In 2011, the year Donald Trump became the standard-bearer for the racist campaign to challenge Barack Obama’s citizenship, he didn’t just lob conspiracies about the President’s birthplace; he also questioned how Obama gained admission to two Ivy League universities. “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible,” Trump remarked, to the Associated Press. “How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it. I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.” Coming just two days before Obama released his long-form birth certificate, the attack on the President’s educational background tipped Trump’s hand. He was not simply intent on delegitimizing the first black Presidency but also the processes that made one possible in the first place.
This broader theme was easy to miss in the scrum of last year’s campaign, as duelling perspectives debated whether “economic anxiety” or populist racism was the more active ingredient in Trumpism. Trump likely understood that this was always a false dichotomy. The dominant theme in the history of American populism, from the days of Tom Watson through those of George Wallace, is that resentful whites understand their economic status not in absolute terms but relative to the blacks whom they perceive as the true barometer of their standing. The question is not whether C.E.O.s have salaries hundreds of times larger than their own but whether black people have salaries comparable to theirs. The forces that have ravaged the American working classes were set loose four decades ago and were turbocharged by the end of the Cold War, but it took two terms of a black Presidency for much of this public to recognize that its fortunes were in a tailspin. Until 2008, this group had lacked a static landmark against which to measure whether it was moving backward or forward. Obama became that.
* AG Sessions is trying really hard to get out of the dog house Trump put him in.
The Trump administration is taking new steps to plug leaks of classified information, and it has tripled the number of criminal investigations involving illegal disclosures, top officials announced Friday.
The officials — Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats — appeared at the Justice Department to discuss a stepped-up enforcement effort against what Sessions called a “staggering number of leaks” that undermine “the ability of our government to protect this country.”..
Sessions also disclosed that the Trump administration is reviewing policies around how it subpoenas news media records.
* Just yesterday it looked like Republican Congressional leaders and the disparate voices in the White House had come together and agreed to pass a “clean debt ceiling increase.” Then this happened…
We promised the American people we'd address our nation's debt. There's no excuse 4 raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts & reforms
* Once again, Adam Gopnick has written a must-read that captures what is happening during this Trump era.
Donald Trump and his minions have been engaged, we are told, every day, in violations of what are being called norms—the expectation, say, that the President will not engage in an open war with his own Attorney General, or make reckless accusations of illegality on the part of former Presidents. Google “Trump” and “norms,” and you find a huge, alarmed journalistic literature, enumerating the norms of political discourse that Trump has overturned that week or day—but those same pieces will also, more often than not, point out that, after all, overturning norms is what he was elected to do…
But respecting the rule of law is not a norm. Telling the truth about matters of state—or apologizing when you haven’t been able to tell it—are not “norms.” They are premises. They aren’t enumerated or listed in advance in a legal document, not because they’re merely conventional but because they make all the other conventions possible. They’re not the way we wear our hats; they’re the ground beneath our feet…We take them for granted because without them there would be no way of standing up at all. We don’t list them not because they are mere manners and conventions but because they are the unstated absolutes that let everything else go on.
* Ta-Nehisi Coates weighs in on HBO’s prospective series Confederate.
Confederate is the kind of provocative thought experiment that can be engaged in when someone else’s lived reality really is fantasy to you, when your grandmother is not in danger of losing her vote, when the terrorist attack on Charleston evokes honest sympathy, but inspires no direct fear. And so we need not wait to note that Confederate’s interest in Civil War history is biased, that it is premised on a simplistic view of white Southern defeat, instead of the more complicated morass we have all around us.
* Over the weekend, I plan to read a long one from Michael Lewis titled: “Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat Might Be Coming From Inside the White House.”
Donald Trump’s secretary of energy, Rick Perry, once campaigned to abolish the $30 billion agency that he now runs, which oversees everything from our nuclear arsenal to the electrical grid. The department’s budget is now on the chopping block. But does anyone in the White House really understand what the Department of Energy actually does? And what a horrible risk it would be to ignore its extraordinary, life-or-death responsibilities?
* Finally, Congress is in recess and the president is on vacation. So this oldie-but-goodie seems appropriate.