How corporate media is blowing the New York subway shooting story

As most New York City residents could tell you, despite what conservative suburbanites would like to believe, riding the subway is much safer than driving. That's why Tuesday's mass shooting, in which 10 people were injured by gunfire, was so shocking. The crime, as terrible as it is, is the epitome of the word "anomaly." Indeed, it's nearly a miracle how rare mass shootings on subways are in a country awash with guns. As of this morning, there have been 131 mass shootings this year alone. They happen in schools, workplaces, homes, nightclubs, and on public streets, but with surprising infrequency on public transportation. As a New York Times headline tacitly admitted, a mass shooting on the subway is something "the city had long avoided."

Unfortunately, that a headline admits such events are rare is itself an anomaly. By and large, the mainstream media — especially the New York Times — fell right into the trap of using this shooting to feed a misleading right-wing narrative that paints cities as dangerous hellholes. Heaven help every urban-dwelling child of a Fox News addict who had to endure pressure to live out their parent's Hallmark movie fantasy. In truth, this crime says very little about cities being uniquely dangerous. Instead, it's a story about how America's failure to enact sensible gun control leads inevitably to senseless gun violence. But, to read the mainstream media coverage, one would think that this one bizarre crime was somehow indicative of a general trend of cities going to pot.

The Washington Post headline read, "In New York, subway attack adds to fears that city has grown dangerous."

"Why Brooklyn subway shooting and growing transit crimes threaten N.Y.C. 'return to normal,'" read the NBC News' headline. A Twitter account detailing the way the New York Times changes its headlines documented a particularly egregious example, in which a factual "Several People Shot In Brooklyn Subway Station" almost immediately got a right-wing spin to become: "Shooting in subway station heightens simmering fears about public safety."

The internal headlines at the New York Times also misleadingly linked this story to an overall narrative about crime. As civil rights activist Alec Karakatsanis noted, however, this is "a unique mass shooting event by a lone gunman," and has little relationship to "the kinds of daily crime stories" that paper usually covers. Progressive journalist Nick Wing criticized the New York times for calling the shooting "reminiscent of a string of other incidents in recent years," by pointing out that it's "the abnormal characteristics are what makes it most concerning."

To read the mainstream media coverage, one would think that this one bizarre crime was somehow indicative of a general trend of cities going to pot.

To make it even worse, perpetuating a "cities are dangerous" narrative is exactly what the alleged gunman appears to have desired.

The suspect in the shooting, a Philadelphia resident named Frank James, posted online videos griping that New York City Mayor Eric Adams "can't stop no crime in no subways" and echoing complaints about the city's unhoused population often heard in right-wing media. Using this shooting to tell a generalize about cities and crime is giving the alleged gunman exactly what he wants.

To be certain, there is a rise in crime, especially violent crime, going on in the U.S. But the spike appears to be a national one, and not just about the coastal blue cities that the right-wing media loves to demonize. As Igor Derysh wrote in Salon last month, "Republican states are reporting much higher homicide rates and some of the highest murder rates are in cities led by Republican mayors." In fact, murder "rates were an average of 40% higher in 2020 in the 25 states that Trump carried in the last election, compared to states carried by Biden." Some of the biggest murder rate spikes, which began while Donald Trump was president, have been in states like Montana and South Dakota. New York City remains one of the safest cities in the country, while smaller cities like Jackson, Mississippi and Cleveland, Ohio are among those with the most violent crime.

One look at the ongoing list of mass shootings in America also demonstrates the "everywhere" nature of the problem.

In just the past month, there were mass shootings in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (pop: 132,301), Covington, Kentucky (pop: 40,548), Shelby, North Carolina (pop: 20,007), and Colorado Springs, Colorado (pop: 464,871). There are mass shootings everywhere because there are guns everywhere.

As crime analyst Jeff Asher and data scientist Rob Arthur recently wrote in the Atlantic, "More guns are behind America's murder spike." While there is inevitable quibbling over the data, the trend is pretty clear-cut: There was a surge of gun-buying at the beginning of the pandemic, and as night follows day, there was then a surge of people using their new guns for what guns were designed to do, which is to shoot people. Indeed, federal data shows a clear-cut trend of newly purchased guns turning up at crime scenes.

There are too many guns out there and it's way too easy for unstable people to arm themselves.

As German Lopez of the New York Times writes, there are likely many contributing factors to the rise in violent crime, including the pandemic's disruptions and the conflict between police and communities in the wake of protests against police violence. But there can be no doubt that guns are a major factor, if not the major factor:

Americans bought many more guns in 2020 and 2021 than they did in previous years. The guns purchased in 2020 also seemed to be used in crime more quickly than firearms bought in previous years. And Americans seemed more likely to carry guns illegally in 2020. In short: Americans had more guns, and were possibly more likely to carry and use them.
Research generally shows that where there are more guns, there is more gun violence.

If there is one thing that links this rare subway mass shooting to the rise in overall violent crime, it's this: There are too many guns out there and it's way too easy for unstable people to arm themselves.

It's not irrelevant that James seems to have loaded up in Philadelphia before traveling to New York City. The Giffords Law Center gives Pennsylvania a B- for its gun laws, compared to New York's A- rating. If you're an unhinged person looking to kill a bunch of people, you'll have better luck getting armed for it in Philadelphia than in New York City.

But this also underscores how much this is a national problem. Even when states do their level best to make it hard to get guns, there's little they can do about criminals bringing guns over state lines. We have a national gun problem that requires national solutions. Blaming cities for this may suit the needs of right-wing propagandists, but it does little to actually solve the problem.

Biden goes bold with defiant SCOTUS pick

After a truly miserable news week, President Joe Biden graced us all with one bit of good news going into the weekend: His nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who he appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court last year.

Biden had promised to nominate a Black woman to the court. And despite right-wing media's disdain for the idea, there were a number of eminently qualified judges and lawyers whose names were being circulated on shortlists. Republicans nuked the filibuster for Supreme Court judges to seat Donald Trump nominees, so it's generally believed that whoever Biden nominated will secure the necessary 50 Democratic votes to be seated. The only real question was whether or not the fear of right wing backlash would push Biden towards a more conservative choice, or whether he would expand his progressive court agenda to the highest court in the land.

By picking Jackson, the answer is unequivocally the latter.

Out of the likeliest names on the shortlist, Jackson was generally the favorite of progressives. Progressive groups lobbiedhard for Biden to choose Jackson because of her background as a public defender and her advocacy for fairer sentences for drug offenders. It's a highly unusual background for Supreme Court justices, even Democratic-appointed ones.

But this pick isn't just exciting on the merits. Choosing Jackson is also a politically welcome move. It shows that Biden is learning from the past mistakes of Democrats, who all too often think that the way to win culture war fights is to run away from them. By picking an unapologetically progressive judge, Biden shows that he understands that Republicans are going to wage culture war no matter what Democrats do. The only way for Democrats to win is to stop fleeing, but stand their ground and fight back.

Republicans knew from the get-go that they weren't going to defeat Biden's nomination in the Senate. Still, right-wing media has made it quite clear that the plan is to react to the nomination by pandering overtly to the ugliest racist and sexist impulses of their base. Even before Jackson's nomination, Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and multiple Republican politicians staked out the position that anyone Biden nominates is inherently unqualified, simply due to his promise that the nominee would be a Black woman. The bigoted hysterics over "affirmative action" and "reverse racism" started within seconds of Breyer announcing his retirement plans.

In the past, the Democratic response to this would have been to adopt a defensive crouch and try to find a more moderate nominee to placate Republicans, in a fruitless hope this would shut them up. That was the logic, for instance, behind Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. But what Obama — and clearly Biden — learned was that it doesn't work that way anymore. The Republican Senate majority refused to seat Garland. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has since made it clear there is no such thing as a Democratic Supreme Court nominee that his party will ever accept.

The whining, racism, and bad faith was going to happen no matter who Biden nominated. Indeed, it's already begun, with Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., pretending to find Jackson to be the "radical Left," even though he voted to confirm her to the circuit court less than a year ago. By going with a more progressive nominee, Biden signals that he is not going to let this nonsense cow him. Just a show of spine in itself will be a huge benefit, both to Biden and Democrats generally. Even more importantly, by digging in and fighting back on the culture war nonsense, Biden and Democrats can highlight how radical, divisive, and racist the GOP really is — and how Democrats are the ones standing up not just for progressive values, but basic decency.

There's a lot about Jackson's background that the slimy race-baiters of Fox News and the larger GOP will seize on in the coming weeks. It's foolish to pretend otherwise. Republicans have already had tantrums over another district court nominee because she helped innocent people get out of jail. They're going to go hog wild over Jackson's history of fighting to reduce sentences of drug offenders.

In her prior role as a district judge, Jackson also drew a great deal of attention with her strongly-worded decisions against the Donald Trump administration's relentless abuse of power. The most famous of these is her 2019 ruling that White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena, in which she wrote, "presidents are not kings." Expect lots of disingenuous whining from right-wing media about how she's supposedly "biased" against Trump and Republicans.

Republicans are still revenge-minded about Brett Kavanaugh's hearing — they still insist it was somehow unfair to bring up credible allegations of attempted rape against him. Expect them to dig into Jackson's youth and try to create scandals under the guise of "fair play." My prediction is that they're going to try to drum up controversy over the fact that, when Jackson was a student at Harvard, she led protests over the school allowing another student to hang a Confederate battle flag outside of a dorm window. We can expect lots of racist hysterics from Republicans over this, disguised as complaints about "cancel culture" and false claims that the left is trying to "erase history." (The only people trying to erase history, by the way, are Republicans.)

None of these fights, however, are ones that Democrats should be afraid of. Polling shows that there's strong majority support for sentence reform for drug offenders. Most of the public hates Trump and especially hates that he thinks he's above the law. Most Americans — including most Southerners — also correctly identify the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. Rather than fear these debates, Democrats should welcome the opportunity to put Republicans on the defensive.

Democrats need to demand Republicans explain why they support unpopular policies and flagrant displays of racism. As long as Democrats are willing to get aggressive in these fights, they can win. Biden's nominating of Jackson shows that he gets that this is the way to defeat the right's culture war nonsense: Don't run and hide, go on the offense.

Most Americans already agree with progressives on these issues. They just need to be reminded of the vast gulf between the parties, and how radical and racist Republicans really are. This nomination is a good sign that Biden, at least, knows what kind of fight Democrats are facing in 2022 and what it will take to win it.

Republicans aren't sticking by Trump just because they want to win — it's much worse than that

After Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was ousted from her role as third highest-ranking member of the GOP in the House on Wednesday, Republican leaders tried very hard to convince mainstream reporters it was for some other reason than what it obviously was: Cheney remains unwilling to go along with Donald Trump's Big Lie.

"I don't think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blatantly lying about Trump's claims that the election was stolen from him and that the Capitol insurrection was a good thing, told reporters Wednesday. Trump — who is clearly still the de facto leader of the GOP — also spoke out on Wednesday, raving on his blog: "If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned."

McCarthy's little tapdance is meant to hoodwink mainstream political reporters into believing that Republicans aren't actually an anti-democratic party lining up behind a fascist who literally tried to overthrow a democratic election. But it's a lie so hamfisted that it's not even getting by the notoriously credulous D.C. press corps. After all, everyone knows Cheney was a fierce ally of Trump's until he incited a mob to storm the Capitol, threatening the lives of her and her colleagues. Remember, it was a bridge so far that even McCarthy was angry at the time, until his ambition caused him to slither back on his belly to the man who sent a violent mob to the Capitol.

But regardless of who McCarthy thinks he's fooling, the reality of where the GOP is headed was made all too clear elsewhere on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

House Republicans used a hearing about the Jan. 6 riot as an excuse to repeatedly defend the people who rioted to overthrow a legitimate election. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., insisted that the people who stormed the Capitol and demanded to "hang Mike Pence" were merely "peaceful patriots" who are being persecuted by federal prosecutors. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., described the attack — in which 140 police officers were injured, including one who died, one who had a heart attack, and one who had an eye gouged out — as "not an insurrection," but a "normal tourist visit". Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., threw his support to the "false flag" conspiracy theorists, saying, "I don't know who did a poll to say that they were Trump supporters."

These claims are gaslighting, as they demand that audiences ignore the evidence of their own eyes. They're nonsense and they contradict each other. But really, the point of this exercise is not to put forth rational claims that hold up under rigorous scrutiny. The point is to signal to the GOP faithful that it's now canon that the insurrection was a good thing and that they should feel free to use whatever rhetorical gambits — no matter how trollish, dishonest, or idiotic — necessary in order to deflect criticism from the supposed patriots who tried to bring an end to democracy on Jan. 6.

McCarthy's bewildering attempt to pretend the Cheney ouster is about anything but reinforcing Trump's Big Lie was an act for the mainstream media, but the Republican performance in Wednesday's hearing was all about the GOP base. These congressmen perform their antics for the camera with the knowledge that the videos will be edited and disseminated through social media outlets, where Republican voters increasingly go to get "news" from ever-shadier sources, unencumbered by inconvenient facts or reality.

During his misleading remarks Wednesday, McCarthy repeatedly tried to imply that Cheney's ouster was merely an attempt to move on from the 2020 election, instead of what it actually was, a show of support for the Big Lie and a warning shot to other Republicans of the consequences for defending democracy. In reality, Republicans haven't moved on at all. On the contrary, the entire party is organizing itself around Trump's false claims that the election was "stolen," and are focusing way more on trying to manufacture evidence for his claims and pass voter suppression laws based on his lies than they are, say, arguing against Joe Biden's proposed infrastructure plan.

It's not just in the House, either.

On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., spent a hearing about voting rights floating wild-eyed conspiracy theories about voter fraud, for the obvious purpose of propping up Trump's Big Lie. He tried the "I know you are but what am I" style of argument, insisting that Democratic efforts to expand ballot access are "Jim Crow 2.0". (In reality, Jim Crow was about denying people the ballot, not expanding it.) He repeatedly insisted that automatic voter registration leads to widespread voter fraud.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. and Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga. got sick of it.

"Do you have any studies you want to present for the record that document extensive mistakes being made, which people who are non-citizens are registered to vote?" Merkley demanded.

"I'd like to offer you the opportunity in good faith, Sen. Cruz, to present any evidence for the record to this committee that in any of the states where this policy exists, if there's any widespread registration by people who should not be eligible to vote," Ossoff asked.

Of course, Cruz didn't have any evidence, as no such evidence exists. He's just a big, fat liar. But, for his purposes, none of this matters. All that matters is being on camera, hyping the conspiracy theories about "fraud" and "stolen elections," which in turn will be used to justify future Republican efforts to actually steal elections.

On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tried to defend this fealty to Trump and his Big Lie on political grounds, saying that Trump is "the most popular Republican in the country by a lot. If you try to drive him out of the Republican Party, half the people will leave."

On its surface, this logic doesn't make a lot of sense. Trump lost the 2020 election, in no small part because, no matter how much the GOP base loves him, the rest of Americans hate him and will crawl over broken glass to vote against him. Trump's strengths in rallying the base are wiped out by his ability to rally the opposition.

But, really, this defense of Trump and the Big Lie isn't about winning elections at all. On the contrary, Republicans are sticking by Trump because, as embarrassing and frightening as the insurrection was, it ultimately pointed to a path forward for their party to hold power without winning elections, by stealing them instead. Even if Trump was taken off the map tomorrow — say, by getting arrested for one of his many crimes — he helped advance the "why win elections when you can steal them" mentality. And that, more than out of any loyalty to Trump-the-cult-leader, is why the GOP has decided to stand behind Trump and the Big Lie.

Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss and trans kids: How Democrats are already letting Republicans win in 2022

It's early, but Republicans have already seized on their strategy for winning the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Of course, it does not depend on mundane tactics like "running on their record" or "making robust arguments about how their policies are better than their opponents." The GOP is instead returning to the well that has, time and again, paid off handsomely: feigning umbrage over culture war flashpoints, usually ones wholly invented by the right or propped up with lies, to distract from substantive policy debates that actually impact American lives.

And it will probably work — again— because Democrats, hamstrung by their own inability to end the Senate filibuster, will not be able to pass substantive legislation they can tout as accomplishments in future campaigns. And so the election will come down to the Great Potato Head and Dr. Seuss Wars of 2022. Even more unfortunate, truly vulnerable people — like those who are part of the trans community — are also in the crosshairs, as the favored target for the culture wars that Republicans want to wage ahead of the next election.

For those of you blissly unaware of what some 20th century children's artifacts — Dr. Seuss and Potato Head — have to do with politics, well, let me briefly explain.

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Conservatives are fanning out on Fox News and other right-wing media, as well as in the hallowed chambers of Congress, to spread lies about these childhood mainstays being "canceled" due to imaginary liberal censorship. It's not true, of course, but that's never stopped the right-wing noise machine before and it won't now.

With Dr. Seuss, the issue comes down to the children's book author's estate deciding not to continue publishing some of the more obscure titles because they include racist imagery that runs against the childrens' author's own lifelong commitment to progressive politics. Importantly, most of his titles, especially the ones that are most beloved by the public, such as "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" will continue to be published. But conservatives took this nugget as an excuse to go buck wild with lies about Dr. Seuss being "canceled."

It was never suggested that Dr. Seuss be "outlawed," of course, but more to the point, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told this lie while on the Senate floor to literally vote against a bill protecting the right to vote. Whining about "cancel culture" while trying to cancel legal voters is a new low in GOP bullshit, that's for sure.

It's the same story with Potato Head, or as the toy brand was previously called, Mr. Potato Head.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys will still be sold, but the umbrella brand name was changed to reflect what was always true about the toy: featureless potatoes have never had a gender. As far as the right is concerned, however, this is a reason to pretend we're facing the apocalypse.

Unfortunately, the feigned outrage isn't limited to whining about toys and children's books. The "for the children" posturing is being used to justify a larger assault on trans people, as Republicans cast around for a wedge issue to define the 2022 election. Namely, the GOP is gearing up for an all-out campaign that claims, falsely, LGBTQ activists are trying to "turn" your kids trans, and that cis girls will be under threat from "boys pretending to be girls," which is the offensive frame that Republicans use to describe trans girls. Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R.-Ga., hanging an anti-trans sign outside of her office to bully Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., who has a trans daughter, is just the tip of the iceberg here.

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There's been a drastic escalation of anti-trans rhetoric on the right, most of it centered around false claims that trans girls and women are a threat to cis girls and women. Worse, Republicans are also introducing bills meant to make life much harder for trans kids in schools by barring them from participating in school activities and, in some cases, even banning trans kids from using the bathroom.

These bills are justified with claims to be "protecting" cis girls from dangers that lurk only in the imaginations of transphobes. Unsurprisingly, actual evidence shows trans kids are not a threat to anyone:

In fact, not only do these bills not protect cis girls, but they can and likely will be used to hurt cis girls. In some states, the bills allow schools to force any girl participating in sports to "prove" her gender by submitting to a genital inspection. It's easy to see how both trans kids and cis kids who don't fit conservative school officials ideas about "proper" gendered behavior — such as boys who want to be cheerleaders or girls deemed "too" muscular — will be bullied with forced genital exams. Indeed, the ACLU has already filed suit against Idaho on behalf of two students, one trans and one cis, who object to being forced to undergo genital inspections in order to play sports.

Former House Speaker and all-around repugnant scumbag Newt Gingrich tied all this together on Fox News Wednesday night, declaring, "They want to create an alternative America" in which "transgender dominates Christianity and Judaism" and "they just proved with Dr. Seuss" that "they really despise America." (Gingrich would, have, unsurprisingly, hated Dr. Seuss when he was alive, as the children's author was an environmentalist who loathed authoritarians like Gingrich.)

While Republicans have long used these kinds of fake issues to distract voters from what really matters, Democrats could actually fight back this time — with one simple trick: Nuke the filibuster.

Culture war antics work because they keep the GOP voters whipped up over imaginary threats. The most famous example is how Republicans fed their voters a bunch of lies in 2004 about the "danger" to marriage poised by same-sex couples, which drove up turnout and helped drag George W. Bush over the finish line in a tight race. But Democrats can also drive up turnout on their side, by focusing on real issues that actually matter to voters, such as economic issues and health care.

However, running on the real issues requires showing voters that Democrats are capable of taking actions on these matters. Unfortunately, as recent days have shown, passing even basic legislation to do very basic things to help people — such as raising the minimum wage — is currently impossible, due to the stubborn unwillingness of centrist Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to vote to end the filibuster. As long as Republicans have veto power over all substantive legislation, Democrats will get very little done. And so their voters will get disillusioned and drop off, leaving the polls to people who mostly vote how Fox News tells them to.

If Democrats want 2022 to be a referendum on real issues, where they have an advantage, they need to pass bills.

And it's not enough to pass one coronavirus relief package through budget reconciliation. Republicans can, truthfully, say they also did that — and unlike Democrats, they didn't take away checks from 12 million voters that were promised they'd get checks. Running on your record requires having a record to run on, not on twiddling your thumbs for two years because an arbitrary and unnecessary Senate tradition stops you from passing bills. If bills don't start moving through the Senate, the 2022 election will be defined by fake hysterics about trans kids in bathrooms and the gender identity of Potato Head. And that is not an election that Democrats win.

Trump is trying to manipulate his way out of consequences — it can't be allowed to work

Thursday night, a clearly reluctant Donald Trump released a video, promising, "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

Of course, his focus just the day before was on stoking a violent insurrection, making any hope of an "orderly" — much less a "seamless" — transition of power impossible. It was a little like throwing someone's pet off a balcony, and then promising that, from here on out, you're going to be the most responsible of dog sitters.

Still, there is no doubt many will be tempted to believe Trump, especially as it's only 10 days until the inauguration of Joe Biden removes him from office. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has threatened to impeach trump if Vice President Mike Pence doesn't remove him through the 25th Amendment procedure. The latter is doubtful to happen, the former likely, but in either case, it takes time. The promise that Trump is done acting out and will be a good little sociopathic narcissist is appealing, because any effort to hold him accountable in this short amount of time is a logistical nightmare. That, however, is what Trump is counting on.

Trump's video, was not an earnest promise to finally behave, at this late date in his presidency, like a responsible statesman. (Also, too late!) He made no mention of the president-elect nor uttered any variant of the word concession. It was yet another manipulation from Trump, who is trying to avoid paying the piper for inciting an insurrection. This is the political equivalent of the wife-beater pleading with his battered spouse to give him another chance, and promising never to do it again. But they always do it again. And Trump cannot be trusted to keep his word about "a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

There are many reasons that impeachment must go forward, of course, starting with the fact that it's important to take a stand, even if it's just symbolic, against politicians fomenting anti-democratic insurrections. The death of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer who appears to have been murdered by an insurrectionist armed with a fire extinguisher, only heightens the moral necessity of impeachment.

Impeachment is also a matter of prevention.

Trump, as Pelosi said in her press conference Thursday, is "a very dangerous person" and "any day could be a horror show for America." As Biden's inauguration grows nearer and the fact that he really is going to have to leave becomes more real to Trump, he will grow more frantic. And his impulse — to lash out, to insist that he's the real winner, and to stoke more violence — will rear its head again.

We've been down this road countless times with Trump: He escalates and escalates until things get really bad enough to get politically dodgy for him. And then he pulls the wife-beater-brings-roses act, giving in to pressure from aides and other Republicans to at least pretend to be presidential and do the right thing. He then sits and stews in anger at the supposed humiliation for a few days, or even hours. Eventually, he lashes out, returning to his desire to push conspiracy theories or incite nonsense or otherwise be the same tedious asshole he was before the brief bout of acting "presidential."

How many variations on this theme did we get from the coronavirus pandemic alone? Trump would ride some hobbyhorse — suggesting it was being exaggerated to hurt him politically, denying that masks were effective, insisting that people should ignore stay-at-home recommendations, hyping hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure. Eventually, the political heat would build-up and his aides would persuade him to pay some lip service to reality, by wearing a mask in public or reading a statement asking people to follow health recommendations. But it was only ever a temporary effort to manipulate the press into giving him good coverage — he always regressed right back to where he wanted to be, raving about how it's all a hoax and masks are unmanly.

He followed this predictable pattern even when he himself got COVID-19. After a brief bout of submitting to pressure to take it seriously, Trump went right back to his denialist antics, staging a White House event meant to imply that the disease, which resulted in his hospitalization and has killed 365,000 Americans so far, is no big deal.

Trump's statement must be assumed to be more of the same: An effort to lull the press, the public, and various D.C. officials into complacency. But there is no reason to believe a word of it. For one thing, he still refuses to admit he lost the election to Biden. For another, he is refusing to take responsibility for what he did. And for yet another reason, he told likely lies in the video, such as taking credit for calling the National Guard, when reports suggest that Pence was the one who did it, against Trump's wishes.

Indeed, the first signs of the predictable Trump backslide are emerging. Twitter, in an idiotic move, let Trump have his account back and sure enough, he's already raving about how many votes he got and how his voters "will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" Less than 24 hours after he disingenuously acknowledged "this moment calls for healing and reconciliation," Trump tweeted that he would break with a centuries-old custom and not attend the inauguration.

Trump is, above all other things, a liar. His assurances he will oversee an orderly transition should not be believed. Indeed, when Trump says a thing, it's wise to assume that the opposite is true. He's just trying to buy time to avoid facing consequences. It's possible he's even anticipating some other stunt, even though his last one led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer guarding the Capitol. Nothing has changed. As Pelosi said on Wednesday, if Pence and Cabinet will not remove Trump, he must be impeached.

Donald Trump is a dull, nasty and childish man — but his legacy of amazing idiocy will be long remembered

We're tentatively starting to emerge from the four year-long national nightmare of Donald Trump's presidency, but the reckoning of what the nation endured will take years to really understand. Trump was terrible in so many ways that it's hard to catalog them all: His sociopathic lack of regard for others. His towering narcissism. His utter ease with lying. His cruelty and sadism. The glee he took in cheating and stomping on anything good and decent. His misogyny and racism. His love of encouraging violence, only equaled by his personal cowardice.

But of all the repulsive character traits in a man so wholly lacking in any redeemable qualities, perhaps the most perplexing to his opponents was Trump's incredible stupidity. On one hand, it was maddening that a man so painfully dumb, a man who clearly could barely read — even on those rare occasions when he deigned to wear glasses — still had the low cunning necessary to take over the Republican Party and then the White House.

On the other hand, it was the one aspect of Trump's personality that kept hope alive. Surely a man so stupid, his opponents believed, will one day blunder so badly he can't be saved, even by his most powerful sycophants. That has proved to be the case as Trump fumbles his way through a failed coup, unable and unwilling to see that stealing the election from Joe Biden is a lost cause.

Trump's unparalleled idiocy gave us a few laughs along the way, which we sorely needed in those troubled times. With that in mind, here's a list of the 10 most jaw-droppingly stupid moments of Trump's White House tenure.

1) That time Trump suggested injecting household cleaners into people's lungs to cure them of the coronavirus. Even for connoisseurs of Trumpian idiocy, it was a shocker when, after hearing that bleach and Lysol can kill the coronavirus on surfaces, got behind the podium in the White House briefing room and declared, "I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. ... Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning, because, you see, it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs?"

He then pointed at his head, and said, "I'm, like, a person who has a good you-know-what."

The situation was only made worse because this nitwit said this during the daily coronavirus "press briefing," during that surreal period of the spring and early summer in which he held forth daily, often for hours, presenting himself as not just a leader but an expert. Never has a man believed he knew so much while knowing so little.

2) That time he looked at a solar eclipse without eye protection — after everyone was repeatedly told not to look at the eclipse without eye protection.

It was at this moment that I realized that Trump voters must like it that he's an stone cold idiot, if only because they enjoy the way it triggers the liberals.

3) That time he couldn't admit he was wrong when he tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama, and so he drew on a weather map with a Sharpie to make it seem like he was right.

Again, what really elevates some of the best dumbass-Trump moments is when his stupidity combines with his massive ego to create a dunderhead singularity.

4) That time he threw paper towels at people in Puerto Rico who had just endured Hurricane Maria.

Trump's ego plus Trump's stupidity is just sublime. But when his stupidity combined with racism, the effect was often more chilling than funny.

5) That time he asked members of the National Security Council if they could nuke hurricanes rather than letting them hit the U.S.

Hurricanes drew out Trump's fatuousness like a good cheese draws out the notes in fine wine.

6) That time Trump was told to talk about Frederick Douglass at a Black History Month event, clearly had no idea who that was, and while trying to bullshit his way through the talk, implied that Douglass was still alive.

"Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice," Trump said, using the same strategy that a sixth-grader who hasn't read the book might employ to bluff through a book report. There was a piece of paper in front of Trump that likely had more information about the author and abolitionist who was born enslaved died in 1895 as one of the most famous Americans, but Trump, as ever too vain to wear his glasses in public, probably couldn't read it.

7) That time he suggested that his much-desired border wall could just maybe be buttressed with alligator moats.

This one was fondly remembered by the Salon staff as an iconic example of the way Trump's racism amplifies his imbecility in an almost exponential fashion.

8) That time he asked Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?"

At this point one almost wants to give him half-credit for remembering that the White House was burned down at one point — by the British in the War of 1812. But then one remembers that Trump has declared himself the protector and savior of American history, so much so that he's created the "1776 Commission" in a supposed effort to preserve what he considers the proper teaching of history. All he means by that, of course, is teaching kids that the blatant racism of the past was noble and just, and not so much actual facts, let alone actual history.

9) That time Trump "liked" a tweet praising Rihanna.

This is a deep cut, but a personal favorite of mine, mostly because Ashley Feinberg at Slate did a detailed exploration of this topic and demonstrated it was almost certainly the result of stupidity, horniness and Trump's short and stubby fingers. It started when Trump liked — and then unliked — a tweet by a woman named Heben Nigatu declaring, "Every new Rihanna interview makes me grow stronger. We stan a work/life balance queen!!!"

As Feinberg noted, Rihanna's name was trending on Twitter the night of the weird "like." If users clicked that trending topic, they saw a photo of Rihanna lounging on a couch in a see-through leotard. As "our president is furiously, pathologically horny," Feinberg concludes, he likely "clicked on this photo of Rihanna while making a series of steamboat noises and sweating profusely," which led him to a list of tweets mentioning Rihanna — including Nigatu's tweet. At which point his fingers, which are too small to be controlled with any grace, likely slid unconsciously over the "like" button.

As further evidence, Feinberg points out Trump had, in the past, done the same to a sexy photo of Katy Perry.

10) When he called the Second Epistle to the Corinthians "Two Corinthians."

This is another personal favorite, because, like many other of Trump's dumber moments — such as when he tried to put money on a communion platter, or when he held a Bible as if he were afraid it might bite him, or when he seemed confused by the idea that he should ask God for forgiveness — it was a fun reminder that Trump's professed Christianity is not just an act, but an act he can barely be bothered to keep going. It's delicious because it's a twofer, not just exposing Trump's stupidity, but the absolute shamelessness of the Christian right leaders who backed him. (For those who may be unclear: This book of the Bible is abbreviated as "2 Corinthians" but always called "Second Corinthians.")

Every time Trump fumbled in this way, and the Trump-friendly evangelists kept on acting like he was God's emissary on earth, it was further evidence that most of these supposedl devout Christians don't really care about faith or God or Jesus or any of that that stuff — they care about power. As with their beloved president, dramatic performance of public piety by so many right-wing Christian leaders is little more than a dog-and-pony show put on to sucker the rubes.

So there's your top 10, with the caveat that it was hard — perhaps impossible — to narrow idown that number in a satisfying manner, since Trump has done unbelievably stupid crap virtually every single day for four years. But that's why the internet gods invented social media and comment sections, so you can add your own to the list!

Trump's last-minute pardon spree shows why Joe Biden just can't 'move on'

No one should be surprised that Donald Trump is on a pardon spree for some of the most notorious crooks in politics. You have the men that were convicted for their role in colluding with Russia's version of the Watergate conspiracy to hack Democratic emails during the 2016 election, such as Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trumpian gadfly Roger Stone. You have former congressional GOP scumbags Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, and Steve Stockman, all convicted for financial crimes like insider trading stealing from campaign donors and stealing from charity. You have Jared Kushner's father, Charles Kushner, who was sent to the clinker for tax evasion. And for good measure, Trump also sprung some outright murderers, mercenaries who worked for Blackwater, which is run by Trump's buddy, Erik Prince. These men were convicted for their role in an outright massacre of Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy.

No one is surprised. Indeed, social media is currently duking it out over the trophy for Least Surprised. But it is this very lack of surprise that underlines why Trump's pardon spree is a problem. As we were repeatedly warned would happen when Trump took office, Trump is normalizing corruption — at least on the Republican side. All of which just makes it all the more urgent for the Department of Justice, when Joe Biden takes office, to ignore all calls to let bygones be bygones, and instead investigate and prosecute Trump to the fullest extent of the law. Forget all the claims that doing so is a threat to "national unity." Failure to hold Trump to account is the true threat to national unity.

After all, the standard Trump is attempting to set with his actions — where Republicans can break any law that they want without facing consequences — is a standard tearing this country apart. That's a literal double standard, where the Democrats are expected to obey laws and respect the rules, but the Republicans can do whatever they want, no matter how illegal. That is why, despite reports that he "just wants to move on," Biden can't move past Trump's crimes.

By not prosecuting Trump, Biden's administration would be consenting to this double standard. And there is no way to that we can have healing and unity in a country where half the country's elected representatives have no rules or boundaries on their behavior, while the other side is expected to act like a bunch of Boy Scouts. That is a prescription for increasing acrimony, as the Republican side will continue to transgress and the Democratic side will continue to boil with resentment at this wild and unfair double standard. The only way for a people to be unified is for all people to have to live under the same set of rules and expectations.

And make no mistake, this is a double standard. No one should doubt that Democrats will continue to be expected to obey the law — and if they transgress, both Republican and Democratic administrations will come down on them like a sack of hammers. Republicans have no restraint going after Democrats, even though their "investigations" usually turn up nothing of note. But Democrats tend to show no hesitation in holding other Democrats accountable, as well, because it's widely believed that it looks bad to do what Trump is doing, which is to give license to fellow partisans who break the law.

Look, for instance, how Hillary Clinton was treated during Barack Obama's presidency — even though, unlike Trump and his cronies, she didn't commit any crimes or transgress ethical norms. Nonetheless, Clinton was buried under Republican-led congressional investigations, often spurred on by incomprehensible right wing conspiracy theories like Benghazi. Her entire email history was investigated and investigated again by the FBI, and the FBI head, James Comey, even broke with FBI protocol to make a big public stink over the investigations.

The result of all this investigating was bupkis, of course, but tellingly, Obama himself didn't get involved in any way. Not just because staying out of it was the right thing to do (arguably, it wasn't, since let's face it, she was being persecuted unfairly in many instances), but also because Obama understood that it would be scandalous for a Democratic president to interfere in any way with an investigation. Clinton's own public behavior suggested she had the same belief, and she cooperated with investigations not just because she knew she was innocent, but because showing even the tiniest fraction of the same resistance Trump has shown throughout his presidency would have been a massive scandal.

A country divided in this way cannot stand. The only way to rectify Trump undoing justice in this way is for Trump himself to face justice. If he doesn't, and Biden prevents investigations in the name of "healing" and "unity", it will only send a message to the already wildly corrupt GOP: Do what you want. No one will ever stop you. Rules are only for Democrats.

Letting Trump's crimes and cover-ups slide hurts the body politic in another way: It will increase cynicism and distrust in politics. Gallup polling in 2015 showed that three-quarters of Americans already believed corruption was widespread in government. Heaven only knows how much worse it's gotten under Trump, who manifested this belief into reality.

Indeed, it's because so many Americans are skeptical of government that Trump got as far as he did. Not because, as many pundits naively thought, Trump voters believed his promise to "drain the swamp." No, it's because the belief that all politicians are corrupt allowed Trump voters to feel justified in their desire to vote for a shameless criminal, a man who literally bragged on the campaign trail that tax evasion makes him "smart" and who loved talking at length about how he cheats the system.

If something isn't done to counter the levels of corruption Trump has introduced into politics, expect a thousand more Trumps to flourish, brought to office by voters who figure all politicians are corrupt, so they might as well vote for the one who is the most flagrant about it. Corruption isn't stopped by speeches. Even noble bills that introduce stronger rules don't matter, if the norm in D.C. is that the rules are never enforced on Republicans. The only thing that can end corruption is consequences.

Trump understands this, which is why he's stripping consequences away for all the people who committed crimes for him, or even just crimes he likes. The only way to keep Republicans from going buck wild with the financial crimes and campaign cheating is to see Trump himself prosecuted. Trump and his cronies need to taste justice for there to be any hope of fixing what's so broken in this country.

The naked emperor has become a national laughingstock

Donald Trump was at it again Wednesday, releasing a 46-minute video full of ridiculous lies, claiming that his loss to Joe Biden in November's presidential election was due to "corrupt forces" operating "on a scale never seen before." He called on the Supreme Court to throw out enough votes so that "I very easily win in all states."

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Trump just can't keep a secret — especially when it comes to his plans to stage a coup

Donald Trump is escalating. Wednesday afternoon, under questioning by Brian Karem of Playboy, Trump offered what the mainstream news outlets are calling a "failure to commit" to a "peaceful transfer of power." One might also call it "threatening a coup".

The first time Karem asked Trump whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, Trump pulled his usual move, pretending that the fate of our democracy is like a reality-show cliffhanger: "Well, we're going to have to see what happens."

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Dr. Bleach-Injector and his death cult want you to get 'herd developed'

Donald Trump was doing spectacularly bad science again, this time during a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday night. The event went about as well for the president as anyone who has been awake during the past four years could have predicted, which raises the important question: Wasn't his new campaign manager supposed to be competent?

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Republicans claim to hate 'cancel culture' -- so why is Bill Barr using the DOJ to do just that?

At the Republican National Convention, the topic du jour was "cancel culture" and Republicans' supposed defense of free speech against censorious progressives. This was always transparent nonsense, an effort to recast liberals or leftists who exercise their freedom of speech to criticize right-wing intolerance as some kind of attack on open discourse. Donald Trump's own attacks on the rights of his political opponents to express themselves — ranging from tear-gassing peaceful protesters to voter suppression efforts — far surpass the damage to free speech of even the most excessive Twitter leftists hunting down political heretics.

Now the Trump administration is at it again, this time using the might of the Department of Justice to silence one of the two dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual abuse.

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Is this the new Christian right? A new ultra-conservative insanity is rising as evangelicals are fading

Remember the "Left Behind" series, about how the Rapture would whisk away all devout right-wing Christians before Jesus Christ unleashed the apocalypse on the unbelievers? Purity rings? Jesus Camp? Breathless stories about "girls gone mild," giving up sex and tank tops for the Lord? A federal health official who believed that women who had premarital sex couldn't feel love? Jerry Falwell Sr. and Pat Robertson blaming 9/11 on the "pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way"?There can be no doubt that the heyday of Christian fundamentalism in America was the George W. Bush administration. Conservatives craved reassurance that they were defenders of "morality", despite supporting an indefensible invasion of Iraq that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.  These claims to moral superiority over liberals mainly came in the form of policing hymen status, harassing women at abortion clinics and claiming a right to Christian forgiveness (for yourself) when caught with prostitutes or soliciting gay sex in public bathrooms.

White evangelicals still hold considerable political power, which is why Donald Trump occasionally tries to get photographed fondling a Bible in ways he vainly hopes are convincing. Abortion and LGBTQ rights are still under serious threat, as the Christian right has made major inroads into the federal judiciary.

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Trump believes his white-supremacist trolling is his path to re-election

It's long past time to stop excusing Donald Trump's racist trolling as the accidental bumblings of an idiot who doesn't know better. That's not to claim Trump is a political genius — or even a person of average intelligence. But he has managed to direct the limited IQ points at his disposal towards the practice of racist trolling, and he knows what he's doing. Like anyone who focuses single-mindedly on a specific skill for decades, he has gotten good at this one thing.

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Trump's MAGA supporters wanted this all along — now their trolling has turned into real-world violence

Eager to get home to South Philadelphia before curfew — about an hour's walk — I left Monday's Black Lives Matter protest a few minutes before the police decided to tear-gas the peaceful crowd. The videos of the incident are terrifying — people desperately trying to scramble away from the painful gas, but trapped in the cloud by a fence and a hill that only a few could scramble over. It was a repeat of what is happening in city after city — most notably in Washington, where President Trump had a peaceful crowd gassed because they were getting in the way of a photo op — as police across the nation, evidently inspired by Trump's violent and authoritarian rhetoric, have begun violently crushing nonviolent protesters.I had been with the protest for several hours, walking miles through the streets of Philadelphia, and can attest that it was a peaceful event. I witnessed one man arrested. But while things got tense and there was some shouting, it was the protesters themselves, not the cops, who took on the task of de-escalating the situation and keeping the crowd moving.The crowd was peaceful, but perhaps more notably, it was packed with the kinds of people who have been offered up for decades now as hate objects by Fox News and other right-wing propagandists: A racially diverse group of leftist college-age kids, middle-aged hipsters, aging hippies, and earnest, clean-cut liberals handing out water bottles, all led by a young black woman with a portable speaker calling out the usual protest chants. These are the folks dangled in front of "heartland" America, day after day and night after night, as the "politically correct" villains who are coming to cancel Mom and apple pie and your God-given right to catcall women or tell racist jokes after you've had a couple.

Sticking it to these folks, often reduced to "the libs," was the main reason Republican voters elevated Trump above all other possible Republican candidates in 2016. While the GOP clown-car assemblage of that campaign — Bobby Jindal! Carly Fiorina! Ben Carson! — were, like all Republicans since the era of Nixon and Reagan, happy to engage in coded race-baiting and misogyny disguised as piety, Donald Trump had the special appeal of not even bothering to speak in code. He channeled the base's nakedly racist loathing of Barack Obama and Black Lives Matter and brown-skinned immigrants. He didn't pretend that his misogyny was somehow in the service of Jesus Christ, dumping the charade of the chivalrous anti-choicer by describing women as "dogs" and mocking their looks if they dared question him. He ranted about "winning" and "draining the swamp," and however generously the press chose to interpret those words, his followers understood he was talking about crushing liberals, a poorly-defined group they've been trained through decades of propaganda to despise.

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Trump's SOTU speech featured reality-show stunts, racism and pompous, empty rhetoric -- but he still couldn't erase his impeachment

For whatever reason, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has still failed to wrap up his sham impeachment trial of Donald Trump, denying his orange overlord the much-anticipated acquittal that Trump clearly wished to trumpet. And so it was that Trump took to the House chamber on Tuesday night, one day short of his kangaroo exoneration, to give the annual State of the Union or, as I like to call it, the Sniffing Olympics.

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