with Mariana Alfaro

Note to readers: James Hohmann is on vacation until July 20. We have an all-star lineup of guest hosts from The Post to ensure you stay informed during his absence. We hope you had a relaxing and healthy July Fourth weekend.

It's not morning again in America, according to President Trump.

Instead, it's something closer to a nightmare in which the mostly nonviolent protests against police brutality and racism are fueling a “left-wing revolution” that endangers Americans' safety – and marauding bands of “looters," “angry mobs” and “anarchists” threaten their "heritage” by trying to tear down Confederate statues and monuments. 

That's the dark vision of America that Trump described during Fourth of July celebrations this weekend; first Friday night at Mount Rushmore and then on Independence Day itself Saturday at the White House

Trump's Fourth of July speeches are a pumped up version of the “American carnage" he touted at his 2017 inauguration.

And they're an awfully strange way to run for reelection, considering Trump has been in charge of the country for the past years and it seems logical many voters will hold him responsible for the current state of the union.

“Trump needs — or thinks he needs — fear of ‘the other’ to motivate his base and create enthusiasm,” Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster, told the New York Times's Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman. “Right now, people are fearful of Covid-19, but that is inconvenient for Trump, so he is trying to kick up fear about something he thinks will benefit his re-election: angry mobs of leftists tearing down American history.”

President Trump said he would protect South Dakota's Mount Rushmore during a speech on July 3. (Reuters)
The conventional political wisdom has often held that “hope and change” sell better than doom and gloom.

“Morning in America," produced for President Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign, is still hailed as one of the all-time best political ads for the national endorphins it engendered by showing a gauzy, feel-good version of the country (sans Reagan, who wasn't too popular in the polls at the time).

Reagan's foe at the time, Walter Mondale, complained: “It’s all picket fences and puppy dogs. No one’s hurting. No one’s alone. No one’s hungry. No one’s unemployed. No one gets old. Everybody’s happy.”

The Reagan campaign released this ad when President Reagan was running for reelection in 1984. (The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute)
But Trump seems to feel going dark is a better bet for keeping him in the White House.

It wasn't always so. Trump had planned to run for reelection on the strength of the economy. But that rationale has disappeared as the coronavirus pandemic has spread – with numbers of infected Americans climbing precipitously this weekend throughout the South and West amid signs many states reopened too quickly. He could not have predicted the mass protests across the country against racial injustice sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

But many have faulted the president for what they see as a delayed and short-sighted pandemic response, and for not calling for more dramatic police reforms and racial healing in the wake of Floyd's killing. 

Trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in public polls, Trump has chosen instead to target a new enemy: other Americans.

In 2016, Trump broke out of the GOP pack by denouncing violent immigrants he claimed were swamping the southern border and vowing to build a wall to prevent what he deemed an invasion. But today, that foil is liberal Americans who want to defund the police and tear down what he has called “beautiful” statues of Confederate soldiers, my colleague David Nakamura reports. 

“Nearly 3½ years [after invoking American carnage], in the president’s telling, the carnage is still underway but this time the enemy is closer to home — other Americans whose racial identity and cultural beliefs are toppling the nation’s heritage and founding ideals,” Nakamura writes. As he has so often during his tenure, the president made clear that he will do little to try to heal or unify the country ahead of the November presidential election but rather aims to drive a deeper wedge into the country’s fractures."

He adds: “For Trump, that has meant defining a new foil. If his 2016 campaign to put ‘America first’ was focused on building a wall to keep out immigrants and shedding alliances with nations he believed were exploiting the United States, the president is now aiming his rhetorical blasts at groups of liberal Americans who, he believes, constitute a direct threat to the standing of his conservative base.” 

Biden is choosing a more hopeful tone, even amidst the chaos engulfing the country.

The former vice president released a video over the weekend to commemorate the Fourth of July depicting Founding Fathers who were flawed, but promoted ideas that “still offer hope,” according to my colleague Annie Linskey.

“We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated [and] the oppressed a full share of the American Dream,” Biden says. “We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country. We have a chance to live up to the words that have founded this nation."

“Through it all, these words have gnawed at our conscience and pulled us toward justice,” Biden adds. “American history is no fairy tale. It’s been a constant push and pull between two parts of our character, the idea that all men and women — all people — are created equal and the racism that has torn us apart.”

Former vice president and presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden posted a video July 4 urging Americans to fight "for the soul of this nation." (Joe Biden for President)

Biden singled out the president for causing much of today's divisiveness in an Independence Day op-ed for NBC News.

“That pursuit of a more perfect union has been thrown off course in recent years — and no one bears more responsibility than President Donald Trump. Every day, he finds new ways to tarnish and dismantle our democracy,” he wrote. “And that corruption of our founding principles threatens everything this nation has worked so hard to build, blighting our ability not only to elevate our values, but also to lead the world.”

The coronavirus

State and local leaders expressed concern about coronavirus in their states, a day after President Trump called "99 percent" of cases "harmless." (The Washington Post)
Hospitals could be overwhelmed soon in new coronavirus epicenters. 

“The Independence Day weekend concluded with dire predictions about the surge of coronavirus cases around the country and with national and local officials saying a rush to reopen fueled the spread of the novel coronavirus and outpaced efforts to care for its victims. ‘We’re right back where we were at the peak of the epidemic during the New York outbreak,’ former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on ‘Face the Nation’ on CBS. ‘The difference now is that we really had one epicenter of spread when New York was going through its hardship, now we really have four major epicenters of spread: Los Angeles, cities in Texas, cities in Florida, and Arizona. And Florida looks to be in the worst shape,’” Robert Barnes and Derek Hawkins report. “New coronavirus cases in that state on Sunday exceeded 10,000 in a day for the third time in the past week, after the state posted a record of 11,458 the previous day. The new infections pushed the state’s total caseload past 200,000, a mark passed by just two other states, New York and California. …

“The rolling seven-day average for daily new cases in the United States reached a high for the 27th day in a row, climbing past 48,000 on Sunday, according to The Post’s tracking. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations rose to their highest levels to date in Arizona and Nevada. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn was pressed to analyze Trump’s comments Saturday that a vaccine would be ready ‘long before the end of the year’ and that 99 percent of the cases have been ‘totally harmless.’ Hahn dodged both in appearances on the Sunday talk shows. … He also said it was ‘too early to tell’ whether the Republican National Convention could be held safely in Jacksonville, Fla., next month. … Hahn, on ABC, refused to be pinned down about whether there would be a vaccine by the end of the year, as the president said. … 

“After Texas reported another single-day record for new coronavirus cases over the weekend, Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ that there won’t be enough medical personnel to keep up with the spike in cases if the rate of increase continues unabated in his city. ‘If we don’t change this trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun,’ he said, adding that intensive care units in the city could be overflowing within 10 days. He said he was not sure that Texas needed a statewide shelter-in-place order but that he wanted the authority to impose one locally. The number of deaths and the morbidity rate have not increased with the surge in new cases, in part because the spike in infections has been among younger, more resilient victims. And health officials say they now know more about the disease than they did when deaths were on the rise. … Said Hahn: ‘We are in a fundamentally different place now than we were in March and April.’”

Scientists are urging the WHO to take the possibility of airborne spread of the virus more seriously. 

“In a forthcoming paper titled ‘It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of Covid-19,’ 239 signatories attempt to raise awareness about what they say is growing evidence that the virus can spread indoors through aerosols that linger in the air and can be infectious even in smaller quantities than previously thought,” James McAuley and Emily Rauhala report. “Until recently, most public health guidelines have focused on social distancing measures, regular hand-washing and precautions to avoid droplets. But the signatories to the paper say the potential of the virus to spread via airborne transmission has not been fully appreciated even by public health institutions such as the WHO. … The fact that scientists resorted to a paper to pressure the WHO is unusual, analysts said, and is likely to renew questions about the WHO’s messaging. … A spokesperson for the organization said it is aware of media reports about the issue and will have technical experts review the matter.” 

In a race to beat the pandemic, scientists in Britain, Germany, China and the U.S. are turning to RNA experiments. 

“This promising — but unproven — new generation of vaccine technologies is based on deploying a tiny snip of genetic code called messenger RNA to trigger the immune system. It has never before been approved for use. But almost overnight, these cutting-edge RNA vaccine efforts have leaped forward as top candidates to fight covid-19. Some developers plan to have tens of millions of doses ready by the end of the year,” William Booth and Carolyn Johnson report. “Elegant in theory, efficacious in the laboratory but untested in the real world, the possible RNA vaccines are especially attractive because they might be cheaper, easier and faster to manufacture on a massive scale — at least one team boasts it could partner with producers in developing countries to provide millions of vials for as little as $5 a pop. … At least 17 teams are now testing their potential vaccines in humans — and at least five of these are betting on RNA vaccines.” 

New federal data more clearly shows the disproportionate rate in which the virus has affected black and Latino people.

“New federal data — made available after The New York Times sued the CDC — reveals a clearer and more complete picture: Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups," the New York Times reports. "Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows. The disparities persist across state lines and regions. They exist in rural towns on the Great Plains, in suburban counties, like Fairfax County, Va., and in many of the country’s biggest cities.” 

A quadriplegic man’s covid-19 death spotlights questions of disability, race and family. “Michael Hickson, a 46-year-old father of five from Texas, was sick with covid-19 when doctors reached a crossroads in his treatment. … He needed a ventilator to help him continue breathing, but the hospital felt further intervention for the disabled man was futile. A doctor explained to the family that there was little hope Hickson would survive or regain ‘quality of life,’” Ariana Eunjung Cha reports. “Hickson’s sister, a physician, agreed. So did the agency acting as his legal guardian. His wife, Melissa Hickson, was horrified. She worried doctors were placing less value on her husband’s life because he was a black man who was disabled. … The case puts a spotlight on issues of race, disability and family, including the different ways individuals, even within the same family, assess what makes a life worth living.” 

Tony-nominated Broadway star Nick Cordero died from the virus. Cordero, who received the Tony nod for his role in “Bullets Over Broadway,” seemed on the cusp of an even more prominent career before being hospitalized with the virus in March. He was 41. (Harrison Smith)  

Crowds still flocked to packed beaches and parks to celebrate the holiday weekend. 

“Many people chose to stay home and local leaders closed beaches, canceled parades, and sacrificed the fireworks shows that usually mark the Fourth of July holiday. But some U.S. residents still gathered in large numbers to celebrate over the holiday weekend, raising fears that the virus may spread further in the coming weeks,” Katie Shepherd reports. “Images and videos of crowds at water parkslakes, beaches and boardwalks spread on social media and in local news reports over the weekend, as people sought out cool water and fun activities over the long weekend."

  • The residents of the Mexican beach town of Puerto Peñasco used their cars to block all southbound traffic from Arizona as the town’s mayor asked American tourists not to visit Mexico. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Eight weeks ago, the White House lauded Texas as a model for containing the pandemic. Now, experts are warning that the state is on the “verge of a nightmarish catastrophe” while agreeing that the worst of the crisis was avoidable had Gov. Greg Abbott (R) not reopened the state before it could adequately monitor the spread. (Houston Chronicle)
  • It took three months for Florida to reach 100,000 cases. It took less than two weeks for the state to go from 100,000 to 200,000 cases. (Miami Herald)
  • The number of covid-19 patients using ICU beds in Arizona once again broke records during the weekend as the state reported 3,536 new cases. An analysis by the Arizona Republic found that Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) actions over the past four months show that he was too slow to adopt aggressive strategies to minimize infections and deaths.
  • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) blamed protests for the state’s rising caseload, contradicting statements made days earlier by the state’s health officer Thomas Dobbs. Epidemiologists have yet to link surging case numbers in Mississippi to rallies against police brutality. (Antonia Farzan)
  • More than 800 professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology are protesting plans to reopen the campus in the fall without making masks mandatory. (Antonia Farzan)

Quote of the day

“We went through hell. We cannot afford to go through hell again,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D)  said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.” “We need a national strategy, I think, right now, and masking has got to be at the core of that.”

Divided America

Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest area struggled to enact its vision of a world without police. 

“Protesters wanted to end police violence against Black people by defunding the department by 50%. They argued armed officers shouldn't be called to respond to issues of mental health, homelessness, poverty. But once they created a police-free zone, they immediately had to deal with all those issues and more -- with only the donated time and supplies of fellow protesters, who still had day jobs,” CNN reports. “With police absent from the 6-square-block area, the experiment spun out of control, with accusations that it ended up causing exactly what it had aimed to stop: more violence against Black people.”

The politics of race are shifting, and politicians are struggling to keep up with the pace. 

“The protests that followed the killing of George Floyd have been described as an inflection point for the country. That conclusion may be premature, given how deeply embedded structural racism is in America’s history and culture and how fractured and polarized its political system is. But when 2 in 3 Americans now say they support the Black Lives Matter movement; when thousands upon thousands of Americans march in the streets of big cities and small towns; when the National Football League reverses its position on players’ kneeling during the national anthem; when Mississippi eliminates the Confederate symbol from its flag; there seems little question that for now, this is a materially different moment,” writes Dan Balz. “Under Trump, who has used racist messaging continually as president and before, Republicans are ill-positioned to respond fully to the moment that has arisen this summer. … Democrats are more unified and eager to show they hear the chants from the streets. But they also face more intense pressure from black Americans, who are the party’s most loyal constituency.” 

A Frederick Douglass statue was vandalized in Rochester, N.Y., on the anniversary of his famous “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” speech. The statue was toppled from its base and left near a river gorge, the Democrat & Chronicle reports. The damage to the statue was too significant for it to be repaired but it will be replaced by a new one, said a leader of the city's statues project. There is no indication yet of possible political motivation.  

The Army identified the remains of missing soldier Vanessa Guillén.

“Army investigators have positively identified the remains of Spc. Vanessa Guillén, her family told The Washington Post on Sunday, more than two months after she vanished from Fort Hood,” Alex Horton reports. “Remains discovered Tuesday in a shallow grave east of the Texas installation triggered a manhunt that ended when one suspect — Spc. Aaron Robinson — killed himself as officers closed in, the Army said. Robinson’s girlfriend was charged with evidence tampering and said she helped dispose of the body, court records show. Guillén’s disappearance, and her family’s allegations that she was sexually harassed, drew attention from activists, lawmakers, celebrities and other soldiers.

"The family has also complained that the Army’s search for the 20-year-old soldier lacked urgency and care at the highest levels. … Investigators moved too slowly to piece together evidence and secure phone data that led to the suspects more than two months after Guillén disappeared, said [family attorney Natalie] Khawam, who took the case pro bono. ‘Her leadership failed her,’ Khawam said. ‘The Army failed her.’ …They broke her spirit,’ sister Lupe Guillén added. … The sexual harassment allegations spurred many female service members and veterans to share their own stories about assault and harassment on social media with the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen. … Guillén, a first-generation American with Mexican roots, told her mother when she was a child that she wanted to enlist. She saw better opportunities in uniform, Mayra Guillén said."

Energy companies abandoned the long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite a Supreme Court ruling in their favor.

“The natural-gas pipeline would have tunneled under the Appalachian Trail on its way from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina, building an energy infrastructure proponents said would attract economic development to the region,” Erin Cox and Gregory Schneider report. “The abrupt abandonment sparked jubilation among environmental and community groups who had fought the pipeline all along its path, which included some of the most scenic and rugged terrain in Virginia. Property rights advocates in the Appalachians joined with an ashram in central Virginia and black Baptists from a rural county to make opposing the pipeline a high-profile political and social justice issue. … Virginia-based Dominion Energy and North Carolina-based Duke Energy spent $3.4 billion on the project, fighting regulatory battles that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled favorably for the companies last month. But company officials said in a statement that other recent federal court rulings linked to the Keystone XL pipeline have heightened the litigation risk, extended the project’s timeline and further ballooned the cost of the project, which had risen from an estimated $5 billion in 2014 to $8 billion today. …

“Dominion is arguably the most powerful corporation in Virginia, and its commitment to the pipeline made the company a political target in the past several years after a new generation of Democrats won control of the state legislature… A spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Sunday that he had spoken 'with Dominion Energy leaders today and told them he supports this decision and the company’s transition to clean energy.' In West Virginia, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said in separate statements they were disappointed the companies chose to walk away from a critical infrastructure investment. … The Virginia Chamber of Commerce also lamented losing the potential economic benefits of the pipeline, saying it was projected to support 8,800 jobs and $1.4 billion in economic activity in the state."

The elections

Trump will hold an outdoor campaign rally in New Hampshire next weekend.

“Campaign staffers said the rally will be held next Saturday, July 11, at the Portsmouth International Airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The president drew smaller-than-expected crowds at his first rally, which took place in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20,” Fox News reports. “The coronavirus outbreak has seen less of an impact on New Hampshire than in the more populated U.S. states. Rockingham County, which includes Portsmouth, has reported fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases and 90 deaths overall, generally with fewer than 10 new cases daily. Public health officials have discouraged large crowds in extremely close contact amid the pandemic. The Trump campaign, in announcing next weekend’s rally in New Hampshire, noted that ‘there will be ample access to hand sanitizer and all attendees will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.’”

Trump turned the Fourth of July into a partisan event. The damage could outlast his presidency. 

“Trump knows his reelection campaign is in trouble. He sees the fight against this enemy of his creation as his pathway to victory in November. His political weapon of choice is exaggerated and at times racist rhetoric designed to pit Americans against Americans. Never in our lifetimes has the Independence Day holiday been used for such divisive and personal ends,” writes Dan Balz. “A portion of the country hears Trump’s rhetoric as an uplifting message extolling the rich history of American success and greatness. The rest of the country recoils at a message seen as racist and divisive. As with all things Trump-related, there can be no middle ground. That’s the inheritance this president is leaving to the country. In one sense, what Trump is doing is all about his own reelection, the issue he cares about above all others. But that’s only part of it. He continues to seed the ground for more division long after he is out of office. If that’s the case, Election Day will not be the endpoint, even if Trump is defeated.”

Democrats are looking to accelerate the South’s political shift. 

“From Mississippi retiring its state flag to local governments removing Confederate statues from public spaces, a bipartisan push across the South is chipping away at reminders of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation. … Many Southern electorates are getting younger, less white and more urban, and thus less likely to embrace Trump’s white identity politics. Southern Democrats are pairing a demographically diverse slate of candidates for state and congressional offices with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, a 77-year-old white man they believe can appeal to what remains perhaps the nation’s most culturally conservative region,” the AP reports. “Republicans, for the most part, aren’t as quick as Democrats to frame 2020 as a redefining year. Still, they acknowledge obvious shifts that began with suburban growth in northern Virginia and extended southward down the coastline and westward to Texas.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is emerging as a contender to be Biden’s running mate. 

“Duckworth is a Purple Heart recipient and veteran of the Iraq War, the only finalist with military combat experience — and as a woman of Thai and Chinese descent, one of several candidates of color under consideration. While she has a lower profile than some rivals, she is being taken seriously by Biden’s team, according to the people with knowledge of the search, one of whom said she has lately received strong consideration,” Sean Sullivan reports. “Some Biden allies said privately that while Duckworth is an appealing candidate, they don’t think she will ultimately be chosen. Beyond Duckworth’s relative inexperience on the national stage, her selection would frustrate those who are pushing Biden to choose an African American, saying the issues raised by protesters in recent weeks highlight the need for someone who understands the black experience in America.”

Lobbyists are thriving as they help Trump’s reelection effort while aiding corporate clients.

“The chief executive of the arms maker Raytheon, under pressure to overcome a congressional hold on major sales in the fall of 2018, wanted to sit down with one of the few people who could solve the problem — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But the State Department would not schedule the meeting. So Raytheon turned for help to David Urban, perhaps the best-connected lobbyist in President Trump’s Washington,” the Times reports. “He has close ties to Mr. Trump, who credits him with having helped deliver a pivotal Election Day victory in Pennsylvania in 2016 … [Urban] has a long roster of blue-chip clients, including military contractors like Raytheon, whose chief executive got the meeting he wanted with Mr. Pompeo after Mr. Urban intervened on his behalf. … The story behind Mr. Pompeo’s meeting with Raytheon, which has not been previously reported, is emblematic of the outsize influence wielded in Washington by Mr. Urban and a small group of other lobbyists and operatives who backed Mr. Trump when most of the K Street establishment was keeping its distance. Those relationships became lucrative after Mr. Trump won a surprise victory on Election Day and rewarded early loyalists with key posts, continued access or both.”

A Trump-backed Senate candidate’s brief stint as the co-owner of a hedge fund did not go well.

“Trump’s favored Senate candidate in Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, is known for his career as a college football coach… [But] a little more than a decade ago, after departing from Auburn University where he was head coach, Mr. Tuberville entered into a 50-50 partnership with a former Lehman Brothers broker named John David Stroud,” the Times reports. “Their ventures … turned out to be a financial fraud. Mr. Stroud was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Mr. Tuberville was sued by investors, who accused him of fraud and violating his fiduciary duty to take care of their investments; he reached a private settlement in 2013. The episode has been seldom discussed in Mr. Tuberville’s Republican primary campaign for the Senate, in which his opponent in the July 14 runoff is Jeff Sessions.”

Social media speed read

A covid-19 patient in Houston got a chance to feel the sun:

From Trump’s former homeland security adviser:

The president spent part of Sunday golfing:

And MLB players, who are back in training, are wearing masks:

Videos of the day

Protesters toppled a Christopher Columbus statue in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood and threw it into the nearby Inner Harbor on Saturday night:

Video posted on social media showed a statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor being pulled down and propelled into the water on July 4. (Spencer Compton via Storyful/Louis Krauss via Baltimore Brew)

And “The Daily Show” collected comedian Jordan Klepper’s best moments at Trump rallies: