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?

 

Etch A Drumpf

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.“—Jeremiah 13:23

almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Etch A Romney.” It played off the admission by Eric Fehrnstrom, who was Mittens’ top aide and senior adviser, that the Romney whom voters were seeing and hearing in the primary election wasn’t the real deal. After he wrapped up the nomination, a better, more palatable, candidate would emerge. Fehrnstrom smugly told CNN:

Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

Except he couldn’t start over again. Romney had said too much, some of it behind closed doors, to simply take it all back and reinvent himself. And his opponents in that primary campaign had also said too much. It was Texas governor Rick Perry who labeled him a “vulture capitalist.” It was Newt Gingrich who said the business model for Romney’s Bain Capital “undermined capitalism” and was “indefensible,” themes the Obama campaign amplified throughout the spring and summer that year, before Romney could be crowned at his party’s convention.

Thus, one would think, given Romney’s ultimate defeat in 2012, that cynically playing primary voters for fools—shaking it up and starting all over when the nomination is secured—would not be a strategy the 2016 Republican front-runner would want to employ, let alone admit to employing. Except, here we go again.

Paul Manafort—whose campaign experience goes back to Gerald Ford and includes Reagan and Bush I—is now Drumpf’s top aide. Drumpf brought him in to professionally navigate the complicated waters of finally securing enough delegates to win the nomination and then transitioning to the general election campaign. But Manafort may be a little rusty. Thinking he was speaking behind closed doors—why do people these days still think there are closed doors?—Manafort told RNC bigwigs that Drumpf “gets it.” Gets what? Oh:

…the part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for because he had to first feed the first phase.

So, up until now, Drumpf has just been an act? Yep:

When he’s sitting in a room, he’s talking business. He’s talking politics in a private room. It’s a different persona. When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.

etch a drumpfIf I were a fan of the man with the tiny hands, I think I would resent the notion that I was a Drumpkin bumpkin, a simpleton who bought the whole I’m-gonna-build-the-wall-and-Mexico’s-gonna-pay-for-it shtick like it was something real, not something the reality star was “projecting” just to win my simpleton ass over. But I’m not a Drumpkin bumpkin. I don’t really know how such people will process this utter admission of fraud because it’s not like it hasn’t been out there before. It’s not like Drumpf hasn’t hinted at it now and then. It’s not like we didn’t learn in February:

The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump, who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views.

Despite calls from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for Drumpf to give the paper permission to release the transcript of that interview, Drumpf wouldn’t do it. Yet his throngs kept coming to his rallies and kept salivating over his bigotry and kept punching people who dared to protest him. So, who knows what the Drumpkins will do now, now that they know beyond a doubt that their beloved is a grifter and his campaign has been a hustle. Here’s how “Lyin’ Ted” put it to right-wing radio nut Mark Levin:

Donald is a New York liberal who is pretending to be a conservative, to try to fool Republican primary voters. And, you know, the amazing thing, Mark, all of us are frustrated with politicians lying to us. I’m actually going to give Trump a little bit of credit here. He’s being candid. He’s telling us he’s lying to us.

That’s pretty clever of “Lyin’ Ted” to give Drumpf credit for lying, don’t ya think?

In any case, what other choice does Drumpf have but to change his spots—after he has convinced enough Drumpkins to give him the nomination? An avid poll watcher, Drumpf knows how unpopular he is among non-goobers. He has to pivot toward palatability. And he has the advantage of knowing that some of the press will pivot right along with him, so that they can set up an epic, ratings-rich battle in November.

It’s already happening, as I have previously noted. This morning MSBNC’s Morning Joe, which has been a platform for advising Drumpf on how to be a better candidate, featured a discussion in which the Etch A Drumpf strategy was seen as a good move, one that, in the words of panelist Donnie Deutsch, could make it possible for the bigot to beat Hillary Clinton.

Well, if he does get the nomination, and if he does beat Hillary Clinton in November, it won’t be because people ignored as showbiz all the bigoted buffoonery they have witnessed since last June. It will be because they embraced it. And if they do, that will say a helluva lot more about them than about Drumpf.

Donald Drumpf And The Three Shtarkers

shtarker: “a Yiddish word  defined by the lexicographer Sol Steinmetz as ‘a strong- minded person willing to wield power.'”William Safire

first of all, if you don’t like the Rolling Stones, you should. But even if you don’t like them or their music, you have to like a story about them involving Donald Drumpf, a story I somehow missed when it came out last summer. The Los Angeles Times, just three days ago, picked up the old story and it is so cool, so revealing of just who Drumpf really is even in real life, that it will give you great joy to read.

A little background: Michael Cohl is a big-time concert promoter who, as the Times pointed out, “has worked on massive tours by Michael Jackson, U2 and Barbra Streisand.” Back in 1989, the Rolling Stones began touring again after several years off-road. The band had just released its latest album, Steel Wheels. Michael Cohl hooked up with the Stones and, as the Times noted, “concocted an idea for a boxing-style pay-per-view event that, if marketed properly, would yield huge profits.” Cohl said, “I thought, geez, if I can separate the Stones from their own gig, and just concentrate on the pay-per-view, then I might pull it off.”

The problem was that he couldn’t get any takers for his big idea. Except one. Drumpf. Cohl explained:

…unfortunately, the only person I could get to kind of agree to the site fee we needed and to work it through was Donald Trump. Now I had one of those, “Oh God, how am I going to do this?” moments.

And I opened my big mouth in the meeting with The Rolling Stones where they go, “This is all great, but we’re not going to be affiliated with Donald Trump. At all. Screw you.” And I go, “I will control Donald Trump! Don’t you worry!”

At this point you already have to admire the Rolling Stones. They wanted nothing to do with Drumpf. But it gets better, and I will let Cohl explain it in full, as he did last summer:

So, we signed the contract. Donald agrees that he will not be in any of the promotion except in Atlantic City, and he will not show up at the gig! Holy shit! Well, the quick version is we go on sale. Eric Clapton was there, Axl Rose, Slash, John Lee Hooker – we had a fantastic show; sell out three shows.

Are you ready for the punchline? Three-hundred dollar tickets. That’s where they originated — $300, $250, $150 and it worked. It was spectacular. And that’s how it happened.

The Stones agreed to that ticket pricing in Atlantic City. It didn’t have the happiest of endings, though. It’s the night of the show.

The Stones had such power in those days that the 6:40 p.m. slot on the national evening news was going to be an interview with the Stones to talk about and promote the pay-per-view. At about 5:50 p.m. I get word that I have to come to the press room in the next building. I run to the press room in the next building and what do you think is happening? There’s Donald Trump giving a press conference, in our room!

I give him the [come here gesture]. “Come on, Donald, what are you doing? A) You promised us you wouldn’t even be here and, B) you promised you would never do this.” He says, “But they begged me to go up, Michael! They begged me to go up!” I say, “Stop it. Stop it. This could be crazy. Do what you said you would. Don’t make a liar of yourself.”

I go back to the dressing room. Five minutes later, he’s back up. They call me back over there. Holy shit. I call him out (again). Same thing happens. I say, “Donald. I don’t know if I can control this. Stop it.” I go back to the dressing room. And I leave my walkie-talkie on in the dressing room. Moronic, on my part.

They call me back, at which point Keith [Richards, the Stones’ great guitarist and co-writer with Mick Jagger] pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, “What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.” I said, “No. I’ll go do it. Don’t you worry.”

I run over. He’s up there again! I go [gives the come here gesture]. We go into the hallway. I said, “Donald. You lied. You broke your promise. One of two things is going to happen. You’re going to leave the building and, at 6:40, The Rolling Stones are going to speak on CBS News, or you’re not going to leave the building and I’m going to go on and do an interview to explain to the world why the pay-per-view was canceled. I know it’s your building and…” – and in my head I’m going, this is so crazy, right? I’m trying to throw Donald Trump out of his own building.

But, anyway, the bottom line is I look at Donald and said, “You and Marla (Maples) have to go. You’re fired.” He looks at me and goes berserk.

“You don’t know anything! Your guys suck! I promote Mike Tyson! I promote heavyweight fights!” And I notice the three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles. I go on the walkie-talkie and I call for Jim Callahan, who was head of our security, and I go, “Jim, I think I’m in a bit of trouble.” And he says, “Just turn around.”

I turn around. He’s got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers.

“And now, are you gonna go, Donald?”

And off he went.

And that was the night I fired Donald Trump.

Now, go out and by a Stones album, if not because of the music, because of this story about the night Donald Drumpf was thrown out of his own place, as he would say, just like a dog.

Watching A Man Surrender His Soul To The Devil On National TV

psychopath: a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.

almost a year ago, presidential dropout and outspoken Christian Ben Carson called President Obama—a family man who has had but one wife and no personal scandals of any kind—a “psychopath.” Do you remember that? It happened. Here’s the context from GQ:

On the nightearlier this year that Barack Obama stepped before the nation to deliver his sixth State of the Union address, Ben Carson—a political newcomer who harbors dreams of soon giving his first—settled into a sofa just a few blocks away. He was eager to hate everything the president was about to say.

Carson had come to the Capitol Hill home of Armstrong Williams, a conservative media impresario who officially serves as Carson’s business manager and who lately has functioned as Carson’s unofficial image-maker and political adviser as well. As the two men turned to the TV, they began dissecting Obama’s performance.

“He looks good,” Williams said. “He looks clean. Shirt’s white. The tie. He looks elegant.”

“Like most psychopaths,” Carson grumbled. “That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.”

Later, CNBC’s John Harwood asked him about such stupidity:

“Obama, you referred to him as a psychopath,” Harwood said. “What did you mean by that?”

“I said he reminds you of a psychopath,” Carson corrected.

“And tell me how,” Harwood pressed.

“Because they tend to be extremely smooth, charming people, who can tell a lie to your face with complete — it looks like sincerity, even though they know it’s a lie,” Carson replied.

This morning Ben Carson endorsed a guy, Donald Drumpf, who claims he is successful and thinks he looks great and is sure he is smooth and charming and who has told so many lies that fact-checkers are dying from exhaustion. This morning Ben Carson endorsed a guy who has made fun of him before the world, and as we all know, just last November said this about the former brain surgeon:

I could say they don’t say, as an example, a child molester, you don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that. Now, I didn’t say it, he said it in his book. So when I hear somebody’s pathological, when somebody says, I went after my mother with — and he’s saying it about himself with a hammer and hit her in the head, I say, ‘whoa, that’s a big statement.’

The guy who suggested that Ben Carson’s psychopathy was akin to being a child molester stood beside the strange doctor this morning and listened to the strange doctor say that there were “two” Donald Drumpfs, as if one wasn’t enough. He said Drumpf was “a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.” Carson called the guy who compared him to a child molester “cerebral.” And, perhaps to warn us, Carson said that we are “going to see more and more of” that cerebral Donald Drumpf.

When a reporter asked Carson about Drumpf’s child molester comments, which were the political and rhetorical equivalent of taking a hatchet to Carson’s presidential campaign, Dr. Ben said, “We buried the hatchet.” So, the murder weapon, the weapon Drumpf used to kill Carson’s presidential aspirations, will never be found. Unless you have the Internet.

For me, the strangest moment this morning, during the weird press conference in which viewers actually got to see a man surrender his soul to the devil, was when Ben Carson, Christian extraordinaire, said that after spending time with Drumpf, he discovered that there was, “A lot more alignment philosophically and spiritually than I ever thought there was.” I’m pretty sure that doesn’t help Drumpf all that much.

The whole thing strikes me as very sad, not just for the country, but for Ben Carson himself. There is clearly something wrong with the once-great doctor, but, unlike Donald Drumpf, I don’t know what it is. I suspect it has something to do with how fundamentalist religion has poisoned his brain. And I suspect it would take every psychiatrist and psychologist in the entire world, working till Jesus returns, to even begin to explain how a man who makes a show of his Christian faith could call President Obama—about as good an example of a Christian family man as one could imagine—a psychopath, and a year later could stand up and endorse a disturbed and disturbing man for president, a man who not only compared the now soulless doctor to a psychopathic child molester, but a man who is electrifying real psychopaths all over the country, especially at his campaign rallies.

Yes. Barack Obama Is Responsible For Donald Trump. And We Should Thank Him For It.

disintegrateto break or decompose into constituent elements, parts, or small particles

A among the many things we should thank Barack Obama for is just how much his working in the White’s House—not as a servant or employee of a white president, but as president himself—has helped lead to an ugly disintegration of what has become an ugly Republican Party, a disintegration that is now happening before our very eyes.

The Obama-related dissolution and demoralization began in 2009 with the rise of an angry Tea Party, where nuttiness became normalness. Where—even putting aside the occasional and unseemly displays of racism that came with our first African-American president—questioning Mr. Obama’s devotion to his country and his chosen faith became as natural as questioning his birthplace. And the most prominent birther, of course, was Donald J. Trump, a man now the front-runner and face of his party, positioned to win a number of primaries tomorrow. Thus, even though it was quite unintentional, even though it wasn’t part of a clever national Democratic Party strategy to undermine the integrity of the GOP, Barack Hussein Obama is, ironically, cracking up The Party of Lincoln.

Donald Trump has divided conservatives from the Republican establishment. He has divided conservatives from other conservatives. He has divided reactionary evangelicals from other reactionary evangelicals. He has divided the right-wing donor class from working-class Republicans. He has challenged the integrity of the Republican Party’s official public relations arm, known as Fox “News,” relentlessly and classlessly attacking one of it most popular propagandists, Megyn Kelly. He has made two Tea Party extremists, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—both of whom believe the government should force a rapist-impregnated woman to bear her rapist’s child, and both of whom represent his toughest conservative competition at this point—seem a more rational choice for the Republican nomination than Trump. And he now has prominent Republicans openly saying they will not vote for him in the general election.

Perhaps most important, in terms of non-Fox, right-wing media coverage, Trump has now turned his most prominent cheerleader, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, into a critic. Look at this header from today’s HuffPo:

huffpo and scarborough

I heard the very conservative Scarborough talk this morning. And I found his comments amazing. After months of rooting for Trump, defending him, giving him advice on the air, Scarborough is now all of a sudden surprised that Trump would do something so dumb as not denounce David Duke and the KKK. After years of Trump’s racist birtherism; after make america grreat againmonths of Trump’s assaults on Hispanic immigrants and Muslims, including women and children war refugees; after Trump’s hate-filled attacks on journalists and his most recent suggestion (which he repeated this morning) that, as president, he would make war on a free press and “open up our libel laws” so politicians like him could sue for “lots of money”; after all that and much, much more, it finally dawns on Joe Scarborough that Trump may not be qualified for president?

That tells you what you need to know about the condition of the Republican Party.

Trump’s awkward refusal, on ABC’s This Week, to disavow both David Duke and the KKK shouldn’t have surprised anyone, including Joe Scarborough and the Morning Joe crew. He has, without much pushback from the Republican establishment, openly courted bigots from the very beginning. That’s why he has been very popular among white supremacists and other haters, like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But Trump, who knows very little about a lot of things, thought he could get away with not rejecting the support of open racists on a prominent Sunday political show because, as he has said before, he really believes he is invincible. He believes he can disavow Duke on one trump rally.jpgday, then pretend not to know who he is on another day, followed by a phony explanation as to why he didn’t openly disavow him or the KKK on ABC. He can do all that, he believes, because his bigoted supporters will get the message: “Yeah, I had to eventually sort of disavow the racists, but my ambiguity should tell you something.”

Apparently it does. Judging by his rally at Radford University in Virginia today, he hasn’t lost an inch of ground. Thousands came out to wildly, and I mean wildly, cheer him and his tiresome bigotry. “We’ve gotta unify our country,” he told his audience, after loudly and rudely ordering a few protesters from the premises. That coming from perhaps the most purposely divisive figure in modern American political history.

Joe Scarborough, born and raised in the South, tried to tell his Morning Joe viewers today that the South has changed. That Trump’s attempt to appeal to racists in tomorrow’s mostly southern primaries won’t earn him one vote. Oddly, Scarborough also said that Trump will win most of the races tomorrow. In other words, according to Scarborough, Trump’s shameless and clumsy appeal to racism on Sunday won’t win him any votes in the South but alswon’t cost him any votes.

If that is true, if Trump wins big tomorrow and becomes very difficult to stop on his way to the nomination, that tells you something not just about the South, but about the Republican Party. The GOP is splintering and will soon no longer be a national party at all, but one that will have to deal with a shrinking group of anxious and angry white constituents who give the party most of its energy, but who just can’t cope with Barack Obama and the browning of America and the loss of white privilege that he so impressively represents.

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

Remarks And Asides 2/23/16

Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, also known as Tim Allen, told Megyn Kelley that as a conservative he likes John Kasich because “the guy’s got a great heart.” Uh-oh. Somebody should tell Tim that there is no room in his party for guys with great hearts. Even now, the party pooh-bahs are busy figuring out a way to talk Kasich into dropping out of the race so a guy with a tinykasich should drop out heart, Marco Rubio, can stop the guy who has no heart at all for Mexican immigrants or Muslim women and children fleeing the horrors of war.

______________________________

Speaking of Kasich, he got in a little trouble for his Leave It To Beavers perspective. Explaining how he first won elective office, he uttered:

We just got an army of people and many women who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and put yard signs up for me. All the way back, when things were different. Now you call homes, and everybody’s working.

Yep. In their bare feet, pregnant with future Republicans, women in droves left their soufflés and their hungry husbands and helped make John Kasich a future failure as a guy with a great heart in the 2016 Republican primary.

______________________________

Talk about failure, a headline on HuffPo announced: “The Sunday Talk Shows Didn’t Ask A Single Presidential Candidate About The Kalamazoo Shooting.” The story noted:

There were over 350 mass shootings in the United States in 2015, and on an average day in this country, guns kill 88 people, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. That adds up to an annual average of over 30,000 gun deaths a year.

Now, clearly there are very good reasons why the Sunday interlocutors weren’t interested in asking any questions about the Kalamazoo shooting. The killer’s skin was light, not dark. The killer’s name was Jason Brian Dalton, not Jalal Bakri Dhakir. And according to reports, neighbors said he was a ‘laid back guy’ who ‘likes guns,” not a laid back guy who likes Allah. So, let’s all move on.

_____________________________

And let’s move on to Ted Cruz, a good evangelical Christian who follows at least one of the ten commandments to the letter: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” We don’t need The Donald to tell us what a cheating liar Cruz has been lately. And now, apparently, we don’t need The Donald to build a big beautiful wall down south and then deport those 12 million paperless immigrants who live here and who have been driving conservatives crazy by raping and killing everyone in sight, when they’re not housekeeping for rich Republicans or renovating their big homes or picking fruit on their huge farms.  We now have another big-government conservative who can do that big-government job:

Cruz told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Monday that yes, should he be elected president, his administration would deport all 12 million undocumented people estimated to be in the U.S. and wouldn’t allow them to return.

Wow! Cruz out-Trumped Trump! Not only will he ignore the words of his alleged Lord and Savior el Jesús —“Love your neighbor as yourself!”—he will use a mammoth government bureaucracy to round up those rapists and killers and housekeepers and construction workers and fruit pickers. Plus, and plus, plus, plus, he won’t let ’em back in the country like Trump will! Jesus Almighty. What can Trump do to top that? Just wait. He’ll think of something. It’s only Tuesday.

______________________________

Meanwhile, Trump rightly celebrated his great victory in South Carolina by saying this:

short people.jpgWe won with everything. We won with women; I love the women. We won with men. I’d rather win with women, to be honest. We won with evangelicals, like unbelievable. We won with the military. We won with everything. We won with highly educated, pretty well educated, and poorly educated. We won with everything. Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people.

I must say I am very surprised and disappointed that Trump won the short-people vote. They really do have no reason to live.

_______________________________

Poor Marco Rubio. The communications director for Ted Cruz claimed that Rubio told a person reading a Bible: “Got a good book there, not many answers in it,” which, if you think about it, isn’t all that bad a thing to say to someone reading the Bible. Turns out, though, that what Rubio really said was something much dumber: “Got a good book there, all the answers are in there.” All the answers are in there? Not just a couple? Not just some? You really mean all the answers are in there? Okay, then, some smart journalist should ask Mr. Rubio where in the Bible are answers to the following questions:

  • How do we cure cancer?
  • Why are people born with birth defects?
  • Why does a loving, omnipotent Heavenly Father stand by and watch millions of children starve to death every year or suffer in useless religious wars or otherwise experience unspeakable horrors?
  • What is that strange mess on top of Donald Trump’s head?
  • What is that strange mess inside of Donald Trump’s head?

Tell us, Marco, give us chapter and verse, as to exactly where we can find these and other answers in the Bible, since they are all in there somewhere.

_________________________

Finally, speaking of mysteries, there is Ben Carson. The man was by all accounts an amazing brain surgeon. And that is very strange because the man appears not to have a properly functioning brain himself. Forget all the dumb things he wrote in his book or has said on the campaign trail since he started. His most recent comments about President Obama (in an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush) aren’t even comprehensible. He was asked about how he felt about the 2009 inauguration of our first African-American president. Here is the transcript:

GLENN THRUSH: It was a pretty interesting moment in American history, right? Did you derive any joy out of that? Any sense of pride? How did you sort of‑‑how did you process that?

DR. CARSON: You know, I did not. I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but I also recognize that his experience and my experience are night-and-day different. He didn’t grow up like I grew up by any stretch of the imagination.

GLENN THRUSH: That’s right.

DR. CARSON: Not even close.

GLENN THRUSH: He’s an “African” American as opposed to an African-American.

DR. CARSON: He’s an “African” American. He was, you know, raised white. Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.

GLENN THRUSH: That’s interesting.

Interesting? Nope. Like Ben Carson, it’s just plain weird.

A Brazilian Waxing

Donald Trump’s fairly comprehensive victory in South Carolina yesterday of course has a lot of Republicans worried. And by “a lot of Republicans” I mean those who don’t want their party to be represented by a bigoted xenophobic billionaire, a sexist buffoon who thinks our current African-American president is too much African and not enough American, who believes that Mexican immigrants tend to be rapists and killers, and, well, you know the long list of embarrassing and dangerous nonsense he has uttered.

Just how many of those Republicans who worry about the appearance of the party are actually left in the party remains to be seen. But what doesn’t remain to be seen is perhaps the most significant result of yesterday’s Republican primary. The party, for good or for ill, has now deliberately de-Bushed. The party’s pubes have been waxed. And who knew that jeb waxingamong Donald Trump’s increasing talents as a Republican front-runner was a talent for stripping clean the party’s privvies, a talent for ridding the GOP of unwanted Bush? Trump’s devastating attacks on Jeb effectively branded him as an unsightly growth, something that, as much as it might hurt, had to go. “Enough is Enough- no more Bushes!” exclaimed The Donald.

Wikipedia tells us that Brazilian waxing “can be a physically painful experience during and after.” We have all seen the agony as the campaign has progressed and we saw it last night as Jeb, without the exclamation mark, surrendered his campaign. You could hear the moans and groans of a party in pain, as the last strip of Bush was hurtfully stripped away. Wikipedia also reminds us of an important fact about Brazilian waxing:

There is also a health risk involved if it is not done properly, as well as a risk of infection if done on a person with a weakened immune system.

Trump’s rise and his latest success proves that the Republican Party has a weakened immune system. There’s no doubt about it. And that weakened establishment system is working overtime to fight the pathogens in the party. What we don’t yet know, however, is whether that system will prevail, or, after the waxing of Jeb Bush, whether a devastating infection is to follow, that is, the nomination of Donald J. Trump.

 

Donald’s Diner

It’s all about anxiety.

The rise of Donald Trump. The reaction against him. The fear that he will bring down the Republican Party and poison “true” conservatism. It’s all about a slow, methodical unraveling of white Christian privilege in America and the fear and uncertainty that comes with that dawning reality.

Let me start with Anus Mouth. Donald Trump’s success, so far, has been based on crassly and confidently, if not coherently and consistently, addressing the cultural angst that many white conservative Christians feel. I have written about this angst for many years now. It is palpable. It is real. Even if it is un-Christianly.

So, a rather un-Christianly Donald Trump comes along—Mr. “Two Corinthians”—and figures out a way to feed the beast of collective white conservative Christian anger and resentment that has now become the dominant force in Republican politics. It matters not that he feeds the hungry beast a smorgasbord of megalomania and mistruths or that he offers the beast a feast of bewildering bigotry and baptized balderdash or that he serves all-you-can eat dishes of toxic demagoguery and dissonance to this famished and unfortunate creature.

What matters is that the beast has been starving for attention, hungering for a conservative cuisine that satisfies its most basic, and basest, instinct: fear of the Other. Fear that the Other is winning. Whites are getting dirtied by malicious brown people from Mexico and the Middle East. Christianity is under attack from within—Obama is a Muslim! The War on Christmas!—and from without—ISIS is just steps away from pulverizing American churches just like they did that 1400-year old Christian monastery in Iraq!

Donald can fix it all. Make America White Again.

Now, there are those on the “true” right starting to figure out that Donald’s Diner, affectionately known as the Buffoon’s Buffet, perhaps needs some health inspectors to come in and shut the place down before too many conservatives are poisoned and the movement dies. The most recent conservative health experts joined forces in a lengthy critique of Trump’s conservatism that was published by National Review, a magazine founded by William F. Buckley and that was, once upon a time, a place where thoughtful and interesting conservatives could make intellectual war on liberalism. These days National Review is publishing pieces by trolls like Glenn Beck and Erick Erickson. Talk about cultural decline.

In any case, reading some of these critiques oddly reveals just why there is a beast hungry for the kind of junk food that Trump cynically serves. Sure, one writer criticized Trump’s “nativism and his promise of one-man rule” and his “racial and religious scapegoating.”  Another isn’t sure if he is a “boor” or a “creep” or a “louse,” but is sure that he is a “con man” and “has demonstrated an emotional immaturity bordering on personality disorder, and it ought to disqualify him from being a mayor, to say nothing of a commander-in-chief.”

But when you dig a little deeper into these latest critiques of Trump, you find that at the heart of many of them is a validation of the anxiety and fears that Trump is exploiting. One writer said that Trump is embracing “Barack Obama’s authoritarianism.” Another wrote of Obama’s “withering assault” on “religious freedom.” You see? The subtext is validation: The Scary Negro is a tyrant tearing down the scaffolding that supports white Christian privilege. He’s letting into the country brown immigrants from Mexico. He’s welcoming Muslim refugees from Syria.20160120_151250

Another writer, again published by the once-reputable National Review, did manage to call Trump a “know-nothing demagogue.” But in the same paragraph he called Bernie Sanders a “Marxist,” Hillary Clinton a “leftist crook,” and said, “all are competing to see who can be even more like Mussolini than is Obama.” Mussolini? Really? And you wonder why there is an appetite for the kind of ignorance and hate that Donald Trump piles on his buffet table and sells the Republican electorate?

An old Reaganite, Ed Meese, criticized Trump for his vigorous and vitriolic attacks against fellow Republicans in the race. Then he ended by calling President Obama “one of the most divisive and incompetent presidents in history.” Again, we see the validation of one of Trump’s central messages: our leaders are incompetent and ruining the country and The Donald is so much smarter and much more cunning—he loves that word—that he will make great deals and build great walls and win great wars. Thus it is that even when the conservative health inspectors are trying to claim the food Trump is serving is bad for conservatives, they are authenticating the recipe.

But it’s not only such authentication that serves to undermine the conservative case against Donald Trump, a case prosecuted not only by the writers at National Review, but writers and pundits and politicians elsewhere in the right-wing world. Perhaps what really undermines the seriousness of their arguments against him is best illustrated by what Eric Erickson wrote to begin his anti-Trump essay:

I would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

That sentence pretty much explains why it is that so many people, empty buffet plates in hand, stand in long lines and fill large arenas to hear a hateful demagogue repeat stupid and hurtful things on the campaign trail and why those same people don’t pay much attention to National Review writers or others trying buffetto take down Trump. In the end, right-wing criticism of Donald Trump is hollow, unless it is followed by, “Donald Trump is dangerous and I will not vote for him—and neither should you.”

Until we hear more of that kind of talk from conservative Republicans, there is every reason to believe that fearful and anxious white Christians will continue to flock to the Buffoon’s Buffet and feed on the poisonous pottage that Chef Anus Mouth serves them.

Joe And Mika Rehearsing For A New Show On Fox

Who knew that there was a travesty in America called “Trump University”? Wasn’t Donald Trump enough of a travesty himself without having to start a real estate school that promised to make little Trumps out of folks gullible enough to fork over $35,000?

The Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman, sued the Fox and Friends regular contributor and NBC “reality” star on Saturday, asking for $40 million in damages to be paid as restitution to Trump’s, uh, “students.”

Schneiderman, as USA Today reported, accused Trump “of engaging in persistent fraud, illegal and deceptive conduct and violating federal consumer protection law.” And:

At the seminars, consumers were told about “Trump Elite” mentorships that cost $10,000 to $35,000. Students were promised individual instruction until they made their first deal. Schneiderman said participants were urged to extend the limit on their credit cards for real estate deals, but then used the credit to pay for the Trump Elite programs.

Now, many of us already knew that Donald Trump is a phony and a fraud—his birtherism is enough to convict him—but that some government entity is willing to go after him for hucksterism is beyond gratifying.

What has been disheartening though is what I witnessed this morning on TV.  Of course I expected Fox and Friends to allow Trump several minutes to defend himself, mostly as the hosts cheered on his efforts. And of course, as with everything else wrong in the country, this was President Obama’s fault, as Trump made the suggestion that Schneiderman met with Obama and, voilà , a lawsuit was born!

Here’s how a clearly flustered Trump expressed it on Twitter:

trump on lawsuit

“Same as IRS etc.” Yes, that little blurb was added to ensure Trump keeps the Obama haters on his side, which Fox and Friends happily are. But I was sorely disappointed to watch this morning a segment on Morning Joe which essentially did the same thing as Fox and Friends did: give Trump an unchallenged platform to defend himself and spew his latest Obama conspiracy. It truly was sickening.

It’s one thing for Fox “News” to enable Trump, an incorrigibly ignorant, cartoonishly biased, embarrassingly boastful buffoon. It’s another for MSNBC to do so. But then MSNBC’s Morning Joe is often a safe place for conservative nonsense, as another segment aptly demonstrated this morning.

Politico’s Mike Allen was on the program discussing Colin Powell’s rebuke of the Republican Party for its anti-voting initiatives, as well as an article written by David Nather (“Obama’s big voting rights gamble“) in which it is alleged that the administration, as any Democratic administration should do, is “ramping up its push on voting rights by way of a risky strategy — and pledging more tough moves to come.”

Joe Scarborough couldn’t help himself. He challenged Allen, and anyone else, to tell him what exactly was wrong with the efforts in North Carolina and Texas and elsewhere to require folks to simply have a picture ID to vote:

I’ve just been reading this and I’ve been reading news stories on it and makes it sound like we’re going back to Jim Crow laws, that there are going to be white people with bull whips whipping black people if they come to vote, and Bull Conner is there ready to release German Shepherds. Again I ask innocently, does North Carolina or Texas require anything more than a picture ID, that when somebody shows up to vote, that the person has a picture ID with them that proves they are who they say they are?

Scarborough, not getting the answer he wanted, went on:

I’m not being cute here. I’m reading all of these stories that talk about basically you’re putting a white hood over the governor of North Carolina, putting a white hood over the entire Texas legislature. Most Americans would think it’s not racist to ask somebody to just have a picture ID when they show up at the voting booth. But you read The New York Times and you read these other media outlets that again make politicians in North Carolina and Texas sound racist for just saying, “Hey, you’re going to need a picture ID to prove you are who you are.”

Now, we all know that Joe Scarborough is a conservative Republican. It’s not strange that he sees nothing wrong with requiring folks who want to vote to show some kind of ID at the polls. What is strange is that he completely ignored all of the other things associated with the latest Republican efforts to suppress the votes of minorities and young people, including the fact that many of those minorities and young people can’t get the required IDs easily, including the fact that Republicans are closing polling places in Democratic areas, and including the fact that they are shrinking the times for early voting. (Mike Allen did make a valiant attempt to half-educate him, but it fell on deaf ears.)

But while it’s not strange for a right-winger like Scarborough to defend Tea Party-inspired voter suppression, it is strange for Morning Joe’s alleged Democratic host to do so. Mika Brzezinski responded this way to Scarborough’s rant:

Okay. So, I think that this is a really healthy discussion that has been had out in the media in a completely one-sided way and your side of it is a fair argument and no one goes there because it’s not PC…It’s a very legitimate argument.

She said nothing about the fact that minorities and young people—largely Democratic constituencies—would be disproportionately affected by these Republican schemes. She said nothing about making it inconvenient for Democratic-leaning voters to vote because of the reduction in polling places in strategically located areas. She said nothing of shrinking the days of early voting and eliminating voting on the Sunday before the election, which Democratic-leaning voters tend to do because they happen to be working folks who need the convenience of early voting. She said nothing about how historically hard it was for black folks to get to vote in this country and how unconscionable it is for conservatives to make it much more difficult for them to exercise that hard-earned right. Nothing. Silence about all that from Mika Brzezinski.

And that is why, on this day at least, on this day when Donald Trump needed a place to rehab his image, on this day when the Republican Party needed a place to rehab its image as a vote suppressor, that is why parts of Morning Joe sounded like a rehearsal for a new show on Fox “News” Channel.

Here is the Morning Joe segment on voter ID laws, and if you watch at the end, you will see The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein shaking his head in disbelief and trying to get a word in. Didn’t happen:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And if you can stand it, here is the segment on the (NBC?) rehabilitation of Donald Trump:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I Can’t Think Of Anything That Better Demonstrates…Than Donald Trump

Last Wednesday, President Obama delivered a great speech to the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California. It was full of bravado—“We don’t get terrorized,” said the President—and, naturally, full of praise for the troops.

CNN and MSNBC covered Mr. Obama’s speech on Wednesday. But the Fox “News” Channel, the network where blondes and bravado meet to constantly (and ostensibly) celebrate our men and women in uniform, did not. Fox has a habit of ignoring the President’s speeches until its reactionary opinion makers have had a chance to comb through them in search of solecisms, socialism, and scandal.

What Fox did carry, as the President was finishing up his speech, was an interview with, uh, Donald Trump. Yes, as the President was telling the story of Captain Matthew Lampert—a Marine who lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan, yet returned to his unit 18 months later—Fox’s Neil Cavuto was interviewing an ignorant birther buffoon who “stars” in his own “reality” TV show, if not his own reality.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates the hate-Obama-at-any-cost principle that guides Fox programming than ditching a presidential speech to the troops in favor of yet another talk with a decadent conspiracy nut.

That Fox interview was conducted a day after Trump played golf with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who enjoys both golf and golf-graft—the two played on Trump’s course and Trump reportedly has given $100,000 to a Boehner-related super PAC. At least this outing explains why Boehner can’t be bothered with negotiating with President Obama. The speaker has more important things to do.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates the sorry state of our politics than the most powerful Republican in the country slinking around the links with a Punchinello who pretends to run for president in order to stay relevant to right-wingers who somehow find his schtick interesting and enlightening, and to others who find it entertaining.

But that’s not all that is wrong with the right-wing these days. If you are so inclined, you can attend on Saturday—for only 49 bucks!—a “Family Leadership Summit” in Ames, Iowa, put on by a Christian group called The Family Leader. That group identifies itself this way:

The FAMiLY LEADER champions the principle that God is the ultimate leader of the family. Our goal at The FAMiLY LEADER is to honor and glorify God – not a political party, not a candidate, and not a program. The FAMiLY LEADER is a Christ-centered organization that leads with humility and service to strengthen and protect the family.

The Family Leadership Summit, put on by a group that says it is a non-partisan, Christ-centered organization, features Republicans like Chuck Grassley, Steve King, and Rick Santorum, as well as fast-rising reactionary Ted Cruz from Texas.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Highlighting the evening—the last speaker of the day—is that paragon of Christ-centered living, that champion of God-honoring and God-glorifying behavior, Donald Trump.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates how corrupt is American evangelicalism than inviting the thrice-married, gold-plated materialist-conspiracist to a “family leadership summit.” Jesus would be turning over in his grave, if he were still in there.

By the way. Trump is mad at NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. Why? Todd, almost alone among TV journalists, dared to say of Trump that he is “one of the dumbest voices in politics” and said of his appearance in Iowa:

In the “here we go again,” the sideshow that is Donald Trump, he’s apparently showing up for another PR stunt. The question is: Will he drag it out for three years before he finally announces that he’s not running for president so he doesn’t have to turn over all of his business paperwork?

Trump returned Todd’s “one of the dumbest voices in politics” insult and then suggested that Todd was just mad because ABC’s This Week has, unbelievably, booked Donald Trump. Yes, the once-reputable Sunday talk show is now a forum for a clown.

I can’t think of anything that better demonstrates the poor quality of journalism these days.

Farting Jesus

I spent the first 16 years of my life living with this picture of Jesus:

heinrich hofmann jesus

Heinrich Hofmann’s 1890 “Christ in Gethsemane” graced the wall of our living room (okay, okay, it was a somewhat murkier copy) for all the time I lived at home. I stared at it often.

Look at Jesus sitting there, earnestly and majestically looking to heaven, with heaven looking back and lighting up his noggin’. This is the image I had of Jesus almost the entire time I was an evangelical Christian, a quaint mixture of earthiness—the slightly unkempt hair and the scraggly beard—and godliness—he could command supernaturally-lit attention from on high.

This picture, using an ancient inconographic technique, tells us that despite the messed-up hair and the wayward beard, Jesus wasn’t really like you and me. He was holiness on steroids.

I couldn’t help wondering, though, as a kid, if Jesus did ordinary things, things like take a piss or, well, worse. And when I wondered those things I felt guilty thinking about them, what with that halo and all.

In any case, the Jesus that many of us came to “know” was in so many ways the Untouchable Savior, in the sense that we were told that he was one-of-a-kind, without sin and without blemish. Tempted? Yes. Just like us. But Jesus never failed the test. He passed every time. Every time. Who could really relate to that? Who could, in ways that we would call personal, really know someone like that?

In all the Sunday school lessons I sat through, and then later all the sermons I endured—a few I even preached—I never heard anyone go so far as to say that we should think about a farting Jesus.

But let’s face it. Jesus passed gas. If he didn’t, he wasn’t like any man I know (and some women, but they shall remain nameless).

Now, we don’t have to think that Jesus was such a man that would deliberately, just for laughs, spray his disciples with the vapors, but maybe he did. After one such episode, I can imagine the rowdy Peter exclaiming,

Oh my God, Jesus! You needeth prayer!

Or something like that.

If any of this makes you cringe, don’t blame me. I started thinking about all this again when I read a piece on CNN’s Belief Blog by a bona fide right-wing fundamentalist big shot from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. It was written by Johnnie Moore and titled, “Jesus was a dirty, dirty God,” and it began like this:

Jesus was a lot more like you than you think…

In order to make Jesus more you-like, Moore had the nerve to suggest to his “astounded colleagues” at Liberty that Jesus “might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.” I know why his colleagues were stunned because I am sure there are lots of people who can’t imagine Jesus taking a dump, let alone having severe diarrhea.

He wrote,

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man” (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. We might believe that God was also man, but we picture him with an ever-present halo over his head.

Yes, that’s pretty much the way I pictured Jesus, thanks to Heinrich Hofmann and essentially a fundamentalist upbringing. But Moore had more:

The real Jesus had dirt underneath his fingernails and calluses on his hands. He probably smelled badly from sweating profusely in the Judean sun on his long hikes to Jerusalem…

This dirty, sweaty Jesus is not the Jesus you meet in Sunday school, at least in the churches I attended. He’s been cleaned up for American consumption, and for American exploitation, ultimately for Republican-American exploitation. The Jesus of the evangelical right, which was once my Jesus, and the one who presumably endorses the GOP platform, is not a farting Jesus.

Oddly, in his portrayal of a gritty savior, Moore let this slip:

He was the teacher from a small town who knew and understood the economic insecurity that was common in the first century.

Ah. Economic insecurity. Jesus knew and understood that, says Moore. And thus it’s fair to ask, since economic insecurity is also common here in the twenty-first century, does Jesus still know and understand it?

Liberty University, the place where Johnnie Moore works—he is a “professor of religion and vice president”—invited Mitt Romney, a man no one would seriously argue understands economic insecurity, to speak at last year’s graduation, right in the middle of a presidential campaign, despite the fact that the theology taught at the university clearly excludes Mormonism from the ranks of Christianity. Why would the university welcome him to speak?

But more than that, why would a Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping Christian university invite Donald Trump to address their Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping students last September? In fact, why would any university worthy of the name invite him to speak on any topic?

But speak he did, after he was reportedly introduced by Jerry Falwell, Jr., as one of the “greatest visionaries of our time.” I’m sure that made both Trump and GOP Jesus very proud.

Trump did not disappoint. Toward the end of his speech he told the more than ten-thousand gathered youthful Jesus-worshipers:

Don’t let people take advantage. Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they’re going to say, ‘You know, I’m going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I’m going to let them alone because they’re tough customers.

Get even.” You know, in a weird sort of way, Trump has stumbled upon a great truth. “Get even” is God’s message in the Book of Revelation. But I digress.

After Trump’s remarks were criticized by offended true believers, some of them students who actually believe Liberty University stands for something spiritual, who actually believe that Jesus stood for something other than revenge, Trump’s spokesman, Michael Cohen, told ABC News:

I conferred with Johnnie Moore at Liberty University and questioned whether Jesus would ‘get even.’ The answer is ‘he would & he did.’ Johnny explained that the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees and Christians believe that Jesus even got even with Satan by rising from the dead. God is portrayed as giving grace, but he is also portrayed as one tough character – just as Trump stated.

So now we know what Johnnie Moore really meant by his “dirty Jesus” claim. Not only did Jesus have dirt under his fingernails; not only did Jesus take a messy poop now and then; not only did Jesus get mad at the money changers; he actually got even with his enemies and, well, he apparently was a lot like Donald Trump!

Thus, here in twenty-first century America, we can see why Mitt Romney and Donald Trump were invited to speak at a fundamentalist university in an election year. The kids had to be introduced to the Jesus who endorses predatory capitalism, who endorses revenge, who endorses the contemporary values of the Republican Party.

And what better way of doing that than by introducing the kids to a couple of Republicans—both claiming to be Christians in good standing—who just happen to be very rich and who just happen to be unable to know or understand what Johnnie Moore said the biblical Jesus knew and understood: economic insecurity.

But the Republican-American Jesus knows nothing of that economic insecurity. He doesn’t sweat all that much, except at the gym. His fingernails are clean. There are no calluses on his hands. He is comfortable in board rooms and in corporate suites, the kinds of places where high-powered people meet to plan their next vulture capitalist adventure. He’s okay with folks who slander our black President as not being an American.

And when this Jesus farts, he often does so in bathrooms in buildings with TRUMP stamped all over them.

He too is a “dirty Jesus.” He just has a different kind of dirt on his hands.

Remarks And Asides

In terms of negotiations over the dreaded fiscal non-cliff, we have the following from my why-we-need-Nancy-at-the-table department:

MARTHA RADDATZ: Could you accept a deal that does not include tax rate increases for the wealthy? We’ve seen talk about a possible compromise that would leave rates the same, but cap deductions for high-income earners. Is that something that’s acceptable?

NANCY PELOSI: No.

_____________________________

The Washington Post’s The Fix summarized an important Republican’s appearance on Meet The Press:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) suggests Obama might have known about the David Petraeus investigation before the election. But he acknowledged he doesn’t have any evidence.

The news here is that a Republican actually “acknowledged” there is no evidence for his belief. Usually, a Democrat has to point out that Republicans have no evidence for what they claim. So, perhaps, Republicans did learn something from the election.

_____________________________

Allen West, that freaky flat-topped Florida teapartier, talked his way into getting a recount of some votes in St. Lucie County. The result was that his opponent’s lead actually increased by 0.65%. Of course, West still won’t concede the election, presumably because he is more convinced than ever that there exists a conspiracy to keep him out of office.

Now, arithmetic is out to get him.

_____________________________

For reasons known only to his psychiatrist, Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller fame, actually did a gig on The Celebrity Apprentice 2012, NBC’s vehicle for making a few bucks off Donald Trump’s stupidity. But Jillette can be forgiven for his lapse in judgment because he came up with a perfect description of Donald Trump’s hair:

…as I sat there for hours half listening to Donald carry on, it struck me exactly what his hair looked like. It looks like cotton candy made of piss.

Later in the article, which was sort of an accounting of his experience on the show, Jillette said this about the participants’ decision to appear with Trump:

We’ve chosen to make this whackjob, with the cotton candy piss hair and the birther shit, into someone we want to please.

If Jillette does nothing else noteworthy in his life, he can die a happy man for perfectly describing Donald Trump.

______________________________

As we witness our weirding weather, Reuters reported this yesterday:

All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but it is the world’s poorest countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the World Bank said in a report on climate change.

Now we know why Republicans don’t give a damn about global warming: it will hurt the poor more!

______________________________

I pick on my state neighbor, Oklahoma, a lot, mostly because it, and roughly two-thirds of the people who live there, deserve it. But come on Okies! If you are gonna violate the principle of separation of church and state, if you are gonna put down God’s word in granite, if you are gonna erect a monument to an Iron Age fantasy, then at least consult a dictionary:

OKLAHOMA CITY -A new monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol honoring the 10 Commandments was unveiled Thursday morning but Friday, the buzz was all about two mistakes carved into the granite stone.

In the commandment “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” the word “Sabbath” was misspelled as “Sabbeth.” A second mistake was in the commandment “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant.” The word maidservant was spelled as “maidseruant,” replacing the “v” with a “u.”

_____________________________

Finally, I don’t have anything amusing to add—the guy has suffered enough, don’t you think?—to this photo of an Indiana man who actually had a Romney-Ryan logo tattooed on his temple. At least he spelled it correctly:

“I Cry Tears Of Blood”

Because it reveals so much about their character, I’m going to feature some of the comments made by conservatives after they were O-bombed last night.

First up is Ted Nugent, who said this spring that he would “either be dead or in jail this time next year,” if Obama were elected in November.  Well, it’s gonna be a long winter for Ted:

Subhuman varmint.” Didn’t Mittens go hunting for those once?

In any case, Ted obviously is a master of the English language and pithily captured for us the essence of Romney’s “47%” speech:

Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav a president to destroy America

Obama destroying America—a constant theme before the election—seems to be  a popular post-election favorite among celebrity conservatives, if you can still call born-gain Christian Victoria Jackson, of Saturday Night Live fame, a celebrity:

I hate it when they turn on their own, don’t you? What would Jesus do after an election loss? I guess he’d be disgusted.

And who among us figured Donald Trump for a revolutionary buffoon? Not me, but:

Before any of you grab your Molotov cocktails and go huntin’ for the Founding Father who thunk up the electoral college, you should know that Trump has deleted these comments from his Twitter account.

That was a short revolution!

The New And Republican-Approved Jesus

Most of you know that I am a former evangelical Christian. But I still retain an interest in my former faith, particularly as I observe how it has been co-opted and corrupted by the Republican Party.

During this campaign season, conservative Christians have, via a special dispensation from their deity, amended the ninth commandment to read:

Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor, unless your neighbor is The Scary Negro In The White’s House.

With that dispensation, evangelicals are free to become full-fledged Mittenites, who, in order to rid the country of the only leadership it has known the past four years, can lie with impunity about Barack Obama, all in the name of God.

This new theological get-out-of-hell-free card is good for claiming the President is a Kenyan, a socialist who hates America, or, Allah forbid, a Muslim. It’s good for bad-mouthing the poor, the sick, and the elderly, all of those crippled by government dependence, as we discovered in that heartfelt “47%” speech.

And it’s especially good for those on the front lines of the Republican Party’s prosecution of its War on Women. Now that Billy Graham and the right-wing church have chosen to rock and roll in his Mormon bedchamber, Mitt Romney has his conservative Christian credentials in order and can lead the war.

He is free to rob women of their humanity, as he seeks to undermine their ability to make their own reproductive decisions, and as he endorses U.S. Senate candidates who would use big-government to force violated women to bear the children of their tormentors.

If the Romney-Ryan partnership is successful, if those they endorse make it to the Senate, women may long for the days of government-ordered vaginal probing, which when a Romney-influenced Supreme Court is finished, may seem like the good old days of Republican moderation.

Taking full advantage of GOP Jesus turning his Cayman-tanned face away from all that war-time prevarication going on out there, Christians, funded by the Romney campaign, have been engaging in last-minute lies like those found in the following script of a robocall that a voter in Fairfax, Virginia, received last Friday night:

Christians who are thinking about voting for Obama should remember what he said about people of faith: “They … cling to guns or religion.” And remember when Obama forced Christian organizations to provide insurance coverage that was contrary to their religious beliefs?

That’s the real Barack Obama. That’s the real threat to our religious freedom. Mitt Romney understands the importance of faith and family. That’s why so many leaders of the Christian community are supporting Romney.

They know we can’t underestimate the threat Barack Obama poses to our faith, our values, our freedom.

Yes, the real Barack Obama, as opposed to the one we have come to know, is quite the threat to faith, values, and freedom. Quite the threat alright. You can see it everywhere. Churches are being shut down, pastors being tossed in the hoosegow, priests being forced to seek adult entertainment with real adults. Yep, that Obama is the greatest enemy of faith we have ever seen.

In the mean time, the strange concoction of evangelicalism and Republicanism and Mormonism and Catholicism and anti-Obamanism means that conservative Christianity in America will never be the same. Conservative Bible-toters have traded in the Jesus who said that God had anointed him to “bring good news to the poor.” That Jesus didn’t look good standing next to Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.

And gone from their midst is the Jesus who condemned lying and slander and who talked about how hard it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. That Jesus, the one who told rich folks who desire a home with God to think about a camel going through a needle’s eye, is long gone.

Today’s evangelicals worship a Jesus who has an affection for vulture capitalism. They worship a Jesus who condones the slandering of Barack Obama, himself a Christian. They worship a Jesus who has endorsed a Republican candidate whose one discernible and consistent principle is that he will say anything, absolutely anything, to become president. And he, in the name of GOP Jesus, will bear false witness without so much as a pin-prick of conscience.

Time will tell whether this new and Republican-approved Jesus can drag Mitt Romney across the finish line. But we don’t have to wait to see what this crony-capitalist Jesus, this corrupt, Obama-hating savior, has done to evangelical and conservative Christianity in America.

As I said, it will never be the same.

Trump Finally—Finally—Gets Put In His Place: On The Receiving End Of A Teabagger’s Offer (Not For The Kiddies)

Although some in the media take Donald Trump seriously, and by some I mostly mean Fox “News” (although NBC, which employs the buffoon, often takes him seriously, too), Stephen Colbert, the cleverest man on television, does not.

Colbert gives Trump and his latest racist-inspired offer the treatment they deserve:

Urgent Care

When Mittens gets hurt, he can always go to Fox “News” for some first aid.

Today, nurse Neil Cavuto tended to his wounds, giving him some aid and comfort and whispering at least one sweet thought in his ear, in the form of this amazing suggestion he made to him during the interview:

CAVUTO: …when you and your running mate, Paul Ryan, talked about reforming Medicare and trying to contain its growth, uh, oddly enough when you were on that theme, it was helping you in Florida, a state rich in Medicare beneficiaries and Social Security beneficiaries, so talking tough on these issues doesn’t necessarily hurt you with the group that benefits from them. So, maybe you presuppose, prematurely, that this group is gonna say no.

Does it matter what Romney said in response to that?

I wish Cavuto had asked Romney why it is that a large number of folks he suggests are freeloaders living off the government do so in the comfort of red states:

The bottom line of the urgent care interview was the following, which Romney said at the end, a declaration meant to assure conservatives that he stands by what he said to those fat cats in Florida:

This is a message I’m carrying day in and day out. And will carry over the coming months…

Cavuto did ask a question that reveals something about Mittens’ judgement:

CAVUTO: Donald Trump had said that you have nothing to apologize for. In an interview on the Today show he said, “They have to get tougher,” referring to your campaign, “or they’re gonna lose this campaign.” What do you think of that?

ROMNEY: I always appreciate his counsel, and, uh, you know I think, uh, this focuses, uh, a great deal of attention on whether or not we’re gonna have a government that becomes larger…

Only a Fox broadcaster would bring up the buffoon Donald Trump as a source of campaign advice, and only a really strange, and unserious, presidential candidate would say he “always” appreciates the buffoon’s advice.

Bronco Billy And The Convention Circus

I guess Donald Trump wasn’t available.

But they got the next best thing.

I don’t know who the Republican genius was that thought it would be a good idea to have Clint Eastwood address the convention in prime time, but, as a Democrat, I’d like to personally thank him or her.

Unfortunately, by now the Republicans have offered their thanks to the genius by giving him or her a much less dignified, but certainly much more challenging, job: getting the chili sauce stains out of Newt Gingrich’s shirt, after that disappointed Romney surrogate got a little sloppy last night while pulling an all-you-can-eat all-nighter at the Golden Corral in Tampa.

That’s how Newt drowns his sorrows, and Republicans had reason to be especially sorrowful, after they quickly figured out that this year’s Republican National Convention will now be remembered, fittingly, as the night Clint Eastwood gave his greatest performance, at least in terms of representing today’s GOP.

His utter disrespect for President Obama, though cringe-inducing for most normal folks, was quite enjoyable for those lucky enough to be in the house for such buffoonery. The only thing that could have topped it would have been a Cheech and Chong routine performed by Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with that zany Republican duo smoking dope, talking trash about Obama’s phony birth certificate, and doing an updated Obama-version of  “Basketball Jones.”

Our own Ozark Billy Long was in attendance and said this about Eastwood’s performance:

The crowd ate it up. They loved Clint Eastwood and loved his speech and my tip off was when all the liberals, including David Axelrod, was one of the first to chime in on Twitter, and, uh, some of the media folks down here started tweetin’ about how terrible it was, how egregious it was, and I thought, well, if we’ve ticked those people off, he probably did what he was suppose to do out there…talkin’ to the president, who wasn’t there, I thought that that was pretty entertaining…

And thus I leave you with that wonderful assessment from my congressman, our representative from Missouri’s 7th District. I am damned proud to be from such a place that would put such a man in Washington, D.C.

Aren’t you?

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