Reality bit President Donald Trump on Friday. More than once, in several places.
With his poll numbers collapsing, so did his resolve. He caved on his demand for a border wall. In return for reopening the government for three weeks he got … nothing. No wall, no leverage in ongoing negotiations with Congress, and no answer to the question – why did he do this now and not a month ago?
Short answer: Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker who “brought Trump to his knees,” wrote Julian Zelizer. In standing up to him, she showed that she “understood something that Democrats often forget: Americans like their government.”
“You cannot get thumped any worse than Trump did on this encounter with Pelosi,” agreed Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.
What’s more, the temporary deal is worse for Trump than the one he rejected in December, marveled CNN contributor Tara Setmayer on Twitter.
“We are left with two final questions,” Rubin wrote. “Will there be serious primary challengers to Trump, who’s managed to prove his total incompetence? We’ll see. And will Pelosi get tired of winning? I think not.”
Also Friday: The FBI arrested Trump crony Roger Stone on charges of lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses.
The seven-count indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller is a “devastating political blow,” wrote Zelizer. It “gives more ammunition to House Democrats to accelerate their own investigation plans, and it will certainly generate more fear among Republicans, even those who continue to stand by the President.”
“There’s a lot to unpack” in the 24-page indictment, John Avlon wrote, but he zeroed in on one key phrase: “(A) senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases.” “Was directed” – by whom? “The only logical possibilities could fit in a phone booth.”
Former New York homicide prosecutor Paul Callan explained the reason for the dramatic pre-dawn arrest by an “FBI arrest team worthy of a Navy SEAL operation.” The answer “can be found in an incredibly stupid and highly incriminating series of messages” from Stone to radio host Randy Credico that include “Godfather” references and Nixon quotes: “Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan.” The texts seem to be trying to pressure Credico before his congressional testimony, Callan wrote. In the end, “there’s no doubt Mueller is getting closer to the Oval Office.”
Rambling with Rudy
Meanwhile Trump’s spin-doctor lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, spent the week digging deeper holes for his boss. Responding to last week’s Buzzfeed story alleging that Trump had directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, (Mueller’s office called the story “not accurate), Giuliani told Jake Tapper that Trump might have spoken to Cohen, and that it would have been “perfectly normal.” (“Small wonder that parsing Rudy has become a national pastime,” commented Gloria Borger.) Giuliani later backpedaled, telling The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, “I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails” to make sure. Tapes?
“Note to Giuliani,” wrote former prosecutor Elie Honig: “when you move the goal posts for your own kicker, you’re supposed to move them closer in, not farther out.” Honig is answering reader questions on the Mueller probe and more. (Send your questions to CNN.firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Alec Baldwin: The path to a better planet runs across your plate.
The “sixth great extinction” is on its way, warned Alec Baldwin, and humans are responsible. We’re “driving biodiversity loss, unraveling the web of life that keeps ecosystems functioning and that make the Earth habitable for humans.” What can you do? Eat more plants, less meat.
According to a report by the EAT-Lancet Commission, humans have already developed nearly half of the planet’s vegetated land – a third of it to grow feed for livestock. “We need to shift our diets away from rampant overconsumption, and toward a nutritious mix of plant-based foods that are less resource intensive, require less land and are better for our health,” Baldwin wrote.
But it’s even more serious than that, warned former California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Defense Secretary William Perry: The world is “two minutes from midnight,” according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock. “Humanity faces two dire and simultaneous existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change.” Blunder or miscalculation could lead to nuclear disaster, while global carbon dioxide emissions – which seemed to plateau earlier this decade – have resumed an upward climb. “We must turn back the clock,” they wrote.
‘Rashomon’ at the Lincoln Memorial
America got schooled in Twitter remorse last week when snips of a smiling school boy in a MAGA hat facing off with a Native American elder beating a drum flooded their feeds, then their TV screens. A nation was triggered by Video 1: It appeared to show young Trump punks harassing an old person of color at the Lincoln Memorial.
Except the clip, originally posted by suspicious (and later suspended) Twitter accounts, was soon joined by other videos, some of them suggesting that the boys were responding to taunts from another group altogether. Too late: Our “reptile brains” were engaged, wrote media theorist Douglas Rushkoff. No matter what you saw, don’t assume “that it captures some meaningful reflection of human nature or even America’s current cultural divide. It doesn’t. It simply demonstrates how social media amplify and inflame our tensions. These online platforms and the algorithms driving them are the real enemies of humankind. Not a few smug white kids or chanting American Indian elders.”
It’s basic, wrote LZ Granderson: Don’t rush to judge: “To be informed takes more than outrage, it takes time. At least more time than the seconds one needs to read a baseball cap.”
But Issac Bailey wrote that the MAGA hat is too potent a symbol of racism to ignore, particularly for people of color “living through what feels like a ‘back to the back of the bus’ moment.” And Native Americans had much to be angry about in the incident, wrote Simon Moya-Smith: “America mocks and dehumanizes natives at every turn; we are either outright erased, shut out of the conversation, or made into evil ‘savages’ out to terrorize white society.”
In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan saw in the media pile-on a “long, bad turn for respected news outlets and righteous celebrities” whose ready-fire-aim approach to the story caused them to miss the truth wildly.
And Edward Beck, a Catholic priest, had a simple bottom line: It was wrong for boys to mock an elder; chaperones should have stopped them; the school should not have allowed the kids to attend the March for Life wearing hats that are “political code for an agenda that is often in opposition with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” he argued.
‘Have fun storming the castle’
After backing down on the shutdown, Trump stopped short – but held open the possibility – of declaring a national emergency.
But the dire state of the nation has already been on SE Cupp’s mind. “Our government is officially a joke,” she said. “One of the greatest systems ever crafted by men, designed to navigate a civilization through war and famine and civil unrest,” reduced to a gag line from “The Princess Bride.” (“It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead.”) There’s blame for everyone, Cupp wrote before the shutdown ended, but “I’m willing to bet the American people would be happy to heap credit on whoever can put a stop to this nonsense, even if it means compromising.”
Here’s a suggestion, wrote Dean Obeidallah: Going forward let Pelosi negotiate directly with right-wing commentator Ann Coulter. Coulter keeps slamming Trump every time she thinks he is softening on immigrants, like his offer last week to extend DACA and temporary protected status temporarily to some immigrants in exchange for his wall. (“We voted for Trump, we got Jeb,” Coulter tweeted). When she tweets, he retreats, Obeidallah said.
Kamala Harris is in
On Monday, Sen. Kamala Harris threw her hat in the ring for 2020, and Swanee Hunt, founder of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, rejoiced. Harris’ announcement puts the number of women who are running or who have declared exploratory committees at four, Hunt noted, and gives the nation “a glimpse at a new reality – a leader who embodies the convergence of race and gender in America.” This is big, she says. “And the best part is: Harris, as well as her fellow female candidates, actually have a shot at winning.”
Meanwhile, please refrain from referring to her as “female Barack Obama,” writes Holly Thomas: It’s lazy, “infantilizes high-profile women … and skims over the personal details and unique circumstances that shaped them.”
Also in the running as of last week? Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old, openly gay Rhodes scholar and mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Count him among the potential candidates from city hall – like former Mayors Mike Bloomberg and Mitch Landrieu – wrote Avlon, who “have an edge over the ambitious one- or two-term congressmen in that they’ve actually held executive office.”
Zelizer: Pence’s use of King’s words perverts their meaning
In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told the nation, “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy.” Last week Vice President Mike Pence took the line and twisted it beyond recognition, quoting King on CBS’ “Face the Nation” to defend his boss’s border wall, wrote Zelizer. The Trump administration has sent “encouraging signals to the forces of white nationalism,” has “undercut social safety programs to help the poor” and shuttered part of the federal government while relentlessly attacking immigrants. “Nothing about this administration resembles King’s ideals.”
What the high court’s transgender order does to America
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily allowing Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while the case moves through lower courts. Jill Filipovic was angry: “The Trump administration has attempted to define gender as immutable and determined ‘on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.’ By that calculus, transgender people aren’t just banned from the military – they are wiped out of existence.” She noted that “right-wing justices are making it clear that they are happy to be judicial activists when it serves their ideological preferences.”
Oscars: what’s different this time
Spike Lee and Kendrick Lamar were on the list, as was Yalitza Aparicio, “BlacKkKlansman,” “Roma,” “Black Panther,” Alfonso Cuaron, Regina King and more. The Oscars finally got the memo, and “this year’s set of nominations made up as variegated a mosaic as this proud old competition has ever tried to assemble,” cheered Gene Seymour. One thing though: #OscarsStillSoMale. Where are the plaudits for the women-helmed flicks, he asks?
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