donald trump

Trump offers to vouch for bail of US rapper jailed in Sweden  

Donald Trump said he has spoken to Sweden’s prime minister about jailed US rapper ASAP Rocky and “offered to personally vouch for his bail”.


Trump disavows 'send her back' cry, Omar stands defiant   -16%


President Donald Trump has chided his supporters who chanted "send her back" when he questioned the loyalty of a Somali-born congresswoman, joining widespread criticism of the campaign crowd's cry after Republicans warned about political blowback from the angry scene.


After intruders arrest, other lapses, top Democrats push Mar-a-Lago security review  

Top Senate Democrats are renewing calls for a security assessment of President Donald Trump’s properties after a Chinese woman was arrested while carrying a thumb drive loaded with malware at … Click to Continue »


Ocasio-Cortez: Trump enjoyed crowd saying, Send her back!   16%

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has told constituents that President Donald Trump enjoyed hearing a crowd at his rally earlier this week calling for a Somali-born congresswoman to go back home. … Click to Continue »


ESPN reasserts political talk policy after attack on Trump  

ESPN is reminding employees of the network's policy to avoid talking about politics after radio talk show host Dan Le Batard criticized President Donald Trump and his recent racist comments … Click to Continue »


Trumps bail offer for jailed rapper rings hollow in Sweden   -5%

U.S. President Donald Trump said he spoke with Sweden's prime minister Saturday about jailed rapper A$AP Rocky and "offered to personally vouch for his bail," a hollow offer in a … Click to Continue »


Zelenskiy Won Ukrainian Voters Over With Ease; Winning Trump Over May Be Tougher   -9%

After parliamentary elections on July 21, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will take a big trip abroad: to Washington. Zelenskiy shares a common background with Donald Trump, but can he win over a U.S. president who has made his desire for warmer relations with Russia clear?


Time to end the charade around Hafiz Saeed |Opinion   -5%


The Hafiz Saeed arrest comes at a time where the Pakistan PM Imran Khan is headed for a meeting with US President Donald Trump.


Radio Atlantic: How to Cover Racist Tweets   -5%


Subscribe to Radio Atlantic: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher (How to Listen)

On Sunday, President Donald Trump told four members of Congress to “go back” to the countries “from which they came.”

Journalists have spent the week working through how to discuss what is a textbook racist statement aimed at four congresswomen who—besides all being American citizens—are all women of color.

Newsrooms faced hard questions: Do you call the president a racist? How do you not call the president a racist? Do you give him the attention he wants, and how do you modulate that, contextualize it, explain it?

Margaret Brennan, the moderator of CBS’s Face the Nation, joins Isaac Dovere on this week’s Radio Atlantic to discuss how journalists are faring with these questions and what we can expect going into 2020.

Listen for:

  • When Trump tweeted Sunday morning, how did she think through coverage with only two hours before Face the Nation aired?

  • Why the debate in newsrooms about how to characterize Trump’s tweets reminded Brennan of how the Clinton White House parsed the term genocide in its response to Rwanda

  • How does she cover the administration when the president’s words contradict the reality on tape?

Voices:


Trumps Base Isnt Enough   25%


Buried beneath the blustery bravado of Donald Trump’s openly racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color were clear signs of electoral anxiety.

Trump insists he is producing great results for the country, especially on the economy. And yet, at the price of provoking great backlash, he moved in an unprecedented manner this week to portray four nonwhite Democratic representatives as fundamentally un-American, not only ideologically, but also racially and ethnically.

In so doing, Trump has telegraphed that, ahead of 2020, he hopes to focus at least as much on the jagged divide of “Who is a real American?” as on the traditional question incumbent presidents seeking reelection highlight during generally good economic times: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

That choice may reflect the convergence of inclination and calculation. Trump’s instinct is to center his politics on cultural and racial conflicts that pit Americans uneasy about the nation’s changing identity against those who welcome or accept it. But Trump also faces clear evidence that he may be unable to build a winning coalition with just the voters satisfied with his performance in office. That’s evident even with an economy that’s booming, at least according to measures such as the low unemployment rate and the soaring stock market.

The latest such evidence comes in a new study released today by Navigator Research, a consortium of Democratic research and advocacy groups. The report, provided exclusively to The Atlantic, examines a group that many analysts in both parties believe could prove to be the key bloc of 2020 swing voters: Americans who say they approve of Trump’s management of the economy but still disapprove of his overall performance as president. And it shows Trump facing significant headwinds among that potentially critical group, partly because of the divisive language and behavior he’s taken to new heights, or lows, since last weekend—tweeting about the congresswomen and encouraging his supporters to attack them as well.

[Read: ‘Send her back’: The bigoted rallying cry of Trump 2020]

“The main takeaway from this analysis is that while some Americans might be giving Trump positive marks for his economic performance, they are strongly held back by three things: the values that they have, the views they have on other noneconomic issues, and some very real concerns about Trump’s character and temperament,” says Bryan Bennett, an adviser to Navigator Research.

This conflicted group looms so large over 2020 because about half (or even slightly more) of voters express support for Trump’s management of the economy, but only 40 to 45 percent of them give him positive marks on his overall performance. That difference could be the tipping point between a coalition that places Trump close to the comfort zone for presidents seeking reelection—support from about half of Americans—and one that leaves him trying to secure a second term with positive marks from a much smaller circle. The only presidents since 1952 who sought reelection with approval ratings below 50 percent—Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush—all lost.

The conflicted voters, if they break for Trump, bring him “in range” to win, says the GOP pollster Gene Ulm: “He’s incredibly close. Can I predict that he’s going to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania? No, I can’t do that. But he is within spitting distance of that 47 [or so] mark he needs to win when you look at these chunks of people.”

These voters consistently register as a substantial group. Since April, polls from CNN, Quinnipiac University, and ABC/The Washington Post have found that between 16 percent and 19 percent of Americans who approve of Trump’s handling of the economy still disapprove of his overall job performance. That’s a very high disparity by historical standards: The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has found that Trump’s approval rating among Americans who say they are satisfied with the economy is running 16 to 20 percentage points lower relative to the approval ratings of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The Navigator research, based on the cumulative results of all six national surveys the group has conducted since the 2018 election, defines this group slightly more narrowly: Its results put about 10 percent of Trump’s voters, or 6 percent of all voters, in this camp. (The reason: Navigator, compared with most public polls, records a slightly lower approval rating for Trump, both overall and on the economy.)

The added value of the Navigator research is that, by gathering results across several surveys, it provides a polling sample large enough to look more deeply than the public surveys themselves have done at the attitudes and characteristics of these divided voters. In other words, the results present a sharper picture.

Nearly two-thirds of the conflicted voters are men, compared with just under half of the overall electorate. Compared with all voters, they are also more suburban (60 percent), slightly wealthier (70 percent earn $50,000 or more), better educated (45 percent have college degrees), and somewhat younger (56 percent are under 50 years old). Fully one-third of them, more than might be expected, are nonwhite.

Less surprisingly, these voters are loosely rooted in their political views. A much higher share of them than the electorate overall identifies as independents or moderates (about 45 percent in each case). In 2016, these voters reported preferring Hillary Clinton over Trump by a seven-point margin, though fully 30 percent said they voted for a third-party contender—much higher than the population overall. But in 2018, these same voters broke sharply against Trump: They backed Democratic candidates in House elections by a resounding 20 percentage-point margin.

In Navigator’s polling, the economy emerges clearly as Trump’s greatest advantage. Though Democratic strategists such as the pollster Stanley Greenberg and the super PAC Priorities USA believe they can dent Trump’s edge by arguing that the economy still isn’t delivering for many families, for now these conflicted voters give the president a crushing 55 percentage-point edge over congressional Democrats when asked which side they trust more to handle the issue. That’s an imposing lead on the concern that most academic models from political scientists and economists consider the biggest factor in deciding presidential elections.

[Read: A single day exposed the central tension in American politics]

But on every other front, Trump faces headwinds. In the surveys, these voters prefer congressional Democrats over Trump to handle taxes (by nine points), immigration (by 10 points), and health care (by 34 points).

The conflicted voters also return negative verdicts on key measures of Trump’s character. Three-fourths of them say he is looking out for himself, not the country, compared with about three-fifths of the electorate overall, Navigator found. It recorded a similar disparity when it asked whether he is bringing more corruption to Washington or reducing it. “There are a lot of character things, but you also see policy [resistance],” says Bennett, the associate director of polling and analytics at the Hub Project, a liberal advocacy organization. “That does speak to the fact [that] these voters do have a nuanced view of Trump: They are willing to give him credit, but they are holding back from giving him full approval because of questions about other policies and his character.”

Navigator didn’t track other measurements of Trump’s personal behavior, but results from Quinnipiac University’s national poll in March trace some of voters’ doubts confronting Trump. Among voters who said they approved of his economic performance, fully one-third still said he is not honest; about one-fifth said he does not have good leadership skills or care about average Americans; and 44 percent said they do not consider him a good role model for children.

Those numbers notwithstanding, Ulm doesn’t consider the obstacles Trump faces with these voters insurmountable: “He’s creeping up with them.” Like most Republican strategists I’ve spoken with, he sees three keys to Trump converting conflicted voters: focusing their attention on his economic record, soothing their concerns about his behavior and rhetoric, and painting Democrats as ideologically extreme. “When you separate Trump out on it, and you look at the commentary on these voters, they are by no means liberal voters,” Ulm says. “You have a lot of people [who] like everything he’s doing, but would never have him [over] for dinner.”

With his openly racist and xenophobic attacks on four Democratic congresswomen, Trump this week has elevated the third goal at the price of impeding (if not incinerating) the first two. Still, Ulm sees little risk for Trump with these conflicted voters in deploying such language. “I don’t think it affects moving them one way or another,” he says. “So much of how he talks … is just built into his stock price.”

But with polls showing that a clear majority of Americans consider the remarks racist and un-American, Democratic strategists predominantly believe Trump is narrowing his audience by alienating voters otherwise receptive to his economic record. “Is some of Trump’s racial insensitivity baked in? Sure,” the Democratic pollster Andrew Baumann says. “But this is so much more explicit than he’s been before. I think it will have an impact on some of those conflicted voters. I don’t think the bottom is going to fall out and he’s suddenly going to drop to 35 percent approval, but I think it just drives home all of those concerns these folks have about his conduct and elevates that portion of the equation above the economy.”

Where both sides agree is that the key measure for Trump next year will be the share of voters who approve of his overall performance, not the (for now) wider group that gives him good marks on the economy. “They have to become approvers,” Ulm says. For incumbents, he adds, “job approval is your vote—it’s almost like religion.” The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll dramatically underlines that point. It found that in 2020 matchups against any of the four major Democratic contenders—former Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts—Trump drew support from a minuscule 5 percent or less of voters who disapproved of his overall job performance as president. (Trump led each Democrat by at least 83 percentage points among voters who approve of his performance.)

[Read: The biggest obstacle to Trump’s victory in 2020]

That’s actually in line with recent history: Exit polls found that Obama carried only 3 percent of voters who disapproved of his job performance in 2012, and Bush won just 6 percent of them in 2004. The notion, common especially in White Houses seeking reelection, that large numbers of voters may dislike the incumbent but vote for him anyway—because they dislike the challenger even more—is simply not supported by electoral evidence. Bush and Obama, in fact, each lost a higher share of voters who approved of their performance than they won among those who disapproved.

The central role of the president’s overall approval rating in deciding his reelection fate underscores the conundrum that Trump so vividly demonstrated this week. Across a wide array of public and private polls, he’s not consolidating nearly as much support as previous presidents with voters satisfied with the economy, many of them financially comfortable, suburban, and college-educated. (Those were the same voters who turbocharged the Democratic sweep of affluent metropolitan-area congressional districts in November.) The CNN and ABC/Washington Post polls show Biden winning just under one-fifth of voters who say they approve of Trump’s economic performance, a much higher level of defection than Bush or Obama suffered among the economically satisfied.

By all evidence, those defections are driven at least partly by the divisive confrontations Trump constantly stirs over race, gender, and culture. And yet Trump feels compelled to keep fueling those fights, as he repeatedly did this week, in part because the fires he has already lit may have permanently repelled too many of the voters satisfied with his economic record. He has to double down on stirring turnout from his base through racial and cultural strife to offset his underperformance with swing voters alienated by exactly that behavior. It is as if Trump is on two diverging roads: He has already moved so far down the path of centering 2020 on American identity that he can no longer realistically cross back to focusing it primarily on the economy. He fights over American identity not only because he likes to, but also because, by this point, he must.


Trump Supporters Dont Make Chants About Men   27%


Lawmakers and presidential candidates know to expect a particular set of reactions after criticizing Donald Trump. He might call them a loser, or give them their own unique nickname—the provenance of which might depend on how often he thinks they lie, whether they look sleepy, or how pencil-like he finds their neck. He might go so far as to endorse their primary challengers, or even the critics themselves, if he thinks his stamp of approval might hurt them.

Only for women, though, do Trump and his supporters deploy their most sinister lines of attack. In 2016, it was not enough to call Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary” or criticize her vision for the country. Rather, it was necessary to call for her physical removal from public life, and her sentencing to a place where she wouldn’t be heard from again. “Lock her up!” is as identifiable with Trumpism as “Build the wall!,” and the chant continues at rallies to this day, even as Clinton, true to Trump’s wishes, has faded into the background.

There was a troubling sense of déjà vu, then, when the crowd at Trump’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday trained their eyes on Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, chanting “Send her back!” in a play on Trump’s own words from a few days before. It was an evolution, an even darker version of the invective against Clinton—where the president’s supporters once called for a female opponent’s imprisonment, now they are longing for another to be literally banished from the country. The episode prompts urgent questions not only about what Omar can expect as Trump’s 2020 campaign ramps up, but also about what Trump’s eventual challenger, if it’s a woman, can anticipate as well.

[Read: “It makes us want to support him more”]

Speaking with reporters at the White House yesterday, Trump said, “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it,” referring to the chants. But Trump was the one to first assert, in tweets over the weekend, that Omar and three of her fellow congresswomen of color—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan—should leave the country. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump tweeted. “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.” As his supporters chanted the natural extension of those words on Wednesday, Trump seemed content to bask in the ritual, letting their cries continue without interruption.

“Send her back!” could well prove just the beginning of a campaign against Omar and her progressive female colleagues as a group. To remember the lessons of “Lock her up!” is to remember that, with Trump, a tidy three-word chant is unlikely to sound just once. The president’s supporters use these chants in lieu of actual, reasonable arguments against his opponents, and instead of focusing their energy on beating them at the ballot box. Menacing action, not the democratic kind, is what’s called for.

And as the 2016 election cycle showed, a campaign against the congresswomen could encompass much more than a chant. Trump rallies were also convenient sites for the purchase of merchandise reading Trump that bitch or Hillary sucks, but not like Monica. At a rally in Richmond, Virginia, that June to kick off the general election, a supporter yelled “Hang her!” as Trump began leveling his attacks against Clinton. “Supporters don’t just want to defeat her, but they seem to want to see her hurt,” Melinda Henneberger, Roll Call’s former editor in chief, told me at the time. “Disagree with her, dislike her, vote against her, but to even talk about hanging her?”

This history could foreshadow an anxious, if not dangerous, election cycle for the Democratic nominee. With an unprecedented number of women running for president, the likelihood of a woman winning the party’s nomination is higher than in previous elections. If the chants against Clinton and Omar do, indeed, suggest a pattern when it comes to Trump’s female opponents, it’s not difficult to imagine what, say, an Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris could have in store for herself.


Tensions With Iran Reach the Point of Inevitability   5%


Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

Something like this was bound to happen.

The U.S. Navy destroyed an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz after President Donald Trump said it came within “threatening” range and ignored “multiple calls to stand down.”

Trump said the action taken by the USS Boxer, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, was “defensive.” “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions against vessels operating in international waters,” Trump said.

The confrontation came amid escalating provocations by the Iranian government, lashing out against the Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign. Still, Trump has been reluctant to use force— on a recent occasion pulling back on a strike after Iran shot down an American drone, saying the U.S. response wouldn’t have been proportionate. Today’s action allows the Trump administration to appear tough, but, given the tensions, also risks escalation in an already volatile region.

The Trump administration has coupled its tough talk against Iran with intensified sanctions designed to cripple Iran’s economy and target its proxies. As part of this effort, the Treasury Department sanctioned Thursday a network of front companies and agents that it said were "involved in the procurement of sensitive materials for sanctioned elements of Iran’s nuclear program," as well as two leaders of Iran-backed militias in Iraq. Other aspects of the Iranian economy have also been sanctioned and the Revolutionary Guard Corps has been labeled a terrorist organization. The moves underscored that despite its tough rhetoric, the Trump administration's preferred method of confronting the Iranians remains in the relatively mundane world of sanctions policy.

Read: [The Iran hawks are circling]

Still, Benjamin H. Friedman, a policy director at Defense Priorities, said Thursday's action set the conditions “for a miscalculation that could quickly spiral into a broader war.”

“Maximum pressure has harmed Iran’s economy, but it has failed in its aims—it has encouraged Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program and increase its hardline polices," he said in a statement.

Besides, the Iranian downing of U.S. drone, Washington has accused the Islamic Republic of attacking tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Meanwhile, Iran has increased its uranium enrichment activity to a level that imperils its commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal which the Trump administration withdrew from last year. The deal’s European signatories have been unable to provide Iran with sufficient economic relief.

Those European powers —the U.K., France and Germany—for now remain in lockstep over the need to keep the agreement alive for as long as possible.

On Monday, the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt—one of the two candidates to replace Theresa May as prime minister—confirmed that the U.K. continued to support the nuclear deal but warned the Iranians needed to stick to their side of the bargain regardless of the U.S. decision to withdraw.

“There can be no ‘partial’ compliance,” Hunt tweeted. “You are either on path to a nuclearised Middle East or not…” But it’ll no doubt be harder for European powers to insist the pact can be resurrected, as long as military provocations continue and Iran continues to chip away at its nuclear-deal commitments.

Read: [America’s free-rider problem in the Strait of Hormuz]

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said in a statement it was unlikely the shooting down of the drone would lead to "World War III," adding that Iran’s goal was to get “America to cease its maximum pressure campaign” and ... “return to the” nuclear deal.

“While the regime in Tehran will need to recalibrate in the short term, it’s likely that Iran will continue to escalate in other theaters, be it across the Gulf region or in cyberspace,” he said.

Last month Trump considered airstrikes on Iran after it shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, but pulled back at the last minute because of the possibility of civilian casualties. At the time, Trump said killing Iranians wouldn’t be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

The U.S. action today satisfies Trump’s cautious approach to military action. The president, despite some of his more hawkish advisers’ instincts to the contrary, has adamantly opposed any action that could metastasize into a wider conflict. (His major intervention in Syria only came after the Assad regime used chemical weapons on civilians, including children.) In the ongoing tensions with Iran, he has preferred to let sanctions do the talking while signaling he is open to dialogue. Yet, Iran’s continued provocations have become hard to ignore. This week it seized a Panamanian-flagged, UAE-based tanker and accused its crew of smuggling fuel. Last week, the U.K. defense ministry said Iran tried to block passage of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz; that’s after British forces seized an Iranian tanker that they said was headed to Syria in violation of European sanctions against the Assad regime.

Read: [Is there still a deal to be done with Iran?]

Even though both sides—the U.S. and Iran—insist they don’t want war, the preexisting tensions in the region, combined with Iran’s anger at being denied the benefits of the nuclear agreement, mean that one miscalculated provocation can lead to a larger conflagration.

“We live in a very dangerous environment,” Zarif said Thursday at the United Nations before news of the drone was made public. “The United States has pushed itself and the rest of the world into probably the brink of an abyss.”

Tom McTague in London and Mike Giglio in Washington, D.C., contributed.


It Makes Us Want to Support Him More   4%


GREENVILLE, N.C.—Before the rally began, I wanted to know why they’d come.

In the heavy, humid hours, I walked up and down the line winding through a parking lot at East Carolina University to interview some two dozen people who wanted to see the president. Many didn’t make it inside. About 90 minutes before Donald Trump took the stage, police announced that the 8,000-person basketball arena was full and those still waiting would have to watch on an oversize TV monitor set up outside. Rather than head home, they stuck around for a tailgate party of sorts.

Some cracked open beers and lit cigars, sitting on folding chairs in front of the TV. People walked by in shirts that read In Trump We Trust and Fuck Off, We’re Full. Earlier, in the 100-degree heat, a four-member family band called the Terry Train entertained the crowd with a song mocking CNN. Lying Wolf Blitzer and Lying John King. Don Lemon lies about everything … Erin Burnett, can you hear us yet? We’ll give you a story you can never forget. It built to this refrain: CNN sucks!

The event itself would soon turn into one of the darkest of Trump’s political career, with the president road testing a new enemy and eliciting from the crowd a fresh, frenzied three-word chant: “Send her back!” But even before he appeared, this week in American politics had been a convulsive one. Trump tweeted racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color—including Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the target of “Send her back!”—and the House, in turn, rebuked the president in a party-line vote.

Trump’s coarsening of political debate always leads to the same question: Did he go so far as to alienate even some of his own supporters? Did his blowing past the boundaries of acceptable discourse render him unelectable? That his base showed up in force last night, parroting his attacks on the congresswomen, once again showed that, for these voters, the answer is no. (Whether the suburban white women and independent voters who were part of his 2016 coalition feel the same is far from certain.)

Talking with the rallygoers, I couldn’t find one who faulted Trump for demonizing the freshman representatives, all four of whom are American citizens, calling on them to leave the United States and return to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” A few conceded that Trump occasionally fires off an inappropriate tweet, but said his accomplishments in office overshadow any offense. If anything, they said, his language springs from an authenticity they find refreshing. None of the people I spoke with considered his comments about the congresswomen racist.

[Read: ‘Send her back!’: The bigoted rallying cry of Trump 2020]

“He’s not always the best at how he handles his emotions,” said Christian Carraway, 32, of Greenville, sitting on a folding chair outside the arena and waiting for Trump to appear. “He’s a very emotional guy. Passionate. But I like his policies and I think he has good intentions.”  

All seemed to accept Trump’s slight reformulation of his original tweets. Trump’s initial messages had a hard edge: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.” Amid an uproar over his comments, Trump reworked the argument a bit: He now says that if the congresswomen want to leave, they’re welcome to do so, but they’re also free to stay.  

It doesn’t appear that Trump’s supporters inside the arena, with their “Send her back!” chants, believed his message needed any softening. One thing was certain: When Trump stepped behind the podium, he looked out at an audience that was fertile ground for continued attacks on the four representatives—a crowd that believed the congresswomen may have deserved what they got.  

Here, a few snapshots.


Rachel JEssen

Cheryl Stacy, 64, a retired nurse from Beaufort County, North Carolina

“Everything he says is how I feel,” Stacy said. “I feel like, ‘Hey, man. You hate the country, you don’t like it, you trash the country—get out of the country! Move on!’”

On the House resolution that labeled Trump’s attacks on the congresswomen racist: “I don’t think they were racist at all. I know this president. I’ve been to his inauguration, been to his other rallies. Everything he says I agree with,” she said. “He’s speaking for me. He may be a little rough around the edges, but he’s not a politician. I’m a little rough around the edges in this interview, but I love this country.”

As for Trump’s tweets: “Everybody’s tweeting crazy things. Everybody is! Why point the finger at him?”


Rachel Jessen

Lee Chambers, 69, a real-estate agent and retired Air Force officer from Gainesville, Virginia

“He didn’t say anything in his comments about race,” Chambers said. The representatives “happen to have views that are toxic, especially for members of Congress. They lie to advance their cause.”

Chambers was one of the few African Americans I saw in the crowd outside the arena. Asked whether he faces criticism for backing Trump, he laughed: “The only time I’ve gotten heat is at my family reunion.” He mentioned his red pro-Trump hat: “I’ve got five different hats. I just bought another one. I’m excited. I want people to know that there are people who support this president.” At his family reunions, “they told me don’t wear my Trump gear again. And I told them, ‘It’s a free country.’”


Rachel Jessen

Randall Terry, 60, an anti-abortion activist from Memphis and the father of the Terry Train band members

Trump’s comments about the congresswomen were “not even remotely racist,” Terry said. “It was only about the systems of government from where they’re from. These wenches. These disrespectful wenches criticize our country incessantly.

“Well, Ilhan Omar, go back to some Middle Eastern country where you’d be afraid to live under Sharia law! I’m of Italian descent. I don’t care what color the skin is … You don’t like America? Go back to where your ancestors are from and then try to make that country better.”


Rachel Jessen

Matthew Ritchie, 18, an incoming student at Texas A&M University from Kernersville, North Carolina

“I want to be here. I feel unity here. Everyone is like-minded here and celebrating the U.S. and our president,” Ritchie said. Trump “has done a good job so far. He’s been able to get more jobs back into the U.S. They’re building more cars here; the economy is growing.”

Could he imagine casting his first-ever vote for someone other than Trump? “If there were grounds for impeachment, I would look at those. But it would have to be very credible for me to change my mind.” As for Trump’s tweets about the congresswomen, “I don’t believe it was racist. He’s just making a point and speaking his mind. That’s important. There aren’t enough people who say that nowadays. Everyone is politically correct. You can’t get out what you want to say. I like that in a person. He speaks from the heart and speaks his mind.”


Darlene Schadt, 69, a real-estate agent from High Point, North Carolina

“One thing ‘the squad’ keeps saying is that he’s not legitimate,” Schadt said. “How ridiculous.” What Trump said about the congresswomen “was okay with me, because I felt the same way. You can be critical, but you can’t be vile and constantly ugly. Every way of life that we Americans like, they disagree with. They have that kind of venom going on.” Trump’s critics “throw shit at him every day, all day long. It makes us want to support him more.”


Rachel Jessen

Nancy Chiu, 53, a nurse, and her son Chen Chiu, 23, who works for a software company, both from Raleigh, North Carolina

Chen Chiu said his mother, a naturalized citizen, “didn’t like where she was at in Cuba. There was no food. You had no freedom of speech. So she left. She came to the U.S. seeking a better home. She left family and friends. There is so much freedom here.”

Nancy Chiu said she plans to vote for Trump in 2020, dismissing criticism of him as “fake news.” “He’s following his agenda,” she said. “Nothing is perfect.”

Asked about Trump’s criticism of the congresswomen, her son said: “They are Americans. My mom was Cuban. She didn’t like how things were going there. She saw the opportunity and she left.”


Gary Welker, 47, owner of a tattoo business and a lawn-care service from Hubert, North Carolina

“You ask what appeals to me [about Trump]. The easiest way to say it: everything. Everything about him,” Welker said. “Everything about what he’s doing for this country.” Referencing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and motioning to a man standing nearby in line, he said: “If I had my child with me right now, and I would punch that young man in the mouth, I would go to jail and my child would be taken away. So if they come into this country illegally, they should be taken from their children. Coming here illegally is wrong. There are ports of entry and legal ways to do it. Do it the right way.”

Are the congresswomen Trump attacked Americans who belong in this country? “I don’t know,” he said. “Why don’t you answer that?”


Trump Is Running Out of Time to Denuclearize North Korea   10%


It’s been nearly three years since Barack Obama warned Donald Trump that the biggest danger he’d face would be North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Since then, Trump’s met three times with the North Korean dictator, including a made-for-TV visit to the demilitarized zone; cultivated a flourishing pen-pal relationship with Kim Jong Un; obtained a shaky pledge from Pyongyang to not conduct nuclear- and long-range-missile tests; and secured the release of some American prisoners.

What he hasn’t achieved is the denuclearization of North Korea.

With time running out in his first term, Trump might have to settle for keeping the North Korean nuclear arsenal from getting much worse—or maybe, if there’s a diplomatic breakthrough, scaling it back. The price might be sanctions relief for North Korea. The question is whether that will prove too high a price for the Trump administration.

The “political rationale” for Trump is, “You don’t have to solve the problem, but you have to show evidence that the problem is being managed,” Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “The question becomes, What does a deal look like that can get you started in a credible way but probably not get finished? Simply because there’s not enough time.”

The surprise rendezvous last month between Trump and Kim at the Korean demilitarized zone maintained the story line that their special relationship will finally accomplish what their predecessors couldn’t, Snyder reasoned, and striking some “interim deal” could keep “the North Koreans on the hook” for the next year or so. The president says he’s in “no hurry” to reach an agreement, but if he doesn’t want footage of missile tests flashing across Fox News as he’s campaigning in Florida, he’ll have to, at a minimum, keep the diplomatic effort on an even keel.

The North Korean government reminded everyone just how unstable the diplomacy is when it threatened earlier this week to resume nuclear- and intercontinental-ballistic-missile tests—a likely death knell for the talks—if the United States and South Korea proceed with planned military exercises in August. While the North Koreans claim that Trump promised Kim when they huddled at the border that he would suspend such drills, a senior Trump-administration official, speaking to me on the condition of anonymity, vigorously defended the “defense-oriented” exercise, suggesting that the United States is unlikely to comply with North Korea’s demands.

[Read: The day denuclearization died]

All this is happening as American and North Korean negotiators are due to meet later this month to pick up the pieces from the leaders’ collapsed second summit in Vietnam.

Whether these working-level talks will actually make progress depends in large part on whether the United States is willing to provide North Korea with some sanctions relief before it completely gives up its nuclear-weapons program. Ask a Trump-administration official about this in private or public these days, and he or she will typically offer a response that at first glance seems inflexible but that upon closer inspection leaves the United States with considerable flexibility.

“As the president has said, sanctions will stay on until the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea, the senior administration official noted by email. The official didn’t respond to a follow-up question about whether that meant all U.S. and international sanctions would stay on until such a point, or whether the U.S. government might temporarily lift or issue waivers for certain sanctions.

Last week, David Stilwell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, insisted that Washington would not offer the North Koreans “relief until we see that they’re genuinely interested in living up to their commitments,” a condition nowhere near the equivalent of wholesale denuclearization. “In the abstract, we have no interest in sanctions relief before denuclearization,” Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea, reportedly said in a recent off-the-record briefing. What of Biegun’s position in the real world?

And of course, to borrow a phrase from these officials, “the president has said” a lot of different things, few of which have included the jargony phrase final, fully verified denuclearization. After bidding farewell to Kim last month, he declared that “the sanctions remain, but at some point during the negotiations things can happen.”

One way the United States could partially ease sanctions is by granting exemptions for inter-Korean economic projects to reward North Korea for major concessions on its nuclear program—something the South Korean government has long pushed for and the Trump administration, in an effort to preserve its maximum-pressure campaign against North Korea, has long resisted. Moon Chung-in, a foreign-policy adviser to South Korea’s president, recently sketched out one possible scenario: The United States might allow for the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tourism region in North Korea. In exchange, Pyongyang would shutter the Yongbyon nuclear complex and disclose its other, suspected nuclear facilities.

Another is by suspending and eventually removing tranches of sanctions in tandem with advances in North Korean denuclearization. The State Department has denied reports that the Trump administration is considering suspending sanctions on North Korea’s coal and textile exports for 12 to 18 months in return for the dismantlement of Yongbyon and a freeze of the country’s production of fissile material and nuclear warheads. But it has acknowledged that it is seeking a freeze of the nuclear program as “the beginning of the [denuclearization] process.”

[Read: Trump’s bet on Kim might not pay off]

The nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, whose team at Stanford University has developed a phased road map for halting, rolling back, and eventually eliminating North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program, and who has shared these ideas with Biegun, says the envoy “listens extremely well” to the recommendations. But, he adds, “there’s probably as much of a challenge to go forward within the administration as there is to go forward with North Korea,” given that some of the president’s other top aides, such as National Security Adviser John Bolton, want to withhold any U.S. concessions until North Korea commits to and carries out complete denuclearization.

Biegun has signaled “movement toward the phased or step-by-step” approach, and “Trump seems to be in that headspace as well,” says Toby Dalton, whose team at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has advised Biegun and other U.S. officials. But others at the National Security Council still want the U.S. negotiating position to be “so front-loaded with demands that it effectively means no negotiations.”

There doesn’t appear to be “a full interagency process [within the Trump administration] to evaluate the various negotiating positions” with North Korea, Dalton told me. “That suggests to me that the effort is really to try to get the last word in with the president and to use that as the way to influence the policy process.”

Asked about divisions within the administration, the NSC declined to comment. A State Department spokesperson told me by email that State and the NSC “are focused on achieving the president’s goal” of a fully denuclearized North Korea, and responded in a similar fashion when asked whether 2020 politics is factoring into the administration’s diplomacy with Kim.

If the sanctions hard-liners emerge victorious, North Korea is unlikely to destroy Yongbyon or consent to an internationally verified freeze of its program in response to the measures that U.S. officials have expressed more willingness to adopt during the next round of negotiations: extending humanitarian assistance; organizing people-to-people and professional exchanges; formally declaring an end to the Korean War; and establishing liaison offices in each other’s capitals.

The United States has been so open to the idea of an end-of-war declaration since the lead-up to the Vietnam summit that the North Koreans may feel they’ve already “pocketed” that commitment, Dalton said. While Kim may desire a normal relationship with the United States and view a U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang as a kind of security assurance (if American diplomats are on the ground, a U.S. military attack is less likely), North Korea already has a de facto liaison office in New York: its mission to the United Nations.

[Read: Trump couldn’t ignore the contradictions of his foreign policy any longer]

As Moon told me and other journalists in April, the North Koreans view sanctions relief not just as an economic incentive but also as a prerequisite for normalizing relations with the United States. “Maximum pressure is a hostile policy—that’s how [the North Koreans] view it,” says Hecker, who is supportive of the United States offering “tailored sanctions relief” in return for North Korean moves to scale back its nuclear program.

Some reports suggest that Kim has been emphasizing the need for security guarantees in his recent conversations with Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. But as Joseph Yun, Biegun’s predecessor in the Trump administration, once told me, here, too, the United States can’t give North Korea what it covets. “We can give them national-security guarantees, but we cannot give them regime-security guarantees. And in the end, what they want is regime guarantees,” he said.

Concluding a peace treaty and nonaggression pact between Washington and Pyongyang, opening up the North Korean economy, and even drawing down the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula might make North Korea safer, but it wouldn’t necessarily make Kim’s totalitarian regime safer—in fact, perhaps just the opposite. At the moment, Kim probably still views his most reliable regime-security guarantee as his nuclear arsenal.

If the Trump administration isn’t willing to compromise on sanctions, “we may be able to make some progress toward stability, but stability may mean accepting North Korea as a state that has nuclear weapons and finding ways to avoid conflict,” Dalton argued. “If we want to actually affect stockpile numbers, if we want to affect North Korea’s nuclear posture in meaningful ways, then I think we’re going to have to be prepared to do more.”

“There seems to be some realism creeping into the U.S. negotiating considerations,” Dalton added. “Clearly North Korea’s not going to give up all nuclear weapons up front. They’re probably not going to even give up a few. Any agreement that could be made in this first instance would leave North Korea with its arsenal.” Realistically then, any interim deal would be aimed at imposing some constraints on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Dalton said he’s encountered two kinds of reactions when he’s briefed U.S. officials on the Carnegie team’s work on how to implement “caps” on North Korea’s program: “Early on, the reaction was, ‘We’re denuclearizing North Korea. We’re not just capping their arsenal.’ More recently, it’s been, ‘This is an interesting idea, but before we could even get there we need to get into a negotiation, and we’re just not there.’” More than a year into Trump’s summit diplomacy with Kim, the real negotiations haven’t even begun.


Trumps Greatest Contribution to American Politics   20%


In his racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color, Donald Trump violated the norms of civilized public discourse in ways no modern president has come close to doing. And in its effort to condemn the president’s virulent remarks, the House Democratic majority dispensed—by raw party-line vote—with parliamentary niceties dating to the pen of Thomas Jefferson himself.

Welcome to another great moment in Washington 2019, where the 45th president seems more determined than ever to keep defining deviancy down, and to encourage everyone else to see the moral high ground as just another slippery and shifting partisan slope.

The day began normally enough for this non-normal age, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi determined to pass a nonbinding resolution rebuking Trump’s series of tweets attacking the four Democratic members as America-hating socialists who should “go back” to where they came from, even though all but one of them were born in the United States.

But in her floor speech in support of the measure, Pelosi declared, “There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong unified condemnation. Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” That was too much for Republican Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, who rose to ask the speaker whether she’d like to “rephrase that comment.”

“I have cleared my remarks with the parliamentarian before I read them,” Pelosi rejoined before walking away from the lectern in the well of the House. Collins was not satisfied, protesting that the speaker’s words were “unparliamentary” and should be “taken down,” or stricken from the congressional record, in accordance with long-standing House protocols that ban personal invective in floor debate. Among the authorities that govern House procedure in this regard is Thomas Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice, published in 1801 and used by the House since the 1830s. It forbids language “which is personally offensive to the president” (and was, of course, written by that greatest of American conundrums: the man who wrote that “all men are created equal,” yet owned slaves).

There is hardly moral equivalence between Trump’s norm-shattering comments about the congresswomen and Pelosi’s protocol-pushing insistence that the president’s words were racist. But there was just enough uncomfortable overlap to prove, once again, Trump’s singular genius: his ability, through his own relentless uncouth behavior, to goad others into actions that leave them subject to criticism as well. The day’s events showed, yet again, how singularly unable establishment Washington is, with all its rules and decorum, to cope with a presidency like Trump’s.

In the hour-long state of confusion and fevered consultation that followed Collins’s objection, the presiding officer, Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, at last lost his patience and stalked off the rostrum. “We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that’s what this is. We want to just fight. I abandon the chair,” he said, an abdication apparently without precedent in the modern annals of the House.

[Ibram X. Kendi: Am I an American?]

Soon enough, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland—as it happens, a long-standing rival and frenemy of Pelosi’s—took the chair and was compelled to declare that “characterizing an action as ‘racist’ is not in order” under House rules. But Hoyer also called for a vote on whether Pelosi’s remarks should be excised from the record, and by a strict party-line vote, the majority decided they should not. In another, the Democrats restored Pelosi’s ability to speak on the House floor again before day’s end—a privilege she would have lost if the objection to her words had stood.

Near the end of the debate, Democratic Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of the last living icons of the civil-rights movement—whose skull was fractured by state troopers on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama—was unblinking in summing up the stakes of the argument over Trump. “I know racism when I see it,” he told his colleagues. “I know racism when I feel it. And at the highest level of government, there’s no room for racism. The world is watching. They are shocked and dismayed because it seems we have lost our way as a nation.”

By day’s end, the original measure condemning Trump passed easily, 240–187, with just four Republicans and the chamber’s lone independent, Justin Amash of Michigan, voting with the Democrats.

Pelosi accomplished what she’d set out to do: make clear to Americans that the House majority uniformly rejects the president’s invective. But rather than grapple with the substance of what Trump actually said, Republican lawmakers chose to focus on the speaker’s breach of protocol and turn their outrage back on the Democrats. “We have rules for a reason,” the minority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, insisted, while the Republican minority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, struck a lugubrious tone. “It is a sad day for this House,” McCarthy said, after reading from the first page of Jefferson’s manual, which declares: “It is very material that order, decency and regularity be preserved in a dignified public body.”

What McCarthy did not read is the passage that comes just before that sentence, in which Jefferson argued for the necessity of rules and norms. “And whether these forms be in all cases the most rational or not is really not of so great importance,” Jefferson wrote. “It is much more material that there should be a rule to go by than what that rule is; that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in business not subject to the caprice of the Speaker or the captiousness of the members.”

It is the utter shredding of that precept—the very idea that there must be an agreed-upon set of rules and procedures and, yes, facts—that remains Trump’s abiding contribution to political debate, not just in the House of Representatives, but in the country as a whole. And it’s a contribution that is likely to echo down through history, long after the particulars of today’s bitter battle are forgotten.


The Atlantic Politics Policy Daily: Disorder in the House   11%


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What We’re Following Today

It’s Tuesday, July 16.

‣ Representative Al Green of Texas said he will file articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump tonight. More than 80 members have so far called to begin an inquiry.

‣ The House is preparing to vote tonight on a resolution condemning Trump’s racist tweets, as Trump and his defenders continue to push back.

‣ The Justice Department said it will not bring federal charges against the New York City police officer involved in Eric Garner’s death five years ago.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, speaks to the media about the decision to not prosecute NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

Here’s what else we’re watching:

Secretary of Defense on Defense: Senators pressed Mark Esper today during his confirmation hearing on whether he would—as the defense secretary, a position that’s gone seven months without a confirmed person—stand up to President Donald Trump if he disagreed with him. Esper conveyed that he would be willing to. But in this administration, there’s a limit to anyone’s influence, Kathy Gilsinan writes.

A ‘Rhetorical Swiss Army Knife’: The Trump administration is reshaping government for generations to come by embracing a two-word phrase that no reasonable person can oppose: religious freedom. Mattathias Schwartz spoke with Ambassador Sam Brownback on what’s afoot.

Update on 2020: Several Democratic presidential candidates, from Kamala Harris to Beto O’Rourke, have a new tactic for reaching black Americans: Writing op-eds in publications like Essence and other magazines with predominantly black readerships, Adrienne Green reports. But paying attention to black media is hardly the same as offering tangible support to black communities.

+ Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, told reporters that he’s considering challenging Trump for the GOP nomination (he has a specific bone to pick with Trump). Sanford has a lot of experience campaigning for office … but there’s at least one example of his time on the trail going south.

Elaine Godfrey


Ideas From The Atlantic


Can’t Impeach Trump? Go After His Cabinet. (Garrett Epps)
“Although Speaker Nancy Pelosi has frozen talk of removing the president, making a lot of Democratic voters angry, let’s remember that the impeachment power is not just for presidents.”→ Read on.

Leave the Jews Out of It (James Kirchick)
“If Trump & Co.’s intent is to spark a ‘Jexodus’ from the Democratic Party, it would be hard to find a less effective catalyst, notwithstanding all the positive things this administration has done for the Jewish state.” → Read on.

Am I an American? (Ibram X. Kendi)
“We were rarely told to go back to our country when we did kneel, when we did not kneel, when we did as told by the slaveholder and the abolitionist, by the segregator and racial reformer, by the American mentor telling us to pull up or pull down our pants. Am I an American only when I act like a slave?” → Read on.

House Insurrections Are Here to Stay (Steve Israel)
“Speakers can count on unrest, because members know they have little to lose in opposing their leaders.” → Read on.


What Else We’re Reading


The American right defines patriotism as complacency about racism (Eric Levitz, New York)

A border patrol agent reveals what it’s really like to guard migrant children (Ginger Thompson, ProPublica)

5% of Congress was born abroad. Those members show what it means to be American. (The New York Times) (🔒 Paywall)


About us: This newsletter is a daily effort from The Atlantic’s politics writer Elaine Godfrey. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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The 2020 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet   -20%


Perhaps it’s not too late for a Republican challenger to enter the race against Donald Trump for the presidential nomination.

A viable one, sure—it’s too late for that. But Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. representative, tells the Charleston Post and Courier that he’s considering a run for the GOP nomination, viable or not.

“Sometimes in life you’ve got to say what you’ve got to say, whether there’s an audience or not for that message,” Sanford said. “I feel convicted.”

This could have the makings of a fun race. Sanford is highly quotable, fond of talking with the media, and often an insightful political analyst. He has a score to settle with Trump, too: The president’s intervention helped Sanford lose a GOP primary last fall, only to see the Democrat Joe Cunningham snatch the seat away from the Trump-endorsed Republican Katie Arrington.

Sanford also has lots of experience campaigning for office, but there’s also one glaring case where his time on the trail went wrong. Or rather, the problem was that he wasn’t on the trail: Despite claiming to be hiking the Appalachian Trail when he mysteriously disappeared from Columbia in June 2009, it turned out then-Governor Sanford was in Argentina, conducting an extramarital affair.

That sordid farce makes for lots of easy jokes about Sanford’s presidential, um, flirtation. “The last time Mark Sanford had an idea this dumb, it killed his Governorship. This makes about as much sense as that trip up the Appalachian trail,” the chair of the South Carolina Republican Party said in a statement.

But here’s a take hotter than Mark Sanford dancing the tango: The reason his candidacy would remain mired in the low-lying pampas rather than ascending to the buenos aires at the top of the polls isn’t his personal life, but his politics.

Personal scandals just aren’t the problem they used to be. Consider Sanford, who refused to resign the governorship, survived an impeachment attempt, and then persuaded South Carolina voters to send him back to his old seat in the U.S. House in 2012. Or, of course, consider Donald Trump, who was caught on tape boasting about sexually assaulting women just a month before the 2016 election—one of many personal scandals that might have disqualified another candidate in another age.

Sanford’s politics are, however, another matter. Trump’s other GOP challenger, William Weld, has long been well outside the party’s mainstream—a species of liberal New England Republican that no longer exists in the wild. He quit his post as Massachusetts governor to serve as ambassador in a Democratic administration (and saw that job nixed by Republicans); in 2016, he ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket.

Around the same time that Weld’s ambassadorial nomination was being deep-sixed, Sanford was making waves as part of a band of young, fiercely fiscally conservative members of the House who had been elected in 1994. Sanford did things like sleep in his office to prove his frugality. But over time, Sanford’s wing of the party became the party’s center. The Tea Partiers who slept in their offices after the 2010 election were just paying homage to him. As this strain of GOP thought ascended, Sanford began to look like a likely presidential candidate. There were rumors that he might run in the 2008 election or, until June 2009, the 2012 race.

Now that kind of conservatism is scattered to the winds. Paul Ryan is retired. Sanford is out of office. Newt Gingrich has become a zealous Trumpite. Trump has no interest in principled social conservatism or fiscal conservatism, preferring—as this week has demonstrated—a ethnically based approach to politics. He’s happy to cut taxes, as they were, but just to save his class a buck, not out of any particular aversion to big government. It’s his party now.

We don’t need Mark Sanford to run to see how the Donald Trump campaign would bulldoze that now-outmoded vision of the Republican. We already watched Trump do it to Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and a bunch of other guys you can’t even remember anymore. Just because the outcome isn’t in doubt doesn’t mean the journey wouldn’t be entertaining, though.

As the presidential primaries progress, this cheat sheet will be updated regularly.

* * *

The Democrats


(Matthew Putney / Reuters)

TOM STEYER

Who is he?
A retired California hedge-funder, Steyer has poured his fortune into political advocacy on climate change and flirted with running for office.

Is he running?
No. He announced on January 9 that he would sit the race out. Lol jk! Steyer is now telling friends and allies he’s going to get into the race, my colleague Edward-Isaac Dovere reports.

Why does he want to run?
Impeachment, baby.

Who wants him to run?
There must be some #Resistance faction out there that does.

Can he win the nomination?
Nope.


(matt rourke / ap)

JOE SESTAK

Who is he?
A former vice admiral and two-term member of Congress from Pennsylvania, he twice ran for U.S. Senate.

Is he running?
Yes. He announced on June 23.

Why does he want to run?
Sestak’s announcement focuses on his long career in the military and the importance of American foreign policy. It’s a little evocative of retired General Wesley Clark’s 2004 campaign.

Who wants him to run?
It’s a mystery. Sestak says he delayed a campaign launch while his daughter was treated for cancer, which is praiseworthy, but there wasn’t even a murmur about him running before his announcement. Sestak is best known these days for losing Senate races in 2010 (in the general election) and 2016 (in the Democratic primary).

Can he win the nomination?
No.

What else do we know?
This logo, boy, I dunno.


(Mike Segar / Reuters)

BILL DE BLASIO

Who is he?
The mayor of New York City.

Is he running?
Yes. He announced on May 16.

Why does he want to run?
De Blasio was the harbinger of the Democratic Party’s leftward shift on economic issues, and they’d be at the center of his campaign, though the movement seems to have left him behind.

Who wants him to run?
That’s precisely the problem. De Blasio’s term as mayor has been a little bumpy, and even his friends and allies have spoken out against a run, publicly and privately.

Can he win the nomination?
No.

What else do we know?
De Blasio is the tallest candidate since Bill Bradley, in 2000. Both men are 6 foot 5.


(Matthew Brown / AP)

STEVE BULLOCK

Who is he?
Bullock is the governor of Montana, where he won reelection in 2016 even as Donald Trump won the state.

Is he running?
Yes. Bullock launched his campaign on May 14.

Why does he want to run?
Bullock portrays himself as a candidate who can win in Trump country and get things done across the aisle. He’s also been an outspoken advocate of campaign-finance reform.

Who wants him to run?
Unclear. The Great Plains and Mountain West aren’t traditional bases for national Democrats.

Can he win the nomination?
Probably not—and missing the cut for the first primary debate doesn’t help.


(Samantha Sais / Reuters)

MICHAEL BENNET

Who is he?
The Coloradan was appointed to the Senate in 2009 and has since won reelection twice.

Is he running?
Yes. Bennet announced his campaign on May 2.

Why does he want to run?
Like his fellow Rocky Mountain State Democrat John Hickenlooper, Bennet presents himself as someone with experience in business and management who knows how to work with Republicans.

Who wants him to run?
Probably some of the same people who want Hickenlooper to run. Bennet gained new fans with a viral video of his impassioned rant about Ted Cruz during the January government shutdown.

Can he win?
No.


(Jeff Roberson / AP)

JOE BIDEN

Who is he?
Don’t play coy. You know the former vice president, senator from Delaware, and recurring Onion character.

Is he running?
Yes. After a long series of hesitations, Biden announced his campaign on April 25.

Why does he want to run?
Biden has wanted to be president since roughly forever, and he thinks he might be the best bet to win back blue-collar voters and defeat President Trump in 2020. (Trump reportedly agrees.) But Biden seems reluctant to end his career with a primary loss, knows he’s old (he’ll turn 78 right after Election Day 2020), and is possibly out of step with the new Democratic Party.

Who wants him to run?
Biden has established a strong lead in the Democratic primary, but his shaky performance in the first debate showed he’s not invincible.

Can he win the nomination?
Yes. Being Barack Obama’s vice president gave Biden a fresh glow, but his past policy stands and his tendency toward handsiness remain a challenge. We’ve also seen him run for president twice before, and not very effectively.


(Brian Snyder / Reuters)

SETH MOULTON

Who is he?
A third-term congressman from Massachusetts, Moulton graduated from Harvard, then served in the Marines in Iraq.

Is he running?
Yes. He announced his campaign on April 22.

Why does he want to run?
In an interview with BuzzFeed, he said he felt the Democratic Party needs younger leaders and, alluding to his military career, “someone … for whom standing up to a bully like Donald Trump isn’t the biggest challenge he or she has ever faced in life.”

Who wants him to run?
That’s not clear. With his sparkling résumé and movie-star looks, Moulton has grabbed a lot of attention, but he doesn’t have an obviously strong constituency, and a rebellion against Nancy Pelosi’s leadership after the 2018 election fizzled.

Can he win?
No.


(Alex Wong / Getty)

MIKE GRAVEL

Who is he?
Gravel, 88, represented Alaska for two terms in the Senate, during which he read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and fought against the Vietnam War. These days he’s probably better known for his 2008 presidential campaign.

Is he running?
Yes—his campaign launched on April 8—but he says he is close to leaving the race.

Why does he want to run?
Gravel is running to bring attention to his pet issues: direct democracy, nuclear nonproliferation, and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Who wants him to run?
This is where it gets weird. The committee is the brainchild of three students in college and high school who have basically created a Draft Gravel movement. But Gravel decided he liked the idea and went along with it.

Can he win the nomination?
He initially said he didn’t even want to, though his campaign now says he’s running for real. Either way, he won’t win.

What else do we know?
Gravel produced the greatest presidential spot this side of the “Daisy” ad—and then he remade it this cycle.


(Jonathan Bachman / Reuters)

TIM RYAN

Who is he?
The Ohioan is a member of the House, representing Youngstown and America’s greatest city, Akron.

Is he running?
Yes. Ryan announced his plan to run on The View on April 4.

Why does he want to run?
Ryan is a classic Rust Belt Democrat and friend of labor, and he’s concerned about the fate of manufacturing. He is also an outspoken critic of Democratic leadership, mounting a quixotic challenge to Nancy Pelosi in 2017.

Who wants him to run?
Ryan comes from a part of Ohio that traditionally votes Democratic but swung to Trump, and he’d have supporters there.

Can he win the nomination?
Deeply unlikely. Ryan had a very shaky night at the first debate.

What else do we know?
He’s big on meditation.


(mary Altaffer / AP)

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Who is she?
Gillibrand has been a senator from New York since 2009, replacing Hillary Clinton. Before that, she served in the U.S. House.

Is she running?
Yes. She launched her campaign officially on March 17.

Why does she want to run?
Gillibrand has emphasized women’s issues, ranging from sexual harassment in the military and more recent #MeToo stories to equal pay, and her role as a mom is central in her announcement video. Once a fairly conservative Democrat, she has moved left in recent years.

Who wants her to run?
Gillibrand could have fairly broad appeal among mainstream Democratic voters, and she hopes that her time representing upstate New York gives her an advantage with nonurban voters. She has, however, earned the enmity of the Clinton world for her criticisms of Bill.

Can she win the nomination?
Probably not. Her campaign hasn’t managed to gain much traction thus far.

What else do we know?
Just like you, she hated the Game of Thrones finale and is mad online about it.


(Kathy Willens / AP)

BETO O’ROURKE

Who is he?
The man, the myth, the legend, the former U.S. representative from El Paso and Democratic candidate for Senate in Texas.

Is he running?
Yes. O’Rourke announced his run on March 14.

Why does he want to run?
O’Rourke has been trying to figure that out. He’s young, hip, and inspirational, like Obama; like Obama, his reputation is perhaps more liberal than his voting record.

Who wants him to run?
A lot of live-stream watchers and thirsty tweeters, a coterie of ex–Obama aides, and a bunch of operatives running the Draft Beto campaign.

Can he win the nomination?
It seems increasingly impossible. O’Rourke has never regained the momentum of his announcement, and was mediocre in the first debate.

What else do we know?
This video is very important.


(Department of Labor)

JOHN HICKENLOOPER

Who is he?
Hickenlooper was the governor of Colorado until January, and previously held the most Colorado trifecta of jobs imaginable: mayor of Denver, geologist, and brewery owner.

Is he running?
Yes. Hickenlooper launched his campaign on March 4.

Why does he want to run?
Hickenlooper brands himself as an effective manager and deal maker who has governed effectively in a purple state while still staying progressive. He’s said he thinks the Democratic field could be too focused on grievance and not enough on policy.

Who wants him to run?
Hard to say. Hickenlooper’s aw-shucks pragmatism plays well with pundits, but he doesn’t have much of a national profile at this point.

Can he win the nomination?
No. Hickenlooper fired top staffers right after the first debate, but is nowhere in the polls and reportedly broke.


(Mary Schwalm / AP)

JAY INSLEE

Who is he?
Inslee is a second-term governor of Washington, and was previously in the U.S. House.

Is he running?
Yes. Inslee kicked off his campaign on March 1.

Why does he want to run?
Climate change. That’s been Inslee’s big issue as governor, and it will be at the center of his campaign for president, too.

Who wants him to run?
His campaign will presumably attract environmentalist support, and he hopes that his time as chair of the Democratic Governors Association will help, though he’s already hit some turbulence in New Hampshire.

Can he win the nomination?
No.


(Yuri Gripas / Reuters)

BERNIE SANDERS

Who is he?
If you didn’t know the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist before his runner-up finish in the 2016 Democratic primary, you do now.

Is he running?
Yes. Sanders announced plans to run on February 19.

Why does he want to run?
For the same reasons he wanted to run in 2016, and the same reasons he’s always run for office: Sanders is passionate about redistributing wealth, fighting inequality, and creating a bigger social-safety net.

Who wants him to run?
Many of the same people who supported him last time, plus a few converts, minus those who are supporting Sanders-adjacent candidates like Elizabeth Warren or Tulsi Gabbard.

Can he win the nomination?
He could, but right now he hasn’t figured out how to get past Warren and Harris and past Biden.


(Aaron P. Bernstein / REUTERS)

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Who is she?
She has been a senator from Minnesota since 2007.

Is she running?
She announced plans to run in Minneapolis on February 9.

Why does she want to run?
Klobuchar represents a kind of heartland Democrat—progressive, but not aggressively so—who might have widespread appeal both in the Midwest and elsewhere. She’s tended to talk vaguely about middle-class issues.

Who wants her to run?
She’d probably build a constituency among mainstream Democrats. Her exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing won her a lot of fans.

Can she win the nomination?
The odds look longer by the day.

What else do we know?
Sadly, she is not using this fly logo.

(Jonathan Bachman / Reuters)

ELIZABETH WARREN

Who is she?
A senator from Massachusetts since 2013, Warren was previously a professor at Harvard Law School, helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and wrote a book on middle-class incomes.

Is she running?
Yes. She kicked off her campaign on February 9.

Why does she want to run?
Warren’s campaign is tightly focused on inequality, her signature issue since before entering politics. She has proposed an “ultra-millionaire tax” on people worth more than $50 million and a major overhaul of housing policies.

Who wants her to run?
People who backed Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016; people who were Bernie-curious but worried he was too irascible; people who didn’t like Bernie but are left-curious; Donald Trump.

Can she win the nomination?
Perhaps. After hovering in the second tier, early summer has been a breakout time for Warren, and she performed well in the first debate.

What else do we know?
She’s got a good doggo.


(Dimitrios Kambouris)

KAMALA HARRIS

Who is she?
Harris, a first-term senator from California, was elected in 2016. She was previously the state’s attorney general.

Is she running?
Yes. She declared her candidacy on January 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Why does she want to run?
Harris seems to think that a woman of color who is an ex-prosecutor will check a range of boxes for Democratic voters. She has so far staked out a broad platform, trying to appeal to a wide swath of the party.

Who wants her to run?
Mainstream Democrats. She put up immediately impressive fundraising numbers, and she’s enlisted a number of former Hillary Clinton aides.

Can she win the nomination?
Sure, maybe. Harris’s strong performance in the first debate has finally placed her in the top tier, as long expected.


(City of South Bend, IN)

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Who is he?
The 37-year-old openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Afghan War veteran has gone from near-anonymity to buzzy-candidate status in his first couple of months in the race.

Is he running?
Yes. He officially launched his campaign on April 14.

Why does he want to run?
Buttigieg’s sell is all about generation. He’s a Millennial and thinks his cohort faces new and unusual pressures and dilemmas that he is singularly equipped to resolve. Plus, it’s a useful way to differentiate himself from the blue-haired bigwigs in the blue party.

Who wants him to run?
Buttigieg has slowly climbed in the polls, grabbing attention for crisp answers and an almost Obamaesque demeanor; he has the support of some Obama alumni. He hopes to reach midwestern voters who deserted the Democrats in 2016.

Can he win the nomination?
It’s a long but not impossible shot. No mayor has been nominated since New York’s DeWitt Clinton in 1812.

What else do we know?
It’s “BOOT-edge-edge,” and it’s Maltese for “lord of the poultry.”


(DEPartment of Housing & Urban Development)

JULIÁN CASTRO

Who is he?
Castro was the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, before serving as secretary of housing and urban development under Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017.

Is he running?
Yes. He announced his bid on January 12 in San Antonio.

Why does he want to run?
Castro has long been saddled with the dreaded “rising star” tag, and with Texas still red, he’s got few options below the national stage. He’s emphasized his Hispanic-immigrant roots in early campaign rhetoric.

Who wants him to run?
It’s not yet clear. He’d like to take the Obama mantle and coalition, but that doesn’t mean he can.

Can he win the nomination?
Probably not. Four years ago, he seemed like the future of the party; now the stage is crowded with rivals, including fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke. “I am not a front-runner in this race, but I have not been a front-runner at any time in my life,” Castro said during his announcement.

What else do we know?
Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin, who serves in the U.S. House, once subbed in for his brother in a parade during Julián’s mayoral campaign, so if you go to a campaign event, ask for proof that it’s really him.


(KC McGinnis / Reuters)

JOHN DELANEY

Who is he?
A former four-term congressman from Maryland, he might be even less known than Pete Buttigieg, who at least has a memorable name.

Is he running?
Is he ever! Delaney announced way back in June 2017, hoping that a head start could make up for his lack of name recognition.

Why does he want to run?
Delaney, a successful businessman, is pitching himself as a centrist problem-solver.

Who wants him to run?
Unclear. He’s all but moved to Iowa in hopes of locking up the first caucus state, but even there his name ID isn’t great.

Can he win the nomination?
Nah.


(Marco Garcia / AP)

TULSI GABBARD

Who is she?
Gabbard, 37, has represented Hawaii in the U.S. House since 2013. She previously served in Iraq.

Is she running?
Yes. She officially announced on February 2 in Honolulu.

Why does she want to run?
Gabbard says her central issue is “war and peace,” which basically means a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Who wants her to run?
Gabbard is likely to draw support from Sanders backers. She supported Bernie in 2016, resigning from a post as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to do so, and she’s modeled herself largely on him.

Can she win the nomination?
No.

What else do we know?
If elected, she would be the first Hindu president.


(JOSHUA LOTT / AFP / Getty)

ANDREW YANG

Who is he?
Yang is a tech entrepreneur who created the test-preparation company Manhattan Prep and then Venture for America, which tries to incubate start-ups outside New York and the Bay Area, and which is based in New York.

Is he running?
Yes. He filed to run on November 6, 2017.

Why does he want to run?
Yang is a 360-degree sprinkler of policy proposals, but his best-known idea is a $1,000 per month universal basic income for every American adult.

Who wants him to run?
A motley internet movement, including many fans of Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Can he win the nomination?
Highly unlikely.


(Amy Harris / Invision / AP)

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON

Who is she?
If you don’t know the inspirational author and speaker, you know her aphorisms (e.g., “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”).

Is she running?
Yes. She announced her candidacy on January 28.

Why does she want to run?
It’s a little tough to say. She writes on her website, “My campaign for the presidency is dedicated to this search for higher wisdom.” She criticized Hillary Clinton for coziness with corporate interests in 2016, and she ran for the U.S. House in 2014.

Who wants her to run?
Williamson has a lot of fans, but whether they really want her as president is another question.

Can she win the nomination?
Stranger things have happened, but no.


(Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

CORY BOOKER

Who is he?
A senator from New Jersey, he was previously the social-media-savvy mayor of Newark.

Is he running?
Yes. He launched his campaign on February 1.

Why does he want to run?
In the Senate, Booker has been big on criminal-justice reform, including marijuana liberalization. He has recently embraced progressive ideas including Medicare for All and some sort of universal nest egg for children.

Who wants him to run?
He’ll aim for Obama-style uplift and inspiration to attract voters. Booker has previously been close to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and to Wall Street, both of which could be a liability in a Democratic primary.

Can he win the nomination?
Possibly.


(City of Miramar, FLorida)

WAYNE MESSAM

Who is he?
Look, many people thought a young black mayor from Florida would run in 2020. They just thought it would be Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum, not Miramar’s Wayne Messam, who was elected in 2015.

Is he running?
Yes. Messam announced his candidacy on March 28.

Why does he want to run?
He’s got a lot of standard rhetoric about the fading American dream. “The promise of America belongs to all of us,” Messam says in his announcement video. “That’s why I’m going to be running for president. To be your champion.”

Who wants him to run?
People who know him seem to like him, but Miramar has barely more than 100,000 residents.

Can he win?
Sure, Messam won a national championship as a wide receiver for the 1993 Florida State Seminoles. Can he win the presidency? Um, no.


(Lawrence Bryant / REuters)

STACEY ABRAMS

Who is she?
Abrams ran unsuccessfully for governor of Georgia in 2018 and was previously the Democratic leader in the state House.

Is she running?
Not at the moment, but she has not ruled it out. On The View on March 27, she dismissed suggestions that she would be a strong addition to a Joe Biden ticket, saying, “You don’t run for second place … If I’m going to enter a primary, then I’m going to enter a primary.”

Why does she want to run?
Throughout her career, Abrams has focused on bread-and-butter issues such as criminal-justice reform and education, and since losing a 2018 election stained by problems with ballot access, she’s made voting rights a special focus.

Who wants her to run?
Abrams has drawn excitement from young Democrats, the liberal wing of the party, and African Americans. Her rebuttal to President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address won her new fans, and the former Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer says she should run.

Can she win?
Maybe.


(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

ERIC SWALWELL

Who is he?
Swalwell, who is 38, is a U.S. representative from California’s Bay Area.

Is he running?
No. Swalwell left the race on July 8, exactly three months after he announced his candidacy on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

Why did he want to run?
Swalwell was running on a gun-control platform. He also says the Democratic Party needs fresh blood. “We can’t count on the same old leaders to solve the same old problems,” he told The Mercury News. “It’s going to take new energy and new ideas and a new confidence to do that.”

Who wanted him to run?
Not nearly enough people. Swalwell never busted through the 1 percent threshold.

Can he have won the nomination?
Clearly not.


(Phil Long / Reuters)

SHERROD BROWN

Who is he?
By statute, I am required to mention the senator from Ohio’s tousled hair, rumpled appearance, and gravelly voice.

Is he running?
No. Brown told the Youngstown Vindicator on March 7 that he will not run.

Why did he want to run?
Brown’s campaign would have focused on workers and inequality. He’s somewhat akin to Bernie Sanders, but his progressivism is of the midwestern, organized-labor variety.

Who wanted him to run?
Leftist Democrats who though Sanders is too old and Elizabeth Warren too weak a candidate; lots of dudes in union halls in Northeast Ohio.

Could he have won the nomination?
Possibly.

What else do we know?
Like Warren, Brown has a very good dog.


(Mark Tenally / AP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE

Who is he?
Once known primarily as a close friend of Bill Clinton’s and a Democratic fundraising prodigy, McAuliffe reinvented himself as the governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018.

Is he running?
No. McAuliffe said April 17 he wouldn’t compete.

Why did he want to run?
McAuliffe holds up his governorship as proof that he can be a problem solver and deal maker across the aisle, and his Clintonesque politics would have contrasted him with many of the candidates in the field.

Who wanted him to run?
McAuliffe himself concluded he just didn’t have a big enough constituency in the wide Democratic field.

Could he have won the nomination?
Probably not.


(Simon Dawson / Reuters)

MIKE BLOOMBERG

Who is he?
The billionaire former mayor of New York, Bloomberg is a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat-again.

Is he running?
No. Bloomberg announced on March 5 (in Bloomberg, natch) that he would not run.

Why did he want to run?
For starters, he was convinced that he’d be better and more competent at the job than anyone else. A Bloomberg bid would likely have centered on his pet issues of gun control, climate change, and fighting the more fiscally liberal wing of the Democratic Party tooth and silver-plated nail.

Who wanted him to run?
What, was his considerable ego not enough? Though his tenure as mayor is generally well regarded, it’s unclear what Bloomberg’s Democratic constituency was beyond other wealthy, socially liberal and fiscally conservative types, and it’s not as if he needed their money to run.

Could he have won the nomination?
Probably not. Bloomberg has also previously toyed with an independent run, but says that would only help Trump in 2020.


(Yuri Gripas / Reuters)

ERIC HOLDER

Who is he?
Holder was the U.S. attorney general from 2009 to 2015, and he’s currently leading a Democratic redistricting initiative with help from some retiree named Barack Obama.

Is he running?
No. After toying with the idea, he wrote in The Washington Post on March 7 that he would not run.

Why did he want to run?
Holder has three big areas of interest: redistricting, civil rights, and beating Donald Trump by all means necessary.

Who wanted him to run?
Tough to say. Obamaworld isn’t really lining up behind him, and he’s never held elected office, despite a successful Washington career.

Could he have won the nomination?
Probably not.


(Faith Ninivaggi / Reuters)

MITCH LANDRIEU

Who is he?
Landrieu served as the mayor of New Orleans from 2010 to 2018. He was previously Louisiana’s lieutenant governor.

Is he running?
It seems unlikely. “Probably not, but if I change my mind, you’re going to be the first to know,” he told the New York Times editor Dean Baquet in December.

Why did he want to run?
Like the other mayors contemplating a run, Landrieu considers himself a problem-solver. He’s also become a campaigner for racial reconciliation, taking down Confederate monuments in New Orleans, and staking a claim for progressivism in the Deep South.

Who wanted him to run?
Not clear.

Could he have won the nomination?
Probably not.


(Jeenah Moon / Reuters)

ANDREW CUOMO

Who is he?
Cuomo is the governor of New York. He was formerly the secretary of housing and urban development under Bill Clinton.

Is he running?
No. Though he's long toyed with the idea, Cuomo said in November 2018, "I am ruling it out." Then again, his father was indecisive about running for president, too.

Why did he want to run?
One can adopt a Freudian analysis related to his father's unfinished business, or one can note that Cuomo thinks he's got more management experience and success, including working with Republicans, than any Democratic candidate.

Who wanted him to run?
Practically no one. Cuomo's defenders bristle that he doesn't get enough credit, but his work with Republicans has infuriated Empire State Democrats without winning any real GOP friends.

Could he have won the nomination?
No.


(Yuri Gripas / Reuters)

ERIC GARCETTI

Who is he?
Garcetti is the mayor of Los Angeles.

Is he running?
No. Garcetti flirted with the idea, visiting South Carolina and naming a hypothetical Cabinet full of mayors, but said on January 29 that he would not run.

Why did he want to run?
Garcetti’s pitch was that mayors actually get things done and that his lack of experience in Washington was a positive.

Who wanted him to run?
Garcetti was reelected in a landslide in 2017, but he had no apparent national constituency.

Could he have won the nomination?
Doubtful.


(Andrew Harnik / AP)

HILLARY CLINTON

Who is she?
Come on.

Is she running?
No, she announced on March 4 that she won’t. But until she issues a Shermanesque denial signed in blood—or the filing deadline passes—the rumors probably won’t die.

Why does she want to run?
She doesn’t.

Who wants her to run?
Pundits, mostly.

Can she win the nomination?
See above.


(Mike Blake / Reuters)

MICHAEL AVENATTI

Who is he?
Formerly Stormy Daniels’s lawyer, he’s now facing a dizzying array of federal charges.

Is he running?
Nope nope nope nope.

Why did he want to run?
Attention, power, self-aggrandizement

Who wanted him to run?
Some very loud, very devoted fans.

Could he have won the nomination?
No, and his comment to Time that the nominee “better be a white male” was the final straw.



REPUBLICANS


(Leah Millis / Reuters)

DONALD TRUMP

Who is he?
Really?

Fine. Is he running?
Yes. He filed for reelection the day of his inauguration, though some speculate that he might decide not to follow through.

Why does he want to run?
Build the wall, Keep America Great, etc.

Who wants him to run?
Consistently about 35 to 40 percent of the country; a small majority consistently says he should not.

Can he win the nomination?
Yes. While his low approval ratings overall have stoked talk of a primary challenge, Trump remains very popular among Republican voters, and as president has broad power to muscle the GOP process to protect himself.

What else do we know?
There is nothing else new and interesting to know about Trump. You’ve made your mind up already, one way or another.


(Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

MARK SANFORD

Who is he?
Sanford was governor of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011 and a U.S. representative from 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2019.

Is he running?
No, but he told the Charleston Post and Courier he’d decide over the next month.

Why is he running?
Sanford has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, whom he views as crude and fiscally undisciplined. Trump helped defeat him in a 2018 primary, giving some extra motivation.

Who wants him to run?
Lots of reporters who are eager to make bad Appalachian Trail jokes. There must be some never-Trump fiscal conservatives who don’t want Trump but wouldn’t vote for Weld. Not many, though.

Can he win the nomination?
No.


(Stephan Savoia / AP)

WILLIAM WELD

Who is he?
Weld, a former Justice Department official, was the governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997 and was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2016.

Is he running?
Yes. Weld officially launched his campaign April 15.

Why is he running?
Calling President Trump “unstable,” Weld has said, “I think our country is in grave peril and I cannot sit any longer quietly on the sidelines.”

Who wants him to run?
Weld always inspired respect from certain quarters, and the 2016 Libertarian ticket did well by the party’s standards, but Weld’s unorthodox politics and hot-and-cold relationship with the GOP probably don’t help his support.

Can he win the nomination?
No.

What else do we know?
This logo is so cool.


(Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters)

JOHN KASICH

Who is he?
Kasich recently finished up two terms as governor of Ohio, previously served in the U.S. House, and ran in the 2016 GOP primary.

Is he running?
No, and it seems he won't. “There is no path right now for me. I don't see a way to get there,” he said May 30. “I've never gotten involved in a political race where I didn't think I could win.”

Why did he want to run?
Kasich has long wanted to be president—he ran, quixotically, in 2000. But Kasich has styled himself as a vocal Trump critic, and sees himself as an alternative to the president who is both truer to conservative principles and more reliable and moral.

Who wanted him to run?
Maybe some dead-end never-Trump conservatives. It’s tough to say.

Could he have won the nomination?
Even he doesn’t think so. Kasich previously ruled out an independent or third-party run, but has since reopened that door.

What else do we know?
John Kasich bought a Roots CD and hated it so much, he threw it out his car window. John Kasich hated the Coen brothers’ classic Fargo so much, he tried to get his local Blockbuster to quit renting it. George Will laughed at him. John Kasich is the Bill Brasky of philistinism, but John Kasich probably hated that skit, too.


(Patrick Semansky / AP)

LARRY HOGAN

Who is he?
In November, Hogan became the first Republican to be reelected as governor of Maryland since 1954.

Is he running?
No. After some flirtation, he ruled out a run on June 1.

Why did he want to run?
Hogan is a pragmatic, moderate Republican who has won widespread acclaim in a solidly Democratic state—in other words, everything Trump is not.

Who wanted him to run?
Never-Trump conservatives; whatever the Republican equivalent of a “good government” type is.

Could he have won the nomination?
As long as Trump was running, no.


(Official Senate PhotO)

JEFF FLAKE

Who is he?
The Arizonan, a former U.S. House member, decided not to run for reelection to the Senate in 2019.

Is he running?
No. When he took a contributor role with CBS on January 23, he said he was not running.

Why did he want to run?
Starting in 2016, Flake was perhaps Trump’s most outspoken critic among elected Republicans, lambasting the president as immoral, unserious, and unconservative.

Who wanted him to run?
Liberal pundits.

Could he have won the nomination?
No. Flake retired because he didn’t even think he could win the Republican Senate nomination.


THIRD PARTIES AND INDEPENDENTS


(OFFICE OF JUSTIN AMASH)

JUSTIN AMASH

Who is he?
Amash has represented a Grand Rapids, Michigan-area seat in the U.S. House since 2011.

Is he running?
Not yet, but Libertarian Party members are lobbying him to get in, and he says he’s thinking about it.

Why does he want to run?
Amash has cut a path as a strong libertarian in the House, especially in recent months as a critic of President Trump. On July 4, he announced he was leaving the Republican Party, feeding presidential speculation.

Who wants him to run?
Libertarians, duh. “There’s a lot of people who consider Amash to be the best congressman from the perspective of a Libertarian," Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark told MLive. “They think he’s the best congressman for our goals since Ron Paul.”

Can he win the nomination?
Yes.


(JASON REDMOND / Reuters)

HOWARD SCHULTZ

Who is he?
That guy who used to sell you over-roasted coffee. Schultz stepped down as CEO of Starbucks in 2018.

Is he running?
It seems increasingly unlikely. After some travel through the spring, Schultz announced he would take the summer off, citing health problems, and laid off most of his staff.

Why does he want to run?
Personal pique over Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s support for a 70 percent marginal tax rate. No, seriously. Schultz has offered some vague platitudes about centrist ideas and bringing the country together, but most of it aligns with standard Democratic positions.

Who wants him to run?
Donald Trump.

Can he win the nomination?
The great thing about being a billionaire self-funder as an independent is that you don’t have to win a nomination. The downside is that you still have to win votes eventually.


(Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters)

JOHN MCAFEE

Who is he?
He's the guy who made your antivirus program-turned-international fugitive-turned-unsuccessful 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate. A typical politician, basically.

Is he running?
He says he's going to either vie for the Libertarian nomination again or run as an independent, though it's probably worth regarding what he says with some skepticism.

Why does he want to run?
To promote cryptocurrency, brah. “See, I don’t want to be president,” he told a crypto trade publication in November 2018. “I couldn’t be ... no one’s going to elect me president, please God. However, I’ve got the right to run.”

Who wants him to run?
Rubberneckers, disaster enthusiasts.

Can he win the nomination?
“No one’s going to elect me president, please God.”

What else do we know?
You want to see what it's like as the opposite sex for three hours? What being kissed by God feels like? You want the infinite experience of freedom? Knowledge of yourself? Eroticism that incinerates you? A simple good time? Forgetfulness? He's your man.


All About That Base   -20%


A day after President Donald Trump tweeted that four women of color in Congress should go back to the countries “from which they came,” a reporter asked him today if he’s troubled at all that his comments have been called racist, and that white nationalists have found “common cause” with him “on that point.”

“It doesn’t concern me,” the president replied, “because many people agree with me.”

It’s easy to read Trump’s tweets or watch his public appearances and see someone who’s filled with grievance and lashing out mindlessly in all directions. But Trump’s actions over the past five days fit within the strategy he has mapped out for capturing a second term: mobilizing his conservative base by any means necessary, using the tools and trappings available only to a sitting president. And perhaps no comment from Trump sums up his approach quite so well as his justification that “many people” share his views. Who are these people? Trump doesn’t say. But it seems clear he believes it’s the people who voted him into office.

The consistent message coming from Trump is that his core voters are under siege. Immigrants are crowding them out, he argues. Courts are messing with the census and preventing an accurate count of who is living in the U.S. legally and who is not. Big tech companies are suppressing their voices, he says. By casting himself as the champion of older white voters, he is promising to battle the broader demographic trends and technological forces that might discomfit his base.

[Read: Trump goes all in on racism]

A verity of American politics is that the game is about addition. A successful candidate preserves his core support and builds out. Yet more than a year before the 2020 election, Trump has shown no appetite for enlarging his coalition. He seems content to win or lose with the ones who got him this far. “The president has, since the day he was elected, focused his attention on stimulating and energizing the people who were already for him—often at the expense of people who are not,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, told me. “He’s made no effort at all to expand his base of support.”

In the latest display of base-centric politics, Trump cast the Democratic congresswomen as malcontents who aren’t truly American. Speaking to reporters outside the White House today, following even more tweets about the lawmakers, Trump doubled down on his criticism, singling out Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and calling the country of her birth, Somalia, “a failed state.”

Of the broader group, he said: “These are people who hate our country. They hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.”

Dissent, as expressed repeatedly by the congresswomen, is a rich tradition in a country that has enshrined free speech as a constitutional right. Trump is making an argument here that it is un-American. He can’t evict the lawmakers, but he can deport those who are living here illegally and, in recent days, he’s escalated threats to do just that.

During a Rose Garden address on Thursday, Trump brushed aside a court defeat that prevented his administration from using the census to find out who’s living in the country illegally. Instead, he said, he would order federal agencies to give him the answer using data they’ve already compiled. He also warned that federal agents would be rounding up undocumented immigrants in large-scale raids set to begin over the weekend.

Just before that address, Trump presided over what the White House had billed as a “social-media summit” but had more the flavor of a campaign rally in the East Room. Missing were representatives from the major tech titans Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Present were a slew of conspiracy theorists and internet agitators whose memes and messages have sought to marginalize Trump’s political opponents. “The crap you think of is unbelievable,” the president told the crowd, admiringly.

In a speech that meandered every which way, Trump suggested that Twitter was reducing his number of followers out of spite; boasted of the attention paid to his tweet announcing that the U.S. would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; ridiculed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on his old show The Celebrity Apprentice; claimed that his hair is authentic; and argued that his chief 2020 foe, former Vice President Joe Biden, can’t draw large crowds to his campaign events.

To the extent that there was a coherent thread through his remarks, it was that he and his supporters are victimized by elites in the press and the tech industry who don’t like their politics. “But with amazing creativity and determination, you’re bypassing the corrupt establishment—and it is corrupt—and you’re bypassing the very, very corrupt media,” he told his audience.

In practical terms, nothing Trump did or said over the past few days changed much of anything.

Trump’s social-media summit seems to have been nothing more than a chance for him and his internet army to vent.

[Read: It’s 2016 all over again]

Regarding his Plan B for the census, his explanation made little sense: If he could acquire citizenship data “in greater detail and more accurately” from federal agencies—as he said in the Rose Garden on Thursday—why did he fight in court to get a citizenship question added to the census in the first place?

His attacks on the congresswomen—Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan—are uniting a Democratic caucus that has been at odds over policy and whether to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has traded criticism with the congresswomen, immediately came to their defense, tweeting that Trump’s comments demonstrate that his real goal is “making America white again.”

And there is no evidence that yesterday was the starter gun for the massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids he promised. It seems likely that Trump’s purpose wasn’t to actually deport more people so much as to telegraph to his base that he wanted to deport more people. The intention might be enough. “For him, he wants to say, ‘Look, I’m out in front on this. I told you I would do this, I’m doing it. Here we go.’ From a political perspective that’s certainly the case,” says Erin Corcoran, the executive director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an expert on immigration law.

Taken together, Trump’s actions suggest he’s confident he can get reelected through his base alone. Past presidents have sought to expand their core support ahead of reelection, with some success. Republican George W. Bush, for example, increased his support among Latinos by about 10 points between 2000 and 2004, leading to a more comfortable margin of victory the second time around.

Trump’s strategy amounts to a gamble. He won 46 percent of the popular vote in the 2016 election (compared with 48 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton) and his job-approval rating, according to Gallup, has never exceeded that number over the two and a half years he’s been in office. Trump won last time by narrowly flipping three states that had reliably delivered for Democrats for the past two decades: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. “He managed to draw an inside straight in 2016, and won three critical Rust Belt states,” Ayres said. “If that’s the strategy for 2020, the question is whether you can draw an inside straight two hands in a row.”

Trump must hope that a diversifying America is no match for an energized base that both delights in his attacks on political opponents and shares his vision for the more racially and ideologically homogeneous country they knew in their youth. He hasn’t changed much in the past three years, and he’s betting the electorate hasn’t changed much, either.


Democrats Have Found Their Battle Cry   48%


U.S. presidential elections used to be about which candidate would best lead the free world. Now Democrats are advancing an unprecedented argument in modern American politics: Elect one of them to lead the free world; otherwise, Donald Trump will irreparably unravel it.

By cozying up to dictators and casting aside democratic allies abroad, and mimicking strongmen while undermining institutions at home, Trump is making the world safe for autocracy, the 2020 presidential candidates assert. The defining struggle of our time is between the forces of democracy and authoritarianism, they say, and the leader of the land of the free has strayed into enemy territory.

This was a central theme of recent foreign-policy speeches by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, and the rationale Kamala Harris offered in describing Trump as the top threat to U.S. national security during the first Democratic presidential debate. Last Thursday it was the core message of Joe Biden’s inaugural speech on international affairs.

The world’s democracies are now under more pressure than they’ve faced since fascism arose in the 1930s, buffeted by the ascendance of China and Russia and illiberal movements in many democratic societies, Biden observed. But “Donald Trump seems to be on the other team” and doesn’t “uphold basic democratic principles.” (We’ve reached the point in our politics where the former vice president and current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination is alleging that the U.S. president is in league with autocrats, and it barely registers in the news.)

As if on cue, the morning of Biden’s remarks, Trump “kidded” on Twitter about remaining in office well past his two terms and retweeted a far-right commentator praising the fact that Trump and like-minded strongmen such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán are now leading “proud nations.”

“You could never say in the last eight decades that an American president wasn’t standing up for the democratic world,” the former diplomat Nicholas Burns, who is currently serving as a member of Biden’s foreign-policy advisory team, told me shortly after Biden’s speech. Until now, that is.

[Read: I helped Obama win in 2012. Now Trump is using the same playbook.]

For a party seeking a concise, coherent rebuttal to America First, the critique has surfaced as a kind of Theory of Everything: an organizing principle for conveying what’s wrong with Trump’s foreign policy, what to make of the world today, and what a Democratic president would do differently.

The challenge for Democrats will be in demonstrating to voters that the scourge they’ve singled out is real and really affecting Americans’ daily lives, as well as in fending off the inevitable counterargument from Trump and his supporters.

The claims made by Biden and others are “typical partisan cherry-picking,” James Jay Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation, who is mostly supportive of the Trump administration’s foreign-policy record, told me. They “ignore things that countervail the narrative”—such as Barack Obama’s resistance to supporting pro-democracy protests in Iran as he pursued a nuclear deal with Tehran, or Trump’s efforts to push for a democratic transition in Venezuela.

Trump is not going to act like Ronald Reagan confronting the Evil Empire or Obama praising multilateralism, Carafano allowed. But Trump is trying to balance American interests and values in foreign policy more or less like his predecessors did, just through his “very unconventional” form of statecraft.

The president’s “great strength, as he sees it,” is “not painting the grand strategic narrative. It’s, like, How do I move the ball down the field?” Carafano said. Trump’s bet is that “at the end of the day, people will like the sausage. And they’re going to forgive me because they don’t like how the sausage gets made.” (Or, as Trump put it last week, “President Xi, Putin, all of these guys go to bed at night and they pray that Joe Biden or somebody like him becomes president so they can continue to rip off our country.”)

For the Democrats, spotlighting the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism is a way of highlighting the links between domestic and foreign policy—as Trump did to powerful effect in 2016. It’s additional justification for their ambitious domestic agendas of reducing economic inequality, investing in education and infrastructure, reforming the campaign-finance system, and restoring voting rights. If the United States wants to spread freedom abroad and compete with authoritarian rivals such as China, they reason, that must start by strengthening democracy at home. Democrats’ denunciations of Trump’s attacks on the media and the rule of law, his refusal to take Russian interference in the 2016 election seriously, and his harsh immigration policies are all slotted under the rubric of ways in which the president is imperiling U.S. democracy.

[Read: Democrats are avoiding the China question]

As Warren told me by email, “Democracy is under assault in America and around the world … We need big, structural change to protect our democracy and refocus our foreign policy to benefit all Americans, not just wealthy elites.”

In regard to foreign policy, the Democratic candidates argue that Trump, with his foreign business dealings and conflicts of interest, is an avatar of the global plague of government corruption. As they tell it, his rough treatment of America’s Asian and European allies demonstrates his abandonment of fellow democrats and the values they share with the United States. His permissive attitude toward Russian challenges to U.S. interests and paltry results from nuclear negotiations with North Korea reveal how Trump’s sycophancy toward Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un endanger the United States.

Many Democrats actually agree with Trump about confronting China’s abusive economic practices, but they maintain that the most effective way to do that is by leveraging the economic heft of democratic allies rather than going it alone. Buttigieg has even tied promoting democracy to counteracting climate change, noting that he didn’t think it was coincidental “that extraction economies and polluting societies are often those with a tendency towards authoritarianism.”

There are, however, telling differences lurking behind this common narrative. Biden tends to describe Trump as an “anomaly” who must be overcome to “go back to normalcy,” whereas Sanders argues that the “status quo” internationally, especially when it comes to kleptocracy, “is part of what delivered Trump” and gave rise to authoritarianism, Matt Duss, Sanders’s foreign-policy adviser, told me. (Biden has promised anti-corruption steps such as ending the practice of creating anonymous shell companies.)

Ned Price, a former national-security aide to Obama who is now with National Security Action, pointed to polling commissioned by the group that shows that nearly 60 percent of voters are concerned about Trump siding with dictators and neglecting American values. “We’ve been trying to make the case [to Democratic candidates] that this is smart policy and smart politics,” said Price, whose organization provides the Democratic presidential campaigns with strategy memos and messaging points.

Democracy and human rights, traditionally championed by both Democrats and Republicans, albeit in divergent ways, have thus become thoroughly bound up in America’s bitter political divides. And the focus on the contest between democracy and authoritarianism could determine the direction of the next Democratic administration, even if, for the time being, the candidates’ policy prescriptions tend to pale in comparison with their diagnosis and the rhetoric they’re employing.

Andrea Kendall-Taylor, an expert on the interplay between authoritarianism and democracy at the Center for a New American Security, told me that the alarms Democrats are sounding could turn into concrete policies: from targeted infrastructure investments in countries with democratic potential to efforts to establish cyber, space, and artificial-intelligence norms before China does.

Still, Kendall-Taylor acknowledged that “we run the risk of just recommending what we used to do—like [if] we can rewind the clock to a pre-Trump time … that everything will be okay.” Given that voters tend to brush aside abstract concerns about “authoritarian resurgence” and the “liberal international order,” she said the candidates will need to relate the problem “back to the everyday lives of Americans” for their message to resonate.

Biden’s most novel proposal was convening a summit of the world’s democracies during his first year as president—a big idea that nevertheless seemed rather small relative to China’s enormous infrastructure projects around the world and Russia’s globe-spanning meddling in democratic elections. (A bureaucratic gathering of government officials and private-sector representatives is also unlikely to hold much appeal for the average voter.)

Warren’s suggestions include banning American lobbyists from serving as paid representatives of foreign governments and companies, and creating greater separation between the Defense Department and defense contractors as part of a broader effort to slash military spending.

Sanders has asserted that the competition between “authoritarianism, oligarchy, and kleptocracy” and “democracy, egalitarianism, and economic, social, racial, and environmental justice” has bearing on the “entire future of the planet.” He has called for constructing “a global democratic movement” to counter the former. When I asked Duss what that meant exactly, he said Sanders wasn’t necessarily urging the creation of some new international structure, but rather advocating for the United States to speak out consistently on human-rights issues involving adversaries and allies alike—criticizing China’s repression of its Uighur minority, for example, even as a President Sanders would partner with Beijing on combatting climate change. (Trump has set aside democracy and human-rights issues with China in his pursuit of a trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.)

Sanders “certainly wouldn’t be declaring his love for Kim Jong Un the way Trump has,” Duss noted, but “at some point, he definitely would be willing to meet with Kim.” (“I just can’t answer that because you don’t want to commit someone,” Burns said when I asked whether Biden would meet with Kim.)

Duss said Sanders would support talks between Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, and the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, whom the Trump administration has recognized as the country’s legitimate president, to bring about free and fair elections. Sanders, however, is critical of the manner in which Trump endorsed Guaidó and “put the U.S. at the head of this effort in a way that’s unhelpful” and has so far failed. When I asked whether a President Sanders would withdraw U.S. diplomatic recognition of Guaidó and his representatives in D.C., Duss didn’t rule that out. “We’d have to wait and see,” he responded.

[Read: The Democrats want to make nice with Europe]

When my colleague Yara Bayoumy and I investigated how the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia could change under a Democratic president, we similarly found that the relationship would likely be reset and downsized—no U.S. support for Riyadh’s military adventurism, restricted arms sales, a tendency to view Saudi Arabia as just as problematic as Iran—but not eliminated altogether.

Price told me that the mission now is to build a “community of democracies that would perhaps more closely resemble what we saw in the post–World War II era and the height of the Cold War than what we’ve seen more recently.”

Yet when we spoke about specific policies, his answers seemed to suggest more a reversion to the pre-Trump era than the dawn of a new one: striking a balance between advancing Americans interests and not forsaking American values in relations with Saudi Arabia; downplaying disputes with NATO members about their insufficient defense spending, since the alliance’s larger purpose is to check Russia; enabling nuclear negotiations with North Korea at lower levels of the U.S. government that could culminate in a meeting between the leaders of the two countries if there’s a real agreement to sign. “It wouldn’t be all that different from what previous presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have done,” Price said.

Carafano told me he doesn’t think the Democratic gambit will work. Voters, he argued, tend to choose their candidate based on the politician’s domestic-policy positions and then trust him or her to do the right thing on foreign policy. Those who like Trump will vote for him; those who don’t won’t; and those in the middle will make their decision based on whether they feel safe and economically better off, he said, not on whether or not the president is abetting authoritarianism.

When I asked Burns whether he was concerned about the issues of democracy and human rights getting politicized over the course of the 2020 campaign, he dismissed the point.

“You have an American president who is refusing to stand up for democracy, refuses to support our democratic allies in Europe … and coddles dictators,” he said. “This is not only fair game. It’s essential that people speak out about this.” Whether this will translate into votes at home is a different question.


Why Donald Trumps Racist Language Isnt Debatable   33%


Last night, while President Donald Trump was keeping up his attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color at a rally in North Carolina, Merriam-Webster tweeted out that the most searched term in its online dictionary at that time was racism.

It’s been that kind of week—though hardly the first of its nature in the Trump era—when bigoted comments from the president have dominated the national discourse, and have led many to label the remarks as racist. That includes Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats (along with a few Republicans) in the House of Representatives, who passed a nonbinding resolution denouncing Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib should “go back” to “help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” before leveling criticism at the U.S. government. (It shouldn’t have to be stated that three of the four congresswomen are American-born. The fourth, Omar, is a naturalized citizen from Somalia, and was targeted with chants of “Send her back!” at Trump’s rally.)

All of this has led to reappraisals in many quarters about how to apply the words racist and racism, which helps explain all those dictionary lookups. Those seeking guidance from the Merriam-Webster entry would find racism first defined as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” More broadly, it is defined as “racial prejudice or discrimination.”

But does deferring to a dictionary definition suffice in judging whether Trump’s comments should be called racist? The Fox News analyst Brit Hume claimed on Twitter that the comments, while “nativist, xenophobic, [counterfactual] and politically stupid … simply do not meet the standard definition of racist.” Soon after Hume linked to Merriam-Webster’s entry for the term, the dictionary’s Twitter account helpfully pointed to the entry’s usage note, which counsels that “when discussing concepts like racism … it is prudent to recognize that quoting from a dictionary is unlikely to either mollify or persuade the person with whom one is arguing.”

Indeed, the word racism cannot be encapsulated by a single, decontextualized definition, as it is a term that is fraught with moral implications for its use. News outlets have publicly grappled with terminological issues this week. NPR, for instance, has decided to refer to Trump’s tweets as “racist,” and not simply “racially charged” or “racially insensitive,” as it has in the past. As the organization’s standards-and-practices editor, Mark Memmott, explained on NPR’s Code Switch podcast, the judgment was made to use the term because Trump’s “Go back to where you came from” rhetoric clearly fits into a tradition of racist tropes. But in an op-ed, Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president of newsroom diversity and training, continued to object to journalists using the word racist, because “we should not be in the business of moral labeling.”

Despite the “moral labeling” objections of Woods and others, the view that the terms racist and racism should be off-limits in objective journalistic reporting has waned over the course of Trump’s term in office. Back in January 2018, when Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “shithole countries” (or was it “shithouse countries”?) in a discussion of immigration policy with lawmakers at the White House, NPR decided to avoid using racist in its reports. At the time, Memmott explained on Code Switch that rather than “telling people to think about what someone did or said and labeling it,” the preferable course of action is “giving them the facts—giving them the action words so that they can decide for themselves.”

On the same podcast, Phillip Atiba Goff, an African American psychologist who heads the Center for Policing Equity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, pushed back on what he sees as evasive language when reporting on Trump’s comments. “The one that absolutely makes me lose my mind is racially charged. No, it wasn’t,” Goff said. “It was racist.”

Thanks to debates such as this, racially charged was voted the 2018 Euphemism of the Year, a dubious distinction awarded by the American Dialect Society (ADS) as part of its Words of the Year selection process. (As the chair of the ADS’s New Words Committee, I oversaw the voting at the society’s annual meeting in January.)

Jessi Grieser, a sociolinguist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville who focuses on the use of African-American English in expressions of identity, advocates for the selection. “There’s a long history of white Americans being more afraid to be called racist than to do and say racist things, and taking away the sting is exactly the linguistic function of a euphemism,” Grieser explains. “Racially charged doesn’t hurt people’s feelings, but it’s important to recognize that it’s usually just substituting for racist and generally doesn’t have [a] separate meaning on its own.”

That viewpoint was embraced in March by the editors of The Associated Press Stylebook, who advised, “Do not use racially charged or similar terms as euphemisms for racist or racism when the latter terms are truly applicable.”

Nicole Holliday, a sociolinguist at Pomona College who studies the construction of racial and ethnic boundaries through language, supports the ADS’s selection of racially charged as Euphemism of the Year and has been keeping tabs on such phraseology since then. She says she was “pleasantly shocked” to hear NPR refer to Trump’s “racist remarks” this week. While she applauds the direct language, Holliday notes that euphemisms such as racially charged seem “designed to appeal to moderates, as a sort of ‘diet racism’ … Calling the tweets outright racist causes people on the right and some moderates to totally shut down, but I think calling them racially charged allows some space for plausible deniability.”

This kind of plausible deniability is not particularly new. As Daniel Engber wrote in an explainer for Slate last year, racially charged has been deployed as a journalistic substitute for racist for decades. While the phrase originally described the atmosphere generated by racial tensions of the late 1950s and 1960s, particularly around the racist treatment of African Americans in the South, over time it became a kind of stand-in for racist itself. With racism becoming a more divisive term as the fight for civil rights intensified, media outlets preferred to keep the word at arm’s length.

Then as now, accusations of racism were met with furious denials. When Trump avers, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” he echoes a standard refrain dating back to at least the ’60s. When California’s Democratic governor Pat Brown was facing a tough reelection fight against Ronald Reagan in 1966, he sought to counteract what one news report called the “white backlash” against “racial unrest” in Watts and Oakland by telling reporters, “My own 84-year-old mother, and there isn’t a racist bone in her body, is frightened.” (Brown lost the general election, and Reagan’s political career was born.)

The notion that calling someone’s words or actions racist is character assassination was on full display on the House floor this week. When Pelosi spoke in favor of the resolution calling Trump’s comments racist, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia and his fellow Republicans sought to strike Pelosi’s comments from the record, based on an obscure House rule dictating that a member cannot refer to the president or any of his statements as racist during a floor debate. The provision, which was adopted by the then-Republican-controlled House in 2017, is written into a manual for parliamentary procedure first introduced by Thomas Jefferson, who adapted English protocols that prohibited members of Parliament from speaking “irreverently or seditiously” about the king.

All of this speaks to the cultural power invested in the words racist and racism, far beyond what any dictionary will tell you. But as long as people treat these words as a kind of political dynamite, too dangerous to wield in applicable situations, discussing the hard truths of racism will remain exceedingly difficult. Can aversion to racist practices themselves take precedence over aversion to those practices being called racist? Not while the current president is busy rallying his base with bigotry.


Understanding Trump: What the Press Can Do   -4%


In response to this item yesterday, “There’s No Understanding Donald Trump,” other readers weigh in.

As a reminder: The main point of the previous piece was that trying to analyze why Donald Trump does the things he does is like trying to analyze the motives of a cat. Each of them acts. Now, more comments.

1) What you’re overlooking. A reader at a tech company writes:

I completely agree with this piece, except for one thing.

You and the reader you quote describe the part we see and the part that gets reported.  Absolutely a reality show.

All of the journalistic analysis is far beyond ridiculous.

The other half (below the surface) that is so grossly under-reported is the very Republican direction of decisions made in every agency in the government and by every cabinet member.  These are not made for TV because they are boring to read about.  But they are consistent in how they continue the transfer of wealth to the one percent and the one percent of the one percent.

Several other readers return to this theme: that too much of the press is too wrapped up in the impossible mission of “understanding” Trump, and too few are spending too little time unveiling the what of this era’s policies.


2) What if this theory is correct? Also on the predicament of the press, from another reader:

Just read the piece about the reader who says, "the people most accustomed to “analyzing” political actions and decisions...are the ones least able to recognize what the world is experiencing with Donald Trump."

I believe he’s right and wrong—right in the sense that we have “a structural failure of analysis in the Trump years,” but wrong, or not quite right, in his explanation of this.

Specifically, in my view, the problem isn't a lack of understanding about Trump. Rather it’s what they [analysts and the press] actually do understand, or at least strongly suspect on some deeper or sub-conscious level, but struggle to accept, because of the problematic implications of accepting this.

For example, suppose the reader is right that Trump is actually governing as if he were doing a reality TV show. How would journalists convey this, without creating the impression that they're irrational and biased against Trump?

I believe the reader's theory is credible, but the idea also makes me very uncomfortable. Were I to tell someone else that I took this notion seriously I would be hyper-aware of how irrational this sounds. Indeed, I hold my tongue with friends and family at times for this reason. I would guess most journalists would experience a similar level of discomfort.

And suppose some of them could overcome this—how do they convey this without discrediting themselves in the process? I think there might be ways to do this, but there's no certainty it would work. Because of that I have some sympathy for journalists and political analysts. At the same time, I'm also extremely frustrated. In my view, alarm bells should be ringing, or at least ringing much louder and clearer. I think we need an equivalent to shouting “the Emperor has no clothes!,” but in a way that doesn't make the messenger seem like he lost his marbles.


3) Actually, there is a strategy. From another reader:

He does want to get reelected.  His strategy with Kim Jong Un is to serve that purpose and that one alone.

He's gonna say "Vote for me or Kim is gonna nuke us if the Democrats win the White House"  and he alone has cultivated a relationship with the deranged dictator and he and he alone can prevent war.  That's why he walked into N. Korea without asking for anything from Kim.  He plans on scaring the voters by nuclear holocaust if he isn't reelected.

I'm as obsessed with this surreal nightmare of a presidency as anyone else and am surprised to not have seen this take anywhere.


4) Looking deeper. This last note of the day begins with a point that members of the press have discussed at great length, ever since Donald Trump got in the race. That is whether there is any point in “medicalizing” a discussion of his traits. The reader’s message:

Your reader in “There is No Understanding Donald Trump” is right. It’s a show for shows sake. But there’s more. And it runs deeper.

When our president was elected, I contacted the smartest person I know (novelist) to explain the man. Easy, he said: go to the DSM (the volume that describes mental illnesses) and look up narcissist.

I did. And everything since has made absolute sense - a sense that runs deeper than the reality show metaphor, which could be construed as simply self-aggrandizing. We're in a lot worse shape than that.

The thing that puzzles and infuriates me is how the press continues to cover things in their commonsensical way (as your reader suggests). It drives me crazy to see dozens and dozens of reporters covering this administration. Why? What on earth for? As your reader has suggested, that just plays to The Show.

Given that the record is, in fact, important, I've suggested to friends in the media that one pool camera should follow this man around, and everyone just share the feed. Those who are thus liberated from covering The Show can now investigate his taxes, finances, relationships with Russia, etc. much better use of resources.

But please, stop asking intelligent questions. They have no relevance to someone who is so deeply mentally ill.

On the opening theme of this note, about mental status, let me give the two-point summary of the very long discussion nearly every member of the press has gone through in the Trump era.

Point one: It’s perilous, and in any case pointless, to attempt “diagnosis at a distance,” and attempt to give medical names and conditions to traits the public can observe. It’s perilous for obvious reasons, and it’s pointless because it wouldn’t change anyone’s mind. Supporter or critic, everyone knows what Donald Trump is like.

And point two: As a description of widely observed behaviors, it’s fair to note how closely what Trump does matches the standard checklists of narcissist traits. (One such list, from the Mayo Clinic, is here. Its first marker is that narcissists “Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance; Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration.”) But, again, observing this pattern gets us only so far, since nothing Trump does should surprise anyone any more.

The action-point, in the end of this reader’s note, is worth serious consideration by the press—and is related to note Number One. That is, the press should spend less time on the daily spectacle of Trump himself, and more on the actions and effects of the administration as a whole.


5) Update: In Trump’s Defense.  Yesterday’s item has apparently circulated among Trump-supporting groups, as I have received a large number of messages like the one I am quoting below.

I explicitly don’t intend to host an online equivalent of a cable-TV panel show, with one person saying “Trump is terrible!” and then someone else snapping back, “No, he’s great! You’re the one who’s terrible.”

But as a one-time-for-now sample of the opposing line of reasoning, I quote parts of the message below. The sender identifies herself as a PhD. I assume she is sending this from a phone, and I’m quoting it as-is (rather than going through to spell out what she obviously meant as abbreviations) not to undermine its credibility but just for labor-saving on my end, and because the sender’s intentions are clear.

Here are selections from what she sent in, representing views I am hearing from many others:

It is so true tht persons do not ‘get’ T

Even psychologists, the greatly left leaning bastion these days, has its collective hair standg straight up as it gasps w exasperatn

Then there is the pathetic psychiatrist who pursues the idea tht T’s  mentl hlth is an issue

Poor souls to hav nevr known a person to b so bold, pragmatic, & steadfast in wht he wants to do

T is a very modern character, a person for the times: totally atuned to digital media, totally comfortable & brazen, CANDID, in the limelight, speakg extemporaneously to any of the persons who besiege him to talk  – AND – greatly abl to tolerate the humongous slop & ill treatmt he receivs as is proven in his non-stop pursuit of gettg thgs done in his job – a job tht he sees as the ultimate test for a ‘stabl genius’

He uses his mktg & TV experience, speakg hx, etc to totally great effect & he has truly remarkabl energy

Wait: T is breakg all the rules of how thing shud b done!  Stop it, stop it

T is clear, concise, & keeps his eye on the ball.

How lame r ‘reportrs’ when they cry tht T has not made Kim giv up nukes, eg, –

Oh yeah, - magic – he meets Kim, K givs up nukes & the NK prob is ‘solvd’

But T is playg the long(er) game & his events w Kim happn to b huge steps in somethg requirg ever so many many steps, tests, time & ea step helps

As T himself has statd, he has common sense.

T is flexibl to the extent tht he will not hold a doctrinaire point of view & will change course as events, info, perceptn, dictate

T knows his mind & wht he wants to achiev & he keeps his eye on the ball, many balls, which we wud all c if the press wud report all the thgs he is doing every day

He wants ppl to lov, respect & admire him precisely thru showg them wht he can do for them & the country

The press is so-o-o mean in its grievous underreportg, misreportg, & UNreportg of the many things he is doing everyday & it is reponsibl for fomentg & magnifyg citizen animosity…

Hey, tht’s wht T is: remarkabl

Contrary to the writr whose words u relay, T IS a thinkg person - & a deep person (he prefers to no ‘go there’ in all likelihd as he does not wear his private sentimt (abt thgs like livg, dyig, meang, etc) on his sleeve


The Plan to Fix Climate Change in the Senate  


It will be almost another 18 months until Democrats can even think of passing climate legislation.

In the 2020 election, they must defeat President Donald Trump, reclaim the Senate, and retain a majority in the House of Representatives. And then they have to find something to pass before members of Congress start getting cold feet about the 2022 election. Even in a best-case scenario, the moment will be a nerve-racking, high-stakes one for climate advocates. So Senate Democrats are trying to front-load as much of that work as possible.

Ten of them have formed the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. Chaired by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the committee aims to get as much of the preliminary work out of the way as possible—the research and investigating and coalition-building—so that Democrats can start passing climate legislation as soon as they regain the upper chamber.

“The goal is to lay down the factual basis for taking action, so that if we are in charge in 2021, we don’t have to go through 18 months of investigatory hearings,” Schatz told me during a wide-ranging interview in his office last month.

The committee will hold its first public hearing next Wednesday, when it will host mayors from five major cities, including St. Paul and Pittsburgh, that have set or already met ambitious climate goals. (Both of those cities specifically aim to cut their carbon emissions 80 percent or more by 2050.)* Last month, Schatz and other committee members met with electric-utility executives behind closed doors.

Schatz’s near-term goal, beyond elevating climate policy into headlines, is to lay out the menu of climate-policy options. He also hopes the committee will describe, in confidently political language, what climate change is already doing across the United States. To that end, Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a committee member and an Iraq War veteran, will lead a hearing on climate and national security. (“I fought one war for foreign oil. Let’s not do that again,” Duckworth said when the group launched.) And Senators Tina Smith of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin might look into how climate change is hurting farmers.

[Read: On climate, Democrats now have a plan to make a plan]

The point, Schatz said, is to push climate change beyond just “the electrical-generation folks and the birds-and-butterflies advocates.”

“Part of what we’re trying to do is diversify the kind of politician that concerns themselves with climate, beyond your typical coastal, liberal male,” he said. “And I say that as a coastal, liberal male.”

Schatz was not in the Senate when the upper chamber last considered serious climate legislation. In 2009, Barack Obama entered the White House promising to take action on two issues: climate change and health care. The president sometimes ranked global-warming policy over altering the health-insurance system. “Energy we have to deal with today,” Obama said in a 2008 debate with John McCain, according to The New Yorker. “Health care is priority Number Two.”

Once in office, Obama asked Congress to pursue the two issues at the same time. The result of that gamble has shaped American politics since: After an agonizing 13-month drafting process, the Democratic-controlled Congress coughed up the Affordable Care Act, and Obama signed it in March 2010. But a few months later, and after an even lengthier process, the Senate dropped any attempt at passing significant climate legislation. That fall, Democrats lost their majority in the House; they would not recapture the chamber until 2018. Schatz entered the Senate in 2012. He soon established himself as one of the caucus’s most forceful climate advocates. In 2014, when Democrats held an all-night Senate session to demand climate legislation, Schatz spoke for five of the nearly 15 hours. (“He brought Hawaiian Kona coffee and macadamia-nut chocolates to help fuel his colleagues’ overnight slog,” The New York Times reported.) He also represents Hawaii, which aims to go completely carbon-neutral by 2045, one of the strictest state-level climate goals in the country.

The Senate is an inauspicious place for a climate advocate. Over the past three decades, it has proved adept at murdering climate policy. It didn’t just kill a 2009 bill, which passed the House, and which would have let companies buy and sell the right to emit carbon pollution. In 1994, President Bill Clinton pushed for a revenue-raising energy tax that would have also reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. It, too, passed the House and died in the Senate.

Schatz’s political judgment is shaped by this history. When assessing presidential candidates on climate, he said, he tries to look past policy proposals and focus more on how candidates talk and think about the issue. “I think everyone running is going to [range] from good-enough to excellent, in terms of what they’re officially for,” he said. “The real question is, should they become president, will they move, and move aggressively? Or will [climate] be the fourth issue they get to in the third year?”

[Read: Democrats still don’t know how to talk about climate change]

Above all, he hoped to understand why candidates cared about climate change. “That would give me some insight into whether or not, when push comes to shove, and there’s a need to prioritize among competing issues, whether they’re going to put climate action at the top of their list,” he said.

For now, his sense of what form a future climate bill might take is mostly broad strokes. Any Democratic-led climate effort must simultaneously strengthen labor unions, he said. “We just can’t do this and say some pablum about a just transition,” he said. “That’s offensive, honestly. If you work in power generation, or pipeline laying, or electricity transmission, you want to know, how is this going to impact your ability to provide for your family?” His first phone call after taking over the special committee was to Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO.

Other ideas are still taking shape. Along with several other Democrats, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, he has co-sponsored a bill to tax carbon pollution.

The type of policy that’s emerged from the committee so far is more nuts-and-bolts than a total transformation of the economy. So far, power-utility executives are most interested in federal incentives for battery storage, he said. The committee will encourage more federal financial regulators to push companies to disclose their climate risk, whether from stranded assets or extreme weather. The U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission recently voted to assess climate-related risk. Eventually, it could force companies to calculate how rising seas, extreme weather, and climate-associated productivity losses might threaten their investments. “You create an incentive to take down that risk,” Schatz said.

[Read: It’s younger and cooler than a carbon tax]

Of course, this is the plan for now. Events have a funny way of shifting opinions. I talked with Schatz a few hours before the first Democratic primary debate. While we spoke, dozens of climate activists protested nearby at the DNC’s headquarters to demand that the party schedule a climate-change-focused debate. Schatz was skeptical of the idea. “Let’s say they had a health-care-only debate,” he told me. “I don’t think that, for your average viewer … that’s as interesting as an actual debate. So what I want is for climate to be covered extensively in every debate, not for it to be siloed.”

Then the debate unfolded—and the candidates spent less than 10 minutes talking about climate change. Five of the 10 candidates onstage weren’t asked about it at all. This despite the fact that Democratic primary voters identified climate policy as one of the most important issues in the election.

Schatz wasn’t happy. “Two hours is long enough to give maybe 20-30 minutes to climate change. At least long enough to let every candidate answer a climate question or two,” he tweeted before the debate ended. When the remaining time elapsed without any further discussion of climate, he seemed to reconsider his opposition to siloing the issue. “Maybe the next debate,” he said, “can have a climate focus.”


* This article originally misstated that the mayor of Minneapolis would attend the committee's first public hearing.


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