They Haven’t Learned

The media showered Donald Trump with unnecessary attention all last week in honor of his re-election rally kickoff in Orlando, Florida. The coverage was so reminiscent of 2016, that it raises fresh concerns about whether the news media has learned anything from previous campaign about covering a whiny bully like Trump. Will journalists still view him through the lens of celebrity and hold him to almost no substantive standards, while echoing his lies and bogus attacks on his enemies?

Coming off the monumental failure of 2016, the press seems poised to stumble through another campaign to failure. Especially since, following the 2016 debacle, many in the press refused to concede that any mistakes had been made, let alone offer up much serious self-reflection.

It’s likely the White House loved how rally week played out, with an avalanche of coverage that mostly regurgitated Trump’s stale, familiar rally speech, which leans heavily on victimhood. One of the media themes regarding Trump’s event was that, with his endless attacks on Hillary Clinton, he’s stuck in the past.

But the same point can be made about the press, which seems determined to hit rewind for 2020. And that means a return of the circus-like, spectacle-type campaign coverage Lord Dampnut loves.

Last week the press sent some 500 journalists to Orlando for the indoor event. But what exactly was the point of the endless media attention, considering that Trump has held more than 50 rallies since taking office?

Trump talking = news is a ridiculous formula for newsrooms to be using in 2019. Yet last week, ABC News adopted the premise, when the network aired an hour-long prime-time special of, well, Trump talking. There was no news hook for the unusual programming event, which featured ABC’s George Stephanopoulos shadowing Trump over the course of two days and recording Trump lying relentlessly. Not surprisingly, it was a ratings flop.

Still, the press seems committed to the idea that every Trump utterance is wildly important and newsworthy. Here’s how The New York Times reported Trump’s rally:

“President Trump delivered a fierce denunciation of the news media, the political establishment and what he called his radical opponents on Tuesday as he opened his re-election campaign in front of a huge crowd of raucous supporters by evoking the dark messaging and personal grievances that animated his 2016 victory.”

Subtract the phrase “opened his re-election campaign,” and that paragraph could have easily been published during any month in the last four years. We’ve seen this Trump show over and over and over, to the point where it’s quite obviously not news. Weirdly enough, the Times acknowledged that fact in its report, “in the end, it was not so different from the dozens of rallies he has held during the past two years” yet they still treated the rally as front-page news.

In fact, lots of other journalists commented on the ho-hum nature of the event. CNN’s Betsy Klein wrote on Twitter, “I was promised new material.” The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty added, “When Hillary Clinton runs in 2020, Trump is totally ready for her.”

In others words, Trump hyped up the rally as a huge event. The press played along and treated it that way, even though reporters in real time conceded the rally was something of a big fat nothingburger. Guess who walks away the winner in that scenario. To its credit, MSNBC did not carry Trump’s rally live Tuesday night, while CNN broke away after five minutes (although they did show his empty podium for a while). Naturally, Fox News aired the event in its entirety.

And yes, the rally coverage featured the hallmark media whitewashing that so often protects Trump supporters from the harsh glare of reality. Trump was met in Orlando by “cheering and chanting supporters,” reported USA Today, and by “thousands of adoring supporters,” according to Politico.

Both of those cheerful descriptions remind me of the bland, innocuous ways his supporters were often described in 2016. What has traditionally been missing from the nonstop deluge of Trump voter stories? A look into the dark nature of Trump Nation, and an open acknowledgment that his base is often fueled by racism.

Trump’s candidacy was driven by immigrant-bashing, and so too has his presidency. But when journalists profile his faithful supporters, acknowledgment of Trump’s racist rhetoric rarely comes up. The problem with that type of whitewashing is that the Orlando rally attracted throngs of white nationalists, who clearly have become part of the Trump’s political coalition, and whose presence was not mentioned in most press reports. The whole fascist vibe of the rallies is badly underplayed by the press.

Trump spouting off doesn’t qualify as news. But will the press acknowledge that before 2020?

The Next Nightmare

Polls currently show that all of the major Democratic presidential candidates are pulling way ahead of Donald Trump. While Democrats should take nothing for granted, there is at least some reason hope that Americans will turn out in large numbers and Trump will be soundly defeated in 2020. That victory would be both exciting and an enormous relief, a moment when we can collectively begin to believe that the national nightmare is ending.

If that does happen, the next nightmare will likely begin. It may be minutes, hours, days, or even weeks, but at some point between Election Day November 2020 and Inauguration Day January 2021, odds are that Trump will declare that the election was “fake news” and refuse to vacate the White House. There will be no peaceful transfer of power.

This past weekend showed some disturbing signs of this. Internal polls commissioned by the Trump campaign were leaked, showing that he is trailing badly in several battleground states. In response, Trump angrily called the polls “fake” and then fired the pollsters.

He also suggested on Twitter (where else?) that it was possible “the people would demand that I stay longer” than two terms of office, using his joking-not-joking strategy to suggest that he’s not hemmed in by laws or the Constitution when it comes to retaining power.

A talking point of Democrats who are reluctant to begin an impeachment inquiry is that Trump needs to be removed at the ballot box, not by impeachment. The argument is that Trump can’t be removed from office through impeachment since Republicans, who control the Senate, will refuse to convict him no matter how much evidence there is. Which is true. With rare exceptions, Republicans have shown that there is no level of criminality Trump could display that they are unwilling to accept, so long as it allows them to retain power.

But it’s also why there’s a real danger that, if and when Trump refuses to leave office after an electoral defeat, Republicans will go along with it. And why not? They haven’t drawn any line yet when it comes to Trump cheating or breaking the law. On the contrary, Republicans were already flouting the law in their attempts to retain control over all levels of the government even though a majority of Americans have rejected them at the polls. So far, there appears to be no limits to what Republicans will allow, so long as it entrenches their power.

Republicans have been doing it even before Trump came along. Gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts predated his candidacy, taking off in earnest after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Mitch McConnell refused to hold any hearings for Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, on totally bogus pretenses so he could hold the seat open for a Republican president to fill. This trend goes back to the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, in which the Supreme Court’s conservative majority handed George W. Bush the presidency rather than allowing a recount in Florida.

McConnell’s response to the Russian criminal conspiracy to undermine the last election has been to reject any effort to prevent such conspiracies in the future. Bills have been written and passed by the House to shore up election security and McConnell simply refuses to bring them for a vote. Trump made clear, in his interview last week with George Stephanopoulos, that he fully intends to cheat in 2020 the same way he cheated in 2016. McConnell’s response has basically been, “Cool!”

Republicans are so complicit in Trump’s criminality that it is simply a statement of fact to note there is no chance that the Senate would vote to convict Trump in an impeachment trial, no matter how serious his crimes are. If they refuse to throw him out for being a criminal, why would they throw him out because he lost an election?

We have to presume that Trump and the Republicans will not be hemmed in by law or custom when it comes to holding onto power they haven’t earned. It would be deeply unwise for Democrats to pin their hopes on the possibility that Trump will suddenly, after all this time, become the kind of man who would admit he lost an election, or that Republicans will finally decide that there’s such thing as “going too far” when it comes to taking power in defiance of democratic will.

How should we deal with it when Trump declares the election void and Republicans back his play? The time to plan for that is now. Being caught flat-footed and scrambling to catch up will only make it easier for Trump to entrench the idea that his hold on the White House is absolute, just as he and Republicans have entrenched the idea that it’s normal and acceptable for the Senate to refuse to convict him no matter what.

Unless Democrats move swiftly and forcefully when Trump refuses to leave the White House, (and they need to plan for “when,” not “if”) Republicans will be able to make the Trump Dynasty feel inevitable, as they’ve done with other successful efforts at gutting American democracy.

The Beast is Freed

Over the last few months, we’ve have grown accustomed to Donald Trump in his cornered-rat mode, lashing out and ruminating obsessively over the possibility of his impeachment. But his tweets so far this week have been surprisingly cheerful, and a cheerful Trump is bad news for everyone.

First, overcome with the pleasures of racist sadism, Trump tweeted o Monday night that “ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens.” No reason to think that’s not going to be horror show.

Trump’s gleeful sadism continued a few hours later, when the always highly caffeinated Gröpenführer wrote, at 1:10 a.m. on Tuesday, “Only a few people showed up for the so-called Impeachment rallies over the weekend.” “The numbers were anemic, no spirit, no hope,”

As painful as this is to admit, Trump is right that the impeachment rallies attracted poor turnout. That’s not due to a lack of public support for an impeachment inquiry however. More than half of Americans support at least an impeachment investigation, which is much higher than support for impeaching Richard Nixon was before the Watergate hearings began. Instead, as Trump correctly diagnosed, the low turnout was because liberals and progressives are demoralized, since it seems the House Democratic leadership is determined to do nothing to shine a light on Trump’s extensive corruption and criminal behavior.

After Trump admitted on camera that he’s open and eager to keep doing crimes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained as firm as ever on her refusal to start an impeachment inquiry. If Trump telling us that he plans to commit more crimes won’t move the needle, a bunch of people in a plaza with witty-but-angry slogans on a placard isn’t going to do it either. So of course the only people who showed up are the insufferable types who actually enjoy protests.

Trump has realized that he can do whatever he wants and no one is going to stop him. Which is clearly his greatest pleasure in life, one that even outstrips buying the silence of porn stars whom he pressures into underwhelming sex.

Half the reason Trump does bad things is because he gets off on getting away with it, as demonstrated by the innumerable contractors he’s screwed over and the wives he’s cheated on (all of them). He infamously bragged, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Apparently, it also won’t’ convince Nancy Pelosi to allow an impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi’s reaction (continue to do nothing) to Trump’s admission to Stephanopoulos that he would be happy to commit more election fraud in 2020 lets him know there are no limits. There’s nothing he can do, no crime so big that he can admit to doing, or say he would do again, that will actually propel Democratic Leadership to allow an impeachment inquiry.

Starting the inquiry and taking stronger measures to arrest witnesses who refuse subpoenas would go a long way towards wiping the gloating smirk off Lord Dampnut’s face. But for some reason, Democratic leaders seem more interested in complaining that no one cares about their go-nowhere health care bills than in taking the fight to Donald Trump.

So it’s no wonder Trump is feeling good. He realizes that accountability for his abundant misdeeds isn’t coming and he’s free to do what he wants with no danger of facing any consequences. Trump has slowly become more emboldened over the past couple of years, but now he’s coming into the realization that the Blue Wave of 2018 was not the threat to his power he thought and feared it was. Now there’s reason to worry he’ll conclude the same about the prospect of losing the 2020 election.

What happens when a man who has no moral compass realizes he can do whatever he wants without consequence?

Well That’s Weird…

The South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest crater in the Solar System, is a gigantic impact structure on the far side of the Moon. Data from NASA’s lunar spacecraft points to the existence of a large excess of mass of about 2.18*1018 kg (about five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii) in the lunar mantle underneath the basin. According to new research, this mass anomaly may contain metal from a massive asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater.

The South Pole-Aitken basin is oval-shaped, as 1,600 miles (2,500 km) wide and 8.1 miles (13 km) deep. Despite its size, it cannot be seen from Earth because, you know, it is on the far side of the Moon.

Researchers measured and analyzed small changes in the strength of gravity around the Moon, using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. When they combined that with lunar topography data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, they discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin.

The dense mass, whatever it is, wherever it came from, is weighing the basin floor downward by more than half a mile.

Computer simulations of large asteroid impacts suggest that, under the right conditions, an iron-nickel core of an asteroid may be dispersed into the lunar upper mantle during an impact.

The findings appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

All Glory to Dear Leader

Well, it’s happening. The Washington, D.C., mayor and U.S. Park Police have confirmed that Donald Trump will be commandeering the 4th of July to give his own speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The formerly nonpartisan and blessedly uncontroversial holiday celebration, featuring one of the most-watched fireworks displays in the nation, is going to get a big ol’ dose of Trump’s comb-over crammed into it.

This isn’t going to go well…

This has been an obsession for Lord Dampnut. He wanted to have a gargantuan, North Korea-style military parade of tanks and missile launchers and whatnot. Once dissuaded from that, it was going to be a Veterans Day military parade, and since that, too, has proved to be a tough sell, he’s now settled on borrowing Washington, D.C.’s, Fourth of July celebration for his own purposes.

The fireworks display will be moved, because he wants it moved. There may or may not be additional “entertainers” added. The crowd control measures have to be completely redesigned to accommodate the moves, and law enforcement and the Secret Service will have to add as-of-yet-unknown restrictions and closures in order to allow The Gröpenführer to give an open-air speech in front of one of the nation’s most famous monuments.

And this all has to be ready by (checks notes), yup, July 4, less than a month from now.

A couple of obvious questions remain. 1) With Trump personally in charge of the details, will it be a very public wrecking of an event previously lauded for its organizational competence and widespread appeal? And 2) is there even the slightest possibility Trump can refrain from turning his supposed speech about America into a speech about the glory of Donald Trump and the vicious un-Americanness of his enemies?

The answers are 1) probably, and 2) not bloody likely.

If you plan on drinking that evening, start early.