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Our QAnon President

Trump embraces QAnon and pushes a boycott of an American company; Obama draws the rage tweets; and Biden gets ready.
August 20, 2020
Our QAnon President
The logo of the White House is seen behind US President Donald Trump as he speaks during a press briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, in Washington, DC on August 19, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the Washington Post ran a feature that (I’m really not making this up) warning against the dangers of “toxic positivity,” which includes being too relentlessly optimistic and happy. It strikes me that this is not one of our top 10 problems these days.

Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 75 days to go until the election; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day.

Maybe this was inevitable, since we have had ample warnings about how the president’s mind works: his fetish for conspiracy theorists, his fascination with the fever swamps, and his enthusiasm for anyone who says nice things about him.

But it was still flabbergasting to watch President Trump fully embrace The Crazy from the podium in the White House. It was a genuine WTF moment, even for people who don’t use that kind of language in polite society.

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday offered encouragement to proponents of QAnon, a viral conspiracy theory that has gained a widespread following among people who believe the president is secretly battling a criminal band of sex traffickers, and suggested that its proponents were patriots upset with unrest in Democratic cities.

“I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” Mr. Trump said during a White House news conference ostensibly about the coronavirus. “So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me.”

A reporter gave him a chance to clarify this, by telling Trump that one of the central tenets of QAnon is that Trump is saving the world from a satantic cult of pedophiles and cannibals connected to prominent Democrats, celebrities, and denizens of the Deep State.

Trump said: “I haven’t heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it, and I’m willing to put myself out there,.And we are, actually. We’re saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country. And when this country is gone, the rest of the world would follow.”

As the Times deadpanned this morning, “Mr. Trump’s cavalier response was a remarkable public expression of support for conspiracy theorists who have operated in the darkest corners of the internet and have at times been charged with domestic terrorism and planned kidnapping.”

This was enough to get Jeb! to tweet:

Question of the day: Why isn’t every other prominent Republican saying the same thing?

Unfortunately, we know the answer. There will be a few scattered tut-tuts, lots of strategic silence, and then a pivot back to the safe space of anti-anti Trumpism.

It is one thing to denounce a nutter from Georgia, or a bigot from Florida. But in this GOP, the president can keep saying the same crazy things, and most of his party will be just fine with it. Because #Socialism, or #MAGA, or fill-in-the-blank (you can play this game at home).

And what is this president actually saying? Let’s be clear, because there’s a tendency to lapse into euphemisms like “crazy,” and “far right,” and “provocateur” to describe figures like Trump’s new BFF, Laura Loomer, who won a congressional primary this week. Because she’s running in a heavily Democratic district, she’s not likely to actually make it to Congress, but that makes the presidential shout- out even stranger.

As our friends at Reason magazine note: “This is embarrassing because Loomer is a lunatic. She previously said that someone should create a ‘non Islamic’ ‘version of Uber so that she could avoid giving money to immigrant drivers. She celebrated the deaths of 2,000 migrants and expressed hope that more would die. She went to Parkland, Florida, on behalf of InfoWars to spread misinformation about the 2018 mass shooting, and also teamed up with far-right grifter Jacob Wohl.

None of this is an exaggeration. Loomer is not simply “far right,” she is a thoroughly detestable human being, who openly relishes cruelty and human suffering. After 51 people were murdered in Christchurch, New Zealand by a white nationalist, she made it clear on social media that she didn’t care.

Just in case her indifference wasn’t clear, she doubled down:

This was not a one-off for Loomer, who openly revels in the deaths of thousands of migrants.

Her bigotry is not at all subtle.

And now the president is all-in. David French tweeted: “Trump won’t stop hyping the bigots and the nuts. This is the kind of GOP he loves.”

But, notes Lucy Caldwell, “Not just ‘the kind of GOP he loves.’ This IS the GOP now.”

Contrary to some of the commentary last night, Barack Obama was not the first ex-president to sharply criticize his successor. But he was certainly the first one to do in such direct, personal, and unvarnished terms. This was amazing:

I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.

But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead, millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.

On cue, the president respond by rage tweeting in ALL CAPS, which seemed to confirm Obama’s point.

Trump followed up this morning by attacking the late John McCain again after watching Sarah Palin on Fox News. McCain, he tweeted “was a lousy candidate with lots of bad policy,” but was “sabotaged” by “deadheads” like Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt.

Note to historians: It is August 20, 2020 and this is how the president is spending his morning. 

Kamala Harris made history when she accepted the vice presidential nomination but she was overshadowed by Obama. In some ways, her speech — delivered to an eerily empty hall — felt like an emotional let-down at the end of the night. (I’m going to get a ton of blow-back for saying that, but her speech was, unfortunately, pretty forgettable.) A California Democratic strategist tweeted:

Trump’s comments on QAnon threatened to overshadow another extraordinary moment Wednesday: the president pushing a boycott of a major U.S. employer because they allegedly wouldn’t allow MAGA apparel on the job.

This all started with a local news report about a diversity training session where employees at Goodyear were told that they could wear items touting “Black Lives Matter,” but that would be zero-tolerance for “Blue Lives Matter” and “MAGA attire.”

Even allowing for the peculiar political sensitivities of the moment, this blatant double standard opened up the company for criticism. But Trump took it further, using his bully pulpit to demand that his tens of millions of followers boycott Goodyear tires, despite the fact that Goodyear is an American company with more than 60,000 employees.

Trump undoubtedly sees an opening here to push a favorite culture war meme, but that meant attacking a major company in a a key swing state (Ohio). It was also a reminder of his readiness to use his office to attack private companies who offend him either personally or politically.

There is a word for this. and it is not “conservative”.

There are 75 days to go.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.