Clinton Speech: Election Of Reckoning, For Republicans And All Of Us

“He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.”

—Hillary Clinton, 8/25/2016

You know Hillary Clinton’s speech today was effective when you saw Trump surrogates on TV get angry afterwards and then quote Martin Luther King in support of Trump (as happened on CNN).

It took only about 30 minutes for Clinton to make the case that Trump has in subtle and not-so-subtle ways embraced racists and bigots and conspiracy nuts. She said,

Now all of this adds up to something we have never seen before. Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it arising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

And in one sentence she described the result of Trump’s work, as he has “merged” with those paranoid folks, especially Breitbart and company:

A fringe element…has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

Then she summed up what this election is all about:

This is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.

In case you missed it, here is the speech, mostly delivered with a seriousness and soberness that the subject deserves (a transcript follows, which you should read to appreciate its historical nature):

[…]

I have to begin by saying my original plan for this visit was to focus on our agenda to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. This week we proposed new steps to cut red tape and taxes, and make it easier for small businesses to get the credit they need to grow and hire. I want to be a small business president. My father was a small businessman. Because I believe that in America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it. And, so, we’ll be talking a lot more about small business and our economic plans in the days and weeks ahead. But today, here in this community college devoted to opening minds and creating great understanding of the world in which we live, I want to address something I hear from Americans all over our country.

Everywhere I go, people tell me how concerned they are by the divisive rhetoric coming from my opponent in this election. And I understand that concern because it’s like nothing we’ve heard before from a nominee for President of the United States from one of our two major political parties.

From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.

In just this past week, under the guise of “outreach” to African Americans, Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in insulting and ignorant terms: “Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen…” Right now he said, “You can walk down the street and get shot.” Those are his words. But when I hear them I think to myself, “how sad.” Donald Trump misses so much.

He doesn’t see the success of black leaders in every field…The vibrancy of black-owned businesses…the strength of the black church… He doesn’t see the excellence of historically black colleges and universities or the pride of black parents watching their children thrive…He apparently didn’t see Police Chief Brown of Dallas on television after the murders of five of his officers conducting himself with such dignity. And he certainly doesn’t have any solutions to take on the reality of systemic racism and create more equity and opportunity in communities of color and for every American.

It really does takes a lot of nerve to ask people he’s ignored and mistreated for decades, “What do you have to lose?” Because the answer is everything!

Now, Trump’s lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough. But what he’s doing here is more sinister. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of President he’d be. And that’s what I want to make clear today: A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far, dark reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military.

Ask yourself: If he doesn’t respect respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans!

Now, I know some people still want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. They hope that he will eventually reinvent himself – that there’s a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere. Because after all, it’s hard to believe anyone – let alone a nominee for President– could really believe all the things he says. But the hard truth: there’s no other Donald Trump. This is it. And Maya Angelou, a greast American whom I admired very much, she once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. And I think we should believe him.

When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants. Their applications would be marked with a “c” for “colored” and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed. The pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turn-over rate for his minority employees was way above average.

And let’s not forget that Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called “Birthers.” He promoted the racist lie that President Obama is not really an American citizen – part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black President.

And in 2015, Trump launched his own campaign for President with another racist lie. He described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. And he accused the Mexican government of actively sending them across the border. None of that is true.

And, oh, by the way, Mexico’s not paying for his wall either. If he ever tries to get it built, the American taxpayer will pay for it. We’ll be stuck with the bill.

But, there’s been a steady stream of bigotry coming from him. I think we all remember when Trump said a distinguished federal judge born in Indiana could not be trusted to do his job because, quote, “He’s a Mexican.” Think about that. The man who today is the standard bearer of the Republican Party said a federal judge—who by the way had a distinguished record as a U.S. Attorney; had to go in hiding because Mexican drug gangs were after him; who has Mexican heritage but just like me was born in this country—is somehow incapable solely because of his heritage. Even the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, described that, and I quote, as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

And to this day, to this day Trump has never apologized to Judge Curiel. But for Trump, that’s just par for the course.

This is someone who retweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name “white-genocide-TM.” Trump took this fringe bigot, with a few dozen followers, and spread his message to 11 million people. His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image – a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills – that first appeared on a white supremacist websites. The Trump campaign has also selected a prominent white nationalist leader as a delegate in California. And they only dropped him under pressure.

When asked in a nationally televised interview whether he would disavow the support of David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump wouldn’t do it. And only later, again under mounting pressure, did he backtrack. And when Trump was asked about anti-Semitic slurs and death threats coming from his supporters, he refused to condemn them.

Through it all, he has continued pushing discredited conspiracy theories with racist undertones. You remember he said that thousands of American Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. They didn’t. He suggested that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Now perhaps in Trump’s mind, because Mr. Curz was a Cuban immigrant, he must have had something to do with it. Of course there’s absolutely no evidence of that.

Just recently, Trump claimed President Obama founded ISIS. And he has repeated that over and over again.

His latest paranoid fever dream is about my health. And all I can say is, Donald, dream on. But, my friends, this is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like Gospel. They said in October I’d be dead in six months.

It’s also what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who claims that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings were inside jobs. He even said, and this really is so disgusting, he even said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there. I don’t know what happens in somebody’s mind, or how dark their heart must be, to say things like that. But Trump doesn’t challenge these lies. He actually went on Jones’ show and said: “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.” This from the man who wants to be President of the United States.

You know, I’ve stood by President Obama’s side as he made the toughest decisions a Commander-in-Chief has to make. In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership… clear thinking… calm judgment…because one wrong move can mean the difference between life and death. I know we have veterans here and I know we have families, mothers and spouses and children of people currently serving. The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference—or doesn’t care to—between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors.

Someone so detached from reality should never be in charge of making decisions that are as real as they come. And that is yet another reason why Donald Trump is simply temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States.

Now, I hear and I read some people who are saying, well, that his bluster and bigotry is just over-heated campaign rhetoric – an outrageous person saying outrageous things for attention. But look at his policies. The ones Trump has proposed. They would put prejudice into practice. And don’t be distracted by his latest attempts to muddy the waters. He may have some new people putting new words in his mouth… but we know where he stands.

He would form a deportation force to round up millions of immigrants and kick them out of the country. He’d abolish the bedrock constitutional principle that says if you’re born in the United States, you’re an American citizen. He says that children born to undocumented parents in America are, quote, “anchor babies” and should be deported. Millions of them. He’d ban Muslims around the world from entering our country just because of their religion.

Now think about that for a minute. How would that actually work? The people landing in U.S. airports would line up to get their passports stamped, just like they do now. But in Trump’s America, when they step up to the counter, the immigration officer would ask every single person, “What is your religion?” And then what? What if someone says, “I’m a Christian,” but the agent doesn’t believe them. Do they have to prove it? How would they do that? Really. Ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has distinguished itself as a haven for people fleeing religious persecution. Believing in religious freedom and religious liberty. Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border.

Now, come to think of it, there actually may be one other place that does that. The so-called Islamic State. The territory that ISIS controls. What a cruel irony that someone running for president would equate us with them.

Now, but don’t worry, some will say, as President, Trump will be surrounded by smart advisers who will rein in his worst impulses. So when a tweet gets under his skin and he wants to retaliate with a cruise missile, maybe cooler heads will convince him not to. Well, maybe. But look at who he’s put in charge of his campaign.

Trump likes to say he only hires the “best people.” But he’s had to fire so many campaign managers it’s like an episode from the Apprentice. And the latest shake-up was designed to – quote – “Let Trump be Trump.” To do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as the campaign CEO. Now, to give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they’ve published—and I’m not making this up:

“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”

“Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield”

“Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”

And that one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides that Breitbart and Bannon tried to inflame. Just imagine – Donald Trump reading that and thinking: “this is what I need more of in my campaign.”

Now Bannon has nasty things to say about pretty much everyone. This spring, he railed against Paul Ryan for, quote “rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.” No wonder he’s gone to work for Trump – the only Presidential candidate ever to get into a public feud with the Pope!

It’s truly hard to believe, but according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces “ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have known it. These are racist ideas. Race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas, anti-women –– all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”

Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right.” The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loosely organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.” So the de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for this group. A fringe element that has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

This is part of a broader story — the rising tide of hard-line, right-wing nationalism around the world. Just yesterday, one of Britain’s most prominent right-wing leaders, Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum, to have Britain leave the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi. Farage has called for a bar on the children of legal immigrants from public schools and health services; has said women, are, and I quote, “worth less” than men, and supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race — that’s who Donald Trump wants by his side when he is addressing an audience of American voters.

And the grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin. And in fact, Farage regularly appears on Russian propaganda programs. Now he’s standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.

Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embrace pro-Russian policies. He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe. American presidents from Truman to Reagan to Bush and Clinton to Obama have rejected the kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia. And we should, too.

Now all of this adds up to something we have never seen before. Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it arising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant. “We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,” one white supremacist said. Duke laughed. No, there’s still more work to do, he replied. No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright.

And now Trump is trying to re-brand himself as well. Don’t be fooled. There’s an old Mexican proverb that says “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.” Well we know who Trump is. A few words on a teleprompter won’t change that. He says he wants to “make America great again,” but more and more it seems as thrush his real message remains “Make America hate again.”

This isn’t just about one election. It’s about who we are as a nation. It’s about the kind of example we want to set for our children and our grandchildren. Next time you see Trump on TV, think about all the children listening across America. You know, kids hear a lot more than we think. Parents and teachers are already worrying about what they call the “Trump Effect.” They report that bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially targeting students of color, Muslims, and immigrants.

At a recent high school basketball game in Indiana, white students held up Trump signs and taunted Latino players on the opposing team with chants of “Build the wall!” and “Speak English.” After a similar incident in Iowa, one frustrated school principal said, “They see it in a presidential campaign and now it’s OK for everyone to say this.” We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of behavior before and we wouldn’t tolerate it in our homes. And we should not stand for it from a candidate.

You know my friends this is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this. Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits in the convention hall and told any racists in the Party to get out. The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared, for everyone to hear, that Muslims “love America just as much as I do.” In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew – Barack Obama he said is an American citizen and “a decent person.” We need that kind of leadership again.

We can have our disagreements and believe me I understand that. I think that’s healthy. We need good debates. But we need to do it in a respectful way. Not finger-pointing and blaming and stirring up this bigotry and prejudice. Every day, more Americans are standing up and saying “enough is enough” – including a lot of Republicans. And I am honored to have their support in this campaign.

And I promise you this: with your help, I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For those who vote for me and for those who vote against me. I will be a president for all Americans!

Because I truly believe we are stronger together. And this is a vision for the future rooted in our values and reflected in a rising generation of young people. The young people in America today are the most open, diverse, and connected generation we have ever seen.

How many of you saw any of the Olympics, right? I was so proud. I always get carried away every time the Olympics are on. And you look at the diversity of our athletes. Look at our fabulous Olympic team, representing the United States of America. Ibtihaj Muhammad, an African-American Muslim from New Jersey won the bronze medal in fencing with grace and skill. Would she even have a place in Donald Trump’s America?

And I’ll tell you when I was growing up, in so many parts of our country, Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky would not have been allowed to swim in the same public pool. And now together on our swimming team they’re winning Olympic medals as teammates!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have a person to waste. We want to build an America where everyone has a place. Where if you work hard and you do your part you can get ahead and stay ahead. That’s a basic bargain of  America. And we cannot get to where we need to be unless we move forward together and stand up against prejudice and paranoia. And prove, again, that America is great because America is good!

Thank you all…

Alt-Right Preview

In the video below you will see the image of a writer named Joseph Sobran, who is dead now but once was part of what is these days called the alt-right movement. The reason I mention Sobran is because he was one of my favorite writers, when I was a young conservative. I liked him so much I once called his office in New York, when he was working for Bill Buckley’s National Review (he wrote for the magazine from 1972 to 1993). We had an interesting conversation, which I have detailed elsewhere on this blog.

Another reason I bring up Joe Sobran—who got canned by Buckley because of his flirtation with anti-Semitic views—is because most of the stuff we see today that is associated with Breitbart and the alt-right isn’t new. It’s just that Trump has, as Hillary Clinton said last night on CNN, brought it into the mainstream of the Republican Party, which now owns it.

In any case, have a little dark fun watching this dark side of America:

The Mystery of Hillary Clinton’s Vaults

Perhaps you remember way back in 1986 when Geraldo Rivera hosted a two-hour television special, syndicated and broadcast live to millions, that featured the opening of a supposedly secret vault that had belonged to Al Capone. Here’s how Rivera’s website now explains the premise of the show:

What, if anything, is in the vault of notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone ? Buried beneath the Lexington Hotel, the country watched as Geraldo found out. Live on location with a demolition crew, and using exclusive details, Rivera starts with taking down the outer wall.

“Exclusive details” notwithstanding, here’s how that fiasco, called “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults,” ended:

Towards the end of one of the most exciting hours in T.V., Rivera and team find an empty bottle and another wall. A disheartened team says goodbye to an empty vault.

An empty vault. An embarrassed journalist. A suckered public.

All of that reminds me of what is going on right now. American journalists, like Geraldo Rivera so long ago, have found a secret vault that once belonged to a notorious gangster. And, again like Rivera, journalists are using the slow opening of the vault to titillate the public, especially those that are hoping—The Mystery of Al Capones's Vaults.jpgand praying—to find some smoking guns inside that vault.

The gangster in this case is, of course, Hillary Clinton. And her vault is a trove of emails that, we are told by panting journalists, might—just might!—have some treasures inside that would reveal just how corrupt our gangster presidential candidate really is, when it comes to the Clinton Foundation and her time at the State Department. Just as an example of how this is sold to the public, here is a conversation I heard yesterday on MSNBC between host and journalist:

TAMRON HALL: Going back to this accusation from Donald Trump, where his quote was, “the amount of favors involved or favors done” in the emails that have been released in the latest group that we have been able to pore over, is there any indication of a specific favor beyond a meeting?

KASIE HUNT: At this point, no, Tamron, there is not. And that’s what the Clinton campaign is pointing to. In fact, the opposite basically is shown. And of course the issue here, and partly why this is such a problem for the Clinton campaign…is that this started about something else entirely, Benghazi that probe. You never know what actually might come out. This could end up being their “October surprise.”

You see? So far there is zero evidence of special favors or corruption. In fact, as Kasie Hunt admitted, “the opposite basically is shown.” But: “You never know what actually might come out.” It’s the Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults all over again. Just stay tuned and wait for the good stuff, the stuff that might finally bring the Clintons down and make Donald Trump president, or at least make the race close, which would be good for ratings and readers. Exciting, exciting, exciting.

In the mean time, there has, literally, been nothing to see. After thousands and thousands of emails have been examined by journalists and Clinton haters—often the same folks—there is absolutely nothing resembling corruption. No “pay for play.” Nothing. Oh, there is the usual stuff of Washington, for sure, as Kevin Drum explains:

The way Washington works—in fact, the way everything works—is that people socialize; they develop relationships; and they often try to leverage those relationships to call in favors. We have laws and institutions to try to put boundaries on this kind of thing, but it’s still ubiquitous. This is just the way homo sapiens is wired.

Everyone knows what Drum says is true. Yet somehow because the Clintons—trying to raise money for a charity that has done remarkable things around the world for millions of people—are involved in it, it is different. I have said this before but it should be repeated: The Clintons are often accused by journalists of playing by their own set of rules, of going rivera and caponeright up to the edge of what is permissible, if not going over the edge. But the truth is that journalists judge the Clintons by a different set of rules. Hillary especially is held to standards that just don’t seem to apply to anyone else in politics.

Those special Clinton standards allow journalists to frequently turn Hillary Clinton molehills into mountains while simultaneously reducing an entire range of Trump mountains into little molehills that he can overcome when he, finally, “pivots” and “stays on message,” a message that happens to be just what a lot of journalists are pushing about the Clintons and their charitable foundation.

Speaking of which, I’ll let Kevin Drum sum up what has been found, to date, in Al Capone’s Hillary Clinton’s vault:

We might yet find a smoking gun in all these emails. But so far, the trend is clear: lots of people talked to Huma Abedin to try to set up meetings with Hillary Clinton. Generally speaking, Abedin treated them politely but told them to get lost. That’s about it.

If some of these efforts had succeeded, that would hardly be noteworthy. It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time. What’s really noteworthy about the most recent email releases is that they demonstrate a surprisingly high level of integrity from Hillary Clinton’s shop at Foggy Bottom. Huma Abedin was tasked with running interference on favor seekers, and she seems to have done exactly that. There’s no evidence at all that being a donor to the Clinton Foundation helped anyone out.

So tell me again what the issue is here?

ADDENDUM: Vox published an excellent piece on the AP story that was full of sound and fury about “possible ethics challenges” for Clinton related to her family’s foundation and her possible presidency, but the story signified exactly nothing. “There’s no there there,” as Vox pointed out. A huge example of Geraldo Rivera journalism. Shameful.

[images from Geraldo.com]

Democracy-Scorching 101

“A scorched earth policy is a military strategy that targets anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area.”

Wikipedia

It does appear that Donald Trump knows something about war after all. He is at present borrowing a military tool, a scorched-earth policy, and using it in the realm of politics, executing it against his own country’s democracy. If Donald can’t govern America, by God, no one will.

With his poll numbers betraying him, Trump recently put the notion in the heads of his gun-toting friends around the country that an option for stopping Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal judges might be Second-Amendmenting her to death. Then yesterday in Florida he said this:

ISIS is honoring President Obama. He’s the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.

He then credited “Crooked” Hillary Clinton with being a “co-founder.” He has since tripled-down on his scorching remarks.

Journalists, weirdly, felt it necessary to “fact-check” Trump’s claim. They assure us, after careful research, that neither Obama nor Clinton are founders of that group of psychopathic killers. Whew. I was sweating that one.

Journalists actually fact-checking Trump’s unhinged claim would be funny, if there wasn’t something breathtakingly serious going on here. I mean, if Trump said Hillary Clinton was the Devil, would journalists fact-check that? Oh, wait. He did say she was the Devil and I don’t recall a CNN segment reviewing the facts to see if Trump’s Devil claim was true. Yet, I saw more than one segment this morning examining, seriously, whether the President or Mrs. Clinton actually founded a terrorist group bent on destroying America. For the record, CNN, so far, has come down on Obama’s and Clinton’s side. Stay tuned, though.

Now to the breathtakingly serious thing going on here. Trump is, quite purposely, trying to make it impossible for anyone but him to run this country. He recently questioned the legitimacy of our democratic system, saying,

I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest.

Before that he questioned the legitimacy of the Republican nomination process, calling it a “rigged system.” He has said the same thing about the nominating system Democrats use. Long before that he said the following about Barack Obama winning the 2012 election:

He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!

The Washington Post reports what he wrote shortly after:

The phoney [sic] electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one! We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!

Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us. More votes equals a loss … revolution! This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble … like never before. The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.

Let that penetrate. Think about it. Now, imagine what November 9, the day after the current election, will bring, if Trump goes down to defeat. Will he graciously exit the stage and congratulate Clinton and pay respect to the process? To the people who elected her? Or will he build on his 2012 remarks and, this time, call for a Second Amendment revolution?

That we have to wonder what will happen if Trump loses tells us all we need to know. If he loves his country, he has a damned strange way of showing it. He has put it down time and time again. His campaign slogan openly claims it is not great. He has called its military a “disaster.” He has attacked its political institutions. He has attacked its values as a unique, welcoming-all and valuing-all nation. At his convention hate-fest, he and his guest speakers used their blackest crayons and colored in an America that most of us don’t recognize. During his speech, Trump screamed,

Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.

And that wasn’t the worst part of his speech. He went on to say,

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens…

Let’s add all this up: Trump has called for a revolution because the system is rigged. He has encouraged violence at his rallies and suggested that folks with guns might be ready to take the law into their own hands. He has said he will use government force to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants—and their children who happen to be American citizens—and deport them. He has said our current president and the Democratic Party nominee are founders of a terrorist group that hates the entire world and wants to destroy it in the name of Allah. And he has said that he alone—he alone—can fix it all. The message is clear: Trump’s poll numbers had better improve, people, or else. Or else, scorched earth. Scorched democracy.

We can’t say it enough. Trump is a sick, sick, sick man, even if he is merely running a con that he hopes will make him really rich after this is all over. The damage he is doing to the fabric of America cannot easily be repaired, even if he is sent back to Trump Tower with his tiny tail between his legs. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman began a remarkable column two days ago this way:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.

His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.

But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.

Friedman went on to say:

People are playing with fire here, and there is no bigger flamethrower than Donald Trump. Forget politics; he is a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him.

Not just his children. All Americans. All of us should be ashamed that such a man has, in our great country, managed to get himself in a position to pose an existential threat to our stable democracy. And ashamed that he is within a few electoral votes of wielding real and devastating power.

[Image, “Scorched Earth,” by Lynn Christine Kelly]

Why Republicans Still Defend Him

Donald Trump’s indefensible appeal to would-be assassins in his audience has its defenders. Those defenders are called Republicans. You can see them on TV today if you want, or you can find them all over the Internet. Doesn’t matter where you look. You will find Republicans defending the indefensible. You will find Republicans talking about Clinton’s emails, about how much she hates cops, about how much she loves the father of the Orlando killer, about Benghazi.

And that was just this morning. Just think what they will come up with when they have more time to rationalize away the fact that their candidate for president of the United States just confirmed how much of a fascist he really is.

Trump’s remarks began with an utter lie—“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the second amendment”—went on to express future despair—“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks”—then suggested a bloody remedy to the despair—“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Which is worse? Trump’s desperate suggestion of “Second Amendment remedies” or Republican leaders’ desperate defense of Trump? The truth is the former couldn’t happen without the latter. So, is it worse that the Republican candidate is, in his Trumpy way, suggesting the murder of a future President Hillary Clinton, or is it worse that the Republican Party hierarchy is standing by him when he does? You tell me.

Imagine, if you can, what would have happened back during the 2008 campaign if a very different Barack Obama—an aggrieved and angry Barack Obama—had suggested that his aggrieved and angry black voters—who suffered mightily because of the economic meltdown—might avail themselves of their own Second Amendment remedies if John McCain became president.

Imagine if, in 2007-2008, Obama had spent a lot of time talking about how people, especially black people, had an unfettered right to buy guns under the Second Amendment. Imagine if he suggested that folks walk down the streets with guns hanging on their shoulders or stuffed in their pockets, saying there shouldn’t be “gun-free zones.” Then, imagine if he said the following at a rally in North Carolina filled with African-American voters:

John McCain wants to essentially abolish the Thirteenth Amendment. He wants to bring back slavery. If he gets to pick his judges, nothing you can do, my brothers and sisters—although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.

What would have happened? After some people expressed outrage at Obama’s remarks, would Breitbart have published a story titled, “Media Launches a Full Frontal on Obama, Gun Owners“? Would the kooky conservative media focus on protecting the rights of angry black people to keep and bear arms? Would the NRA spend three million bucks defending Obama?

Or would the focus suddenly be on those angry black people with millions and millions and millions of guns? And on an angry black candidate encouraging those angry black people?

Come on, we all know how that would have played out.

The truth is that, as nutty as he is, Donald Trump represents angry white people. Let’s face it. He is speaking for pissed-off palefaces who think their country is being stolen from them by less worthy folks.

And that is what Republican leaders are essentially defending when they defend a disturbed Donald Trump and his crazy and increasingly dangerous remarks. Because those Republican leaders need those pissed-off palefaces in order to stay in power.

NO MO

no more trump.jpg

“Ignorance Is A Choice”

Today brings us the news that “Fifty prominent Republican foreign policy and national security experts” have come out and said that a President Trump “would be the most reckless President in American history.” The group writes:

He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Speaking of nuclear arsenals, today also brings us Esquire’s Robert Bateman, who published an interview (“Here’s Why Trump Can’t Be Trusted with the Nuclear Codes”) of yet another critic of Trump from the right. Bateman began his piece this way:

John Noonan knows nukes. He has spent his entire life in the defense community, first as the son of a career Naval officer, then as a student in military institutions, then as a United States Air Force launch officer within the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICMB) system. He’s spent countless 24-hour shifts 100 feet below ground, surrounded by ten nuclear missiles to which he has the launch codes. After leaving the Air Force, he became a spokesperson for the House Armed Services Committee and served as a national security advisor to both Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.

Before this election, Noonan was mostly behind the scenes, a powerful man who worked in the shadow of even more powerful politicians. That is, until Donald Trump came along and started running his mouth about using nuclear weapons with the flippancy with which most of us deploy angry-face emojis.

Bateman’s now-famous “tweet storm” against the Republican candidate has since presented him with many opportunities to educate Americans about an uneducated and ineducable Trump, this Esquire interview being the latest. You should read the entire piece. It is sobering. But I wanted to highlight a few things Noonan said,

a nuclear exchange between two major powers would reshape the world in a drastic and nightmarish way, take the lives of millions, and have catastrophic environmental effects that would last generations. So we’re not playing with Lincoln Logs here either.

And yes, it’s a hell of a responsibility. Consider this: The president gives an order. But a missileer, or a submarine or bomber crew, all have to choose whether or not to follow that order. In a sense, the decision to release nuclear weapons isn’t the president’s alone. It’s shared by everyone in that chain of command. Don’t get me wrong, I would have done my duty and I can damn near guarantee everyone on alert right now wouldn’t blink either. But think of that as an added responsibility of the presidency: You aren’t just ordering nuclear release—you are asking everyone in that chain of command to own it, too, and to live with it for the rest of their lives.

Okay. There is that. And there is this:

Think of the world as a playground. Does the bully—the five-foot-tall third grader with a pituitary disorder—pick on the star athlete or the 60-pound weakling? They’re not going to punch the athlete in the nose because they’ll get socked right back, so they go for the weakling every time. In America’s case, we don’t just stand up to the nuclear-armed bullies—we also stick up for the weaker kids. Russia, to wit, could impose its will on the small Baltic democracies because Russia is big and they are small. It’s American resolve, backed by nuclear weapons, that keeps Russia in check. That’s what you call deterrence.

This is what I hear from Trump: that he wants to flip that equation and make the United States the bully. That is, We’re big and we have nukes and we can use them to kill terrorists in Raqqa and Mosul. Stop us if you dare. It’s how he’s run his businesses for decades: I can do whatever I want. In the business world, it was shady and unethical. In the national-security world, it’s downright dangerous.

I don’t think it’s empty talk either. His spokesperson said a few months ago, “what good is a nuclear triad if you can’t use it?” That could the stupidest thing ever said in the history of presidential campaigns, which puts it in the running for stupid thing ever said in the history of humanity. Nuclear weapons are like an understanding between the athlete and the bully: You don’t screw with me and I won’t screw with you. It’s a way for the two biggest kids on the block to communicate with each other in no uncertain terms. That Trump allegedly believes that nukes are solutions to low-intensity problems like ISIS and Al-Qaeda is raw, unfiltered insanity.

There is plenty more in the interview, including Noonan calling Trump a “petty thug.” But perhaps the most insightful thing he said about Trump’s character has to do with his lack of “respect for this country,” in that he has failed to do any of the work, like learning things about the world, that any serious candidate for president should consider it his duty to do:

When Mitt and Jeb ran for office, they studied. They asked questions. They had a hunger and desire to learn, because they knew that the demands of leadership are unforgiving. Ignorance is a choice. And Trump’s choice—to not do the work—is essentially saying “I don’t care about you or the demands of this office.”

I’m not sure if, in Trump’s case, ignorance is a choice he has consciously made or a result of a faulty mental system (I tend toward the latter). Either way, what remains is the ignorance. And as Noonan and other prominent Republicans make absolutely clear, it is damned dangerous.

____________________

[Getty image from Esquire story]

Hillary-Inspired Sexism (1979-Present)

I know it has been out for three days now, but a video published by The National Memo still stuns me. Thirty-seven years of answering essentially the same sexist questions, the same sexist questions rooted in a still-sexist culture, has to take a toll on a person. But Hillary Clinton seems to be strong enough to endure. If I were her, I wouldn’t even bother with the press anymore. Journalists, after failing to get her to call herself a liar, almost always follow up with variations of the same two questions: Why don’t people like you and why don’t they trust you? At some point, she should turn the tables on journalists: Why don’t people like you and trust you?

Sickening:

Ignore The Polls. A “New” Trump Is Being Born

Yes, there has been good news on the polling front for Hillary Clinton. Really good news. But forget it. Don’t get confident at all. Why? Obviously because there is a long way to go. But beyond that, there is what happened this morning on MSNBC and CNN regarding Trump’s delusional claim that he saw a video—provided by Iran, he said, to “embarrass” our country and our “incompetent” president—of Obama’s “ransom” money being taken off a plane in exchange for hostages.

I turned on CNN at 9:00am. I found the top story was Donald Trump’s early morning tweet trying to correct the record:

The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!

trump tweet on video.jpgThe anchor, Carol Costello, said the tweet was “a possible sign that Trump is moderating a bit.” It was, she continued, “a simple acknowledgement that’s causing big ripples this morning.” She introduced CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly who reiterated the “big ripples” riff and told us that Trump’s advisers are saying the candidate has an opportunity “to get back on message.”

At the exact same time, on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing also led with the Trump tweet, asking, “Is this the start of the new Donald Trump?” And a correspondent kept referring to Trump’s prior claims of seeing a video that does not exist as “misstatements.”

trump tweet on video2No. They weren’t misstatements. They weren’t mistakes. They were delusions. He didn’t see what he claimed he saw because what he claimed he saw does not exist. And, no, Trump is not “moderating a bit” by admitting the obvious. And the only reason the tweet this morning caused “big ripples” is because television journalism is a shallow pond that Trump can drop pebble-tweets into and know that the ripples will be big and will last all day.

But it is Chris Jansing’s question that should bother us all, at least those of us concerned that television journalists, who for weeks now have been trying to get Donald Trump to do exactly what he did today with that tweet, will attempt to rehabilitate a sick candidate, if not a sick, sick man. Jansing’s “Is this the start of the new Donald Trump?” is a dumb and dumbing question.

Trump is 70 years old. There isn’t a new Donald Trump hiding behind a tree waiting to pop out and say, “Joke’s on you! I was just kidding when I said all that crazy shit! Here I am now ready to get serious! Let’s talk throw-weight and ballistic missiles!” Beyond that absurdity, though, Jansing’s question is dumbing because it lowers the standards of critical analysis that we should expect of journalists, if not voters.  The man has demonstrated for more than a year that he would be, as former CIA honcho Mike Morell said this morning in The New York Times,  “a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.” You can’t unsay and undo all Trump has said and done by a couple of “oops!” tweets.

Mike Morell is a highly respected, non-partisan Serious Man. He was George W. Bush’s top briefer before, during, and after 9/11. He also helped President Obama and his team, as they made the decision to make fish bait out of Osama bin Laden. Morell says his “training as an intelligence officer” taught him to call it as he sees it, and his opinion dispels any notion of a Trump reset. Like all of us of sound mind, Morell has noticed Trump’s character traits:

These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.

And the logical conclusion, from the former acting director of the CIA, follows:

The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

That sobering assessment of Trump does not allow for a “new” Trump to emerge. It does not permit journalists to ignore an ugly Trump Past for a supposedly better-looking Trump Future. But because television journalism depends so much on a close horse race to get high ratings, look for some talking heads on TV to try to convince us—if Trump makes an effort to even slightly curb his enthusiasm for delusions and conspiracies and lies—that he is “growing” as a candidate.

Thus, even as Clinton soars in the polls right now, Democrats have to keep fighting hard until November. Because as good as her numbers are today, we should expect the race to tighten back up. And when it does, we should expect some journalists to pronounce Trump a “new” man and ignore the strange and dangerous man we have come to know.

Trump’s America

True believers in the cult of Trump, courtesy of The New York Times:

NOW Trump Must Ask God For Forgiveness?

He has accused President Obama of lying about his American birthplace.

He has forgotten he knew who David Duke was.

He has condemned John McCain and other POWs for not living up to draft-evading Trump’s standards of what a war hero is—not getting captured in the first place.

He has called Mexicans “rapists” and lied about getting Mexico to pay for a big, beautiful wall to keep those rapists out of our country.

He has attacked a federal judge born in Indiana by calling him a “Mexican.”

He has said countless horrible things about women.

He has said we should punish women who get abortions.

He has mocked a disabled reporter.

He has enthusiastically embraced a Russian thug who has ordered the murder of reporters.

He has called Pope Francis “disgraceful.”

He has suggested Ted Cruz’s father was involved in killing John Kennedy.

He has invited a hostile foreign government to spy on Hillary Clinton on his behalf.

He has suggested doing away with the Geneva Conventions.

He has said “NATO is very obsolete.”

He has expressed a strange and disturbing interest in using nuclear weapons.

He has promised to ban all Muslims from entering the country.

He has said he would intentionally kill the families of suspected terrorists.

He has said our military is a “disaster.”

He has smeared U.S. troops by haphazardly accusing “soldiers” of stealing money in Iraq.

He has attacked the mother and father of a fallen American soldier.

He has said the father of that fallen soldier had “no right” to attack him.

He has handled what he thought was a genuine Purple Heart medal like it came out of a Cracker Jack box.

He has said he “always wanted” a Purple Heart.

He has lied with such audacity and frequency that fact-checkers are applying for disability.

He has said and done all this and much, much more. And he has said and done such things without the slightest urge to apologize or seek forgiveness from the gold-plated God he says he worships. But now things are different. He may need to get down on his cowardly knees in Trump Tower—Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at his side—and beg the Almighty to forgive him for this:

Trump refuses to endorse Paul Ryan in GOP primary: ‘I’m just not quite there yet’

He can be a racist. He can be a bigot. He can be a misogynist. He can make fun of disabled people. He can embrace authoritarian thugs. He can insult war heroes and disparage our military and Gold Star families and treat a Purple Heart like a trinket. He can tell lies at light speed. He can demonstrate breathtaking ignorance about the world. But, by God, he has gone too far by withholding his blessing from a white Republican from Wisconsin.

 

The America Donald Trump Will Never Understand

Khizr and Ghazala Khan were on MSNBC this morning. No, America was on MSNBC this morning. The America I was taught in school. The America that aspires to live up to its ideals. The America that good and grateful people put on the uniform to defend. And, perhaps, to die for.

Watch the segment below, not to hate on Donald Trump for his crassness and inability to empathize with the Khans—he has continued his thoughtless attacks this morning—but to feel sorry for Trump. To pity him because he will never know what it means to be an American in the truest sense of the word. He will never know what Khizr Khan meant when he said of his family this morning, “we are, really, testament to the goodness of this country.” He will never understand, in the way the Khans do, that “this nation is unique in the history of mankind.”

More than that, Donald Trump will never in a thousand lifetimes understand what Mr. Khan meant when he responded to a request that he say something about his son that would help Americans better understand Capt. Humayun Khan. Here is what the amazing American father said, as he pointed to his wife:

I would ask this Gold Star mother, this brave lady, to say that. Share that conversation she had that defines him, that explains to America what a wonderful son they raised, this country, this nation, raised. We were only a vessel.

I have never heard anyone express a more moving and more powerful sentiment about America. U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan was our son. He belonged to all of us. All of us were in some way responsible for raising him, for instilling in him the values that make America “unique in the history of mankind.” Values that we sometimes fail to appreciate and too often fail to honor but always need to keep before our eyes and the eyes of our children.

And this November we need to appreciate and honor those values. Because America has more children to raise.

Yes, Donald Trump Has Sacrificed A Lot

When Khzr Khan, father of war hero U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, spoke at the Democratic convention last week, he now-famously chastised Donald Trump:

Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

Trump, stupidly, replied on ABC’s This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: How would you answer that father? What sacrifice have you made for your country?

TRUMP: I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve done — I’ve had tremendous success.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are sacrifices?

TRUMP: Oh, sure. I think they’re sacrifices. I think when I can employ thousands and thousands of people, take care of their education, take care of so many things. Even in the military, I mean, I was responsible along with a group of people for getting the Vietnam Memorial built in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for. I’ve raised millions of dollars for the vets.

Leaving aside how dumb it was for Trump to compare what he listed as his sacrifices to the sacrifices of families who have given up flesh and blood, or leaving aside the dubious claims he made, Trump could simply have demonstrated how much he has sacrificed by showing Stephanopoulos this portrait done by artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan:

Guests are greeted by a portrait of the young Trump in a tracksuit

That puke-inducing gem apparently hangs on a guest-greeting wall in Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach. The artist who gave it to the world said:

I saw him there working, getting the pools changed and such. But I didn’t want to paint him in his blue suit. Those were his New York clothes. I wanted to give him a Florida look.

“Florida look”? Somehow I don’t think you’ll ever see that image in a tourist brochure saying, “Come here and get the Florida look!” But in terms of sacrifices, it does show how far Trump will go to make white people feel at home in his club with its $100,000 initiation fee (plus $14,000 a year thereafter). And if he’ll do that for those wealthy white people, if he’ll sacrifice his blue-suit-red-tie brand by donning a tennis ensemble from the roaring 1920s to remind people just how great White America used to be, just think what he’ll do for all those working stiffs in Ohio and Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Khzr Khan should apologize to Trump, who obviously has sacrificed so much for his country.

“It Made Me Weep For Our Country”

After what can only be called a spectacular Democratic Convention, I am republishing in full Josh Barro’s latest piece for Business Insider because, well, it pretty much says it all about how far the GOP has fallen. Barro, as far as I know, still calls himself a Republican, albeit an almost-extinct thoughtful one.

Hear him and pass on the sentiment to every Republican you happen to know:

I rewatched Khizr Khan’s speech — and it made me weep for our country

If you haven’t yet seen it, you really need to watch Thursday night’s Democratic convention speech by Khizr Khan, the father of Army Cpt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim immigrant who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004 while protecting his unit from a car bomb.

Khan demanded to know whether Donald Trump had even read the Constitution, pulled out his pocket copy, and offered to lend it to Trump.

I watched this moment live and was awed by it. I watched it again Friday morning, and I cried.

We are having an election that is about whether we, as a nation, value people like Khizr and Humayun Khan. Whether they are real Americans. Whether we will define our nation by shared values, as both parties have claimed we do for decades, or by ethnicity, as Donald Trump would have us do.

Of course, Trump supporters object to the claim that this is what Trump wants. Donald Trump is talking only about immigrants living in the US illegally, they say. He’s talking only about barring foreign Muslims. David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, may love Trump, but Trump’s fans will insist that the Republican nominee’s politics are distinct from white supremacy.

This is a load of nonsense, as we can all tell by Trump’s attacks on “Mexican” Judge Gonzalo Curiel and by his demands for President Obama’s birth certificate. Trump’s concept of the nation he speaks for is not about values or citizenship or even birthplace. It is about ethnicity.

If you are a white model from Europe, like Antonio Sabato Jr. or Melania Knauss, you are welcome in Trump’s America. If you are a brown or black person, you are suspect, even if you are a citizen, and even if you were born in Indiana or Hawaii (as in the cases of Curiel and Obama).

This is the philosophy of a major-party candidate for president, who has most of his own political party lined up behind him. It is enraging, it is scary, and it is sad. And I cried Friday morning because it was even necessary for someone to stand up at a party convention and explain why that candidate is wrong.

I am angry at Donald Trump, and I am angry at the people who voted for him. But most of all I am angry at the senior Republicans who are standing by and acting as if this is fine – endorsing him in the belief that he will lose but that standing together will stem the loss of congressional seats, or endorsing him in the hope that he will grow up if he wins.

I genuinely thought mainstream Republican leaders knew better, that they understood there are matters more important than fiscal policy, and that if a candidate were terrible enough, they would reach a point at which they realized their responsibilities to their country exceeded those to their political party.

I did not expect people like House Speaker Paul Ryan to behave so indecently as to line up behind this hateful man, who does not even agree with them on public policy. I was naive, and I am sad, because it means we have a less durable democracy than I thought.

Please, No Intelligence Briefings For Trump

Huffpo’s Sam Stein published an article (“Clinton Campaign: Trump Needs To Guarantee He Won’t Leak Before Getting Briefed”) that began this way:

PHILADELPHIA ― The chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign urged U.S. intelligence agencies on Wednesday to get an ironclad agreement from Donald Trump that he would not leak information to the Russians before providing him with presidential candidate briefings.

“I think it’s an issue that … Jim Clapper’s going to have to come to grips with,” John Podesta said in an interview with The Huffington Post, referring to the director of national intelligence. “And I think they’ll have to find a way to negotiate with him and with his campaign to get … more than assurances ― sort of some proof that they can be able to hold on to that information.”

Podesta went on to say,

This isn’t a normal political story, and it’s not funny … And for Donald Trump to suggest that a foreign power should hack the candidate of the opposing power is beyond outrageous. I think it is really disqualifying.

If he thinks it is really disqualifying, then he should be arguing that Trump shouldn’t get any intelligence briefings at all. There should be no deal with him. What good would it do to get “assurances”from Trump?

The truth is that we can’t trust the unstable Trump with our secrets. And if that means neither of the candidates get briefings, so be it.

“He Is Our End”

trump and russia

If This Doesn’t Do It, Absolutely Nothing Will

I just finished watching a troubled man give a press conference. Unfortunately that troubled man could be your next president, if you don’t tell your friends, family, and neighbors—again and again and again—how dangerous he is and how they must vote for Hillary Clinton no matter what they think of her.

Today Trump invited the Russian government to continue its attacks on our democratic process:

If they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted…Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

If the Republican Party’s leaders don’t abandon him now, there isn’t anything left to say.

 

From Russia, With Love

Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.”

—Franklin Foer

Slate’s Franklin Foer (former editor of The New Republic) has been all over the whole Trump-Putin/Putin-Trump ticket (and you thought Mike Pence was his running mate).

Today Foer published a piece titled, “The DNC Hack Is Watergate, but Worse.” He wrote,

To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party. The hackers installed the cyber-version of the bugging equipment that Nixon’s goons used—sitting on the DNC computers for a year, eavesdropping on everything, collecting as many scraps as possible. This is trespassing, it’s thievery, it’s a breathtaking transgression of privacy.

While it is pretty obvious why Putin is interested in the outcome of our election, Foer did the work last week (“Putin’s Puppet“) of pointing out what he says is a “clear pattern” for all to see, if they want to see it:

Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He’s been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.” Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexit—a campaign Russia’s many propaganda organs bombastically promoted.

Trump fits right in:

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)Donald Trump is like the Kremlin’s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trump’s statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he added, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush.” When Putin ripped American exceptionalism in a New York Times op-ed in 2013, Trump called it “a masterpiece.” Despite ample evidence, Trump denies that Putin has assassinated his opponents: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.” In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven: “At least he’s a leader.” And not just any old head of state: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”

Foer documented instances “of Trump carelessly sucking up to Russian power in the hopes of securing business,” which should come as no surprise. Making money, ethically or otherwise, is all he thinks about in depth. And that is why last night on Fox, George Will, who used to be the darling of the conservative intellectual class but now has left Trump’s Republican Party in disgust, said the following:

Perhaps one more reason why we’re not seeing his tax returns — because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, it’s probably the reasonable surmise.

Another conservative, Bill Kristol, wrote the other day (“Putin’s Party”):

Honest and patriotic Republicans who support Trump, or are tempted to do so, should review some of the publicly available evidence. Trump’s business seems to be heavily dependent on Russian investment. His top campaign advisor, Paul Manafort, was theadvisor to the Putin-backed stooge Viktor Yanukovich, and has deep ties to the Putin apparat. One of Trump’s national security advisors, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, was paid to give a speech at a Russian propaganda celebration and was seated next to Putin. Trump’s Russia advisor Carter Page, who does much of his business with Russian companies, has argued, among other things, that “a few officials in Washington” annexed Ukraine and that the “so-called annexation” of Crimea by Russia was a rational response to this injustice.

Kristol went on to point out that “practically the only change Trump’s campaign made to the GOP platform was to weaken language supporting Ukraine.” He also noted that “Trump heartily approves of this interference by a foreign power in an American election” and that Trump “has said he will not uphold our NATO commitments.”

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer went further when he said on Sunday that “the prime objective of the foreign policy of Putin has been to destroy NATO,” and followed with, “[Putin] may have a partner in the White House, if Trump wins.” 

None of this disturbing news has caused much of a disturbance among Republican politicians. Kristol’s call for a “a Republican member of Congress” to “lead an urgent investigation into whether Putin is interfering in the current American election” didn’t get any takers. They seem to just shrug it all off, with Mitch McConnell calling Trump’s NATO statements “a rookie mistake,” to which Trump responded that the Majority Leader was “100 percent wrong.” Mitch hasn’t had much to say since then. Apparently, it is too dangerous for a Republican big-leaguer to challenge the Russian-backed rookie. Or maybe McConnell also has some business he wants to do in Russia.

Whatever the reason for the stunning Republican silence, we don’t need a robust imagination to see what would have happened if Putin had aided, say, Barack Obama’s 2012 election and Obama had said the things Trump has said. There would have been a dozen committee hearings—just before the lynching.

[Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP]

 

Going High

This is how the White House describes her:

First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

Last night, this is how Michelle Obama described the United States:

That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States. So, look, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!

I’m not ashamed to admit I teared up during her speech last night. I’m not ashamed to admit I felt something of a restoration of my faith in the idea of America, a faith that has been under assault by that country-bashing racist in an orange mask. Delivered in less than 15 minutes, Michelle Obama’s speech was able to counter months and months and months of negative talk about our country—depressing, debilitating, damaging talk about a nation constructed on principles that, so far, have survived every test.

Below is her remarkable speech, one for the ages, but I want to first quote another beautiful passage, one where Mrs. Obama touched on just what it is that has made the Obamas such special people—such special Americans—despite the indignities and insults they have endured for nearly eight years now:

When they set off for their first day at their new school, I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

See, because at that moment I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become and how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight, how we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level.

No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.

I can’t promise that if the country goes low in November that I will go high. I can only say that if the country does go low, there will be no doubt that its highest point will have been Barack and Michelle and Sasha and Malia Obama “in a house that was built by slaves.”

Calm Down, Dems

As breathless reporters at the Democratic convention continue to run down and interview every stupid Bernie supporter in Philadelphia—I don’t know how many I have heard say that they would prefer four years of Trump, no matter the damage he might do—I suggest you take some time and read an article by Paul Waldman at The Washington Post.

Waldman’s article (“Despite what you’ve heard, Democrats aren’t in disarray. Their party is under attack from the outside“) tells us a truth Democrats need to hear. What we see on cable news right now is not “Democrats fighting with Democrats.” I have yet to hear interviewed one anti-Hillary demonstrator willing to admit any attachment to the Democratic Party. Most are openly hostile to the party. They are mostly people who haven’t voted in the past or who are leftist extremists demanding to have it all their own way or else. Here’s how Waldman put it:

As you may have heard, there already seem to be many more protests from the left around the Democratic convention than there were around the Republican convention. If it seems strange to you that leftists would be protesting not the candidate who wants to deport 11 million people, ban Muslims from entering the country and roll back civil rights gains for gay Americans, but the candidate who wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand Social Security and enact universal child care, well, that would only mean that you’re unfamiliar with leftist politics. For a certain kind of activist on the left, the real enemy is never the right; it’s always the liberals who are insufficiently committed to their brand of revolution.

I have sparred with those kind of leftists, off and on, for years now. There’s no talking to them. They “see through” everything, which, as C.S. Lewis told us a long time ago, is the same as not seeing at all. They are blind to the realities of politics. Again, listen to Waldman:

…what unites the holdouts is their self-absorption and complete inability to distinguish between political action that makes you feel good and political action that actually accomplishes anything real. These are the kind of people who think that giant puppets are the key to creating lasting social change.

He goes on to call out Code Pink, who virtually ignores the Republican Party’s sins and attacks, viciously, Democrats:

Like everything else the group does, it’s utterly masturbatory, meant to make the group feel virtuous and noble and brave, but will accomplish exactly nothing on any of the issues it says it cares about.

People like that don’t care as much about the issues as they care about making themselves feel good. They are another version of the Tea Party, albeit in fading “Feel the Bern” t-shirts. They are not loyal to any party. And despite their shouted loyalty to Bernie Sanders, they are proving they are not even loyal to him. Many of them are ignoring his late-in-the-game pleas to focus on the real menace to a progressive agenda and to the country, Donald Trump. They won’t have it. Too much hate for Hillary to embrace reality.

Fortunately, the adults will mostly unify behind Hillary Clinton when it is all said and done. They may not be out in the streets of Philadelphia right now with goofy signs saying goofy things to eager cable TV reporters, but they will be there when it matters: on election day.

It remains to be seen whether there are enough of them to keep Trump away from the power he needs to enrich himself and, perhaps in the process, destroy the lives of countless people with his dangerous ignorance. Time will tell. Meanwhile, my Democratic friends, take a deep, deep breath and know that help is coming tonight and the rest of the week.

Don’t forget: Big O has yet to have his say.

[Photo credit: Tracie Van Auken]

While Television News Focuses On Trivia, Vladimir Putin Tries To Get Trump Elected

All day Sunday, and it didn’t matter what cable news channel you watched, the talkers were all excited that they had themselves a “no unity” angle with which to cover the Democratic National Convention this week.

Sadly, that is part of why there is a real possibility that Donald Trump can ruin the world.

One would think Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, was some kind of household name. Hardly. She is known mostly to people who follow politics closely, which is not most people. Her resignation, though, has been treated like it was the worst day in the history of the Democratic Party. And the whole email nonsense associated with her resignation has been treated like the worst thing to happen to the country since the JFK assassination.

Meanwhile, there is this from Defense One:

How Putin Weaponized Wikileaks to Influence the Election of an American President

The lede:

Close your eyes and imagine that a hacking group backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin broke into the email system of a major U.S. political party. The group stole thousands of sensitive messages and then published them through an obliging third party in a way that was strategically timed to influence the United States presidential election. Now open your eyes because that’s what just happened.

Why would Putin want to see Trump elected? Come on. You know why. The Russian despot wants an ignorant buffoon in the White House so he can be even more aggressive in Europe. Period.

But most of the television news time the past 24 hours—with lots and lots more to come—has been focused on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is obviously the most dangerous person in the world.

Jesus.

Thwack!

Don’t know how it could have been any better.

Tim Kaine’s introduction to the country Saturday morning was nothing short of fantastic. It was perfectly orchestrated and fresh. It was surprising and reassuring. And it demonstrated that Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff know what they’re doing. They are professionals. They are good at this stuff. The chaos and confusion we have seen from the other side looks even worse today. The smallness and narrowness of the other side looks even smaller and narrower today.

We have hope.

The only way to fully appreciate what happened is to watch it. So, here it is:

Wise Advice To Hillary Clinton From A Wise Liberal

Franch Rich is the executive producer of HBO’s “Veep” and writer-at-large for New York Magazine. He’s a smart guy. He asks and answers an important question:

So what is the future of the GOP? Win or lose this fall, it will remain, as it has been for some time, the last outpost of old white America. Riding in on a wave of anti-Obama rage, Trump has made explicit the racial animus that was implicit in the Nixon-Reagan-Bush years. He not only wants to be the new Nixon, but the new Spiro Agnew, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwater, Pat Buchanan, and all of the rest combined. Even if he goes down, his followers are going to be creating havoc for years to come, doing their best to make real the horrific Armageddon-tinged portrait of the nation that Trump drew in his dark and corrosive acceptance speech. The white dead-enders are doomed by demography in the end, but not at the pace one might wish.

Amen to that. The end of that old GOP can’t come soon enough for me.

Rich also made a great point about how television journalists are covering Trump, followed by some advice for Hillary Clinton, advice I am afraid she won’t follow:

Watching [Trump’s acceptance speech], I was struck once again by how ill-prepared the so-called liberal press is to deal with the Trump phenomenon. Commentators on CNN and MSNBC noted some of the downsides of his speech but gave high marks for style (“very forceful,” according to Wolf Blitzer; “rousing” at its conclusion, according to Chris Matthews) as if it were just another business-as-usual political speech to be graded (on a curve). There was lots of in-the-moment fact-checking by our top news organizations — no mean task given the dense web of deceit Trump was spinning — but the appeal of the Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with facts and will not be countered by facts. Trump is about anger, resentment, hatred — stark emotions that override rationality and are immune to its niceties. Trump is utterly ignorant about any issue you can name, and always has been, but those who will vote for him don’t care. He is their voice — of rage — as he reiterated constantly from the podium.

No, the only defense we have against Trump is his opponent. She must make sure that the other America, the America that is appalled, victimized, and scandalized by Trump and what he represents, goes to the polls to vote “no.” Is Hillary Clinton up to it? I don’t know. Yes, she could win by a landslide. But she could well lose, and to believe otherwise is to live in the cocoon of, yes, the liberal media — the cocoon that gave us all of those poll analysts who said Trump could never win the nomination and who kept saying it was only a matter of time before the Republicans’ “best candidate” (that would be Marco Rubio, remember him?) would emerge from the pack to save the day.

A chilling article by Aaron Blake of the Washington Post tracking Clinton’s downward trajectory as the convention convened makes it clear how close this is going to be. While 49 percent of registered voters “strongly dislike” Trump, 47 percent feel the same way about Clinton — in other words, a statistical dead heat of detestation. She has got to rise above that — with a vice-presidential pick, to be announced imminently, who will rally voters rather than bore them, with a convention that isn’t a smug and relentlessly rational legal brief but a fierce rallying cry that also speaks to the emotions, if higher emotions than Trump’s. This is a war in which the country hangs in the balance. You don’t win wars with civility and bullet points.

A lot is riding on the Democratic convention next week and the campaign to follow. Let’s hope the convention is more than a wonk-fest. Let’s hope it is Rich’s “fierce rallying cry” that will make clear there is no one to stop Donald Trump but Hillary Clinton, her running mate, and voters set on fire with passion, if not for Clinton herself, at least for a Trump-less future.

I Alone

There is only one thing to say about that dreadful and shuddersome speech last night. If a majority of Americans are willing to embrace a man who stood before a country of 320 million people—320 million people—and told them, “I alone can fix it,” then turn out the lights, the experiment is over.

Air Kissing Putin

Mike Pence isn’t the only one on the receiving end of a Trump air kiss.

Although television journalists continue to be fascinated by the farce that is the Republican National Convention; although those same journalists are hoping against hope that Donald Trump will give a rehabilitative speech this evening so they can talk about it for several hours into the night and pronounce him fit for office, print journalists aren’t ignoring perhaps one of the most dangerous things Trump has said to date:

Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack

That frightening New York Times story begins this way:

CLEVELAND — Donald J. Trump, on the eve of accepting the Republican nomination for president, explicitly raised new questions on Wednesday about his commitment to automatically defending NATO allies if they are attacked, saying he would first look at their contributions to the alliance.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities, which have unnerved the small Baltic States that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing if those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” he added, “the answer is yes.”

Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be the first time that a major candidate for president had suggested conditioning the United States’ defense of its major allies. It was consistent, however, with his previous threat to withdraw American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection.

If that doesn’t scare every American with a measurable IQ, then nothing will. Here’s how The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg began his article on the matter, an article titled, “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladmir Putin”:

The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower.

Goldberg notes that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, “was for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine.” And Goldberg goes on to say this:

Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.

It may be entertaining for some people to watch what is going on at the circus in Cleveland this week, but this is serious business, people. It’s time television journalists started taking it that way. Trump is a very dangerous man whose election could cost a lot of people their lives and could, quite realistically, lead to a global nuclear war.

Enough with the pretending that this is just another presidential race. It isn’t.

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