Wednesday, June 3, 2020



Getting pretty crazy, huh? In the middle of a deadly pandemic, this whole other issue of police brutality, and US Army helicopters bearing the Red Cross insignia bearing down on protests in Lafayette Square under, apparently, orders from the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces who is as you know our head of state and head of government, a biggish failure in the fabled separation of powers in our constitutional setup, or the "highest levels of the Washington D.C. Army National Guard" (WaPo), or maybe the attorney general. Seriously, the attorney general
Mr. Barr was concerned about demonstrations near the White House over the weekend that had resulted in a small basement fire at St. John’s and graffiti on the Treasury Department headquarters, so he resolved to push the security perimeter farther from the mansion.
And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in military fatigues and the secretary of defense walking with the president and his all-white goon squad over to St. John's Episcopal (where the pastoral staff and colleagues from other churches, far from terrorized by the nearby graffiti and the small fire, had been passing out water bottles and snacks to the protesters while Black Lives Matter workers filled squeeze bottles with the mix of dish soap and water you can use as an eyewash in a tear gas attack) to, um, film him looking with puzzlement at a Bible and waving it in the air and dandling it up and down like a colicky baby.

Trump's first idea, after the distressing discovery that people were making fun of him for hiding in the underground White House bunker during demonstrations on Friday night, was to demonstrate his toughness by sending occupation troops to various cities he felt were in a state of rebellion, as permitted under the Insurrection Act of 1807, with the backing of Vice President Pence and Secretary of Raytheon Defense Esper but opposed by Attorney General Barr and General Milley of the Joint Chiefs (or so we're told—Barr was concerned about states' rights, and the argument is said to have devolved into a "fight"; sources disagreed over where Chief of Staff Meadows stood). But by sometime Sunday he had been persuaded to take a more symbolic approach, remarks in the Rose Garden followed by the walk over to St. John's, where his presence would have some startling and impressive effect, they weren't clear how—it seems to have been Ivanka's concept, with Hope Hicks responsible for staging, but they didn't give a lot of thought to what Trump might do at the church, particularly after they learned that it was boarded up and he wouldn't be able to go inside. Ivanka did, however, pack a Bible in what The Times happily describes as "her $1,540 MaxMara bag".

Then, on Monday, some time after Trump and Pence made their call reprimanding all the governors for being weak and fools
We're strongly looking for arrests. You have to get much tougher. You're gonna get over it. I know Gov. Walz is on the phone and we spoke and I fully agree with the way he handled it the last couple of days, I asked him to do that. You know, a lot of me -- we have all the men and women that you need. But people aren't calling them up.
You have to dominate. If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run all over you, you'll look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate, and you have to arrest people, and you have to try people and they have to go to jail for long periods of time.
—they went into action, and Barr went outdoors and discovered that there had been some chain-of-command SNAFU and the perimeter hadn't been moved:

With what followed—the helicopters
The use of a helicopter’s rotor wash, the downward rush of air from its rotors, is a common military tactic to incite fear, disperse crowds and warn of other capabilities, like rockets and guns, said Kyleanne Hunter, a former Marine Corps pilot who flew Cobra attack helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
and flashbang grenades and rubber bullets, the tear gas (I heard park police are claiming it was "only" pepper spray) and the hounded clergy
“I am shaken, not so much by the taste of tear gas and the bit of a cough I still have, but by the fact that that show of force was for a PHOTO OPPORTUNITY,” [Rev. Gini] Gerbasi said on Facebook. “The patio of St. John's, Lafayette square had been HOLY GROUND today. A place of respite and laughter and water and granola bars and fruit snacks. But that man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second.”
followed by the senseless march

Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times.

and bizarre encounter with the Bible after Ivanka pulled it out of her purse and passed it to him, displaying his unfamiliarity with what normal people do not just with a Bible but any book at all—with all this, I find myself feeling the Trumpery may have finally touched bottom, the moment where, between the reflexive racism and violence and the clownish stupidity, the moment where it begins at long last to up-end and founder, where a wider bunch of people start to understand how simultaneously cruel and foolish Trump and his henchmen are.

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