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“Decoding Ben Carson”: A ‘Wingnut With A Calm Bedside Manner’

Now that Ben Carson is all the rage in the GOP presidential nominating contest, sharing the spotlight with Donald Trump without a trace of the negative vibes The Donald brings to the table, I figure my little hobby of trying to understand what the man means with his incessant references to “political correctness” is becoming a public utility. So I wrote it all up a bit more comprehensively in a column for TPMCafe.

One of my exhibits for describing Carson as a “wingnut with a calm bedside manner” was his reference in the Fox News GOP presidential debate to Hillary Clinton as a denizen of the “progressive movement” who was following “the Alinsky Model” for destroying the country. Even as they declared him the winner or one of the winners of the debate, MSM observers slid right over the ravings about Alinsky as though they couldn’t hear The Crazy or, more likely, didn’t understand what he was talking about. That sure as hell was not the case with right-wing media, who heard the dog-whistle loud and clear. Indeed, at National Review, John Fund even called it that:

The award so far in this Republican debate for dog-whistle rhetoric goes to Ben Carson. He answered a a question about Hillary Clinton by referring to her belief in “the Alinsky model,” a topic of great interest in the conservative blogosphere.

Named after Saul Alinksy, the late community organizer who inspired both Hillary and Barack Obama, the model calls for destabilizing the existing system from the inside and paving the way for radical social change.

Despite his mild manner and soft voice, it may be that Ben Carson is the candidate on tonight’s stage who is privately the most deeply ideological.

According to people like Carson, a big part of the Alinsky Model is “political correctness:” disarming opponents by deriding their utterances as small-minded and offensive. I didn’t see this until after I had sent in the TPMCafe column, but here’s a fine description of the core idea in a Tea Party take on Carson’s well-received 2014 CPAC speech:

Dr. Carson says that the good news is that the majority of people in this country have common sense, but the problem is that they’ve been “beaten into submission by the PC (political-correctness) policemen,” which has kept people from speaking up about what they believe.

To thunderous applause, Dr. Carson revealed one of Saul Alinsky’s (author of leftist bible, Rules for Radicals) more deceptive tactics that he taught to his progressive, Marxist followers:

“One of the principles of Saul Alinsky, he said you make the majority believe that what they think is outdated and nobody thinks that way, and that the way they think is the only way intelligent people think. And if you can co-opt the media in the process, you’re far ahead of the game. That’s exactly what’s happened, and it’s time for people to stand up and proclaim what they believe and stop being bullied!

So every time Carson denounces “political correctness,” which he does in just about every other sentence, that’s what he’s talking about: a conspiracy by “progressives” to suppress common-sense (i.e., hard-core conservative) “solutions” by pitting people against each other through talk about race, gender, income inequality, etc. etc. In Carson’s heavily Glenn-Beckish worldview, all his talk about “unity” and “civility” means the kind of country we can have once the snakes (i.e., you and me and HRC) have been thrown out of Eden.

It’s going to be interesting to me to see how much longer MSM types can continue to write about Carson as this nice unifying figure without hearing what the man is saying.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What A ‘Career Politician’ Looks Like”: Even Though He’s Been In Elected Office Since Age 25, Walker Denies He’s A Career Politician

If recent polling is any indication, Republican voters place a premium on inexperience. Donald Trump, who’s never worked in government at any level, is obviously the dominant GOP candidate, at least for now, but he’s followed by Ben Carson, a retired far-right neurosurgeon who’s never sought or held public office.

Add Carly Fiorina to the mix and their combined poll support points to a striking detail: about half of GOP voters are backing presidential candidates who’ve never worked a day in public service.

It’s leading more experienced White House hopefuls to downplay their qualifications and pretend they’re not so experienced after all. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker denies he’s a career politician – even though he has been in elected office since he was 25 years old and first ran for office when he was 22.

 The 47-year-old Republican presidential contender said in an interview with CNBC, released Tuesday, that he is “just a normal guy” and rejects the career politician label despite being in politics for most of his adult life.

The two-term governor argued, “A career politician, in my mind, is somebody who’s been in Congress for 25 years.”

By any fair measure, this really is silly. There’s no point in having a semantics debate over the meaning of the word “politician,” but when Scott Walker dropped out of college, it’s not because he was flunking – he was motivated in part by a desire to run for public office. The Republican lost that race at the age of 22, but Walker then moved to a more conservative district, tried again, and won a state Assembly race at the age of 25.

The man has, quite literally, spent more than half of his life as a political candidate or political officeholder. As an adult, Walker’s entire career has been in politics. The AP report added that Walker has served “nine years in the Assembly, eight years as Milwaukee County executive and is now in his fifth year as governor.”

What’s wrong with that? To my mind, nothing – there’s something inherently admirable about someone committing themselves to public service through elected office. If an American wants to make a difference, and he or she repeatedly earns voters’ support, it’s hardly something to be embarrassed about.

And in Scott Walker’s case, it’s hardly something to lie about. Presidential candidates who pretend to be something they’re not tend not to do well.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Elected Officials, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Roots Of Political Correctness”: Those Complaining Are Suggesting They Want Freedom To Say Obnoxious Hateful Things

It seems that one of the issues that unites almost all the Republican candidates who are running for president is disgust with the idea of political correctness. It has especially become the rallying cry for Trump and Carson.

When I think of the term, I am immediately reminded of how Lee Atwater described the Southern Strategy in 1981 (excuse the language – it is his, not mine).

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N****r, n****r, n****r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n****r” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N****r, n****r.”

That, my friends, is the root of political correctness. Conservatives recognized that an openly racist platform backfired.

Republicans are more than welcome to go back to the language they used in 1954. Not many of us have been fooled by their “dog whistles” since then anyway. But when they do, they can also expect to be called out as the racist bigots that kind of thing demonstrates. You see…free speech doesn’t simply apply to those who want to be free to say obnoxious things. The rest of us are also free to exercise our own rights to call them out.

We’ve all been witness lately to the fact that Donald Trump is free to suggest that Mexican immigrants are criminals and racists. He’s even free to run for president on a platform of “deport ’em all.” And Ben Carson is free to suggest that the United States should discard things like the Geneva Conventions and torture prisoners of war.

When people complain about political correctness, they are suggesting that they want the freedom to say obnoxious hateful things. But they have always been free to do so. Just don’t expect the rest of us to be quiet when they do. In other words, expect it to backfire.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 30, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Bigotry, Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Backlash Notes, Cruz Edition”: Climbing On Board The Same Old Twentieth Century Law-And-Order Bandwagon

Ever since the virtual strike of cops in New York and Baltimore in conjunction with protests against police shootings of unarmed African-Americans, I’ve been concerned that on the brink of potential bipartisan action on criminal justice reform we’d see a 1960s-1970s style backlash fed by vote hungry conservative politicians. The recent spikein some forms of violent crime after decades of gradually declining rates struck me as likely to create some ugly racial dynamics as well, or at least “buyer’s remorse” among conservatives for police or criminal justice reform.

With his usual lack of inhibition, Donald Trump was first to get in touch with his inner Frank Rizzo, arguing that even if police were unjustly targeting African-Americans it was important to “give back power to the police” to deal with the “crime wave.”

Now Trump’s buddy Ted Cruz is climbing on board the same old twentieth century law-and-order bandwagon after the shooting of a police officer in Houston (as reported by TPM’s Allegra Kirkland:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested President Obama bore some of the blame for Friday’s fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy in Houston, Texas. During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Cruz told reporters that “cops across this country are feeling the assault” thanks to the “vilification” of law enforcement by administration officials, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“These are brave heroes who risk their lives keeping us safe,” Cruz said. “And I do think we’re seeing the manifestation of the rhetoric and vilification of law enforcement, of police, that is coming from the president of the United States and it’s coming from senior officials.”

Cruz’s comments come just days after Harris County deputy Darren Goforth was shot 15 times while pumping gas at a Houston Chevron station. No motive has yet been found for the killing, but the alleged shooter, Shannon Miles, has been charged with capital murder.

Local authorities, including Harris County Sherriff Ron Hickman, believe Goforth “was a target because he wore a uniform.”

Cruz suggested President Obama’s condemnation of the fatal shootings of unarmed black teenagers in cities including Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland helped to inflame anti-cop sentiment.

There you have it: express concern about the police shooting black people without cause and you are inciting cop-killers. Yet in the same breath Cruz accuses Obama of inflaming “racial divisions.”

Yeah, it’s feeling mighty 1970 out there.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Law and Order, Police Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Richard Trumka Unloads On Trump”: ‘Racist’, ‘Dangerous’ And ‘Un-American’

The nation’s top labor leader Tuesday morning blasted GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants as “dangerous,” “racist” and “un-American.”

Speaking at a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was – no surprise – critical of the entire GOP field, but he used his harshest language for Trump, the real estate magnate/reality TV star who has stunningly risen to a dominant position in the GOP presidential field powered at least in part by his offensive rhetoric about immigrants in this country without legal status, asserting that Mexico is “sending people” who are criminals, drug mules and “rapists.”

“What Donald Trump started with immigration is dangerous,” Trumka said. “I think it’s un-American and I think it’s racist. It’s saying that one group of people is superior to another group of people. And look what it’s done to the other candidates.” He noted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s ongoing use of the term “anchor babies,” that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has referred to illegal immigrants as a “disease” and that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested that immigrants into this country be tracked like FedEx packages. (Ummm, how would that work exactly? Would everyone coming into the country have RFID transponders implanted in them? Bar code tattoos – aka the “mark of the beast“?!?)

Trumka said that the danger of Trump lies in mainstreaming his toxic views. “When the leading candidate for one of the parties talks in an un-American, racist way it starts to become mainstream. Racism can never become mainstream. … All of them are talking about it in the same way now because in order to pander to the right they have to go so far to the right beyond what – probably – most of them genuinely believe, but if they intend to govern that way, that’s bad for this country.” He added: “Someone has to stand up and say, ‘Enough, knock it off.'”

It’s a strikingly tough denunciation given all of the talk of Trump’s nativist appeal specifically playing well among blue-collar workers.

Trumka was also unsparing in his criticism of the rest of the GOP field, calling Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a “national disgrace” and saying that “one can only pray” that Walker or Perry is the GOP nominee. (Tough talk given the track record, but hey – maybe fourth time’s the charm?) He said that when Bush talks about income inequality he’s just “mouth[ing] words” and said that Ohio Gov. John Kasich – who loves talking about how his father was a mailman – abandoned his working class roots. “His dad’s sweat and his mom’s sweat put him in a position” where he could side with Main Street or Wall Street, Trumka said, and Kasich chose Wall Street.

On the Democratic side, Trumka warned that Hillary Clinton needs to stop avoid taking a stance on trade deals and trade promotion authority. “Candidates that try to skirt the issues, not talking about where you are on [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] hurts you when it comes to activating the membership and the general populace,” he said. “They want to know where you are, even when they disagree with you.” He added that if she can produce a credible pro-worker narrative, “she could catch fire too.” Speaking of how pundits view the former first lady, Trumka said, “Hillary Clinton needs to do A+ work in order to get a C. And do you know why? Because she’s a woman.”

Trumka said that Obama’s strong support of fast-track trade authority has hurt his standing among workers, though they still support him overall. Asked about a new Gallup poll showing a decline in Obama’s approval rating among union members to essentially its lowest point (the difference between his current 52 percent and his previous lows of 51 percent is statistically insignificant) Trumka replied that “what you’re seeing is the residuals” of Obama’s push for Trade Promotion Authority and a Pacific trade deal. “He supported it firmly, still does and we oppose it,” Trumka said.

And Trumka vowed a huge labor push over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that’s still being negotiated: “You asked me if I intend to run a campaign against TPP? Yes. Is it going to be intense? Yes. Is it going to roll out everything we have? Yes.” He noted that the union is still working on specific issues involved in the agreement, such as procurement rules and rule of origin details that labor is still working to influence. He also said that China’s recent devaluation of its currency had raised old issues about currency manipulation rules being in the agreement. “If it’s an acceptable bill we’ll run a campaign to pass it, if it isn’t we’ll run a campaign to defeat it,” he said. “I suspect it’ll be a campaign to defeat it.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 1, 2015

September 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Richard Trumka, Working Class | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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