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October 18, 2020

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) admitted in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he's disagreed with President Trump on a number of major issues, but that he's kept the differences of opinion private. "I have found that has allowed me to be much more effective, I believe, than to satisfy those who say I ought to call him out or get into a public fight with him," Cornyn said.

The comments come as Cornyn faces a tight reelection campaign against Democrat challenger MJ Hegar, who lags in the polls by only a handful of percentage points. The move fits a pattern of a number of threatened Republican senators who are now distancing themselves from Trump out of the concern that he risks their chances of holding their seats.

Cornyn specifically described differing from Trump on topics like budget deficits during the COVID-19 crisis, funneling money from the defense budget to the construction of the border wall, and trade. "I applaud him for standing up to China but, frankly, this idea that China is paying the price and we're not paying the price here at home is just not true," Cornyn said, as one example.

Cornyn likened his relationship with the president to "a lot of women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse, and that doesn't usually work out very well." He added, "He is who he is. You either love him or hate him, and there's not much in between. What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I've observed, those usually don't end too well." Read more about Cornyn's differences from the president, and his justification for keeping them quiet, at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Jeva Lange

September 29, 2020

Seven former Food and Drug Administration commissioners have written an op-ed for The Washington Post slamming the White House for "eroding the public's confidence" in the agency. The officials, who served under Presidents Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush, stressed that a COVID-19 vaccine is "urgently" needed, but that "if the White House takes the unprecedented step of trying to tip the scales on how safety and benefits will be judged, the impact on public trust will render an effective vaccine much less so."

The piece cites several "deeply troubling" ways the Trump administration has appeared to attempt to influence the FDA's approval of an eventual vaccine, including Trump's own attacks on the FDA and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's "power grab," which wrested away the FDA's ability to sign new rules and regulations regarding the nation's foods and medicines — including vaccines — by reserving that power solely for himself. "These actions are eroding the public’s confidence," the commissioners wrote, citing a new study that found 42 percent of Americans lacked trust in the FDA's decision making, and that 78 percent of Americans believe the vaccine approval process will be too hasty. Additionally, only 21 percent of respondents said they would "definitely" take the COVID-19 vaccine, despite that number being twice as high just a few months ago.

"If the FDA makes available a safe and effective vaccine that people trust, we could expect to meaningfully reduce COVID-19 risk as soon as next spring or summer," the commissioners wrote. "Without that trust, our health and economy could lag for years … Political intrusion only prolongs the pandemic and erodes our public health institutions." Read the full piece here. Jeva Lange

April 3, 2019

President Trump and the Clinton family are like oil and water, but they do have a shared love: golf. Former President Bill Clinton has played with everyone from Tom Brady to Barack Obama to Tiger Woods, and his brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, has also been known to play a round or two.

The problem, though, is when those worlds collide. In Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, a new book out this week, sportswriter Rick Reilly tells a story about the time Hillary Clinton got her younger brother, Hugh Rodham, a chance to play Winged Foot, an exclusive invitation-only club in New York. The problem was, Rodham apparently showed up wearing shorts, which are against the club's strict dress code. A desperate search for pants ensued, but since "Rodham is a man of large girth ... there weren't any pants in the pro shop that fit," Reilly writes.

A caddy was finally sent into the locker room to find someone "near Rodham's size." Trump's locker was spotted, and the caddy reportedly seized Trump's rain pants; Rodham preceded to play his round while wearing them.

Only, the story eventually got back to Trump, who "flips out," Reilly claims. "He makes Winged Foot buy him an entirely new rain suit. Clinton cooties." Read more about how golf explains Trump, and how flagrantly he reportedly cheats, by ordering Commander in Cheat here. Jeva Lange

April 3, 2019

Yankee great Mickey Mantle once said "he who has the fastest golf cart never has a bad lie," a truism President Trump, apparently, has taken to heart. In a hilarious new book, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, author Rick Reilly, citing Mantle, claims Trump's cheating is so excessive that he has a "supercharged" golf cart "rigged to go twice as fast as the rest" so he can scooter ahead and reposition his ball after a bad drive.

Greg Puga, a caddy who spoke with Reilly, confirmed that Trump "makes sure to hit first off every tee box and then jumps in the cart, so he's halfway down the fairway before the other three are done driving. That way he can get up there quick and mess with his ball." Puga provided Reilly with a particularly amusing anecdote about one game he played with Trump:

So this one time — we were on the 18th — [Trump] hits first, kind of blocks it right, and jumps in his cart and starts driving away. My guy pures one right down the middle. I mean, I SAW it go right down the middle. One of his best drives of the day. But by the time we get to my guy's ball, it's not there. We can't find it anywhere. And Trump is now ON the green already putting! Where's our ball? And then Trump starts yelling back at us, "Hey guys! I made a birdie!" He's holding up his ball and celebrating. And that's when we realized. He stole our ball! He got up here early, hit OUR ball, and then hurried up and pretended like he made the putt for a birdie. I mean, what the hell?" [Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, via Golf.com]

Amazingly, there are plenty more stories just like that one. Commander in Cheat is available to order here. Jeva Lange

April 3, 2019

Everyone knows President Trump loves golf, and some people might be forgiven for believing he's also quite good at it — as Trump will tell you himself, he's won 18 club championships (a claim so preposterous that it makes real golfers spit out their coffee). Despite Trump looking like an elite-level player on paper, his tricks for winning the game are exposed in a hilarious new book by sportswriter Rick Reilly, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains President Trump, out this week.

In Commander in Cheat, Reilly interviews caddies at Trump-branded clubs, as well as at Winged Foot, a New York golf club where Trump is a member. At Winged Foot, Reilly discovers that the caddies have a nickname they use for Trump behind his back, due to how accustomed they've become to seeing him kick his ball back onto the fairway: Pelé. Yes, as in the Brazilian soccer legend.

Of course, that's a big no-no in golf. You're supposed to play the ball where it lands "without any change to the overall situation," GolfLink explains. Kicking the ball back onto the fairway definitely qualifies as an illegal "change to the overall situation."

Reilly is so confident that Trump cheats his way through the game that USA Today reports he has challenged the president to 18 holes with a stake of $100,000 — so long as Trump doesn't use his "cheating caddies." Read more about Trump's alleged cheating in Commander in Cheat, available to order here. Jeva Lange

July 10, 2018

Is it a miracle, or is it science? That was the question posed by the Thai Navy SEAL team after the completed rescue of all 12 Thai youth soccer players and their 25-year-old coach on Tuesday. The boys became trapped in the Tham Luang cave on June 23 while exploring the cave system, as rising waters forced them deeper and deeper into the cavern. The boys were finally located, miraculously alive, after nine days of searching — and then the rescue efforts began. Here are 7 facts about the rescue. Jeva Lange

1. Many of the boys did not know how to swim and were given anti-anxiety medications before being helped out by divers. [The New York Times, The Telegraph]

2. It took 11 hours for a diver to make the five-mile roundtrip to reach the boys. [ITV]

3. All the while, hundreds of gallons of water were being pumped out of the cave — the equivalent of 48 Olympic-sized swimming pools in a 75-hour period. In an effort to stop the flooding, authorities also dammed streams that flowed into the caves. Natural shafts that dumped water into the caves were also plugged. [Sky, Reuters]

4. Divers used "Heyphones," a 20-year-old technology, to communicate with the rescue base. The ultra-low frequency transmitters are able to penetrate through rock and send divers' locations and messages. [Wired]

5. Approximately 90 divers were involved in the rescue. About 50 were foreigners. [AFP]

6. After being in the dark for two weeks, the boys have to wear dark sunglasses after they emerge, until their eyes adjust. [NYT]

7. After being removed from the cave, the boys went straight to the hospital — and into quarantine. Doctors are worried about diseases that might have been in the cave waters or spread by animals. All the boys have been treated with antibiotics and received vaccinations for tetanus and rabies. Two boys might have pneumonia, but the doctor called all of the first eight rescued "in good health, with no fever, and in a good mood." [NYT]

July 9, 2018

Dan Rather, the formidable former anchor of CBS Evening News and current host of The News with Dan Rather on The Young Turks Network, has become a frequent target of far-right media in recent years. Breitbart has mocked Rather's "great sadness" about the future with President Trump, and The Western Journal dismissed his declaration that the president is "mean as a wolverine" (their argument: "Not only is 'Wolverine' one of the coolest superheroes in the Marvel Comics universe, the animal itself is best known as being absolutely fearless and ferocious if the need arises"). The 86-year-old news veteran certainly has not been shy in calling the state of America bleak, but as he told Columbia Journalism Review in an interview published Monday, "I'm an optimist by nature and by experience, and I do think we'll get through it."

Rather goes on to explain why he thinks the future could be bright yet:

We need to stop, think, work, particularly those of us in journalism. You used the word "bleak." I think, seen from one perspective, that at least in the short- to medium-term, it could get pretty bleak.

Right now, there's very little check on Trump. The modern presidency has tremendous power, if whoever leads it chooses to use that power, to discredit and cripple the press. Trump is demonstrating right now that he has no inhibitions about using the full power of the presidency for his own partisan political advantage. So short- to medium-term, yeah, I think it could get pretty bleak. […] I do think we'll get through it and come out the other end. Maybe with a better and stronger understanding of and commitment to what the value of quality journalism can be in a society such as ours. [Columbia Journalism Review]

Read the full interview, and why Rather believes Trump's hatred of the media is distinctly different than former President Richard Nixon's, at CJR. Jeva Lange

June 21, 2018

There are plenty of people who would find it extremely difficult to muster up any pity for Donald Trump Jr., the eldest child of the president. Still, the GQ profile of Junior published Thursday makes a pretty compelling case — from his birth through his engagement through the end of his marriage. "Maybe he's not an intellectual, but he tried to be useful for his family," was how one insider gently put it. "I feel bad for him, honestly."

Here are four of the most depressing details in the profile, which you can read in full here. Jeva Lange

His parents dashed off to other engagements as soon as he was born.

That evening he was born, little Don was left by his parents to the care of the hospital's nursery. His father headed home to celebrate New Year's Eve, while Ivana put a boa and a mink over her hospital gown and went to visit a girlfriend recovering from back surgery on another floor of the hospital. [GQ]

His father didn't want to give him his name.

“You can't do that!" Trump is quoted as saying in Ivana's memoir, Raising Trump. "What if he's a loser?" [GQ]

When his parents were getting divorced, they had a spat over who had to raise him.

... [Donald] Trump, looking for some leverage by announcing that he was going to keep Don and raise him alone.

"Okay, keep him," Ivana said she told him. "I have two other kids to raise."

A few minutes later — his bluff out-bluffed — Trump ordered his boy to be taken back upstairs. [GQ]

He had the most unromantic engagement ever to Vanessa Haydon.

Despite his father's hand in their coupling, Don earned a scolding from his dad over the way he proposed — a Trumpian publicity stunt in which he scored a free engagement ring by popping the question in a jewelry store at the Short Hills mall in New Jersey. [GQ]

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