Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood on the Senate floor this morning, nobly calling out the “double standard” he thinks is being applied to protests amid COVID-19.
Police abuse of minority communities in the United States is a story stretching back decades and centuries. The militarization of American policing is a much more recent phenomenon though the two phenomena have overlapped and compounded each other. Much of this debate over militarization has focused on the Pentagon’s 1033 Program which charges the Secretary of Defense with donating surplus military hardware to the nation’s thousands of police departments. (The photo above is of an MRAP, a vehicle designed to withstand IEDs and guerrilla ambushes. Numerous US police departments have them.) But there is another dimension of the story that has only partly made its way into the national conversation about policing and violence. The United States has been in a constant state of war since the end of 2001 and in many ways since the Gulf Crisis of 1990. Through numerous channels this has led to a broad militarization of life in the United States. Policing and military hardware is only the most obvious manifestation.
Regardless of who-pitched-who, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) clearly knew what he was doing — and what he was getting away with — with his New York Times op-ed pushing the use of military force against protesters demonstrating against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
There is now if not a consensus at least an emerging question whether President Trump has reached a turning point in his Presidency from which he cannot recover. It is sobering to consider the unfolding gyre of crises. We are in the midst of an historic epidemic which has killed more than 100,000 Americans. We are in the midst of an historic economic crisis. We have witnessed two weeks of unprecedented demonstrations across the country. And if we think back to the calm old days before all this started less than four months ago, that was when the President was impeached after being exposed in an extortion plot aimed at gaming the November election.
Last night a flurry of reports from CBS, The New Yorker, the AP, NBC news and others presented a new version of what happened a week ago Monday outside the Episcopal Church in front of the White House, what now seems clearly to have been a turning point, at least in the recent weeks of drama and perhaps in the history of the Trump administration itself.
The less important part of the story – and one which merits the most skepticism – is that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Michael Milley reportedly weren’t aware of what was happening when they agreed to walk with the President to St. John’s Episcopal Church after a mix of federal police and national guard troops forcibly cleared Lafayette Park of protestors.
The more interesting part comes earlier in the day.
*** Attorney General Bill Barr has apparently now thought better of his high profile role in the clearing of Lafayette Park on Monday. It’s not clear to me that he ever publicly took credit for ordering the operation. But the White House said he did and that seems to have been the message coming out of the Department of Justice. Now he tells the AP it wasn’t him, even though he agreed with the decision. He says Park Police were already in the process of clearing the area when he arrived.
“Watching what Trump has been able to do to our city just in the last few days makes me truly terrified about what the next six months could bring. We know how he reacts when he feels disrespected and powerless; will the District bear the brunt of his rage and need for dominance?” TPM Reader AL checks in from the District of Columbia …
Before we get too far into the day I want to review information that has come out about the situation in Washington, DC and the President’s attempt to militarize the city in response to protests near the White House. As I noted last night, all the National Guard troops in the city or en route appear to be from states with Republican governors: They come from Utah, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida. What we learned yesterday is that the administration had been refused troops by governors in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.
There’s a lot of troubling but clarifying information coming out tonight about the military deployments in Washington, DC. Reporting from the Times suggests what has seemed apparent by inference, which is that the White House and the Pentagon have spent recent days in a tug of war over the deployment of regular Army combat forces into DC. The Pentagon has resisted but President Trump has insisted, apparently wanting to keep them at least just outside the city as an ongoing sign of strength. This afternoon he appeared to finally relent and agree to allow them to return to their home bases.
There’s another dynamic I’ve noticed that has gotten little explicit attention.
One of the essential features of Trump and Trumpism is the way he has – both in his person and his movement ideology – managed to bring all the contradictions and controversies in our society furiously to a head. In a matter of days not weeks we have managed to skip from the intricacies of a public health crisis to racism and police violence to the state cornerstone of civilian-military relations and the rather essential question of whether the President is threatening some sort of distended military rule.
As I’ve said, living in history is about not knowing the future. We are in a very volatile, unpredictable, dangerous moment in the history of this administration and indeed the history of the country itself. The stunt in front of the White House on Monday is not wearing well. It has the feel of one of those gambits employed by an embattled strongman which does both too little and too much, exposes weakness while galvanizing opponents. In the brittle late 20th century states of Africa and Latin America these moments would rapidly force a decision to massacre demonstrators or start lining up a flight to the French Riviera or exile in Saudi.
As much as anything else, the spectacle yesterday afternoon in front of the White House was a deliberate set-up. It’s a not-unknown stock in trade for bad actors to invite press to one kind of purported event and switch to something more ghastly on camera, forcing the press to become complicit in what unfolds.
Yesterday was a version of that.
We’ll have more coming soon that takes up the points TPM Reader SS raises here about the oral arguments in the Mazars/Deutsche Bank cases:
I found the livestream of the arguments fascinating. I also found, somewhat disturbingly, that none of the commentators/blogs/websites that I follow (all of a liberal bent, so to speak) seemed to speak to what I thought was the main weakness of Congress’ case. (Note: while I’m not a practicing lawyer, I was, at one point, a member of the DC Bar).