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“Two Options”: Choose Trump Or Choose The Constitution

Press releases aren’t casual comments, open to misinterpretation. They are deliberate statements. And Donald Trump, celebrity demagogue, has officially crossed into unconstitutional territory.

There it is, in chilling black and white: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Whatever campaign aide pressed “send” on that press release should have felt what’s left of their civic soul drift away. They are complicit in something that’s an essential part of all strongman candidacies: thuggery and suspension of civil liberties.

The same is now true for any Trump supporter who still feels defiant pride in the belief that they are sending a message to Washington while rejecting suffocating conventions of politically correct culture.

No, you’re just backing a bully and a bigot.

Because the man who claims to want to make America great again does not represent our country’s best traditions; he represents some of the world’s worst.

The appeal of the autocratic strongman is so basic that the Founding Fathers worried that it would be the Achilles’ heel of democracy. The strongman candidate taps into fear and frustrations about the ineffectiveness of government. With rambling speeches that double as populist entertainment, they divide the world into us and them. And with blustery promises that would make a con man blush, they declare that everything will be better for you once they are in total control.

If you believe that, I’ve got a populist billionaire to sell you.

The thing about the strongman candidacies is that they are secretly weak. They feed off feelings of fear and inadequacy. That’s why they target minority rights first.

And that is what’s happening here. We’ve seen brushfires of fear sweep through this election season, with mayors calling for internment campsgovernors refusing refugees, and presidential candidates trying to win over the angriest inmates of the hyperpartisan asylum. This competition to connect with the reptile mind is beneath the country Lincoln once called “the last best hope of earth.”

This is a time for choosing between our best traditions and our worst fears. If you care about the Constitution, the time has come to take a stand against Trump. If you believe that unity in diversity is a defiant answer to extremism, the time has come to take a stand against Trump. And if you believe the integrity of the Republican Party is worth saving, the time has come to take a stand against Trump.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, December 8, 2015

December 9, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Are The Ones Hiding Behind ‘Political Correctness'”: Dismissal Of Facts And Opinions They Don’t Want To Hear

The Republican presidential candidates and the far-right echo chamber have made “politically correct” an all-purpose dismissal for facts and opinions they don’t want to hear.

Take Donald Trump’s claim that when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, “I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

The Post’s Fact Checker columnist, Glenn Kessler, found no evidence to support Trump’s claim and gave him Four Pinocchios, reserved for the most baldfaced lies. PolitiFact gave the statement a Pants on Fire rating, denoting extreme mendacity. But when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressed the GOP front-runner to explain himself, noting that “police say it didn’t happen,” Trump resorted to what has become a familiar dodge.

“I know it might not be politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down,” Trump said.

Ben Carson, running second in the national polls, is even more fond of the political-correctness allegation — so much so that it could be considered a central theme of his campaign. It is unclear whether he actually knows or cares what “political correctness” means. The phrase is just more verbal romaine to add to the word salad that is Carson’s discourse.

He used it when challenged on his stance that a Muslim should not be president, even though the Constitution explicitly states there can be no “religious test” for public office. “Political correctness is imposed by the secular progressives and those who wish to fundamentally change our society,” he said. “Therefore, they make things off-limits to talk about, but you know what? I’m going to talk about it anyway.”

In other words, he considers the framers of the Constitution a bunch of “secular progressives,” since they’re the ones who put a candidate’s faith off-limits. That’s not the loopiest thing Carson has said (his attempts to discuss financial reform are in a class of their own) but it’s in the top 10.

The renowned neurosurgeon took the same route Sunday when Stephanopoulos — who had a busy morning — asked him to react to Trump’s call for the United States to resume harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including waterboarding.

“I agree that there’s no such thing as political correctness when you’re fighting an enemy who wants to destroy you and everything that you have anything to do with,” Carson said. “And I’m not one who is real big on telling the enemy what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do.”

But Carson is a medical doctor who took an oath to heal and alleviate suffering. Or maybe he believes that Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, was just another PC lemming, blindly following the secular progressives who are leading us to our collective doom.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, asked about his view that the United States should accept no Syrian refugees, said we should not bow to “political correctness, the elites in Washington or the editorial pages of major newspapers.” Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), asked this summer whether he thought the term “anchor baby ” was offensive, told reporters “we need to stop this politically correct nonsense.” Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, after making a joke about transgender people that some found offensive, responded that “everybody wants to be politically correct, everybody wants to be loved by the media and loved by the left and loved by the elitists.”

And it’s not just GOP candidates who have the anti-political-correctness bug. Many conservative commentators have been quick to condemn the “politically correct” Princeton University students who demand that the school remove symbols honoring Woodrow Wilson — a onetime Princeton president — because of his racism.

These critics ignore the historical fact that Wilson was racist not just by today’s standards but by those of his time. He wrote that African Americans were an “ignorant and inferior race.” He lavishly praised the Ku Klux Klan and pined for the Confederacy. As president of the United States, he ordered that integrated federal government workplaces be segregated; NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of one black clerk who “had a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions.”

Yes, I’m being politically correct. But also truthful.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 23, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s About His Vision For America’s Future”: Why Ben Carson’s Problem With The Truth Really Matters

Ben Carson’s campaign turned into a kaleidoscope of oddities last week: The retired neurosurgeon made fanciful claims about the purpose of Egyptian pyramids and the political experience of the Founding Fathers. He insisted that he was, in fact, a violent youth, but admitted that he wasn’t, in fact, offered admission to West Point—both key highlights of his autobiography. But amid all the attention being paid to his personal background, it’s easy to overlook what Carson is actually running on. Of all the GOP candidates, Carson has put forward the most radical ideas for overhauling country’s entitlement programs. And while he’s lately begun to clumsily retreat to more moderate alternatives, they don’t add up any more than his attempts to explain the factual holes in his autobiography. While his past will surely provide rich fodder for Tuesday night’s third GOP debate, it’s what Carson proposes for America’s future that truly needs more critical attention.

Carson originally proposed to scrap Medicare and Medicaid entirely—a genuinely radical idea, and one with massive policy and political risks. Under his plan, every American would receive a cradle-to-grave health savings account with an annual $2,000 government subsidy, which family members could share. But after the third debate two weeks ago, Carson began running away from that old idea, which had been coming under increasing attack by fellow Republicans, particularly Donald Trump. “Ben wants to get rid of Medicare, Trump said last week. “You can’t get rid of Medicare. It would be a horrible thing to get rid of.”

Carson has begun to roll out an alternative that avoids the political liabilities of blowing up the entire system. But his account of the changes he’s made has been as confusing as the West Point saga. A few days before the last debate, Carson was already claiming on Fox News Sunday that his original plan for entitlement reform had been “gone for several months now.” That confused host Chris Wallace, who—like most of those watching—had definitely not been under that impression. Though he remains hazy on the details, Carson’s new scheme could also be massively disruptive, not only undermining care but also running up costs for the government.

Under Carson’s new plan—at least, from what can be sussed out from his statements—the traditional government programs would stay in place, but people would have the alternative to opt out with private Health Savings Accounts they could use to purchase their own coverage. Unlike his original plan, however, not everyone would get a subsidy in this one. Many of the details remain murky, and Carson’s campaign says a full-blown proposal is forthcoming. But based on his remarks so far, Carson seems to be suggesting that if you qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, you could choose to have the government money that would have paid for your health care to go directly to a private savings account instead. “I would never get rid of the programs. I would provide people with an alternative,” Carson said on Fox News Sunday. “I think they will see that the alternative that we’re going to outline is so much better than anything else that they will flock to it.”

But Carson’s alternative could create a whole host of problems. Those who pick HSAs would likely face very high deductibles and co-pays, which could lead them to forgo necessary care. At the same time, the cost of government health programs could end up rising as well. Healthier people would likely opt out if they could receive cash in private accounts, while sicker people would probably stick with traditional Medicare and Medicaid. “The new plan runs the risk of costing the government more than the current system, since people could game a two-choice system, sticking with a savings account when their spending is low, and switching to a government program once their medical costs rise,” writes The New York Times’s Margot Sanger-Katz.

If Carson’s original plan took a sledgehammer to Medicare and Medicaid, his alternative risks seriously weakening the programs. Despite his medical credentials, Carson seems confused about the very basics of the health care system. In a recent interview, he said that Medicare and Medicaid fraud was costing taxpayers “half a trillion dollars,” a truly astonishing estimate given that the total cost of both programs is $980 billion, as Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum points out. (Experts estimate that the real cost of Medicare and Medicaid fraud could be about $98 billion.)

In previous Republican debates, candidates have treated questions about the factual reality of their policy ideas as an inconvenience to be brushed aside—or as evidence of a media conspiracy to smear conservatives. But it wouldn’t be surprising on Tuesday night, given Carson’s standing in the polls and the scent of his blood in the water, if other Republican candidates go after him on Medicare and Medicaid far more aggressively. Carson won’t be the only likely target: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio have both embraced House Speaker Paul Ryan’s contentious “premium support” proposal, which would give seniors a set amount of money to buy private insurance or traditional Medicare.

Carson’s original idea to overhaul Medicare was far more comprehensive, however, and his new idea is significantly more confusing than his rivals’. Though he’ll likely spend much of Tuesday night defending himself on other scores, his credibility is also on the line when it comes to his policy proposals. We had a preview of what’s to come in the last debate, when Carson was pressed to explain his wild-eyed idea to scrap the current tax code in favor of a ten-percent flat tax. He responded by denying that this was ever his position to begin with, then refused to accept the basic facts behind the idea.

He’s already started to use the same cop-outs when it comes to his health-care ideas, acting as if he had never proposed to get rid of Medicare. This, ultimately, is why Carson’s trouble with truth-telling really does matter: His fuzzy relationship with the facts doesn’t stop with his youth.

 

By: Suzy Khimm, Senior Editor at The New Republic; November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Medicare | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enemy Number One For The Republican Party”: CNBC Created The Tea Party. Now The Right Wants To Destroy The Network

After Wednesday’s debacle of a debate, CNBC is now the most-hated cable network among conservatives. The fury has grown so intense that on Friday the Republican National Committee broke off its partnership with NBC News for an upcoming February debate hosted by the news titan.

Fun fact: Six years ago, CNBC started the Tea Party movement.

On February 24, 2009, while reporting for Squawk Box from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Rick Santelli (who was briefly featured during Wednesday’s debate) went on a dramatic rant against President Obama’s Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, a stimulus package aimed at helping homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

“The government is promoting bad behavior,” he said. “How about this, president and new administration, why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”

Santelli drew rapturous applause from the floor traders—the “silent majority,” as he described them—when he added that the government should “reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water.”

A true showman in his element, Santelli then turned around to face his audience. “This is America!” he shouted. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” The traders erupted in boos.

The moment read like something straight out of the many Tea Party rallies seen during the 2010 election season.

“President Obama, are you listening?” Santelli boomed. “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” he continued. “All you capitalists show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”

Further cementing what would become the Tea Party’s dominant motif, Santelli added, “I’ll tell you what: If you read our Founding Fathers—people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson—what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.”

And so history was written. Santelli’s call to verbal arms was echoed by conservative commentators and leading activist groups like FreedomWorks, who made the video their rallying cry.

Organizers shifted into gear and within 10 days of Santelli’s theatrics, the first official Tea Party rallies were held in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other cities. A year-and-a-half later, Tea Party candidates won 40 U.S. House elections, taking back power from the Democratic Party.

And conservatives have CNBC to thank.

 

By: Andrew Kirell, The Daily Beast, October 30, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | CNBC, Rick Santelli, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Our Constitution Neither Knows Nor Tolerates Classes”: Ben Carson Thinks Islam Isn’t Consistent With The Constitution. He’s Dead Wrong

Dr. Ben Carson excels in addled interpretations of America’s founding principles. In May, the Republican presidential candidate claimed that the president has the power to ignore the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. And last month, when asked by Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd whether the Bible has “authority” over the Constitution, said, “That is not a simple question.” He extended this streak of misinterpretation on Sunday when Todd asked him whether he thought “Islam is consistent with the Constitution.” Carson replied, “No, I don’t, I do not,” and then added, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

In fact, Islam is neither consistent nor inconsistent with the Constitution; Islam is irrelevant to any discussion of the Constitution or rules of our governance. The same is true of Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, and every Protestant sect—even atheism, as the document does not once mention God. There is no religious test, preference, predilection, or, for that matter, even mention of any particular religion in the document itself and, with the exception of one line in the first amendment, in which “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no mention of religion is made at all.

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, other than an opening prayer, which was non-denominational, and one plea by Benjamin Franklin on June 28 to appoint a chaplain to help break what had descended into an acrimonious logjam—a proposal that was ignored—religion was the last thing the delegates were thinking about. The one instance in which religious preference did arise was after the Convention ended, and John Jay, who had not been present but who would later become the Supreme Court’s first chief justice, wanted to restrict participation in government by Catholics. Jay, descended from Huguenots who had been oppressed by the Catholic majority in France, was quickly persuaded to drop his objections.

The larger issue, however, is the tendency of many Americans these days, both in and out of politics but especially conservatives, to evoke the Constitution without having any idea what it says or does not say. Even worse, they use a document whose sole purpose was to guarantee freedoms to attempt to try to limit the freedoms of those with whom they disagree. The Constitution is imperfect, of course, and in practice has been used to validate some terrible injustices—slavery, the deportation of Japanese-Americans, or speech that some found politically offensive. But past sins in no way means that we should condescend to our worst instincts. The Constitution can also be a tool to create a society where any American can grow up to be president, even a former neurosurgeon who seems to have little respect for its spirit.

Which brings us to Carson’s second assertion on Sunday: that no follower of Islam should sit in the White House. The only possible justification he could have for such a sentiment is the belief that followers of Islam are inherently a security risk, because their first loyalty is to … what? The Islamic State, Saudi Arabia, some radical imam? Deportation of Japanese-Americans during World War II was undertaken for the same reason—that they would somehow be more loyal to the emperor than to the United States. It proved tragically and hideously inaccurate. No one fought with more valor than young Japanese-Americans in Italy whose families had been shunted off to concentration camps.

In the end, the argument is about whether the United States is everyone’s country or just certain people’s country. Dr. Carson once again raises the specter that, despite all evidence and jurisprudence to the contrary, America is a “Christian nation.” Those who take this stance seem to do so only on the basis that most, if not all, of the Founders were Christian, somewhat ironic because overwhelmingly they were, at best, lax in their beliefs. And it is no more accurate to say America is “Christian” because it happens to have a Christian majority than it is to say that America is “white” for the same reason.

“[I]n the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens,” Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in his stinging dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). “There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” This is also true of religion, as everyone in America—and especially its political leaders—should understand by now. If candidates like Carson can’t be bothered to read and understand the 4,500 words that comprise our founding document, they should not be considered fit for the job that requires they defend it.

 

By: Lawrence Goldstone, Author of The Activist: John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison and the Myth of Judicial Review and Inherently Unequal; The New Republic, September 20, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Muslims, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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