After an hour of Trump delivering many familiar hits — on Russia, impeachment, Jan. 6, the 2020 election, how he told NATO members he would not defend them if they didn’t “pay,” trade with China, CHUCK TODD’S alleged lack of sleep, the relative merits of the journalists CHRIS WALLACE and his father MIKE, his conversations with the Taliban, the Durham investigation, and how, “sadly,” White House physician-turned-congressman RONNY JACKSON knows Trump’s body better than MELANIA does — Trump turned his attention to a newer obsession.
“No teacher should ever be allowed to teach transgender to our children without parental consent,” he said, just as some of the MAGA faithful started to trickle out. “Can you imagine?”
On the perimeter of the arena, some attendees headed for their cars stopped and began listening again on an outside monitor. Trump briefly got distracted when he caught a glimpse of himself on a video screen and noticed his hair was thinning in the back.
But he then returned to the subject.
“We will save our kids and we will also keep men the hell out of women’s sports. Is that OK?” he said, using what’s become a common GOP refrain. He continued with an animated tale about a female swimmer about to start a race who turned and noticed a new opponent, a “huge person who was a guy recently.”
Trump paused for effect and then reflected on the fraught nature of his commentary. “See? I’m politically correct, I said ‘recently,’ They can’t get me,” he said. “You have to be very careful, this is a hornet’s nest.”
He continued. He said the trans woman set a new record that would stand until “some guy comes along and breaks it again.” He pantomimed his way through a story mocking trans women in weightlifting competitions. He imagined himself as a women’s basketball team coach recruiting players, such as LEBRON JAMES: “Did you ever have any thoughts, LeBron, about one day becoming a woman?”
He congratulated himself. “Everybody’s afraid of not being politically correct,” he said. “I’m the only one that talks about it.”
These long riffs mocking trans athletes were received with thunderous applause. The only other objects of derision that tickled the crowd with similar enthusiasm were mentions of undocumented immigrants or Cheney and the appearance of House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY, who was booed when he showed up in a video at the rally.
Trump is wrong that he’s the only one in politics caricaturing trans people for political benefit. Transgender women have been allowed to compete in women’s categories in the Olympics since 2003 and the NCAA since 2010. Yet Republicans say new laws are needed to protect women's sports and GOP candidates have been using Trump-like language in campaigns and policy around the country for years.
It’s having an impact. Here in Wyoming last week, a local school board voted to remove sexual orientation and gender identity from its non-discrimination code.
Trump is like a standup comedian. He uses rallies, especially in the offseason, to work on material. He tests the reaction among his diehard fans and watches the mainstream media’s coverage. He then rewrites the lines, calibrating them for maximum effect inside the arena and minimal blowback outside of it. You can tell he believes he’s onto something with his mocking of trans people.
There is a cynical strategy at work here. Targeting marginalized groups for ridicule forces more responsible actors to stand up for them. As Democrats have learned, Trump’s goal is to get them to spend their time outraged and defending the targets of his attacks rather than talking about their own message.
This dynamic creates a built-in political advantage to any party that no longer sees it as taboo to scapegoat certain groups. Trump, of course, knows this and he has found a new target for 2022 — and perhaps beyond.
Sunday, May 29, 2022
As President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visit Uvalde, Texas today in the wake of last week's deadly school shooting, the Justice Department says it will investigate the conduct of the local police response to the attack, which by all indications was a complete failure that directly contributed to the deaths.
The critical incident review, requested by Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, will include a report on law enforcement actions on May 24 — the day of shooting. The report will be conducted by the department's Office of Community Oriented Policing.
“The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events," said Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley.
“As with prior Justice Department after-action reviews of mass shootings and other critical incidents, this assessment will be fair, transparent, and independent."
Local police have admitted to a number of failures in responding to the shooting that left 21 people, including 19 children, dead.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Friday that police made the "wrong decision" by waiting to confront the shooter.
“There were plenty of officers to do what needed to be done, with one exception, is that the incident commander inside believed he needed more equipment and more officers to do a tactical breach at that time," McCraw said. “From the benefit of hindsight where I’m sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision. There’s no excuse for that.”
We’ve seen this before. When the House impeached Donald Trump over the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection attempt, McConnell signaled openness to convicting Trump. This produced headlines proclaiming “McConnell open to convicting Trump in impeachment trial.”
But in the end he voted to acquit Trump, as was surely his intention all along. Then as now, he got headlines advertising his reasonableness at exactly the moment when public emotions (over the attack on the Capitol) were at their height.
Any basic reading of McConnell’s incentives implies that this is likely to happen again. Killing a deal on gun control avoids the risk of a backlash from the Republican base, which might recoil at any deal as an unconscionable betrayal.
McConnell also knows that the Democratic base is frustrated with their leaders, in general and on this issue in particular. Congressional failure on guns could demobilize that base, making them more likely to stay home in November in disgust, boosting GOP chances.
We should offer a caveat. It’s perfectly possible that this time McConnell will decide a deal is more in his interests than failure is. He might calculate that the public’s horror over this shooting is so deep that being part of a bipartisan solution could give Republicans more benefit in the midterms than failure would.
After all, there are times that McConnell calculates that allowing bipartisanship to happen is better for him and Republicans politically, such as when the infrastructure bill passed last year.
And in this case, any deal will likely be pretty modest. As Murphy has said, such a compromise might combine a “red-flag” law with a proposal to close a loophole that allows some sellers to avoid performing background checks. That would fall well short of universal background checks, though still worth doing.
So maybe McConnell will decide that this is so modest that it carries more upside than downside. On the other hand, even if Republicans are feeling extra pressure to act, remember what happened after the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children in 2012: Senators reached a bipartisan deal seriously beefing up background checks. It had overwhelming public support. It fell to a GOP filibuster, led by ... McConnell.
The core point here is that McConnell’s calculation of what’s in Republicans’ naked political interests will carry the day either way. Substance will be largely irrelevant.
Sometimes Loren Bouchard thinks about how close he came to having a totally different life from the one he has now — one that would not exist if he hadn’t bumped into his elementary-school science teacher in Harvard Square one day in 1993.
He was 23 at the time, a high school dropout who had spent the previous five years working odd jobs: museum guard, bouncer, bartender. At one point, he created a cartoon about a bartending dog and submitted it to a novelty book publisher, who rejected it. Then one day, as he was leaving an art supply store, he ran into Tom Snyder — his former teacher and an ex-colleague of his father’s. Snyder ran a company that made educational software for classrooms, and now it was expanding into animation. He asked Bouchard if he still liked to draw. Bouchard did. And so Snyder hired him to work on a project that would eventually become the animated cable-TV comedy “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.”
Bouchard told me this story on a sunny afternoon at the dining table of his beautiful house in the hills in Los Angeles. Without that chance encounter in Cambridge, he told me — as his wife, Holly, made us popcorn and one of his two sons did homework nearby — he might never have found his way here to any of this: never gotten into animation, met his collaborators, met his wife, won two Emmys, made a movie or taken up growing walnuts or fostering baby goats on his farm in Ojai, Calif. “I know it’s cliché,” he says of the transformative effect that one coincidence had on his life. “But it’s, like, stunning sometimes, the magnitude of the difference.”
Bouchard is now one of the most influential figures in adult animation, best known as the co-creator of the Fox hit “Bob’s Burgers.” The show is currently in its 12th season, putting it among the longest-running animated comedies, with a feature film, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” arriving in theaters now. (Bouchard also has a newer show, “Central Park,” an animated musical series he created with Josh Gad and Nora Smith for Apple TV+; he is also an executive producer on “The Great North,” created by two former “Bob’s” writers, Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin, along with Minty Lewis.)
“Bob’s” is about a lower-middle-class family and the restaurant they run together, making it at once a family comedy and a workplace comedy. It centers on Bob Belcher — the anxious and pessimistic owner of a struggling burger joint that, despite his talent, never seems to catch on — and his wildly optimistic wife, Linda, plus their three weird kids: Tina (boy-crazed, butt-fixated), Gene (flamboyant, obsessed with food, music and fart jokes) and Louise (adorable, scheming, borderline sociopathic). An atmospheric grossness clings to the Belchers like burger grease, and yet — despite Bob’s hairy arms, Tina’s excruciating adolescence and Gene’s booger play — the show never treats the Belchers as objects of contempt; in fact, it runs on the deep affection and respect it has for them and they have for one another. They seem, of all things, oddly dignified. When a mean girl steals Tina’s mortifying journal of “erotic friend fiction” and threatens to read it to everyone at school, the whole family rallies to recover it — but not before Tina, inspired by her mother’s pep talk encouraging her to be herself, pre-emptively reads one of her sagas to the student body as her siblings look on, cringing protectively.
Adult animation has often been a space for cynicism and snark, but Bouchard has long gone against that grain. H. Jon Benjamin, who plays Bob, recalls a moment in the mid-1990s when he and Bouchard were taking “Dr. Katz” to Comedy Central. They were shown an early presentation for “South Park,” which was soon to begin its quarter-century run on the same channel, and saw doom. “It was the funniest thing I had ever seen animated,” Benjamin says, “and we were doing this very low, low-energy thing” — a show full of shambling, introspective conversations that Bouchard describes as “secretly a love story between a father and a son.”
With “Bob’s,” Bouchard wanted to create something equally rooted in kindness, rejecting the classic sitcom convention of the family as a conflict machine. (He recalls one executive saying the family members “love each other a little too much,” warning him that “even a family that loves each other fights.”) The show premiered in 2011 as a midseason replacement and began to gain momentum around its third or fourth season, but it really took off when it became available on streaming services, letting viewers spend longer, more intimate hours with the Belchers. Marci Proietto, the head of the Disney unit that produces the show, told me that people sometimes tell her, “We fall asleep to ‘Bob’s’” — “and I’m always like, ‘Oh, that’s a weird thing to say to me,’ but they mean it in a really loving way. They mean it like, ‘That’s my comfort food.’”
From the start, Bouchard and the writers knew they wanted the Belchers to live persistently on the edge of failure, always feeling “the pressure of when you love your kids but you know that every moment you’re not working could be the nail in your coffin.” The other thing they knew was that they were telling the story of an artist. Every day, Bob offers a fanciful but impractical new burger special — the Eggers Can’t Be Cheesers (with fried egg and cheese), the Cauliflower’s Cumin From Inside the House, the Let’s Give ’Em Something Shiitake ’Bout — to an indifferent world. Occasionally someone verges on recognizing Bob’s genius. The family’s landlord gives them a break after tasting one of Bob’s creations and declaring him a true beef artist, or “be-fartist.” A now-wealthy friend from college invests in the business, but his corny marketing ploys alienate Bob, who cannot compromise his vision. Driven by his creative urges, Bob communes with food; he actually talks to it, tenderly, and then does voices to pretend it can talk back to him. “We knew that he was going to be compelled to make these burgers that were not practical,” Bouchard says, “and that there was going to be a restaurant across the street that was ridiculously bad and yet successful because it was practical.”