Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. Credit: EPA / Michael Reynolds

People of colorblindness

Perhaps not since the emperor had no clothes have those trying to please their leader shied away from acknowledging a bare truth.

It was a week ago Sunday that Trump tweeted that four congresswomen — one Bronx-born of Puerto Rican parents, another the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, a third who is African American and the fourth a Somali refugee brought to the United States as a child — should “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came."

This Sunday, Trump allies went on the talk shows to argue he was only calling attention to their views, and certainly not race, ethnicity or national origin.

"This isn't about race. It's not about gender. It's not about religion," said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), but "about policies that are dangerous for this nation."

Stephen Miller, an architect of Trump's hard-line immigration stance and Muslim-country travel bans, said, "If you want to have a colorblind society, that means you can criticize immigration policy, you can criticize people's views, you can ask questions about where they're born, and not have it be seen as racial.” Questions about where they're born? Fair game and not bigotry, says Miller — never mind that three of the women are U.S.-born and all four are citizens.

Vice President Mike Pence said he's glad Trump stood up to "reckless rhetoric." But what about the crowd's "send her back!" chants aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar at a Trump rally? The president, who did nothing to stop it, has said he didn't like it. He also has indicated that he didn't hate it.

Asked if Trump would step and hush the crowd if it happened again, Pence hesitated: "He might — he might — he'd make an effort to speak out about it." For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

'Weak and insecure'

Trump tweeted again about "the Squad" Sunday, saying "I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country" and adding a new twist, calling them "weak & insecure people."

It was an odd insult. While some of the four have espoused views criticized by mainstream Democrats as well as Republicans, no one has suggested the House freshmen who have rocketed to prominence are meek, timid or lacking in self-assurance, or constantly demanding praise.

A CBS News/YouGov poll found Americans by 59 percent to 40 percent disagreed with Trump's tweets last week against the women. By 48 percent to 34 percent, they thought the ideas in the tweets were racist. A large majority of 87 percent to 13 percent see the nation divided along racial lines.

Iran provokes U.S.

Vague warnings from the Trump administration seem to have done little if anything to cow the theocrats who rule Iran.

Tehran said it  arrested 17 Iranian citizens on charges of spying for the United States and had already executed some of them. In addition, new audio of communications with an oil tanker seized by Iran shows futile efforts to avoid the encounter.

Race to the bottom

The "go back" controversy is just the latest example from Trump's record in business, building his celebrity and politics of a willingness to play on racial divisions, writes The New York Times.

Some are well-known, such as his "birther" attacks on Barack Obama, but there are many more. Examples:

On the Howard Stern radio show in 2005, he mused about a season on "The Apprentice" that would put an all-white team against an all-black team. He wasn't kidding. NBC executives said no.

In a dispute with Palm Beach officials in 1991, he threatened to sell Mar-a-Lago to the South Korea-based Unification Church and unleash “thousands of Moonies” on the town. Taking on competitors of his Atlantic City casinos, he questioned whether rival owners were really American Indians entitled to federal recognition. 

Will Mueller change anything?

Democrats hope special counsel Robert Mueller's testimony before two House committees on Wednesday will strengthen their arguments that the Russia investigation uncovered wrongdoing by Trump, but there's no assurance it will provide clarity.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said on CNN that Mueller's report "presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors” — the Constitution's test for impeachment.

But Democrats are aware that they are brushing up against a narrative already set, by Trump’s claims of no collusion or obstruction and Attorney General William Barr’s framing of the report before its public release as favorable to the president, The Associated Press writes.

Republicans on the committees will take their opportunities to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Russia investigation.

Not a popularity contest

Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by almost 2.9 million, or 2.1 percentage points, yet he still won through the Electoral College. Some political and polling analysts say it could happen again, though they're not calling it likely.

Nate Cohn of The New York Times writes that Trump could lose the popular vote by 5 points and still hold on to enough of the states that provided his margin of victory three year ago.

David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report, writing for NBC News, painted a similar scenario: If Democrats regain Michigan and Pennsylvania, but Trump holds Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maine's 2nd Congressional District, he'd still eke out a win.

Love it or tweet it

Among Trump's complaints about the four congresswomen is that they are "complaining constantly” about the United States. But making America gripe again was a favorite Trump pastime not long ago, recalls The Washington Post.

According to Trump, the United States has long had “stupid” leaders that the world “laughs” at. When Trump launched his presidential bid, he said the United States is “becoming a third-world country.” In his book “Crippled America,” Trump wrote, “The idea of American Greatness, of our country as the leader of the free and unfree world, has vanished.”

Told in 2017 that Russia's Vladimir Putin is a “killer,” Trump said, “You think our country’s so innocent?”

There's more in this video montage from Vice News, including: "We're not a brilliant country anymore. We're a foolish country. We're a dumb country" and "Sadly, the American dream is dead."

What else is happening:

  • Trump called Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to try to deliver a favor to Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West — getting rapper A$AP Rocky freed from custody in Stockholm. A spokeswoman said Lofven responded that "the government cannot and will not attempt to influence the legal proceedings.” Trump's offer to "personally vouch" for A$AP's bail during an assault investigation didn't fly either. Sweden doesn't have a bail system.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is behind another effort to find a way around the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions from Trump's 2017 tax overhaul. Newsday's Yancey Roy explains why it's a long shot.
  • Trump retweeted an endorsement of "send her back" from Katie Hopkins, a far-right, anti-Islamic British commentator who has called migrants "cockroaches." Hopkins also has said the 2018 killing of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue was the fault of the rabbi for supporting “mass migration." The suspect espouse white nationalism.
  • Geraldo Rivera has joined Anthony Scaramucci in the that's-too-racist-for-me camp following Trump's "go back" tweets. "As much as I have denied it and averted my eyes from it, this latest incident made it impossible … the critics were much more right than I," the Fox News correspondent told The New York Times.
  • Trump dropped in on a Staten Island wedding to soak up adulation from supporters.
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