origin, meaning that she still would have been an American citizen even if she had been born where her parents “came from.” Ayanna Pressley, meanwhile, is African-American and was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her family has most likely been in this country longer than Trump’s. Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan to Palestinian immigrant parents and has been a citizen of the United States from birth. Ilhan Omar, meanwhile, was born in Somalia and brought to the United States when she was 10 years-old as they fled the war-torn country and sought, and were ultimately granted, asylum in the United States. She became a citizen of the United States in 2000 at the age of 17.

Telling these women to “go back” where they came from is absurd and quite obviously based on the fact that they are dark-skinned and have what, at least to the members of his base, unusual names. As Dan Drezner stated on Twitter, there really is no other honest way to interpret what the President said here, and it is unfortunately consistent with things that he and his supporters have said in the past. For that reason, I suppose, it doesn’t come as a surprise, but it is nonetheless sad, distressing, and outrageous all at the same time. Had any other politician said this, people would be shocked and outrage. With Trump, it’s just another example of the “same shit, different day” pattern we’ve come to expect from Donald Trump. And the Republican Party seems to be entirely okay with it.

White House Science Policy Office Basically Shut Down (See Update)

Update: The CBS Report linked below is from 2017. I should have noticed that when I posted this. The OSTP has apparently been restaffed since then and its website is being updated on a regular basis. My apologies for the error.

The White House’s office in charge of science policy is basically shutdown:

WASHINGTON — The science division of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was unstaffed as of Friday as the three remaining employees departed this week, sources tell CBS News.

All three employees were holdovers from the Obama administration. The departures from the division — one of four subdivisions within the OSTP — highlight the different commitment to scientific research under Presidents Obama and Trump. 

Under Mr. Obama, the science division was staffed with nine employees who led the charge on policy issues such as STEM education, biotechnology and crisis response. It’s possible that the White House will handle these issues through staff in other divisions within the OSTP.

Kumar Garg, a former OSTP staffer under Mr. Obama, also tweeted, “By COB today, number of staffers in White House OSTP’s Science Division

“All of the work that we have been doing is still being done,” a White House official familiar with the matter told CBS News, adding that 35 staffers currently work across the OSTP. 

“Under the previous administration, OSTP had grown exponentially over what it had been before,” the official said. “Before the Obama administration, it had usually held 50 to 60 or so policy experts, director-level people, for all of OSTP.” 

The Obama administration staffed the OSTP with more than 100 employees.

Garg, the Obama-era OSTP staffer who tweeted Friday, said the size of the office under the Obama administration reflected Mr. Obama’s “strong belief in science, the growing intersection of science and technology in a range of policy issues, and as showcased in the OSTP exit memo, in a sweeping range of [science and technology] accomplishments by the Obama science team.”

 

Notwithstanding the White House’s claim that the work that was being done by the OSTP is being handled by other officials in the Administration, one can’t help but see this as yet another move by the Administration to quiet researchers and programs that run counter to Administration policy on issues like global climate change. The President’s attitude about that issue, which isn’t that different from the attitude of the most significant number of Republicans and conservatives. Not only do they disagree with the policies that some activists have put forward regarding this issue, they simply refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists at all despite all the evidence to the contrary and the consensus of the scientific community. That’s why it was so easy for the President to take steps such as backing out of the Paris Climate Accords and appointing climate change skeptics such as Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to position ostensibly charged with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and recommending environmental policy.

The effective closing of the OSTP is only one example of the extent to which science policy has taken a back seat under this President:

First established in 1976 by Congress, [the OSTP] is designed to provide the President and others with “advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics.”

We don’t know about you, but that sounds like a vital role to us. The roles should be filled quickly with qualified scientists, but it’s probably best not to hold your breath on this one. Frankly, it’s both shocking and unsurprising that the other 97 roles have not been filled during the transition between administrations, or at least soon after the changing of the guard was complete.

Many governmental scientific agencies have been threatened with massive and historic funding cuts; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being effectively stripped of its scientific advisory board; that is why federal scientists have been bullied to not to speak out about their research. Entire departments that focus on science and technology are being shut down.

As of June, around 85 percent of all scientific posts in the federal government, including an official scientific advisor to the President, were left unfilled. Perhaps uniquely, this percentage has now increased, what with the recent dismissals at the EPA and the new removals at the OSTP.

Given that Trumpism itself is a movement based on ignorance and the denial of reality, it’s not surprising that the Administration would not be placing scientific research and input on important policy issues where science is the most important part very high on its priority list. Some of it, no doubt, is reflective of the fact that, outside of the issues that constitute red meat for his increasingly rabid and rage-filled base, Trump is not interested in policy at all. However, the fact that such a large segment of that portion of the Executive Branch bureaucracy specifically devoted to science is basically being neglected leads one to the conclusion that it is deliberate on the part of the President.