What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Bannon to Back Primaries Against Most GOP Sens.; Trump’s Dangerous Incoherence on North Korea

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Bannon to Back Primaries Against Most GOP Sens.

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While we were arguing about football… –> Northern California “was under siege Monday from a wildfire that quickly burned 20,000 acres and had residents running for their lives,” reported the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

As of this morning, Times reports that 15 separate fires have now burned 100,000 acres, destroyed 1,500 homes and commercial properties and left 11 dead and many more missing.

The New York Times offers a bird’s-eye view of the destruction through a series of photographs and maps.

Storm clouds gathering –> According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, Donald Trump will visit the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas in November. Lee Chi-Dong reports that “Trump is expected to send a significant message to North Korea, either verbally or ‘kinetically,’ during his first trip to the peninsula as US commander-in-chief.”

At Foreign Policy, Robbie Gramer and Paul McCleary write that “the world is reeling from the contradictory messages President Donald Trump and his administration are churning out on” the issue. To sum up, over the past few weeks we’ve heard: “The United States can’t rule out military options for North Korea. There’s no military solution to North Korea. Diplomacy is our best bet with North Korea. Don’t waste time with diplomacy.”

Meanwhile, on the homefront… –> “Publicly, the White House has pushed back against Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker suggesting Trump must be managed like a toddler,” writes Politico’s Josh Dawsey, but privately, “current and former administration officials, advisers, longtime business associates and others close to Trump describe a process where they try to install guardrails for a president who goes on gut feeling — and many days are spent managing the president, just as Corker said.”

David Frum writes at The Atlantic that the people containing Trump “have to a considerable extent succeeded,” but the project is nonetheless unacceptable because it forces federal officials to “circumvent the president’s constitutional role as commander in chief.”

And Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report for The Washington Post that Trump is “frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes,” and is “now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda.”

Hostile takeover –> Stephen Bannon appears to be going through with his promise to back primary challenges against “almost every Republican senator who runs for re-election next year in an effort to depose Majority Leader Mitch McConnell” and kill the filibuster. According to Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Bill Allison, only Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be spared.

So much for negotiating in good faith –> In an about-face from the deal Donald Trump reportedly struck with congressional Dems, the White House is now insisting on a laundry list of anti-immigrant measures in exchange for halting the deportations of Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. Michael Shear reports for The New York Times that, among other things, Trump “will insist on the construction of a wall across the southern border, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents, tougher laws for those seeking asylum and denial of federal grants to ‘sanctuary cities.’”

In response to Trump’s “hard-line” demands, Ed O’Keefe and David Nakamura report for The Washington Post that some Democrats are considering shutting down the government if a deal isn’t reached to keep DACA in place.

Antisocial media –> Ben Collins, Gideon Resnick and Spencer Ackerman report for The Daily Beast that the Russians recruited some aspiring African-American YouTube stars to write raps about how awful Hillary Clinton was and singing Trump’s praise. “It’s reminiscent of the Russian attempts to impersonate a California-based Muslim group and piggyback off of the Black Lives Matter protests to spread the Kremlin’s message,” they write, “but this time, the Kremlin operation used real people, not just memes and hijacked hashtags.”

And Greg Gordon and Peter Stone report for McClatchy that British researchers found that “Russia has exploited social media networks to target current and former US military personnel with propaganda, conspiracy theories and other misinformation, achieving ‘significant and persistent interactions’ over Twitter during a one-month period last spring.”

In other social media news –> Vice’s Carter Sherman reports that “Twitter blocked an ad for Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s Senate campaign over claims that she ‘stopped the sale of baby body parts’ — a reference to alleged sales of fetal tissue for medical research that have been thoroughly debunked.” Twitter said the ad violated its standards because it was “an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction.”

Save our vote –> Edward-Isaac Dovere reports for Politico that “American voting machines are full of foreign-made hardware and software, including from China, and a top group of hackers and national security officials says that means they could have been infiltrated last year and into the future.” He adds that the “findings are especially compelling in light of the Department of Homeland Security’s recent notification to 21 states last month of Russian attempts to intervene in the 2016 elections.”

VP walks out –> VP Mike Pence’s showed up to a Colts game only to walk out before the game got underway when several players refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of discriminatory policing. At Business Insider, Allan Smith notes that the trip probably cost taxpayers around $250,000 in travel, but that figure doesn’t include advance work and security costs.

Paul Waldman writes at The Washington Post that we can expect “three more years of culture war posturing from the Trump administration.” Because Trump’s policies can’t deliver real benefits to his base, he has no choice but to rely on “the symbolic culture war” to maintain their support.

Speaking of Trump’s base –> Symbolic acts may not be enough, according to a new poll from Reuters/Ipsos. “The poll of more than 15,000 adults in ‘non-metro’ areas” found that “Trump has lost support in rural areas among men, whites and people who never went to college. He lost support with rural Republicans and rural voters who supported him on Election Day.” It remains to be seen whether this trend holds.

Speaking of symbolism –> Last week, the Trump administration waived the Jones Act, which bars any goods from being delivered to US ports unless they’re carried on US-owned and manned ships, and which has slowed the delivery of relief supplies to Puerto Rico. That story got a lot of attention, but the waiver was only good for 10 days, and expired on Sunday. The Department of Homeland Security told The Hill’s Melanie Zanona that the waiver “will not be extended.”

Elections have consequences –> EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who is “closely aligned to the oil and gas industry in his home state” and “rejects the consensus of scientists that man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change,” announced on Monday “he would be issuing a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan,” the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s effort to “limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants” according to Adam Beam and Michael Biesecker at the Associated Press.

Steely-eyed G-Men –> Ariane Lange and Jason Leopold report for Buzzfeed that “the FBI actively seeks to control and burnish its image through consulting work on films. Over the past five years, the FBI’s Hollywood-focused Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit has played a role in the development of hundreds of movies, television shows, and documentaries,” in part because it “views these projects as marketing tools for an agency that desperately wants to build the FBI ‘brand.’”

Battle of the sexes –> Among the tidbits in Matt Flegenheimer’s New York Times profile of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who “rocketed to the upper reaches of White House influence… powered by a hyperfluency in the politics of grievance,” is that in high school he once “jumped, uninvited, into the final stretch of a girls’ track meet, apparently intent on proving his athletic supremacy over the opposite sex.”

And after reading the story, Alexi Pappas, an Olympic runner who set a Greek women’s record in the 10,000 meter race in Rio last year, challenged Miller to a race. Anytime, anywhere, according to Jacqueline Thomsen at The Hill.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.



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