Gene Lyons

Here are two interesting political straws in the wind: According to a recent poll in the Military Times, active duty service members favor Joe Biden over Boss Trump in the upcoming election, 41-37. Given that a poll on the same date in 2016 showed Trump favored by 20 points over Hillary Clinton, this looks like a significant shift.

Almost half of uniformed soldiers (49.9%) have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, compared to 38% favorable, which is marginally worse than his reputation among civilians.

This, too: Media critic Eric Boehlert’s Press Run website has compiled the bad news about Trump’s TV ratings. Not only did the Democratic National Convention draw many more viewers nightly than the Republican event a week later, but “Trump’s convention acceptance speech was the lowest-rated one in primetime history, drawing 24 million viewers. (John McCain’s acceptance speech drew 39 million viewers in 2008.) Trump drew fewer viewers than Joe Biden did for his acceptance speech the week before.”

Several million fewer. Indeed, if the Trump administration were a TV show, it might be on its way to cancellation. “Trump’s tepid Nielsen numbers are bad news for the president,” Boehlert notes, “since he’s obsessed with television ratings.”

Indeed, he often boasts about his lofty ratings, even when he has to make them up. Press Run cites an instance in November 2018 when Trump claimed that 9.2 million viewers tuned in to watch him on “Fox News Sunday.” The actual viewership was 1.7 million.

Could be he’s simply overexposed. Appearing every night of the GOP convention may have been a mistake. Indeed, you can hardly turn on the TV without seeing Trump’s scowling mug. Americans, Boehlert notes, aren’t crazy about reruns. It’s nevertheless significant that Nielsen ratings for the Republican show were down 25% from the 2016 convention.

Almost needless to say, Trump claims the numbers are rigged.

It’s easy to predict that he’ll call the Military Times poll crooked too, if he doesn’t simply insult any reporter who asks about it and then flee the podium. Between insulting John McCain’s Vietnam War heroism and begging off a World War I memorial service in France because he might get his hair wet — while French, German, British and Canadian leaders braved the rain — Trump has done little to inspire respect among soldiers.

Most telling is the poll’s finding that “Only about 17% of those surveyed felt the White House has properly handled reports that Russian officials offered bounties for Afghan fighters to target and kill American troops, an issue Trump has dismissed as unreliable intelligence.”

Given that 81% in the U.S. military view Russia as a significant national security threat, Trump’s cowering before Vladimir Putin and belittling of NATO have also hurt.

Maybe he can throw himself a big parade, like Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, the president of chaos, disease and disorder appears to believe that only stoking racial strife can help him eke out an Electoral College win. (I’d say there’s no chance of Trump winning a majority; he’ll be fortunate to lose the popular vote by fewer than 5 million votes.)

Back when that platoon of self-styled militiamen made their way into the Michigan statehouse, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” Would he encourage White House visitors carrying AR-15 assault rifles? Me, I wondered what was going to happen if one of those dopes pulled the trigger.

Well, we learned the other night in Kenosha, didn’t we?

And then the next night in Portland. Is there anybody in the USA who thinks the violence won’t escalate?

See, you don’t get order without law. And a chief executive who urges supporters to bring guns into politics, or the police to rough up suspects, as Trump has done repeatedly, fosters lawlessness and chaos.

But somehow it’s supposed to be Joe Biden’s fault. Apparently because Democrats generally oppose cops shooting Black men in the back. So here’s what Biden said in Pittsburgh recently: “I want to make it absolutely clear ... Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawless. It’s plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change, and only bring destruction.”

Biden’s since doubled down: “(Trump) wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others,” he wrote. “He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it.”

Look, call your friendly neighborhood criminal defense lawyer. You can’t plead self-defense if you’re breaking the law, such as a minor parading around with a gun he’s not legally permitted to carry while defying a curfew. Trump can’t pardon the Rittenhouse kid, either: Murder’s a state charge, not a federal one.

Meanwhile, anybody who doesn’t understand that violence and thuggery exist at both political extremes can’t have been paying attention since ...

Well, since when? Chicago in 1968? Berlin in 1933?

Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). Email Lyons at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.

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