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“Republicans Are Architects Of Their Present Misfortune”: What’s Coming In November Is A Reckoning, Long Overdue

So it has come to this: Trump 2016.

What first seemed a joke, then an unsettling possibility and then a troubling likelihood, became a grim certainty last week as Donald Trump, real estate developer turned reality show ringmaster turned would-be president, won an emphatic victory in Indiana’s Republican primary. His last remaining rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, both dropped out within 24 hours, leaving Trump the de facto nominee of what used to be called, with some pride, the Party of Lincoln.

In response, a remarkable constellation of Republican officials and enablers have pronounced themselves unalterably opposed to the duly selected leader of their party.

“Never, ever, ever Trump” tweeted Tim Miller, a former spokesperson for Jeb Bush.

“With God as my witness,” wrote GOP strategist Rick Wilson, “I will never vote for Donald Trump.”

A Washington, D.C., blogger tweeted an image of his voter registration card burning. The governor of Massachusetts and the former head of the state GOP both said they will not vote for Trump. “I have no plans of supporting either of the presumptive nominees,” said Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

And, the unkindest cut of all: A number of Republicans say Trump’s candidacy will drive them into the arms of someone the party has long regarded as the very embodiment of evil. “I’m with her,” tweeted GOP speechwriter Mark Salter, invoking the campaign slogan of the dreaded Hillary Clinton.

One is tempted to draw an analogy to rats deserting the Titanic, but that would unfairly malign the rats. After all, they didn’t drive the ship into that iceberg. The Republicans, though, are very much the architects of their present misfortune.

When you spend decades stoking people’s insecurities, resentment and outrage, when you devote thousands of radio and television hours to scapegoating the marginalized and demonizing the vulnerable, when you campaign on coded appeals to xenophobia, racism and misogyny, when you make facts optional and lies routine, when you prioritize expedience above integrity and embrace ignorance as somehow more authentically American, you may not credibly profess surprise when you produce a candidate who embodies all those traits.

The damage the party has done itself is manifest and may be irreversible. But the bigger concern, by far, is how much damage the party has done to this country. It’s a question that has loomed for a very long time.

In pondering Election Day, then, one is reminded of the person who finally makes a doctor’s appointment six months after discovering a mysterious lump. Sometimes, people behave as if avoiding knowing about the bad thing avoids the bad thing itself.

But of course, it does not. You either have cancer or you don’t. Visiting the doctor does not affect that one way or another. It simply tells you what you’re dealing with.

Similarly, this country has either lost itself down a rabbit hole of ignorance and lies, fear and fury, or it has not. Certainly, the symptoms have long been obvious. From faith-based foreign policy to cynical obstructionism to economic hostage-taking to birther nonsense, right up to Donald Trump’s neo-fascism, it has long been clear that something was wrong with the GOP, that it had become a fundamentally unserious haven of cranks and kooks.

Now, the party offers us its kookiest crank as president. Make no mistake: Any country that would elect Donald Trump as president deserves Donald Trump as president. But the question is: Are we that country? Are we that far gone? Whether we are or are not, it’s past time we knew. So fine, let’s do this.

What’s coming in November is not an election. No, it’s a reckoning, long overdue.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 8, 2016

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, GOP Presidential Nominee, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“He Has A History”: As Journalists, Let Us Not Tiptoe Around Trump, The Nominee

Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and now journalists must decide how to cover him.

How do we reconcile the carnival act he’s been with the seriousness of what is now at stake?

Do we cast him as a man equal to the gravitas of the position he seeks instead of the guy, for example, who proudly harangued President Barack Obama for proof that he was born in Hawaii?

Do we cover him as the contender with a suddenly measured tone without also reminding voters of his long habit of misogynist commentary? For another example, commentary such as this about Rosie O’Donnell: “I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” Or this, about Megyn Kelly after she dared remind him during the first Republican debate that he has called women he doesn’t like “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals”: Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever.”

“Women,” Trump has said, “you have to treat them like sh-t.”

Yes, I’ve written about this before. And yes, I will continue to write about it. How can we possibly pretend Trump never said stuff like this — that it doesn’t really matter — and expect any thinking American to take us seriously?

I’m going to watch this coverage with the fierce focus of a hound on the hunt, and I am confident that I will not be the only columnist or the only woman to do so. As I’ve written a number of times in recent months, this is not the misogyny of the 2008 campaign, but only because so many of us women are older now and we are so done with this.

This morning, by the way, I listened as several male panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talked about how Hillary Clinton is so unlikable compared with garrulous Trump. I heard this on satellite radio as I drove to work. I don’t recommend doing that if you want to have any faith in Beltway punditry or if you have an interest in driving within the lines. To quote my friend Joanna Kuebler, it’s as if they start their day with a heaping bowl of testosteroni.

It is one thing to cover Trump as the Republican nominee. It is quite another to pretend that he isn’t the same man who has repeatedly used the language of misogyny — and racism and xenophobia, too. He refused to rebuke an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. He told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that women should “face some sort of punishment” for getting legal abortions. He said Muslims should be banned from entering our country. He has a history, this man, this billionaire reality TV star, and it must follow him every day of this presidential race.

As I pointed out in a public post on Facebook earlier this week, I understand the challenges of reporting about Trump, one of which is to avoid appearing as if we’re punishing him for hating us. He openly disdains the media and enjoys inciting crowds to mock journalists at his rallies. We tread a fine line in describing his behavior without looking as if we are taking it personally.

Add to that problem some editors who can be too quick to temper their reporters’ coverage to avoid another avalanche of outrage from Trump fans. This tentativeness chips away at the sharp edges of journalism while accomplishing nothing in the way of placating our critics. A person who loves Trump has no use for us anyway. Why are we worried about defending the truth to people who’ve decided they’re so over that?

I ask that we journalists not tiptoe around the obvious hallmarks of who Donald Trump is. He may attempt to dial back the rhetoric, but that doesn’t change who we know him to be.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, May 5, 2016

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalism, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Lot Of People Like Me”: Donald Trump And The Ku Klux Klan: A History

For months, as Donald Trump developed his political repertoire, he adopted an uncharacteristic reply for questions about fascism and the Ku Klux Klan: silence, or something close to it.

He used the technique as early as last August, when his opponents, and the press, still generally regarded him as a summer amusement. On August 26th, Bloomberg Television anchor John Heilemann brought up David Duke, the former Klan Grand Wizard, who had said that Trump was “the best of the lot” in the 2016 campaign. Trump replied that he had no idea who Duke was. Heilemann asked if Trump would repudiate Duke’s endorsement. “Sure,” Trump said, “if that would make you feel better, I would certainly repudiate. I don’t know anything about him.” Changing tack, Heilemann pressed Trump about an article in this magazine, which described Trump’s broad support among neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other members of the far right who were drawn in by his comments about Mexicans. Trump maintained a posture of indifference. “Honestly, John, I’d have to read the story. A lot of people like me.” The interview moved on to other topics.

It should be noted that Trump’s unfamiliarity with Duke is a recent condition. In 2000, Trump issued a statement that he was no longer considering a run for President with the backing of the Reform Party, partly because it “now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke.”

Throughout last fall and into the winter, Trump continued to accumulate support among white nationalists. In November, on a weekend in which he said that a black protester, at a rally in Alabama, deserved to be “roughed up,” Trump retweeted a graphic composed of false racist statistics on crime; the graphic, it was discovered, originated from a neo-Nazi account that used as its profile image a variation on the swastika. In January, he retweeted the account “@WhiteGenocideTM,” which identified its location as “Jewmerica.” Shortly before the Iowa caucuses, a pro-Trump robocall featured several white supremacists, including the author Jared Taylor, who told voters, “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people.” Each time Trump was asked on Twitter about his white nationalist supporters, the candidate, who is ready to respond, day or night, to critics of his debating style or his golf courses, simply ignored the question.

Only under special circumstances did Trump summon a forceful response on matters of the Klan: in January, BoingBoing unearthed a newspaper report from 1927 on the arraignment of a man with the name and address of Donald Trump’s father; the story was about attendees of a Klan rally who fought with police, though it wasn’t clear from the story why the Trump in the piece was arrested. Asked about it, Donald Trump denied that his father had had any connection to a Klan rally. “It’s a completely false, ridiculous story. He was never there! It never happened. Never took place.”

But recently, as Trump’s campaign has received much belated closer scrutiny, his reliable approach to the Klan problem has faltered. On Thursday, Duke offered his strongest support for the candidate yet, telling radio listeners that a vote for one of Trump’s rivals would be “treason to your heritage.” The next day, when Trump had hoped to focus on his endorsement by Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, a reporter shouted a question about Duke’s embrace, and Trump said, “David Duke endorsed me? O.K., all right, I disavow. O.K.?” For the moment, it worked, and the press conference moved on. Christie, in fact, bore the brunt of the Duke association: he appeared on the front page of the Daily News on Saturday, as the “MAN WITH A KLAN,” with his picture beside a group of hooded Klansmen. In a different spirit, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site that long ago endorsed Trump, awarded Christie the title “Heroic Deputy.” (Christie’s overnight evolution from trashing Trump to obeying him repulsed even the political class, a group that is usually more forgiving of self-rationalization. The technology executive Meg Whitman, who had been one of Christie’s top backers, called his alliance with Trump “an astonishing display of political opportunism,” and asked Christie’s donors and supporters “to reject the governor and Donald Trump outright.”)

Over the weekend, Trump’s purported indifference to support from white supremacists and fascists became an inescapable problem. He had retweeted a Mussolini quote from @ilduce2016 (which, it turned out, was an account created by Gawker to trap Trump)—“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep”—and, when asked, on NBC, if he wanted to associate himself with Mussolini, he said that he wanted “to be associated with interesting quotes.” He added, “Mussolini was Mussolini. . . . What difference does it make?” On CNN, Jake Tapper pressed him about David Duke, and Trump, seeming to forget that he had given a one-line disavowal, reverted to a position of theatrical incomprehension: “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, O.K.?” Tapper asked three times if Trump would denounce the Klan’s support, and each time Trump declined. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said. “So I don’t know. I don’t know—did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

By Monday, less than twenty-four hours before primary voting on Super Tuesday, his non-answers about the Klan were creating a crisis, and Trump introduced a new explanation: audio trouble. “I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying,” he said on the “Today” show. “But what I heard was various groups, and I don’t mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke and I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference, which is surprising because he was at the major news conference, CNN was at the major news conference, and they heard me very easily disavow David Duke.”

There may be no better measure of the depravity of this campaign season than the realization that it’s not clear whether Trump’s overt appreciation for fascism, and his sustained salute to American racists, will have a positive or negative effect on his campaign. For now, his opponents are rejoicing. Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, pronounced him “unelectable.” Governor John Kasich, of Ohio, called Trump’s comments “just horrific.” But it is by now a truism to note that Trump has survived pratfalls that other politicians have not. A surprisingly large portion of Americans believed him when he pushed a racist campaign denying the birthplace of Barack Obama; a comparably chilling portion of Americans were attracted when he called Mexicans rapists. By the end of the day on Sunday, he had received the endorsement of Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the first sitting senator to officially line up with Trump. Sessions was not likely to be bothered by Trump’s flirtations with the Klan. In 1986, he was rejected from a federal judgeship after saying that he thought the Klan was “O.K. until I learned they smoked pot.”

In the weeks to come, Trump is virtually guaranteed to accumulate additional endorsements from politicians like Christie and Sessions, who have divined their interests in drafting behind the strongest candidate for the Republican nomination. Whether driven by fear of irrelevance, or attracted by the special benefits of being an early adopter, Christie seemed compelled to do it, and now the remnant of his political reputation is going from a solid to a gas. But the true obscenity of his decision, and those of other Trumpists, may take years to be fully appreciated. In an editorial last week, the Washington Post declared that “history will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard-bearer.” That’s true, but history will judge even more harshly those who stand with Trump now that it is indefensibly clear with whom they are standing.

 

By: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, February 29, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ku Klux Klan, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The White Supremacists’ Candidate”: Trump’s Racial Controversies Leave GOP In Awkward Spot

It was just a few days ago that Donald Trump, pressed to respond to support from former KKK leader David Duke, told reporters, ”I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? I disavow, OK?”

Yesterday, however, Trump was asked again about support from overt racists, and this time, the Republican presidential candidate’s line grew murky.

In an interview Sunday morning, GOP front-runner Donald Trump would not condemn former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s support for his presidential campaign, telling CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that he has no knowledge of the white supremacist leader.

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on,” Trump said.

Asked about his willingness to condemn white supremacists, Trump was hardly unequivocal. “Well, I have to look at the group,” he told Jake Tapper. “I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”

Not surprisingly, the exchange prompted yet another round of “Will this sink Trump’s campaign?” speculation, and it wasn’t long before the GOP candidate’s rivals were publicly criticizing Trump’s apparent reluctance to denounce his white-supremacist allies.

In a year like this one, guessing how conservative voters might respond to various developments is increasingly difficult. That said, it’s important to understand the degree to which the Republican Party is in an exceedingly awkward position.

At a Virginia event yesterday, for example, Marco Rubio was eager to denounce Trump’s latest racially charged controversy. And who was introducing Rubio on the campaign trail yesterday? That would be none other than Virginia’s former governor and senator, George Allen (R), whose career was cut short in the wake of his own racially charged controversy.

What’s more, while Trump evidently no longer knows what to say about David Duke, let’s also not forget that Louisiana’s Steve Scalise spoke at an event for white supremacists several years ago and described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” House Republicans nevertheless made Steve Scalise the House Majority Whip – the #3 position in the House GOP leadership – and largely failed to even criticize him after the public learned about Scalise’s past.

More to the point, Trump’s most notable contribution to the political discourse – before his racially charged rhetoric as a presidential candidate – was his leadership role in the “birther” conspiracy theory, which, at its core, was racist nonsense. Republican leaders not only failed to denounce Trump’s ridiculous crusade, they also publicly welcomed his support and endorsements, Trump’s “birtherism” notwithstanding.

With this in mind, isn’t it a little late for GOP officials and candidates to wring their hands and claim the high ground? Had Republicans been consistent all along – removing Scalise from his leadership post, denouncing the “birther” garbage from the outset, etc. – the party would likely be in a more credible position now, but that point passed long ago.

Postscript: On a related note, Rachel has an incredibly well-timed piece in the Washington Post that you’re going to want to check out: What does it say about the GOP that Trump is the white supremacists’ candidate?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 29, 2016

March 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio, White Supremacists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rubio Already Seems Spooked”: Donald Trump Is About To Do Terrible Things To Marco Rubio

As bullies go, Donald Trump is unusually skilled.

When Trump decides to go after you, he considers carefully both your weak points and the audience for his attack. So when he decided to pummel Jeb Bush — apparently for his own amusement, as much as out of any real political concerns — he hit upon the idea that Bush was “low energy,” something Bush had a hard time countering without sounding like a whiny grade-schooler saying, “Am not!” More than anything else it was a dominance display, a way of showing voters he could push Jeb around and there was nothing Jeb could do about it. With a primary electorate primed by years of watching their candidates fetishize manliness and aggression, the attack touched a nerve.

And now with the Republican race effectively narrowed to three candidates, the one Trump hasn’t bothered to go after too often — Marco Rubio — must prepare for the mockery and rumor-mongering that will surely be coming his way from the frontrunner. Whether he can withstand it could go a long way toward determining how this race turns out.

Until now, Trump has been relatively soft on Rubio. But with the increasing possibility that Rubio could be the greatest threat to Trump winning the nomination, he’s almost certain to go after him. If the past is any guide, Trump will throw a bunch of different attacks Rubio’s way until he happens upon one that seems to resonate; then he’ll stick with it as long as it works. Trump is already dabbling in Rubio birtherism (though he doesn’t seem quite committed to it), but eventually he’ll find a line of personal criticism with just the right note of cruelty and derision.

Rubio already seems spooked. Appearing on Face the Nation this Sunday, he was asked how he would convince voters to choose him over Trump, and the strongest critique he could muster was that Trump hasn’t been clear enough about his policy plans. But Rubio went out of his way to assure everyone he wasn’t being mean. “So, look, this is not an attack or anything of that nature,” he said. “It’s just a very simple observation. If you want to be president, you have to start detailing some specific public policy.” Yowch, put away the shiv, senator!

Rubio may have avoided Trump’s wrath up until now, but that won’t last. The only question is what brand of contempt Trump will heap on him. It might be some kind of attack based on Rubio’s ethnicity, or it might be the same kind of you’re-a-girly-man insults he used on Bush. That could be effective, since Rubio does look like he didn’t graduate high school all that long ago. He could go after Rubio’s occasionally shaky finances, which Trump surely looks on with utter contempt, since as far as he’s concerned, not being rich makes you a loser.

Or perhaps Trump will tell voters that Rubio isn’t strong enough to channel their free-floating rage. Trump tweeted on Monday that he won the South Carolina primary because “I showed anger and the people of our country are very angry!” Whether anger fully accounts for that particular result, there’s no doubt that it fuels much of Trump’s popularity.

Up until now, Rubio hasn’t been very good at expressing anger. When he does, it comes out awkwardly, like the endless repetition of “Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing” that got him into so much trouble before the New Hampshire primary. He has gone back to being a candidate of optimism: “I will bring this party together faster than anyone else,” Rubio now argues, which might be true. The trouble is that anger remains the predominant emotion running through the Republican electorate, and they don’t particularly want to be brought together, if it means joining up with the establishment that now sees Rubio as its last hope of defeating Trump.

If Rubio ends up being his party’s nominee, it will mean that Trump came after him and he survived the onslaught. Because Trump will indeed come after him. He’ll bait him and belittle him, insult him and mock him, laugh at him and sneer at him. And it will be a test of Rubio’s ability to stand up and fight back, like a real man. Rubio will have to figure out how to fend it off, because nobody else has.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio | , , , , | 5 Comments

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