“Let’s call the whole thing off,” sang Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as they pondered their romance, danced on roller skates and argued over whether it’s pronounced “tomayto” or “tomahto” in the 1937 musical, “Shall We Dance.”
It’s possible, but not likely that the Gershwin lyrics were on President Donald Trump’s mind when he abruptly halted a US military strike on Iran Thursday night.
But it was hard to think of a real-world precedent for the almost immediate disclosure of what had happened behind closed doors in the White House. A retaliatory strike was in the works after Iran shot down a US reconnaissance drone earlier in the day. Trump explained in a tweet that the military operation was “cocked and loaded” and 10 minutes away from hitting three sites when a general told him that 150 people could be killed, clearly not a “proportionate’ response to the downing of an unmanned drone.
“A smart call,” wrote Peter Bergen. “Even though Trump’s war cabinet is now led by two hardliners on Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, to his great credit Trump has now walked back potential strikes that would have significantly escalated the Iran crisis. …It’s not quite John F. Kennedy adeptly managing the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it’s one of the better moments of Trump’s presidency.”
Trump has no good options on Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal last year, Bergen noted in an earlier piece.
As the US sought to pin blame on Iran for attacks on tankers in the region, it encountered doubts about the reliability of the underlying intelligence. Samantha Vinograd wasn’t surprised: “Trump has sown mistrust by questioning his own intelligence community, withdrawing from critical international coalitions and spreading disdain for the media.”
Biden under attack
Is Joe Biden out of touch with today’s Democratic party? The former vice president came under withering attack from some of his rivals for touting his working relationship in the 1970s with segregationist Democratic senators, noting of one of them, “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”
Biden, SE Cupp argued, “is so unfamiliar with the new progressive erogenous zones that his nascent campaign has been clumsier than a teenager on a first date.” The problem is that “he’s not running a modern campaign, but has instead dusted off an old playbook, one in which his support of mass incarceration, his grilling of Anita Hill, his defense of the Hyde Amendment, maybe even his winking affection for Old Southern Dixiecrats, would have been overlooked – acceptable even – instead of disqualifying.”
Emory University law professor Dorothy Brown finds Biden “deeply problematic” but accepts that black voters might have to vote for the current frontrunner if he’s the party’s choice to oppose Donald Trump. “Biden is not making it easy for black voters, including those black leaders with whom he has built up a reservoir of goodwill over the years,” she wrote. “Biden leans on his proximity to Obama as a proxy for how good he is on race, but almost every time he opens his mouth we learn how little he knows about the racism regularly made plain when President Obama was in the White House.”
The Warren boom
As Democrats prepped for their first presidential debates, one candidate reaped a bounty of media attention, along with a boost in the polls. Elizabeth Warren, now vying with Bernie Sanders for second place, was the subject of in-depth profiles in the New York Times and the New Yorker. Along with Beto O’Rourke, she’ll be at the center of the stage for the first debate Wednesday.
Jess McIntosh said she keeps hearing from her fellow progressives: “I am surprised by how much I love Elizabeth Warren.” McIntosh wrote that Warren earned it by rolling out ambitious plans to fix what ails America: “By focusing on the financial pressures of motherhood that keep women from earning up to their potential, for example, she’s recognizing that American capitalism is dependent on women performing the unpaid labor of child bearing and rearing.” But there’s a catch, she notes: “Those who have warmed to her still don’t seem to believe their neighbors will warm to her enough to vote for her, too.”
Ten candidates will take to the stage in Miami for the first debate Wednesday, and another 10 will follow suit the next evening. But don’t expect real debates with so many people on stage, wrote debate coach Todd Graham. What you should expect: “Surface level analysis. Stories about everyone’s childhood. Emotional anecdotes about candidates’ careers. In other words, all the parts of ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘Chopped’ that I use my remote to skip forward 30 seconds.” His advice for the candidates? “Smile. Appear energetic. Control the room with verbal and nonverbal assertiveness. Look and act like you belong on stage with these people. Get noticed, but not in a bad way. Be funny, but don’t force it.”
Listen to the voters, wrote former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a new CNN political commentator. “While political insiders debate ideological labels or legal theories about whether or not President Donald Trump obstructed justice,” he wrote, “Democratic primary voters are rightly asking: What are you going to do for my family and my community?”
Other sharp takes on what voters want:
Dan Glickman: What rural America wants from the Democrats
Nancy Cohen: 2020 Democratic debates: What women want
Blame the parents
In Lakewood, Colorado, parents and coaches got into a brawl over a call by a 13-year-old umpire at a youth baseball game. The viral video reminded Jeff Pearlman of one of the reasons he and his wife were overjoyed when their 11-year-old son finished his last Little League game.
“From the never-ending games to the overzealous coaches to the preposterously priced equipment to the emphasis on private swing coaches to the thug middle-of-the-order kid who thinks he’s the next Bryce Harper, youth baseball is too often a miserable, jerk-riddled endeavor that I would no sooner wish upon my future grandchildren than I would a head filled with lice,” wrote Pearlman. “Worst of all? Hands down — the parents.”
President Trump launched his re-election bid in Orlando before 20,000 spectators, railing against Democrats, the Mueller probe, Hillary Clinton and the media, while touting his administration’s performance.
Scott Jennings saw the makings of a successful campaign: “Trump has a record, a message and the advantages of incumbency to drive home the simple choice: No matter what you think of me personally, you are better off today than you were four years ago. And we just can’t afford to roll the dice on a socialist scheme that will fundamentally change our nation’s free enterprise system and, more importantly, threaten your family’s prosperity.”
In an interview with TIME, Trump was asked if he would be reaching out to swing voters. “I think my base is so strong, I’m not sure that I have to do that,” he said.
Indeed, wrote Julian Zelizer, “Trump’s base will remain his central political weapon. Throughout his presidency, President Trump has consistently played to his most loyal supporters to make sure that they never veer from their political home. He has used his anti-immigration platform as a political energy drink to ensure his raucous crowd never quiets down.”
That base is strong enough to win the race for Trump, wrote Cas Mudde, in The Guardian. “Remarkably, given the traumatic experience of 2016, many Democrats have still not learned the key lesson of US democracy: elections are not won by passive majorities but by mobilized minorities.” The result: “Trump is cruising towards re-election.”
His critics should face it: Trump is good at telling his story. Michael D’Antonio noted, “His main talent involves ignoring facts, shaping a marketing message, and making sure he and his team stick to it.” In the 2020 campaign, he wrote, Trump “will be hyper-partisan and hyperbolic and he will expect the mesmerizing magic to work again.”
Was it hyperbole when Trump accused the New York Times of committing “a virtual act of treason” with its reporting on American cyberattacks on the Russian electrical grid? It was certainly dangerous, wrote A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the Times. In a remarkable move, his op-ed was published in a competing newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. Sulzberger wrote, “Mr. Trump’s campaign against journalists should concern every patriotic American. A free, fair and independent press is essential to our country’s strength and vitality and to every freedom that makes it great.”
A plus for women
When NikeTown London introduced plus size mannequins, some people accused it of “celebrating obesity.” Holly Thomas applauded the move:
“Female mannequins are typically 6 feet tall, with a 24-inch waist, according to The Guardian. Research published in the Journal of Eating Disorders in 2017 showed that a real woman with the same proportions as a ‘normal’ female mannequin would be emaciated. As a result, it’s likely she wouldn’t menstruate, and would risk developing osteoporosis, anemia, decreased immune function, and increased complications after surgery…The message that these underweight mannequins have been sending women for the last few decades is that they must be critically thin in order to look good in clothes or be considered attractive.” Male mannequins, Thomas noted, are also much leaner than most men, but “do not tend to be ‘underweight.’”
Reparations and the wealth gap
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that the last slaves were told of their freedom – by Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas. On this year’s Juneteenth, a House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Steve Cohen took up the question of reparations, a move which could help close the yawning racial wealth gap. Writing for CNN Opinion, Cohen cited a study that “found that, in 2011, the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings, while the median black household had only $7,113.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is no fan. He said this week that those alive today aren’t responsible for slavery and there would be great difficulty figuring out who should be compensated. Then he cited civil rights legislation and said, “We elected an African-American president.”
McConnell doesn’t get it, wrote David Love. Reparations aren’t just about slavery, he noted. They “extend to Jim Crow segregation and today’s ongoing racism. The debt owed to black Americans is great, and the time to consider paying that debt is now.”
The fashion magnate (and great-great granddaughter of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt) died at the age of 95. Gloria Vanderbilt was, Peggy Drexler wrote, “the ultimate master of reinvention.”
“In the 1950s, after a career as a model, she reinvented herself as an actress, artist, and writer; in the 1970s, she began designing clothes, making a name in her own right by embroidering it on denim… One might consider her the original celebrity ‘influencer,’ bold enough to think women would want to wear her name on their backsides and compelling enough that they actually did.”
Drexler applauded her candor: “What’s perhaps most iconic about Vanderbilt was how open she was about her struggles at a time when that sort of thing was relatively unheard of from women, if they were heard from at all.”
As her son Anderson Cooper, said in a tribute at the end of his CNN show:
“She never let fear or pain or loss prevent her from forging ahead, from moving forward. She always believed the best was yet to come.”
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