The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

(Kiana) #1



n Friday evening, during our
joint appearance on HBO’s
“Real Time With Bill Maher,”
former White House commu-
nications director Anthony Scaramuc-
ci said that he stood by President
Trump despite his flaws — because
Scaramucci loves his country. He also
warned Democrats that his bosom
buddy could win reelection in a 40-
state landslide.
By Sunday afternoon, Scaramucci
was calling for a new candidate to top
the 2020 Republican ticket.
“Bullying is very anti-American,” he
told Bloomberg News. “People are em-
barrassed now.”
So what happened in the interven-
ing, oh, 36 hours?
Presumably, Scaramucci still loves
his country. There was also no detect-
able change in Trump’s “embarrassing”
and “bullying” behavior. The racism,
xenophobia, grifting, misogyny, narcis-
sism, flattery of dictators, trade wars,
or any of the other things endangering
the lives and livelihoods of Americans:
All that long pre-dated Friday’s panel.
Most of it by several decades, in fact.
As I noted during our discussion
with Maher, Trump’s documented big-
otry goes back at least to the 1970s,
when he got in trouble with the Nixon
administration for refusing to rent to
black tenants. Do you know how racist
you need to be to be considered too
racist by the Nixon administration?
Here’s my theory of what broke the
camel’s back: Trump watched the show.
Trump tweeted that he tuned in “by
accident.” He must have seen Scara-
mucci defending his former boss not by
denying Trump’s racism but rather by
deflecting the charge, pivoting to a
talking point that Trump has “the
toughest job in the world.”
And then — as he does with everyone
who exhibits even the gentlest, mildest
dissent — Trump turned on Scaramuc-
ci in a series of mean tweets. As one
op-ed columnist put it, completely
unironically: “By trolling Anthony
Scaramucci, Trump has crossed a
line.” Finally, someone speaks for all
those single-issue Scaramucci voters
out there.
It’s tempting to see Scaramucci as a
sort of cautionary tale, one that should
be heeded by all Republicans still will-
ing to debase themselves for Trump —
whether for “love of country” or plain
old tax cuts.
On the other hand, it’s frustrating
that Scaramucci and other Trump sur-
rogates haven’t yet learned this lesson
from all the other cautionary prequels,
including those starring Michael Co-
hen, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Rex
Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan and
other allies, aides and surrogates simi-
larly, summarily humiliated.
For a guy who claims to care about
infrastructure, Trump loves burning
And on some level, Scaramucci must
have known this. Following Trump’s
Twitter attack, Scaramucci tweeted a
cheeky cartoon titled “Five Stages of
White House Employment,” which de-
picts a smiling staffer entering with a
red hat and exiting with a knife in his
back. This New Yorker cartoon was
originally published more than two
years ago — when other loyal White
House aides were being ousted over
their objections to Trump’s decision to
hire... Scaramucci.
Trump himself has been unsubtle
about what friends and supporters
should expect from him, as illustrated
by a story he sometimes reads at rallies
to explain his worldview. This is a
parable called “The Snake,” which he
claims is about immigrants (an im-
probable interpretation, given its au-
thorship by a black former commu-
nist). It features a gullible woman who
gives shelter to a snake and then is
shocked when the snake bites her.
Its final line, which Trump recites
with relish: “ ‘Oh, shut up, silly wom-
an!’ said the reptile with a grin. ‘You
knew damn well I was a snake before
you took me in.’ ”
There’s one sense in which the story
of Scaramucci and the Snake is a bit
different from that of other viper vic-
tims, however.
Unlike some of Trump’s disowned,
fiercely loyal attack dogs — his former
attorney Cohen, say, or former adviser
Stephen K. Bannon — Scaramucci is
charming, likeable, a happy warrior.
His shtick has been about making the
optimistic case for Trump, urging the
president to emphasize uplift of the
Forgotten Man rather than fear and
Winning though Scaramucci may
be, this was always a difficult sell. The
Forgotten Man, after all, never got his
promised infrastructure package, or
his “terrific” new health coverage, or
his big raise. Instead, he still faces an
opioid crisis. He worries whether
there’s a customer for his pork and
soybeans. And he’s ducking bullets
from maniacs shooting up restaurants,
schools, Walmarts. In other words:
Despite Scaramucci’s sunny spin, once
you strip away the fear and the racism,
there’s not much left to Trumpism.
And so maybe this falling out — and
the subsequent Scaramucci evolution
— was inevitable. Welcome to the Re-
sistance, Mooch. Better late than never.


The Snake


the Mooch


he erratic Trump administra-
tion has had just one consis-
tent policy principle, one guid-
ing North Star: punitive and
often sadistic treatment of nonwhite
President Trump’s claim that he
supports legal immigration, as op-
posed to the undocumented “invasion”
he rails against, turns out to be — big
surprise — a lie. On Monday, the
administration proved its antagonism
toward those who “stand in line” and
“come in the right way” by issuing a
new rule forcing many legal immi-
grants to make an impossible choice:
accept needed government benefits to
which they are fully entitled, or pre-
serve their chances of obtaining per-
manent residence.
Say you’re an immigrant from Mexi-
co who came here legally to join family
members who are already permanent
residents or citizens. Say you’re work-
ing a full-time minimum-wage job,
plus odd jobs nights and weekends.
You are a productive member of soci-
ety. You are paying payroll taxes, sales
taxes, vehicle registration fees and
other government levies. Still, as hard
as you work, you can’t make ends meet.
You may be legally entitled to health
care through Medicaid. You may be
entitled to food assistance through the
SNAP program, formerly known as
food stamps. You may be entitled to
housing assistance. But according to
the new Trump administration rule —
set to take effect in two months — if
you use any of these programs, you
might forfeit the opportunity to ever
obtain a green card making you a
permanent resident. That means you
also forfeit the chance of ever becom-
ing a citizen.
Long advocated by White House
adviser Stephen Miller, the Torquema-
da of the immigration inquisition, the
new policy is a major step in Trump’s
crusade to Make America White Again.
If it survives court challenges, the new
rule could dramatically reduce legal —
I repeat, legal — immigration from
low-income countries. Not just coinci-
dentally, I am sure, this means fewer
black and brown people would be
granted resident status.
Trump’s message to the world: Keep
your tired, your poor, your huddled
masses yearning to breathe free. As he
memorably and disgracefully put it:
“Our Country is FULL!”
This is part of a well-established
pattern. Trump often uses immigrants
as scapegoats, encouraging his sup-
porters to blame them for any and all
problems they face. But beneath the
cynical posturing there appears to be
genuine animus.
Does the president hate all immi-
grants? He did once allegedly muse
about wanting more newcomers from
Norway. But those who are not white
are treated, by this administration, as
if they were not fully human.
How else to characterize a policy of
cruelly separating children from their
asylum-seeking parents at the border?
Of keeping children in cages and deny-
ing them toothbrushes or soap? Of
cramming adults into overcrowded
lockups when their only crime was to
lawfully seek refuge from violence and
Last week, U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement staged what
was apparently the biggest one-day
immigration raid in modern American
history. Approximately 680 men and
women classified as “removable
aliens” were arrested at seven work
sites in Mississippi. Taken from their
job sites, many left young children
waiting in vain, and in anguish, for
their parents to pick them up from
school or day care.
ICE has limited resources — certain-
ly nowhere near enough to go after all
the estimated 11 million unauthorized
immigrants in the United States. The
only policy that makes sense is to
prioritize the capture and removal of
those who pose a genuine danger, such
as MS-13 gang members. But that’s not
who you find punching a clock for
minimum wage at a chicken plant in
Mississippi. Instead, you find hard-
working people trying to put food on
the table for their families.
The raid was a demonstration, a
warning, a show of force. If the admin-
istration were serious, it would have
gone after the employers, who were
not immediately hit with charges or
sanctions — and are already looking
for replacement workers. The message
to undocumented migrants was: You
are weak. We can hurt you whenever
we want.
Sensible immigration reform would
provide the law-abiding undocument-
ed with a pathway to legal status and
citizenship. But the Republican Party
blocks action because it is terrified that
these immigrants would eventually
become Democrats. I wonder why.
I’m betting that not a single unem-
ployed steelworker or laid-off coal
miner moves to Mississippi to take
those jobs plucking poultry. Trump’s
immigration policy isn’t a matter of
economics. Nor is it a matter of princi-
ple or fairness.
Cruelty isn’t a sideshow in the way
Trump deals with nonwhite immi-
grants. It’s the main event.


Keep your


masses home



uesday was to be the day — in
the morning, because every-
thing was taken care of. The
goodbyes had been said, the
tears shed, the coffin handmade. In the
spring of 2018, Dick Shannon, a former
Silicon Valley engineer with untreatable
cancer, took advantage of California’s
“death with dignity” law to end his own
life once all other medical possibilities
had been exhausted.
“My observation about the way people
die, at least in America, is they... are
not allowed the opportunity to be part of
the process,” Shannon explained. “For
my way of thinking, the part that
bothers me just immensely is not being
allowed to be part of that process. It’s my
death. Go with what you believe, but
don’t tell me what I have to do.”
Discussing the ultimate decision with
his doctor, Shannon remarked, “It’s hard
to fathom. I go to sleep and that’s the
end of it. I’ll never know anything
different.” He paused, then said simply:
When the day came, Shannon was
ready. The end-of-life medical cocktail
was mixed in a silver stainless steel cup,
and he drank it in front of his loving and
tearful family. “I’ve accepted the fact
that I’m dying,” he’d said earlier.
“There’s nothing I can do to stop it.
Planning the final days of my life gives
me a sense of participation and satisfac-
tion.” As he prepared to slip away, he
told his family, “Just know that I love
you — each and every one of you.”
America is becoming ever more like
itself when it comes to death. From
Walden Pond to Huck Finn’s lighting out
for the territory, we’re a nation of
individualists, shaped and suffused by
self-reliance and a stubborn allegiance
to the live-free-or-die motto of the
Revolutionary era. With this twist: Baby
boomers and their successor genera-

tions are insisting on being free to take
control of death itself. Innovation, cre-
ativity and customization — the hall-
marks of our time, an age in which we
can run much of our lives from our
mobile phones — are now transforming
both how we die and the mechanics of
remembrance that come afterward.
The coming revolution in death —
and Dick Shannon’s story — is laid out
with uncommon wisdom in a powerful,
new HBO documentary, “Alternate End-
ings,” which debuts Aug. 14. Only eight
states and the District of Columbia have
death-with-dignity laws, but three of
those states — Hawaii, Maine and New
Jersey — have put their statutes on the
books within the past year. And 18 other
states considered such laws in the 2019
legislative season.
The movement has not attracted the
same attention it once did; in the 1990s,
Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, the right-to-
die advocate, drew considerable public
alarm. As the documentary by Perri
Peltz and Matthew O’Neill makes clear,
the conversation has entered a new and
compelling phase now that Americans
are thinking about death as something
as disintermediated as commuting, dat-
ing and shopping.
The United States has a long history
of rethinking the rituals of death. Em-
balming became part of the popular
understanding and tradition of death
during the Civil War; the task then was
to preserve the bodies of dead soldiers so
their families could see them one final
time. Abraham Lincoln may have done
the most to raise the profile of embalm-
ing when he chose first to embalm his
11-year-old son and then when his own
corpse was embalmed for the long train
ride home to Springfield, Ill., after his
Now the death industry in the United
States has evolved with the culture. For
many, corporate consolidation has re-
shaped a funeral home industry, which

was once made up almost entirely of
local, family-owned companies. (And
which, as Jessica Mitford wrote in her
1963 book “The American Way of
Death,” unctuously gouged grieving
families.) The Internet has disrupted the
casket industry with Walmart and oth-
ers selling directly to families. As “Alter-
nate Endings” reports, there are now
green burials (including using a loved
one’s ashes to help restore coral reefs),
space burials and even drive-through,
open-casket viewings.
Once the great gatekeeper of life and
death, organized religion, too, is losing
its sway. In an era in which friends
routinely ordain themselves on the
Internet to preside at weddings, the
rising numbers of Americans who are
“unaffiliated” with any particular faith
mean that institutions that once gave
shape to life and meaning to death are
being gradually supplanted family to
The issues raised by Dick Shannon’s
story are the most profound. Many
religious authorities — notably the Ro-
man Catholic Church — oppose eutha-
nasia (Greek for a “good death”). Such
teachings face a generational head wind
as more people (and states) move from
deferring to institutions to simply mak-
ing their own decisions. The questions
involved are intricate and complex and
painful — but it is plain to see that we
are witnessing another rite of passage
undergoing an irrevocable disruption.
When the Shannons held a “living
wake” for friends to say goodbye to Dick,
the family hung a banner on the wall:
“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even
its end.” Before passing, Shannon said, “I
want it to be on my terms.” Given that
death comes for us all, so, too, will many
of us have to confront the agonizing
decision that he faced with grace.

Jon Meacham is the author of “The Soul of
America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.”

The new way to die in America

Supporters of “death with dignity” legislation in California attend a hearing in Sacramento on March 25, 2015.


eparations to African Americans
for slavery, and the systemic op-
pression that followed, is now the
stuff of congressional hearings
and Democratic presidential debates.
Twenty-nine percent of Americans sup-
port reparations, according to Gallup, up
from 14 percent in 2002.
Increasingly, advocates ask not “if ” but
“how.” Vox reports the main questions are
“what a reparations program would look
like, who would benefit, who would pay,
and how it would be funded.”
They left one out: Would reparations be
Maybe not. Any financial benefits
awarded to African Americans in compen-
sation for historical discrimination would
collide with well-established Supreme
Court precedents.
That doctrine emerged out of two dec-
ades of affirmative-action cases, from the
mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, during which
a center-right court wrestled with how
much “reverse discrimination” against
whites to allow for the sake of correcting
black America’s historical disadvantages.
The court’s answer: not much. Under
the 14th Amendment, a race-conscious
policy, state or federal, could be enacted
only if it passed “strict scrutiny” — that is, if
it was “narrowly tailored” to meet a “com-
pelling” government interest, through the
“least restrictive” means available.
“Diversity” in higher education was a
compelling interest, the court ruled, and
could be addressed through admissions
programs that took race into account but
provided all applicants individualized
In most contexts, though, the court
required government to show that it was
redressing harm clearly caused by a dis-
criminatory policy, and that government
had exhausted other remedies before try-
ing race-conscious ones.
Under this standard, government con-
tracting set-asides intended to support
historically disadvantaged African Ameri-
can (or other minority) businesses, in
preference to some white-owned ones,

were unconstitutional, the court held, be-
cause, even in the former Confederate
capital, Richmond, the location of a land-
mark 1989 case, it was too hard to prove
that any given minority business suffered
discrimination at the hands of the con-
tracting agency.
Justice Thurgood Marshall protested. “A
profound difference separates govern-
mental actions that themselves are racist,
and governmental actions that seek to
remedy the effects of prior racism or to
prevent neutral governmental activity
from perpetuating the effects of such rac-
ism,” he wrote.
But Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had
the last word, noting in 1995 that “any
individual suffers an injury when he or she
is disadvantaged by the government be-
cause of his or her race, whatever that race
may be.”
Union Army Gen. William T. Sherman’s
January 1865 Special Field Order 15, call-
ing for redistribution of white-owned
lands to the freed slaves, might have sur-
vived “strict scrutiny,” because it compen-
sated people personally victimized by slav-
ery. (Alas, President Andrew Johnson re-
versed it by fiat.)
Also clearly constitutional: reparations
paid to Japanese Americans for their in-
ternment during World War II. Like Sher-
man’s order, this 1988 federal measure
compensated the actual victims of a dis-
crete policy.
In his seminal 2014 Atlantic article,
“The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi
Coates implied that the situation of Afri-
can Americans today is essentially similar
to that of the newly emancipated in 1865,
or the World War II internees, in that they
still suffer, not just from slavery, but from
much more recent policies such as mid-
20th-century federally backed housing
Yet today’s conservative-majority court
would almost certainly note that subse-
quent legal reforms such as the 1968 Fair
Housing Act or the 1977 Community Rein-
vestment Act mitigate societal or govern-
mental accountability, and weaken the

link between past policy and current hard-
Even a not-so-conservative jurist might
worry that reparations compensate people
who do not deserve or need it, while
excluding those who do. In 1989, Justice
John Paul Stevens looked askance at the
Richmond contracting set-aside because it
“encompasses persons who have never
been in business in Richmond, minority
contractors who may have been guilty of
discriminating against members of other
minority groups.”
As for finding a plaintiff to claim harm
from reparations, courts have regularly
granted whites and — in a case against
Harvard’s admissions program — Asians
the right to sue for “reverse discrimina-
tion.” They would likely allow a member of
a historically oppressed group to sue for
being omitted from blacks-only repara-
tions. A German American sued against
compensation for Japanese Americans, on
the grounds that he, too, had been de-
tained in World War II. (The U.S. court of
appeals in Washington ultimately denied
his claim on the merits.)
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the Univer-
sity of California at Berkeley School of Law,
suggests that reparations could be consti-
tutional if framed as an award to descen-
dants of slaves — not African Americans.
(Problem: What about descendants of pre-
Civil War free people of color, or immi-
grants from Africa and the West Indies?)
Alternatively, reparations could take the
form of a wealth transfer to all low-income
Americans, which would disproportion-
ately benefit black people.
Any race-neutral plan, however, would
defeat a principle symbolic goal of repara-
tions: national atonement for a uniquely
racial historical sin.
“America was built on the preferential
treatment of white people — 395 years of
it,” Coates wrote in 2014. “Vaguely endors-
ing a cuddly, feel-good diversity does very
little to redress this.” Nevertheless, that
might be all that constitutional law per-


Would reparations for slavery be constitutional?

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