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Trump plays super-spreader for symbols called racist

Protesters demonstrate against the name of the Washington

Protesters demonstrate against the name of the Washington Redskins team before an NFL game in Minneapolis in October. Credit: AP / Bruce Kluckhohn

When Trump goes tribal

President Barack Obama told an interviewer back in 2013 that if he owned the Washington Redskins, "I'd think about changing" the name. Shortly thereafter, citizen Donald Trump sent a tweet: "President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name-our country has far bigger problems! FOCUS on them, not nonsense."

The country may still have far bigger problems, but President Trump is laser-focused on a political strategy he sees as shoring up his white conservative base. That means defending symbols that have been attacked as racist relics that don't belong in 2020 America. His Monday morning tweet:

"They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct."

Washington's NFL team is under pressure from corporate partners and sponsors to find a new name amid a heightened nationwide discussion spurred by protests about racial injustice and insensitivity. Trump is labeling both the debate and demonstrations a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.” Walmart, Target and Dick's Sporting Goods said they would stop selling Redskins merchandise.

ESPN reports the Redskins appears likely to change its name after years of resistance. Baseball's Indians also is reviewing its name. Indians manager Terry Francona said he approved of the team’s decision, saying it was “time to move forward.”

Trump's tweet also included a gratuitous slap at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), saying: “Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!” Trump frequently hurls slurs at Warren over her past statements that she believed she had partial Indigenous ancestry. Native American groups that have been in the forefront of efforts to change team names are now pleased, not angry.

Pro sports have been unwilling players throughout Trump's presidency in his effort to exploit culturally divisive issues as political rally fodder. He called for boycotts and firings in response to NFL players who staged kneeling protests against systemic racism and police brutality during the playing of the national anthem.

Wonder what's he driving at

Another Trump tweet on Monday slammed NASCAR for its decision to ban Confederate flags from its tracks. He also falsely pinned responsibility on Bubba Wallace, the driver who urged that move, for a flap over the discovery of a noose-like object in his garage.

"Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"

He's wrong about the ratings. According to Fox Sports, NASCAR viewership on the Fox networks is up 8% since returning from its coronavirus-related hiatus on May 17. NBC Sports said its NASCAR viewership on Sunday was up 39% over last year's average.

As for apologizing — for what? A crew member, not Wallace, found and reported the suspicious object last month at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama in the garage used by the circuit's only full-time Black driver. NASCAR sought an investigation, and the FBI determined it had been there since last fall, before Wallace's garage assignment. NASCAR described the object as a garage-door pull rope fashioned like a noose, and Wallace doubted the design, even if not targeting him, was accidental.

NASCAR stood by Wallace on Monday. A fellow driver, Tyler Reddick, tweeted back at Trump: "We don't need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support." Andrew Murstein, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, for which Wallace drives, called Trump's tweet "misinformed."

Wallace put out a statement declaring: "Always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! … Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS." 

Graham: NASCAR is right

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a Trump ally, defended NASCAR's Confederate flag decision and Wallace in an interview with Fox News Radio.

"What I would tell people from outside of South Carolina, that NASCAR is trying to grow the sport, and one way you grow the sport is you take images that divide us and ask that they not be brought into the venue," Graham said.

He also said he didn't think Wallace "has anything to apologize for," adding, "in the times in which we live, there's a lot of anxiety." As for Wallace's fellow drivers rallying to his side, "I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax," Graham added.

Another rebel yell to come?

Trump vowed last week to veto legislation moving through Congress that would remove the names of Confederate leaders from 10 U.S. Army installations.

Now, a draft policy being circulated by Pentagon leaders would ban the display of the Confederate flag in Defense Department workplaces or public areas by service members and civilian personnel, The Associated Press reports. The Marine Corps already adopted that prohibition in June.

The draft notes that a “significant” population of service members and their families are minorities, and “it is beyond doubt” that many “take grave offense at such a display.”

That could set up a showdown with Trump.

Janison: A no-plan-demic

Every day brings new reports that the ship of state is bouncing and wandering through storms without its captain and crew setting a course, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

The White House has yet to show just how it would cope in the months ahead with COVID-19 and a reeling economy. The response to national protests and disorder is mostly blame-casting and bluster.

Mapping a direction may be impossible when those on board, including Trump and his top advisers, do not even agree on where they are, especially on the pandemic.

Trump's lack of coherent planning applies to the campaign as well as the government. In two recent TV interviews, he shed no light on a second-term agenda despite a kid-gloves treatment from fawning hosts. Instead, he stuck to glorifying the first term, including nostalgia for the once-roaring economy.

Live and let die

White House officials are seeking to reframe their response to the coronavirus by persuading Americans to just accept that the infection threat is going to continue, The Washington Post reported. They want schools to reopen and will talk up hope for a vaccine by the end of the year.

With 130,000 lives lost so far in the U.S., officials hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept the tens of thousands of new cases a day, three people familiar with the White House’s thinking told the newspaper.

“They’re of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day,” said a former administration official in touch with the Trump campaign.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, was downcast about that outlook in a livestream discussion with National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins.

"The current state is really not good … we had been in a situation we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day," Fauci said. After "various states and cities" moved to reopen, "we now have record-breaking cases. Two days ago, it was at 57,500. So within a period of a week and a half, we've almost doubled the number of cases."

That's something about Mary's book

With Trump family lawyers apparently unable to stop the publication, Simon & Schuster announced a tell-all book by the president's niece Mary L. Trump will now be released next week, two weeks earlier than scheduled.

The book's back cover, revealed Monday, contains Mary Trump's biting critique of her uncle: “Today, Donald is much as he was at three years old: incapable of growing, learning, or evolving, unable to regulate his emotions, moderate his responses, or take in and synthesize information.”

The book portrays the 45th president as a "damaged man" with "lethal flaws" who "threatens the world's health, economic security, and social fabric," according to the publisher.

A news release says that from the book, “we learn how Donald acquired twisted behaviors and values” — such as that “cheating is a way of life,” “taking responsibility for your failures is discouraged” and “qualities like empathy, kindness and expertise are punished.”

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo and Rachelle Blidner. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • With Americans banned from traveling to European Union countries and the nation's coronavirus cases surging to records, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked how the world views the U.S. “I think the world is looking at us as a leader in COVID-19," she replied. McEnany went on to call the U.S. mortality rate low.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that foreign students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses because of the coronavirus.
  • With the sanctity of America's statues an emergent Trump theme, his campaign emailed an ad promising, "We will protect this." The accompanying photo was of the colossal Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. It stands on a mountain summit overlooking Rio de Janeiro.
  • Trump and his supporters blamed "anarchists" and an "America-hating mob" for toppling a statue in Rochester of the Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but police have no suspects or motive. The weekend vandalism occurred around the anniversary of Douglass' 1852 speech about Independence Day and slavery. In 2018, two local college students vandalized the statue. They claimed drunkenness, and a witness said he heard racial slurs, according to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper.
  • Trump's approval rating in the latest nationwide Gallup Poll is 38%. In May, Gallup had him at 49%. In June, it was 39%.
  • The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular-vote winner in the Electoral College. There were a handful of so-called "faithless" electors in 2016.

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