(CNN)It’s the midterms of 2018, so why was Elizabeth Warren presidential hopeful, class of 2020 — swamping the news cycle?
But as a possible reordering of the political universe gathered, readers were riveted to see Warren — rising to the Trumpian bait, seemingly out of the blue — with her DNA test and video, meant to erase a negative issue and answer for all time: Native American or not (or just a little)?
Not helpful just now, said many Democrats.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was talking about her husband, Monica Lewinsky and #MeToo.
Please stop talking (for now), said Michelle Cottle, in The New York Times.
“This close to Election Day, discussing hot-button issues in national interviews is nothing but problematic for her party — and, ultimately, her own legacy,” she wrote.
Warren walks into it
“On the first day of her unofficial presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren showed exactly why President Trump is such a powerful political opponent,” Julian Zelizer warned. “He can twist his opponents into knots as they dive deeper and deeper into a political abyss,” drawing them “into conversations they never intended to have.” That would be the one about Warren’s attempt to get Trump to stop calling her “Pocahontas” (no luck) by producing a DNA test.
Democrats fretting about the midterms were not thrilled. And Kate Maltby wrote that Warren was absolutely entitled to hit back at Trump, but she is “mistaken if she thinks Trump’s America is a place where an emotively scored promo video can change the tenor of a racial debate. If she thinks she’s the best Democratic candidate to take on Donald Trump in 2020, she’s even more mistaken.”
And there’s hypocrisy, argued Simon Moya Smith, an Oglala Lakota and Chicano journalist: “Elizabeth Warren, where the hell have you been?”… during the Dakota Access Pipeline fight, the long history of “police brutality in Indian country,” and myriad issues affecting Native Americans. “I’d take Warren in a hot minute over a petulant President Trump … but the revered senator has a lot to apologize for — or at least explain. When we needed her, she didn’t lace up.”
Meanwhile, back in 2018 …
Cue the uproars across the land.
President Trump crisscrossed the country whipping up Republicans’ anxiety about immigration, with warnings about a migrant caravan moving north through Central America. He paused in Montana to praise Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty after assaulting a reporter last year (and was elected to Congress a day later). “Any guy who can do a body slam … he’s my guy,” said the American President. “Even at his most paranoid, Nixon never solicited violence against journalists,” wrote Samuel Freedman. Trump’s words should chill an America “where the MAGA hat defiles the First Amendment, and practitioners of a free press feel ever more the peril that ultimately swallowed up Jamal Khashoggi.”
(What does context matter, though, for Trump?” Eric Lach pointed out in the New Yorker. “In Montana, on a stage, he felt that endorsing the assault of a reporter ‘might help.’ So he did it.” )
The President had another strategy, too: Abandon issues and simply brand Democrats as “dangerous,” “wacko” and “an angry left-wing mob,” wrote Noah Berlatsky. Don’t ignore this, he warned, “once you start delegitimizing one sort of protest,” you’re headed to an “authoritarian state, in which repression of dissent is justified to preserve order and keep dangerous, disloyal elements out of power.” Example? Putin’s Russia.
But Trump and Republicans have a good reason for banging away at immigration in a politically polarized country, wrote Thomas Edsall in The New York Times. Data show that “men and women opposed to immigration are much more likely to vote Republican on the issue than supporters are to base a vote for a Democratic candidate on a pro-immigration position.”
In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp (who is also the secretary of state, in charge of elections) was accused of trying to suppress the black vote by stalling 53,000 voter registrations. (“How’s this for an axiom that is especially self-evident,” asked the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Janai Nelson: “An elected official should not oversee an election in which he is a candidate.”)
Kemp, locked in a close race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, denies the voters put on hold under the state’s “exact match” system have anything to do with his run. This is a system, noted Eugene Scott in the Washington Post, that “would put someone named Beyoncé Knowles-Carter on the ‘pending’ registration list if her voting application said Beyoncé Knowles Carter.” In other words, “the latest offensive in the renewed campaign against minority voting rights,” said Nelson.
Sen. Ted Cruz declined, but CNN held a town hall anyway on Thursday with his challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, “the Irish descendant from the Hispanic borderlands of Texas” political writer James Moore called him, “who has given the state’s Democrats a gift they have found too surprising to completely unwrap.” The gift? Hope. So far O’Rourke is losing, said a CNN poll, but Moore thinks he is now on the national stage to stay. And if Hispanics, middle-class women and millennials come out, he may have a chance.
Khashoggi: Saudis try to explain the horror
By week’s end, Saudi officials, bending to intense pressure, confirmed the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, fired a top military official and detained 18 Saudis, but blamed it on a fistfight that got out of control.
Nic Robertson wrote that the “rogue-operation”-gone-wrong narrative, rather than a culpable crown prince in a friendly oil kingdom, “beggars belief. But Trump chose not merely to buy it, but endorse and propagate it, too.” “Trump is already giving us a curtain raiser on his intent, tilting toward a pass for his autocratic ally in the Middle East,” he wrote.
It’s in keeping with the President’s “instinctive affinity for authoritarian figures,” wrote John Avlon, and his cynical read on American exceptionalism: “The biggest difference with Donald Trump is that he’s been quick to condemn America’s past policies not from an idealistic human rights perspective but from a cold realism that is quick to call the United States morally equivalent to other countries, like Russia. No other US president would refuse to condemn Putin’s extrajudicial killings by saying ‘you think our county’s so innocent?'”
Nick Paton Walsh suggested that Trump’s “we won” mantra “set the tone for this year’s spate of attempted assassinations or failed abductions — and, possibly, a new era of impunity. Be it on a door handle in Salisbury, England, or inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul … the essential message is the same: We don’t really care if we get caught.”
Elites may not like it, observed Damon Linker in The Week, but “the President views international relations in transactional terms.” Khashoggi’s killing “would be a crime worth lamenting and condemning,” but “for the first time in a very long time, the man occupying the Oval Office appears to be almost totally unmoved by moral appeals in dealing with the rest of the world” — and that is welcome.
And in a prescient final column for the Washington Post, received by his editor the day before he disappeared, Jamal Khashoggi himself lamented the death of the Arab Spring. He gave as an example the Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of one newspaper: “These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence. As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.”
Here come ‘The Conners’
Make it stop, pleaded Clay Cane. The matriarch of the family has overdosed on opioids, went the storyline in the “Roseanne” reboot that premiered Tuesday. “Clearly, ABC wants to maintain the cash cow” without its former star’s racist baggage. Enough. “We must stop moving backwards. We must stop wading in nostalgia … from our television shows to our old guard politicians.”
But “The Conners” is very much about now, argued show runner, Bruce Helford, in the Hollywood Reporter. “I wanted a respectful sendoff … one that was relevant and could inspire discussion for the greater good about the American working class,” he wrote, like “the unbowed Conners as they deal with the economic inequalities of life in lower-income America with love and humor.”
Melania and misogyny
Jill Filipovic thought the T.I. video that went viral this week put the rapper in the same “piggish, unrepentant misogynist league” as the President. In the video, “a Melania Trump lookalike strips in the Oval Office, dancing for T.I.’s pleasure after the President leaves the White House,” Filipovic wrote. (Melania Trump’s spokeswoman called it “disrespectful and disgusting”) Spare us the outrage, wrote Filipovic: “the T.I. video is sexist and shameful. But if Melania’s team and Trump administration supporters want to boycott the sexist and shameful, they need to start at home, with the man in the White House.”
Finally, high time for Canada
First the bad news: Pot can raise your “risk of psychotic illnesses”. The good news, at least for Canada? In “making it legal to buy, grow and own weed,” this week, noted science writer Tom Chivers, and in “imposing draconian penalties on people who sell to minors,” Canada takes the industry out of the hands of drug cartels. And that, he said, will “make it easier to keep the drug out of the hands of children.”