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Politics Chat: Biden's Balancing Act – NPR




Greens face big challenges as COVID-19 transforms the political landscape –



The Green Party missed out on a golden opportunity in the 2019 federal election. The COVID-19 pandemic might rob it of another opportunity in 2020.

Poised for a historic breakthrough — at times running third in national polling, ahead of the New Democrats — the Greens made only modest gains in the last election. The party won just one more seat than it had going into the vote and increased its share of ballots cast to just 6.5 per cent, still lower than its best result in the 2008 election.

Now, with support for the federal Greens and their provincial cousins either stagnating or dropping as Canadians shift their concerns away from climate change toward the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy it is gutting, the party faces significant challenges ahead.

Wednesday at 9 PM ET marks the deadline for nominations for the Green leadership race. As of Wednesday morning, there are six candidates officially in the running: Amita Kuttner, Dimitri Lascaris, David Merner, Glen Murray, Annamie Paul and Dylan Perceval-Maxwell.

Murray, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, is the only candidate with elected experience, though all of the others have run for office under the Green Party banner at least once.

The candidates have until September to meet all eligibility requirements. The race is scheduled to conclude in October.

At the outset, the contest provided the Greens with an opportunity for renewal. Elizabeth May, who announced her resignation as leader in November, had been at the head of the party since 2006. But the pandemic has made it more difficult for the campaign to gain any traction.

It also has taken a toll on support for Green parties at both the federal and provincial levels.

Polls by the Angus Reid Institute and Léger published this week recorded national Green support at between five and seven per cent, virtually unchanged from where it was on election night. In British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, where the party holds its three seats, support was lower than it was in October.

The B.C. Green Party — which became the first Green Party in Canada to win multiple seats in an election when it took three in 2017 — had to postpone its own leadership race due to the pandemic. While polls suggest the party’s support is no higher than it was three years ago, the B.C. New Democrats under Premier John Horgan have opened up a wide lead over the B.C. Liberals; Horgan’s handling of the pandemic is getting high marks from British Columbians.

As partisanship drops, so does Maritime Green support

He’s not the only premier to experience a boost in support in recent weeks. Most premiers have — in part because the crisis has encouraged many of them to put partisanship aside and work collaboratively with other parties.

The desire for that kind of politics helped the Greens in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island make their big breakthroughs in the 2018 and 2019 elections in these provinces. But the pandemic seems to be sapping one source of the Greens’ political appeal by encouraging the governing parties to take a more cooperative, less partisan approach.

In New Brunswick, the latest Narrative Research poll found Blaine Higgs’s Progressive Conservatives leading with 48 per cent support, while the Greens trailed in third with 15 per cent. That is a drop of five percentage points for the New Brunswick Greens since February — and those are the kind of numbers that would give Higgs the majority government he was unable to win in 2018.

The poll found 41 per cent of New Brunswickers choosing Higgs as their preferred premier, an increase of 15 points since February. Green Leader David Coon fell four points to 14 per cent over that time.

Support for P.E.I. Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker (right) has dropped as Premier Dennis King’s polling position has improved, thanks to his handling of the pandemic. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

In Prince Edward Island, where Peter Bevan-Baker’s Greens form the Official Opposition in a minority legislature, Dennis King’s governing PCs have surged nine points since February to 54 per cent support. The Greens dropped six points to 22 per cent, putting them in a tie with the Liberals.

While King jumped 15 points to 53 per cent as Islanders’ preferred premier, Bevan-Baker fell 10 points to 21 per cent.

Though it could be a momentary blip for the governing Tories in these two provinces (crisis-induced spikes in support don’t always last), it should worry the Greens that they appear to have taken a step back in two provinces that once showed great promise for them.

COVID-19 dwarfing climate change as an issue

But the real existential issue for the Greens might be the impact the pandemic has on Canadians’ concerns about climate change.

At the beginning of the year, Nanos Research found that the environment was being cited by 21 per cent of Canadians as the most important issue of national concern. The economy trailed in second with 15 per cent.

COVID-19 has completely dwarfed these issues; 50 per cent of those polled by Nanos in April cited the pandemic as the most pressing issue facing the country. It has since dropped down to 33 per cent, though that still makes it the top issue of concern.

The pandemic’s surge as a political issue has come at the expense of the environment, which is now listed by eight per cent of Canadians as the most important issue facing the country. But while the environment has lagged, concerns about the economy have increased — it is now cited by 23 per cent as the top issue.

It is possible that as concern over COVID-19 recedes (which may not happen soon, given the threat of a second wave in the fall), the environment will rise again as an issue. But the damage the pandemic has done to the economy makes it more likely that most Canadians will be focused on economic matters in the short- to medium-term.

Former Green leader Elizabeth May, left, with leadership contestant Annamie Paul during the 2019 federal election campaign. Annamie Paul is the early fundraising leader in the Green leadership race. (Cole Burston / Canadian Press)

The longer-term picture is harder to forecast. The last time the environment was the top issue in polling was in the mid-2000s, before the financial crash in 2008 pushed it to the back burner again. It took another decade for the environment to re-emerge as the top issue of concern for Canadians.

survey by Abacus Data for Clean Energy Canada offered little clarity about the likely longer-term impact of the pandemic on public opinion. The poll found that 32 per cent of respondents agreed that the pandemic had led them to believe that the focus should be on the economy and health care rather than climate change. But an equal number said it made them feel that Canadians can and should make changes to how we live and work to fight climate change.

It all leaves the Greens and the six leadership candidates in a difficult spot. The progress the Greens have made over the last few years has been built primarily on two pillars: growing concern about climate change and fatigue with the old way of doing politics.

But the pandemic has shifted people’s priorities and demonstrated that traditional parties can put partisanship aside. Suddenly, those pillars look a lot less sturdy.

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60 minutes of mayhem: How aggressive politics and policing turned a peaceful protest into a violent confrontation – CNN



The logistics of any last-minute presidential movement are difficult even under normal circumstances, and these were anything but. For three straight nights, protests around the 18-acre White House compound had turned volatile and fiery, at one point sending Trump into an underground bunker with his family. But Trump was determined to show he was still in charge and that the situation, at least outside his own front door, was under control.
As he conferred with top military brass at the White House over how to quell protests around the country, Trump said he wanted to make the walk to the nearby historic St. John’s Church, where a fire had been set in the basement the previous night.
In the ensuing hours, White House officials hurried to make arrangements for the evening event, which ultimately devolved into a discordant and violent spectacle, with federal law enforcement agents clashing with protestors in Lafayette Square, a federally owned greenspace north of the White House.
A day after the incident, interviews with White House officials and sources across the government reveal a confusing, harried series of decisions that were not fully coordinated, as well as conflicting accounts of who was in charge and how a peaceful protest ended in a violent confrontation.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Washington police Chief Peter Newsham said he didn’t know about the plans until only about 30 to 45 minutes before the visit happened, and that his officers were not involved. Trump’s walk to the church also appears to have come as a surprise to the Interior Department, whose secretary, David Bernhardt, wasn’t at the White House and didn’t get a heads up in advance that the park — which his department oversees — was going to be cleared of protesters so quickly.
Even some of the top administration officials who trailed Trump as he strode to the church suggested later they were caught off guard to find themselves in the middle of the highly fraught picture.

Barr gave the order

Ultimately, it was Attorney General William Barr who ordered the move to clear protestors, according to a Justice Department official. Barr and other top officials from agencies responsible for securing the White House had previously planned to secure a wider perimeter around Lafayette Square in response to fires and destruction caused by protestors on Sunday night.
Attorney General William Barr stands in Lafayette Square across from the White House as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd.
That plan, had it been enacted, would have cleared the area by 4 p.m., the official said, not 25 minutes before the 7 p.m. curfew put in place by Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, which is ultimately what happened. It’s unclear whether Barr’s order was communicated to Park Police and other officers on the front lines.
Barr eventually appeared in Lafayette Square shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, about an hour before Trump left the White House. In a scene that was captured on news cameras, Barr stood flanked by a security detail, his chief of staff and the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. As Barr surveyed the situation around the park, some protesters spotted and recognized him, and shouts went up.
Barr had been told that police believed protestors were gathering rocks to throw at law enforcement, and while he was in the park, water bottles were thrown in his direction, the official said. CNN did not witness any water bottles being thrown at the attorney general.
Before walking to the White House, Barr told police to clear the area, the Justice Department official said. If federal law enforcement was met with resistance by the protestors, crowd control measures should be implemented, Barr told them, according to the official.

Preparations for a speech

Meanwhile in the White House, staffers had begun preparing the Rose Garden with a stage, podium and teleprompters, even though it wasn’t yet certain Trump had finalized his decision to deliver remarks or venture outside the complex.
After a morning that included a telephone call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and a video-conference spent berating the nation’s governors for appearing “weak” in the face of violent protests, Trump and his aides began considering a short address to precede the walk through Lafayette Square.
While it was Trump who came up with the idea of the church visit, senior adviser Hope Hicks, chief of staff Mark Meadows, as well as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump, were involved in the initial planning of the operation, according to two senior White House officials. The final decision to visit the church came roughly five hours before police and military forces swarmed the park to clear out the protesters, though officials in the press office were not looped into the plan until much later.
As reporters were scrambled to the Rose Garden to set up for Trump’s speech, loud bangs began on the other side of the White House fence.
Just after 6:22 p.m., the transmission came over the police radios — US Park Police had issued the first warning to protestors, a law enforcement source told CNN.
With Barr gone from the scene, authorities made their move, with lines of federal officers in riot gear converging on the protestors.

A violent advance

The advance by Park Police was swift and sudden. There were fewer protestors in the park than there had been the day before, but the crowd was energized, alternating between chants supporting the movement — “Say his name: George Floyd!” — and other more aggressive chants aimed at the wall of forces in riot gear lined up facing them.
As authorities converged, demonstrators started running, smoke filled the air and a loud pop sounded of projectiles being fired at those fleeing. Canisters sending up thick clouds of smoke and irritants landed at their feet and all but the few with gas masks started coughing as they were pushed back.
Police clash with protesters during a demonstration on June 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. Police clash with protesters during a demonstration on June 1, 2020 in Washington, DC.
“People were running. And I was trying to help clear out people’s eyes,” said Rev. Gina Gerbasi, the rector at a different St. John’s Church in Georgetown who was at the Lafayette Square location on Monday evening. “Police were on the patio pushing people out. Tear gas, the flash bang things.”
“I am just a middle-aged white woman priest and a mom,” she said. “It was completely unprovoked. I didn’t hear bullhorns saying ‘the President’s coming.'”
A spokesperson for the Park Police said its officers were using pepper balls, not tear gas. Though the two have different chemical make-ups, they are both strong irritants that are used by law enforcement. Eyewitness accounts show canisters put off thick smoke that clearly contained an irritant that made people choke and cough.
On Tuesday, the Park Police issued a statement saying the decision to move on protestors was made to “curtail” violence, and that various objects had been thrown by protesters. CNN’s reporter who was on the scene all Monday afternoon did not witness any violence by the protestors, or anything being thrown by them.
The protesters who held the line confronted the advancing Park Police chanting “no justice, no peace.” Behind the row of police on foot was another on horseback. Deafening flash bangs were fired as they pushed forward. A young man hit by pepper spray was pushed by an officer as he shouted “I can’t see, I can’t see.”
“You’re shooting at people with their hands up!” one protester shouted. “We are not a threat!” shouted another.
The volleys kept coming. Protesters were flushed onto Connecticut Avenue, many coughing deeply, the canisters whizzing and spinning as they landed.
A middle-aged man was caught in a building’s alcove as the Park Police pressed forward, firing projectiles at him. He was holding his chest, clearly in distress. Demonstrators ran forward as the projectiles kept coming, helping to carry him away from the advancing forces.
By the time 7 p.m. finally arrived — when Washington’s curfew went into effect — the melee was all but over. The streets around the park and the White House had been emptied of protesters. The violence sent many home. Many others lingered and — now out on the streets where Washington’s police force has jurisdiction — were rounded up and detained for breaking the curfew.

A walk to remember

At 7:01 p.m. ET, Trump emerged from the North Portico of the White House, striding down the driveway and toward a cordon of law enforcement officers. Behind him trailed a large cadre of senior White House aides, including Ivanka Trump — carrying a designer purse with a Bible tucked inside — and her husband Jared, both senior advisers; chief of staff Mark Meadows; and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church across Lafayette Park from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020.President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church across Lafayette Park from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020.
Also joining Trump were Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who had been summoned to the Oval Office in the preceding hours to update the President on efforts to use the military to tamp down on violence.
A US defense official told reporters Monday that Esper and Milley “were not aware that the Park Police and law enforcement had made a decision to clear the square.”
And the official suggested neither man planned to join Trump as he walked across Lafayette Square to the church.
“As that meeting concluded, the President indicated an interest in viewing the troops that were outside, and the secretary and the chairman went with him to do so. That was the extent of what was taking place,” the official said.
All of the aides who appeared alongside Trump were white; the President has only a few senior African American advisers and his sole black Cabinet member, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, was not present, though Trump and Carson spoke by phone earlier Monday.
Vice President Mike Pence, the President’s frequent emissary to religious conservatives, was also conspicuously absent from the walk to St. John’s. A source familiar with the matter suggested Pence did not join Trump out of deference and to allow the President “his own spotlight.”
“I think the vice president instinctively knows when it’s a presidential moment and when it’s not,” the source said. “Yesterday was very much a presidential moment.”
It’s not clear if the President asked Pence to join him for the walk, but the two men had their private weekly lunch earlier the same day.
Even as Trump stepped out of the White House and into Lafayette Square, some White House officials insisted the maneuver was unrelated to his photo opportunity.
Some officials claimed the push was aimed at establishing a broader perimeter around Lafayette Square and the blocks around the White House. White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere claimed the perimeter was expanded to help enforce DC’s 7 p.m. curfew — an explanation that strained credulity given security forces began to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to push back protesters before the curfew came into effect.
The officials could not explain why they needed to establish a perimeter in time for the curfew or why they did not do so earlier in the day, before a large group of protesters had amassed.
One White House official said Monday aides now recognize the operation to clear out protesters from the Lafayette Square area should have been carried our earlier in the day in order to avoid the chaos that erupted.
“Maybe they should have done it a couple of hours earlier,” the official said. “The timing didn’t seem to work out for what the optics were.”

A messy aftermath

As night descended on the capital Monday, and groups of protestors remained in the street in spite of a city-ordered curfew, Milley, Esper and Barr took to the streets of Washington to survey the ongoing military and federal law enforcement effort to clear the streets of protesters. Milley, whom Trump claimed would be “in charge” of the military response, surveyed the scene like a field general, camouflage military fatigues and all.
Barr monitored events, first in person near Farragut Square a few blocks from the White House. Video captured by news crews shows Barr standing on a broad sidewalk, milling around alongside men in suits, military officials in camouflage fatigues and law enforcement on bicycles, flashing red and blue light from nearby sirens reflecting off of his face. He later spent hours at a Justice Department command center.
After a news conference on Tuesday, Newsham, the DC police chief who has worked for the Metropolitan Police Department for three decades, lamented the show of force on Monday.
“The large majority of police officers in this country, certainly the police officers in this city, are very well meaning people trying to do the right thing,” he told CNN. “Whenever you have a police action that paints police in a negative light, it’s hurtful to me because that action can be attribute to all police officers,” he said.
At the same news conference, Bowser said she did not “see any provocation that would warrant the deployment of munitions and especially for the purpose of moving the president across the street.”
A couple hours earlier, Trump took to Twitter to tout the “overwhelming force” and “domination” in Washington the previous night, before thanking himself: “thank you President Trump!”

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“It’s Spiraling Out of Control”: Confronting a Failed Presidency, Trump Plays Politics With the Protests – Vanity Fair



Confronting a failed presidency after 100,000-plus COVID deaths and the protests that are still convulsing the nation this week, Donald Trump is venting to West Wing officials that Democratic governors are allowing civil unrest to rage in American cities to damage his reelection campaign. “He feels the blue-state governors are letting it burn because it hurts him. It’s a lot like how he sees coronavirus,” an outside White House adviser told me yesterday, shortly after audio leaked of Trump berating governors on a conference call about quelling the riots.

Trump’s sense of victimhood, and his view that the crisis ignited by George Floyd’s gruesome death is largely a political problem, have resulted in a shambolic White House response, veering from Trump’s retreat to the bunker as the protests neared the White House to the culmination of police using teargas on peaceful protestors so that he could walk through a park to stage a photo op in front of St. John’s Church. “He’s paralyzed,” a former West Wing official told me.

In private, Trump has told people the street violence would subside if the other three Minnesota police officers were charged with murder, a person who spoke with Trump told me. But, always worried about seeming weak, he made no mention of the officers or police brutality during yesterday’s Rose Garden speech. “When things get dicey and hairy, it usually means he relies on his instincts,” a former West Wing official said. “And he’s decided law and order is going to win the day.”

(The White House declined to comment.)

Trump was already struggling to reboot his campaign when the gruesome Memorial Day video leaked, showing officer Derek Chauvin driving his knee into George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for his life. A day after Floyd’s death, Trump promoted two operatives into senior campaign roles, moves that were largely seen as a demotion for Trump’s embattled campaign manager, Brad Parscale. As protests and riots intensified last week, Karl Rove visited the White House to offer advice on appealing to African American voters, a source briefed on the conversation said. Rove’s new role as an unofficial adviser on Trump’s team rankled some in the West Wing and on the campaign. “People aren’t happy about Rove. He’s a Bushie,” the source said. “What’s he going to tell Trump? He’s stale.”

Trump at first seemed to ignore the protests. He didn’t mention Floyd’s name for two days. But by Friday, Trump grasped the scale of the crisis when Secret Service agents rushed him into the White House bunker as hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the White House gates. “The agents came in and weren’t messing around. It was serious,” Trump later told a friend. “Those guys aren’t going to take any shit.” That night Trump sent out an incendiary tweet threatening that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” and another on Saturday about “vicious dogs.” “Trump is pissed that they’re rioting. That’s just the old guy from Queens who’s offended by this. That’s the Archie Bunker in him,” a Trump friend told me.

Around Trump in the West Wing was a fierce debate over how to respond. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, opposed chief of staff Mark Meadows’s advice that Trump needed to give an Oval Office address to unify the country. “Meadows was close friends with Elijah Cummings. He wanted a different approach,” a former West Wing official said. Kushner argued that Trump hasn’t been successful when he’s spoken from the Oval Office in the past, a source briefed on Kushner’s thinking told me, an assessment Trump didn’t disagree with. “Trump doesn’t like giving Oval Office addresses,” a prominent Republican told me.

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