More On What Respecting Our Country Means

We have had a great back-and-forth (in the comment section of “Similar Message, Different Reactions”) over an NFL quarterback refusing to stand during the playing of our national anthem, as a form of protest against what he sees as mistreatment of African-Americans by some police officers around the country. You should read the exchanges in full. And rather than further respond to each comment individually, here is my general response:

To all:

Regarding the spirited discussion we have had over the Colin Kaepernick issue, I just want to make my position clear to everyone and make a final point at the end.

Saluting the flag, or putting your hand over your heart during the national anthem, does not make anyone, soldier or civilian, a patriot. Both soldiers and civilians can follow convention and go through the motions of respecting the symbols important to most Americans and still dishonor the things the symbols are supposed to symbolize—for instance when soldiers give away national secrets or when civilian politicians with American flag lapel pins deny voting rights to African-Americans.

Likewise, not saluting the flag, or refusing to place hand over heart during the Star Spangled Banner, does not, in itself, make one a traitor either literally or figuratively. In fact, in the right context, such acts can express real respect for what those symbols are suppose to represent by calling attention to the fact that the country is failing to live up to its ideals. It may not be the way I would personally go about making that point, but it is within the realm of legitimate expression as an American in good standing.

Now, having said that, there is a point to be made about how effective such speech, as Colin Kaepernick’s actions represent, is in terms of accomplishing his goal. Just as there is a point to be made about how effective Donald Trump’s message about the godawful country he wants to govern is in terms of accomplishing his goal. Each of us will evaluate the effectiveness of Kaepernick’s and Trump’s tactics differently, depending on our preferences and prejudices and experiences. That’s how it should be.

I do want to go further, though. Let’s say that Kaepernick, rather than sitting down during the national anthem, decided to hold up his middle finger toward the flag during the anthem. Obviously, that is a different kind of message. Rather than sending the message that the country has ideals it is not living up to, he would seemingly be sending the message that the country has no ideals worth respecting at all. At least that’s what the message would mean to me. And I think such a message would do great damage to any legitimate cause Kaepernick might be championing.

Trump lapel pinWhich leads me to this election. I want to put all this in the context of the political battle for the presidency of the United States. Donald Trump’s words about the country, including trashing it constantly, cozying up to Russia and asking it to commit espionage against another American, and then making a bold statement that he and only he can fix its “rigged” system, is closer to someone giving the finger to the flag than someone sitting in silence while the anthem is playing. So, if we want to seriously evaluate what is going on with Kaepernick and Trump, in terms of how each is expressing views about contemporary America, Trump is the real disrespectful asshole in this saga.


Similar Message, Different Reactions

For 14 months or so, Donald Trump has trashed America. From his campaign slogan, which implies America isn’t great, to a speech the other day in Iowa—where, by the way. he once said, “How stupid are the people of Iowa?”—when he said the following to Hispanics and African-Americans:

What do you have to lose? It can’t get any worse. What do you have to lose?

There you have the Republican candidate telling people of color that America is a shithole and he and only he can make life less shitty for them.

Now, we’ve all grown use to Trump trashing his own country. You hardly hear a peep about it anymore from the blabbers on cable news. But, by God, the minute an African-American football player dares to not stand during the playing of the national anthem—as a way of sending his message that America’s treatment of people of color is not what it should be—conservatives soil their tighty-whities.

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the 49ers, explained his protest:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

You might think he’s wrong. You might think he should protest in another way. You might think his employer has a right to reprimand him. But you can’t hold the African-American quarterback to a different standard from one applied to the white GOP presidential nominee, whose candidacy is essentially a noisy and nasty protest against the entire country, government and all. Remember, Trump said during his “I alone can fix it” convention speech that,

I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens…

Isn’t that what Kaepernick is saying? That the system is rigged against citizens of color? Yet many of the same people who embrace Trump’s trashing of America are burning Colin Kaepernick is forcing the country to take sides with his refusal to stand for national anthem.Kaepernick jerseys and expressing outrage at his refusal to stand during a song. And many people who are criticizing Kaepernick because he isn’t showing proper respect to our military men and women are showing up at Trump rallies and cheering a man who has disrespected John McCain and “captured” veterans; who has publicly mistreated a Gold Star family; and who has referred to our military as a “disaster.”

Both Donald Trump and Colin Kaepernick have every right to send their respective messages. One stands and shouts. The other sits in silence. And both do so in a country whose flag is supposed to wave over the land of the free. But as we have seen throughout our history, some folks are freer than others.

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, 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.

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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.”


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 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?


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