Men in gray
Of all that is changing in the weeks since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, this stood out as Wednesday's stunner: NASCAR announced it's banning Confederate flags at its events, racetracks and properties.
What's not changing: President Donald Trump's open sympathy for preserving the "history and culture" of the losing side in the Civil War, just as he expressed after a dispute over a Confederate statue sparked deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
Though the Defense Department and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy recently said they would consider calls to remove the names of rebel military leaders from 10 posts, including Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood, the president announced in a tweet that he was putting a halt to the discussion.
"My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations," Trump said. "These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a … history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars."
Earlier this week, the Navy and Marine Corps banned public displays of Confederate flags at their installations. Retired Gen. David Petraeus endorsed calls to strip names of Confederate "traitors" from Army facilities, writing, "The irony of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention."
Trump's tweet to keep the Confederate names caught the military's leadership off guard, one military official and one former Trump administration official familiar with internal discussions told Politico. "They thought this was a no-brainer," one official said.
Trump's decision may be mainly about playing to what he thinks his base thinks. But NASCAR — whose largely white and Southern fans are seen by Trump as a MAGA crowd — took a different view. "The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry," the auto racing organization said. Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR's highest level, had called earlier this week for Confederate flags to be banned from events.
A White House listening session
Trump on Wednesday brought some of his most loyal African American supporters to a White House roundtable discussion and heard himself being praised for delivering "nothing short of historical" progress to black Americans.
One attendee, Republican consultant Raynard Jackson, denouncing CNN's Don Lemon and MSNBC's Joy Reid as "radical" black journalists, said that by not fairly covering Trump, they are "putting more poison into the black community than any drug dealer … killing more black folks than any white person with a sheet over their face." Trump commented: "Thank you very much."
Radio host Wayne Dupree also said the media is unfair to Trump, and the president agreed: “The media is almost 100% negative. It’s incredible.”
On Capitol Hill, a day after Floyd's funeral in Houston, his brother Philonise Floyd challenged Congress on Wednesday to “stop the pain” as lawmakers consider a sweeping law enforcement overhaul, so the slain man won’t be just “another name” on a growing list of black Americans killed during interactions with police.
Choking back tears, Floyd told a House hearing he wants to make sure that his brother is “more than another face on a T-shirt, more than another name on a list that won’t stop growing.” Floyd challenged lawmakers: “Be the leaders that this country, this world, needs. Do the right thing.”
Republicans as well as Democrats have called for a national registry of use-of-force incidents, so police officers cannot transfer between departments without public awareness of their records. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said the “depravity” he said he saw in the video of Floyd’s death “burned in my soul.”
Trump's approval rating in the latest Gallup Poll is 39% — a 10-point plunge in a month.
It's the third poll in recent days that showed him slipping into the 30s from his customary level of the low- to mid-40s.
A letter dated Tuesday from a Trump campaign lawyer demanded that CNN retract and apologize for its recent poll showing Joe Biden leading the president by 14 points nationwide. CNN rejected the claim that the survey was "phony" and stood by it.
Fears are growing among Republicans that voters could sweep the party out of power completely on Election Day, The Washington Post reported. Trump's influence on cultural flash points is ebbing as some Republican leaders and legions of large corporations openly are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, despite risking retaliation from the White House, the report said.
Senate Republicans are hoping that the economy will improve enough to lift the party's fortunes, CNN reported.
No shuffle on Buffalo
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered no regrets on behalf of Trump on Wednesday, a day after he tweeted a baseless conspiracy story cooked up on far-right media suggesting a "set up" in the serious injury of a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo after he was shoved by police and fell, hitting his head on pavement.
The president, who called activist Martin Gugino a possible "antifa provocateur," is asking "questions that needed to be asked," McEnany said on "Fox & Friends."
Later, at her news briefing, McEnany was asked about Trump's contention that Gugino fell harder than he was pushed. A reporter asked: "How does that work in terms of physics?" McEnany didn't explain and went on to say Trump "stands squarely with law enforcement, he was making no judgments, not condoning violence."
Happy trails for him
Trump said Wednesday his campaign rallies will be back later this month after a three-month pandemic pause. Events are planned for June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and other dates to be announced later in Florida, Arizona and Texas, he said.
Some interesting historical side notes in light of the past two weeks of turmoil from Floyd's killing:
Tulsa was the site of anti-black rioting in 1921 — among the nation's worst ever — that left hundreds dead. The current mayor, G.T. Bynum, a white Republican, has launched a search for a possible undiscovered mass grave.
June 19 is Juneteenth, a holiday in most states that commemorates the end of slavery when in 1865, victorious Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, when the Civil War was still raging.
The even more invisible enemy
The coronavirus is still killing as many as 1,000 Americans per day — but the Trump administration isn’t saying much about it, Politico writes.
It’s been more than a month since the White House halted the daily public briefings by its coronavirus task force. Top officials like infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci have largely disappeared from national television. But officials in at least 19 states have recorded two-week trends of increasing coronavirus cases, including spikes of more than 200% in Arizona and more than 180% in Kentucky.
The nation's virus death toll is near 113,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University medical school's Coronavirus Resource Center. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said the U.S. could expect 100,000 people more to die by September.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez provides an in-depth examination of the "defund the police" movement — its aims, the reaction from law enforcement and how it's playing out in local and national politics.
- Jacksonville, Florida, has emerged as the front-runner for hosting Trump's Republican convention acceptance speech in August after Trump failed to win a guarantee he could bring a full-arena crowd amid the coronavirus pandemic to the original city, Charlotte, North Carolina.
- A massive mess at many polling sites impeded voters who showed up for Georgia's primaries on Tuesday. The difficulties could be a red flag for wider coronavirus-era problems in November, election experts told ABC News.
- Battle ahead? Ex-national security adviser John Bolton said there's no classified information left in his book, which already has shipped to warehouses ahead of the scheduled June 23 release date, The New York Times reports. The White House insists there is still classified material in the manuscript that could pose a security threat. Trump repeatedly has told advisers he wants to stop the book by the ex-aide turned critic.
- A new Trump attack ad on his presumptive Democratic opponent says, “Antifa destroys our communities. Rioting. Looting. Yet Joe Biden kneels down.” The footage is of Biden kneeling in a black church he visited amid the protests over Floyd's killing, Bloomberg News reports. On Monday, McEnany said the president is “very much against kneeling in general."
- From Biden's Twitter today: "Donald Trump’s hate-filled, conspiracy-laden rhetoric is inflaming the racial divides in our country — but just fixing the way the president talks won’t cut it. We need to root out systemic racism and ensure Black Americans have a real shot to get ahead."
- The Justice Department's attempt to cancel its prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is a "gross abuse of prosecutorial power" aimed at protecting an ally of the president, a court-appointed attorney concluded. Former federal Judge John Gleeson called the reasons advanced by Attorney General William Barr "preposterous." Gleeson was brought in by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to review the DOJ motion to toss the case and Flynn's guilty plea.