Sunday, December 3, 2023
Friday, December 1, 2023
Sunday, November 26, 2023
December 2023 is before us. During the Week our team assessed the World this week as the UK Autumn Statement was delivered by the UK Government, the War in Ukraine raged on, a New President was elected in Argentina, and the War in Gaza continued (with a potential for the continuation of the ceasefire) and the US Election scene.
A power vacuum in Gaza after the current war could set off another cycle of violence and terrorism
NOVEMBER 26, 2023 by Josep Borrell
"The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent," one advocate said.
Yesterday, David Roberts of the energy and politics newsletter Volts noted that a Washington Post article illustrated how right-wing extremism is accomplishing its goal of destroying faith in democracy. Examining how “in a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of politics,” the article revealed how right-wing extremism has sucked up so much media oxygen that people have tuned out, making them unaware that Biden and the Democrats are doing their best to deliver precisely what those in the article claim to want: compromise, access to abortion, affordable health care, and gun safety.
One person interviewed said, “I can’t really speak to anything [Biden] has done because I’ve tuned it out, like a lot of people have. We’re so tired of the us-against-them politics.” Roberts points out that “both sides” are not extremists, but many Americans have no idea that the Democrats are actually trying to govern, including by reaching across the aisle. Roberts notes that the media focus on the right wing enables the right wing to define our politics. That, in turn, serves the radical right by destroying Americans’ faith in our democratic government.
Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele echoed that observation this morning when he wrote, “We need to stop the false equivalency BS between Biden and Trump. Only one acts with the intention to do real harm.”
Indeed, as David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo puts it, “the gathering storm of Trump 2.0 is upon us,” and Trump and his people are telling us exactly what a second Trump term would look like. Yesterday, Trump echoed his “vermin” post of the other day, saying: “2024 is our final battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the Deep State, we will expel the warmongers from our government, we will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, we will throw off the sick political class that hates our Country, we will rout the Fake News Media, we will evict Joe Biden from the White House, and we will FINISH THE JOB ONCE AND FOR ALL!”
Trump’s open swing toward authoritarianism should be disqualifying even for Republicans—can you imagine Ronald Reagan talking this way?—but MAGA Republicans are lining up behind him. Last week the Texas legislature passed a bill to seize immigration authority from the federal government in what is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, and yesterday, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced that he was “proud to endorse” Trump for president because of his proposed border policies (which include the deportation of 10 million people).
House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has also endorsed Trump, and on Friday he announced he was ordering the release of more than 40,000 hours of tapes from the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, answering the demands of far-right congress members who insist the tapes will prove there was no such attack despite the conclusion of the House committee investigating the attack that Trump criminally conspired to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election and refused to stop his supporters from attacking the Capitol.
Trump loyalist Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) promptly spread a debunked conspiracy theory that one of the attackers shown in the tapes, Kevin Lyons, was actually a law enforcement officer hiding a badge. Lyons—who was not, in fact, a police officer—was carrying a vape and a photo he stole from then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and is now serving a 51-month prison sentence. (Former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) tweeted: “Hey [Mike Lee]—heads up. A nutball conspiracy theorist appears to be posting from your account.”)
Both E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted yesterday that MAGA Republicans have no policies for addressing inflation or relations with China or gun safety; instead, they have coalesced only around the belief that officials in “the administrative state” thwarted Trump in his first term and that a second term will be about revenge on his enemies and smashing American liberalism.
MIke Davis, one of the men under consideration for attorney general, told a podcast host in September that he would “unleash hell on Washington, D.C.,” getting rid of career politicians, indicting President Joe Biden “and every other scumball, sleazeball Biden,” and helping pardon those found guilty of crimes associated with the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. “We’re gonna deport a lot of people, 10 million people and growing—anchor babies, their parents, their grandparents,” Davis said. “We’re gonna put kids in cages. It’s gonna be glorious. We’re gonna detain a lot of people in the D.C. gulag and Gitmo.”
In the Washington Post, Josh Dawsey talked to former Trump officials who do not believe Trump should be anywhere near the presidency, and yet they either fear for their safety if they oppose him or despair that nothing they say seems to matter. John F. Kelly, Trump’s longest-serving chief of staff, told Dawsey that it is beyond his comprehension that Trump has the support he does.
“I came out and told people the awful things he said about wounded soldiers, and it didn’t have half a day’s bounce. You had his attorney general Bill Barr come out, and not a half a day’s bounce. If anything, his numbers go up. It might even move the needle in the wrong direction. I think we’re in a dangerous zone in our country,” Kelly said.
Part of the attraction of right-wing figures is they offer easy solutions to the complicated issues of the modern world. Argentina has inflation over 140%, and 40% of its people live in poverty. Yesterday, voters elected as president far-right libertarian Javier Milei, who is known as “El Loco” (The Madman). Milei wants to legalize the sale of organs, denies climate change, and wielded a chainsaw on the campaign trail to show he would cut down the state and “exterminate” inflation. Both Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, two far-right former presidents who launched attacks against their own governments, congratulated him.
In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower took on the question of authoritarianism. Robert J. Biggs, a terminally ill World War II veteran, wrote to Eisenhower, asking him to cut through the confusion of the postwar years. “We wait for someone to speak for us and back him completely if the statement is made in truth,” Biggs wrote. Eisenhower responded at length. While unity was imperative in the military, he said, “in a democracy debate is the breath of life. This is to me what Lincoln meant by government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’”
Dictators, Eisenhower wrote, “make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems—freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.”
Once again, liberal democracy is under attack, but it is notable—to me, anyway, as I watch to see how the public conversation is changing—that more and more people are stepping up to defend it. In the New York Times today, legal scholar Cass Sunstein warned that “[o]n the left, some people insist that liberalism is exhausted and dying, and unable to handle the problems posed by entrenched inequalities, corporate power and environmental degradation. On the right, some people think that liberalism is responsible for the collapse of traditional values, rampant criminality, disrespect for authority and widespread immorality.”
Sunstein went on to defend liberalism in a 34-point description, but his first point was the most important: “Liberals believe in six things,” he wrote: “freedom, human rights, pluralism, security, the rule of law and democracy,” including fact-based debate and accountability of elected officials to the people.
Finally, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who was a staunch advocate for the health and empowerment of marginalized people—and who embodied the principles Sunstein listed, though that’s not why I’m mentioning her—died yesterday at 96. “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement.
More to the point, perhaps, considering the Carters’ profound humanity, is that when journalist Katie Couric once asked President Carter whether winning a Nobel Peace Prize or being elected president of the United States was the most exciting thing that ever happened to him, Carter answered: “When Rosalynn said she’d marry me—I think that’s the most exciting thing.”
“It all began so beautifully,” Lady Bird remembered. “After a drizzle in the morning, the sun came out bright and beautiful. We were going into Dallas.”
It was November 22, 1963, and President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy were visiting Texas. They were there, in the home state of Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, to try to heal a rift in the Democratic Party. The white supremacists who made up the base of the party’s southern wing loathed the Kennedy administration’s support for Black rights.
That base had turned on Kennedy when he and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had backed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in fall 1962 saying that army veteran James Meredith had the right to enroll at the University of Mississippi, more commonly known as Ole Miss.
When the Department of Justice ordered officials at Ole Miss to register Meredith, Mississippi governor Ross Barnett physically barred Meredith from entering the building and vowed to defend segregation and states’ rights.
So the Department of Justice detailed dozens of U.S. marshals to escort Meredith to the registrar and put more than 500 law enforcement officers on the campus. White supremacists rushed to meet them there and became increasingly violent. That night, Barnett told a radio audience: “We will never surrender!” The rioters destroyed property and, under cover of the darkness, fired at reporters and the federal marshals. They killed two men and wounded many others.
The riot ended when the president sent 20,000 troops to the campus. On October 1, Meredith became the first Black American to enroll at the University of Mississippi.
The Kennedys had made it clear that the federal government would stand behind civil rights, and white supremacists joined right-wing Republicans in insisting that their stance proved that the Kennedys were communists. Using a strong federal government to regulate business meant preventing a man from making all the money he could; protecting civil rights would take tax dollars from white Americans for the benefit of Black and Brown people. A bumper sticker produced during the Mississippi crisis warned that “the Castro Brothers”—equating the Kennedys with communist revolutionaries in Cuba—had gone to Ole Miss.
That conflation of Black rights and communism stoked such anger in the southern right wing that Kennedy felt obliged to travel to Dallas to try to mend some fences in the state Democratic Party.
On the morning of November 22, 1963, the Dallas Morning News contained a flyer saying the president was wanted for “treason” for “betraying the Constitution” and giving “support and encouragement to the Communist inspired racial riots.” Kennedy warned his wife that they were “heading into nut country today.”
But the motorcade through Dallas started out in a party atmosphere. At the head of the procession, the president and first lady waved from their car at the streets “lined with people—lots and lots of people—the children all smiling, placards, confetti, people waving from windows,” Lady Bird remembered. “There had been such a gala air,” she said, that when she heard three shots, “I thought it must be firecrackers or some sort of celebration.”
The Secret Service agents had no such moment of confusion. The cars sped forward, “terrifically fast—faster and faster,” according to Lady Bird, until they arrived at a hospital, which made Mrs. Johnson realize what had happened. “As we ground to a halt” and Secret Service agents began to pull them out of the cars, Lady Bird wrote, “I cast one last look over my shoulder and saw in the President’s car a bundle of pink, just like a drift of blossoms, lying on the back seat…Mrs. Kennedy lying over the President’s body.”
As they waited for news of the president, LBJ asked Lady Bird to go find Mrs. Kennedy. Lady Bird recalled that Secret Service agents “began to lead me up one corridor, back stairs, and down another. Suddenly, I found myself face to face with Jackie in a small hall…outside the operating room. You always think of her—or someone like her—as being insulated, protected; she was quite alone. I don’t think I ever saw anyone so much alone in my life.”
After trying to comfort Mrs. Kennedy, Lady Bird went back to the room where her own husband was. It was there that Kennedy’s special assistant told them, “The President is dead,” just before journalist Malcolm Kilduff entered and addressed LBJ as “Mr. President.”
Officials wanted LBJ out of Dallas as quickly as possible and rushed the party to the airport. Looking out the car window, Lady Bird saw a flag already at half mast and later recalled, “[T]hat is when the enormity of what had happened first struck me.”
In the confusion—in addition to the murder of the president, no one knew how extensive the plot against the government was—the attorney general wanted LBJ sworn into office as quickly as possible. Already on the plane to return to Washington, D.C., the party waited for Judge Sarah Hughes, a Dallas federal judge. By the time Hughes arrived, so had Mrs. Kennedy and the coffin bearing her husband’s body. “[A]nd there in the very narrow confines of the plane—with Jackie on his left with her hair falling in her face, but very composed, and me on his right, Judge Hughes, with the Bible, in front of him and a cluster of Secret Service people and Congressmen we had known for a long time around him—Lyndon took the oath of office,” Lady Bird recalled.
As the plane traveled to Washington, D.C., Lady Bird went into the private presidential cabin to see Mrs. Kennedy, passing President Kennedy’s casket in the hallway.
Lady Bird later recalled: “I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy’s dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked…with blood—her husband’s blood. She always wore gloves like she was used to them. I never could. Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights—exquisitely dressed and caked in blood. I asked her if I couldn’t get someone in to help her change and she said, ‘Oh, no. Perhaps later…but not right now.’”
“And then,” Lady Bird remembered, “with something—if, with a person that gentle, that dignified, you can say had an element of fierceness, she said, ‘I want them to see what they have done to Jack.’”