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Political Wire logo Trump Changes Date of Tulsa Rally
Insurgent Threatens to Derail McGrath-McConnell Race
Appeals Court Appears Hesitant to Toss Flynn Case
Trump Says He’ll Leave Peacefully If Biden Wins
Virus Shuts Factory Days Before Trump Tulsa Visit
Fauci Advises Trump Rallygoers to Wear Masks

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  A Split Decision
      •  This Just Can't End Well
      •  While You Weren't Looking
      •  Paging Big Brother
      •  Military Pushes Back Against Trump...
      •  ...and So Does the Judiciary
      •  West Virginia in Transition
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

A Split Decision

It's now official—at least, as official as anything ever is when Donald Trump is involved. The 2020 Republican National Convention will be a two-city affair, with much of the committee and administrative work done in Charlotte, NC, while the pomp and pageantry—including Donald Trump's official acceptance of his party's nomination—will take place in Jacksonville, FL.

The choice of Jacksonville was made for three reasons:

  1. Florida is a swing state
  2. The city is very close to Georgia, another swing state
  3. It's the largest city where Trump can say "jump" and the mayor will say "how high?"

In terms of selling-point #3, San Diego is larger than Jacksonville and has a Republican mayor, but Kevin Faulconer has already had at least one public dispute with the President (about wall-building), and is no guarantee to play lap dog. Miami is larger, if you include its metro area, and is in Florida. However, Republican mayor Francis X. Suarez has been fairly proactive in terms of COVID-19 and has, in fact, had the disease himself. He's not going to play lap dog, either. That left the President with one of the medium-sized Texas cities with Republican mayors (El Paso, Fort Worth) or Jacksonville. Given selling points #1 and #2, along with how willing Mayor Lenny Curry has been to bow to the President's demands, Jacksonville was an easy call.

There is no historical precedent for a split convention. The closest is what happened to the Democrats in 1860 when, unable to overcome the divide created by the slavery issue, they held three different conventions in three different cities, ultimately nominating two different candidates. There have been instances of using two different buildings in the same city (e.g., Pepsi Center and Invesco Field in Denver in 2008), but nothing involving two different cities in two different states 380 miles apart. In short, once the convention commences, the split-city thing is going to be very novel. That, in turn, will make it a big story, particularly as friends and foes of the Republican Party watch to see if they can pull it off.

Thus far, things are not going too well. Beyond the messy negotiations with North Carolina that broke down, the RNC already has people complaining—and laughing—about the first major convention decision it has made: to retain the 2016 platform lock, stock, and barrel. That certainly spares party functionaries the necessity of wasting time bickering about a platform that their candidate will ultimately ignore. However, many moderate Republicans are worried that some portions of that platform are too extreme, and will further the alienation of suburban voters from the Party. Meanwhile, many conservative Republicans think the platform is not extreme enough, and wanted to see language added about late-term abortions, and about how people shouldn't be allowed to identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.

So, that's the complaining. Now, the laughing. It would appear that nobody bothered to read the platform over before it was re-approved. And so they missed the fact that it's chock full of language like this:

The survival of the Internet as we know it is at risk. Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government.

There is irony in exactly how on-point this is. Naturally, though, the 2020 Republican Party does not intend to run on an accusation that it lodged against Barack Obama in 2016.

Presumably, someone spent Thursday night mastering their word processor's find/replace function, so that the RNC can quickly approve an updated platform today that does not rail against the occupant of the White House. However, this will surely not be the only schadenfreude-inducing incident associated with this year's convention, especially since the last time Jacksonville tried to host a major event (Super Bowl XXXIX), it did not go well, due to inadequate hotel space and infrastructure. And if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in Jax 2 weeks after the convention, Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) is going to be lauded as a hero, and will jump 10 points in the polls (extending his already substantial lead on his Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest). (Z)

This Just Can't End Well

We almost added this to yesterday's item about the resumption of the Donald Trump World Tour, which will re-commence with a stop in Tulsa, OK, on June 19. However, we wanted to wait a day to see how the story—and the obviously problematic choice of date and location—unfolded, since the initial news broke fairly late on Wednesday. It has unfolded quite a bit since then.

For those who did not already know, June 19 is a longstanding holiday among black Southerners; it's called Juneteenth (among other names), and it specifically commemorates the occasion on June 19, 1865, when Union Army general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to a group of no-longer-enslaved Texans, thus informing them that they were free. It was an important holiday for the freedmen and women and for their descendants, and also took on added significance during the civil rights movement.

And then there is Tulsa. As we noted recently, there are few historical events harder to unsnarl than a riot, given the lack of a central focal point, not to mention the motivation for participants to "clean up" their stories. So, there is much of this story that remains hazy, and presumably will forever remain hazy. In any case, that city was suffering through severe racial tensions in 1921, with the usual pressures of segregation and discrimination compounded by the difficulties in transitioning from a wartime to a peacetime footing. An incident in an elevator, in which a young black man named Dick Rowland had some sort of interaction with a young white woman named Sarah Page, was the first domino. The incident was interpreted by a (white) witness as an assault, and while it probably wasn't, Rowland was arrested and there was much talk of lynching. Black citizens armed themselves in response, and so did white citizens, and within a matter of hours the city had become a war zone. The Tulsa race massacre is generally regarded as the worst outbreak of racial violence in American history; many homes and businesses were burned, many thousands of people were detained, many hundreds were injured, and between 40 and 250 people were killed. The vast majority of this harm was, of course, visited on black Tulsans.

In short, a President who has never shown any empathy for the struggles of black Americans, who has openly courted the support of white supremacists, and who has responded to recent unrest by slurring participants as thugs, looters, and Antifa agitators, does not belong anywhere near Tulsa, OK, particularly on Juneteenth. Some outlets are reporting that Juneteenth is the anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, but that's not correct (it actually took place from May 31 to June 1). Still, one can scarcely imagine a more inappropriate combination of time and place. Memphis, TN, on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday? Wounded Knee in late December? Manzanar on Dec. 7? Boyle Heights on Cinco de Mayo or Día de los Muertos? Those would also be bad, but probably not this bad.

For a while on Thursday, there was much speculation about how this decision was made, and whether it was conscious. It appears we now have an answer to that question:

Pastor Darrell Scott is, of course, a Trump supporter. He's the sort of fellow who styles himself "Dr. Scott," despite the fact that his "degree" is both honorary and from a non-accredited institution. He is also one of the handful of prominent black folks, like Candace Owens, or Diamond and Silk, or David Clarke, who can be counted on to have the President's back under all circumstances. Scott has spent the last week blasting people who have called for police reform.

In any event, the White House is well aware of the optics of the President's plans, and has no intention of backing down. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Thursday that Juneteenth is a "meaningful day" for the President, because "the African-American community is very near and dear to his heart." Uh-huh. We think it is safe to say that the holiday is about as meaningful to Trump as the "meaningful" Bible he waved around during his photo-op last week.

Now, it is possible that Trump's game here is to try to appeal to black voters, including a speech that celebrates all that he's allegedly done for them. If so, that would be a fool's errand. He's not going to win any black support beyond what he already has, not with a speech at that place on that date under current circumstances. Further, if the goal was to peel off a little bit of Joe Biden's support in one of the key swing states, then the rally would be held in Georgia or Florida or maybe North Carolina.

And then, when we learn the President's speech is going to be written by Stephen Miller, whose ideas are either white supremacist, or white supremacist-adjacent, the goal of the speech and rally becomes ever clearer. It's another "base" speech, of course, designed to let supporters know that they and their president are "right" on race, and that anyone who disagrees is just a troublemaker—particularly those folks who are calling for defunding police.

Under any circumstance, this would be a pretty ugly bit of politicking. But this event is going to attract vast numbers of both protesters and security forces. Given the fuel that George Floyd's death has thrown on the fire, and the extent to which Trump has fanned the flames, tensions will be high. And that is exactly the situation where things could get ugly if someone gets skittish, or somebody decides to use this opportunity to make a point (like, say, showing the world that Tulsa is a "law and order" city). So, at best, it's going to be a day that insults black Americans. At worst, well, let's just hope it doesn't go there. (Z)

While You Weren't Looking

Speaking of Stephen Miller, he absolutely loathes (most) immigrants, and he knows full well the best time to move on that front is when people's attention is directed elsewhere. And so, in true "wag the dog" style, the administration has used the protests and other headline-dominating news as an opportunity to quietly announce plans for strict new rules regarding asylum-seekers.

The specifics are not especially important; the bottom line is that fewer people will qualify for asylum overall when the rules are adopted, and those who do qualify will have to jump through far more hoops. The new directive makes no mention of COVID-19, and indeed, the rules can't take effect until a public comment period of 180 days has elapsed. That also means that the rules will not be in place prior to the election. So, this is just another hunk of cynical red meat for the base right now, and one that presumably will not linger for long if Trump is defeated on Nov. 3. (Z)

Paging Big Brother

The Trump presidential campaign, which already sued The Washington Post for libel this year (without any foundation), is back at it again. They have sent a cease and desist letter to CNN, demanding that the network apologize for the recent poll that gives Joe Biden a 14-point lead nationwide.

Needless to say, CNN will not be complying with this letter. There is, first of all, no evidence that the poll is incorrect. Second, even if such evidence did exist, there is nothing illegal about doing a crappy poll, and so there is nothing to cease and desist from. Finally, any outlet that bows to pressure like this would not only be surrendering its integrity, but would also be inviting cranky politicians (and non-politicians) across the country to pitch a fit anytime they didn't like a particular story.

No other president's campaign has ever sent a letter like this, nor would they. First of all, Donald Trump's 43 predecessors all honored (to varying extents) the freedom of the press. Second, all of them were smart enough to be aware of the 0% chance of success here, and would not waste their time (or their staff's time) tilting at windmills. Third, all of them knew about the Streisand Effect (even if it wasn't called that 50 or 100 years ago). In addition to having zero chance of success, a letter like this just gives added attention to the poll, and to the fact that the campaign is angry and unhappy about the results.

But Team Trump, of course, is running a different kind of campaign. They know full well that CNN isn't going to cease and desist, apologize, or do anything other than keep on keepin' on. They also know that victory in November is looking like a longshot at this point. So, the Trump campaign is betting heavily on a strategy of "muddy the waters, aim for a close result, and then claim victory." Taking "legal action" against the Post and CNN, raising all sorts of questions about the legitimacy of vote-by-mail, and hiring spin-pollsters like John McLaughlin are all a part of the scheme. These things communicate to the base, and possibly to some percentage of persuadables beyond the base, that even if Joe Biden wins, maybe he didn't win.

This is, of course, a very dangerous strategy. Not politically dangerous, just outright dangerous. At best, it further tears at the fabric of the American democracy, undermining the legitimacy of whichever candidate wins on Nov. 3. It could also muddy Senate and other races. Further, if Trump's well-armed supporters think they have been cheated, there's every chance they could take to the streets, armed to the teeth with AR-15s and maybe some used AK-47s, courtesy of Vlad Putin. We have repeatedly argued that a coup is not plausible, but weeks or months of violence in the streets? Certainly possible.

The silent prayer of the election official, as the joke goes, is "Dear Lord, let it be a landslide." This time around, all Americans should probably be wishing for that, if Trump loses. That said, in a world where even a 14-point lead is dismissed as "fake news," there may not be a landslide big enough to convince Trump & Co. that they were legitimately defeated. (Z)

Military Pushes Back Against Trump...

Donald Trump has a loyal cadre of supporters who will be with him until the bitter end, whenever it comes, and even if it involves staying on board a sinking ship. More and more, however, the evidence mounts that the cadre does not include the military, which is pushing back against the President in a wide variety of ways right now.

To start, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is showing far more independence than one might have expected after his confirmation hearings, morphing into a little bit of an anti-Bill Barr. He has ordered a review of the deployment of National Guard troops in response to the unrest caused by the death of George Floyd. It is true that this is standard procedure whenever the Guard is utilized. However, given the high-profile missteps that took place (for example, tear gassing peaceful protesters outside a church so Donald Trump could have a photo-op), along with the fact that many Guard members have spoken out and expressed regret for playing part in the suppression of the protests, there is every chance that the review comes back with numerous adverse findings. If Esper were Barr, he would surely have tried to delay, or to drag out the process, or to hand the job to a toady.

And speaking of regret, as well as that notorious photo-op, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley apologized Thursday for accompanying Trump on that day, particularly while wearing fatigues. He acknowledged what should theoretically have been clear from the beginning, that his involvement politicized the military, while his choice of costume communicated an approval of using military force against private citizens. "As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it," he remarked, while also noting his outrage at the violent death of George Floyd.

It is not just the grand pooh-bahs, either. Also on Thursday, a group of 500 West Point alumni, who have collectively served in 10 different presidential administrations, posted a blistering letter to the website Medium, addressed to this year's West Point graduating class. The key passage:

The abhorrent murder of George Floyd has inspired millions to protest police brutality and the persistence of racism. Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests. Worse, military leaders, who took the same oath you take today, have participated in politically charged events. The principle of civilian control is central to the military profession. But that principle does not imply blind obedience. Politicization of the Armed Forces puts at risk the bond of trust between the American military and American society. Should this trust be ruptured, the damage to the nation would be incalculable. America needs your leadership...

We, a diverse group of West Point graduates, are concerned. We are concerned that fellow graduates serving in senior-level, public positions are failing to uphold their oath of office and their commitment to Duty, Honor, Country. Their actions threaten the credibility of an apolitical military. We ask you to join us in working to right the wrongs and to hold each other accountable to the ideals instilled by our alma mater and affirmed by each of us at graduation.

The letter mentions nobody by name, but it's pretty easy to guess one or two people they had in mind. In any event, it is unprecedented for military personnel, from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the graduates of the Point, to push back against a president like this. Maybe the tipping point is nearing. (Z)

...and So Does the Judiciary

Unlike Mark Esper, who appears to be taking his job seriously, AG Bill Barr is a confirmed Trump toady. And you don't have to take our word for it. You can take the word of former federal judge John Gleeson, who was appointed by District Judge Emmet Sullivan to review the Dept. of Justice's request to drop all charges against former NSA and admitted felon Michael Flynn. In his report, Gleeson did not mince words, writing: "The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President." It was his recommendation that Sullivan ignore the request, and sentence Flynn as soon as any remaining motions have been dealt with.

Given that Sullivan quite clearly did not want to dismiss, there is every reason to think that he will follow Gleeson's advice. What happens after that is anybody's guess. Clearly, Donald Trump does not want Flynn to be punished. Equally clearly, he doesn't want to suffer whatever damage a pardon might do. Maybe the President will just swallow hard and grant the pardon anyhow. Or maybe the game is to drag this out until after the election, and then to pardon Flynn when there will no longer be political consequences. Whatever happens, the odds of Flynn actually spending time in the Big House, or suffering any other consequences for his actions, appear very small. (Z)

West Virginia in Transition

The results from Tuesday's primaries are still trickling in, and occasionally some new and noteworthy results present themselves. Such was the case on Thursday, when Rosemary Ketchum claimed victory in a race for the Wheeling, WV, city council. She becomes the first openly trans person elected to public office in West Virginia.

As noted above, some Republicans think that transphobia remains a winner in waging the culture wars. Maybe they are right, at least in 2020. On the other hand, when a trans woman is winning elections in ruby red West Virginia (even if it's a purplish part of the state), maybe they are not. Homophobia and opposition to gay marriage lost their political efficacy very quickly, and in a year where over 100,000 Americans have died in a virulent plague, and a consensus is emerging that the country needs to get serious about racism, any sort of hate-based messaging could come off as small-minded, tacky, and tone deaf. Certainly, we are going to find out, as Donald Trump and his followers (however many of them remain) absolutely plan to stick with their "us vs. the evil immigrant Muslim trans Antifa criminal un-American left-handed vegetarian hordes" campaign. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

If the Democrats could choose just one between Georgia and Florida, one wonders which they would pick. Florida has considerably more EVs, of course, and its loss would be fatal to Donald Trump's reelection bid. On the other hand, if Georgia flips, it almost certainly means that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin also flipped, making Florida unnecessary and giving Joe Biden the victory. And a blue Georgia might just deliver one or two new Democratic senators. That is not a completely academic question. The Biden campaign and the DSCC have to decide where to spend their money. Every dollar spent in Georgia is a dollar that could have been spent in Florida, and vice versa. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Florida 47% 44% May 18 May 30 Cygnal
Georgia 40% 44% May 21 May 27 TargetSmart

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun11 Polls: There Is Overwhelming Support for the Protests
Jun11 Some White Men Held Counterprotest to Floyd's Killing
Jun11 Why Is There a Military Response to the Protests?
Jun11 Coronavirus Spikes, White House Goes Radio Silent
Jun11 Republican Convention May Move to Jacksonville
Jun11 Trump Won't Rename Army Bases
Jun11 Study Says Democrats Should Stop Running Ads Attacking Trump
Jun11 Iowa Really May Be in Play...
Jun11 ...But Not Texas
Jun11 Jerome Powell: Unemployment Will Be 9% at End of the Year
Jun11 Ossoff Advances
Jun11 Today's Senate Polls
Jun10 Tuesday's Results Are (Partly) In
Jun10 Floyd Laid to Rest; Biden Speaks
Jun10 Trump Gotta Trump, Redux
Jun10 A Really Bad Poll for Trump...
Jun10 ...and the Generic Congressional Ballot Isn't Looking Much Better for the GOP
Jun10 The World of Sports Is Going to Give Trump What He Wants (but Not Really)
Jun10 COVID-19 Diaries, Wednesday Edition
Jun10 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun10 Today's Senate Polls
Jun09 Is Somethin' Happenin' Here?
Jun09 Trump Gotta Trump
Jun09 Democrats Stake Out Position on Police Reform
Jun09 The Veepstakes Continues
Jun09 Ossoff Will Try to Advance Today
Jun09 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun09 Today's Senate Polls
Jun08 Huge Protests All over the U.S.
Jun08 Trump Got a Wall and a Crowd
Jun08 Voters: Things Are Out of Control
Jun08 Republican Leaders Are Beginning to Part Ways with Trump
Jun08 Republican Leaders Are Worried that Trump Will Cost Them the Senate
Jun08 House Democrats Are Working on a Police Reform Bill
Jun08 Young Black Voters Might Stay Home on Election Day, or Maybe Not
Jun08 Sanders Is a Team Player This Time
Jun08 Sanders Has No Coattails
Jun08 Vote Counting Is Still Going on in Pennsylvania
Jun08 Poisoning Is Way Up
Jun08 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun08 Today's Senate Polls
Jun07 COVID-19 Diaries, Sunday Edition
Jun07 Sunday Mailbag
Jun06 Biden Clinches It
Jun06 Saturday Q&A
Jun06 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun06 Today's Senate Polls
Jun05 On Protests and Riots
Jun05 1968 All Over?
Jun05 Esper Is in the Dog House