Trump Republicans: You’d Better Hope God Ain’t Real

Randolph Blake Farenthold, a Tea Party congressman from Texas who was elected in the we-hate-Obama election of 2010, was born in Corpus Christi, which in Latin means “body of Christ.” He attended a school in that city called Incarnate Word Academy. According to its website, one of the “core values” of the school is,

Belief in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, and his message of love for the world.

Well, Mr. Farenthold, and those other Republicans selling their souls to Donald Trump, had better hope they never meet the world-loving Christ—in body or out. They’d better hope he isn’t real, that his life and death and resurrection is a fable, a figment of the collective imagination of his earnest followers. Because if they do meet the Incarnate Word, if he is who they claim he is, Trump Republicans will be greeted with a variation of these words, from Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

In light of the recent revelations that Donald Trump loves him some genital-grabbing assaults on women, do Trump Republicans think that committing those assaults, possibly including rape, fits into the “right hand” in this passage? The right hand that “causes you to stumble”? The right hand that Jesus suggests—no, demands—should be cut off and thrown away? That seems like an easy question, doesn’t it? But not for followers of the Cult of Trump. Congressman Farenthold is one of those cultists who, when it counted, found it hard to condemn the easily-condemnable. He appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on Tuesday night. Here is how CNN reported the hell-worthy exchange:

Farenthold was interviewed by MSNBC host Chris Hayes on the political fallout from a leaked video showing Trump, among other things, saying he could grab women by the genitals.

Asking the Republican congressman about the recent wave of party leaders, like Sen. John McCain and Rep. Paul Ryan, pulling their support from Trump, Hayes tried to size up Farenthold’s commitment.

“Until he does something so bad to make him worse than Hillary, I’m still in,” Farenthold said.

Hayes posed a hypothetical: “If someone off the record, in a locker room — this was not in a locker room, it was a workplace — said, ‘I really like raping women,’ would that be locker-room talk?”

Farenthold answered, “Again, it depends, you don’t know the entire context of all this.”

“But you would be fine with that?” Hayes interjected.

“I don’t like what he said,” Farenthold began to answer.

So Hayes repeated his hypothetical: “If a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that, saying ‘I really like to rape women,’ you would continue to endorse him?”

“Again … that would be bad. And I’d have to consider it, but again, we’re talking about what Donald Trump said 10 years ago as opposed to what Hillary Clinton has done in the past two or three years,” Farenthold said. “She’s been a failure.”

Hayes returned to the question and asked if there was a single, conceivable thing Trump could do to earn Farenthold’s opposition.

“Absolutely, but I think actions speak louder than words,” Farenthold said, dismissing the controversy over the leaked tape as a “kerfuffle.”

Here’s a clip of the conversation:

Farenthold, a short time later recognizing that Jesus may be fitting him for a rather large millstone that would assure he was “drowned in the depths of the sea” (thank you, Matthew 18:6), took to Facebook to seek relief from either Americans or the Almighty or both:

I apologize for my failure to immediately condemn anyone who would say something as outrageous as they like raping women. During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question. I do not, and have not ever condoned rape or violence against women.

Does it take a moral or theological genius, “thrown off” or not, to “to immediately condemn anyone who would say something as outrageous as they like raping women”? Of course not. Any normal and decent person would pass that test. So, what is going on here?

I submit that it is way too easy to say Planet Trump poisons everything that wanders into its orbit, including a congressman from Corpus Christi. The harder truth is that people who are already poisoned with hate—for whatever reason—seek and fall under the nasty gravitational influence of a Trump. In other words, Donald Trump didn’t corrupt them. They were wounded, corrupt bodies chasing a Father Star. And, in Trump, they have found a home.

Advertisements

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.

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.

 

How Roger Ailes May Have Helped Destroy The World

“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

—Tony Schwartz, real author of The Art of the Deal

A a headline in the New York Post reads:

The end is near for Roger Ailes

Let’s hope that the end is only near for him.

From the article:

Ailes, 76 — who built Fox News into an influential $3 billion business — is reportedly being shunted aside in the wake of a sexual-harassment suit filed against him by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Ailes has strongly denied the accusation.

I’m going to apply the standards of Fox “News” to this case. I’m going to evaluate the accusations and evidence in the case just like the typical Fox anchor or pundit would do if this were a claim made against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat. Ready? I find Ailes guilty as charged. He did it. Everything Gretchen Carlson—and the other women who have come forth alleging the same kind of harassment since the 1960s—said is true. It must be true because I want it to be true.

With that out of the way, think about something with me.

Roger Ailes, piggybacking on the success of right-wing talk radio, created in 1996 a fact-ignoring environment on television and disguised it as “fair and balanced” news. He sold it to gullible conservatives anxious to see on television what they were hearing on the radio each and every day since the emergence of Rush Limbaugh and his imitators in the late 1980s. That fact-ignoring environment at Fox eventually became a place where a fact-free demagogue and bigot and racist like Donald Trump could thrive. Ailes is therefore guilty of establishing and profiting from a media culture that not only nourished a factless fungus like Trump for the last year, but helped him take over and make over a once-great political party.

Roger Ailes also created a culture at Fox “News” where women were subjected to his male aggression. He created a hostile environment for certain women. He tried to exploit them and, again using Fox truth standards, likely did exploit some of them. Trump’s history of remarks about women indicate he is in Ailes’ league. In fact, they have both harassed the same woman, Megyn Kelly. And Trump tweeted last year:

If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?

Given such sexism, it is no surprise that the first two days of the Ailes-Trump Republican National Convention have featured the most aggressive and shameful verbal attacks on a woman one can imagine at such an event. The delegates have become a hate-filled mob. By Thursday night, when mercifully this madness will end, the crowd may be so frenzied that someone may round up a posse and bring Hillary Clinton to justice, the old-fashioned way.

The theme of Monday night’s convention was dark and disturbing. Essentially, America is a dangerous shithole. Speakers included people like Scott Baio—who essentially called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” on Twitter just ten days ago—and Rudy Giuliani who angrily riled up the crowd, calling both Clinton and Obama liars and saying that Clinton didn’t care “how or why people serving America are killed.” The crowd went wild as Rudy became unhinged. I thought I had stumbled on WrestleMania.

Monday night also brought us perhaps the worst moment in big-time politics I have witnessed. Organizers of the convention, no doubt mostly men, managed to exploit a still-grieving mother, who turned her grief into a despicable and hostile speech in which she, without the slightest bit of evidence, blamed Hillary Clinton for the death of her son. “How could she do this to me?” said Patricia Smith, whose son was killed in Benghazi in 2012. Then, quite tastelessly, Mrs. Smith said in response to someone in the crowd, “That is right. Hillary Clinton for prison! She deserves to be in stripes.” Needless to say, the congregation of merciful, forgiveness-loving Christians were quite pleased.

Tuesday night showcased more Hillary-hating. Mitch McConnell—who mentioned her name 24 times in his few minutes of vitriol—dutifully called Clinton a liar and said,

I’m here to tell you Hillary Clinton will say anything, do anything, and be anything to get elected president.

That’s the equivalent, in this context, of saying a woman will bang the boss to get that promotion. Icky stuff.

Chris Christie, former prosecutor, failed governor of New Jersey, and now a second-class Trump butt-wiper, went after Hillary Clinton like it was Salem, 1692. And the crowd was eager to see the witch behind bars, if not burned at the stake. “Lock her up! Lock her up!” they shouted in Jesus-approved orgasmic unity.

That’s enough. I couldn’t take any more. Off went the TV.

Next week Democrats will nominate a woman for the presidency. That woman, should she be elected, will become the most powerful woman in the history of the world. That bothers a lot of people for a lot of reasons. But let’s not discount the fact that it bothers a lot of people because she is a woman. Which leads me back to Roger Ailes.

Among other things, Gretchen Carlson has accused Ailes of sabotaging her career because of her refusal to quietly work in a hostile environment. Her legal complaint says:

After learning of Carlson’s complaints, Ailes responded by calling Carlson a “man hater” and “killer” and telling her that she needed to learn to “get along with the boys.”

The boys are in charge. The boys should stay in charge.

The complaint also states:

Ailes had made it clear to Carlson that he had the power to make anything happen for her if she listened to him and “understood” what he was saying.

You see? These things are tacitly expressed and then “understood.” Roger shouldn’t have to say it out loud all the time. Women should just understand what they’re up against and submit. Or else.

Or else they will face a witch hunt at the Republican National Convention.

RBG Speaks Truth, Media Goes Nuts

Dammit! RBG has now apologized. She said,

My recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them.

As far as I’m concerned, she should have hung in there. When you are 83 years old, you are entitled to walk out on the national stage and tell the country the truth.

What exactly was the truth she told? Here’s what Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually said about Trump:

July 7: The AP interviewed her and asked her what would happen if Trump won the election in November:

I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.

Truth. Next:

July 8: The New York Times interviewed her. She said,

I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.

Truth. Next:

July 11: CNN interviewed her. She said of Trump,

He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.

Truth. Every single word. All of it. No one actually disputes it. No one is saying that what she said isn’t true. Her critics, though, are saying she should not have said it. Huh? I thought these were, as everyone says, extraordinary times. Well, then, what’s the problem? Why can’t a distinguished jurist tell the country the truth about Trump?

All of a sudden, after years and years of Scalia and Thomas and Alito waging ideological war on the country via their reactionary rulings, Republicans are worried about Supreme Court justices being “objective.” Yes. That’s right. Texas Senator John Cornyn said of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

I think she should reconsider and change her course of conduct because I think she’s got into an area that is out of her control.. And that I think will reflect poorly not only on her but on the objectivity that we request and demand out of our federal judiciary.

Cue the laughter. What a knee-slapper.

Speaker Paul Ryan is also suddenly worried about objectivity on the Court. “This clearly calls into question her bias,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. More laughter. Ryan even brought up Bush v. Gore in the context of bias and objectivity. What a funny guy!

Hear me, my peeps. It’s a fiction that the Supreme Court isn’t a political institution. It most certainly is. Bush v. Gore itself proves it. Beyond that, though, it is a political institution because the presidents who pick its members and the senators who confirm or SPDTC ... because Justice is not blinddeny them are all politicians, politicians with political agendas who want judges to validate those agendas, not strike them down.

Why do you think Republicans are doing what they are doing now to President Obama? They are denying him his constitutional right—duty, really—to appoint another justice to the Court. Remember Judge Merrick Garland? Why isn’t he sitting on the Court right now? Politics. (For the record, Justice Ginsburg told the Times: “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.” There might not be anything in the Constitution, but there is something in Mitch McConnell’s political head that says our African-American president has no rights a white man is bound to respect.)

And don’t forget an important fact about today’s Supreme Court. On almost any big issue before the Court, one can, with a high degree of accuracy, predict on what side most of the justices will come down. Especially Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and, before God decided to kill him in his sleep, Antonin Scalia. Again, it is a fantasy that our highest court is somehow immune to bias and politics and ideology. The best we can hope for, and we need to keep hoping for it, is that through the fog of bias and politics and ideology some justice will shine through.

Speaking of Scalia, he was the perfect example of obvious ideological bias on the Court. He (along with Clarence Thomas) spoke at least once at a secret fundraising event sponsored by right-winger Charles Koch. As ThinkProgress also reported,

Scalia also came under ethical fire when he skipped Chief Justice Roberts’ swearing in ceremony to attend a junket to a Ritz-Carlton resort funded by the right-wing Federalist Society.

Objectivity anyone? This is so much fun I’ll go on:

  • In Arizona v. United States—Scalia was on the losing side—the famous conservative justice famously offered negative opinions of President Obama’s immigration policies.
  • In another case, Scalia essentially endorsed ideas that Senator Harry Reid said were “racist in application, if not intent.”
  • Speaking before law students at Georgetown, he criticized the Court’s protection of gay rights by suggesting homosexuals were in the same class as “pederasts” and “child abusers.”
  • Three weeks after the Court agreed to hear a case involving former Vice President Dick Cheney’s desire to keep secret the details of his energy policy strategy sessions, Scalia went duck hunting with Dick. Responding to a question about the propriety of that Dick duck hunt, Scalia said,

It’s acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack.

Side-splitting humor.

One more thing about Scalia, may he rest in peace. His bias was actually quantified by political science. A couple of years ago researchers did a study that focused on Supreme Court rulings, going back over 50 years, in cases involving freedom of expression. The study examined whether justices tended to favor free speech in those cases where the speaker’s ideology lined up with their own, either liberal or conservative. Guess what? Here’s how one of the researchers, Lee Epstein of Washington University in St. Louis, put it:

The most pronounced in the data set is Scalia … Just in terms of the pure percentages, if it were a liberal speaker he’d support the free exercise claim in about 21 percent of the cases. But if it were a conservative speaker, [he’d support free exercise claims] in 65 percent of the cases.

Whoops. I don’t remember too many editorials denouncing Scalia’s lopsided preference for conservative speech, do you?

Finally, I want to get to what really bothers me about all this. It is Trump’s reaction and the lack of proper reaction to Trump’s reaction. He first tweeted,

Justice Ginsburg has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot-resign!

Wait a minute. Did he really say “her mind is shot”? Donald Trump—Donald Bleeping Trump—is actually sitting in judgment of someone’s mental ability? Yep. He later said, “there’s almost something wrong with her.” Think about that for a second or two. What kind of muddled mind talks that way? In any case, he was asked if he was questioning her mental capacity, to which he said,

Yes, I think I am. I think I am questioning her mental capacity.

Okay. You have a presidential candidate—one who recently launched a racist attack on a federal judge—openly questioning whether a sitting Supreme Court justice is in her right mind. Isn’t that unprecedented? Isn’t that a problem far greater than Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling the truth about Trump? I mean, she didn’t question his mental capacity. She questioned his sincerity and his consistency and his ego and the lack of transparency on his finances. All of those things are legitimate concerns about Trump. Yet, journalists and pundits, even liberal ones, are all torn up about what RBG has done, in terms of how the public might now perceive the impartiality of the Court. The reaction to what Trump said is to ignore it and continue to criticize her. What utter hooey. Doesn’t questioning the sanity of a Supreme Court justice do more to harm the institution than what RBG did?

Let me end this with some wise words from Paul Butler, a law professor and former federal prosecutor, who wrote an op-ed for The New York Times:

When despots have ascended to power in other regimes, one wonders how judges should have responded. Should they have adhered to a code of silence while their country went to hell? Not on the watch of the Notorious R.B.G. She understands that if Trump wins, the rule of law is at risk.

In speaking out, Ginsburg has refused to elevate the appearance of justice over justice itself. The Washington chattering classes may not appreciate the breach of protocol, but history — should the United States remain a democracy – will be a kinder judge.

That, my friends, is absolutely right. Despite her second thoughts now, RBG has done the country a favor by doing what too many journalists, especially those on cable television, refuse to do: she spoke truth to Trump.

______________________

[photo credit: Ginsburg: Allison Shelley/Getty Images; peeping justice: Southern Defender; Scalia: Allen West]

This Is How Trump Stays Viable

On his MSNBC show this morning, Joe Scarborough was, as is his wont and as is the wont of nearly every cable television pundit outside of Hayes, Maddow, and O’Donnell, giving Donald Trump advice. Usually Scarborough’s advice to Trump relates to how the 70-year-old fool and likely GOP presidential nominee ought to behave, how he should “pivot”—mainstream media’s favorite word designed to shkreli.jpgcommunicate to Trump that he needs to stop being so childish, stupid, and nasty—from the primary to the general election.  Today, though, Scarborough was giving advice on whom Trump should pick as his running mate, which, as we all can see, is pretty slim pickings. When Newt Gingrich is one of the options, that means Martin Shkreli said he doesn’t want any part of it.

In any case, about right-wing zealot Mike Pence, who to me is the obvious choice for those people who give a shit who Trump picks, Scarborough said the following:

My concern about Mike Pence is you never know how somebody’s gonna act on the national stage…On the national stage it’s easy to get out there and say some pretty dumb things even if you’re a pretty smart guy. Same thing with the General [Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn]. I would warn everybody away from the General…[because] you want somebody who has been on the big stage, who excels on the big stage. And, really, you’ve got Newt Gingrich who’s all over the place. But then you’ve got the guy who was one of the best campaigners in the fall and the guy who finished Marco Rubio’s campaign single-handedly, and that’s Chris Christie….I will tell you Chris Christie’s a guy you know you can put out there, he’s not going to embarrass you and chances are pretty good he’s going to embarrass the other side.

So, there you have it. If Donald was listening—and we know he was because he is obsessed with those people on cable television who are obsessed with him—he now knows who Joe Scarborough thinks he should pick. He should pick a guy who got his ass thoroughly kicked in the primary and who doesn’t embarrass Trump [!!!] by saying dumb things! Of course!

It is quality analysis like that, coming from one of the most popular political insiders on television, that keeps the Pumpkin Punchinello’s hopes alive that he will one day sit in the White’s House and restore the country to its former greatness as an isolated, xenophobic nation that will embrace the coat hanger as a national symbol for women’s reproductive rights, burn fossil fuels faster than ever, and make white supremacists feel like, finally, they’ve got their country back.

Keep it up, Joe and other pundits on television, you may get your wish.

Bad Moon Rising

I hear hurricanes a’blowin’
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

—John Cameron Fogerty

his is the voice of rage and ruin. That is Donald Trump. No doubt about it. His declaration that “the system is rigged,” which he shouts routinely now, is in the cynic’s tongue.

But the extreme cynicism we see all around us—the utter distrust many people have in our democratic institutions, our politicians, in even ourselves as citizens of an experimental democracy—is not the fault of Donald Trump. He has just given voice to it and will, it is guaranteed, try to make a buck off it.

I have been amazed, like most people, at the success Trump has had. More than four in ten Americans, if we are to believe the polls, prefer this ignorant, bigoted, racist demagogue over the alternative, Hillary Clinton. We can blame a lot of people for this phenomenon, including Mrs. Clinton and her troubles, including journalists who make mountains out of rage and ruin.jpgClinton’s molehills and who make molehills out of Trump’s mountains, and especially including Republicans who have, for more than a generation now, figured out how to wreck the machinery of government and create much of the crippling cynicism we see today.

But really, the fault is ours.  We. The. People. Our country really is an experiment in democracy, in self-government. There are no guarantees that the experiment will turn out well. It could go badly. The end could really come one day. What we are really doing when we give up and consider handing our government over to a nasty, divisive figure like Donald Trump is giving up on ourselves, on our ability to make this experiment work. If we don’t vote, or if we vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning, we are really opting for failure. We are throwing in the towel. Quitting. Saying to hell with it.

I see the bad moon rising. The voice of rage and ruin is on our television every day. If we let him win, the country certainly will lose. But it may be that his bone-chilling demagoguery has made it such that even if he loses, the country won’t win. All of the rage-and-ruin bluster that is broadcast seemingly nonstop may have pushed us too far already. Trump, and the cynical politicians on the right who have embraced his hate-spewing, America-rending candidacy, may have made it impossible for anyone to govern this country effectively.

I fear it is so. I hope I’m wrong.

 

Two Men History Will Judge

There was this headline today:

Paul Ryan Refuses To Call Out Trump For Renewed Muslim Ban Push

From the story:

When the speaker was asked for his reaction to Trump’s comments on the Orlando shooting, his comments that American Muslims have been harboring terrorists, and his comments questioning whether President Barack Obama really wants to fight terrorism, Ryan saved his harshest criticism for the reporter making the query.

Then there was this today:

Obama Decries Trump’s Muslim Ban, Asks: ‘Where Does This Stop?’

The lede from that story:

In forceful comments Tuesday that repudiated calls to use the term “radical Islam” while underscoring his administration’s efforts to defeat terrorism, President Barack Obama blasted such language as dangerous and reactionary and slammed Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims.

Now, one of these two men—each the highest ranking official in his political party—have it wrong. History will judge one of them, either Speaker Paul Ryan or President Barack Obama, very harshly. For now, you be the judge. To help you do that, I have posted below President Obama’s remarks today about Trump and those Republicans who are with him. Obama made the history-making remarks after first giving Americans an important and lengthy survey of just how much damage has been done to ISIS over the past year or so. Then, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.—standing beside him, he started to get hot:

It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have. People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun.

Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons. Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite obama on trump.jpgextraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military—despite all the sacrifices that folks make—these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.

And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.

What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?

The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.

Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions. There has not been a moment in my seven and a half years as president where we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around.” Not once.

So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting? If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are—that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.

If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously? That would come as a surprise to those who spent these last seven and a half years dismantling Al Qaida in the FATA, for example—including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the special forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria. They know full well who the enemy is.

So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans—including politicians who tweet and appears on cable news shows. They know who the nature of the enemy is. So, there is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy.

And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and Al Qaida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion of Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.

They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.

Now, up until this point, this argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups. That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.

But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.

We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.

Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer—they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans
differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith? We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.

We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history. This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.

And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect. The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen.

I will not let that happen.

You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country. And part of what was inspiring was the incredible diversities of these cadets. We saw cadets who are straight applauding classmates who were openly gay. We saw cadets born here in America applauding classmates who are immigrants and love this country so much they decided they wanted to be part of our armed forces.

We saw cadets and families of all religions applaud cadets who are proud, patriotic Muslim-Americans serving their country in uniform ready to lay their lives on the line to protect you and to protect me. We saw male cadets applauding for female classmates who can now serve in combat positions. That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.

Those are the values that ISIL is trying to destroy and we should not help them do it. Our diversity and our respect for one another, our drawing on the talents of everybody in this country, our making sure that we are treating everybody fairly, that we are not judging people on the basis of what faith they are or what race they are or what ethnicity they are or what their sexual orientation is.

That’s what makes this country great. That’s the spirit we see in Orlando. That’s the unity and resolve that will allow us to defeat ISIL. That’s what will preserve our values and our ideals that define us as Americans. That’s how we are going to defend this nation and that’s how we are going to defend our way of life.

Why There Is A Trump

Other than white fear and anxiety—which I have written about many times—there are two other reasons we have a Trump.

One I found in an L. A. Times article (“News coverage of campaign greatly aided Trump and hurt Clinton, study finds“), which confirmed what anyone who has consumed the news since last June already knew. But it’s nice to have an objective study confirm what may only be personal bias. The lede:

News coverage of the early months of the presidential campaign strongly boosted Donald Trump’s bid and put Hillary Clinton at a disadvantage, according to a new study from Harvard that is likely to add to the heavy volume of complaints that the media aided Trump’s rise.

There’s that.

Then there’s this, which I found on The Hill:

Carl Bernstein: Trump speech ‘abhorrent’ but ‘effective’

Bernstein, unfortunately, is a CNN commentator. The old Watergate-breaking journalist was critiquing the godawful speech Trump gave today on banning Muslims and protecting those newly-lovable gay people that Republicans didn’t use to love until it became politically expedient to love them. Those same newly-lovable gay people that Democrats like Obama and Clinton are failing to protect because those two America-haters allow every gay-hating terrorist in the world to walk into the United States without so much as a howdy. The speech was, as Bernstein said, quite “abhorrent.” But here’s what else Bernstein said about it:

His speech will appeal to independents, even some Democrats and certainly Republicans because Hillary Clinton, Obama and the Democrats are very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world and they have been very reluctant to use the word Islamic terror and it’s coming back to haunt them. The impression Trump gave today, with some effectiveness, despite his almost neo-fascist rhetoric, is that the Democrats have not done that.

That is so dumb, on so many levels, I can hardly draw a breath.

First, I don’t know one single Democrat who would find that speech appealing. If there are Democrats out there who do find neo-fascism appealing, guess what? They ain’t really Democrats.

bernsteinSecond, Clinton, Obama, and the Democrats are not “very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world.” There are plenty of dead terrorists out there to refute that very ignorant claim. Just ask Osama bin Laden, the next time you’re snorkeling for seashells.

Third, what about the reluctance “to use the word [sic] Islamic terror”? Bernstein knows, or should know, why there is reluctance to use the word in the way that right-wingers want Democrats to use it. Responsible elected officials, as opposed to Republican elected officials, have to be careful not to alienate the very people who can help stop terrorists from terrorizing. Bernstein said it’s “coming back to haunt” Democrats. Oh, yeah? Where’s the proof of that? Obama was reelected, even though the right made the same attacks on him back in 2012. He’s also fairly popular right now. Does Bernstein think non-Republican people are so dumb that they think just by uttering “Islamic terrorism” all the terrorists out there will turn into Mr. Rogers?  I can pretty much guarantee anyone that ISIS thugs don’t really give a damn whether Hillary Clinton decided to use the term “Islamic terrorism” today. All they care about, besides killing other Muslims, is not having an American drone as a breakfast guest.

Fourth, Bernstein said Trump’s speech used “almost neo-fascist rhetoric.” No. It wasn’t almost neo-fascist. It was the real deal. At least as real as fascism gets in American politics. Bernstein also said that despite the close-to-fascist rhetoric, Trump’s speech was effective. Again, what evidence is there for that? Trump is a known liar and everyone not already hypnotized by authoritarian bombast has ten thousand good reasons not to believe anything he says about Obama, Clinton, or the size of his bratwurst. The only way anyone outside the Trump cult would give any credence to such a neo-fascist speech, which was full of non-facts, is if people like Carl Bernstein gave them reason to.

And that is exactly what he did. Bernstein should have called the speech what it was and not given anyone the impression that Trump is anything other than a dangerous authoritarian, who at times today acted like a lunatic. He should have said that Trump is quite openly telling us how he will change the country for the worse and how he will dramatically expand the powers of the executive branch beyond anything conservatives have imagined Obama doing. Instead, Bernstein practiced the kind of journalism we are too used to seeing since Trump slinked into our politics. The kind of journalism that has placed America dangerously close to electing a neo-fascist.

His Name Is Trump

It’s really very, very serious now. No more Drumpf for me. His name is Donald Trump. And he is a very unstable man who is propagating and inspiring a very dangerous and destabilizing kind of hate and bigotry in the country. Even if he doesn’t win the presidency, the hate and bigotry he is both promoting and, in some vulnerable minds, legitimating will remain.

This morning, after doubling down on his ridiculous and unconstitutional and frightening ban on Muslims entering the country, Trump suggested that the President of the United States is in fellowship with ISIS. I don’t give a damn how he might spin his comments later on. He is implying that President Obama is a traitor to his country:

We are led by a man who is either not tough, not smart, or he has something else in mind. And the something else in mind, people can’t believe it.

He also called on the president to resign because he “disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam.'” For some reason, and I don’t quite understand why it is, that phrase has become central to the right-wing attack against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (although she used it today). Even people like Sam Harris—who on this issue sounds more like a right-wing radio jock than a thoughtful philosopher—are obsessed with using certain terms when speaking about the fight against jihadism. It’s as if all Obama has to do is speak the sacred phrase three times and the incantation will turn all the jihadists into Quakers.

In any case, Trump’s Obamaphobia is legendary among his cultish following, folks who already know that Obama is a traitor. They don’t have to be told. But they like to be told and they love Trump for telling them. It’s church-camp reinforcement of their hatred for and fear of the president.

One such hater—and I could pick any number of them—is a man named David Horowitz. He is one of the nastiest reactionaries in the country. I used to pay a lot of attention to him when I was a conservative, just to show you how nuts I was. Horowitz, who used to be a left-wing extremist, is now one of the best examples of how Obamaphobia warps a willing mind. And Horowitz has figured out a way to make some very dirty money off his hatred for Obama and for Democrats and for liberals. That is what his inaptly named “Freedom Center” is all about. Allow me to share just a few of the things Horowitz has said on Twitter since Orlando:

So, there’s all of that. But perhaps the most disturbing thing Horowitz did was link to an article on a website called Gotnews, which was founded by right-winging “journalist” Charles C. Johnson. The article represents an early attempt to smear the entire family of the Orlando killer. But the writer, who happens to be Charles C. Johnson, goes beyond smearing the family. He said,

It’s long past time to hold the families responsible.

Terrorism never occurs in a vacuum.

Donald Trump is right! It’s time to take out the families of terrorist supporters.

That’s the kind of dangerous—and completely un-American—thinking Trump inspires.

The great filmmaker, Ken Burns, gave the commencement address at Stanford this year. It is worth your time to listen to the entire speech. But pay special attention to what he said about Trump:

As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of womenlosing authority over their own bodieken burns at stanfords, African-Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber-rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making “the other” wrong.

These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again — all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.

We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain.

No more bemused disdain for me. We are living in dangerous and decisive times. Ken Burns said, “We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization,” and he added that we must “reject the troubling, unfiltered Tourette’s of [Trump’s] tribalism.”

Indeed. We should. But what if we don’t? What will become of us if Trump is elected? Perhaps a better question is, what will become of us if he isn’t?

 

%d bloggers like this: