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.

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“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:

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