Thursday, July 09, 2020

Saving Trump's Hide

Guess again!

Three-quarters full if your name is "Donald J. Trump."

There can be a blizzard in Raleigh, North Carolina before the election in November or before Thanksgiving:

It's a resounding, definitive rejection of the next President's claim of monarchical privilege.

Husband of Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway, George Conway is an advisor to Project Lincoln. Norm Eisen is a Senior Fellow at Brookings and was an advisor to House Democrats inthe  impeachment of President Trump. Neil Katyal was Acting Assistant Solicitor General in the Obama Administration. Joshua Matz teaches at Georgetown Law School.

They all have one thing in common- each is a lawyer. And each is wrong. Author and columnist David Frum, who is not a lawyer, explains

The Supreme Court rebuked Donald Trump, the arrogant president. The Supreme Court has prepared a world of trouble for Donald Trump, the dirty businessman. But the Supreme Court has done a tremendous favor to Donald Trump, the candidate for reelection.

Trump’s legal arguments to protect his business records from subpoena were always miserably flimsy, when not actively crazy. On Trump’s behalf, the Department of Justice urged the Supreme Court to junk precedents dating back to the 1880s. Government lawyers proposed that the Court invent a fantastical new system of judicial oversight of subpoenas of the president. Those arguments were always bound to lose, and in a pair of decisions on Thursday, the Court rejected them.

But Trump’s legal strategy was cannier than his legal arguments. The strategy was to play for time, to push the day of reckoning beyond November 2020. That strategy has now paid off.

The Court has ruled that the district attorney in Manhattan can subpoena records from Trump’s bankers and accountants, but also enumerated the specific grounds on which Trump can challenge those subpoenas, and sent the case back down to the district court. If Trump chooses to contest those subpoenas, it is exceedingly unlikely that the litigation can be resolved before November. Even if it is, prosecutors might not be able to frame an indictment of Trump before November. And even if they do, it’s very plausible that a New York judge might agree to seal the indictment so as not to prejudice the election.

Trump may eventually face trial in New York for fraud, if the financial records support the claims of some of his former advisers. But it’s doubtful that the New York proceedings will provide much information to voters in advance of the November election. Yes, the stink of criminality about Trump will intensify. But that smell has always registered only in the nostrils of those who use their noses. Specific allegations of particular crimes will probably not be posted for public view until 2021.

The Court turned back, for now, the subpoenas that could enlighten the public: those issued by the House of Representatives. That case will be reargued in lower courts, under new rules that suggest the House will win eventually. But it will not win soon—and that’s all candidate Trump cares about.

Trump has lived his whole life one jump ahead of the law. As The New York Times reported in 2018, relying on documents provided by the president’s own niece, Trump “participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud,” that enlarged the fortune he inherited. In 2019, ProPublica presented evidence that Trump might have committed bank fraud. Completing this presidential term with the cops breathing down his neck may not be comfortable for Trump, but it will not be unfamiliar or unmanageable for him.

What Trump has never before faced—and what, thanks to the Supreme Court, he will not face before November—is a public reckoning for his acts. He has lived a lie, presenting himself as a great American businessman. In the eyes of much of the American electorate, that lie will continue past Election Day.

The decisions in the subpoena litigation reaffirmed the rule of law in the face of  Trump’s defiance—while adjusting the timing of the law to favor Trump’s candidacy.

The office of the presidency has suffered a loss- a justified loss, delivered by the Roberts Court to restrict a President Biden's prerogatives. That is as it should be. However, the decision means something only if Joe Biden wins the presidency this autumn. And it makes that a little less likely.

Even the Supreme Court, it has long been said, "reads the election returns." If Donald Trump is re-elected, it will not matter that a court can subpoena his records.because it will all be over. Over. If the incumbent is victorious in November- with upwards of a quarter of a million dead on his watch, some by his choice- Donald Trump will claim an absolute mandate. 

The Supreme Court will fold, congressional Democrats will be overrun, and complete power will be consolidated in the Executive branch. The "barricade" around the White House" the President cannot erect (according to Pete Williams, video below) will be erected if Trump is re-elected.

That barricade would be impenetrable. It will be no less so because successful anti-Trump lawyers are oblivious to the practical implications of today's rulings.

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Good Intentions Or Not

The question for today is: can someone be self-serving and gracious at the same time? (The answer is "yes.")

In a decision which should- but won't- disturb Americans concerned about inequities in the criminal justice system

Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police after a black man asked her to keep her dog on a leash, has been charged for filing a false report.

The New York Times reports that Cooper, who was filmed by Christian Cooper in the Ramble at Central Park, where it is against the rules to have dogs off a leash, will face misdemeanor charges. Christian Cooper was in the area bird watching, and when he approached her requesting she put her dog on its leash, she threatened to call the police. In the video, she told the police via phone that she was being threatened by "an African-American man."

"Today our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper (no relation) for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree," said Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance. "We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable."

However, the sensitive side of Christian Cooper (considered the victim of this dastardly criminal offense) has come out as he now concedes "On the one hand, she's already paid a steep price. That's not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on."

"Piling on" is exactly what it would be. Her attorney notes "She lost her job, her home, and her public life. Now some demand her freedom? How many lives are we going to destroy over misunderstood 60-second videos on social media?”

It's a pound of flesh Cy Vance and some others are after. However, Christian Cooper has (for whatever reason) risen above that and has stated that he will not cooperate with the prosecutor's office. This is praiseworthy, even if Cooper is acting out of self-interest.


"If you're going to do what you want, I'm going to do what I want, but you're not going to like it."  Some people, understanding English, would recognize that as a threat. After A. Cooper called the police, she waited for the authorities. He did not. You figure it out.

I can't vouch for the veracity of C. Cooper's Facebook post. It is on social media, the vehicle which allowed thousands of people to jump to conclusions about "Karen" after viewing a video of the second half of a confrontation. "That's when I started recording with my iPhone," Cooper himself admitted, possibly unaware there would be so many people who are a) lazy; b) bigoted; or c) stupid, thus eager to be outraged without seeing a confrontation from beginning to end.

Maybe Christian Cooper realizes that he is legally vulnerable. Or maybe he's merely a kind-hearted, sensible bird-watcher who likes to feed strange dogs and threaten their owner if she balks.  Either way, if he continues to refuse to assist the prosecution, he is doing the right thing.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Police Violence, Disappeared

CNN's Don Lemon discussed the Black Lives Matter movement with actor Terry Crews on Tuesday night in an interview a little more contentious and much more interesting than most. Lemon actually challenged Crews, who had controversially commented on Independence Day

This followed by four days this tweet from Crews:
Arguing "black lives matter" is preferable to "black lives better" was bad enough. But then when Crews followed it up with the suggestion that not all white people are bad and not all black people are good, he had "stepped into it," as Lemon noted at the beginning of the interview.

At 3:38 in the video below, Crews can be seen remarking

When I describe this, when you look in the city of Chicago, there are nine children who have died of gun violence, by black-on-black gun violence, from June 20 all the way to today and you're talking about even with the Atlanta child murders, there were 28 kids who died in two years. You're talking about nine black kids and the Black Lives Matter movement has said nothing about this kind of thing. And you know....

Angry about black children being killed, Crews should not have used the popular phrase "black-on-black." White on black wouldn't have been so good either, while less common because people tend to shoot (or try to shoot) people with whom they are most acquainted. For whatever reasons- blisteringly hot weather, states "opening up" somewhat from the pandemic, pure happenstance, or whatever- gun violence has been worse recently than usual.

But Crews' central point was dead-on- Black Lives Matter, either as an organization or even a movement, has been stunningly, if unsurprisingly, silent. Nonetheless, Lemon responded initially with "What does that have to do with equality, Terry?"

This is disingenuous. Until very recently, the first page of the Black Lives Matter website proudly and loudly proclaimed "Disarm the Police." This proved very controversial and threatened to discredit the entire organization and, ultimately, the movement and the website has been toned down.

Nevertheless, the thousands of protests in the streets of the USA,  prompted by the vicious killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, wasn't, hasn't been, and isn't about equality. It was, is, and has been about police brutality directed toward African-Americans, reinforced by the news coverage of the killing by police of Breonna Taylor and the recognition that blacks have been slain by law enforcement personnel.

There is still in this country housing discrimination including, but not limited to, persistence of redlining by the banking industry; employment discrimination; wealth inequality; and a host of other things directly and indirectly related to equality.  If anyone believes that more than a handful of people were protesting because of any of this, they haven't been watching CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News or been reading The New York Times, The Washington Post, or The Philadelphia Inquirer. I have, and I can definitively report what I and everyone but Don Lemon has observed- the dissent pertains to police vis-a-vis the black community.

Lemon continued

... because, listen, there's crime, there are people in these communities who are- those people aren't just being nonchalant about- about gun violence. I lived in Chicago. There are many people who are working in these communities to try to get rid of the gun violence. The gun culture in this country is prevalent but I don't understand what that has to do with a movement that's for equality for black people.

Again: that's a rationalization, an explanation after the fact meant to distort history. There is a reason House Democrats have proposed a set of police reforms and Senate Republicans have countered with a more moderate set of proposals. It's because the protests were about the police. The p-o-l-i-c-e. It is reprehensible that Lemon is now trying to portray the protests as support for a vague, undefined "equality," which no one would disagree with.  It is about the approach of police officers toward blacks. Own it, Don.

But he doesn't, and adds

It's not mutually exclusive that if you care about equality for black people that you're going somehow to stop random violence and unfortunately kids from being shot. It's just apples an oranges.

Apples and oranges, inconveniently for Lemon's argument, are both fruit. If an organization advocates defunding the police, it is promoting abolishing police departments. It's very difficult to run an organization without money.  While there are groups which specifically want to reduce the number of guns on the street- an extremely worthy objective- Black Lives Matter is not one of them. While there are groups which aim more broadly to cut the number of murders, of blacks or individuals generally, on the streets of their city, Black Lives Matter is not one of them.

It is unnecessary for BLM to be focused on either of  those objectives. It is- again- disingenuous- to suggest that because, well, apples are not oranges, BLM need not mention that there are too many killings in far too many towns in the USA. Their agenda is policing, the perception that its excess results in the death of innocent black men and women.  An element of that is the crime which persists, and to which police are expected to respond and discourage whenever possible.

Lemon's fruit analogy would be more applicable to lemons alone. It's as if Don's friend complained that his peach is dry and Don offered to make it juicier with a splash of lemon. His friend demurs, complaining that lemons are sour and would eliminate the desired sweetness of his peach. Don insists, though, because the lemon will- fortunately- make the peach more juicy and the sweetness, well, that just doesn't have anything to do with whether the peach is juicy. 

Despite the host's effort to divert attention from the real issue- Crews' contention that there are good black people and good white people- it was an entertaining, even slightly informative, exchange of views. And to the six or seven people in the audience carefully listening, it was enlightening to see a news host give a tortured defense of an organization which has been extraordinarily successful in escaping examination.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Not So Funny Anymore

In the land of the blind, the one-armed man is king. In an Administration filled with corruption and terrible ideas, it's not difficult to be the individual with the most sense. And Peter Navarro, critic of past trade deals made by the federal government, may be the best member of the Trump Administration. Asked on Trump TV last weekend about the coronavirus, the White House Trade Advisor maintained "And, what we have to do is unite around this central fact: China lied; people died. The CCP lied; Americans died."

He did not admit "Trump denied, and people died." Still, his statement was accurate, as was his observation "If China wants to regain the trust of Hong Kongers and the international community, it should honor the promises it made to the Hong Kong people and to the United Kingdom in the U.N.-registered 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration."

However, Navarro here is bonkers (very unlikely), self-delusional (plausible), or simply dishonest (likely).

But you can believe it. Navarro was not the first to pretend not to see what is obvious and unavoidable. Asked in 2019 about an April, 2018 incident involving a black (non-) patron at Starbucks in Philadelphia, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stated "As somebody who grew up in a very diverse background, as a young boy in the projects, I didn’t see color as a young boy and I honestly don’t see color now."

This "I don't see color thing" was supposed to be a joke:

Navarro will at least recognize reality in the matter of mainland China. On race, he will not. Regrettably, that is a pervasive affliction among the Trump gangsters and, ironically, not absent elsewhere.

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Monday, July 06, 2020

Writing People Out Of America

That is a terrible message, although not for July 4. July 4 comes every year and always between July 3 and July 5. July 4 is a day for barbecues; Independence Day is an occasion to celebrate the unity of Americans, all Americans, as we proceed, by fits and spurts, with this American experiment.

With his tweet, Minority Leader McCarthy wrote one group out of this great experiment, an impulse becoming more popular as

Starting with the nationally televised regular-season opener between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 10, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, will be performed before every Week 1 kickoff, before "The Star-Spangled Banner," according to a person familiar with ongoing discussions. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because plans have not yet been finalized and announced by NFL officials.

History should not be erased, and so it bears noting that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" never has been the "Black National Anthem."  . Written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, the song was proclaimed sometime before 1921 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (now, "NAACP") as the "Negro National Anthem." The experience of blacks whose descendants were slaves, chronicled by "Lift Every Voice and Sing," may differ dramatically from those who have recently emigrated from Africa, Jamaica, Haiti, or elsewhere.

That was when de facto and de jure segregation was the the lay of the land, a time of brazen discrimination and violence against "colored people," as they were then known (now, "people of color"). Though from 1960 through 1968, there were only three reported lynchings of blacks, in the nine-year period ending in 1920, 495 were reported lynched.

Times were different, and it's understandable that in or about 1920 a civil rights organization would believe that blacks had no choice but to resist identification with the United States of America.

Nonetheless, while cultural anthropologists may argue whether "black" is a race, ethnic group, and/or color, "black" never has been a nation- the root of "national." Therefore, there can be no black or Negro (as it was called since the NAACP got its hands on it) national anthem, though there could be a black or African-American anthem.

Though those may seem mere "details," therein God lies (as in "lays," not as in veracity). When a song or poem is identified as a "national anthem," the meaning is clear- it is a rallying point for, or intended to lift the spirits of, individuals of that nation. When that song appears immediately before (or after) the National Anthem, it clearly is being presented as an anthem for people of that country.  It is why, for instance that the Canadian national anthem is played back-to- back with the Star- Spangled Banner at many athletic events featuring a team from Canada and one from the USA.

An African-American conservative blogger argues Martin Luther "King always appealed to the American dream for all. He was a patriot and he never wanted blacks to deny or separate themselves from being American. I think claiming an anthem for ourselves as black people is doing just that."

If he isn't sufficiently credible, consider the opinion of an assistant professor of English at historically black Clark Atlanta University.  Timothy Askew, who says he loves the song and has studied it for over 20 years, maintains "To sing the 'black national anthem' suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation. This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window."

Admittedly, it's possible to make too much of this move by the NFL. As noted by USA Today, its source indicates "after brainstorming with numerous players and the NFL Players Association, NFL officials also plan to honor victims of police brutality through elements such as helmet decals or jerseys." Thus, it may be simply a way for the NFL to sell merchandise, which raises the profile of its players and further enriches its owners, who employ Commissioner Roger Goodell and determine his professional fate.

African-Americans do not constitute another nation. As Askew appreciates, this is one nation and blacks are a part of this country.  They are a part as much as are immigrants, whom Kevin McCarthy wants to read out of this nation. Blacks also are a part of the fabric of this country and are so no matter how hard the National Football League, its players association, or David Duke portrays otherwise.

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Sunday, July 05, 2020

One Senator, Zero Leadership

The Twitter handle ("twitter handle"? so 2017) of Republican senator Joni Ernst of Iowa reads "mother, soldier, leader." She's a mother and former soldier- but she's no leader.

As the video indicates, Bash asked the freshman senator

You criticized President Obama in 2014 for his handling of the Ebola outbreak, saying he exhibited "failed leadership." Only two people in the US died from Ebola. Right now there are almost 130,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus. So if President Obama showed failed leadership, then do you think President Trump is showing failed leadership now?

For a leader even of the Republican variety, there are only two possible answers: a) yes, him too; or b) no, and neither did President Obama. Ernst gave neither, and when her response was a string of words signifying only avoidance and timidity, Bash followed up with a question ending in "is the President exhibiting failed leadership?"

Unsurprisingly, Ernst employed the GOP's go-to response, defending President Trump by attacking the Democratic Party. She replied in part

.... of course, the pushback we got from the Democrats after the President did shut down travel from some of those hotspots, it was an extremely difficult environment to operate and we know different today than we did at the start spread of the virus and we should continually learn from those efforts and make sure we are doing the right thing.

Hours before the President announced major restrictions (except for American citizens, holder of green cards, and a few others) to travel from China, three major USA-based airlines announced on their own that they would suspend flights between this country and the world's largest totalitarian regime. The American government did not end passenger flights particularly late nor particularly early compared to other governments. 

And that pushback from "the Democrats?"  There was a grand total of two, both US Representatives (neither a presidential candidate) who criticized Trump's action.

Moreover, as The Intercept reported on April 20, the first indexed case of Covid-19 in at least 13 states and territories has been traced to Italy. Further

In the six weeks prior to the European travel bans, the U.S. was exposed to a massive amount of travelers from a highly infected region. During that time, there were almost no checks in international airports for passengers coming from Europe, as American authorities focused their screening efforts on China travelers. The China travel restrictions were mostly cosmetic anyway — the Chinese government banned flights from the Hubei region on January 23 and was sharply reducing its cases through harsh lockdowns and quarantines.

The Trump administration appears to have considered — and rejected — an early European travel ban in January. The Washington Post reported that Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, had proposed a travel ban on affected European countries in late January, which was supported by health officials but was rebuffed by Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. As Trump faces increased criticism for a period of calamitous early inaction, he has sought to focus the blame on China, and on Saturday he published a tweet trying to discredit a New York Times story on the role of European travel in New York’s epidemic.

(Note: This does not exonerate Beijing, the regime most responsible for SARS-CoV-2.)

As cases of Covid-19 surged in Tulsa, this is how President Trump continually learned and made sure he was doing the right thing fewer than three weeks ago:

Covid-19 has become a growth industry in Oklahoma. Cases had not been rising in South Dakota, a (lack of) trend the President's visit- with few masks donned and little social distancing, as in Tulsa-F on July 4 to Mount Rushmore aimed to reverse. This is the only sense in which there is any validity to Joni Ernst's remarks. Donald Trump is in fact "stepping forward," striving to send the numbers of those infected to dizzying new heights.

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Saturday, July 04, 2020


A happy thought about Independence Day from one guy on Twitter:
This nation was not founded on "free speech" and does not practice it. It was founded, among other things, on the First Amendment's guarantee "Congress shall make no law.... abridging the freedom of speech."

That prevents government from infringing upon free speech but private actors can do otherwise. We're reminded often by some on the race (formerly, "race and gender") left- of the Cooper vs. Cooper showdown in Central Park, NY. There, as the New York Times summarizes

Mr. Cooper, who is black, asked a white woman to put her dog on a leash. When she did not, he began filming. In response, the woman said she would tell the police that “an African-American man is threatening my life” before dialing 911.

The video went viral- or rather, half the video went viral- the portion Mr. Cooper decided to release minus the portion in which he threatened- uh, er offered- to feed a stranger's dog.

 (True, relevant, story: after a public meeting attended by many people including a K-9 police officer, I asked the officer if I could give a little of the food I had to the dog. She said "no" and only later, never having owned a pet, did I learn that chocolate is poisonous to a dog.)

Mr. Cooper dared her to call the police, as she did, identifying Mr. Cooper as African-American rather than simply "some guy." Mr. Cooper left, the police determined that the incident was minor, and that was it.

Unfortunately, that was not it as she faced a torrent of bigoted and sexist abuse on social media, a majority of which was prompted by her identification of Mr. Cooper as "African-American, apparently now a toxic charge. She was fired from her "high-level finance job," pleasing individuals cheered that a worker can be fired without due process. The dismissal was not constitutionally prohibited because it had nothing to do with government, and her employer evidently was less concerned with job performance than the popularity of the speech she expressed on her free time. 

It was a reminder of the limits of the "free speech" many people naively believe is guaranteed to us by the US Constitution. So, too, is naive the notion that we "look at our history with clear eyes and see both our flaws and triumphs."

In the video below, you will see presidential adviser Larry Kudlow contending that the USA is not guilty of systemic racism because "You have as evidence of that view, our first black president, just a few years back, won two terms, and I regarded that with pride as an American."

He said that; he really did. He said that we couldn't possibly be racist given that a black person had been elected President. Of course, that was a binary choice, one made in part because the presidential (and the very unpopular vice-presidential) candidate he was opposing had to defend an eight-year presidency soundly rejected by the American people.

Larry Kudlow's remark would have almost made a little sense had he himself voted for Barack Obama and thereby helped demonstrate that America had wiped out its original sin. However, the chance of that having occurred is slim to none, and slim is on its way out of town.

The theory that election of a black demonstrates that there is no systemic racism is absurd. And it is absurd not only insofar as the presidential terms of Barack Obama were followed by the election of an openly and brazenly bigoted candidate who first caught the attention of the Republican electorate by steadfastly maintaining that the black President was born in Africa.

It is similarly absurd when asserted by other individuals, most notably by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whom I recently saw and heard state that America clearly is not racist because a black was elected President. It is a belief expressed by many conservatives, most of whom probably voted against Obama, though some no doubt did vote for him as a sort of expiation.

Trying to convince oneself or others that the USA is not racist because of the election of an African-American is a way for conservatives/Republicans to avoid looking "at our history with clear eyes (to) see both our flaws and triumphs." But it's not only the right and/or Republicans who need self-assurance.  A senior editor at The Atlantic actually tweeted
Seemingly unaware that when one finds herself in a hole, she should stop digging, some clarification:

No, Refusing to face our history honestly does not encapsulate a spirit to do anything better.  We should not choose to be deaf, dumb, and blind. A historian and journalist (of the left, actually) has the courage to explain

Historian Annette Gordon-Reed, who enjoyed the musical, nevertheless found

The show portrays Hamilton as a “young, scrappy, and hungry” immigrant (he was born on the Caribbean Island of Nevis, but qualified as a U.S. citizen when the Constitution was adopted), an egalitarian, and a passionate abolitionist. All of this is wrong, Gordon-Reed said.

“In the sense of the Ellis Island immigrant narrative, he was not an immigrant,” she said. “He was not pro-immigrant, either.

“He was not an abolitionist,” she added. “He bought and sold slaves for his in-laws, and opposing slavery was never at the forefront of his agenda.

“He was not a champion of the little guy, like the show portrays,” she said. “He was elitist. He was in favor of having a president for life.”

The musical simplifies and sanitizes history, said Gordon-Reed. “The Hamilton on the stage is more palatable and attractive to modern audiences,” she said.

Set amid the Revolution, the play fails to depict the central role played by slavery at that moment in history, and also neglects to mention that most of the Founding Fathers were slave owners.

Hamilton was not a bad guy for his time and no statue of his should be removed.  However, Abraham Lincoln fought a war to end slavery and Hans Christian Heg was an abolitionist, and their statues have seen better days.The celebration of "Hamilton" and of the man himself reflect our preference to see things as we wish they were rather than as they are.

Alexander Hamilton is not accurately portrayed on stage. Election of Barack Obama neither ended racism nor proved that racism does not exist. And Americans are not guaranteed freedom of speech. It would be comforting to believe that we "look at our history with clear eyes and see both our flaws and triumphs." But reality is often discomfiting and its admission, it appears, is prohibitively uncomfortable.

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Saving Trump's Hide

Guess again ! 7-2 in the Vance case! Trump loses! — George Conway (@gtconway3d) July 9, 2020 Three-quarters full if your name i...