URLs du Jour


  • Remember when Trump said "very fine people" in reference to Charlottesville? Dan McLaughlin has a careful, long review: The 'Very Fine People' Trap and How to Avoid It Today.

    Violent, racially charged disorder in our nation’s cities, and the involvement of Antifa, evokes memories of the lowest moment of Donald Trump’s presidency: the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that erupted in violence that left one protestor dead and many more injured. Joe Biden even made President Trump’s “very fine people” line after Charlottesville the centerpiece of Biden’s presidential announcement. The shadow of Trump’s response still hangs over his communications on the George Floyd riots. And not only over Trump: Leading Minnesota Democrats tried over the weekend to play the “both sides” game to blame the Floyd riots on white supremacists, apparently into the teeth of evidence to the contrary.

    It is worth revisiting now what happened then, and what it tells us about presidential and political communication in this sort of crisis. Trump’s critics have frequently misrepresented what the president actually said. But Trump’s defenders also missed the bigger picture of why his response was both morally and politically tone-deaf. The very skill that has been Trump’s greatest political asset — his ability to blast his chosen theme like a foghorn over the din of the media and his critics — deserted him then. He is still struggling with the same problem today, as well as with the legacy of “very fine people.”

    Let's skip down to the end:

    Whether he did so in good faith or not, Donald Trump told the nation what it needed to hear from him after Charlottesville: He denounced white nationalists and violence and never called Nazis “very fine people.” But he also stepped on his own lines, telling a story disconnected from reality and totally inapt to the moment, and feeding the worst fears of what a Trump presidency represents. No amount of apologetics, more than two years later, can fix that. Presidents don’t get moments like that back.

    I won't be sad if Trump loses. Unfortunately, I'll be sad if Biden wins. As many people (including me) have said before: isn't there some way they could both lose?

    Speaking of a controversy where both sides deserve to lose…

  • Jacob Sullum at Reason observes that It’s Hard To Take Either Side in Trump’s Twitter Spat Seriously.

    Last Thursday the president of the United States threw a temper tantrum disguised as an executive order, threatening to punish Twitter for daring to annotate two of his comments about voting by mail. Twitter retaliated the next day, slapping a warning label on a presidential tweet about the protests triggered by George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

    President Donald Trump's order was legally meaningless, aiming to increase the civil liability of disfavored social media platforms in ways that are beyond his powers and that would encourage more, not less, scrutiny of online speech. But Twitter's sudden interest in policing the president's claims and rhetoric was equally hard to take seriously, promising a kind of dispassionate and consistent oversight it cannot possibly achieve with Trump, let alone every public official on Earth.

    Trump has challenged his opponents to a "who can be dumber" game. It's a fierce competition.

  • Tyler Cowen's column says Americans Unified Only in Outrage.

    If I have learned one thing over the last few weeks, it is that the psychology of the American public is weirder — and perhaps more flexible — than I ever would have thought.

    Consider, as just one example among many, the issue of nursing homes. According to some estimates, about 40% of the deaths associated with Covid-19 have occurred in nursing homes, with more almost certain to come.

    You might think that those 40,000-plus deaths would be a major national scandal. But so far the response has been subdued. Yes, there has been ample news coverage, but there are no riots in response, no social movement to “clean up the nursing homes,” no Ralph Nader-like crusader who has made this his or her political cause.

    That's just one example.

  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for an Atlantic article by Kellie Carter Jackson ("assistant professor of Africana studies at Wellesley College"): Riots Are the American Way: On the George Floyd Protests.

    Since the beginning of this country, riots and violent rhetoric have been markers of patriotism. When our Founding Fathers fought for independence, violence was the clarion call. Phrases such as “Live free or die,” “Give me liberty or give me death,” and “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” echoed throughout the nation, and continue today. Force and violence have always been used as weapons to defend liberty, because—as John Adams once said in reference to the colonists’ treatment by the British—“We won’t be their Negroes.”

    [Did John Adams really say that? Yes he did, under a pseudonym in 1765.]

    Quibble: LFOD was actually General Stark's 1809 translation of a French Revolution slogan; I'm pretty sure it wasn't being slung about by the Founders before that.

    Professor Kellie is basically giving a big thumb's up for riots and violence.

    I have to point out that the results of the American Revolution and the current violence are likely to be much different.

    Hey, remember when Kevin D. Williamson was fired from his brief Atlantic gig for saying something beyond the pale about abortion? Good times.