The Atlantic »

The Two Psychological Tricks Trump Is Using to Get Away With Everything

October 7, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last Thursday, Donald Trump said something that, on its face, seemed inexplicably self-defeating. Already under attack for having asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, he publicly asked China to do the same. This time there was no whistle-blower forcing Trump’s hand. Having already transgressed the once-sacrosanct principle that foreign powers shouldn’t meddle in American elections, Trump—for no apparent reason—brazenly violated it again.

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The Atlantic »

Trump’s Fantasy World Got Him Into This

October 3, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

If Donald Trump and his supporters weren’t so fond of conspiracy theories, the Ukraine scandal would never have unfolded as it did. In a now infamous July 25 phone call, Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look for evidence that the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike had hidden the Democratic National Committee’s server in his country, perhaps to conceal evidence that Russia hadn’t actually hacked the 2016 election—a right-wing media fantasy that Trump’s own former homeland-security adviser has called “completely debunked.”

And over the past week, Trump’s defenders have spread one conspiracy theory after another about the intelligence-community insider who exposed the call. Stephen Miller, Breitbart, and Fox News have all called the whistle-blower an agent of the “deep state”—a phrase, popularized by Alex Jones, suggesting that a cabal of spies secretly run the government. (The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer once likened this notion to believing in the tooth fairy.)

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The Forward »

With Anti-Semitic Attack On ‘Shifty’ Foe, Trump Shows Off The Mechanism Of His Racism

October 3, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On Wednesday, Donald Trump again referred to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as “shifty Schiff.” If you think that sounds vaguely anti-Semitic, you’re right. And it’s likely only the beginning. As the impeachment inquiry escalates, Trump’s anti-Semitic rhetoric probably will too.

It won’t escalate because Trump is any more hostile to Jews than he is to other religious or racial minorities. It will escalate because Trump thinks in terms of stereotypes. Thus, when challenged by an adversary, he often invokes bigoted tropes about their race, religion or gender. And for the next few months, as Trump’s presidency hangs in the balance, one of his biggest adversaries will be Adam Schiff, a Jew.

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The Forward »

No, Israeli Democracy Is Not ‘Fine’

September 26, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last week, Bret Stephens penned a New York Times column entitled, “Israel’s democracy is doing just fine.” With their “rebuke” of Benjamin Netanyahu at the polls, Stephens declared, “Israelis showed that demagogy doesn’t work.”

This week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the opportunity to form Israel’s next government. Netanyahu could fail to do so, in which case his center-right rival, Benny Gantz, would likely get the chance. But there’s a real possibility that Netanyahu — a man so racist that Facebook shut down one of his chatbots for violating its hate speech rules this month, and so authoritarian that the president of Israel’s supreme court this spring compared his attacks on judicial independence to the Nazi era — will remain Israel’s leader well into the future.

Israeli democracy is not doing fine.

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The Atlantic »

The Audacity of Desperation

September 25, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump is not just a hinge moment in his presidency, and in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. It is a hinge moment in the history of the Democratic Party. The era of Democratic caution—which lasted for at least a quarter century—is over.

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The Atlantic »

Why Andrew Yang Matters

September 20, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Andrew Yang, who used to run a test-prep company, has never held elective office. Until last year, he was politically unknown. Now, according to the Real Clear Politics average of national polls, he is tied with Beto O’Rourke and leading Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Julián Castro in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. To understand why, it’s worth looking at how he responded earlier this month when Shane Gillis, a comedian for Saturday Night Live, referred to him using a racial slur.

Yang urged that Gillis not be fired. He also made an artless comparison between anti-Asian and antiblack racism. That garnered much of the media coverage. But more revealing was Yang’s explanation for why Gillis deserved forgiveness. Gillis, Yang tweeted, “does not strike me as malignant or evil. He strikes me as a still-forming comedian from central Pennsylvania.”

What does central Pennsylvania have to do with it? For Andrew Yang and his supporters, everything. It’s code for economic distress—which Yang believes fuels racism and most of the other problems that menace America.

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The Atlantic »

Has the Presidency Skipped Gen X?

September 13, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

For almost 60 years, two generations have held the American presidency. The Greatest Generation—born in the early 20th century—first won the White House in 1960, when John F. Kennedy was 43. Baby Boomers—born after World War II—took over in 1992, when Bill Clinton was 46. By this precedent, Generation X was ripe for a president in 2016. Three of the early Republican front-runners—Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker—would have entered the Oval Office in their 40s. But each faltered, and America replaced Barack Obama, a young Boomer, with Donald Trump, an older Boomer. Rather than choose a generational successor, America elected a candidate 15 years older than the president he replaced, the largest such jump in American history.

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The Atlantic »

Trump Wants Another Term, So Bolton Had to Go

September 11, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

To understand why John Bolton is no longer Donald Trump’s national security adviser, it’s worth looking back 37 years, to the departure of another hawkish appointee from another Republican administration. The adviser was Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and the president was Ronald Reagan.

When Bolton entered the Trump administration, he was determined to reverse what he saw as Iranian gains in the Middle East. When Haig entered the Reagan administration, he was determined to reverse what he saw as Soviet gains in Central America. And like Bolton, who has called for bombing Iran, Haig suggested that turning the communist tide in America’s hemisphere might require attacking Cuba. “Give me the word and I’ll make that island a fucking parking lot,” Haig told White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, according to Lou Cannon’s book President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. “You get a band of brothers from CIA, Defense, and the White House and you put together a strategy for toppling Castro,” he urged Deputy National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane.

If Haig believed his swagger would endear him to his boss, he was wrong. According to Deaver, Haig’s belligerence “scared the shit out of Ronald Reagan.” After Haig’s Cuba comments, Deaver worked to ensure that he never met Reagan alone. Haig lasted only 17 months in the job.

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The Forward »

Netanyahu Just Promised To Annex The Jordan Valley. Good.

September 10, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged that if reelected, he would annex the Jordan Valley and perhaps “other areas” of the West Bank.

Good.

Critics will say that by calling for annexation, Netanyahu is killing the two-state solution. But he’s been doing that for a decade.

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The Atlantic »

It Worked for Barack Obama

September 9, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

What Elizabeth Warren said Saturday at the New Hampshire Democratic state convention might have sounded faintly familiar. “I am not afraid,” she declared. “And for Democrats to win, you can’t be afraid either.”

Consciously or not, Warren was echoing one of the most important lines of Barack Obama’s primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. “If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats,” Obama declared at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on November 10, 2007, “we can’t live in fear of losing it.” That line became part of the message that won Obama the Iowa caucuses, and the Democratic nomination. And in the current primary campaign, it just might propel Warren to victory as well. Like Obama more than a decade ago, Warren is framing her insurgency against an establishment front-runner—in this case, Joe Biden—as a choice between conviction and caution. And in Democratic presidential primaries, conviction candidates with strong grassroots organizations often win.

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