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“Trump’s Apocalyptic Message”: Obama Just Ripped Into Donald Trump’s Nightmare Vision Of America. He’s Right

This afternoon President Obama offered his most detailed and comprehensive attack on Donald Trump, not just the particular things Trump proposes but his entire worldview. He was particularly contemptuous of the idea that once we speak the magical words “radical Islamic terror” the entire effort against terrorism will be transformed.

But for the moment I want to focus on this part of his critique of Trump, referencing Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from the country and his placing blame on all Muslims for individual acts of violence:

“We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve 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 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.”

Obama then went on to talk about how inspired he was by the cadets he saw at the Air Force Academy when we spoke at their commencement. “That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.”

There’s a formula presidents usually follow when they speak to the country after a tragedy, whether it’s a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or an accident like a space shuttle blowing up. Express the sorrow and pain people are feeling. Praise those whose lives were lost. Emphasize the common purpose we all share (or ought to). Invoke fundamental American ideals that bind us together. And promise that out of the darkness we will become stronger, our future even brighter than our present or our past.

Some presidents weave those elements together more skillfully than others, but nearly all try to both mirror the public’s emotions and give them reason to hope. But not Donald Trump.

At moments like the Orlando shooting, we’re reminded of just how bleak and miserable Trump’s vision of America is, even when we haven’t just suffered a tragedy. It’s been said that presidential elections are usually won by the most optimistic candidate, and that will certainly be tested this year. That’s because there may never have been a candidate who sees America as such a dystopic nightmare of gloom and despair.

It’s not that Trump doesn’t say things will be great when he’s president, because he does. But his critique of the current state of the country goes far beyond what opposition candidates ordinarily say. A challenger will always argue that the party in power has been wrong about everything as they instituted disastrous policies. But Trump’s argument goes deeper, into the very heart of the nation as a whole. “When was the last time we’ve seen our country win at anything?” he says. “We don’t win anymore.”

Try to imagine, for instance, what would happen if Hillary Clinton said, “This country is a hellhole. We are going down fast.” It’s difficult to contemplate, because a careful politician like Clinton would never say such a thing in a million years. But Trump did, and he says similar things all the time. “America is being taken apart piece by piece,” he said a week ago. “We’re broke…Our infrastructure is a disaster. Our schools are failing. Crime is rising. People are scared.” And that was in a victory speech. Or as he’s said before, “Our country is going to hell.”

When he looks at a non-Trump future, he sees outright apocalypse. “If we don’t get tough, and we don’t get smart – and fast – we’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said in his speech yesterday on terrorism. “There will be nothing left.” What does that mean, “nothing left”? Are we all going to be dead? Will America itself cease to exist, wiped off the map like Yugoslavia? It’s hard to tell, but it sure won’t be good.

That’s not to mention that, like his assertion about crime (which is at historic lows), so much of what Trump says about the living nightmare that is America is just false. We’re not “the highest taxed nation in the world.” There are not “tens of thousands” of terrorists streaming into the country. GDP growth is not “essentially zero.” The unemployment rate is not “42 percent,” and we don’t have “93 million people out of work.”

And don’t forget that when he wrote his campaign book, instead of giving it a title like “Into the Future” or “America Ascending” or “Greatness Awaits,” Trump called it “Crippled America.”

That’s not to say that Trump’s apocalyptic message doesn’t resonate with some people. He has tapped into a vein of discontentment, particularly among those who feel like they’re being left behind by demographic changes and a modernizing, diverse society. If you feel profoundly unsettled when you hear two people speaking Spanish on the street, Trump is your guy. He regularly laments the fact that we don’t know “What the hell is going on” on some topic or other, often immigration or national security. That notion — of being confused and bewildered by a world that doesn’t seem to make sense in the way it did back when you were young — is obviously powerful for some voters.

Trump may promise that once we elect him we’ll find ourselves living in a paradise of winning-ness, where the most serious question that confronts each of us is which 20-something Slovenian supermodel we want to make our fourth or fifth spouse. But his unceasing descriptions of our nation’s allegedly endless suffering also says something profoundly miserable about not only our country but ourselves.

You might find the typical politician’s paeans to America’s optimistic spirit overdone or trite, but when someone like George W. Bush says that “Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain,” even if you don’t agree with him politically, you want that to be true of yourself and your country. It’s part of a politician’s job to not only promise greatness, but to assure the country that we have it in us to reach it. When Donald Trump talks, on the other hand, he tells us that only he can change our ghastly condition, and we ourselves will have barely any part of it. “I will give you everything,” he promises. “I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

The clear message is that if we don’t pick him, we won’t just be making the wrong choice, we’ll doom ourselves to sink further into the unending torment we’ve made for ourselves. And we’ll deserve it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 14, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When Silence Is Just Not Loud Enough”: Moments Of Silence In The House Have Become An Abomination

Our president was speaking to us in his grave yet hopeful voice, a timbre and tone he has had much practice in using. Far too much practice.

He uses it when there has been a mass shooting in America. And by some counts, this was his 14th time.

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war,” our president is saying.

We have been working on that one for a while. But it is really not a matter of human lives lost, people lying in pools of blood or corpses shredded by gunfire.

Solving that problem would be relatively easy. The real problem is political — which is why no gun legislation with a serious chance of passing stands before Congress.

The body counts, the gore, the all-too-vivid last moments captured on a hand-held camera mean nothing compared with the politics of gun ownership.

It remains very easy to buy a semi-automatic rifle almost anywhere in America. Only seven states ban them.

So the killing continues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 guns were used in 11,208 deaths by homicide. That’s a lot. That’s nearly 31 per day.

Why so many? “Crazy” is a popular choice. Do you have to be crazy to shoot and kill 49 people in a nightclub? How about 20 small children in an elementary school? Or 12 people at a Batman movie?

Were all the shooters crazy? Could be. But foreign countries have crazy people, too, and many countries’ murder rates are much lower than ours.

Again, why? One reason is that in America, we allow individuals to own weapons of mass destruction — semi-automatic firearms with large magazines.

And though Congress banned them for 10 years — 1994 to 2004 — it has refused to reinstate the ban even though mass killings continue.

In America, a gun is not just a gun. It is a fetish, a totem, an icon. It has an appeal that defies mere logic.

Charles Bronson — and I swear I am not making up the name — is the former commissioner of agriculture and consumer services for the state of Florida. He used to be in charge of gun permits. Today he is still against more stringent gun laws, such as the ones that would ban semi-automatic AR-15 military-style rifles.

“People use AR-15s to hunt deer, to hunt hogs, to hunt all kinds of game,” Bronson told a reporter, and he said it would be a shame to change the gun laws “because of one person’s lawlessness.”

I am trying to see his point of view: One person kills 49 people and wounds 53 others, and that is nothing compared with the pleasure of executing a hog.

All these arguments are familiar. Everything about mass shootings is achingly familiar — the moments of silence, the lighting of candles, the wearing of ribbons, the hourlong news specials, the flags at half-staff, the president coming down to the briefing room and then the full-scale speech like the one President Barack Obama will make Thursday in Orlando.

“These mass shootings are happening so often now that lamenting them afterwards is becoming a national ritual,” Conan O’Brien said Monday.

O’Brien is a late-night comic. He is also an observer of life in these United States. It is sometimes hard to observe that life and still remain a comic, and I admire him for trying.

“I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think,” he said, his voice growing angrier as he spoke. “However, I am a father of two. I like to believe I have a shred of common sense, and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi-automatic assault rifle. … These are weapons of war, and they have no place in civilian life. …

“I do not know the answer, but I wanted to take just a moment here tonight to agree with the rapidly growing sentiment in America that it’s time to grow up and figure this out.”

Time to grow up. A fine idea. And I really wish the sentiment behind it were “rapidly growing.” Because not everybody in America will get a chance to grow up. Some of those children we send each morning to the “safety” of their schools will never make it back home alive. (According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “since 2013, there have been at least 188 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week.”)

On Capitol Hill on Monday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a ritual moment of silence in the House chamber to commemorate those killed in Orlando.

Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes stood up and walked off the floor instead. Previously, he had tweeted:

“I will not attend one more ‘Moment of Silence’ on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them.”

“The Moments of Silence in the House have become an abomination. God will ask you, ‘How did you keep my children safe’? Silence.”

“If God is an angry God, prepare to know a hell well beyond that lived day to day by the families of the butchered. I will not be silent.”

And I, for one, hope he keeps talking, tweeting, speaking out and walking out.

 

By: Roger Simon, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Gun Control, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Only Sensible Answer To A Brutal Problem”: It’s Time: Democrats Are Speaking Up About Gun Control

Pressure from Democrats to finally push the needle on gun reform, after repeated mass shootings have been met with silence from the right, came just hours after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Following House Speaker Paul Ryan’s usual moment of silence on the floor on Monday, Democrats chanted “Where’s the bill?” and dismissed the silence as meaningless without legislative action.

Democrats are pursuing a slate of legislation, including “No Fly, No Buy,” which would ban those on the FBI’s no-fly list from accessing guns; addressing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows guns to be sold after a three-day waiting period, even if the FBI’s background check isn’t complete; and legislation that would ban anyone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing guns.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other senate Democrats staged an old-school talking filibuster to urge movement on gun reform. And while a handful of conservative voices — and Donald Trump, via a tweet — have come out in favor of curbing access to military-style weapons, the vast majority pivoted towards focusing on “radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the attack.

Republicans talk a tough terrorism game, yet they don’t see a problem with suspected terrorists being able to purchase guns. As Hillary Clinton tweeted on Wednesday, “people can’t board planes with full shampoo bottles — but people being watched by the FBI for terrorism can buy a gun, no questions asked?” The nation was able to swiftly pass new airport security measures in the wake of 9/11, yet in the wake of the worst LGBT hate crime in American history, and the worst terrorist on American soil attack since 9/11, Republicans are holding back, hiding behind the Second Amendment.

The effort by Republicans to shift the debate away from gun control and towards ISIS is a reflection of who is really pulling the strings — the gun manufacturing lobby. Ted Cruz has raked in $36,229 from gun lobbyists. When, as speaker of the Florida House, Marco Rubio’s caucus failed to pass a bill allowing employees to bring firearms to work, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer complained ominously that Rubio “talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk.”

The CEO of Sturm, Ruger, and Co., Michael Fifer, assured shareholders a month ago that, although demand for their product was “easing,” they should anticipate higher gun sales during the election season, as the “rhetoric from both sides” will “[keep] consumers aware and thinking about their firearm rights.”

Fifer didn’t try to hide his opportunism, adding that “If the political environment in this election year causes one or more strong spikes in demand, we may stretch our capital expenditures budget to take advantage of the opportunities presented.” In other words: Yes, the political fear mongering is purposeful, and yes, it is profitable.

Despite the silence and inaction, Democrats are pushing forward in their campaign to make progress on gun control. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation that would ban anyone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing, possessing, or shipping a gun, marking the first proposed gun control legislation after the Orlando shootings.

Like other gun reform proposals, this one is common sense. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States involved the use or threat of a gun. And considering that the most recent one involved the slaughter of 49 people in a gay nightclub, or that the brutal shooting in Charleston, South Carolina resulted in 33 federal hate crime charges, there is ample need for the legislation.

Democrats are also expected to continue pushing for the renewal of the ban on assault rifles. Rep. Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, penned an op-ed for Wednesday’s New York Daily News in which he advocated for the ban. “I know assault rifles,” Moulton tweeted. “I carried one in Iraq. They have no place on America’s streets.”

“I had to look at pictures of dead and mangled bodies in order to understand the magnitude of what it meant to pull that trigger,” he wrote.

President Obama joined presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — and nearly every Democrat in national politics — this week in reinforcing calls for a ban on assault rifles, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004.

The pressure to change laws is a popular one, too: A CBS poll conducted this week found that the percentage of Americans who support banning assault weapons jumped to 57 percent, from 44 percent in December. And a White House petition to ban the AR-15 from civilian use has tallied more than 157,000 signatures in three days.

Republicans continue to repeat the polarizing message that those on the left are trying to “take your guns away” — a useful slogan that doubles as ad copy for gun manufacturers.

Meanwhile, they stand in the way of reforms that are not only long overdue and hugely popular, but also the only sensible answer to a brutal problem that every other nation on earth has legislated out of existence.

 

By: Matt Tracy, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Gun Control, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Great College Coddling”: Reasoning With A Three Year-Old Is Pretty Much Like Bargaining With A Cat

It’s been twenty years since I started hearing alarming tales from a friend who supervised a day care for hospital employees’ children. She said that for the first time in her considerable experience, the pre-school children of medical professionals were pitching full-scale hissy fits — hitting, kicking and even biting their parents, without being effectively disciplined.

She said it was common to see grown men and women — doctors, nurses and technicians — on their knees reasoning with three and four year-olds going ape over stuff like juice boxes and peanut butter sandwiches. My friend said the same kids most often settled down and behaved as soon as their parents were out of sight. When it’s nap time, it’s nap time.

Now reasoning with a three year-old is pretty much like bargaining with a cat. If you’re lucky you might eventually bore the little scamp into submission. Thankfully, this particular folly has been largely confined to the educated classes. Truck drivers and short-order cooks know better.

More recently, however, police in posh communities have begun arresting parents for crimes like allowing their children to frequent playgrounds on their own. Apparently my entire childhood, and that of my forty-something sons, was one long serial crime. I used to cross them at the corner and let them walk several blocks to the Billy Mitchell Boys Club on their own. They learned a lot down there, not all of it on the day care curriculum.

Judging by the popular press, it appears that many of those toddlers, coddled and cosseted all their lives, have now enrolled in college, where confusion reigns. It appears that the faculty and administration of some of our most esteemed institutions of higher education have found themselves pleading with the little beggars on their knees.

Item: At Brown University last year, administrators fearful that student anxieties might be “triggered” by a debate about campus “rape culture” set up a “safe space” to recuperate from the stress of hearing heterodox opinions. According to Judith Shulevitz in the New York Times, “the room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.”

Evidently a couple of dozen students hid out there during the debate — the wonder, I suppose, being that the event took place at all.

Item: At Emory University, students pronounced themselves traumatized by “TRUMP 2016” chalked on campus sidewalks. Demonstrators chanted “Come speak to us, we are in pain!” until the university president agreed. Emory, incidentally, is located in Atlanta, GA, a state likely to be carried by Trump come November.

Item: English literature majors at Yale University objected that a required class in “Major English Poets…creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.” Reading Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and T.S. Eliot was deemed oppressive.

“We have spoken,” they demanded. “We are speaking. Pay attention.”

My response would be simple: You don’t want to read Shakespeare, then find another major. What did you think English Literature was going to be?

No snarky newspaper column, however, could possibly prepare you for Oberlin College as depicted in a fascinating piece of long-form journalism by Nathan Heller of the New Yorker.  

Displaying more patience and curiosity than a person of my inclinations could muster, Heller depicts a campus with an admirable history of social activism in perpetual turmoil from ethnic and sexual controversies so arcane and self-referential as to defy parody.

A sophomore demands a trigger warning on Sophocles “Antigone.” (Suicide) Asian students object that the Chinese food is “inauthentic.” (Imagine that. Second rate Sichuan cuisine in small town Ohio!)

Among black students’ fifty “non-negotiable demands” is instant tenure for a writing instructor who says that Jews are responsible for 9/11; also that the college free itself of all remnants of “imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.”

Ain’t that a mouthful?

I think what it means is that most of these kids would be better served at a school with cute cheerleaders and a decent basketball team.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Colleges and Universities, Higher Education, Social Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Running Out Of Excuses”: The NRA And Prominent Republicans Are… Considering Gun Control?

Faced with the tragic killing of 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, notable conservatives seem to be running out of excuses for why we need less gun control.

Bill O’Reilly surprised many on Tuesday when he said that new laws were “definitely needed” as a response to the Orlando shooting. After going after Democrats for not being tough enough of terrorism, O’Reilly conceded that gun crime is a problem in the U.S., and that guns are too easy to get.

“That’s the fact. So let’s deal with it. We all have the right to bear arms, but we don’t have the right to buy and maintain mortars. Even if you feel threatened by gangsters or a New World Order. No bazookas, no Sherman tanks, no hand grenades.”

“The FBI and other federal agencies need the power to stop suspected terrorists or other evildoers from buying weapons,” he said. “That law needs to be very precise.”

O’Reilly had a much different opinion last January, when President Obama announced a gun control executive action after the San Bernardino attack. “The truth is, terrorists are not going to submit themselves to background checks — neither are dangerous felons or insane people,” he said in his January 6 program. “They are not going to sign any paper when they buy a gun. Do we all get that? They will buy their guns on the black market. And no registration law will prevent that.”

Also on Tuesday, O’Reilly’s fellow Fox News host Gretchen Carlson had a change of heart about gun control in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy.

“Do we need AR-15s to hunt and kill deer?” Carlson asked. “Do we need them to protect our families? Yes, I’m in favor of people being able to carry. I think some of these mass shootings would have been less deadly if that were the case. But I’m also with the majority today taking a stand. Can’t we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?”

Perhaps most shocking, the National Rifle Association put out a statement on Wednesday saying the organization agrees that terrorists should not be allowed to buy firearms, and that they are “happy” to meet with the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump to discuss the issue.

Oh yeah: Donald Trump announced he was meeting with the NRA, the strongest gun lobby in the world, to discuss keeping suspected militants away from guns.

I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2016

“Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist,” the NRA’s statement read.

The NRA tweeted that this statement did not represent a change in their position, and that “due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”

 

By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Gun Control, National Rifle Association, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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