Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Broad Disdain

"To paraphrase Andrew Gillum," Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick writes, "I don’t much care if the president intends to be a racist. I care that millions of those who intend to be racists believe that he really, emphatically is one."

By contrast, political theorist and contributing columnist to The Washington Post Danielle Allen argues

Unfortunately, when good and decent people who voted for Trump after having weighed the trade-offs are tarred with the same brush his adversaries apply to him, their anger activates. We all know what it feels like to feel falsely accused. This again is what Trump is counting on.

Unfortunate, too, is that Allen never tells her readers what false accusation is being leveled against Trump supporters.  She charges the President, accurately, with "racially-coded verbal abuse" and "racially coded language."  Although she does unnecessarily note Hillary Clinton's reference to "deplorables" (occurring once and nevermore), Allen actually states that critics of Trump label the President's supporters "racist." 

Nonetheless, that op-ed piece is notable for more than being six minutes of your life you'll never get back.  Allen implores Democrats not to fall into Trump's "trap" but instead to "affirm your love of country" and

Focus on the specific harm Trump is doing to a specific person; don’t widen the lens, however tempting that may be. Trump is putting one specific person, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), at real risk. This is abominably irresponsible. About that, there is only one thing to say: “Back off, man.” Ask everyone who loves this country to help protect the specific person who is being put in danger regardless of what you think of her opinions.

However, if there is in fact an identifiable Trump trap, it is precisely the one into which Allen is diving.

The President clearly wants Ocasio-Cortez, Presley, Tlaib, and- especially- Ilhan Omar to become the face of the Democratic Party. To that end, he will, albeit in an indirect fashion, smear both his supporters and other Americans.

"Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," Trump rhetorically asked early Sunday morning, no doubt as he was readying himself for the church services he religiously attends weekly.  Those places included, as print reporters pointed out and Democrats largely ignored, Queens, NY, Ohio, and Michigan, those "totally broken and crime infested places."

Temporarily walking back his bigoted tweets, the President a few days later denied supporting the chants, falsely claiming "I started speaking very quickly" and "I didn't say that. They did."

The next day, Trump walked back his walk-back. However, for roughly 24 hours, he had it out there that he disagreed with his supporters and wanted them to stop. That was a few days after he had written Ohio and Michigan (and New York City) out of the United States of America.

"I can tell you this, you can’t talk that way about our country, not when I’m the president," vowed the man who a few days earlier had slandered the residents of Ohio and Michigan, then his own followers, about Congresswomen who had done neither.

Nonetheless, most of the media and the Democratic Party noticed only that Trump had spewed his invective at "four women of color" or "four Congresswomen of color.," They thereby signaled to voters, most of whom are white non-Hispanic, across the country that they were exorcised by criticism of minorities, slandered by Trump as hostile to America.

I am less certain than Danielle and others of the prescription to block the President's re-election.. However, I do know that Donald Trump has been amazingly adept the last several years in ridiculing not only ethnic minorities and women, but a range of Americans, members of the Armed services, Christians, taxpayers, and others.  More notice should be taken of it.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Confrontation Feared

When in January Chris Christie's "Let Me Finish" was published, we learned

One day in early 2017, Chris Christie was in his kitchen in New Jersey, eating dinner with his wife Mary Pat. The phone rang. It was the president.

According to Christie, Donald Trump tried, not for the first time, to persuade the governor to become his labor secretary. Then talk turned to Christie’s firing as Trump’s transition chairman in November 2016.

“Chris,” Trump said, “you didn’t get fired. You got made part of a larger team.”

Christie gives his side of the conversation in his new book, Let Me Finish, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian two weeks before publication. He says he bristled at Trump’s claim, then rebuked the president.

“I’m a big boy who understands how the way this business works,” he said. “But please, sir, don’t ever, ever tell me again that I wasn’t fired.”

Christie had been fired, in person, by Steve Bannon, because Donald Trump could not do it himself. As President 

Trump fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and chief of staff, Reince Priebus, by tweet, the same medium by which he announced the “retirement” of Jim Mattis, attempting to steal the thunder of the defense secretary’s resignation.

James Comey, director of the FBI, was fired by letter. Jeff Sessions, the man who got the job Christie really wanted, attorney general, was hounded by tweet for months until he gave in and resigned. After very public power struggles with Kushner, Ivanka Trump and others, Bannon reached an exit agreement with the chief of staff, John Kelly, whose own departure turned into a drawn-out soap opera which has not yet ended with the appointment of a permanent replacement.

In her own book, the former reality TV star and presidential aide Omarosa Manigault Newman reported being fired by Kelly. She then released a taped phone call in which Trump said “nobody even told me about it” and added: “You know they run a big operation, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that. Goddamn it. I don’t love you leaving at all.”

It's five months later but Donald Trump has changed little, and still is frightened of confrontation. (Even the unusually corrupt Scott Pruitt was not fired by Trump, instead forced to resign by Chief of Staff Kelly; video from 4/18) That is why it is not only morally imperative to confront evil by refusing to open an impeachment inquiry, it is also strategically foolish:

Nancy Pelosi's gamble is that President Trump won't be re-elected.  It's a bet she, her party, and the country can't afford to lose.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Great Question

I was wrong. I was wrong when I thought Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening had posed a stupid, hypothetical question.

The CNN anchor/host/personality and lawyer asked Kansas Republican Kris Kobach

What do you want me to do when he makes a racist comment? I call him a demagogue because I don't want to get into the business of what he thinks he is, because in our political culture if he says, "I'm not a racist," then it gives guys like you cover to defend him.

But let me ask you, what would you do if the President said, "I am a racist. That's why I said it," what would you do?

However, it was not a stupid question. The obvious answer for a GOP senatorial candidate was "I normally don't answer a hypothetical question. Yet this one is easy. President Trump is not a racist, so he would never lie and say that he is, and I would thoroughly reject him if he did." That would have seemed definitive, and that would have ended that.

However, Kobach said that he would not defend Trump. Cuomo responded "would you still support him as President?" after which, this:

KOBACH: I don't know.
CUOMO: You have to think about it?
KOBACH: That would be a really tough question.
CUOMO: You have to think about whether or not you would support a racist?
KOBACH: If he said - if he said - if he said - if he says it--
CUOMO: Really?
KOBACH: I'd have to know who is running against him.

That's bad, although Kobach may have unjustifiably felt blindsided.. Maybe it was just him.

No, it wasn't only only him because the next night, Cuomo entertained Kayleigh McEnany (segment beginning at 14:04 of the video below), National Press Secretary for the 2020 Trump campaign and told her

I've decided to call this The Kobach test, instead of the litmus test.

Kayleigh, if the President said, the reason I'm saying these things is because I'm a racist. I know he hasn't said that. I know he doesn't believe that. Hypothetically, if he said that, would it change your support for him?

After McEnany claimed Democrats "are trying to paint the President as a racist" since June 2015 and "it's a ridiculous assertion," there followed (video below)

MCENANY: I'm not going to play these games where--
CUOMO: I don't support racism."
MCENANY: Because I won't - I - I won't - I won't allow you attach - to attach a label to the President, even hypothetically that is patently false and untrue. This is a man who's praised by--

She never answered the question, one she very likely had learned had been asked the previous night. Instead, she invoked Jews, blacks, and Trump's Palm Beach club. Really.

Two Republicans in two nights were thrown a hanging curve, practically begged to say that they would not support the President if he declared himself the racist he is not. But they took a pass.

That says something about them. However, given that it was not one individual but two and the second was tipped off at a question they were likely to face, the refusal to concede that Trump would be unworthy of their support is revelatory also of the President.

Cuomo's question was brilliant, an example of extraordinary broadcast journalism because he exposed two prominent Republicans as fine with racism in the country's President. It would have been easy to say they would not support him if they were confident they'd never face that challenge.

But they're not. They're not because they can see where this is headed. Trump is pushing the envelope, testing the limits, trying to find the point at which the only people who can deny the truth are the 25%? 20%? 15%? who would still support him if there were video of him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.

We're nowhere near that point yet. It is as if we are lobsters, which in the traditional (possibly inaccurate) understanding are boiled to death so slowly they don't know what has hit them. By the time Trump owns up to being possibly "racist," the hostility and bigotry may be so commonplace that we have adjusted our attitudes and expectations accordingly. That may be more than a year away. Yet, as Kobach and McEnany understand, that day of reckoning- or acceptance- is not beyond the horizon.

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Conway Lets Down Her Guard

The media and Democrats are much too kind.

It is much too kind to President Trump, and much too kind to Kellyanne Conway. When Conway on Wednesday demanded to know the ethnicity of White House reporter Andrew Feinberg, she was rightfully criticized by Nicole Wallace, Joe Scarborough, and others.

After Conway's question, which Feinberg bravely and wisely refused to answer, she remarked

A lot of us are sick and tired of this country. Of America coming last- to people who swore an oath of office; sick and tired of our military being denigrated; sick and tired of Customs and Boarder people, Protection people, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic by the way...

Conway's mouth runs a mile a minute, and her mind probably nearly as fast. Maybe no one noticed. Maybe they're intimidated by the Administration. Or maybe they simply don't want to help the Administration dodge an important question (about ethnicity) with the Trumpian tactic of diversion

But Kellyanne Conway stated "A lot of us are sick and tired of this country." Yep, finally the truth, stated bluntly.

She thinks extraordinarily quickly, recognized that this wouldn't sound good, and went into her "of" riff.

Nonetheless, the Counselor to the President (drug counselor? mental health counselor?) has now followed down the rathole the man who denied "American exceptionalism," referred to the USA as a "laughingstock," and spoke of "American carnage." Conway has laid it all out there: "a lot us are sick and tired of this country."

How refreshing it would have been for the media, which realizes but won't acknowledge that Donald J. Trump is racist, and Democrats, who sometimes will speak of little else, would recognize the contempt that the President and his close adviser have for this country.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Once Again, With Bias

He's doing it again. The Hill reports

Donald Trump on Monday hit Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for saying that his slogan of "Make America Great Again," would more accurately be described as "make America white again."

"Speaker Pelosi said 'make America white again,' that's a very racist statement," Trump told reporters at Monday's White House event celebrating American manufacturing.

It was unclear if Trump, currently taking criticism for telling multiple congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from, understood the context in which Pelosi had made the comment.

Well, it's not 100% certain that he understood, in the way that it is uncertain Miami will not record traceable snow this coming winter. But we will never hear an American politician- even Donald Trump- say "I am racist." He or she wouldn't be lauded for honesty or authenticity, instead forever branded a "racist" with the individual's very words cited as proof.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump did as much as he could to acknowledge the obvious as he again tests the limits of acceptability. He knows he is outrageous, and will do what he does until it is widely recognized that he is Satan's representative on earth.

As in the video (beginning at :21) below, the Speaker had stated

But this is about keeping- you know, America- his hat- making America white again. They want to make sure that people- certain people- are counted. And it's really disgraceful. It's not what our founders had in mind.

"His hat"; "they."  Try as I might, I can't imagine that someone sufficiently illiterate or confused, Donald Trump or anyone, would believe that Nancy Pelosi was herself advocating "make America white again."   The Hill added

It appeared that Trump may have misheard a reporter's question and suggested Pelosi herself was saying she wanted to "make America white again," though the Speaker meant the remark as an accusation of racism against the president.

Reporters pointed that out to Trump while he was condemning the statement, but he did not appear to react to what they said.

Trump wouldn't react because he did not misinterpret the statement. He understood it and decided to draw attention to Pelosi's allegation because he does want to make America white again. He's also trying yet again to club the American people over the head with a baseball bat till they/we understand what he is. And if we don't figure it out until after he's re-elected, he'll remain a free man and it's only the nation which will have to pick up the pieces.

At 13:56 of her Tuesday appearance on"Deadline: White House," Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker noted

This is the party now, it's quire clear, of Donald Trump; and one thing the President does is he sort of throws out those floaters to see just how much he can get away with and how far he can go. The answer quite clearly is very far.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Spineless Opportunist

This post can go only downhill after this Charlie Pierce comment, responding to- well, you know:

Except for Justin Amash—who called the presidential* tweets "racist and disgusting"—no Republican member of Congress had the sand to condemn the president*'s naked bigotry, but many of them did demonstrate their skills at licking both boots and spittle. Susan Collins had nothing to say, although I'm sure she was deeply concerned. Ben Sasse also went into seclusion, possibly considering how much better a human being the president* would be had he grown up milking chickens on the lone prairie. Joni Ernst tweeted out some nifty footwear. Jesus, these people are pathetic.

They are pathetic. But they're pillars of integrity compared to Trump's former ambassador to the United Nations, NikkiHaley, who- only a few hours after the President's bigoted tweetstorm against the congresswomen-

condemned prominent Democrats for staying mum after protesters demonstrating outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility last week pulled down the American flag and flew the flag of Mexico in its place.

Crews in Aurora, Colorado, restored the American flag Friday evening. The protesters also removed a "Blue Lives Matter" flag, honoring law enforcement, spray-painted it with the words "Abolish ICE," then raised the flag upside-down, on a pole next to the Mexican flag, local media reported.

"There are no words for why the Democrats are staying silent on this," Haley wrote. "If this is your way to winning an election, fire your strategist. This is disgusting. Love your country. And if you don’t like what is happening then tell the members of Congress to get to work and fix it."

Irresponsible, outrageous, and unlawful, but also silly and ineffectual, coming from a bunch of nameless, unknown private individuals who wanted instant notoriety via Instagram, Facebook, or Republican complaints.

We do know, however, who it is who told members of Congress to "go back to the places from which they came," which include the exotic locales of the Bronx, Detroit, and Cincinnati.

That same man gave a couple of Russian guys hanging out with him in the Oval Office classified information obviously originating with an ally, Israel; casually reports on the US government to mainland China and Russia through his cell phone; labeled an American politician "a nasty, vindictive,horrible person" while he was at a ceremony in France commemorating D-Day; publicly sided with a murderous Russian thug over USA intelligence; condemned prosecutors at a funeral, commended the Soviet invasion ofAfghanistan; defended Saudi Arabia when it butchered an American resident; and is to Nikki Haley a public treasure.

"Love your country" is an ironic comment directed toward Democrats, rather than to the President whom Haley loyally served while he praised foreign dictators, criticized Americans, and has run an Administration which, against all odds, is almost as corrupt as he himself is.

As a "person of color" and Republican to the left of Genghis Khan and of even Jim Jordan, Nikki Haley is a darling of the mainstream media. But that hasn't prevented her from being a shill, and for someone a lot more dangerous than a bunch of immigration extremists.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Crime-Infested Places From Which They Came

By now, everyone has seen President Trump, in a series of three tweets, has proclaimed

So interesting to see 'progressive' Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.

Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.

These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

In response, the Washington Post's Philip Rucker tweeted

During the 2016 campaign, whenever Trump made racist or xenophobic comments there was a small but reliable chorus of Republican office holders who spoke out. Today, there’s silence, nine hours later.

Of course, there is little reason for GOP members of Congress to respond. If they condemn Mr. Trump for these remarks, they may face the wrath of the President. By keeping silent, they avoid a Trump-approved primary opponent. And otherwise excellent journalists such as Rucker imply that, just maybe, Republicans finally have regained their probity.

But of course they haven't. They know they merely have to sit back and watch Democrats remind voters already convinced that Donald Trump is a racist that he is a racist... and voters who resist that conclusion once more get annoyed at Democrats for seemingly attacking as a racist anyone they disagree with.

One of Trump's (unspecified) targets was Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who referred to the President's "hate filled agenda" and accused him of "stoking white nationalism." No kidding. Another, Representative Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts put out a screenshot of Trump's tweets, remarking (emphasis hers) "THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like."  Nothing new there, either.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted "when I call the President a racist, this is what I'm talking about." The Speaker's reaction may have been most emblematic of the instinctive Democratic response to, well, almost anything:

However,what they will not see Democrats do is linking Trump's condemnation of the four Democratic congresswomen as attacks on their own Americanism. The New York Times explains

.... only one of the women, Ms. Omar, who is from Somalia, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Ms. Pressley, who is black, was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. And Ms. Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants.

New York City. Ohio. Michigan. These are the states of birth of three of the four subjects of Trump's invective. Two of these  states cast their lot for the winning nominee in each of the last three elections, for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Trump in 2016.

It shouldn't take a marketing genius to craft an ad, maybe even a campaign, charging the President- plausibly- with having denigrated the residents of Ohio and Michigan as being a "complete and total catastrophe" and "crime-infested." Though Trump ran successfully in 2016 on the "Obama and the Democrats have made the USA into a hellhole" platform, he was then a challenger. Now he is the incumbent.

It's conceivable that it won't work. Politics now may be completely bipolar, with Democrats infuriated by the odor of racism and misogyny, and Republicans determined to look the other way no matter the affront.

Nonetheless, much of the mainstream media, never-Trump Republicans, and centrist Democrats  portray voters, especially those of the rust belt central to electoral victory in presidential elections, as hungry for a Democrat who blisters Trump yet is not very liberal. If there is any- any- validity to that argument, Democrats would prosper by an argument that a president fond of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and other anti-American despots is contemptuous of his fellow Americans.

Meanwhile, the image of the Democratic Party among many voters in the "heartland" as one which sees not one country but gay vs. straight, women vs. men, "people of color" vs. white would be undermined.  If Democrats don't even recognize that Donald Trump has given them an opening, they're placing their faith in the notion that the nation's changing demographics, which was almost to guarantee them a victory in 2016, is their ticket to victory in 2020.

Or maybe these well-healed critics mean only that the Democratic Party must not nominate Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or anyone else who would upset the economic status quo. But give it a try.

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A Broad Disdain

"To paraphrase Andrew Gillum," Slate legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick writes , "I don’t much care if the president intends ...