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Trump chooses distraction politics over leadership – CNN

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By the time he returned to the White House that night, Trump had commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone, who’d been pleading for relief, arguing the coronavirus would be a death sentence if he had to report to prison (as he was scheduled to next week).
In thumbing his nose at justice — intervening on behalf of a former political adviser who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress in part, prosecutors said, to protect the President — Trump continued turning a blind eye to the Americans for whom coronavirus has actually been a death sentence.
At a time when his poll numbers are sinking, the President has refused to take on a greater leadership role to beat back the virus. Instead, he seems caught in a cycle of anger and self-pity about ancillary issues that he believes are more important to his political fortunes.
The gulf between reality and the President’s delusion was in sharp relief during his visit to Florida, where cases are up 1,237% since the state’s reopening in early May. After touching down in a county where the rate of positive cases hit 28% on Friday, Trump focused on issues that are far from the pressing concerns of most Americans, underscoring once again that he has no strategy for confronting the virus that has infected more than 3 million Americans.
The President visited Southern Command to discuss drug trafficking prevention efforts and held a roundtable with dissidents who decried communist and socialist regimes in Latin America, which at times sounded like a campaign spectacle meant to praise the President and attack former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
The day’s political pettiness — which included more false tweets about mail-in ballots being tied to fraud — was capped off with Stone being spared from serving prison time.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany described Stone’s prosecution, arrest and trial as “unfair” in a statement Friday night and said Stone was “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”
“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case,” McEnany said. “Roger Stone is now a free man!”
Jeffrey Toobin, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, called the President’s move “the most corrupt and cronyistic act in perhaps all of recent history.”
“Richard Nixon, at the height of Watergate, never pardoned or commuted the sentences of any of the people involved in Watergate. He thought he could never get away with it,” Toobin said Friday night on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“But our standards have sunk so low that the President could reach out to someone who was convicted of a crime that — everyone who was convicted of that crime goes to prison,” Toobin said, adding that while Stone was sentenced to 40 months, “he will do no time for the only reason that he is the President’s friend.”
Biden cited the commutation of Stone’s sentence as evidence that the President has “abused his power,” alleging that Trump made the announcement on a Friday night “to avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.”
“He will not be shamed,” Biden said in a statement Friday night. “He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall.”

Trump’s distraction politics

But three years into a presidency where Trump has used many Friday nights to fire his perceived enemies or make moves that he believes will help him politically, the commutation of Stone’s sentence came as little surprise.
For months now as the pandemic has raged on in America, Trump has been consumed with grievance politics, using Twitter and his campaign events to lash out at his opponents, while complaining to allies and friends about how poorly he is being treated by the press.
Now in a critical danger zone four months before the election as he trails Biden in critical swing states, the President shows no signs of correcting course — instead blithely continuing to distract from the devastating effects of the virus, which has now killed more than 133,000 Americans, while distorting the facts about the grave situation that the country is facing as it confronts Covid-19.
On Friday, the number of new coronavirus cases in the US rose to 63,900, a new single-day record according to John Hopkins University data.
A new ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday showed that two-thirds of Americans (67%) now disapprove of Trump’s handling of the response to the coronavirus. That number had increased even among Republicans — 78% of GOP voters approve of his handling of coronavirus compared to 90% in June. And in the midst of a national reckoning on race following the death of George Floyd, 67% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations, a finding that held across all racial groups.
While many Americans are scared of soaring coronavirus cases and worried about the risks of sending their children back to school, Trump threatened this week to withhold federal money from schools if officials do not reopen them in the fall and doubled down on his insistence that the states need to get their economies reopened as quickly as possible.
But a clear majority of Americans do not share that view. In the ABC/Ipsos poll, 59% of Americans said they believe the economy is reopening too quickly.
Trump doesn’t seem to be listening. Instead, while the red states that elected him are seeing staggering case numbers, he’s railing against his perceived political enemies.
The chief example of that this week was Trump’s angry reaction to the Supreme Court rulings on efforts to obtain his financial records — even though the immediate outcome was essentially a win for him politically.
The Supreme Court ruled that House Democrats could not access Trump’s financial records but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor. The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, giving him a reprieve by making it unlikely that he would have to hand over those records before the November election.
Still, Trump tweeted: “The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” (His attorney, Jay Sekulow, by contrast, hailed the decisions as a win).
Trump won’t have the opportunity to channel those grievances in front of a friendly rally crowd this weekend. His campaign postponed a Saturday campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, citing weather.
Ahead of the campaign rally, which would have been his first since the one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where crowds didn’t meet expectations, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared to downplay crowd expectations, suggesting that supporters might stay at home during the pandemic because they already support Trump — an implicit admission that even Trump supporters are concerned about their health.
Trump has repeatedly made light of the virus’ danger — perhaps no more glaringly than last week when he falsely said that 99% of case are harmless. But this weekend, in a surprising reversal, and after weeks of pressure, Trump may do something publicly that his own public health advisers say is essential to curtailing the spread: wear a mask.
Trump has said he’ll wear one when he visits wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Saturday. It’s a decision that came only after repeated pleading by aides who urged the President to set an example for his supporters, according to aides familiar with the deliberations.
“You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing,” the President told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday. “I have no problem with a mask.”
“If I’m with soldiers, people that — you know, I don’t want to spread anything,” Trump said.
“Hopefully I’ll look good in a mask,” he told Telemundo on Friday.
If he follows through, it will be a rare example of the President putting the common good before his own needs and his vanity — a simple move that could help him change his current trajectory, which appears headed toward defeat in November.

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Black women in politics are no longer a ‘first.’ They are a force. – The Washington Post

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Simply put, Black women are no longer a “first” in politics — they are a force.

Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, was one of 11 finalists to be Joe Biden’s running mate, six of whom identify as Black. These contenders were neither tokens nor novelties; their experience, accomplishments and capacity to lead qualified them for Biden’s short list. The breadth of that field is a remarkable indicator of how quickly Black women have advanced in politics.

Brooklyn’s Shirley Chisholm was on her way to being a first when she joined the New York State Assembly in 1965, the year the Voting Rights Act gave teeth to the promise of the 15th Amendment, which prohibited voter discrimination based on race, and the 19th Amendment, which prohibited voter discrimination based on gender. A wave of Black women voters was unleashed.

Chisholm’s slogan, “Unbought and unbossed,” signaled that Black women would enter politics on their own terms. By 1968, Chisholm had become the first Black woman to win a seat in Congress. In 1972, she ran for president, aiming to break ground. “I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud,” she said. “I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I’m equally proud of that. … I am the candidate of the people of America. And my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.”

Next came Barbara Jordan, who in 1972 campaigned in the heart of what had been the Jim Crow South. Black women organized in her hometown of Houston, raising funds and turning out voters. Jordan became the first woman — Black or White — to represent Texas in Congress in her own right.

When she took the House floor to open the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, Jordan invoked the Constitution’s preamble to explain the significance of her presence. “When that document was completed on the 17th of September in 1787, I was not included in that ‘We, the people,’ ” Jordan said. “…But through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision, I have finally been included.”

In just one generation came many more firsts. At the state level in the 1990s, Black women were elected attorney general in Indiana, secretary of state in Colorado and treasurer in Connecticut. In D.C., Sharon Pratt Kelly became the first Black woman mayor of a major city. Thirteen Black women were elected to the U.S. House. In 1993, Carol Moseley Braun became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2004, she ran, unsuccessfully, for president.

Some offices — such as governorships — still elude Black women, but there has been a clear shift: No longer are they running simply to open doors for others. Black women have won a multitude of offices from county to federal levels in recent decades, building power along the way.

In 2008, Black women flexed their political muscle. Beyond the headlines of the Democratic primary contest that pitted a Black man against a White woman, there were Black women with diverse careers and backgrounds — among them Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, politico Donna Brazile and political-scientist-turned-journalist Melissa Harris-Perry — using their influence to turn out admirers and transform them into voters.

In the blogosphere and elsewhere, Black women pushed back against the expectation that they fit into a politics dissected between men and women, Black and White. Michelle Obama’s convention declaration — “I stand here today at the cross currents of that history” — resonated among women who felt their political identities had been forged in the intersections of race and gender, and in the fight against distinct discrimination.

For decades, Black women made their presence known as a collective. They voted at a higher rate than any other racial or gender group in 2012, and 96 percent voted to reelect President Barack Obama. In 2016, 94 percent of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton, while White women split between Clinton and Donald Trump. In Mississippi’s 2017 U.S. Senate election, fully 98 percent of the Black women who voted cast ballots for Doug Jones.

When, many have wondered, would this voting power translate to power in high office? November may tell. In just over half a century of vying for political power, Black women have moved beyond firsts. Harris is not merely a barrier-breaker on the ballot; she’s part of a generation of Black women leaders who are changing politics — and our collective future.

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In 'Boys State,' American politics in a teenage microcosm – EverythingGP

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“Boys State” may sound like a mere mock government exercise, but the film finds in Boys State a microcosm of American politics, one that frighteningly reflects much of the tenor of today’s Washington and, in other ways, counters our more cynical grown-up government with stirring idealism. “Boys State” will give you both hope and fear for America’s future.

“The film is an unvarnished depiction of what we encountered,” says Moss. “And that includes the horrifying but also the profoundly moving and the uplifting.”

Boys States are run throughout the country by the American Legion, along with corresponding Girls States. Some notable names — from Bill Clinton to Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh to Mark Wahlberg — have gone through the program. Moss and McBaine were unaware of Boys State before reading a 2017 Washington Post article about a first in the program’s history: Texas voted to secede.

The filmmakers sensed they had found a prism through which to view the changing nature of civic discourse in the U.S. following the election of Donald Trump. Paul Barker, then Chairman of the American Legion Texas Boys State, was impressed by McBaine and Moss’ previous film ( “The Overnighters” ) and figured a documentary could expand the program. He had one suggestion.

“When kids are 17-years-old, sometimes their mouth gets ahead of their brain,” says Barker. “But you have to see that as part of a learning process. My only caution to them was to let the needle run.”

The filmmakers, who shot the 2018 program, expected juvenile behaviour and got it. The boys, not irrationally, enact a statewide ban on pineapple pizza. But Moss and McBaine were less prepared for the emotional ride of watching some of the students find their voice.

Foremost among them is Steven Garza, a liberal-minded son of Mexican immigrants. He’s more reserved than many of his fellow high-schoolers. In an overwhelmingly white and largely conservative mass of boys, Garza stands out. Yet his underdog campaign gains momentum, rising on his own idealism and his ability to connect straightforwardly with others.

“I came out even more idealistic,” says Garza, now a 19-year-old studying politics at the University of Texas, Austin. “I knew that I could run a campaign as a brown person, a progressive person and have conservatives vote for me. Even if they didn’t believe everything I stood for, they believed that if I was elected that I would work with them to come to agreements.”

“We’re a lot closer than most people think and a lot closer than the people who are actually in Congress are,” says Garza.

The Texas Boys State, like the national political system, is a skewed representation. It’s a program that, as Moss says, “has a foot in the 21st century and a foot in the 1950s.”

Barker readily grants the film has been cause for reflection for the program. The huge imbalance in diversity, he says, is something that may take a cultural shift for the organization to change. (Field offices of the American Legion interview students from across the state and pluck one or two per high school.) A Peoples State, with boys and girls, has frequently been considered but isn’t happening anytime soon.

“They can make a better effort to create an outreach or recruitment program that reflects the growing diversity of Texas,” says René Otero, one of the few African American students seen in “Boys State” and the film’s most gifted orator. “I didn’t feel protected as a student of colour. If you want to engage people in civics, you have to show them that the people who need civics the most — the oppressed — have the power to engage.”

Otero departed jaded from the experience and disinterested in politics. His place, he feels now, is outside the system. He wants to be activist and an educator.

“I’ve been around a lot of white folks before but not THAT many for seven days. It felt like I had to conform to a different space. I was trying to figure out how to change and twist myself up,” says Otero. “But being forced to self-advocate was a beautiful lesson in developing my agency as a person.”

There are smear campaigns and reckless gambits of self-preservation in “Boys State.” Abortion rights are wielded as a political tool. Robert MacDougall runs on a pro-life platform but acknowledges in a private interview he’s pro-choice. “Sometimes you can’t win on what you believe in your heart,” he says. Federalist Party chairman Ben Feinstein, a Ronald Reagan acolyte who lost his legs to meningitis, in one scene cribs from what he calls “the Trump playbook.”

“It was chilling to hear Ben — who we really love as a person and is complex — invoke Trump,” says Moss. “That was a question for us. Are young people internalizing the norms of behaviour that we see? Of course they are.”

But they are also forging their own conceptions of government. The film’s primary subjects have stayed in touch since 2018 and attended Sundance together. Some of their views have since aligned, some still diverge. But they all respect each other. Talking — and filmmaking — has brought them closer.

“Collectively as a group is how we’re going to change this country,” says Garza.

McBaine and Moss aren’t done with the program. When the pandemic passes, they plan to document Girls State.

“It’s not a sequel,” says McBaine. “It’s a sibling.”

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

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Chris Evans hopes to shield democracy with politics website – CKPGToday.ca

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“This was born out of the same reason I do what I do on Twitter. You want to try and help. You want to try and use the platform that you’ve been given the right way,” Evans said. “And this felt like it could cast the widest net because it actually removed my personal politics and just tried to offer information to people who may want to participate.”

The site is divided into three sections. One includes three Republicans and three Democrats answering questions about broad long-term issues like immigration, climate change, student debt and gerrymandering. The second allows politicians to upload solo messages about hot topics like Trump’s executive orders or TikTok ban. And a “counterpoints” section highlights moderated interparty debates: Should schools reopen during the pandemic? Should the government require mail-in voting?

The site is intended to educate, not advocate, Evans says. It’s built without incentives toward extremes. There are no view counters, like or dislike buttons, or comments sections. Some of the videos are fact-checked by an outside group.

“The reason for doing this site is to combat the proliferation of misinformation,” Evans said in an interview from his home in Boston. “A lot of the misinformation out there comes from individuals who have created these platforms and they pull snippets of information to places and create a narrative. And it’s a lot of conjecture. And you hope that the elected officials who are in office are the ones trying to cut through that.”

Evans, whose uncle served in Congress as a Democrat for a decade ending last year, says he and Kassen had to push hard to convince Republicans to participate. The 39-year-old actor had thrilled liberals early in Trump’s term, calling the president “Biff” and a “meatball.”

Kassen said Evans’ reputation left the pair with “a hill to climb” as the pair visited offices around the Capitol pitching their vision of an impartial online venue: “Our hard work and his charm allowed us to keep going. But for sure, there was a lot of bias against us because of that.”

Evans says he’s been pleased to see Republicans uploading more “daily points” videos to the site than Democrats in recent weeks.

As he prepares to potentially film a Netflix spy movie in January, the self-described “news junkie” says he’s tuned out the presidential campaign temporarily to focus on A Starting Point. His social media is mostly benign these days.

“It’s a measure of efficacy. How can you be of most good, of most service?” Evans said. “This site feels to me that it could have a broader impact than anything I could do on my individual Twitter.”

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryanwrd

Ryan Pearson, The Associated Press

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