June 12, 2020
I kicked around on the internet for hours trying to find a way into today’s news, and at 11:23 p.m., Trump handed it to me.
He tweeted that he is changing the date of his June 19 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Noting that the date is Juneteenth—the day celebrating black freedom since 1865—he said “Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out… of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20, in order to honor their requests….”
As White House reporter Jonathan Lemire put it, “Trump blinks. Which happens very, very rarely.” A strong majority of Americans oppose his handling of racial issues, and apparently his advisors finally concluded that holding a rally on Juneteenth would hurt his election campaign more than it would help.
Trump’s bid for reelection is taking hits these days. Today Simon & Schuster, the publishers of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book about his time in the White House, released some of the material from it. The book was supposed to come out in mid-March but was delayed by the White House. The administration has still not signed off on it, but Bolton has decided to publish it anyway. It will be out later this month, and the material released today is an indication that it will hit the president hard.
The book apparently says that everything Trump does is designed to help him win reelection, and that the Ukraine scandal, in which he tried to demand a political favor before handing over money that our ally Ukraine desperately needed, was just the tip of the iceberg: “Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy — and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them,” the Simon & Schuster press release states.
Since Bolton declined to testify before members of Congress during the impeachment crisis, there are now calls to boycott the 592-page book that apparently provides an eye-witness account of the Ukraine scandal that was so crucial in that impeachment investigation. Still, when the book comes out on June 23, it will get press attention, which will undoubtedly cause concern in the Trump campaign.
The news on reopening the nation’s economy is not great, either. As states are lifting lockdowns, active cases of Covid-19 are rising. In June, twelve states have seen increased hospitalizations for the virus: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Our numbers appeared to plateau last month, but that was because the hot spots in cities, especially New York City, had begun to cool. As that happened, other hot spots opened up in states that had previously been less affected.
The realization that this epidemic is not magically going to go away made the stock market’s Dow Jones Industrial Average drop sharply on Thursday, sending it down 1,862 points, or 6.9%. It rallied up 477.37 points today, a little over 2%, but this has been the worst week on the stock market since March.
Increasingly, it appears that the president plans to run his campaign by stoking cultural, racial, and gender resentment. This afternoon, the administration announced that it has finalized a rule that removes nondiscrimination protection in health care and health insurance for LGBTQ people. The Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.” In 2016, the Obama administration defined “sex” as “male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.”
Trump’s Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services today removed that definition. Director Roger Severino said that HHS intended to go “back to the plain meaning of those terms, which is based on biological sex.” This means that medical providers and insurers can discriminate against LGBTQ Americans. The Christian Medical Association, the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, and the right-leaning Heritage Foundation all applauded the move, which is due to take effect by mid-August.
Opponents of the change note that this announcement, on this day, looks much like the planned Tulsa rally on Juneteenth and the convention speech in Jacksonville on Ax Handle Saturday, the anniversary of a deadly race riot in that city.
Exactly four years ago today, on June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old security guard opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic pistol inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others in what was America’s deadliest one-time attack on LGBTQ Americans in our history.