June 9, 2020
The day started with Trump tweeting that the 75-year-old Buffalo, New York, man shoved to the ground by police and left bleeding and unconscious “could be an ANTIFA provocateur” who might have been part of a “set up.”
Trump drew his suspicions from a story on One America News Network, a small cable television network whose constant support for the president has drawn his attention away from the Fox News Channel, whose support is less fervent. The Buffalo man (whose name I am not using in the vain hope that he may retain some anonymity) was a retired computer programmer and longtime Catholic peace activist who is affiliated with human-rights organizations.
The story came to OANN from a right-wing fringe site famous for conspiracy theories. It was narrated on OANN by correspondent Kristian Rouz, a Russian native who has also worked for Sputnik, a news outlet controlled by the Kremlin.
When the injured man’s friends dismissed the accusations as ludicrous, OANN followed up its original story with one that showed the victim as a left-wing extremist and said he was “far from the kindly old man that many in the media are describing.” For his part, the victim’s lawyer noted that the police had made no such accusations against his client, and wrote: “We are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.”
With the victim still in the hospital, the president’s embrace of the theory that he was a provocateur embarrassed even Republican leaders, who uniformly tried to avoid comment on the issue for reporters. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said “I didn’t see it… I don’t read Twitter, I only write on it.” Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said he hadn’t seen the tweet. “You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”
Instead of dealing with the president’s tweet, Senators today created history by unanimously approving the first Black service chief in history. General Charles Brown, Jr., known as “CQ,” will be the next chief of staff of the Air Force.
Brown was the top Air Force general in the Middle East and a three-star deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, overseeing US. Military operations there. For the past two years, he has commanded the Pacific Air Forces, and now will oversee the service as it adjusts to the rise of China and artificial intelligence. Brown last week released a moving video in which he talked about what it had meant for him to rise through the ranks as a Black man, what he had suffered and how he had prevailed. He spoke to viewers about what he hoped for America.
Trump nominated Brown in March and today celebrated the confirmation even before it happened. “My decision to appoint [General Brown] as the USA’s first-ever African-American military service chief has now been approved by the Senate,” he tweeted. “A historic day for America! Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and a Great Leader!”
The other big news today was chaos in Georgia’s voting. Five states held primaries today, and voting appeared to be unremarkable in Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
But things went badly wrong in Georgia. Mail-in ballots never arrived, sending voters to polls where machines were missing or malfunctioning. People waited in line for hours. The problems were worst in heavily minority counties.
Georgia’s voting system has been unworkable for years, either from incompetence or design, and a new system put in place before this election is clearly inadequate. Democrat Stacey Abrams, who lost the race for Georgia’s governor to Republican Brian Kemp, who was at the time Georgia’s secretary of state and thus responsible for overseeing his own election, called the 2018 election “rotten and rigged.” Of today’s election, she said Georgians “deserve better.” Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger blamed local officials for the problems, but Democrats say he owns this debacle, and must fix it before November.
He must fix it before November, but has little incentive to, because for the first time in decades, Georgia appears to be in play in this year’s presidential contest.