New York Times: The Democratic Party Must Speak the Plain Truth to the President

July 8, 2024 (NYTimes.com)

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

For voters who held out hope that President Biden’s failure to communicate during last month’s debate was an aberration, the intervening days have offered little comfort.

Donald Trump’s candidacy for a second term poses a grave threat to American democracy. Mr. Biden, instead of campaigning vigorously to disprove doubts and demonstrate that he can beat Mr. Trump, has maintained a scripted and controlled schedule of public appearances. He has largely avoided taking questions from voters or journalists — the kinds of interactions that reveal his limitations and caused him so much trouble on the debate stage. And when he has cast aside his teleprompter, most notably during a 22-minute interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday, he has continued to appear as a man in decline.

The president, elected in 2020 as an antidote to Mr. Trump’s malfeasance and mendacity, is now trying to defy reality. For more than a year, voters have made it unquestionably clear in surveys and interviews that they harbor significant doubts about Mr. Biden’s physical and mental fitness for office. Mr. Biden has disregarded the concerns of those voters — his fellow citizens — and put the country at significant risk by continuing to insist that he is the best Democrat to defeat Mr. Trump.

Since his feeble debate performance, multiple polls have shown that both Mr. Biden’s approval rating and his chance of beating Mr. Trump have markedly dropped from their already shaky levels. In response, he has adopted a favorite theme of the floundering politician, insisting that the polls are wrong in showing that his presidency is historically unpopular. Even if the polls were off by historic amounts, they would still show overwhelming skepticism about his fitness. The latest Times/Siena poll showed that 74 percent of voters think that Mr. Biden is too old to serve, an increase of five percentage points since the debate and not a figure that can be attributed to some kind of error or bias.

He has denied that age is diminishing his abilities, not even bringing up the subject in a lengthy letter to congressional Democrats issued on Monday. In that letter, he insisted that he is the candidate best equipped to defeat Mr. Trump in November — thereby dismissing the potential candidacy of Vice President Kamala Harris or any other younger, more vigorous Democrat, and in effect asking the American people to trust him instead of their own lying eyes.

It’s not enough to blame the press, the donors, the pundits or the other elite groups for trying to push him out, as he did in the letter. In fact, to use his own words, “the voters — and the voters alone — decide the nominee of the Democratic Party.” But Democratic leaders shouldn’t rely solely on the judgment of the few voters who turned out in this year’s coronation primaries. They should listen instead to the much larger group of voters who have been telling every pollster in America their concerns for a long time. Mr. Biden has to pay attention to the will of the broader electorate that will determine the outcome in November.

At times, Mr. Biden has seemed to hover on the verge of self-awareness, as when he reportedly told Democratic governors last week that he needs to sleep more, work less and avoid public events after 8 p.m. But he has resisted the obvious conclusion that a man who needs to clock out at 8 should not attempt to perform simultaneously two of the world’s most difficult and all-consuming jobs — serving as president and running for president.

From the grass roots to the highest levels of the party, Democrats who want to defeat Mr. Trump in November should speak plainly to Mr. Biden. They need to tell him that his defiance threatens to hand victory to Mr. Trump. They need to tell him that he is embarrassing himself and endangering his legacy. He needs to hear, plain and clear, that he is no longer an effective spokesman for his own priorities.

The party needs a candidate who can stand up to Mr. Trump. It needs a nominee who can present Americans with a compelling alternative to Mr. Trump’s bleak vision for America.

Elected Democratic leaders have personal experience of Mr. Biden’s decline. Representative Don Beyer of Virginia reportedly told colleagues on Sunday that the president “really has trouble putting two sentences together” — an account reminiscent of the special counsel Robert Hur’s description of Mr. Biden early this year as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

But since the debate, most elected Democrats have resisted taking a public stand, instead waiting quietly and hopefully for Mr. Biden to arrive at the necessary conclusion. Mr. Beyer’s office issued a statement after his comments were reported insisting that he still supports Mr. Biden. Others have voiced concerns without their names attached, perhaps hoping their anxiety would trickle back to the president.

But a whisper campaign is inadequate to this moment, because the moment is urgent. The longer Mr. Biden continues his grasp on the nomination, the harder it will be to replace him, as he certainly knows. The country has already seen what happens to a party that binds itself to the ambitions of one individual, and it did not turn out well for Republicans, who have lost their way.

For those at the helm of the Democratic Party — including the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer; the House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries; and even the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi — the time has arrived to speak forcefully to the president and the public about the need for a new candidate, before time runs out for other candidates to make their case to the party’s convention delegates.

These Democratic leaders know that the presidency is not a day job, and Mr. Biden needs to hear from them and others that the security of and stakes for America are too high to continue to move forward with Mr. Biden as the nominee.

If their reticence up to now was partly a show of respect and partly a calculation that Mr. Biden would be more receptive to private counsel than to public criticism, it is increasingly clear that the president is unwilling to accept the reality of his situation. He is engaging in a staring contest with Democratic leaders, and he appears to be winning. The only way to persuade Mr. Biden to accept the need for new leadership is to demonstrate that the party is no longer following him.

Mr. Biden and his defenders say that voters should focus on his accomplishments during his three and a half years as president. It is an impressive record. But the classic Wall Street warning applies to politicians, too: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The question confronting voters is not whether Mr. Biden has been an effective president, but whether he can beat Mr. Trump in November and govern effectively thereafter.

Mr. Biden also argued in his Monday letter that the focus on his own abilities was distracting Democrats from the work of defeating Mr. Trump. But it is precisely because of the importance of defeating Mr. Trump that Americans are preoccupied with Mr. Biden’s decline.

Mr. Trump was the worst president in modern American history. He is a felon convicted of breaking the law as part of his campaign to win the 2016 election. Four years later, after his multiple attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election failed, he incited an attack on Congress aimed to keep himself in power. During the current campaign, he has promised an even more unrestrained version of himself if re-elected, even refusing to disavow violence on his behalf.

If elected, he has promised to turn the federal bureaucracy and even the Justice Department into weapons of his will to hurt his perceived political enemies. (With the aid of the three justices he appointed, the Supreme Court just made it possible for him to break the law in doing so with no fear of criminal prosecution.) And he has made clear that he will surround himself with people who support his plans. He will work to further restrict the reproductive rights of women. He will roll back environmental rules, allowing companies to pollute the water and the air. His belligerent, erratic, go-it-alone approach to foreign policy will undermine the nation’s interests and its security, encouraging Vladimir Putin and other authoritarians around the globe.

By departing the race, Mr. Biden can focus public attention on Mr. Trump’s capacity to perform the job of president. Mr. Trump, of course, should also withdraw from this race, not least because of his own cognitive deficiencies and incessant lying. He, too, is not the man he was four years ago. He also makes fewer public appearances and refuses to answer questions about his health. His habitual mendacity now frequently wanders into nonsensical incoherence. He would be the oldest person ever to be inaugurated as president — older than Mr. Biden was in 2021.

Mr. Trump is manifestly unfit to serve as president, and there is reason to believe a majority of the American people still can be rallied against his candidacy. But Democrats will struggle to press that case with voters so long as their own standard-bearer is a man who also appears unfit to serve as president for the next four years, albeit for very different reasons.

The 2024 presidential election is not a contest between two men, or even between two political parties. It is a battle for who we are as a nation.

President Biden clearly understands the stakes. But he seems to have lost track of his own role in this national drama. As the situation has become more dire, he has come to regard himself as indispensable. He does not seem to understand that he is now the problem — and that the best hope for Democrats to retain the White House is for him to step aside.

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom. 

A version of this article appears in print on  , Section A, Page 20 of the New York edition with the headline: The Democratic Party Must Speak The Plain Truth to the President. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

DNC Insider Talks: How to REPLACE Biden (w/ Dr. James Zogby)

Bad Faith • Premiered Jul 11, 2024 Democratic National Committee member, Jesse Jackson deputy campaign manager, & founder of the Arab American institute James Zogby returns to Bad Faith to break down the possibilities for an open convention to Briahna Joy Gray. How much flexibility to delegates have to defect? How might a new candidate be chosen? And what is the likelihood that the DNC, given the lengths it’s gone to to marginalize leftists working within the Democratic Party, would ever choose a candidate that improves on Biden’s position on Palestine, for instance? Subscribe to Bad Faith on YouTube for video of this episode. Find Bad Faith on Twitter (@badfaithpod) and Instagram (@badfaithpod). Theme by Nick Thorburn (@nickfromislands).

These are the SF laws that District 5 supe candidates would abolish

A smiling person with glasses standing in front of a red background. by ELENI BALAKRISHNAN JULY 9, 2024 (MissionLocal.org)

Illustration of District 5 with 2024 supervisorial race candidates Bilal Mahmood, Dean Preston, Allen Jones, Autumn Looijen, and Scotty Jacobs depicted below the skyline.
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Here’s the latest in our “Meet the Candidates” series for District 5, in which we ask each candidate to answer one question per week leading up to the election. Four candidates are challenging incumbent Supervisor Dean Preston to represent District 5, which spans from the east end of Golden Gate Park through Haight-Ashbury, Japantown and the Western Addition, the Lower Haight and Hayes Valley, and most of the Tenderloin.


Some say San Francisco has too many cumbersome rules, so this week we asked candidates: Which San Francisco law would you get rid of, and why?

Note: I will be at Assembly Café & Beer Garden at 52 Grove St. on Wednesday, July 10 at 4:30 p.m. Come say hi and share your thoughts about the election or District 5.

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District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston

Dean Preston

  • Job: Incumbent, tenant attorney
  • Age: 54
  • Residency: Homeowner, in District 5 since 1996
  • Transportation: Public transit
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, juris doctor degree from University of California Law, San Francisco
  • Languages: English

I would get rid of the exemptions in our local rent-control laws that leave more than 100,000 households without protections and decontrol rents after vacancy.

Unfortunately, because of a state law known as Costa Hawkins, written by and for the real estate industry, our local government does not have the power to adopt stronger rent control. This November, we have the opportunity to pass the Justice for Renters Act, a state ballot measure that would repeal Costa Hawkins and end state preemption of strong rent control. That will restore power to our city to lower rents and protect more tenants.

Endorsed by: Bernie Sanders, United Educators of San Francisco, San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Tenants Union, National Union of Healthcare Workers.

SR. Little Mission Studio

Cartoon illustration of a man with short hair, glasses, a beard, and a blue collared shirt, set inside a circular teal background.

Scotty Jacobs

  • Job: Marketing
  • Age: 30
  • Residency: Tenant in District 5 since November 2022, homeowner
  • Transportation: Public bicycle
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree from Washington University
  • Languages: English

We must refer undocumented, convicted drug dealers to ICE.

As we look toward an $800 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2025, we cannot keep increasing spending on services as our sole solution to the addiction crisis; we must also dismantle the root cause, which begins with the distribution of illegal narcotics. I will advocate for a fully funded police department, harsher sentencing guidelines for fentanyl distribution, and ultimately do whatever it takes to signal to my fellow San Franciscans and the business community that we are getting serious about tackling the addiction crisis.


District 5 candidate Allen Jones

Allen Jones

  • Job: Activist
  • Age: 67
  • Residency: Tenant in District 5 since November 2021
  • Transportation: Wheelchair
  • Education: Teaching Bible studies at juvenile hall
  • Languages: English

With all due respect, I do not look to “get rid of” any San Francisco laws.

That said, there are a few heads of some of our departments and agencies and one lawmaker in particular that I would like to replace. Why? No confidence.


Illustration of a smiling woman with glasses and long hair in a circular frame.

Autumn Looijen

  • Job: School board recall co-founder
  • Age: 46
  • Residency: Tenant in District 5 since December 2020, landowner
  • Transportation: Public transit
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree from California Institute of Technology
  • Languages: English

[No response submitted.]

Endorsed by: San Francisco police union.


District 5 candidate Bilal Mahmood

Bilal Mahmood

  • Job: Founder of private and philanthropic organizations
  • Age: 37
  • Residency: Tenant in District 5 since May 2023
  • Transportation: Walking
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, master’s degree from University of Cambridge
  • Languages: English, Urdu

I would advocate for expanding mixed-use zoning policies. Currently, the city’s zoning often separates residential and commercial areas, limiting opportunities for integrated development.

Mixed-use zoning allows for a blend of residential, commercial, and sometimes industrial spaces within neighborhoods. This approach promotes walkability, reduces commuting times, and encourages economic diversity. By utilizing space more efficiently, we could alleviate housing shortages and support small businesses. Ultimately, it aims to create dynamic urban environments where people can live, work, and enjoy recreational activities in close proximity, fostering a more sustainable and inclusive city.

Endorsed by: San Francisco YIMBY, State Senator Scott Wiener and DCCC Chair Honey Mahogany.


The order of candidates is rotated each week. Answers are capped at 100 words, and may be lightly edited for formatting, spelling, and grammar. If you have questions for the candidates, please let us know at eleni@missionlocal.com.

Read the entire “Meet the Candidates” series here. Illustrations for the series by Neil Ballard.

You can register to vote via the sf.gov website.

READ MORE CANDIDATE ANSWERS

Meet the Candidates: San Francisco’s District 5 supervisor race

Meet the Candidates: San Francisco’s District 5 supervisor race

ELENI BALAKRISHNAN

eleni@missionlocal.com

REPORTER. Eleni reports on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim more than 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.More by Eleni Balakrishnan

“GAY FURRY HACKERS” CLAIM CREDIT FOR HACKING HERITAGE FOUNDATION FILES OVER PROJECT 2025

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts introduces former Vice President Mike Pence during an event to promote his new book at the conservative think tank on October 19, 2022 in Washington, DC.

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Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts introduces former Vice President Mike Pence during an event to promote his new book at the conservative think tank on Oct. 19, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The hacker collective SiegedSec says it infiltrated the conservative think tank to oppose its campaign against trans rights.

Shawn Musgrave

July 9 2024 (TheIntercept.com)

SIEGEDSEC, A COLLECTIVE of self-proclaimed “gay furry hackers,” has claimed credit for breaching online databases of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that spearheaded the right-wing Project 2025 playbook. SiegedSec released a cache of Heritage Foundation material as part of a string of hacks aimed at organizations that oppose transgender rights, although Heritage disputed that its own systems were breached.

In a post to Telegram announcing the hack, SiegedSec called Project 2025 “an authoritarian Christian nationalist plan to reform the United States government.” The attack was part of the group’s #OpTransRights campaign, which recently targeted right-wing media outlet Real America’s Voice, the Hillsong megachurch, and a Minnesota pastor.

In his foreword to the Project 2025 manifesto, the Heritage Foundation’s president, Kevin Roberts, rails against “the toxic normalization of transgenderism” and “the omnipresent propagation of transgender ideology.” The playbook’s other contributors call on “the next conservative administration” to roll back certain policies, including allowing trans people to serve in the military.

“We’re strongly against Project 2025 and everything the Heritage Foundation stands for,” one of SiegedSec’s leaders, who goes by the handle “vio,” told The Intercept.

In its Telegram post, SiegedSec said it obtained passwords and other user information for “every user” of a Heritage Foundation database, including Roberts and some U.S. government employees. Heritage Foundation said in statement Wednesday that SiegedSec only obtained incomplete password information.

The remainder of more than 200GB of files the hackers obtained were “mostly useless,” SiegedSec said.

The Intercept reviewed copies of files provided to the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets. They included an archive of the Heritage Foundation’s blogs and a Heritage-aligned media site, The Daily Signal, as of November 2022.

This is at least the second hack against the Heritage Foundation this year. In April, Heritage shut down its network following a cyberattack tentatively attributed to nation-state hackers. SiegedSec targeted the Heritage Foundation in early June, according to vio, who denied involvement in the earlier attack.

A spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation said Wednesday that the files were not obtained by hacking its systems, but that SiegedSec discovered them on a third party’s site.

“An organized group stumbled upon a two-year-old archive of The Daily Signal website that was available on a public-facing website owned by a contractor,” said Noah Weinrich, a Heritage spokesperson. “No Heritage systems were breached at any time, and all Heritage databases and websites remain secure, including Project 2025. The data at issue has been taken down, and additional security steps have since been taken as a precaution.”

SiegedSec’s other recent operations have targeted NATO and Israeli companies to oppose the war in Gaza. 

Update: Wednesday, July 10, 6:36 p.m. ET

This article was updated to include comment from the Heritage Foundation disputing that the files released by SiegedSec were the result of a hack of its systems and were hosted instead on a third party’s website.Share

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Shawn Musgraveshawn.musgrave@theintercept.com@ShawnMusgraveon X

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Trump’s Camp Says It Has Nothing to Do With Project 2025 Manifesto — Aside From Writing It

Media Week: Joe Biden, the party ‘elite,’ and the reality of big political money

Working-class voters seem less and less interested in a Democratic candidate who won’t challenge the basic assumptions of neoliberalism.

By TIM REDMOND

JULY 10, 2024 (48hills.org)

I find it fascinating that so many publications are talking about the “party elite” and “Democratic leaders” who are trying to get President Joe Biden to bow out and not run for re-election. The reality is that the national Democratic Party “elite” is largely big donors who control the establishment and people who work with them.

Democrats argue that lot of people will suffer if Donald Trump wins in November—but those big donors aren’t among them. The very, very rich, particularly in tech and finance, who have become the elite of the party, are not going to lose their health insurance, or their retirement money, or become homeless.

If Biden decides not to run, who will replace him—and how will they appeal to voters who don’t have a college degree?

There’s a really interesting story by Jason Zengerle in The New York Times Magazine this weekend about Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who won what many consider the biggest political upset of 2022, winning as a Democrat in a traditionally Republican district in Washington State.

Perez, who ran an auto-repair shop before getting elected, has voted with the GOP on some issues; she opposed the student loan forgiveness program, in part because most of her constituents have no college degrees. Here’s what struck me:

Democrats have been working through the stages of grief about their loss of working-class voters for the past two decades. When George W. Bush was in the White House and Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas” sat on every Georgetown bookshelf, the Democrats were in denial, complaining that right-wing Svengalis had hoodwinked the working class into voting against their own interests by plying them with contrived cultural grievances. Next came anger, the purest form of which was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and her “basket of deplorables” label for Donald Trump supporters. After Clinton’s defeat came Democrats’ bargaining phase, as they tried to accommodate the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders and the belief that he, and politicians like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, signified a latent interest in socialism among working-class voters. But in trying to defang Sanders and his fellow insurgents, the Democratic establishment tended to adopt only the most performative socially liberal policies while rejecting ones that might actually threaten or change the neoliberal economic regime. In the process, Democrats seem to have only alienated working-class voters even more.

I still believe Sanders would have defeated Trump. He also would have threatened the rich people who have been comfortably controlling the party since at least the Clinton era. (This happened in part because Ronald Reagan and globalization broke the labor movement; labor used to fund Democrats. So the party went to Wall Street instead.) Better to lose to Trump than risk Sanders.

Here’s George Monbiot in the UK Guardian, with a brilliant analysis of economic history:

What is the “normal” envisaged by pundits and politicians of the left and centre? It is the most anomalous politics in the history of the world. Consciously or otherwise, they hark back to a remarkable period, roughly 1945 to 1975, in which, in certain rich nations, wealth and power were distributed, almost everyone could aspire to decent housing, wages and conditions, public services were ambitious and well-funded and a robust economic safety net prevented destitution. There had never been a period like it in the prior history of the world, and there has not been one since. Even during that period, general prosperity in the rich nations was supported by extreme exploitation, coups and violence imposed on the poor nations. We lived in a bubble, limited in time and space, in which extraordinary things happened. Yet somehow we think of it as normal.

Those “normal” politics were the result of something known to economic historians as the “great compression”: a drastic reduction in inequality caused by two world wars. In many powerful countries, a combination of the physical destruction of assets, the loss of colonial and overseas possessions, inflation, very high taxes, wage and price controls, requisitioning and nationalisation required by the wartime economy, as well as the effects of rising democracy and labour organisation, greatly reduced the income and assets of the rich. It also greatly improved, once the wars had ended, the position of the poor. For several decades, we benefited from the aftermath of these great shocks. Now the effect has faded. We are returning to true “normality”.

The history of many centuries, including our own, shows that the default state of politics is not redistribution and general welfare, but a spiral of accumulation by the very rich, the extreme exploitation of labour, the seizure of common resources and exaction of rent for their use, extortion, coercion and violence. Normal is a society in which might is right. Normal is oligarchy.

 In the US, the top rate of estate (inheritance) tax rose to 71% in 1941, and income tax to 94% in 1944. The National War Labor Board raised workers’ pay while holding down executive pay. Union membership soared. In the UK, the top rate of income tax was held at 98% from 1941 to 1952. It took decades to decline to current levels. A purchase tax on luxury goods was introduced in 1940, with rates that later rose to 100%. The share of incomes captured by the richest 0.1% fell from 7% in 1937 to just over 1% in 1975.

In the absence of one of the four great catastrophes, income and capital inexorably accumulate in the hands of the few, and oligarchy returns. Oligarchs are people who translate their inordinate economic power into inordinate political power. They build a politics that suits them. Scheidel shows that as inequality rises, so does polarisation and political dysfunction, both of which favour the very rich, as a competent, proactive state is a threat to their interests. Dysfunction is what the Tories delivered and Donald Trump promises.

And then this: Olivier De Schutter argues that the entire concept that underlies modern capitalism—the mandate of economic growth—is actually a ruse to help the very rich get even richer.

Economic growth will bring prosperity to all. This is the mantra that guides the decision-making of the vast majority of politicians, economists and even human rights bodies.

Yet the reality – as detailed in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council this month – shows that while poverty eradication has historically been promised through the “trickling down” or “redistribution” of wealth, economic growth largely “gushes up” to a privileged few.

In the past four years alone the world’s five richest men have more than doubled their fortunes, while nearly 5 billion people have been made poorer. If current trends continue, 575 million people will still be trapped in extreme poverty in 2030 – the deadline set by the world’s governments to eradicate it. Currently, more than 4 billion people have no access whatsoever to social protection.

Hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive in a world that has never been wealthier; many are driven to exhaustion in poorly paid, often dangerous jobs to satisfy the needs of the elite and to boost corporate profits. In low-income countries, where significant investment is still required, growth can still serve a useful role. In practice, however, it is often extractive, relying on the exploitation of a cheap workforce and the plundering of natural resources.

The politicians I trust and respect are the ones who entered this realm because they care about issues and causes—and understand that the movement is more important than their careers. I respect people who are willing to say that someone else might be more effective at a job that moves the agenda forward, who see elective office as a means to an end, not personal power and glory.

Biden may drop out. He may be replaced—with Kamala Harris, or Gavin Newsom, or Gretchen Whitmer, or someone else who will have similar politics. But it won’t be anyone who “might actually threaten or change the neoliberal economic regime.”

Which might mean that the three out of five voters who don’t have a college degree, and who have suffered and continue to suffer under neoliberal economics, will not be a loyal Democratic voter base.

The national Democratic Party doesn’t seem willing to talk about that.

Tim Redmond

Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

Israeli Use of Fragmentation Bombs Eviscerating Children’s Bodies in Gaza, Say Doctors

A man carries a child injured in an Israeli attack at Nasser Hospital

A man carries a child injured in an Israeli attack at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza on July 9, 2024.

 (Photo: Bashar Taleb/AFP via Getty Images)

“Restraining Israel in October rather than enabling its operations in Gaza,” said one international policy expert, “could have avoided a lot of dead and mangled children.”

JULIA CONLEY

Jul 11, 2024 (CommonDreams.org)

Doctors who have had to perform “a constant flow of amputations” on injured children in Gaza said Thursday that the injuries they have witnessed were consistent with the use of “fragmentation bombs” loaded with shrapnel—which Israel has used in the past and which rights groups have said are designed to cause maximum casualties.

Volunteer doctors who have worked at European Hospital and al-Aqsa Hospital over the past three months told The Guardian that a majority of the patients they operated on were children who had wounds that were barely discernible—called “splinter injuries” by Dr. Feroze Sidhwa, a trauma surgeon from California—but caused catastrophic internal damage to the children’s bodies.

“About half of the injuries I took care of were in young kids,” said Sidhwa. “Children are more vulnerable to any penetrating injury because they have smaller bodies. Their vital parts are smaller and easier to disrupt. When children have lacerated blood vessels, their blood vessels are already so small it’s very hard to put them back together. The artery that feeds the leg, the femoral artery, is only the thickness of a noodle in a small child. It’s very, very small. So repairing it and keeping the kid’s limb attached to them is very difficult.”

The Guardian also spoke to explosives experts who reviewed pictures of the shrapnel found by medical staff and the doctors’ descriptions of the tiny external wounds they treated on seriously injured children, and said the accounts were consistent with bombs the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fits with “fragmentation sleeves” around warheads.

Amnesty International first documented the IDF’s use of fragmentation bombs in Gaza in 2009 and said the explosives “appear designed to cause maximum injury and, in some respects, seem to be a more sophisticated version of the ball-bearings or nails and bolts which armed groups often pack into crude rockets and suicide bombs.”

One weapons expert told The Guardian that Israel has claimed the weapons are more precise than large bombs designed to damage and destroy buildings.

“But when they are fired into areas with high concentrations of civilians living in the open with nowhere to shelter, the military knows that most of the casualties will be those civilians,” said the expert, who spoke anonymously because he works with the U.S. government, a vehement supporter of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the largest international funder of the IDF.

The U.S. and Israel have repeatedly dismissed international outcry over civilian casualties in Gaza, where at least 38,345 people have been killed since October. The Biden administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have insisted that the IDF is targeting Hamas, even as top Israeli officials have also said the military is operating without “restraints” and soldiers have testified that women and children are seen as legitimate targets.

The Guardian story is the latest evidence that Israel has “launched a full-on war against a civilian population,” said Canadian Member of Parliament Charlie Angus of the New Democratic Party.

Doctors said they found shrapnel made of three-millimeter-wide metal cubes while operating on children whose bones and organs had been seriously injured despite just scratches on their skin.

“X-rays showed demolished bones with a pinhole wound on one side, a pinhole on the other, and a bone that looks like a tractor trailer drove over it,” Dr. Mark Perlmutter, an orthopedic surgeon from North Carolina, told The Guardian.

Last December, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that in the first 10 weeks of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, about 1,000 children had lost at least one limb to amputation. The current number is unknown.

Doctors have reported that severe shortages of medicine and medical supplies have made it more likely that they will have to amputate injured arms and legs. Children are also more likely to struggle to recover from their operations without antibiotics and painkillers, and unsanitary conditions have made infections common.

Brian Finucane, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, said the doctors’ accounts brought to mind the Biden administration’s claim months ago that a cease-fire “would only benefit Hamas.”

“Restraining Israel in October rather than enabling its operations in Gaza,” said Finucane, “could have avoided a lot of dead and mangled children.”

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

JULIA CONLEY

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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Prankster Adds Sex Workers to Slow Streets Signs on Shotwell

11 JULY 2024/SF NEWS/JAY BARMAN (SFist.com)

A prankster has added some stickers to signs to better represent the range of activities that go on on Shotwell Street, which is a designated Slow Street with city-installed signage.

The sticker replaces the image of a parent with children and stroller with images of sex workers, one leaning into a car and one leaning up against a lamppost. It’s a cheeky reference to the fact that Shotwell Street has become, as it has been in years past, a magnet for the sex trade — having replaced Capp Street, which had been the nexus in this area of the Mission until the city installed full blockades around 20th and 21st streets last year to deter car-cruising, and conducted a crackdown that included arrests of johns.

The SFPD conducted a similar sting this past May on Shotwell Street, resulting in the arrests of 17 johns and 13 sex workers. But things haven’t entirely quieted down.

The new signage is in the vein of those fake “stolen goods must remain under $950” signs that recently appeared in Union Square.

For reference, here are the signs as they previously appeared on Shotwell Street:

Related: Capp Street Barriers to Be Made Permanent, Because Apparently They’re Working to Deter Street-Level Sex Trade

LABOUR WIN, YET RIGHT-WING LOOMS IN VOLATILE UK ELECTION

FRI, 7/12/2024 – BY STEVE RUSHTON (Occupy.com)

France and the United Kingdom both held national elections that concluded earlier this month. In Britain, 14 years of brutal and chaotic Conservative rule ended with the election of Keir Starmer’s Labour. In France, the Left Alliance beat back the far-right, yet the latter gained their highest ever vote share despite failing to win as predicted.

There appears a chasm in the direction of these two countries, separated by 25 miles of sea at the narrowest point. Yet in both countries the underlying trends include racist populism and a surge in far-right momentum at the expense of incumbent neoliberal parties, even as left wing wins brought fresh calls for change.

This report follows Britain’s election from last weekend, with a fuller report on the French election due out shortly on Occupy.com.

A FRACTIOUS RIGHT LOOKING TO THE NEXT ELECTION

Britain’s Labour Party won a landslide victory of 412 of 650 House of Commons seats on July 4. The Conservatives dropped 251 seats to a record low of 121 seats. Yet these headline figures mask volatile currents.

Clearly, after 14 years of corruption and chaos, the Conservatives were rejected. Yet many of their votes went to a new right-wing populist Reform party. Centrists Liberal Democrats, Greens and independent candidates also gained against a backdrop where there is little excitement for a new Labour government.

Reform UK is a new anti-migrant populist right-wing party that got 4 million votes, yet only won five seats due to the country’s first-past-the-post electoral system. It managed to harness and split the right-wing vote, even coming second to Labour in some constituencies that the Conservatives had won in the previous election. Looking forward, Reform poses an existential threat to the already fractured Conservative Party.

Reform UK is the new project of Nigel Farage, a Brexit campaign figurehead, a racist and Donald Trump ally.

Farage rallies against the establishment despite his private education and previous trading job in the City of London. He is given much airtime. His previous projects – including Leave.eu – have received a great deal of corporate and international — particularly Russian – funding.

After his eighth attempt to become an MP, Farage now sits in the House of Commons, where Reform will aim to pull the Conservatives further right.

CONSERVATIVE COLLAPSE AFTER 14 CRUEL, CHAOTIC AND CORRUPT YEARS

The Conservatives hemorrhaged votes to all other parties. The main focus for many voters was to kick out the party that had been in power since 2010. During this period, food banks became normalized even for working people; a housing crisis exploded; the National Health Service is in ruins; thousands of disabled people have died when denied benefits; and 4.3 million children are growing up in poverty.

Meanwhile, the rich became super-rich, especially during the Covid pandemic. Summarizing the key takeaways of Britain’s five Conservative prime ministers over the past 14 years explains Britain’s political nightmare:

David Cameron pushed draconian spending cuts, accelerated “privatization on steroids” of public services, and an EU referendum to quell Eurosceptic voices, which severed Britain’s ties to Europe and catalyzed the nation’s growing xenophobia. 

Theresa May, who served from 2016 to 2019, faced escalating Brexit chaos, and continued with the Tories’ “Hostile Environment” xenophobic policies against migrants and refugees.

Boris Johnson (2019-22) callously partied during Covid and enabled profiteering, Liz Truss (2022) crashed the economy in 49 days, and Rishi Sunak (2022-24) stabilized the economic chaos of Truss only to continue the other leaders’ legacy of cuts and anti-migrant hostility.

Reform’s answer to the crises facing the country is that the Conservatives did not go far enough, especially in preventing immigration. Among a divided Conservative Party, many agree – including ex-PM Truss, who lost her seat and blamed her party’s defeat on not being brave enough. 

The chaos echoes what is happening in France, where neoliberal Macron pushed lighter versions of what the far-right National Rally were suggesting, creating a dynamic where many voters wanted the stronger anti-migrant and other populist policies.

A POWERFUL, BUT NOT POPULAR, NEW LABOUR GOVERNMENT

Labour has inherited a country in ruin. Its mandate is shaky, with two-thirds of parliamentary seats yet only a third of the votes. Turnout in the election was the lowest in 20 years.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s popularity is not high. It is just better than the Conservatives, which was the main message in his campaign. Labour has lost swathes of party members, many purged for leftist positions after the ex-Head of Public Prosecutions took over from previous leader Jeremy Corbyn and dragged the party to the right.

The Labour leader has also suggested Israel had the right to block food and water to Gaza and collectively punish Palestinians for the actions of Hamas after the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. This led to Labour losing four constituencies to independent candidates who were running on a pro-Palestine platform.

Starmer has dropped many of the promises he made in 2020 when he became Labour leader. These include ending the two-child cap on benefits, raising taxes for higher earners, a green new deal, defending free movement across the EU, and creating “an immigration system based on compassion and dignity.”

Labour’s winning manifesto promised minor improvements to NHS waiting times and a green transition, but it does not go far enough to fix the catastrophic mess left by the last 14 years.

BRITAIN’S BROKEN POLITICAL SYSTEM

The other headline from last week’s General Election is how the archaic voting system means the seats in Parliament are only loosely correlated with vote share. For example, the Liberal Democrats did well and their 12 percent of votes corresponded to about the same proportion of seats in Parliament. However, smaller parties like Reform, the Greens and the Scottish National Party got far fewer seats relative to vote share.

This supposedly straightforward election story of a Labour landslide masks a complex and fractious political reality. The fault lines in the electoral system are becoming clearer. Pro-Irish unity party Sinn Féin won the most seats in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the Greens are gaining momentum and could offer a home to those disappointed with Starmer’s possible inability to deal with the social and ecological crises facing the country. 

If the Conservative Party is not able to stop the ascendancy of those pushing for culture wars with the increased pressure from Reform, and if Starmer keeps moving to the right because he sees the vacant space in the centre-right left by traditional small-c conservatives, the UK could open up the door to an even stronger surge of right-wing populists, as has happened on the other side of the channel in France.

Read the forthcoming analysis on France’s recent election results.

NEW YORK TIMES: DONALD TRUMP IS UNFIT TO LEAD

July 11, 2024 (NYTimes.com)

HE IS DANGEROUS
IN WORD, DEED AND ACTION

HE PUTS SELF OVER
COUNTRY

HE LOATHES THE LAWS
WE LIVE BY

OPINION

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists
whose views are informed by expertise,
research, debate and certain longstanding values.
It is separate from the newsroom.

Next week, for the third time in eight years, Donald Trump will be nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for president of the United States. A once great political party now serves the interests of one man, a man as demonstrably unsuited for the office of president as any to run in the long history of the Republic, a man whose values, temperament, ideas and language are directly opposed to so much of what has made this country great.

It is a chilling choice against this national moment. For more than two decades, large majorities of Americans have said they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and the post-Covid era of stubborn inflation, high interest rates, social division and political stagnation has left many voters even more frustrated and despondent.

The Republican Party once pursued electoral power in service to solutions for such problems, to building “the shining city on a hill,” as Ronald Reagan liked to say. Its vision of the United States — embodied in principled public servants like George H.W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney — was rooted in the values of freedom, sacrifice, individual responsibility and the common good. The party’s conception of those values was reflected in its longstanding conservative policy agenda, and today many Republicans set aside their concerns about Mr. Trump because of his positions on immigration, trade and taxes. But the stakes of this election are not fundamentally about policy disagreements. The stakes are more foundational: what qualities matter most in America’s president and commander in chief.

Mr. Trump has shown a character unworthy of the responsibilities of the presidency. He has demonstrated an utter lack of respect for the Constitution, the rule of law and the American people. Instead of a cogent vision for the country’s future, Mr. Trump is animated by a thirst for political power: to use the levers of government to advance his interests, satisfy his impulses and exact retribution against those who he thinks have wronged him.

He is, quite simply, unfit to lead.

The Democrats are rightly engaged in their own debate about whether President Biden is the right person to carry the party’s nomination into the election, given widespread concerns among voters about his age-related fitness. This debate is so intense because of legitimate concerns that Mr. Trump may present a danger to the country, its strength, security and national character — and that a compelling Democratic alternative is the only thing that would prevent his return to power. It is a national tragedy that the Republicans have failed to have a similar debate about the manifest moral and temperamental unfitness of their standard-bearer, instead setting aside their longstanding values, closing ranks and choosing to overlook what those who worked most closely with the former president have described as his systematic dishonesty, corruption, cruelty and incompetence.

That task now falls to the American people. We urge voters to see the dangers of a second Trump term clearly and to reject it. The stakes and significance of the presidency demand a person who has essential qualities and values to earn our trust, and on each one, Donald Trump fails.

I.MORAL FITNESS

II.PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP

III.CHARACTER

IV.A PRESIDENT’S WORDS

V.RULE OF LAW

I.

MORAL FITNESS
MATTERS

Presidents are confronted daily with challenges that require not just strength and conviction but also honesty, humility, selflessness, fortitude and the perspective that comes from sound moral judgment.

If Mr. Trump has these qualities, Americans have never seen them in action on behalf of the nation’s interests. His words and actions demonstrate a disregard for basic right and wrong and a clear lack of moral fitness for the responsibilities of the presidency.

He lies blatantly and maliciously, embraces racistsabuses women and has a schoolyard bully’s instinct to target society’s most vulnerable. He has delighted in coarsening and polarizing the town square with ever more divisive and incendiary language. Mr. Trump is a man who craves validation and vindication, so much that he would prefer a hostile leader’s lies to his own intelligence agencies’ truths and would shake down a vulnerable ally for short-term political advantage. His handling of everything from routine affairs to major crises was undermined by his blundering combination of impulsiveness, insecurity and unstudied certainty.

This record shows what can happen to a country led by such a person: America’s image, credibility and cohesion were relentlessly undermined by Mr. Trump during his term.

None of his wrongful actions are so obviously discrediting as his determined and systematic attempts to undermine the integrity of elections — the most basic element of any democracy — an effort that culminated in an insurrection at the Capitol to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power.

On Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Trump incited a mob to violence with hateful lies, then stood by for hours as hundreds of his supporters took his word and stormed the Capitol with the aim of terrorizing members of Congress into keeping him in office. He praised these insurrectionists and called them patriots; today he gives them a starring role at campaign rallies, playing a rendition of the national anthem sung by inmates involved with Jan. 6., and he has promised to consider pardoning the rioters if re-elected. He continues to wrong the country and its voters by lying about the 2020 election, branding it stolen, despite the courts, the Justice Department and Republican state officials disputing him. No man fit for the presidency would flog such pernicious and destructive lies about democratic norms and values, but the Trumpian hunger for vindication and retribution has no moral center.

To vest such a person with the vast powers of the presidency is to endanger American interests and security at home as well as abroad. The nation’s commander in chief must uphold the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” It is the closest thing that this secular nation has to a sacred trust. The president has several duties and powers that are his alone: He has the sole authority to launch a nuclear weapon. He has the authority to send American troops into harm’s way and to authorize the use of lethal force against individuals and other nations. Americans who serve in the military also take an oath to defend the Constitution, and they rely on their commander in chief to take that oath as seriously as they do.

Mr. Trump has shown, repeatedly, that he does not. On numerous occasions, he asked his defense secretary and commanders in the American armed forces to violate that oath. On other occasions, he demanded that members of the military violate norms that preserve the dignity of the armed services and protect the military from being used for political purposes. They largely refused these illegal and immoral orders, as the oath requires.

The lack of moral grounding undermines Mr. Trump even in areas where voters view him as stronger and trust him more than Mr. Biden, like immigration and crime. Veering into a kind of brutal excess that is, at best, immoral and, at worst, unconstitutional, he has said that undocumented immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country,” and his advisers say he would aim to round them up in mass detention camps and end birthright citizenship. He has indicated that, if faced with episodes of rioting or crime surges, he would unilaterally send troops into American cities. He has asked aides if the United States could shoot migrants below the waist to slow them down, and he has said that he would use the Insurrection Act to deploy the military against protesters.

During his time in office, none of those things happened because there were enough people in military leadership with the moral fitness to say “no” to such illegal orders. But there are good reasons to worry about whether that would happen again, as Mr. Trump works harder to surround himself with people who enable rather than check his most insidious impulses.

The Supreme Court, with its ruling on July 1 granting presidents “absolute immunity” for official acts, has removed an obstacle to Mr. Trump’s worst impulses: the threat of legal consequences. What remains is his own sense of right and wrong. Our country’s future is too precious to rely on such a broken moral compass.CONTINUE READING

II.

PRINCIPLED
LEADERSHIP
MATTERS

Republican presidents and presidential candidates have used their leadership at critical moments to set a tone for society to live up to. Mr. Reagan faced down totalitarianism in the 1980s, appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court and worked with Democrats on bipartisan tax and immigration reforms. George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act and decisively defended an ally, Kuwait, against Iraqi aggression. George W. Bush, for all his failures after Sept. 11, did not stoke hate against or demonize Muslims or Islam.

As a candidate during the 2008 race, Mr. McCain spoke out when his fellow conservatives spread lies about his opponent, Barack Obama. Mr. Romney was willing to sacrifice his standing and influence in the party he once represented as a presidential nominee, by boldly calling out Mr. Trump’s failings and voting for his removal from office.

These acts of leadership are what it means to put country first, to think beyond oneself.

Mr. Trump has demonstrated contempt for these American ideals. He admires autocrats, from Viktor Orban to Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-un. He believes in the strongman model of power — a leader who makes things happen by demanding it, compelling agreement through force of will or personality. In reality, a strongman rules through fear and the unprincipled use of political might for self-serving ends, imposing poorly conceived policies that smother innovation, entrepreneurship, ideas and hope.

During his four years in office, Mr. Trump tried to govern the United States as a strongman would, issuing orders or making decrees on Twitter. He announced sudden changes in policy — on who can serve in the militaryon trade policy, on how the United States deals with North Korea or Russia — without consulting experts on his staff about how these changes would affect America. Indeed, nowhere did he put his political or personal interests above the national interest more tragically than during the pandemicwhen he faked his way through a crisis by touting conspiracy theories and pseudoscience while ignoring the advice of his own experts and resisting basic safety measures that would have saved lives.

He took a similar approach to America’s strategic relationships abroad. Mr. Trump lost the trust of America’s longstanding allies, especially in NATO, leaving Europe less secure and emboldening the far right and authoritarian leaders in Europe, Latin America and Asia. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, leaving that country, already a threat to the world, more dangerous, thanks to a revived program that has achieved near-weapons-grade uranium.

In a second term, his willingness to appease Mr. Putin would leave Ukraine’s future as a democratic and independent country in doubt. Mr. Trump implies that he could single-handedly end the catastrophic war in Gaza but has no real plan. He has suggested that in a second term he’d increase tariffs on Chinese goods to 60 percent or higher and that he would put a 10 percent tariff on all imported goods, moves that would raise prices for American consumers and reduce innovation by allowing U.S. industries to rely on protectionism instead.

The worst of the Trump administration’s policies were often blocked by Congress, by court challenges and by the objections of honorable public servants who stepped in to thwart his demands when they were irresponsible or did not follow the law. When Mr. Trump wanted an end to Obamacare, a single Republican senator, Mr. McCain, saved it, preserving health care for millions of Americans. Mr. Trump demanded that James Comey, his F.B.I. director, pledge loyalty to him and end an investigation into a political ally; Mr. Comey refused. Scientists and public health officials called out and corrected his misinformation about climate science and Covid. The Supreme Court sided against the Trump administration more times than any other president since at least Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A second Trump administration would be different. He intends to fill his administration with sycophants, those who have shown themselves willing to obey Mr. Trump’s demands or those who lack the strength to stand up to him. He wants to remove those who would be obstacles to his agenda, by enacting an order to make it easier to fire civil servants and replace them with those more loyal to him.

This means not only that Americans would lose the benefit of their expertise but also that America would be governed in a climate of fear, in which government employees must serve the interests of the president rather than the public. All cabinet secretaries follow a president’s lead, but Mr. Trump envisions a nation in which public service as Americans understand it would cease to exist — where individual civil servants and departments could no longer make independent decisions and where research by scientists and public health experts and investigations by the Justice Department and others in federal law enforcement would be more malleable to the demands of the White House.

Another term under Mr. Trump’s leadership would risk doing permanent damage to our government. As Mr. Comey, a longtime Republican, wrote in a 2019 guest essay for Times Opinion, “Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from.” Very few who serve under him can avoid this fate “because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites,” Mr. Comey wrote. “Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values. And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.” America will get nowhere with a strongman. It needs a strong leader.CONTINUE READING

III.

CHARACTER
MATTERS

Character is the quality that gives a leader credibility, authority and influence. During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump’s petty attacks on his opponents and their families led many Republicans to conclude that he lacked such character. Other Republicans, including those who supported the former president’s policies in office, say they can no longer in good conscience back him for the presidency. “It’s a job that requires the kind of character he just doesn’t have,” Paul Ryan, a former Republican House speaker, said of Mr. Trump in May.

Those who know Mr. Trump’s character best — the people he appointed to serve in the most important positions of his White House — have expressed grave doubts about his fitness for office.

His former chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, described Mr. Trump as “a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution and the rule of law.” Bill Barr, whom Mr. Trump appointed as attorney general, said of him, “He will always put his own interest and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest.” James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general who served as defense secretary, said, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try.”

Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s vice president, has disavowed him. No other vice president in modern American history has done this. “I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States,” Mr. Pence has said. “And anyone who asked someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.”

These are hardly exceptions. In any other American administration, a single cabinet-level defection is rare. But an unprecedented number of Mr. Trump’s appointees have publicly criticized his leadership, opposed his 2024 presidential candidacy or ducked questions about his fitness for a second term. More than a dozen of his most senior appointees — those he chose to work alongside him and who saw his performance most closely — have spoken out against him, serving as witnesses about the kind of leader he is.

There are many ways to judge leaders’ character; one is to see whether they accept responsibility for their actions. As a general rule, Mr. Trump abhors accountability. If he loses, the election is rigged. If he is convicted, it’s because the judges are out to get him. If he doesn’t get his way in a deal, as happened multiple times with Congress in his term, he shuts down the government or threatens to.

Americans do not expect their presidents to be perfect; many of them have exhibited hubris, self-regard, arrogance and other character flaws. But the American system of government is more than just the president: It is a system of checks and balances, and it relies on everyone in government to intervene when a president’s personal failings might threaten the common good.

Mr. Trump tested those limits as president, and little has changed about him in the four years since he lost re-election. He tries to intimidate anyone with the temerity to testify as a witness against him. He attacks the integrity of judges who are doing their duty to hold him accountable to the law. He mocks those he dislikes and lies about those who oppose him and targets Republicans for defeat if they fail to bend the knee.

It may be tempting for Americans to believe that a second Trump presidency would be much like the first, with the rest of government steeled to protect the country and resist his worst impulses. But the strongman needs others to be weak, and Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with yes men.

The American public has a right to demand more from their president and those who would serve under him.CONTINUE READING

IV.

A PRESIDENT’S
WORDS MATTER

When America saw white nationalists and neo-Nazis march through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and activists were rallying against racism, Mr. Trump spoke of “very fine people on both sides.” When he was pressed about the white supremacist Proud Boys during a 2020 debate, Mr. Trump told them to “stand back and stand by,” a request that, records show, they took literally in deciding to storm Congress. This winter, the former president urged Iowans to vote for him and score a victory over their fellow Americans — “all of the liars, cheaters, thugs, perverts, frauds, crooks, freaks, creeps.” And in a Veterans Day speech in New Hampshire, he used the word “vermin,” a term he has deployed to describe both immigrants and political opponents.

What a president says reflects on the United States and the kind of society we aspire to be.

In 2022 this board raised an urgent alarm about the rising threat of political violence in the United States and what Americans could do to stop it. At the time, Mr. Trump was preparing to declare his intention to run for president again, and the Republican Party was in the middle of a fight for control, between Trumpists and those who were ready to move on from his destructive leadership. This struggle within the party has consequences for all Americans. “A healthy democracy requires both political parties to be fully committed to the rule of law and not to entertain or even tacitly encourage violence or violent speech,” we wrote.

A large faction of one party in our country fails that test, and that faction, Mr. Trump’s MAGA extremists, now control the party and its levers of power. There are many reasons his conquest of the Republican Party is bad for American democracy, but one of the most significant is that those extremists have often embraced violent speech or the belief in using violence to achieve their political goals. This belief led to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and it has resulted in a rising number of threats against judges, elected officials and prosecutors.

This threat cannot be separated from Mr. Trump’s use of language to encourage violence, to dehumanize groups of people and to spread lies. A study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, released in October 2022, came to the conclusion that MAGA Republicans (as opposed to those who identified themselves as traditional Republicans) “are more likely to hold extreme and racist beliefs, to endorse political violence, to see such violence as likely to occur and to predict that they will be armed under circumstances in which they consider political violence to be justified.”

The Republican Party had an opportunity to renounce Trumpism; it has submitted to it. Republican leaders have had many opportunities to repudiate his violent discourse and make clear that it should have no place in political life; they failed to. Sizable numbers of voters in Republican primaries abandoned Mr. Trump for other candidates, and independent and undecided voters have said that Mr. Trump’s language has alienated them from his candidacy.

But with his nomination by his party all but assured, Mr. Trump has become even more reckless in employing extreme and violent speech, such as his references to executing generals who raise questions about his actions. He has argued, before the Supreme Court, that he should have the right to assassinate a political rival and face no consequences.CONTINUE READING

V.

THE RULE OF LAW MATTERS

The danger from these foundational failings — of morals and character, of principled leadership and rhetorical excess — is never clearer than in Mr. Trump’s disregard for rule of law, his willingness to do long-term damage to the integrity of America’s systems for short-term personal gain.

As we’ve noted, Mr. Trump’s disregard for democracy was most evident in his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and to encourage violence to stop the peaceful transfer of power. What stood in his way were the many patriotic Americans, at every level of government, who rejected his efforts to bully them into complying with his demands to change election results. Instead, they followed the rules and followed the law. This respect for the rule of law, not the rule of men, is what has allowed American democracy to survive for more than 200 years.

In the four years since losing the election, Mr. Trump has become only more determined to subvert the rule of law, because his whole theory of Trumpism boils down to doing whatever he wants without consequence. Americans are seeing this unfold as Mr. Trump attempts to fight off numerous criminal charges. Not content to work within the law to defend himself, he is instead turning to sympathetic judges — including two Supreme Court justices with apparent conflicts over the 2020 election and Jan. 6-related litigation. The playbook: delay federal prosecution until he can win election and end those legal cases. His vision of government is one that does what he wants, rather than a government that operates according to the rule of law as prescribed by the Constitution, the courts and Congress.

As divided as America is, people across the political spectrum generally recoil from rigged rules, favoritism, self-dealing and abuse of power. Our country has been so stable for so long in part because most Americans and most American leaders follow the rules or face the consequences.

So much in the past two decades has tested these norms in our society — the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, the failures that led to the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed, the pandemic and all the fractures and inequities that it revealed. We need a recommitment to the rule of law and the values of fair play. This election is a moment for Americans to decide whether we will keep striving for those ideals.

Mr. Trump rejects them. If he is re-elected, America will face a new and precarious future, one that it may not be prepared for. It is a future in which intelligence agencies would be judged not according to whether they preserved national security but by whether they served Mr. Trump’s political agenda. It means that prosecutors and law enforcement officials would be judged not according to whether they follow the law to keep Americans safe but by whether they obey his demands to “go after” political enemies. It means that public servants would be judged not according to their dedication or skill but by whether they show sufficient loyalty to him and his MAGA agenda.

Even if Mr. Trump’s vague policy agenda would not be fulfilled, he could rule by fear. The lesson of other countries shows that when a bureaucracy is politicized or pressured, the best public servants will run for the exits.

This is what has already happened in Mr. Trump’s Republican Party, with principled leaders and officials retiring, quitting or facing ouster. In a second term, he intends to do that to the whole of government.CONTINUE READING

Election Day is less than four months away. The case against Mr. Trump is extensive, and this board urges Americans to perform a simple act of civic duty in an election year: Listen to what Mr. Trump is saying, pay attention to what he did as president and allow yourself to truly inhabit what he has promised to do if returned to office.

Voters frustrated by inflation and immigration or attracted by the force of Mr. Trump’s personality should pause and take note of his words and promises. They have little to do with unity and healing and a lot to do with making the divisions and anger in our society wider and more intense than they already are.

The Republican Party is making its choice next week; soon all Americans will be able to make their own choice. What would Mr. Trump do in a second term? He has told Americans who he is and shown them what kind of leader he would be.

When someone fails so many foundational tests, you don’t give him the most important job in the world.

From top, photographs and video by Damon Winter/The New York Times (2) and Jay Turner Frey Seawell (5).