Race is hot in the suburbs
Exactly how President Donald Trump's latest grand vow aligns with reality is unclear. But Trump, who claims with a straight face that a Joe Biden presidency would "obliterate" the suburbs, says his administration's trashing of an anti-discrimination rule last week will somehow revive the suburban dream — or his perception of it.
The president tweeted Wednesday: "I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood. Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!"
Trump's previous pitches on the topic were less pungent. This one is widely perceived as a racial appeal to white voters in areas where Trump's electoral support threatens to slip. Last week, Trump gave a different sales pitch for rescinding the rule — that it alleviated undue burdens on local governments.
Whatever his intentions, Trump's incentive to exaggerate the significance is clear. Recent polls show Biden made key gains in suburban regions around the country. An ABC News/Washington Post poll earlier this month found the presumptive Democratic nominee leading Trump by 52% to 43% in the suburbs and by 68% to 27% in the cities.
The Fair Housing Act, signed in 1968 and since amended, makes it illegal to harass persons because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.
The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation issued in 2015 by the Obama administration was to be replaced by a new rule called Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice. But neither measure was expected to radically alter the housing landscape. And as Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez reported recently, Trump's housing agency first suspended AFFH in 2018 anyway, and that rule has been tied up in litigation.
During the last presidential election, the Democrats cited a 1973 federal lawsuit brought against the Trump Organization for alleged racial discrimination at its housing developments in New York. Under the Nixon administration, the Justice Department sued Trump and his father to get them to promise not to discriminate. The case was settled, and an effort by the Trumps to countersue for $100 million was thrown out of court.
The U.S. military on Wednesday announced plans to withdraw about 12,000 troops from Germany. Trump's sour relations with Berlin are well-known. The Pentagon appears ready to keep nearly half of those forces in Europe.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the move would begin within weeks, but added that planning for the redeployment was preliminary — and the move will cost several billion dollars. Trump told reporters he was taking this step because Berlin was “delinquent” by not spending enough on defense.
Some observers were reading the development as Trump's latest Putin-pleaser. Trump said in an "Axios on HBO" interview that he hasn't confronted Russia President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence reports that the Kremlin paid Taliban-linked militants "bounties" to kill U.S. troops. The two leaders reportedly spoke last week.
Biden has accused Trump of “dereliction of duty,” contending the president either wasn’t briefed on a crucial subject or “was briefed and nothing was done about this.”
Big viral load
Swamped by the COVID-19 crisis, Trump helped damage his credibility again this week — despite attempting the opposite by touting real-life vaccine tests and legitimate federal funding of domestic drug manufacture.
The problem arose when he retweeted the proclamations of Houston-area Dr. Stella Immanuel, who champions hydroxychloroquine in defiance of Trump's Food and Drug Administration, which advises against its use for the coronavirus.
Trump on Tuesday called the Cameroon-born Immanuel "very impressive ... She said that she had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients. I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her." If so, the president has gotten the chance, if not the inclination, to learn more in a blitz of publicity.
It turns out Immanuel charged five years ago that alien DNA was used in medical treatments, and that scientists were cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious, as the BBC and other news organizations reported. She's also a pastor who links illnesses to demons, and she has appeared with an activist group calling itself America's Frontline Doctors, promoted by the right-wing Breitbart website.
As often occurs, Trump officials give one picture of a controversial situation while others involved give another. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the federal government agreed to withdraw Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officers from downtown Portland. "They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence," she tweeted Wednesday.
But Chad Wolf, Trump's acting homeland security secretary, said in a statement that though there's agreement on a plan, his department will remove security personnel only if they are confident that federal properties are no longer besieged.
On Twitter, Trump maintained his partisan bluster. "If the Mayor and Governor do not stop the Crime and Violence from the Anarchists and Agitators immediately, the Federal Government will go in and do the job that local law enforcement was supposed to do!"
Question of priorities
The United States on Wednesday surpassed 150,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths. The number of deceased each day from the coronavirus is the highest it's been since the spring. Talks are difficult on a new stimulus package amid questions of how far the aid can go against grim economic projections.
Still, contentious side issues have a way of coming center stage. On Wednesday, Trump blasted fellow Republicans, saying they should "go back to school" if they reject the GOP bill's provision for a new FBI headquarters at the current site in Washington. If it's built where he wants it, the project could prevent the property, a block from Trump International Hotel, from going to a competing commercial user. The administration also wants $377 million in remodeling money for the West Wing included in the virus package.
On the more urgent topic of coronavirus relief, Trump launched a partisan attack on efforts to aid the nation's cities in the bill under discussion. "It's a shame to reward badly run radical-left Democrats with all of this money they're looking for," he said on the White House South Lawn. Later, he visited West Texas, where he accused Democrats of "inciting riots." He reportedly scooped up $7 million in campaign contributions there.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Vera Chinese and Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) often refused to wear a face covering and now has the coronavirus.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she will now require all members to wear masks on the House floor.
- American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten said that if there are strikes by members over the coronavirus, they'd most likely be in Texas, Florida and Arizona.
- The U.S. Postal Service is considering closing post offices, sparking concerns ahead of an anticipated surge of mail-in ballots in the 2020 elections, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and a union leader said Wednesday.
- Alabama GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville is holding face-to-face meetings in Washington, despite city orders that travelers from coronavirus hot-spot states first go into self-quarantine.
- China is using U.S. courts to track down expatriates accused of corruption.