Where Donald Trump’s Politics of Cruelty Will Lead

Powerful essay:

My father was a Mexican citizen until the day he died. He lived here in the U.S. on a green card. A former military man and federal agent under several Mexican presidents, he remained patriotic and deeply conservative. Though he had been chased out of his beloved Mexico City by the toxic whims of a presidential strongman, he stayed loyal.

He loved Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. He joked that if he were an American citizen, he would have tried to vote for Nixon twice in 1968. He used to boast that Nixon was the first Latin American–style president America had ever elected. My father was a law-and-order man—once a cop, always a cop. He might have fallen for Donald Trump if he’d lived long enough. But Trump would have talked him out of it in his first televised anti-Mexican rant. At least I think that’s what would have happened.

During 2020’s apocalyptic summer, photographs circulated of immigrant farmworkers toiling in fields amid walls of smoke and fire as California burned around them. The pictures have visceral impact—they are frightening yet beautiful. But their effect on me was epiphanic: Here were perfect metaphors for the harvest of nearly four years of recklessly vicious rhetoric and policies, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and cruel family separations, of toxic propaganda and the relentless boondoggle of the border wall. Here was the theater burning down as the hypnotist kept working the mic, like Jim Jones calling us all into the delirious excitement of sheer nihilism. The Book of Revelation for Suckers.

Source: Where Donald Trump’s Politics of Cruelty Will Lead

After Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, anti-Asian tweets and conspiracies rose 85%: report

Not surprising. Words matter:

Anti-Asian bigotry and conspiracy theories spiked on Twitter immediately following President Donald Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis this month, new findings reveal.

The report, released last week by the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group, examined Twitter activity surrounding Trump’s diagnosis on Oct. 2. Researchers found an 85 percent increase in anti-Asian rhetoric and conspiracy theories on the platform in the 12 hours following the announcement, many blaming China.

The surge in bigoted tweets also occurred shortly after Trump said the pandemic is “China’s fault” during the first presidential debate and further referred to the virus as the “China plague.”

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said the research shows that anyone who fails to see the link between the harmful rhetoric and subsequent bigotry is “lying to themselves.”

“These people — who include the president and congressional Republicans — want to stoke xenophobia and anger but also want to deny the dangerous impact their own words are having,” Chu said. “You can’t have it both ways, and this report exposes the danger of pushing racially based conspiracy theories like this.”

The report, “At the Extremes: The 2020 Election and American Extremism,” examined more than 2.7 million tweets that were posted from the four hours before Trump announced his diagnosis, as well as that of Melania Trump, to the afternoon the following day.

Researchers looked at tweets with mentions of the accounts @realdonaldtrump, @potus and @flotus, as well as @senatorloeffler, the account of Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who had pushed people to “hold China accountable” and “remember: China gave this virus to our President.” The researchers also looked at tweets with at least one of the keywords “trump,” “melania,” “first lady,” “china virus,” “plague,” “kung flu” and “Wuhan.”

Researchers found not only that was there a surge in anti-Asian tweets in the hours after Trump’s diagnosis was announced, but also that anti-Asian sentiment on the platform remained elevated for days afterward. The report revealed that the rate of discussions about various conspiracy theories — including one that alleges that the virus was engineered by humans and another that claims that Covid-19 is “patented,” a bioweapon created by the Chinese government — increased by 41 percent. The research also shows that some of the conversations veered into anti-Semitism or had anti-Semitic overtones.

Asian Americans have been weathering increased hostility since the beginning of the pandemic. The reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate collected reports of 2,583 hate incidents directed at Asian Americans from March 19 to Aug. 5, during the pandemic. Almost 800 of the reports said anti-Chinese rhetoric was used. What’s more, previous research suggests that the use of terms like “China virus” and “kung flu,” particularly by conservative outlets, has already seeped into U.S. perceptions of Asian Americans.

While anti-Asian bias had been in steady decline for over a decade, the trend reversed in days after a significant uptick in discriminatory coronavirus speech, according to a study published in September.On March 9 alone, there was an 800 percent increase in such rhetoric among conservative media outlets. The language led to an increased subconscious belief that Asian Americans are “perpetual foreigners,” researchers said.

“Progress against bias is generally stable,” Eli Michaels, a researcher on that study, has said previously. “But this particular rhetoric, which associates a racial group with a global pandemic, has particularly pernicious effects.”

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., the main sponsor of a House resolution that called on public officials to denounce any anti-Asian sentiment, said she herself had been targeted with a slew of racist voicemails after the legislation was passed in September. In one message, a caller said she looked “like a Chinese virus, you fat slob.” And she said another claimed that the harmful rhetoric is “not racist, it’s the truth. Filthy people.”

“The report shows no signs of this bigotry and xenophobia ending any time soon,” Meng said. She said the racist and obscenity-laced voicemails were filled anti-Asian remarks that Trump has made about the coronavirus, such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” — “the very things I and the House condemned in passing my measure.”

Chu said that as the election approaches, she is “absolutely afraid of more attacks” against Asian Americans. The report ultimately “draws a clear line from the kinds of conspiracy theories Trump spreads to help his own re-election directly to the spike in anti-Asian hate that we are seeing,” she said.

“Covid-19 is continuing to ravage this country, claiming hundreds of lives a day, but the president still does not have a plan to address it,” Chu said. “While he downplays the virus, he still blames China for every death and continues to stoke xenophobia that puts innocent Asian Americans at risk of violence. The president isn’t only indifferent to that. He’s accelerating it.”

Trump, Repeating a Baseless Theory, Suggests Kamala Harris Is Not Eligible to Serve

Predictable (and hard if not impossible to believe that John Eastman did not do so deliberately, with Newsweek’s defence of the column as not having racist undertones tone- and reality-deaf):

President Trump on Thursday encouraged a racist conspiracy theory that is rampant among some of his followers: that Senator Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee born in California, was not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because her parents were immigrants.

That assertion is false. Ms. Harris is eligible to serve.

Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters on Thursday, nevertheless pushed forward with the attack, reminiscent of the lie he perpetrated for years that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Harris.

“I have no idea if that’s right,” he added. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”

Mr. Trump appeared to be referring to a widely discredited op-ed article published in Newsweek by John C. Eastman, a conservative lawyer who has long argued that the United States Constitution does not grant birthright citizenship. Ms. Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, was born in 1964 in Oakland, Calif., several years after her parents arrived in the United States.

But Mr. Trump was in effect revisiting an old tactic: spreading a race-based and anti-immigrant crusade he began nearly a decade ago, when he began sowing distrust in the background of Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii.

This time, Mr. Trump has legions of followers who have been spreading similar theories about Ms. Harris. In the hours after Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced Ms. Harris as his running mate, a new crop of memes and conspiracy website postings began proliferating online, suggesting that Ms. Harris was an “anchor baby,” a disparaging term for a child born in the United States to immigrants.

Mr. Eastman’s column tries to raise questions about the citizenship of Ms. Harris’s parents at the time of her birth, and argues that she may have “owed her allegiance to a foreign power or powers” if her parents were “temporary visitors” and not residents. Ms. Harris’s parents received doctorate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1963 and were working as academics when Ms. Harris was born in 1964.

But constitutional law scholars say that the immigration status of Ms. Harris’s parents at the time of her birth is irrelevant because under the Constitution, anyone born in the United States automatically acquires citizenship.

The 14th Amendment makes it clear: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Eastman’s article leapfrogged throughout social media on Thursday. Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative group Judicial Watch — a favorite information source of Mr. Trump’s — shared the article on Twitter. By Thursday afternoon, it had reached some 14.3 million people on Facebook, Reddit and Twitter before it was parroted by the president, according to data reviewed by The New York Times.

Newsweek in the meantime defended Mr. Eastman’s column, asserting that it had “nothing to do with racist birtherism.” Experts in constitutional law were still quick to disparage the article as dangerous.

In an interview on Thursday, Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, compared Mr. Eastman’s idea to the “flat earth theory” and called it “total B.S.”

“I hadn’t wanted to comment on this because it’s such an idiotic theory,” Mr. Tribe said, “There is nothing to it.”

Mr. Tribe pointed out that the theory still quickly landed in the hands of a president who has used his pulpit to spread a number of conspiracies against his political enemies, particularly those who do not have white or European backgrounds.

During the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump continuously questioned the citizenship of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, suggesting that his Canadian roots would be a problem should he win the presidency. Mr. Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, is a United States citizen. Mr. Eastman, for his part, wrote that year that Mr. Cruz was eligible.

But Mr. Trump was relentless about questioning Mr. Obama’s background. In 2011, he began appearing on television to question whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States — spreading the lie he has never fully apologized for.

“Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate,” he said in an ABC interview in April 2011. “I’d love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate.”

Mr. Obama eventually released his birth certificate. Mr. Trump has never released his tax returns.

At the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, Mr. Obama acknowledged that he released his long-form birth certificate, and took aim at Mr. Trump, who was sitting in the audience.

“He can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing?” Mr. Obama said as a stone-faced Mr. Trump looked on. He also displayed a rendering of the White House, styled as a casino, should Mr. Trump win the presidency.

Mr. Trump, of course, ended up running and winning. In 2016, he finally, and tersely, acknowledged that Mr. Obama was an American citizen.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

He then falsely suggested that Hillary Clinton, his former Democratic opponent, had started the rumor.

 

Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility | Opinion

Elegant birtherism, presented in formal legal reasoning. And his rhetorical question, “how else could we possibly expect the candidates, if elected, to honor their oaths to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and…to the best of [their] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?” is just that, one designed to raise doubts when none are warranted:

The fact that Senator Kamala Harris has just been named the vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has some questioning her eligibility for the position. The 12th Amendment provides that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” And Article II of the Constitution specifies that “[n]o person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.” Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.

“Nonsense,” runs the counter-commentary. Indeed, PolitiFact rated the claim of ineligibility as “Pants on Fire” false, Snopes rated it simply “False,” and from the other side of the political spectrum, Conservative Daily News likewise rated it “False.” All three (and numerous others) simply assert that Harris is eligible because she was born in Oakland—and is therefore a natural-born citizen from location of birth. The 14th Amendment says so, they all claim, and the Supreme Court so held in the 1898 case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark.

But those claims are erroneous, at least as the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was originally understood—an error to which even my good friend, renowned UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, has fallen prey.

The language of Article II is that one must be a natural-born citizen. The original Constitution did not define citizenship, but the 14th Amendment does—and it provides that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.” Those who claim that birth alone is sufficient overlook the second phrase. The person must also be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, and that meant subject to the complete jurisdiction, not merely a partial jurisdiction such as that which applies to anyone temporarily sojourning in the United States (whether lawfully or unlawfully). Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause; of the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1872 Slaughter-House Cases and the 1884 case of Elk v. Wilkins; of Thomas Cooley, the leading constitutional treatise writer of the day; and of the State Department, which, in the 1880s, issued directives to U.S. embassies to that effect.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Wong Kim Ark is not to the contrary. At issue there was a child born to Chinese immigrants who had become lawful, permanent residents in the United States—”domiciled” was the legally significant word used by the Court. But that was the extent of the Court’s holding (as opposed to broader language that was dicta, and therefore not binding). Indeed, the Supreme Court has never heldthat anyone born on U.S. soil, no matter the circumstances of the parents, is automatically a U.S. citizen.

Granted, our government’s view of the Constitution’s citizenship mandate has morphed over the decades to what is now an absolute “birth on the soil no matter the circumstances” view—but that morphing does not appear to have begun until the late 1960s, after Kamala Harris’ birth in 1964. The children born on U.S. soil to guest workers from Mexico during the Roaring 1920s were not viewed as citizens, for example, when, in the wake of the Great Depression, their families were repatriated to Mexico. Nor were the children born on U.S. soil to guest workers in the bracero program of the 1950s and early 1960s deemed citizens when that program ended, and their families emigrated back to their home countries.

So before we so cavalierly accept Senator Harris’ eligibility for the office of vice president, we should ask her a few questions about the status of her parents at the time of her birth.

Were Harris’ parents lawful permanent residents at the time of her birth? If so, then under the actual holding of Wong Kim Ark, she should be deemed a citizen at birth—that is, a natural-born citizen—and hence eligible. Or were they instead, as seems to be the case, merely temporary visitors, perhaps on student visas issued pursuant to Section 101(15)(F) of Title I of the 1952 Immigration Act? If the latter were indeed the case, then derivatively from her parents, Harris was not subject to the complete jurisdiction of the United States at birth, but instead owed her allegiance to a foreign power or powers—Jamaica, in the case of her father, and India, in the case of her mother—and was therefore not entitled to birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment as originally understood.

Interestingly, this recitation of the original meaning of the 14th Amendment Citizenship Clause might also call into question Harris’ eligibility for her current position as a United States senator. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution specifies that to be eligible for the office of senator, one must have been “nine Years a Citizen of the United States.” If Harris was not a citizen at birth, we would need to know when (if ever) she became a citizen. Her father’s biographical page at Stanford University identifies his citizenship status as follows: “Jamaica (by birth); U.S. (by naturalization).” But there is some dispute over whether he was in fact ever naturalized, and it is also unclear whether Harris’ mother ever became a naturalized citizen. If neither was ever naturalized, or at least not naturalized before Harris’ 16th birthday (which would have allowed her to obtain citizenship derived from their naturalization under the immigration law, at the time), then she would have had to become naturalized herself in order to be a citizen. That does not appear to have ever happened, yet without it, she could not have been “nine Years a Citizen of the United States” before her election to the U.S. Senate.

I have no doubt that this significant challenge to Harris’ constitutional eligibility to the second-highest office in the land will be dismissed out of hand as so much antiquated constitutional tripe. But the concerns about divided allegiance that led our nation’s Founders to include the “natural-born citizen” requirement for the office of president and commander-in-chief remain important; indeed, with persistent threats from Russia, China and others to our sovereignty and electoral process, those concerns are perhaps even more important today. It would be an inauspicious start for any campaign for the highest offices in the land to ignore the Constitution’s eligibility requirements; how else could we possibly expect the candidates, if elected, to honor their oaths to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and…to the best of [their] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

Dr. John C. Eastman is the Henry Salvatori professor of law & community service and former dean at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law. He is also the 2020-21 visitor scholar in conservative thought and policy at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Eastman is also a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute and founding Director of the Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.

Source: Some Questions for Kamala Harris About Eligibility | Opinion

And no surprise, President Trump’s reaction:

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would have to look into claims that Sen. Kamala Harris, who is the 2020 Democratic vice-presidential nominee as Joe Biden’s running mate, may not be eligible to run for office after Newsweek published an opinion article questioning her citizenship.

Medical Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of the Far Right

Sigh but predictable. A few but appear to be exceptional worrying signs in Canada in questioning expertise (e.g., Conrad Black on COVID-19: The world succumbed to a pandemic of hysteria, more than a virus, MALCOLM: It’s time to double check the experts’ COVID-19 work):

At a White House briefing on the coronavirus on March 20, President Trump called the State Department the “Deep State Department.” Behind him, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dropped his head and rubbed his forehead.

Some thought Dr. Fauci was slighting the president, leading to a vitriolic online reaction. On Twitter and Facebook, a post that falsely claimed he was part of a secret cabal who opposed Mr. Trump was soon shared thousands of times, reaching roughly 1.5 million people.

A week later, Dr. Fauci — the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak — has become the target of an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.

That fanciful claim has spread across social media, fanned by a right-wing chorus of Mr. Trump’s supporters, even as Dr. Fauci has won a public following for his willingness to contradict the president and correct falsehoods and overly rosy pronouncements about containing the virus.

An analysis by The New York Times found over 70 accounts on Twitter that have promoted the hashtag #FauciFraud, with some tweeting as frequently as 795 times a day. The anti-Fauci sentiment is being reinforced by posts from Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group; Bill Mitchell, host of the far-right online talk show “YourVoice America”; and other outspoken Trump supporters such as Shiva Ayyadurai, who has falsely claimed to be the inventor of email.

Many of the anti-Fauci posts, some of which pointed to a seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had sent praising Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of State, have been retweeted thousands of times. On YouTube, conspiracy-theory videos about Dr. Fauci have racked up hundreds of thousands of views in the past week. In private Facebook groups, posts disparaging him have also been shared hundreds of times and liked by thousands of people, according to the Times analysis.

One anti-Fauci tweet on Tuesday said, “Sorry liberals but we don’t trust Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

The torrent of falsehoods aimed at discrediting Dr. Fauci is another example of the hyperpartisan information flow that has driven a wedge into the way Americans think. For the past few years, far-right supporters of President Trump have regularly vilified those whom they see as opposing him. Even so, the campaign against Dr. Fauci stands out because he is one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts and a member of Mr. Trump’s virus task force, and it is unfolding as the government battles a pathogen that is rapidly spreading in the United States.

It is the latest twist in the ebb and flow of right-wing punditry that for weeks echoed Mr. Trump in minimizing the threat posed by the coronavirus and arguably undercut efforts to alert the public of its dangers. When the president took a more assertive posture against the outbreak, conservative outlets shifted, too — but now accuse Democrats and journalists of trying to use the pandemic to damage Mr. Trump politically.

“There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Trump supporters to spread misinformation about the virus aggressively,” said Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington who has studied misinformation.

Adding that Dr. Fauci is bearing the brunt of the attacks, Mr. Bergstrom said: “There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren’t aligned with the people. It’s very concerning because the experts in this are being discounted out of hand.”

The Trump administration has previously shown a distaste for relying on scientific expertise, such as when dealing with climate change. But misinformation campaigns during a pandemic carry a unique danger because they may sow distrust in public health officials when accurate information and advice are crucial, said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who teaches digital ethics.

“What this case will show is that conspiracy theories can kill,” she said.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases did not respond to a request for comment on the misinformation being directed at Dr. Fauci, who has said he plans to keep working to contain the coronavirus.

“When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with Science magazine this past week. “So, I’m going to keep pushing.”

The online campaign is an abrupt shift for Dr. Fauci, an immunologist who has led the institute since 1984. He has long been seen as credible by a large section of the public and journalists, advising every president since Ronald Reagan and encouraging action against the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

In recent weeks, much of the online discussion of Dr. Fauci was benign or positive. Zignal Labs, a media analysis company, studied 1.7 million mentions of Dr. Fauci across the web and TV broadcasts from Feb. 27 to Friday and found that through mid-March, he was mainly praised and his comments were straightforwardly reported. Right-wing figures quoted Dr. Fauci approvingly or lauded him for his comments on shutting down travel to and from China, Zignal Labs said.

In the White House briefings on the coronavirus, he often spoke plainly of the severity of the situation, becoming something of a folk hero to some on the left. Then Dr. Fauci, who had been a steady presence at Mr. Trump’s side during the briefings, did not appear at the one on March 18.

A hashtag asking “Where is Dr. Fauci?” began trending on Twitter. Several Facebook fan groups dedicated to praising his medical record called for his return. The first accounts tweeting #FauciFraud also appeared, though their volume of posts was small, according to the Times analysis.

Two days later, Dr. Fauci put his head in his hand at the White House briefing after Mr. Trump’s remark on the “Deep State Department.” His gesture — some called it a face palm — caught the attention of Mr. Trump’s supporters online, who saw it as an insult to the president.

Anti-Fauci posts spiked, according to Zignal Labs. Much of the increase was prompted by a March 21 article in The American Thinker, a conservative blog, which published the seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had written to an aide of Mrs. Clinton.

In the email, Dr. Fauci praised Mrs. Clinton for her stamina during the 2013 Benghazi hearings. The American Thinker falsely claimed that the email was evidence that he was part of a secret group who opposed Mr. Trump.

That same day, Mr. Fitton of Judicial Watch posted a tweet linking to a different blog post that showed Dr. Fauci’s email on Mrs. Clinton. In the tweet, Mr. Fitton included a video of himself crossing his arms and saying, “Isn’t that interesting.” It was retweeted more than 1,500 times.

In an interview, Mr. Fitton said, “Dr. Fauci is doing a great job.” He added that Dr. Fauci “wrote very political statements to Hillary Clinton that were odd for an appointee of his nature to send.”

The conspiracy theory was soon shared thousands of times across Facebook and Twitter. It was also taken up by messaging groups on WhatsApp and Facebook run by QAnon, the anonymous group that claims to be privy to government secrets. On YouTube, far-right personalities began spouting that Dr. Fauci was a fraud.

By Tuesday, the online and television mentions of Dr. Fauci had declined but had become consistently negative, Zignal Labs said.

One anti-Fauci tweet last Sunday read: “Dr. Fauci is in love w/ crooked @HillaryClinton. More reasons not to trust him.”

Facebook said it proactively removed misinformation related to the coronavirus. YouTube said that it did not recommend the conspiracy-theory videos on Dr. Fauci to viewers and that it promotes credible virus information. Twitter said it remained “focused on taking down content that can lead to harm.”

Ms. Phillips, the Syracuse assistant professor, said the campaign was part of a long-term conspiracy theory propagated by Mr. Trump’s followers.

“Fauci has just been particularly prominent,” she said. “But any public health official who gets cast in a conspiratorial narrative is going to be subject to those same kinds of suspicions, the same kinds of doubt.”

That has not stopped Dr. Fauci from appearing on the internet. On Thursday, he joined a 30-minute Instagram Live discussion about the coronavirus hosted by the National Basketball Association star Stephen Curry.

In the session, Dr. Fauci, with a miniature basketball hoop behind him, conveyed the same message that he had said for weeks about the outbreak.

“This is serious business,” he said. “We are not overreacting.”

Coyne: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Possibly more dangerous than the coronavirus:

Over the past four years, it has been hard to escape the feeling that much of America – and even some Canadians – had fallen under the spell of a cult.

That it is also a political movement does not diminish its cult-like tendencies: the imperviousness to fact, the repetition of certain prescribed slogans, the suppression of the critical faculties, the blind devotion to the leader. And while some of this is present in all political movements, the particular zealotry of Donald Trump’s followers – the willingness to believe what isn’t so, and to disbelieve what is – is something else again.

Indeed, it is not only their thinking that appears to have been taken over; it’s behavioural. What we are witnessing is not so much the expression of a particular theory of government as of a personality type; the replication, on a mass scale, of the leader’s own temperament and bearing, if not the underlying psychological disorders, as if the virus of Trumpism had infected, not just people’s minds, but their souls – their character.

Or, perhaps, revealed it. The funny thing is, you’re almost never surprised to find who turns out to be a Trump supporter and who is not. Though they may never before have uttered the sentiments you hear coming out of their mouths now, there was always, you find yourself reflecting, a certain predilection.

This has nothing to do with how conservative they are. Some of the most committed conservatives I know are revolted by the U.S. President and want only to see the end of him. It has to do with character. It has become, frankly, something of a litmus test.

I hesitate to say this. I’m a strong believer in the proposition that “reasonable people can differ,” that there are two sides to every story, that one’s opponents are at worst mistaken. But Mr. Trump, and Trumpism, represents the triumph of unreason and the suppression of differences. To pay the usual respects to such an unworthy opponent is to do dishonour to one’s worthy opponents..

Perhaps it was possible, very early on, if you had not been paying much attention, to see him as a sort of necessary evil, a shock to the system – uncouth, sure, a bit rough around the edges, but a rock through the window, as it has been put, of official Washington, a signal that people were fed up with politics as usual.

But it is not possible now. It is not possible to look at all that Mr. Trump is and all that he represents – the pathological lying, the habitual corruption, the serial groping, the casual racism, the glorification of violence, the winking to Nazis, the laziness, the impulsiveness, the childish tantrums, the bottomless ignorance, the vanity, the insecurity, the vulnerability (so skilfully exploited by America’s adversaries) to flattery, the bullying, the crudity, the indifference to suffering, the incompetence, the chaos in the White House, the attacks on America’s allies and support for its foes, the contempt for experts and for expertise, for norms and conventions, for checks and balances, for limited government, for the very rule of law – it is not possible to be exposed to all this on a daily basis for four years and shrug it off or explain it away or accept it as part of the deal without there being something wrong with you.

Because it is the deal – that’s all there is – and it was obvious it was the deal, long before it was revealed that Mr. Trump’s victory in the last election was achieved with the aid of Russian intelligence – with or without the connivance of the multiple members of Mr. Trump’s circle who were in contact with Russian officials at the time – and quite apart from the explicit and documented solicitation of interference by another foreign power in the coming election that was the subject of his recent impeachment and trial.

The Republican senators who nevertheless voted to acquit may genuinely be Trump loyalists, or they may merely be fearful of retribution from the President and his cult followers. But either way, it would be hard to ascribe their decision to a judicious weighing of the facts before them. Not when so many had announced their intent to acquit before the trial, not when the evidence of guilt was so overwhelming, not when the justification on which they eventually settled – “he did it but should not be punished for it” – amounts not merely to a benediction on the President’s past abuses of power but an invitation to future ones as well. “Acquitted for life!” Rudy Giuliani tweeted afterward, not without cause.

To reach such a verdict, in such circumstances, is beyond a mere error of reasoning. It is moral error, and of a particularly egregious kind. These are not, after all, bar-stool yahoos or internet trolls, but senators who are supposed to know better. To say that one disagrees with it, then, is insufficient. It must be condemned, as surely history will condemn it. To be sure, there is danger in the other direction; people are all too ready nowadays to convert any disagreement into a contest of absolutes. So be it. We have to be able to see every shade of grey, including black and white.

We needn’t make too much of this. The people who have fallen under Mr. Trump’s spell, or at any rate bend themselves to his will, may have other compensating virtues; it may be a blight upon their character without being the whole of their character. But neither should we avoid it. It is not just a mistake to make excuses for Donald Trump. It is a moral failing. It may only be blindness – while some might actively applaud him for his depravities, most just minimize them – but it is, at this stage, culpable blindness, if not willful blindness.

To say that Trumpism is a moral failing is not to place his followers, or his enablers, beyond the pale. I have my own moral failings, and so do you. But it is worth identifying it in such terms; it is clarifying. Sometimes you have to, as it is sometimes said of Mr. Trump, tell it like it is.

Source: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

More good commentary from someone involved in the drafting:

Fifteen years ago, as the American Jewish Committee’s antisemitism expert, I was the lead drafter of what was then called the “working definition of antisemitism”. It was created primarily so that European data collectors could know what to include and exclude. That way antisemitism could be monitored better over time and across borders.

It was never intended to be a campus hate speech code, but that’s what Donald Trump’s executive order accomplished this week. This order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.

The problem isn’t that the executive order affords protection to Jewish students under title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Department of Education made clear in 2010 that Jews, Sikhs and Muslims (as ethnicities) could complain about intimidation, harassment and discrimination under this provision. I supported this clarification and filed a successful complaint for Jewish high school students when they were bullied, even kicked (there was a “Kick a Jew Day”).

Source: Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

ICYMI: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Good commentary:

US President Donald Trump thinks that anti-Semitism is a serious problem in America. But Trump is not so much concerned about neo-Nazis who scream that Jews and other minorities “will not replace us,” for he thinks that many white supremacists are “very fine people.” No, Trump is more worried about US college campuses, where students call for boycotts of Israel in support of the Palestinians.

Trump just signed an executive order requiring that federal money be withheld from educational institutions that fail to combat anti-Semitism. Since Jews are identified in this order as a discriminated group on the grounds of ethnic, racial, or national characteristics, an attack on Israel would be anti-Semitic by definition. This is indeed the position of Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, who believes that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

There are, of course, as many forms of anti-Semitism as there are interpretations of what it means to be Jewish. When Trump and his supporters rant in campaign rallies about shadowy cabals of international financiers who undermine the interests of “ordinary, decent people,” some might interpret that as a common anti-Semitic trope, especially when an image of George Soros is brandished to underline this message. Trump even hinted at the possibility that the liberal Jewish human rights promoter and philanthropist was deliberately funding “caravans” of refugees and illegal aliens so that they could spread mayhem in the US. In Soros’s native Hungary, attacks on him as a cosmopolitan enemy of the people are unmistakably anti-Semitic.

Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense.

The history of extreme anti-Zionism is not so long. In the first years of the Jewish state, Israel was popular among many leftists, because it was built on socialist ideas. Left-wing opinion in Europe and the United States began to turn against Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Arab territories were occupied by Israeli troops. More and more, Israel came to be seen as a colonial power, or an apartheid state.

One may or may not agree with that view of Israel. But few would deny that occupation, as is usually the case when civilians are under the thumb of a foreign military power, has led to oppression. So, to be a strong advocate for Palestinian rights and a critic of Israeli policies, on college campuses or anywhere else, does not automatically make one an anti-Semite. But there are extreme forms of anti-Zionism that do. The question is when that line is crossed.

Some would claim that it is anti-Semitic to deny Jews the right to have their own homeland. This is indeed one of the premises of Trump’s presidential order. There are also elements on the radical left, certainly represented in educational institutions, who are so obsessed by the oppression of Palestinians that they see Israel as the world’s greatest evil. Just as anti-Semites in the past often linked Jews with the US, as the twin sources of rootless capitalist malevolence, some modern anti-Zionists combine their anti-Americanism with a loathing for Israel.

In the minds of certain leftists, Israel and its American big brother are not just the last bastions of racist Western imperialism. The idea of a hidden Jewish capitalist cabal can also enter left-wing demonology as readily as it infects the far right. This noxious prejudice has haunted the British Labour Party, something its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has consistently failed to recognize.1

In short, anti-Zionism can veer into anti-Semitism, but not all critics of Israel are anti-Zionist, and not all anti-Zionists are prejudiced against Jews.

Quite where people stand on this issue depends heavily on how they define a Jew – a source of endless vagueness and confusion. According to Halakha, or Jewish law, anyone with a Jewish mother, or who has converted to Judaism, is Jewish. That is the general Orthodox view. But more liberal Reform Jews allow Jewish identity to pass through the father as well.

On the other hand, while most Orthodox Jews consider a person to be Jewish even if they convert to another religion, Reform Jews do not. Israel’s Law of Return grants “every Jew” the right to immigrate, but refrains from defining Jewishness. Since 1970, even people with one Jewish grandparent have been eligible to become Israeli citizens. In the infamous Nuremberg laws, promulgated by the Nazis in 1935, people with only one Jewish parent could retain German citizenship, while “full” Jews could not.

The whole thing is so complicated that Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist, once sought to simplify the matter as follows: “Who is a Jew? Everyone who is mad enough to call himself or herself a Jew, is a Jew.”

There is, in any case, something ill-conceived about the stress on race and nationhood in Trump’s order on combating anti-Semitism. Israel is the only state claiming to represent all Jews, but not all Jews necessarily identify with Israel. Some even actively dislike it. Trump’s order might suggest that such people are renegades, or even traitors. This idea might please Israel’s current government, but it is far from the spirit of the Halakha, or even from the liberal idea of citizenship.

Defining Jews as a “race” is just as much of a problem. Jews come from many ethnic backgrounds: Yemenite, Ethiopian, Russian, Moroccan, and Swedish Jews are hard to pin down as a distinctive ethnic group. Hitler saw Jews as a race, but that is no reason to follow his example.

To combat racism, wherever it occurs, is a laudable aim. But singling out anti-Semitism in an executive order, especially when the concept is so intimately linked to views on the state of Israel, is a mistake. Extreme anti-Zionists may be a menace; all extremists are. But they should be tolerated, as long as their views are peacefully expressed. To stifle opinions on campuses by threatening to withhold funds runs counter to the freedom of speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. This is, alas, not the only sign that upholding the constitution is not the main basis of the current US administration’s claim to legitimacy.

Source: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

Sigh….

Back in February 2017, Donald Trump was asked what the government planned to do about an uptick in anti-Semitism, to which he characteristically responded, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” That statement, like the ones he’s previously made about being “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” was, and is, obviously not true at all. Prior to being elected, Trump seemed to suggest to a room full of Jews that they buy off politicians; tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”; and releasedan ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voiceover about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.” After moving into the White House, and just a few short months following his assertion that he is the least anti-Semitic person to walk the earth, Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazis and, just last August, accusedAmerican Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. And if you thought the coming holiday season would inspire the president to pump the brakes on blatant anti-Semitism, boy, do we have a surprise for you!

Speaking at the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night, Trump hit all of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes before a room full of Jewish people. He started off by once again invoking the age-old cliché about “dual loyalty,” saying there are Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” After that warm-up he dove right into the stereotype about Jews and money, telling the group: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me—you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!” (It feels beside the point that neither Elizabeth Warren nor any other Democratic candidate has proposed a 100% wealth tax.) He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”

Source: Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

The “Debt” Immigrants Can Never Repay

Interesting read:

In July, Donald Trump told a story about how he coerced a wealthy businessman he didn’t like and who didn’t like him into praising him. The story focused on the pleasure Trump took in watching that man grovel and tell him he was “doing good.” In Trump’s hands, it was a parable about debt and gratitude. “You know,” Trump says he told this nameless enemy, “you don’t like me and I don’t like you. I never have liked you and you never have liked me—but you’re gonna support me because you’re a rich guy. And if you don’t support me, you’re going to be so goddamn poor you’re not going to believe it.” Trump describes the man as acquiescing and praising him, closing the story with: “And maybe we didn’t get along, but it’s not like he has a choice. He has no choice.”

To Trump, this is the story of an excellent “deal.” The best deal is one where the other party, who has something you want (like “a wealthy businessman’s grudging approval”), has no choice but to give it to you. It doesn’t matter if the praise is genuine as long as it costs the businessman something to give it. This calculus may seem pragmatic, but it ends up having a long-term price of its own: “You lose all your friends when you’re president,” Trump laments later in his monologue, one of his part-joke, part-confession asides. When the “deal” is your only framework, your universe shrinks and shuts out bonds over things like (for example) shared principles. It also makes nontransactional feedback—or any truly independent judgment untainted by bribes or threats—implausible. Some consequences of this approach are as old as they are obvious: Choosing to exert control through coercion, insincere praise, or veiled threats frays relations into the kind of exploitation on the one side and lying obsequiousness on the other that Shakespeare’s fools spent every play mocking. More worrying, for a democracy, is that there is no aspiration to anything resembling the ideal of equality here: Trump’s “deal” is about supremacy. He applies it to everything, and his most ardent support (and much of his administration) draws power by championing this worldview.

Trump’s story may have been apocryphal, but it’s also clarifying. Though no friend to the poor and marginalized, his priorities remain clear even with his ostensible equals; these priorities consist largely of making his deal partners lose. The story also offers one of the better examples of the gratitude tax he tries to exact from those with whom he interacts. This is a particular kind of American paternalism at its finest, a framework where the weaker party is not only forced into social or financial debt—they are humiliated and made to feel it. The paternalist values getting the better end of a deal over pretty much everything else. And that’s what a particular subset of Trump supporters—striving to “win” this way themselves—like about him.

Absent an arrangement where he profits financially, the paternalist deal-maker makes sure to profit socially. That’s crucial to understanding some of the less-obvious gears powering Trump’s worldview. Yes, he’s racist; yes, he’s classist. But he’ll make exceptions for poor people (or people from marginalized communities) if they’ll grovel and praise. Sen. Lindsey Graham argued that Trump’s dislike of Somali immigrants like Rep. Ilhan Omar is not based on race. The reason he’s demonizing her to his followers, Graham argued—as if this weren’t racist and above all slimy—was that she didn’t likehim. “I really do believe that if you’re a Somali refugee who likes Trump, he’s not going to say, ‘Go back to Somalia.’ ” You’ll recognize the currency Graham’s identifying here: The only nonwhite migrants worth tolerating, to this way of thinking, are those willing to pay—and they’d better give more than they got, whether in dollars or in gratitude.

This bleak standard is symptomatic of a larger pattern of American paternalism that has always existed but is now flourishing under Trump as other national ideals wither. The American paternalist in the Trumpian mold thinks he’s generous and even-keeled. In practice, he tends to be paranoid, erratic, and consumed by the pursuit of “deals” that put him ahead of the other party in an imaginary ledger he curates with obsessive care. People with less material wealth than him are suspect; as he cannot imagine other motives for them, they must be out to take advantage. He is therefore on guard with them and keen to maintain his advantage by any means. This has obvious consequences for immigration policy: Such a person sees nothing meritorious in courageous dreamers filled with human potential traveling to a foreign country to make a better life. In his ledger, their arrival (and indeed, their existence) appears as a debit.

Source: The “Debt” Immigrants Can Never Repay