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“A Not-Very-Subtle Attack”: GOP’s Official SOTU Response Helps Obama Undermine Trump

At the beginning of her pre-recorded “response” to the State of the Union address, Nikki Haley echoed the president’s evocation of his 2008 campaign themes by taking up the old 2008 Republican theme of Obama being just a good speech-maker with no substance. Near the end she briskly went through the Republican critique of Obama and the standard GOP agenda of tax-cutting and Obamacare-repealing and defense-spending increases, etc. But in between these bookends, she did something very different.

The emotional and structural heart of Haley’s speech was a not-very-subtle attack on Donald Trump as a “siren voice” of intolerance:

During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

That was clear enough. But Haley doubled down by making the saga of the Charleston massacre earlier this year — not coincidentally the beginning of her best moment in office when she squashed conservative resistance to the removal of the Confederate flag from state property — an allegory of the kind of tensions Trump is exploiting.

What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.

Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.

We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.

We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.

There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.

Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

Not much doubt who she was talking about.

So Haley delivered the Republican Establishment’s message to and about Trump as much as any message to and about Obama. By doing so, she is presumably doing their will, and will store up treasure in heaven politically. But will it make her more or less viable as a possible vice-presidential nominee in 2016? That obviously depends on the identity of the person at the top of the ticket. But if I were Donald Trump and had any leverage over the GOP at the end of this nominating contest, I’d make sure Nikki Haley is buried at the Republican Convention in some pre-prime-time, five-minute speech slot, preferably confined to talking about the Tenth Amendment or something. She’s only 43, so maybe she’s shooting for a spot on the ticket — perhaps even the top spot — in 2024 or 2028.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 12, 2015

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Nikki Haley, State of the Union | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mr. Gingrich’s Intolerant History: A Presidential Bid Built On Divisiveness And Name-Calling

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and latest entrant in the Republican presidential field, has money, experience and name recognition. His introductory videois all serenity and hope, a deceptively calm way for many voters to meet a splenetic politician with a long history of slashing divisiveness and intolerance.

He refers to himself as a historian, but apparently his personal study of history has primarily taught him about the effectiveness of demagogy. Donald Trump, fiddling with birth certificates, is an amateur compared with Mr. Gingrich at sliming the Obama administration — as well as Democrats, Muslims, blacks and gay men and lesbians.

The Democrats who won in 2008, including President Obama, are “left-wing radicals” who lead a “secular socialist machine,” he wrote in his 2010 book, “To Save America.” He accused them of producing “the greatest political corruption ever seen in modern America.” And then the inevitable historical coup de grâce: “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”

The slurs don’t stop there. He compared the Muslims who wanted to open an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan to the German Reich, saying it “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.” He is promoting the fringe idea that “jihadis” are intent on imposing Islamic law on every American village and farm.

Last year, he called for a federal law to stop the (nonexistent) onslaught of Sharia on American jurisprudence and accused the left of refusing to acknowledge its “mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” This nuanced grasp of world affairs was reinforced when he said that Mr. Obama displayed “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

In his world, advocates for gay rights are imposing a “gay and secular fascism” using violence and harassment, blacks have little entrepreneurial tradition, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court is a “Latina woman racist.” (He kind of took back that last slur.)

Despite all this, not to mention the ethics violation when he was speaker, Mr. Gingrich’s real liability among the conservative and fundamentalist groups that dominate the Republican primaries is his personal history of infidelity that led to two sordid divorces. (Much of which took place while he was denouncing President Bill Clinton for moral transgressions.) That may explain his endless calls to restore Judeo-Christian values.

It is sometimes difficult to know what some Republican candidates stand for, as they pander to the far right without alienating the center. It is not difficult to know what Newt Gingrich stands for, and to find it repellent.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Other: Most Americans Don’t Come From Mayflower Stock

To watch Mitt Romney these days, he of the creased blue jeans and family that looks like it came from a  Betty Crocker mold, circa 1957, it’s hard to see a product of one of the most radical social and sexual experiments in American history.

But it’s true. White-bread Mitt is the great-grandson of a man who married five women.  At the turn of the last century, Miles Romney was sent to Mexico by the bearded patriarchs of the Mormon Church, there to start a colony for those who thought it was divine right to have as many wives as they wanted.  Romney’s father, George, was born in Mexico, a descendant of outlaws with harems.

I started thinking about the extraordinary family past of the possible Republican presidential nominee after reading part of  Janny Scott’s fascinating new book,  “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother.”

Scott, a former Times colleague, tells a story of family dislocation and fierce maternal independence.  In Hawaii and Indonesia, young Barry Obama stood out like a redwood on the prairie, and was taunted for his skin color.  The father he never knew was from a Kenyan goat-herding family, and the stepfather he barely knew was an Indonesian whose main passion was tennis. Obama was raised mostly by white grandparents from Kansas, and a free-spirited mother with a passion for education.

It’s a miracle of sorts, given the drift a boy with that background must have felt, that Obama’s own family with Michelle  now seems so grounded — and normal.  It’s also startling that Romney, whose ancestry includes six polygamous men with 41 wives, is now considered an icon for traditional family values.   Mitt’s great-grandmother, Hannah Hood, wrote how she used to “walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow” over her husband’s many wives.

The background of both men is telling, in one sense:  how success can emerge from the blender of American ethnicity and lifestyle experimentation.   But it takes a generation, or more, for many people to get used to the novelty, as the long, despicable sideshow over Obama’s birth certificate demonstrates.

This shameful episode has little to do with reality and  everything to do with the strangeness of Obama’s  background — especially his race.  Many Republicans refuse to accept that Obama could come from such an exotic stew and still be “American.” They have to delegitimize him.  So, even though the certificate of live birth first made public in 2008  is a legal document that any court would have to recognize,  they demanded more.

No American president has ever been so humiliated, and those who think it has nothing to do with race are deluding themselves.  Donald Trump owes Obama an apology for doing more to stoke these coded fears about the president’s origins than anyone. But don’t hold your breath: a man without class or shame will not soon grow a conscience. The only consolation is that Trump’s  disapproval ratings have skyrocketed since he decided to lead the liars’  caravan.

Had Romney been running for president 100 years ago he would be facing a similar campaign, albeit one led by Mormon-haters and the Trumps of his day.  Remember, the United States nearly went to war with the theocracy in Utah Territory;  at a time when polygamy was equated with slavery, President Buchanan dispatched the Army against defiant Mormon leaders.  The religion’s  founder, Joseph Smith, had as many as 48 wives, among them a 14-year-old girl.

The church renounced polygamy in 1890, as a condition of statehood for Utah.  But the past was not easily expunged. When Utah sent Reed Smoot to the Senate in 1903, Congress refused to seat him.  Smoot was an Apostle in the Mormon Church, and as such a suspected polygamist — though there was no evidence of multiple wives.  After a four-year trial, and more than a thousand witnesses who were asked about every bit of Reed’s background and that of his church, he was allowed to take his place in the Senate. This was thanks in large part to the backing of the nation’s first progressive president, Teddy Roosevelt.

Today, six members of the Senate — counting the appointment of Dean Heller from Nevada this week — and two potential presidential candidates come from a church once described as a devil’s cult by mainstream Christians.   If Romney wins next year,  and Democrats retain the Senate, Mormons would hold not just the presidency but the Senate Majority post, in Harry Reid from Nevada. Their religion is not an issue, except with the same intolerant crowd who have followed Trump into the gutter.

Janny Scott’s book reminds us that most Americans don’t come from Mayflower stock. When I started mucking around in my own Irish ancestry, I found some  border-crossers in  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,  not unlike Romney’s people in Mexico. It looks like bootlegging, rather than extra wives, may have been  at stake, but I can’t be sure.

At least one president, John F. Kennedy, came from bootlegging Irish heritage.  It was always a side issue, the mist of his father’s past, though nobody ever forced  Jack Kennedy to prove he wasn’t a criminal.   He looked like most Americans, and that was enough.

By: Timothy Egan, The New York Times Opinion Pages, April 28, 2011

April 29, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Ideologues, Mitt Romney, Politics, President Obama, Racism, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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