Updated 10:45 a.m. ET
In an unusually divisive speech for a president on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, President Trump on Friday decried a “growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for.”
What is it? Terrorism? Polarization? A lack of trust in institutions?
No, Trump said at Mount Rushmore, it’s an attempt to erase American history and values. And one part of that, Trump said, is “cancel culture,” which he described as “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees. This is the very definition of totalitarianism … .”
Cancel culture is a form of group shaming — excluding someone who has done something objectionable or offensive, or withdrawing support from corporations or public leaders for the same reason. It’s often pushed from the left of the political spectrum, and there are certainly those who think it’s gone too far in some instances.
Apart from the merits of the argument, it’s ironic that Trump is arguing for inclusivity. The fact is, there are few quicker than Trump to “cancel” people for not believing the same as he does — or supporting him faithfully. He just doesn’t call it that.
On Monday morning, Trump went further, launching a baseless attack on NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver on the circuit. It was reported that a noose was found in Wallace’s garage. The FBI determined it was a pull cord. Wallace isn’t the one who found it or reported it — and yet Trump is calling it a “hoax” and claiming that incident and banning the Confederate flag “has caused lowest ratings EVER!” — as if that’s what really matters.
Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
Driver Tyler Reddick responded to Trump, saying, “We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”
Trump’s emphasis on cancel culture — another element of his broader culture war — can be seen as a distraction, a shiny metal object that Trump wants to use to switch the narrative and see if it sticks because he is struggling in his reelection bid.
But there are things in all likelihood that will shape this presidential election far more than “cancel culture.” Here are six, from public opinion surveys:
58% — Trump’s record disapproval: The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that Trump’s disapproval rating was 58%, the highest of his presidency. What’s more, 49% “strongly” disapprove of the job he’s doing. That kind of intense opposition to a president has never been seen before, since polling began.
87% — Dissatisfaction is the highest of Trump’s presidency: Amid this coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic freefall, the Pew Research Center recently found that 87% of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. And 71% say they are angry, 66% say they’re fearful and just 17% are proud of the way things are going.
56% — Trump’s (mis)handling of the coronavirus: About 130,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. That’s about a quarter of all the deaths worldwide.
And an average of 56% of people disapprove of his response to the pandemic, the highest level so far. That’s taken its toll on Trump politically, especially as states in more politically conservative places are seeing spikes in cases and hospitalizations. Pew found Democrat Joe Biden has an 11-point advantage on who’s best to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 52% to 41%. Fifty-two also happens to be the percentage of voters saying they would vote for Biden over Trump in the general election, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
67% — Making racial tensions worse: A separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, conducted in early June, found two-thirds of Americans thought Trump mostly made racial tensions worse. That was after a week of protests and right after law enforcement forcibly removed peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could walk to a partially burned church across the street and pose with a Bible.
Yet Trump has only doubled down since then. He’s not only pushed a “law and order” message but amped it up, saying, for instance, if “Black Lives Matter” were painted on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, it would be a “symbol of hate.”
Another eyebrow-raising number is the 52% who now say they are in favor of removing Confederate statues from public spaces around the country, according to a Quinnipiac poll. Three years ago, 39% said so.
47% — An economic handling decline: Gallup found that from January to June, the percentage of Americans approving of the job Trump’s doing on the economy declined 16 points, from 63% to 47%. The strong economy was undoubtedly buoying Trump to some extent, and now it’s not. Trump’s lead over Biden on handling of the economy has shrunk, though he’s still up on the question in most polls.
35% — Trump’s suburban cratering: One set of numbers that will make you rub your eyes is about suburban voters. In 2016, Trump won suburban voters, 49% to 45%, according to exit polls. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, though, has Trump losing them by a whopping 60% to 35%. That’s not a typo. That’s a 29-point swing, from +4 to -25. That kind of cratering in the suburbs is part of why Democrats won the House in 2018, are favored to keep it in 2020, and have made inroads with an unfavorable Senate map. It’s tough to see Trump winning reelection without turning things around in the suburbs.
Overall, these numbers aren’t great for Trump. One saving grace is that his supporters love him — and intensely so. His base is more enthusiastic about voting for him than potential Biden voters are for voting for the former vice president, and that’s a wildcard to watch. But while enthusiasm is important, it doesn’t always translate into more votes. Reelections, after all, are always about the sitting president. Trump may wind up driving his base out to vote, but also Democrats in opposition to him.
5 things to watch this week:
1. Woke up this morning … and there were more elections on Tuesday: There are primaries in two states, New Jersey and Delaware.
The race to watch is in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Democratic candidates are vying to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican during Trump’s impeachment. Five Democrats are on the ballot, and the race is largely between Amy Kennedy and Brigid Callahan Harrison. Kennedy, a former educator, is a member of the politically elite Kennedy family. (She’s married to former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.) She also has the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. But Harrison has the endorsement of South Jersey power broker George Norcross and state Senate President Steve Sweeney.
2. Trump to Florida, New Hampshire: Want another sign of what the battleground states are? Look at Trump’s travel this week. He’s set to hold a high-dollar — in-person — fundraiser in Florida this week and then head to New Hampshire, where he will hold an outdoor rally Saturday. It’s his first attempt at a rally since his underwhelming (indoor) event in Tulsa, Okla. Trump’s Florida fundraiser is reportedly for $580,600 per couple. Trump and the Republican National Committee trailed Biden and the Democratic National Committee in fundraising, $141 million to $131 million, in June.
3. Awaiting more key Supreme Court decisions: There are more decisions coming from the Supreme Court — as early as Monday — including on whether Trump can block disclosure of his financial records and whether lay teachers at parochial schools are protected by the civil rights laws.
4. The Pentagon and protests: The hearing to watch this week on Capitol Hill involves the Department of Defense’s role in civilian law enforcement. Slated to testify Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee are Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Milley last month said he regretted his role in Trump’s walk to the partially burned church across the street from the White House. And Esper broke with the president and said, “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”
5. Mexico’s president will visit the White House: In his first U.S. trip, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will visit Washington Wednesday to commemorate the signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada, or USMCA, trade agreement. López Obrador is seen as friendlier to Trump than past Mexican presidents, and they also share another thing in common — a dislike of the media. He wondered aloud this weekend of what he calls the “corrupt media”: “How much are they paid to attack me?”
Quote of the weekend:
“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future.”
— Kanye West announces his 2020 run for president on Twitter on July Fourth
U.S., UK, Germany clash with China at U.N. over Xinjiang
The United States, Germany and Britain clashed with China at the United Nations on Wednesday over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, angering Beijing by hosting a virtual event that China had lobbied U.N. member states to stay away from.
“We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the event, which organizers said was attended by about 50 countries.
Western states and rights groups accuse Xinjiang authorities of detaining and torturing Uyghurs and other minorities in camps. Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.
“In Xinjiang, people are being tortured. Women are being forcibly sterilized,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Amnesty International secretary general Agnes Callamard told the event there were an estimated 1 million Uyghurs and predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities arbitrarily detained.
In a note to U.N. member states last week, China’s U.N. mission rejected the accusations as “lies and false allegations” and accused the organizers of being “obsessed with provoking confrontation with China.”
While China urged countries “NOT to participate in this anti-China event,” a Chinese diplomat addressed the event.
“China has nothing to hide on Xinjiang. Xinjiang is always open,” said Chinese diplomat Guo Jiakun. “We welcome everyone to visit Xinjiang, but we oppose any kind of investigation based on lies and with the presumption of guilt.”
The event was organized by Germany, the United States and Britain and co-sponsored by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other European nations. Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said countries who sponsored the event faced “massive Chinese threats,” but did not elaborate.
British U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward described the situation in Xinjiang as “one of the worst human rights crises of our time,” adding: “The evidence … points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups.”
She called for China to allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth called out Bachelet for not joining the event.
“I’m sure she’s busy. You know we all are. But I have a similar global mandate to defend human rights and I couldn’t think of anything more important to do than to join you here today,” Roth told the event.
Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights office, said Bachelet – who has expressed serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and is seeking access – was unable to participate.
“The High Commissioner continues to engage with the Chinese authorities on the modalities for such a visit,” she said, adding that Bachelet’s office “continues to gather and analyze relevant information and follow the situation closely.”
(Reporting by Michelle NicholsEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alison Williams and Elaine Hardcastle)
Ex-finance minister breached ethics rules in charity dealings
Former Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau breached conflict-of-interest rules by not recusing himself when the government awarded a contract to a charity he had close ties to, independent ethics commissioner Mario Dion said on Thursday.
In a parallel probe, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cleared of having broken any ethics rules when WE Charity was tapped to run a C$900 million ($740.9 million) program to help students find work during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The charity later walked away from the contract.
Trudeau and Morneau both apologized last year for not recusing themselves during Cabinet discussions involving WE.
Trudeau’s wife, brother and mother had been paid to speak at WE Charity events in previous years, but Dion said this appearance of a conflict of interest was not “real”.
Morneau, on the other hand, was a friend of Craig Kielburger, one of the charity’s founders, Dion said. The charity had “unfettered access” to the minister’s office that “amounted to preferential treatment”, a statement said.
No fines or penalties were levied.
Morneau said on Twitter he should have recused himself. Trudeau said in a statement issued by his office that the decision “confirms what I have been saying from the beginning” that there was no conflict of interest.
Ahead of a possible federal election later this year, the opposition could use the ruling to underscore the government’s uneven track record on ethics. Trudeau has been twice been found in breach of ethics rules in the past.
In August 2019, he was found to have broken rules by trying to influence a corporate legal case, and in December 2017, the previous ethics commissioner said Trudeau had acted wrongly by accepting a vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island.
In a statement, opposition Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said: “To clean up Ottawa, Conservatives will impose higher penalties for individuals who break the Conflict of Interest Act and shine a light on Liberal cover-ups and scandals, ending them once and for all.”
The controversy over Morneau’s ties to the charity was a factor in his resignation in August last year, when he also left his parliamentary seat, saying he would not run again. Chrystia Freeland was named to take over for him a day later.
($1 = 1.2147 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jan Harvey)
EU prepares new round of Belarus sanctions from June
The European Union is readying a fourth round of sanctions against senior Belarus officials in response to last year’s contested presidential election and could target as many as 50 people from June, four diplomats said.
Along with the United States, Britain and Canada, the EU has already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on almost 90 officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, following an August election which opponents and the West say was rigged.
Despite a months-long crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Lukashenko, the EU’s response has been narrower than during a previous period of sanctions between 2004 and 2015, when more than 200 people were blacklisted.
The crisis has pushed 66-year-old Lukashenko back towards traditional ally Russia, which along with Ukraine and NATO member states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, borders Belarus.
Some Western diplomats say Moscow regards Belarus as a buffer zone against NATO and has propped up Lukashenko with loans and an offer of military support.
Poland and Lithuania, where opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to after the election she says she won, have led the push for more sanctions amid frustration that the measures imposed so far have had little effect.
EU foreign ministers discussed Belarus on Monday and diplomats said many more of the bloc’s 27 members now supported further sanctions, but that Brussels needed to gather sufficient evidence to provide legally solid listings.
“We are working on the next sanctions package, which I hope will be adopted in the coming weeks,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting.
The EU has sought to promote democracy and develop a market economy in Belarus, but, along with the United States, alleges that Lukashenko has remained in power by holding fraudulent elections, jailing opponents and muzzling the media.
Lukashenko, who along with Russia says the West is meddling in Belarus’ internal affairs, has sought to deflect the condemnation by imposing countersanctions on the EU and banning some EU officials from entering the country.
“The fourth package (of sanctions) is likely to come in groups (of individuals), but it will be a sizeable package,” one EU diplomat told Reuters.
More details were not immediately available.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels, additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin, editing by Alexander Smith)
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