Archive | The Atlantic

Kaepernick’s Triumph

By David A. Graham

Friday morning, things didn’t look great for Colin Kaepernick.

The former San Francisco 49er had made headlines around the world last season for kneeling during the National Anthem. The offseason had seen a raging debate about the fact that he hadn’t been signed from free agency, which boiled down to whether teams were justified in deciding that his controversial protest outweighed his talent. Despite some comically atrocious performances by quarterbacks on NFL rosters in the first two weeks of the season, Kaepernick remained unsigned. A few fellow players said publicly that he deserved a roster spot somewhere, and some had taken up his protest, but it remained a niche question, and the cause to which Kaepernick wished to draw attention—police brutality against people of color—had faded a bit from the headlines, overwhelmed by the onslaught of Trump-related news.

Then came President Trump’s riff during a rally in Alabama Friday night.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out,’” Trump said. “‘He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

By the close of the weekend, the president wasn’t contending just with Kaepernick. He was facing off with hundreds of NFL players, who had either taken a knee, like Kaepernick, or stayed in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. He’d been scolded by multiple team owners, including his personal friend Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, and the NFL commissioner. The dispute had spilled over the bounds of NFL and included LeBron James and Steph Curry. Even Michael Jordan, who (supposedly) …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



How Trump Turns Unpopular Outbursts Into Political Winners

By David A. Graham

After spending the weekend picking fights with the two best basketball players in the world, President Trump woke up Monday morning in a more contemplative, jingoistic mood—shifting both his emphasis and his tone.




These missives fit with the way Trump often handles his many feuds and crises, starting from an extreme position and then slowly groping toward one where he can find popular support. While the fights that the president picks are often comically unpredictable—if you had “Twitter fight with Steph Curry and LeBron James” on your presidential bingo card for the weekend, step up to the table to take your winnings—but the way that he conducts himself, having chosen a fight, seems to display a pattern.

As in so many things, Trump the president is little different from Trump the businessman. His impulse is to start from a big, splashy, gaudy place—say, calling players who kneel for the National Anthem “sons of bitches,” or claiming he was revoking an invitation to the White House from Curry, who’d already rejected it. (You can’t quit, you’re fired!) These decisions seem to stem from the gut, no Clintonian polling about it. Trump sees something and he says whatever comes to mind about it.

The problem is that often those views are unwise or politically hazardous. For example, Trump’s …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Red Light Letter to the NFL

By Matthew Algeo

It’s hard to imagine Major League Baseball inviting President Trump to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before any World Series games next month. And he definitely won’t be tossing the coin before the Super Bowl next February. Over the weekend, Trump ignited a firestorm in the sports world by harshly criticizing the NFL for failing to punish players who take a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Then he withdrew his invitation to Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to visit the White House because Curry was “hesitating” about accepting the invitation. Curry’s teammates subsequently announced that none of them would go to the White House but instead would use the team’s February trip to Washington to “celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion.” On Saturday night, an Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to take a knee during the anthem. On Sunday morning, Trump was back at it, calling on fans to boycott NFL games.

Trump’s comments are the precise opposite of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Green Light Letter to baseball owners in 1942, urging them to keep the game going to boost the nation’s morale during the Second World War: “These players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens.” On Friday, Trump offered a Red Light: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s FIRED!”

Pro sports have long found patriotism to be good for business. Field-sized flags and taxpayer-funded flyovers are de rigueur for big games. Presidential complicity has been an important part of that arrangement. Presidents since Taft have been lobbing ceremonial first pitches. George W. Bush famously threw out the first pitch of the 2001 World Series, the first after 9/11, wearing a bulletproof vest. The first World Series …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Kneeling for Life and Liberty Is Patriotic

By Conor Friedersdorf

Donald Trump, who has a disturbing history of praising brutal dictators, possesses no better than a Twitter troll’s understanding of what it means to be an American patriot. He spent the weekend trolling the NFL over the players protesting police violence during the national anthem, though any other president would have been attending to the millions of fellow citizens suffering in Puerto Rico; and the NFL athletes who defied him by taking a knee Sunday in solidarity with protests against police killings had the high ground, as good students of American history will understand.

When the Founding Fathers affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence, the first act of political courage in United States history, the American flag as we know it did not yet exist. And it would be more than a century before the Star Spangled Banner was adopted as the national anthem. Yet the Founders were not deficient in love of country for lacking the Stars and Stripes. In bravely dissolving political bonds with Britain, Thomas Jefferson set forth the premise of the United States, the core ideas around which his countrymen rallied: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These original patriots risked death and pledged their sacred honor to those truths, for which they are properly honored, even in spite of their serious failures. Now as then, allegiance to those Founding principles is what defines a patriotic American, not whether he or she stands or kneels while an anthem about the flag is performed.

The anthem and the flag are symbols, interpreted differently by people; in fact, their meaning can change for the same people in different moments (as for the African American who sang …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



America’s Red and Blue Judges

By Garrett Epps

“There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge,” Neil Gorsuch told the nation during his confirmation hearings. “We just have judges in this country.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in July that he doesn’t quite agree. Asked to explain to his party’s base the Senate’s lack of legislative accomplishment, McConnell said, “Well, we have a new Supreme Court justice.”

Gorsuch hasn’t commented on that statement. But he was quite happy to appear with McConnell Thursday on what veteran Supreme Court correspondent Kenneth Jost called a “victory lap” to the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky law schools last week.

“When President Trump sent his nomination to the Senate earlier this year, as some of you know, the friends of mine in the audience, I could not have been happier,” McConnell told the audience before Gorsuch delivered a speech on his “originalist” philosophy of judging.  “I don’t believe in red judges or blue judges,” Gorsuch said with a straight face. “We wear black.”

American law and justice have always suffered from a kind of cognitive dissonance. The ideal of even-handed justice is widely hailed; but everyone at some level knows that, if law in fact has two hands, it holds politics in both of them.

“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835. And many judicial questions resolve, quickly, into partisan disputes.

That dissonance, however, seems particularly marked this fall. Not since the New Deal crisis of 1937 has the Supreme Court been so clearly revealed to the world as fully enmeshed in the rankest partisan politics.  There seems little prospect of disengagement any time soon.

The impudent glee …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Alabama’s Strange Senate Rivalry

By Rosie Gray

MOBILE, Ala. — Outside the Von Braun Center in Huntsville on Friday night, a man stood holding a sign.

Under the word “MOORE,” it read “Make America Great Again” and “Yes,” in big, bold red white and blue letters. Under “STRANGE,” it said “Mitch,” and “No,” in a faint gray scrawl. This was outside a rally where President Trump was scheduled to campaign for one of the candidates in Alabama’s special Senate election—and it wasn’t Roy Moore.

Like a dubious nutrition label designed to satisfy FDA requirements while convincing shoppers that their granola bars are all-natural, the sign outside the Huntsville rally didn’t exactly lie. It just elided the truth. And it’s a perfect snapshot of the mindset in Alabama right now, where Moore, the ultra-conservative judge made famous by his crusade to keep a monument to the 10 Commandments displayed at the state’s supreme court, is running against Senator Luther Strange in the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old seat, for which Strange was appointed as the seat-warmer. Strange, a remarkably tall but otherwise not particularly distinctive former state attorney general, is the establishment pick.

The election has become a showcase for high levels of cognitive dissonance. It’s an election in which the candidate who is benefiting from $10 million from a Mitch McConnell-aligned super PAC promises from the rally stage to keep McConnell in check in the Senate. Where Trump, there to campaign for said candidate, muses aloud about whether he’s made a mistake in doing so and promises to campaign for the opponent in the general election, should he win. Where a reporter for Breitbart, which has gone all-in to support Moore, alleged he was denied entry to the Trump-Strange rally. Where the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, weeks after leaving the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump Issues New Travel Ban

By Matt Ford

The Trump administration rolled out a new version of its controversial travel ban on Sunday the Washington Post reported, restricting visa applications and entry into the United States from Syria, Somalia, Iran, Yemen and Libya, while adding three new countries, North Korea, Venezuela, and Chad. Of the three new additions, only Chad is a Muslim-majority nation like the others targeted in the original ban.

The new restrictions for the eight countries came hours before a key portion of President Trump’s previous version of the ban was set to expire. Under that iteration, the State Department suspended visa applications from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days while the federal government conducted a worldwide review of border-security standards. The 90-day clock began in late June when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a modified version of the ban to go into force.

On a conference call with reporters on Friday, administration officials said they developed the new standards as part of the review, and in close coordination with countries around the world. Some, but not all, of the measures are borrowed from existing programs like the Visa Waiver Program, which allows visa-free entry into the country for 90 days from the European Union and other close U.S. allies. Other restrictions are aimed at potential terrorist threats from countries lacking either the will or the ability to screen prospective travelers, the officials said.

The new rules are the product of a joint effort between the State, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments, as well as the Trump White House. Going into the weekend there were few clues about what the restrictions would look like.

On the Friday call, officials from the State, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments declined to offer any details about their recommendations to Trump, when exactly the new parameters would be announced, and the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Shocking Recklessness

By James Fallows

During last year’s presidential campaign, I conducted a running feature called the “Trump Time Capsule.” Its purpose was to chronicle the things Donald Trump said or did each day that were entirely outside the range of previous presidents or major-party nominees. This, in turn, was meant to lay down a record of what was known about this man as the electorate decided whether to elevate him to presidential power.

By the time the campaign ended, the series had reached installment #152. Who Donald Trump was, and is, was absolutely clear by election day: ignorant, biased, narcissistic, dishonest. As Ta-Nehisi Coates argues in our current issue, everyone who voted for him do so with ample evidence about the kind of person they considered the “better” choice, or even as a minimally acceptable choice for president. Almost nothing Trump has done since taking office should come as a surprise.

But numerous things Trump has done are objectively shocking, in the sense of further violating the norms of the office and the historic standards the previous 44 incumbents have observed. (Among the things the Trump era has taught us: the difference in nuance between shock and surprise. My argument here is that Donald Trump in office has delivered a nonstop series of shocks, no one of which can really be considered a surprise.)

The past 36 hours have brought two dramatic and destructive illustrations, in which Trump has recklessly done great damage in areas where even the most flawed of his predecessors felt some constraint. They are his unmistakable race-baiting attacks on athletes as widely popular as Steph Curry and LeBron James, and as controversial as Colin Kaepernick, who have in common the fact of being black; and his unmistakably war-mongering latest set of tweeted insult-threats against North Korea and its leader.

<p …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Why Cede the Flag to Trump?

By David Frum

President Trump apparently slept on it overnight and woke up early on Sunday morning thinking: “Yes, I will fight a cultural war against black athletes.”

In two Sunday morning tweets, Trump urged a boycott of the National Football League until owners punished players who refused to stand for the national anthem, in protest of police brutality and racial injustice—capping a weekend of taunting and trash-talking that began at his Alabama rally Friday night. He’s now created a situation in which it will seem almost unmanly for black athletes, and not only football players, not to take a knee during the anthem. If they stand for the anthem, they will seem to do so at Trump’s command. How can they not resist?

Trump had another of his bad weeks last week. His secretary of health and human services was exposed for chartering expensive private jets at public expense. His Environmental Protection Agency director is charging the Treasury for a security detail big enough to impress Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. One more attempt to repeal Obamacare disintegrated in the Senate. A star basketball player publicly refused an invitation to the White House. The FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for Trump’s onetime campaign chair, Paul Manafort, while the campaign was still underway, CNN reported last week.  

When in trouble, Trump habitually falls back on the same trick: enflaming conservative cultural grievances. American flags, Confederate memorials—anything will do. You would not know it from the Twitter debate, but Trump shrewdly seized the majority side of the Robert E. Lee statue debate: An August YouGov poll found that only about one-quarter of the country agrees that such monuments should be seen as symbols of racism. The polling on standing for the national anthem will presumably be even more lopsided.

Trump, the least …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Will Trump Change the Way Presidents Approach National Monuments?

By Lena Felton

In April, President Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review more than two dozen national monuments, arguing that the designation of sites under previous administrations had gotten out of hand. Months later, Zinke’s recommendations, detailed in a leaked memo delivered to the White House, have sparked concern among local officials and environmental groups, prompting some to describe the proposals as “unprecedented.”

Zinke recommended changes to 10 national monuments, including Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Nevada’s Gold Butte. His proposals range from lifting restrictions on activities like commercial fishing to shrinking the parameters of at least four of the sites.

The contents of the report were made public a week shy of the 111th anniversary of America’s very first national monument designation. On September 24, 1906, Theodore Roosevelt deemed an area known as Devils Tower, Wyoming, worthy of preservation under the Antiquities Act. That act, passed the same year, gives presidents the power to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.”

Devils Tower—a tan-colored monster of a rock, looming 1,267 feet above another thousand acres of open land—was just one of the 18 national monuments Roosevelt established during his presidency. Today, the country boasts more than 150 in total, from Governors Island in New York to Death Valley in California. Only three presidents since Roosevelt—Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush—opted not to designate any during their terms. Never before, though, has a president attempted to scale down monuments to the extent that Zinke proposes.

Throughout history, a few monuments have become the source of political conflict. In 1915, for example, Woodrow Wilson cut down the boundaries of Roosevelt’s designation of Mount Olympus National Monument, much to environmentalists’ dismay. This past April, Trump called former President Barack Obama’s designation of …read more

Via:: The Atlantic