Trump flays the blues
Donald Trump before: America First. Donald Trump now: Make that My Half of America First. (His half is actually around 40% and shrinking.)
Four years ago, Trump pointed to illegal immigration and foreign nations as the danger. But in speeches at Mount Rushmore and at the White House over the July Fourth holiday weekend, a traditional time for unity, the president told crowds of supporters that the nation is under mortal threat from fellow Americans.
Since the George Floyd killing, polls show majorities in sympathy with the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet Trump is determined to conflate peaceful calls for change with violent extremists and to refuse to acknowledge racism as a present-day problem.
“Their goal is not a better America; their goal is the end of America,” Trump declared Friday at Mount Rushmore. “We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he said Saturday at the White House. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children."
If Trump's attempt to link Democratic foes of his reelection to "angry mobs" wasn't clear enough, his personal lawyer, surrogate and 2020 debate negotiator Rudy Giuliani put it into a bumper-sticker hashtag on Twitter Sunday morning: #DemocratsHateAmerica. (The tweet was later deleted. In its place was: "Democrats have made it clear they hate what America represents.")
The president, who of late has tweeted out a video of a supporter chanting "white power" and random clips of black-on-white violence, said the media has falsely accused him of racism, and he went on to claim innocence by association with armed forces veterans, though he is not one of them. "When you level these false charges, you not only slander me, you not only slander the American people, but you slander generations of heroes who gave their lives for America,” he said Saturday. (More than half of Americans agreed in a June poll that Trump is a racist.)
Joe Biden offered a contrasting view in a July 4 message. "Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We're all created equal. We've never lived up to it — but we've never stopped trying," the presumptive Democatic nominee said. He cast the recent protests as part of the nation’s long-standing struggle “between two parts of our character — the idea that all men and women, all people, are created equal, and the racism that has torn us apart.”
Rally around the mask
Is it because of the thousands of seats left empty at his June 20 Tulsa rally amid coronavirus fears? The campaign staffers and Secret Service agents who caught COVID-19? Or because Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle had to skip out on Friday's Mount Rushmore event and make the 1,700-mile trip back east by car after Guilfoyle tested positive?
Whatever the reasons, Trump has shifted from indifference about masks to having his campaign tell supporters they are "strongly encouraged" to wear them when he holds a rally next weekend — outdoors — at the airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The campaign promised that all attendees will be provided a mask and "there will be ample access to hand sanitizer." They also will have to accept a legal waiver assuming all risks.
Masks were rare at the holiday weekend events, and social distancing was not observed.
The heightened risk of members of the Secret Service getting sick while they try to prepare for events for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in cities far from Washington has begun to frazzle agents and their families, The Washington Post reported.
Trump has become barely visible as the fight against the "invisible enemy" — his term for the coronavirus — continues with no end in sight. But what little he says can be difficult for his public health officials to explain, such as a remark dropped into his July 4 speech that testing shows 99% of cases "are totally harmless.”
Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, avoided answering directly on Sunday talk show appearances when asked about Trump's latest pandemic pronouncement.
"I'm not going to get into who's right and who's wrong," Hahn said. "It's a serious problem that we have, we've seen this surge in cases, we must do something to stem the tide, and we have this in our power to do it by following the guidance of the White House task force and the CDC," he said.
The death rate may be around 1%, but many who survived spent weeks in the hospital and have faced debilitating health problems over the longer term.
Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, said on CNN that because of the "ambiguous message coming out of Washington, there are more and more people that won't wear masks, that won't social distance, that won't do what it takes to keep a community safe. And that's wrong, and it's dangerous." For more, see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler.
Trump electoral map crapshoot
Trump’s campaign once spoke of expanding his electoral map into blue-leaning territory like Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire. Now, winning at least a handful of those states that went Democratic in 2016 has become a matter of survival, Politico reports.
That's because campaign aides, senior administration officials and GOP donors have begun to acknowledge that Trump is more likely to lose Rust Belt states Michigan and Wisconsin that came his way four years ago.
Recent massive TV ad buys are seeking to retain states he won in 2016, including North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Iowa. Both Florida and Ohio, the latter of which Trump won handily in 2016, have reentered swing state territory. Polls put Biden ahead in six Trump states from four years ago: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona.
History behind Trump's fair-housing attack
With his support withering among white suburban voters, Trump used Twitter last week to amplify an assault on fair-housing regulations he charged are having "devastating impact" on "once-thriving Suburban areas.”
But he was just tweeting out loud about a policy his administration put in place more than two years ago to ignore enforcement, fair-housing advocates told Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulations were established in July 2015 under President Barack Obama to track patterns of segregation and poverty as a tool for developing plans to enforce the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Fred Freiberg, co-founder of the Queens-based Fair Housing Justice Center, said the regulations "didn’t exist long enough to have hardly any impact at all.”
Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, in 2018 suspended the regulations for two years and called them “burdensome.” In January, Carson proposed changes, including lifting some of the regulations' reporting requirements. Long Island advocates have cited Newsday’s award-winning “Long Island Divided” investigation last year as evidence that the key protections of the 1968 law are rarely enforced.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Matthew Chayes and Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- The Democratic policing reform bill that recently passed the House departs from the party's usual pro-union position when it comes to the power of police unions. It would bar funding for police departments if they enter into union contracts that prevent Justice Department enforcement of measures to combat patterns of racial profiling and excessive use of force. See Tom Brune's story for Newsday.
- Kanye West, who has been pro-Trump, tweeted that he's going to run for president himself this year. The election is four months away, and there's no sign the musician filed any paperwork or formed a campaign committee. But he got support from Elon Musk and a retweet from would-be first lady Kim Kardashian West.
- Neil Young tweeted a complaint about his songs "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Like a Hurricane" being played before Trump's Mount Rushmore speech. "I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux & this is NOT ok with me," said Young, referring to protests by tribe members who said the event was held on land stolen from them.
- Republican donors are wary of bankrolling the shift of the convention finale to Jacksonville as Florida's worsening coronavirus predicament raises doubts about the plans, The New York Times reported. Separately, the Times writes that TV networks are scaling down their convention deployments. “We are not going to send our reporters into packed arenas, if such things exist,” said NBC News president Noah Oppenheim.
- Michael Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser, appeared to signal his support for the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory by posting a video of himself reciting an oath with the group's slogan. QAnon adherents believe Trump and his allies are in a covert war against pedophile-cannibals who they claim include top Democrats. Trump's Justice Department is trying to erase the criminal case in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI's Russia investigators.
- Eric Trump predicts that after his father leaves office, the Trump Organization will launch a major expansion that will in part focus on luxury hotels abroad, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company has previously eyed projects in the Middle East and China.