You'd assume that the president fomenting civil unrest in the middle of a national crisis is not a winning political strategy, but you're not the New York Times.

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We're almost four years into Donald Trump's rocky presidential horror show and Times reporters still insist on using the BS term “working-class populist" when "racist clown college drop-out" is more apt. Tragically, the actual article is worse than Peter Baker's tweet.

President Trump on Friday openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in states with stay-at-home orders ...

This buries the lede, probably in the same mass graves we'll eventually have for everyone who participated in these idiotic Corona-Paloozas. The president of the United States openly encouraged defiance of the Center for Disease Control's own social distancing guidance. These shutdown protests are unsafe and reckless, and the true story here is that the president is unstable and unfit for office. You can't compare this to the Times reporting that Barack Obama had “openly encouraged left-wing protests of police violence," which he never did. No, it's like the Times blithely stating that Obama tweeted, “Burn, baby, burn!" over videos of the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore.


[Trump's] tweets were a remarkable example of a president egging on demonstrators and helping to stoke an angry fervor that in its anti-government rhetoric was eerily reminiscent of the birth of the Tea Party movement a decade ago.

Trump is the government! He's the goddamn president. He's more “government" than the governors he's attacking. Trump would love to run again as the government outsider, even though his lousy and often criminal stewardship of the government is the whole point of this election. Thanks, New York Times, for the generous in-kind donation to the Trump/Pence 2020 campaign.

This is the same president who called black NFL players who kneeled during the National Anthem “sons of bitches" and demanded they lose their jobs if they exercised their First Amendment rights. That's useful context for this article about “activist Trump" that the Times fails to provide. Trump and other conservatives insisted that NFL players peacefully protesting somehow disrespected veterans. Yet, he's cheering on fools who deliberately gather in large crowds and endanger the lives of their fellow citizens, specifically the health care workers who are on the front lines of what Trump himself has described as the nation's “war" against the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump's call for liberation from social distancing rules followed protests around the country as protesters — many wearing red "Make America Great Again" hats — congregated in packed groups around state capitols to demand that restrictions be immediately lifted and to demonize their Democratic governors.

Why is the Times uncritically adopting Trump's verbiage? Trump isn't Nelson Mandela. He's president of the United States for at least the next 275 days and what he's actually calling for is Americans' “liberation" from the physical plane. These protests are plague-spreading jamborees. He doesn't care because they are openly public rallies in his behalf. His tune would change if this were another Women's March or a Black Lives Matter rally.

The Times, demonstrating the journalistic acumen of a high school yearbook, reports these “protests" as spontaneous demonstrations of public defiance against COVID restrictions. The article doesn't mention that the protest in Michigan, for instance, was organized by the far-right Michigan Conservative Coalition in concert with the Betsy Devos-backed Michigan Freedom Fund.

In St. Paul, Minn., a group calling itself "Liberate Minnesota" rallied against stay-at-home orders in front of the home of Gov. Tim Walz, demanding he "end this lockdown!"

Protestors showed up outside Walz's home, like The Night of the Living COVID Dead. That's scary! But apparently it's not the targeted “harassment" that Times writer Frank Bruni accused Maxine Waters of encouraging in 2018 against the poor put-upon fascists in Trump's administration. “Liberate Minnesota" was organized by Michele Even, who formed the pro-Trump MAGASOTA PAC. It's disturbing that the Times doesn't mention this, because most polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans have enough brains to come in out of the coronavirus. It's a stark contrast from when an underwhelming minority of American supported Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. The Times “both-sides"-ing would make you think the protests against Kavanaugh and the current ones against common sense had equal support.

Speaking Friday evening at the White House, the president expressed sympathy for the protesters for having to endure what he called "too tough" social distancing orders in their states, and he dismissed concerns that they could spread the virus by holding demonstrations.

"They seem to be very responsible people to me," he said.

Gee, it's so big of the president to express “sympathy" for protestors who have PACs named after his campaign slogan. They protestors are not "responsible people" because it's not responsible to defy social distancing orders. This is like calling the 12 year old who took your car on a joy ride a "responsible driver." That's objectively untrue. Trump also grossly calls social distancing orders “too tough" so that Democratic governors are solely blamed for the economic and social impact of measures that are necessary to prevent COVID's death toll from rising. The Times is helping Trump play “good Dad" while painting Democratic governors as “lame Moms."

It's hard to say whether the Times is just incompetent when it comes to covering Trump or simply blinded by the white. But you can't help comparing this article to one from 2014 about how “race undermines Obama's bully pulpit on Ferguson."

But will the president's involvement actually have a positive effect? Many who have called on Mr. Obama to speak up may not realize that it could be counterproductive for him to be visibly involved in the debate. Research by a Brown University political scientist, Michael Tesler, shows that the mere mention of Mr. Obama, the first African-American president, polarizes the public along racial lines on issues ranging from health care to how people feel about his dog, Bo.

Obama couldn't exist without polarizing Americans and it was always depicted as a failing not a madcap method of “re-energizing" his coalition. Trump's bullying apparently makes him master of the bully pulpit.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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