“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
“Bernie Sanders And The God Factor”: Less A Matter Of Sanders’s Own Behavior Than That Of His Most Avid Supporters
The “S-word” — socialist — hangs over Bernie Sanders’s campaign like a spectral question mark. His self-identification as a “democratic socialist” is a matter of indifference to most supporters — especially the young — and even to many conservatives who assume all Democrats are socialist these days (remember the weird effort at the RNC a few years back to insist on labeling the opposition the “Democrat Socialist Party”?). But it’s certainly a new thing historically in a country where socialism never really caught on as a mainstream ideological tradition.
While Sanders is asked about the S-word regularly, another first he would represent has not really come into focus: his religious identity. He would definitely be the first Jewish president (or major-party presidential nominee), using the standard ethnic definition of that term. But he might also be the least religious president. Are either of these a real problem for his candidacy?
That question was posed in the Washington Post on Wednesday in an extensive article that quotes Sanders as confessing a rather vague belief in some sort of deity but no connection to organized religion. During his upbringing in Brooklyn by parents who immigrated from Poland, his Jewishness was “just as uncontested as saying you’re an American,” according to his older brother, who also recalls himself and Bernie listening to World Series games outside a synagogue where his father was attending Yom Kippur services. His first wife was from a similar background, while his second was raised Catholic.
According to public-opinion research, Sanders’s Jewish background shouldn’t be much of an issue. According to a Gallup survey in 2012, 91 percent of Americans (up from 46 percent when Gallup first asked this question in 1937) say they would vote for a Jewish president. Only 54 percent would vote for an atheist, however. So for Christians and Jews, at least (Muslims are another matter), having a religious affiliation is better than spurning God altogether.
That’s a good example of American exceptionalism. Just as center-left parties and leaders in Europe have no problem calling themselves “socialists,” the religious affiliation of politicians is not terribly significant. Last year Ed Miliband led the British Labour Party into a general election. That he was a professed atheist (like many if not most Labour politicians) from a Jewish background wasn’t an issue. In sharp contrast to American standards, Tony Blair’s religiosity was something of an oddity in the U.K.
So it could be that Sanders’s Jewish-socialist background and nonreligious identity represents a combo platter of associations that just don’t seem terribly American, at least to older swing voters (it is assumed that conservatives would reject Sanders on so many separate grounds that religion would hardly stand out).
Sanders is probably dealing with it as best he can by expressing sympathy with religious motives for political action, and most of all by not exhibiting that allergy to religion that besets a lot of highly secular people, including the kind of activists who are heavily represented in his base of support. That was probably the real value of his startling appearance at Liberty University last year. He didn’t make many conversions to his brand of politics. But he showed he did not consider himself as coming from a different moral universe from people with an entirely religious frame of reference. And interestingly, a new Pew survey shows that Sanders is perceived as more religious than the Republican candidate currently leading among conservative Evangelicals, Donald Trump, and roughly equal in this respect to the pious Methodist Hillary Clinton.
There may be a temptation in the Sanders camp to compare him to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, who were great presidents not identified with any organized religious group (the former claim is a bit off since Jefferson, for all his heterodoxy, was an Anglican vestryman). But that could be a false analogy, since Jefferson was strongly interested in religious speculation and polemics (with his own highly expurgated version of the New Testament), while Lincoln’s rhetoric and thinking were saturated in a sort of nondenominational folk piety.
Perhaps the smartest tactic for Sanders is to remain authentic and more generally stress his distinctively American credentials. Every time he says with great frustration that he wants this country to “join the rest of the world” in providing health care as a right or in offering some other commonsense benefit, he simply reinforces the impression that his values are exotic and perhaps even suspect.
For the kind of Americans who administer religious litmus tests, there’s nothing Sanders can or should do. Many conservative Evangelicals and some traditionalist Catholics, after all, deny Barack Obama’s Christianity, and some deny fellowship with liberal Christians generally. It’s not an honest standard, as was made evident in 2004 when the occasional churchgoer George W. Bush inspired great passion among conservative Evangelicals via various verbal tics and dog whistles, while the very regular Mass-goer John Kerry was regarded as a bloodless, faithless liberal elitist.
But for people of faith who do want to find common ground with Bernie Sanders and the movement he represents, it’s important that he doesn’t view religious motivations for social action as cheap imitations of the real thing or silly superstitions that real grown-ups have overcome. This may be less a matter of Sanders’s own behavior than that of his most avid supporters, who sometimes strike others as a mite superior. While God may rightly have no formal place in Bernie Sanders’s world, he needs to find a place for God’s followers among his own.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 27, 2016
“Challenging The Party’s Ideology”: How Ted Cruz And Marco Rubio Are Battling For The Future Of GOP Foreign Policy
A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz committed a shocking act of heresy against the Republican Party Establishment. “If you look at President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and, for that matter, some of the more aggressive Washington neocons,” he told Bloomberg News, “they have consistently misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefiting radical Islamic terrorists.” Cruz was cleverly making a point about the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya, which resulted in a failed state that has nurtured ISIS, but his attack cut much deeper than it might have first appeared. One of the supporters of that venture was Marco Rubio, Cruz’s primary rival for the affection of regular (non-Trump-loving) Republicans. Rather than frame his contrast with Rubio as a matter of personal judgment or partisan loyalty, though, Cruz defined his opponents in ideological terms (“the more aggressive Washington neocons”). Indirectly, he was reminding his audience of another country in the Middle East where neocon military adventurism has wound up benefiting Islamic extremism — and harking back to an older conservative approach.
While Trump has distracted the party with bombastic grossness, Cruz has undertaken a concerted attack on an unexpected weak point: the belief structure, inherited by Rubio, that undergirds the party’s foreign-policy orthodoxy, opening up a full-blown doctrinal schism on the right.
The Iraq War remains the Republican Party’s least favorite subject, but the principles that drove the Bush administration into Baghdad (without a plan for the occupation) have remained largely intact. Most Republican leaders still espouse the neoconservative belief in confronting autocratic governments everywhere, that demonstrations of American military power will inevitably succeed, and that the championing of democratic values should inform all major foreign-policy strategy.
When he first came to Washington, Rubio distanced himself from these beliefs. “I don’t want to come across as some sort of saber-rattling person,” he said in 2012, the next year insisting that higher military spending be paid for with offsetting cuts elsewhere. The next year, he started rattling sabers. Rubio came to support higher defense spending even if it increased the deficit, and turned sharply against the Iran nuclear deal. Now a full-scale hawk poised to restore the banished Bush doctrine, Rubio has surrounded himself with neoconservative advisers, using buzzwords like “moral clarity,” and promised to stand up to Russia, China, Cuba, and North Korea, unworried by the possibility that standing up to some of the bad guys might require the cooperation of other bad guys. “I’m ready for Marco,” enthused William Kristol.
The Bush years trained liberals to think of neoconservatism as the paramount expression of right-wing foreign-policy extremism. But neoconservatism runs against the grain of an older and deeper conservative tradition of isolationism. Cruz has flitted about the edges of the libertarian right, sometimes forming alliances in the Senate with Rand Paul, an isolationist who — after briefly being in vogue — has largely been marginalized within his party. At the last Republican foreign-policy debate, Cruz identified himself with that creed more openly than he ever had. Just as Rubio’s buzzwords signal his neoconservative affiliation, Cruz conveyed his isolationism by calling for an “American-first foreign policy” and dismissing Rubio as a “Woodrow Wilson democracy promoter.” The face-off between Rubio and Cruz at that debate represented something far more profound than the usual exchange of canned sound bites.
The isolationist tradition has long been misunderstood to mean a policy that perished overnight on December 7, 1941, and that promoted complete withdrawal from world affairs. In fact, isolationist thought grew out of — and, in some ways, represented the apogee of — American exceptionalism.
It regarded other, lesser countries with disgust, a sentiment that bred the competing impulses to both be distant from the rest of the world and to strike out at it.
Isolationism dominated conservative thought from the end of World War I — as a reaction against Wilson’s costly democratization crusade, as Cruz implied — through Pearl Harbor. After the war, without losing its hold on large segments of the GOP, the worldview mutated in the face of communism. The Soviet threat intensified the contradiction between the desire to quarantine America from the communist contagion and to eradicate it. The old isolationists resolved the tension by developing a fixation on airpower as a substitute for diplomacy and land forces. American planes would allow it to dominate the world while remaining literally above it. (Airpower, wrote the historian Frances FitzGerald, “would allow America both to pursue its God-given mission abroad and to remain the virgin land, uncorrupted by the selfish interests of others or foreign doctrines.”)
Republican leaders opposed the Truman administration’s plans to rebuild Europe, create NATO, and station a huge land force in West Germany. Instead, they proposed a massive air force. The right’s belief in the efficacy of bombing was enabled by its indifference to widespread carnage among enemy civilians. Conservatives like Barry Goldwater proposed using nuclear weapons during the Vietnam War. “If we maintain our faith in God, love of freedom, and superior global airpower, the future looks good,” said Air Force general Curtis LeMay, who had also called for nuclear strikes against North Vietnam. (In 1968, LeMay ran as vice-president alongside the segregationist George Wallace, a campaign that prefigured Trump’s combination of populism, white racial backlash, and an ultranationalist foreign policy.)
Republican presidents like Eisenhower and Nixon, though, followed Truman’s internationalist program rather than the unworkable fever dreams of the right. The bipartisan embrace of internationalism sent isolationism into a long, slow decline, its ideas circulating but without influence, a philosophy for newsletter cranks. Eventually, the dominant Republican foreign policy evolved once more, into neoconservatism, which combined the Wilsonian fervor for exporting democracy abroad with the isolationist distrust of diplomacy. The neoconservative project imploded in Iraq, but still, even in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, the lone voice of dissent on neoconservative foreign policy was the libertarian gadfly Ron Paul, who brought isolationism back into the conversation. The surprisingly durable support for an odd little man in poorly fitting suits who kept ranting about gold indicated a potentially underserved market for Republican discontent over Iraq.
The Paul version of isolationism, inherited by his floundering son, emphasizes the live-and-let-live principle. Cruz’s version is more bloodthirsty, putting him in touch with the current, freaked-out conservative mood while reviving the bombing obsession of the mid-century conservatives. “We will utterly destroy ISIS,” he boasted recently with LeMay-esque ghoulishness. “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” (Cruz’s choice of imagery is important: Conventional bombing does not make things glow, but nuclear bombing does.) At the debate, Rubio shot back, “Airstrikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force.” When pressed by moderators on the details of their respective plans, both Cruz and Rubio retreated. Cruz admitted he would not, in fact, level the cities held by ISIS (which are populated mostly by their unwilling captives) but would instead simply bomb ISIS’s military positions, which Obama is already doing. Rubio admitted he would not dispatch an occupying force back to the Middle East but merely send a small number of special forces while attempting to recruit local Sunnis, which Obama is also already doing.
Substantively empty though their bluster may be, Rubio and Cruz are pantomiming a deep-rooted, significant breach. While he has very little support among party elites, Cruz seems to believe that Republican voters are hungry for a candidate who will challenge their party’s foreign policy at the ideological level. Very soon, we will find out if he is right.
By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 27, 2015
Exceptional, the new book from former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz, is not. It is nothing more than an unhinged rant that smacks of sedition.
“The children need to know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done, and why it is uniquely America’s duty to be freedom’s defender,” the prologue proclaims. The book, however, is not about who we are but who Cheney wants us to become. It is a call for Americans to reject constitutional government and those values that have guided our nation for 227 years and replace it with imperial rule in the name of “freedom”––even when that rule includes wars of choice, intrusive violations of our privacy and civil liberties, and of course, an aggressive regime of torture.
This review assumes that Exceptional represents Dick Cheney’s ideas, and so we will refer to the author only in the singular. (To the extent the book reflects Liz’s original thinking, consider it a mind meld.)
Part One begins with Uncle Dick recounting how “the American Century” has been marked by a fight that he and a few other white-hatted cowboys have waged to keep the world safe for “freedom.” In Cheney’s telling, pro-war and wartime leaders were strong and “right,” and the others weak and feckless. World War II is reduced to: “We liberated millions and achieved the greatest victory in the history of mankind, for the good of all mankind. America––the exceptional nation––had become freedom’s defender.”
Manichean World View
In Cheney’s Manichean worldview, Truman was right to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, and Eisenhower’s farewell speech was not a warning of the growing power of the military-industrial complex as is commonly understood, but, rather, a strong endorsement of it. Reagan’s unwillingness to give up America’s right to missile defense (SDI) was “an exercise of diplomacy that should be studied by all future policy makers.” Obama’s foreign policy strategy is simply, “don’t do stupid stuff.”
Left out of Cheney’s idyllic tale of American exceptionalism in that era are such inconvenient freedom-defending events as the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and the imposition of the oppressive Shah who ruled with an iron fist until his downfall in 1978; the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile, replaced by the military dictator, Pinochet; the Reagan administration’s support of the Contras in Central America in the 1980s; and the slavish support of African dictators like Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko.
Cheney conflates the Gulf War, conducted when he was George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, with the Iraq War (“We were right in 1991 and we were right in 2003.”) but without noting important differences. The Gulf War was a true coalition off the willing, with 32 nations contributing forces operating under the authority of the United Nations and very specific Security Council resolutions, and the rest of the world paying 90 percent of the war’s costs. At its conclusion, the United States was at the pinnacle of its power, which it used to advance the cause of conflict resolution in the region. By contrast, the Iraq War was essentially a United States operation to remove Saddam with limited support, no U.N. resolution, and the entire cost borne by the United States. The consequences are abundantly clear: the region is in chaos, overrun by the same brutal terrorists and radical forces that the Cheney doctrine was supposed to eliminate.
Cheney’s selective memory is again on display as he recounts the events surrounding 9/11. Absent are the infamous CIA memo of August 2001,“Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US,” the reports of missed signals such as suspicious pilot training, and the fact that the CIA was on the highest possible alert while Bush was cutting brush in Texas and Cheney fishing in Wyoming.
The recounting of the war on Afghanistan is rich in bravado (“we have to work the dark side”) and ultimatums (“the Taliban will turn over the terrorists or share their fate”), but poor on facts. Cheney omits the meeting at Camp David where Paul Wolfowitz kept turning the conversation from Afghanistan to Iraq; the directive Bush gave to Richard Clarke to go back and find some link between 9/11 and Saddam; and Donald Rumsfeld’s observation that there were no decent targets for bombing in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq. There is no discussion of the pivot to Iraq just when we were on the verge of finding Bin Laden.
Cheney then turns to a vigorous defense of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the torture policies he championed. Rather than share with the reader the influence he and his key staffers exerted on the decision-making process, Cheney instead recounts the statements of Democrats who voted to support the war, spreading the blame. He neglects to mention the massive propaganda operation directed by the White House or the fact that the whole case was built on lies. Other omissions: Yellowcake, aluminum tubes, mobile bioweapon labs, 9/11 attacker Atta’s supposed meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague, and intelligence conclusions cooked up in the Pentagon Office of Special Plans and foisted on Colin Powell by Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby for presentation to the United Nations. Instead, “History will be the ultimate judge of our decision to liberate Iraq,” Cheney tells us, “and it is important for future decision makers that those debates be based on facts.” But only those facts he cares to share.
By the end of Part One Cheney has fully transitioned from defender of the indefensible to bare-knuckled attacker of President Obama. The Cheney snarl is on full display as he engages in an extended personal smear, complete with dog-whistle comments questioning the president’s patriotism and allegiance. The tirade is a new low, even for those of us who have personally experienced the depths to which Cheney will go to destroy an adversary. The opening paragraph of Part Two says it all: “The . . . level of self-regard was apparent, as was his underlying belief that America had played a malign role in the the world . . . . He [Obama] assessed the last fifty years of American foreign policy through the lens of Indonesia, a nation he called ‘the land of my childhood.’”
“Where some see an exceptional nation, unmatched in the history of the world in our goodness and our greatness, in our contributions to global freedom, justice and peace,” Cheney writes, “Barack Obama sees a nation with at best a ‘mixed’ record.”
Cheney combs the record for every quote and factoid that might be used to undermine the authority and legitimacy of the administration. Former senior intelligence officials are selectively quoted to criticize President Obama’s decision to end the torture program. Cheney would have us believe that
Ending programs that kept us safe, revealing the details about those programs to the terrorists, and spreading untruths about our policies was misguided, unjust, and highly irresponsible. . . . President Obama, having so consistently distorted the truth about the enhanced interrogation program and the brave Americans who carried it out, is in no position to lecture anyone about American values.
The personal attacks are unremitting and obnoxious, but they have a purpose: to whip up resentment, hatred, and every other base emotional reaction that makes civil discourse impossible. It is sedition, plain and clear.
One example is the Benghazi tragedy, where Cheney cannot resist offering his own interpretation: “At the most fundamental level it is the difference between being honest about what happened in Benghazi . . . and adopting a false narrative because it serves political purposes. It is the difference between lying to the American people and dealing with them truthfully—which is what we deserve.” The irony drips from the words.
Cheney saves his harshest attack for the Iran nuclear deal, flatly accusing the president of lying to the American people. The most comprehensive arms control deal with the most intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated, it is a deal not just between the United States and Iran but between the world and Iran, unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council and lauded by nuclear arms specialists worldwide. To Cheney it is presidential “falsehoods.”
After concluding “In the seventy years since World War II, no American president has done more damage to our nation’s defenses than Barack Obama,” Cheney’s solution to Obama’s perfidy is simple but profoundly disturbing: return to the past failed policies. He advocates massive additional infusions of money to the Pentagon, abandonment of key agreements, further attacks on civil liberties, and imposition of an American Diktat on the rest of the world, by force of arms if necessary. It is difficult to imagine a more ill-advised approach to American national security or international relations.
Exceptional deserves to be dismissed and ignored, except that to ignore it is to risk that the subversive ideas therein actually gain some currency, if left unchallenged. They are an affront to our history, to our values, to our culture, and must be fought.
By: Ambassador Joe Wilson (ret) and Valerie Plame, The National Memo, October 26, 2015: This book review originally appeared in The Washington Spectator
The United States “is a hellhole” that “is going down fast.” America “is in big trouble” and “never has victories anymore.” In fact, the United States is a “laughingstock all over the world.”
Who do you think made these comments over the last few months? A. Vladimir Putin; B. An ISIS recruiter; or C. Donald Trump?
It’s actually a tough question to answer accurately. I know for sure that Trump made those remarks but it’s also possible that words to those effect were uttered by Putin or ISIS’s head honcho Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or even Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (The last two of these people we recently learned Trump wasn’t familiar with. We have all heard of low-information voters, we now have a low-information candidate.)
But we do know Trump has made the above statements and more. He even suggested at a recent event that we are now a nation of losers because we haven’t had victories in years, and he’s no longer proud of America.
Why would Trump badmouth America? Simple, because he’s trying to make the case that America is a disaster and he’s the only one who can “make America great again.” (In Trump’s defense, he does know a thing or two about debacles, given the failures of his Trump vodka, Trump airline, and Trump University, to name just a few of his failed ventures.)
When I hear Trump crapping on America, two thoughts come to mind. First, he’s unequivocally wrong. America is still great today. And second, if a Democratic presidential candidate said the same stuff, the GOP would be labeling that candidate as person who hates America, doesn’t view America as exceptional, or worse.
Look, America can always be better. In fact, President Obama offered this exact sentiment a few months ago with his remarks that our nation is “chronically dissatisfied with itself, because embedded in our DNA is this striving, aspirational quality to be even better.” But the United States is still an exceptional nation, something I have yet to hear Trump acknowledge.
The real question is, how do you measure greatness? In Trump’s case it appears it’s based on if he or others are making more money or if our airports are nicer than the beautiful ones in Dubai and Qatar that he has been bragging are far superior to our own.
But that’s not how I measure it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to see middle-class wages grow, but that’s not why people risk their lives to immigrate to our nation. It’s not why my Palestinian father moved to the United States even though he had no family here, or why my Sicilian grandparents sailed halfway across the world.
It was for the promise that continues today of living in nation where there’s not just economic opportunity, but also a place where you can raise a family without fear of warlords, or a risk of a sudden, massive refugee crisis, or the lack of safe drinking water, or being dragged off by a dictator’s henchmen to be tortured or killed for their political views. It’s the promise of a nation where we can passionately disagree on issues with the understanding that it will be ballots, not bullets that will decide the outcome. It’s the promise that all men and women are created equal and are guaranteed the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I don’t think for a second Trump appreciates that aspect of America’s greatness. And that’s what makes him vastly different from his alleged political idol, Ronald Reagan.
In 1980, Reagan’s campaign slogan, which Trump has co-opted less one word, was “Let’s Make America Great Again.” At the time, Reagan ran against President Jimmy Carter when the U.S. economy was a mess with high unemployment (over 7 percent) and even higher inflation (13.5 percent). Plus, the Iran hostage crisis was weighing on the American psyche.
But Reagan didn’t broadly piss on America like Trump. Instead he provided detailed criticism of Carter’s policies and then offered words to inspire, such as, “the American spirit is still there, ready to blaze into life…the time is now, my fellow Americans, to recapture our destiny.” That’s a far cry from Trump’s “America is a hellhole, laughingstock that’s going down fast.”
I’m sure some on the right likely cheer Trump’s ridiculing of America because they view his words as an attack on Obama’s policies. However, even Marco Rubio recently called out Trump for his dumping on our nation: “I would remind everyone America is great. There’s no nation on Earth I would trade places with.” And Rubio is not alone in this sentiment. A recent poll found that 84 percent of Americans agreed they would rather live here than any other country.
Trump obviously can choose any words he wants to wage his campaign. But there’s zero doubt that if a Democratic candidate were employing the same rhetoric, many on the right would crucify that person.
Look at what we saw earlier this year when Rudy Giuliani said of Obama, “I do not believe that the president loves America.” Why did he make that outrageous charge? Well, Giuliani explained, because Obama “criticizes America” so much that he sounds more “like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter.” Then what does he make of Trump’s daily America bashing?
Even Michelle Obama was attacked during the 2008 presidential race when she said, “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback.” Mrs. Obama came under immediate assault from the right for inferring she had not previously been proud of America. Of course, not a peep about Trump no longer being proud of our nation from conservatives.
Trump’s strategy of “America sucks” may end up helping him capture the White House. But even if it does, I still won’t believe that Trump truly grasps what makes America great.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 9, 2015