The Morning Jolt

Louisiana’s Underwater Right Now. Shouldn’t Our National Leaders Notice?

Rod Dreher is right in the middle of the floods in Louisiana, and is writing with increasing rage about how this corner of the country can be devastated by a natural disaster again and the rest of the country is, by and large, ignoring it.

Hillary devoted three times that number of tweets to congratulating US women athletes at the Rio games. Hey, I have no problem with celebrating their victories. But let’s see: over 100,000 people have lost their homes in Louisiana. More than half of them are women, it stands to reason. This is not a secret. If you want to win the attention of the Democratic nominee for president, it’s much better to be a woman athlete than a Louisiana woman made homeless by the flooding, it would appear.

To his credit, the president has released disaster aid to Louisiana, and has sent the FEMA chief down. But he is not interrupting his vacation on fancy Martha’s Vineyard to come give comfort and show compassion to his own countrymen who are in extreme pain.

Despite George W. Bush’s folly on Katrina, which left a permanent mark on his legacy, Obama remains on vacation, just as Bush did.

What is the president doing?

President Barack Obama did something unusual during his summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard: He went out on the town four nights in a row.

After a better part of a decade of using this breezy Massachusetts island as a low-key, quiet summer retreat, Obama has picked up the pace this year. In his final summer vacation as president, Obama has spent almost every night of his escape painting its towns red — so to speak.

The stunner came late Sunday when the president assembled his security

and press entourage to go out at nearly 11 p.m. It was a move all but impossible to imagine happening in Washington, where Obama’s occasional social outings tend to begin much earlier.

USA Today notices that the presidential candidates have barely mentioned the floods.

As Louisiana reeled from record flooding that left at least 11 people dead and 40,000 homes damaged, America’s two viable options for president of the United States stayed largely silent.

Since the multi-day storm hit the state’s southern region last week, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have collectively issued no formal acknowledgements of the disaster, save for one tweet yesterday from Clinton directing supporters to the Red Cross.

Dallas Morning News metro columnist Jacquielynn Floyd:

This is a major disaster, and hard going for a community that has already had it share of trouble this year. An editorial in the Baton Rouge Advocate sums it up: “After a year of spring flooding, state budget crises, and the shocking shootings in Baton Rouge, more trouble touches a tired community.”

There’s a danger in our fast-moving culture that this tragedy will fall between the cracks, that having neglected the story a little at the outset, we’ll move on to the Next Big Thing without paying much attention.

I’m so old, I remember when it was a big deal when a president vacationed as Louisiana was devastated by floods. That was way back in 2005, ancient history, I suppose. It looks like without a Republican president to blame, the national media just doesn’t have much interest in a giant story like this — much like their sudden lack of interest in African Americans rioting over a police shooting in Milwaukee.

You can find the Red Cross here. The organization is calling the flooding “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy.”

What Should Trump Do Now?

Thought exercise: What would you do if you were in Steve Bannon’s position?

To have any shot, Trumps got to win four states: North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

They supposedly had a great fundraising month. Get TV ads on the air in every market in those four states, as many slots as they can afford. Send out fundraising emails to keep the ads airing.

Then campaign in those states relentlessly. Out-hustle Clinton’s campaign. Show that Trump works harder than she does. Multiple rallies and events per day. Do local newscasts, local talk radio, Go to Reds games, Indians games, Pirates games, Marlins and Rays games, hold rallies in college football towns on Saturday mornings. If it wasn’t too late I’d say go to state fairs or county fairs. Kiss the babies, pose for the selfies, slap the backs. Go to Hershey and have a picture taking a bite out of the five pound chocolate bar. Look like you’re having fun. Look like you love this country, the people in it, and you can’t get enough of them. Hug people. Show warmth. Remember, the line in the convention speech that worked was “instead of ‘I’m With Her,’ my slogan is, ‘I’m with you, the people.’”

You’ve got four states and three big assets: Donald, Ivanka, and Pence. Have each one in each of those four states from now until Election Day, other than during debate prep. Go beyond the big cities and swing counties. Flatter the voters you need by coming to them.

If Trump can make the swing states look competitive, the national numbers will move. He won’t look like such a sure loser. There will be a bandwagon effect instead of a death spiral.

There’s time, but not much time. The first presidential debate is September 26; people are much less likely to tune in if they think the race is already over. Early in-person voting starts October 12 in Ohio, October 27 in North Carolina, and October 29 in Florida.

Trump’s current schedule has him in Michigan Friday and Virginia Saturday; Pence is in New Hampshire today. All of those states would be nice to have, but seem far out of reach at the moment.

Why Wouldn’t Rio de Janeiro Muggers Take the Watch?

I made a big deal out of Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s account of his mugging in Rio de Janeiro; I should make a big deal out of the fact that his story has changed and the possibility that it could all be a hoax:

Lochte did not deviate on the basic story that he and three of his U.S. teammates were robbed early Sunday morning, but he did change a few significant details, NBC News reported Wednesday night.

Lochte told NBC’s Matt Lauer that he and his teammates weren’t pulled over, as he had previously stated but that they were at a gas station when they were robbed.

 “They had gone to the bathroom in a gas station,” Lauer said. “They got back to the taxi, and when they told the taxi driver to go, he didn’t move. They said, ‘let’s go’ again, ‘we’ve got to get out of here,’ and again the taxi driver didn’t move. And that’s when he says two men approached the car with guns and badges.”

The other discrepancy Lochte recounted involved whether one of the robbers had actually put a gun to Lochte’s forehead.

“That’s not exactly what happened,” Lochte said, according to Lauer. Lochte described one of the robbers cocking the gun and pointing it “in my direction,” but not directly on his forehead.

There are still little details that don’t add up:

Authorities in Brazil also were skeptical because Lochte told them he and his pals were robbed by four thugs who took their wallets, but Feigen said there was only one gunman.

The biggest splash of cold water on the swimmers’ claims was the video, which clearly shows them still holding personal possessions including watches and cellphones as they go through an X-ray machine. Feigen even appears to be holding a wallet.

We discussed Lochte’s account of being mugged on this week’s pop-culture podcast before the doubts about his story arose. The best line of the podcast, which will be on Soundcloud Friday, came from our producer Dave Perkins, explaining the green color in those Olympic pools. “A contractor put in 80 liters of hydrogen peroxide to counteract the chlorine, thinking it would stop the chlorine from bothering the swimmers, and it counter-acted the chlorine. Then Ryan Lochte jumped in, and his hair added another five liters of hydrogen peroxide.”

What’s Wrong with Suicide Squad

The Onion AV Club spotlights a short, funny video illustrating the biggest problem in the superhero film Suicide Squad: the very concept of the Suicide Squad, at least as depicted in the film, with layer upon layer of contradictions, lapses in logic, glaring problems, and obvious red flags.

The concept of the Suicide Squad team worked in the comics. It’s basically The Dirty Dozen set in a superhero world — taking a group of convicts and rogues with fighting skills and sending them on an extremely dangerous mission, promising them time off their sentence or even a full release if they accomplish the mission and manage to survive. But to make a story like this work, it helps to have a preexisting roster of villains who are likeable rogues, a motley crew of mercenary-but-not-evil thieves and thugs.

Suicide Squad is the third film set in this DC Comics universe, and frankly, it’s far too early for this kind of story. We suddenly learn that super-powered criminals have been running around for a long time, a fact no one felt obligated to mention in Man of Steel or Batman vs. Superman. Everyone seemed stunned by the arrival of aliens in Man of Steel, but they had gotten used to a psychotic clown-faced crime lord, an alligator man living in the sewers and eating people, a hitman who can kill targets with ricochets and a thief who uses boomerangs as weapons.

I get why Harley Quinn is in this movie; she’s a supremely popular comics character (originating in the Batman animated series). There’s a lot of rich material for storytelling here: what kind of woman would be attracted to the Joker, a thoroughly deranged homicidal psychopath? What kind of woman would the Joker find himself attracted to? But the problem is that we’ve got a supporting character from the Batman mythos front and center, and both the Joker and Batman himself on the periphery. We know there’s a fascinating story of Harley Quinn’s temptation by the Joker, fall, rebirth, crime spree, and capture, and we get that story in about four minutes worth of flashbacks. (Another hero, Flash, makes a cameo, following his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Batman vs. Superman. Why? It’s as if DC is trying to find the least consequential ways to shoehorn other popular characters into this story.)

I know everyone’s ripping Leto’s interpretation of the Joker, but I found it intriguing enough — Charles Manson crossed with Tony Montana, the one person in this world so thoroughly unpredictable that everyone fears him. Still, we get maybe five to ten minutes of screen time for him, basically a series of cameos. We’re getting the side story instead of the main story.

I collected comics in the early 1990s; I remember “El Diablo” when he looked like this:

Instead, he’s now a tattoo-covered gang member. A couple people contended the character is a stereotype, but he carried most of the emotional weight of the story, a man whose rage consumed him and destroyed everything he loved. In fact, the penitent El Diablo seems too noble and morally attuned to be running with this crew. His conscience and relative good sense makes the decision to bring the thoroughly insane Quinn even more inexplicable.

This is a movie with only a handful characters whose actions actually matter to the story: Amanda Waller, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, and maybe the team’s elite military babysitter, Rick Flag. The movie is packed to the gills with characters that are cool-looking or had good moments in the comics but mostly stand around. If you eliminated Boomerang from the story, absolutely nothing would change. Slipknot is in the story for about five minutes, just to demonstrate the danger to the other, more important characters. Killer Croc looks good, but is again almost irrelevant to the story’s events. Katana shows up, slices her sword a bit, then recedes into the background. The Enchantress is only on the team to become the villain.

It’s a mess. It’s a sometimes interesting and entertaining mess, but ultimately a mess, and not quite enough to leave me wanting to see this team reunited. Suicide Squad was, among other things, an attempt to showcase that DC Comics–inspired films could draw on characters beyond Batman. It left me . . . really wanting to watch a new Batman film.



The Latest