Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
Donald Trump’s rambling July 4th history lesson about how Revolutionary War general Sullenberger landed his Airbus 320 softly on the Potomac before bitch-slapping King George, or whatever, sparked a fresh round of debate over whether or not the president* is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. But while the prospect of the guy with the nuclear codes suffering from dementia is a terrifying one for the country—and the world—it may be another cognitive impairment that ultimately dooms Trump’s chances of being re-elected last year: his textbook narcissism.
According to multiple accounts, Trump is constitutionally incapable of accepting the fact that a majority of Americans don’t like him. This week, WaPo’s Phillip Bump noted that Trump had revived an old lie that he’d won all three of his 2016 debates against Hillary Clinton when every legitimate poll showed that he had lost them all by significant margins.
Trump’s denial that he lost the debates is likely rooted in his inability to accept that perhaps he might actually have done so — or, at least, his inability to acknowledge that fact. But such denials are by no means limited to his performance in 2016. In an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson that aired on Monday night, Trump also claimed that approval polls showed him excelling — or at least they would if polls were fair…this all loops back to the central tension of Trump's presidency. He wants to be popular and wants America to see him as popular. That he's not — and that he's demonstrably not — is a constant frustration.
“Frustration” is probably an understatement. According to an explainer from Psychology Today, “narcissistic rage can be defined as intense anger, aggression, or passive-aggression when a narcissist experiences a setback or disappointment, which shatters his (or her) illusions of grandiosity, entitlement, and superiority, and triggers inner inadequacy, shame, and vulnerability.” Denial is a protective mechanism that keeps the rage and depression at bay.
We know that Trump's aides can’t dissuade him from being Trump. Facing the reality that he’s the least popular president* in the modern polling era and has failed to fulfill all of his campaign promises except for appointing fierce Republican partisans to the courts causes him psychic injury, so he will continue to pursue a base-only strategy when he would almost certainly be better served at least pivoting to a degree toward the (sane) center. He’s going to continue to tout nonexistent threats and imaginary successes, and demagogue migrants, liberals and the rest of his enemies. And the entire GOP will no doubt fall in lockstep with him.
Trump won the Republican primaries with 45 percent of the vote because the other 55 percent of the GOP base divvied up their votes among his 16 rivals. He went on to win the Electoral College with just 46 percent of the vote because Hillary Clinton’s support tanked when James Comey announced that he was re-opening the FBI investigation into her email server management practices. His party was shellacked in the 2018 midterms, which were a referendum on his presidency, using the same tactics as last year and the year before. And over the course of the next 17 months he will continue to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
Trump has a good chance of winning next year thanks to voter purges, ID laws and various other forms of suppression and intimidation. If he loses a race he should be able to win handily given the state of the economy (at least at present) and the advantages of incumbency, it will be in large part because he can’t internalize the fact that when he fires up his base, he also fires up the Democratic base, and theirs is significantly bigger. The narcissism could prove to be Trump's Achilles' Heel.
And with that, let's move onto this week’s roundup.
Speaking of Trump’s July 4th Salute to Trump, The Daily Beast reported that “it didn’t just stand to benefit him politically; Trump’s D.C. hotel also capitalized on the tourism boom surrounding the Independence Day festivities.
“As of Wednesday morning, the Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House, was offering rooms for a minimum three-night stay beginning on Wednesday for $1,151 or more per night.”
Grifters gonna grift.
We were once again fortunate that Trump isn’t a more polished authoritarian this week. As the Justice Department filed a short brief with a federal court affirming that the regime would continue to press for a citizenship question on the 2020 Census on Friday, Trump gave an interview in which he said “the quite part out loud,” as Aaron Blake put it. “Number one,” he explained, “you need it for Congress — you need it for Congress for districting… You need it for appropriations — where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.” The problem is that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has strenuously denied that giving non-Hispanic whites, and therefore Republicans, more electoral power had anything to do with the question.
Recall that in throwing the question back to the lower courts, Chief Justice John Roberts said the regime’s justification for adding the question was “contrived” and “more of a distraction… then a genuine explanation.
Salon’s Mark Joseph Stern points out some other very big problems for the regime’s position. The case will now move forward in the lower courts, where more disclosure of the right’s real rationale for adding the question is likely.
In May, Eric Blankenstein resigned from the CFPB after a slew of racist and misogynistic social media posts he'd written came to light.
Now Democrats are asking why Housing and Urban Development chief Ben Carson hired him to serve as a lawyer for his agency. CNN has more on that one.
Donald Trump killed the FBI’s plan, a decade in the making, to move its HQ from the Hoover Building to the DC suburbs, allegedly because redeveloping the existing property could lead to a new hotel competing with his Emoluments Clause violation downtown hotel.
The DOJ’s watchdog is now investigating the move, according to the WaPo.
The sense of entitlement is pretty impressive when you think about it…
Democrats on a key House committee are investigating allegations from a State Department whistleblower about Mike P… https://t.co/Gsk72knALh— Kyle Griffin (@Kyle Griffin) 1562013929.0
You probably heard about the 10,000-member secret Facebook group where Customs and Border Patrol Agents posted pictures of themselves “engaging in conduct that includes simulating sex acts and taking selfies while defecating,” joked about the deaths of migrant children, “made bigoted remarks about throwing a burrito at two Latina congresswomen, and posted obscene and misogynistic illustrations of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
That’s a lot of bad apples, but according to Politico it appears that the rot starts at the top, as "Border Patrol leadership knew about photos posted to the group as far back as 2016.”
DOJ issued new rules this week that gives Attorney General Bill Barr new power over immigration courts that he is expected to use to “tighten the ways immigrants can pursue a right to stay in the country,” reported The San Francisco Chronicle.
The Chron also reported that the regime “is preparing to replace in-court interpreters at initial immigration court hearings with videos informing asylum seekers and other immigrants facing deportation of their rights.”
Recall that children as young as three years old have been ordered to appear in court all alone for their hearings.
The regime accused a German-Iranian man who has lived in Germany for 40 years of using his son’s recent death as an excuse to migrate to the US and denied him a visa to attend his kid’s funeral. Deutsche Welle has more.
Several people who were deported to Mexico have received notice that ICE is charging them hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil fines for ignoring removal orders. While legal, this is unprecedented, according to The New York Times, which described the exorbitant bills as “the latest measure taken by the Trump administration in its crackdown on illegal immigration.”
Some good news this week. Per Reuters, “A federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to lift an injunction barring the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion intended for the fight against illegal narcotics to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.”
BREAKING: We just won due process rights back for asylum seekers. A federal court just ruled the Trump administrat… https://t.co/FibM9edhoL— ACLU (@ACLU) 1562109809.0
Details of that story are here.