Losers? Suckers? Terrorists? Anarchists? Meet the real Pennsylvanians behind Trump’s insults | Wednesday Morning Coffee

September 9, 2020 7:10 am

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: A screen displays the campaign banner for U.S. President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence following Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Ty Rewolinski doesn’t look like a loser. Or a sucker.

Standing on a Harrisburg street corner outside the headquarters of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIORewolinski looks like what he once was: A U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who served his country in Iraq. He’s tall and broad and self-contained. His eyes are alert. A silver cross dangles from his neck.

A few minutes before we started our conversation, I’d heard him mutter under his voice, “I’m no loser.”

It seems like an entry point. So I ask him him what he thinks of the story in The Atlantic, now corroborated by several other news organizations, that the current commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, believes soldiers are “losers” and “suckers.”

It has to hurt, I ask him.

“It makes me feel horrible,” he says in a quiet and even voice that might as well be shouting out loud.

We talk for a while about matters of faith — he thinks America needs more. We talk about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, shortly to vanish into the union’s headquarters, surrounded by a phalanx of Secret Service agents and aides, to hold a Labor Day town hall with union workers across the country.

Rewolinksi says he’s backing Biden.

But I keep coming back to the quiet directness of his answer. A Marine sergeant, who’s likely seen terrors that none of us will ever see, feels “horrible,” because of what the commander-in-chief is alleged to have said about him.

And right there, that’s the human cost of living in Donald Trump’s America.

Even if the 45th president and all his handlers deny it and call it a hoax, there’s a man who answered the call for his country, standing in the Labor Day sun, making his voice heard, because he still believes in this democratic experiment.

And the pain of Trump’s scorn runs like fissures through his voice.

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gather across the street from PA AFL-CIO headquarters on Monday, 9/7/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Like all bullies, Trump has dehumanized the people behind his insults and jibes. And it’s exacting a price on their — and our — souls.

During a press conference from the White House’s South Portico on Monday, Trump pushed back hard against his critics, growling that “only an animal” would say such things about America’s service men and women, and our fallen soldiers.

“The story is a hoax, written by a guy who’s got a tremendously bad history,” Trump said, of Atlantic reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, the story’s author, The Hill reported. “The magazine itself, which I don’t read, I hear is totally anti-Trump … He made up the story, it’s a totally made-up story.”

But is it so hard to believe? Really?

In nearly four years in office, and on the campaign trail before that, Trump has smashed through one norm after another. He mocked the appearance of former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, saying “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”  He referred to onetime White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman as a “dog.”

He’s called Mexican migrants “rapists.” He’s invented a playground nickname for each of his political rivals. He’s used a racial epithet to refer to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. He once mocked a disabled New York Times reporter.

Trump, who has never served, trashed former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was revered by the military, as “the world’s most overrated general.” Former National Security Adviser John Bolton was alternately “incompetent,” a “wacko” and “a disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

So is it really inconceivable that Trump, who has compared avoiding sexually transmitted diseases to fighting in Vietnam, and who derided the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, who endured unspeakable torture during his time as a prisoner of war, would really talk that way when he thinks the world isn’t listening?

And what do you do when already supine Capitol Hill Republicans won’t even raise their voices against it?

“Those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation are heroes whose valor should be remembered with the utmost respect,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who has occasionally raised his voice in mild criticism, said in a statement. “President Trump and several of his past and current aides have publicly and vehemently denied the Atlantic story. It’s unfortunate that some in the media continue to largely ignore those denials, instead choosing to accept accusations levied by yet another anonymous source.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 10: Democratic Presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the media and a small group of supporters with his wife Dr. Jill Biden during a primary night event on March 10, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Six states – Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington, and North Dakota held nominating contests today. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Destiny Brown doesn’t look like an anarchist or looter.

But if Trump saw the grandmotherly Black woman in the bright yellow Black Lives Matter t-shirt, who’s engaged me in friendly conversation from behind her National Action League face mask, that might well be how he’d describe her.

After all, he’s done it before.

“Look at what happened in New York, look what happened in Chicago. All Democrats. All radical left Democrats,” Trump said during a rally in New Hampshire last month, according to the Washington Post.

Trump went on to  add: “You know what I say about protesters? Protesters, your ass. I don’t talk about my ass. They’re not protesters, those are anarchists, they’re agitators, they’re rioters, they’re looters,” the Post reported.

Brown isn’t having it.

“We’re not violent,” she says emphatically. “It’s so sad with race and how it is in the world now.”

Brown says she’s looking to Biden to heal a badly fractured country. Biden, she says, “will smother the flames.”

“I believe the president that’s in there now, he’s responsible for it,” Brown adds.

She’s not wrong. Try as he might to shift blame, that’s Donald Trump’s America.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Pennsylvania has a big job for the month of September: disbursing more than $140 million in unspent federal funds that lawmakers have set aside for housing assistance, Elizabeth Hardison reports.

The office of Pennsylvania Senate Secretary Megan Martin is in quarantine this week after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, Hardison also exclusively reported Tuesday.

Jobless Pennsylvanians will soon start getting round two of enhanced unemployment benefitsStephen Caruso reports.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.are backing a bill that would award the Medal of Honor to a Black D-Day hero from Philly, your humble newsletter author reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Harrisburg lobbyist Todd Brysiak, whose young daughter is a childhood cancer survivor, says Pennsylvania needs to treat this savage disease like the public health crisis that it is. And U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th Districthas a few thoughts about the Trump administration’s apparent Hatch Act violations.

(Image via

Gov. Tom Wolf
 raised occupancy limits for Pennsylvania restaurants and indoor dining has returned to Philadelphia, the Inquirer reports.
Internet access problems hit Pittsburgh’s schools during the first day of online learning, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive looks at how Lancaster County has weathered the coronavirus pandemic (paywall).
The Morning Call explains why a ban on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. is included in the Wolf administration’s new occupancy guidance for restaurants.
Luzerne County Council has rejected three proposals for an investigation into the death of a Black man who died in custody in the county’s prison, the Citizens Voice reports.
GoErie provides a look into the first days back at the Erie schools.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


@easternstate #memorialday

A post shared by ChrisDantonioDronePhotography (@phillydroneshots) on

Residents of a Philadelphia homeless encampment are getting ready to resist evictionWHYY-FM reports.
A new lawsuit seeks to toss the Green Party’s presidential candidate off the Pa. ballot, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).
An internal poll shows Democrat Eugene DePasquale leading GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Perry 50-46 percent in central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, PoliticsPA reports.
looks back on the Trump campaign’s ‘lost summer.’

What Goes On.
The Senate comes in at 3 p.m. today. Here’s a look at the day’s Senate committee action.
9 a.m, Senate Chamber: Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
10 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Transportation Committee
10:30 a.m, Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Judiciary Committee
11:15 am., Senate Chamber: Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee
11:30 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate State Government Committee
12:30 p.m., Senate Chamber: Senate Communications & Technology Committee
Off The Floor: Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee

In the House:
1 p.m., Bensalem Pa.:
 House Republican Policy Committee
2 p.m., G50 Irvis: House Democratic Policy Committee

What Goes On.
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Bob Mensch
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Sheryl Delozier
7:30 p.m.: Virtual reception for Pa. Senate candidate Julie Slomski
Ride the circuit and give at the max, and you’re out a mere $3,000 today.

Heavy Rotation.
England’s Notting Hill Carnival, 
a huge end-of-summer blowout, was a pandemic casualty this year. So, here’s a massive playlist of carnival bangers to power you through your workday. We’ll be blasting this one today.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
 evened up its Western Conference final with Dallasnotching a 3-0 shutout on Monday night. The series tied at a game apiece.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.