The results of the Helsinki summit are in. President Trump couldn’t handle statecraft or, for that matter, double negatives, but he came out of the meeting undefeated and invincible. Like with the Charlottesville hatefest or the “Access Hollywood” tape, it was just another day at the office for Trump. Unlike the mocking balloon that soared over London, Trump never loses air.
The post-summit poll numbers are instructive. While 50 percent of Americans disapproved of the way Trump handled Vladimir Putin, his Republican base stayed both loyal and comatose. In a Post-ABC News poll, 66 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s performance. An earlier Axios-SurveyMonkey poll put the GOP figure at 79 percent, not only more impressive but also downright eerie.
It is safe to say that these numbers might have surprised even the shaken White House staffers who flew back to Washington with Trump. The commentariat was already on the air, reporting on the summit as if it were a multicar Beltway collision. Even Fox News was critical, and Newt Gingrich, whose wife is Trump’s ambassador to the Holy See, called the meeting “the most serious mistake” of Trump’s presidency — an extremely high bar.
National security adviser John Bolton got to work. On the plane, according to the Wall Street Journal, he went about the painful business of damage control and hammered out talking points advising Trump on how to reclaim reality. One idea was for Trump to assert his support for the U.S. intelligence community, the sort of prosaic statement, like a belief in God, that no president had ever had to make. Trump, of course, did so — and maintained this stance for almost a day.
There is such a thing, we are told, as Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is an ideological version of a speech disoder, which causes certain people to denounce Trump in obscene ways. It has come over the likes of Robert De Niro and, when it came to Ivanka Trump, Samantha Bee. It has prompted others to call Trump a traitor, which is a slanderous accusation too often used for crass political reasons. Sen. Joseph McCarthy called the Roosevelt-Truman administrations “20 years of treason.”
Yet, the more dangerous variant of the syndrome is the willingness of most Republicans to support Trump no matter what. One of the first outbreaks of this occurred in the 2016 South Carolina Republican primary, which Trump won handily. He did so running against fellow Republicans, not the reliably useful Hillary Clinton. He even swept the evangelical Christian vote, beating such staunch conservatives as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Ben Carson, both of whom have been married only once. The thrice-married Trump, in vivid contrast, had run casinos and exchanged countless smirky remarks with Howard Stern. His piety was in question.
As far as the evangelical community is concerned, nothing has changed. Trump has been accused of adultery and of buying the silence of his alleged paramours. He has referred to impoverished nations as “shithole countries” and — unforgivably — belittled the wartime torture of Sen. John McCain. None of this shook his base. On the contrary, his support within the Republican Party has risen and solidified. It now stands at around 90 percent, which is what tin-pot dictators get in rigged elections.
The upshot is that we now have two political parties — one pro-Trump and one anti-. Some celebrated Republicans — George F. Will, for instance — have already declared their apostasy. Will is now “unaffiliated,” but no one runs for president as that. In this country, if you’re anti-Trump, realism says you’ve got to vote Democratic. (Please, no more of this Libertarian or Green Party nonsense.)
It’s impossible to say at this point whether the pro-Trump/anti-Trump dichotomy is just about the man himself or represents a wider and more permanent political realignment. (Who’s the next Trump?) But it’s clear that something beyond economics — and certainly not foreign policy — motivates Trump’s people. My guess is that it’s a low-boil rage against a vague and threatening liberalism — urbane, educated, affluent, secular, diverse and sexually tolerant. It is, in other words, some of the same sentiment that once fueled European fascism.
Those of us who write newspaper columns know that sheer brilliance, should it happen, gets a silent nod of the head, but affirmation — saying what readers already think — gets loud hurrahs. This is Trump’s appeal as well. He validates the thinking — some of it ugly — of many Americans. To them, Helsinki doesn’t matter and even Putin doesn’t matter. Only Trump does. To them, he hates the right people.
This article was from The Washington Post
Trump Administration Wants California To Pay Back Billions For Bullet Train
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Trump administration plans to cancel $929 million in U.S. money for California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion it’s already spent.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announcement Tuesday came after threats from President Donald Trump to make California pay back the money awarded to build the train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The project has faced cost overruns and years of delays.
The Trump administration argues California hasn’t provided required matching dollars and can’t complete work by a 2022 deadline.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and California rail officials didn’t immediately comment.
Last week, Newsom said the rail project “as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.” He wants to refocus on building a line in central California.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Calls For Reconsideration of SCOTUS Verdict In New York Times v. Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday urged the court to reconsider its landmark precedent that made it harder for public figures to sue for defamation even as he joined in a decision to end a defamation suit against comedian Bill Cosby.
The 1964 high court ruling in the libel case known as New York Times v. Sullivan has served as a powerful protection for media reporting on public figures. But Thomas, one of the high court’s most conservative justices, said it is not rooted in the U.S. Constitution.
That ruling and the court’s later ones extending it “were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Thomas wrote, expressing views that appear to be aligned with those expressed previously by President Donald Trump.
Thomas made the comments in a concurring opinion agreeing with his fellow justices in refusing to consider reviving a defamation lawsuit against Cosby by Kathrine McKee, an actress and former Las Vegas showgirl who said he falsely called her a liar after she accused him of raping her in 1974.
McKee was represented in the case by attorney Charles Harder, who represented Trump in a defamation suit brought against the president by adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, which he denies. McKee had appealed a court ruling in Massachusetts that threw out her lawsuit.
In January 2018, Trump called current defamation laws “a sham and a disgrace” following the publication of a book about the White House by author Michael Wolff called “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which among other things questioned the president’s mental health.
The high court’s unanimous 1964 ruling held that in order to win a libel suit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the offending statement was made with “actual malice,” meaning knowledge that it was false or reckless disregard as to whether it was false.
The case involved a lawsuit against the New York Times, a newspaper that Trump often criticizes for its coverage of him.
Thomas wrote that “we should carefully examine the original meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” referring to the constitutional provisions protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the application of those rights to the states.
“If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we,” Thomas wrote.
Leaving Neverland: First Trailer For Devastating New Michael Jackson Documentary Released
HBO/Channel 4 production features the testimonies of two men who allege that the singer sexually abused them as children
It’s a documentary Michael Jackson’s estate doesn’t want you to see. But despite legal threats, HBO and Channel 4 will air Leaving Neverland next month.
A new trailer offers a first look at the troubling two-part, four-hour film that premiered at Sundance film festival last month, featuring the testimonies of James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who allege that Jackson sexually abused them as children.
“He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail,” says Robson in the trailer.
The film shocked critics and audiences when it was shown at Sundance. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman called it “devastating” and the Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg praised it as “complicated and heartbreaking”.
“This is not a movie about Michael Jackson,” said director Dan Reed to Variety. “This is not a movie about Michael Jackson abusing little boys. It’s a movie about two families and how two families came to terms with what their sons revealed to them many years after Jackson died.”
Jackson’s estate has already criticised the film in a 10-page letter addressed to HBO’s CEO. It denied the allegations and condemned director Dan Reed for not speaking to anyone in Jackson’s family or legal team. Since the film premiered, some Jackson fans have attacked the director and the two accusers.
“There is also this league of fans who are almost like a cult, and they say very nasty things [about the film] on social media,” Reed said to Vice. “And their words echo the two-decade long rhetoric of the Jackson family and legal team, which is shaming the victims. It happens often in these cases. It’s what they do very aggressively and relentlessly, and I don’t think you can get away with that in 2019 like you could in the past.”
Earlier this month, a Chicago pre-run of an upcoming Broadway show based around Jackson’s music was cancelled because of the Actors’ Equity Association strike reportedly causing delays. Equity has rejected that its “modest” demand was to blame for the cancellation.
“The developmental lab that was scheduled for this production was delayed by 12 working days during the strike,” a spokesman said. “It is difficult to understand how a modest delay in February would impact a run that was scheduled for late October.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
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