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“Trumpism Won’t Disappear When He Does”: In The End, Only One Thing Can Kill A Bad Idea

On Saturday, someone tried to kill Donald Trump.

You may not have heard about it. The story didn’t get much play, the attempt wasn’t well planned and the candidate was never in jeopardy.

Still the fact remains that authorities arrested one Michael Steven Sandford, 19, after he allegedly tried to grab a gun from the holster of a Las Vegas police officer with the idea of using it to kill Trump at a campaign rally. Authorities say Sandford, who carried a UK driver’s license but who had been living in New Jersey for about a year and a half, had visited a nearby gun range to learn how to handle a firearm. They say he has wanted to kill Trump for a year.

Let us be thankful he was not successful. The assassination of Donald Trump would have been a new low for a political season that is already the most dispiriting in memory. It would have deprived a family of its father and husband. It would have traumatized a nation where political murder has been a too-frequent tragedy.

And it would have imparted the moral authority of martyrdom to Trump’s ideas. That would be a disaster in its own right.

Like most would-be assassins, what Sandford apparently did not understand is that you cannot kill an idea with a bullet. Even bad ideas are impervious to gunfire.

Trump, of course, has been a veritable Vesuvius of bad ideas in the year since he took that escalator ride into the race for the presidency. From banning Muslim immigrants to building a wall on the southern border to punishing women who have abortions to advocating guns in nightclubs to judging judicial fitness based on heritage, to killing the wives and children of terror suspects, if there has been a hideous, unserious or flat-out stupid thought floated in this political season, odds are, it carried the Trump logo.

It is understandable, then, that even people who wish Trump no bodily harm might feel as Sandford presumably did: that if he were somehow just … gone, the stench of his ideas — of his anger, nativism, coarseness and proud ignorance — might somehow waft away like trash-fire smoke in a breeze.

But it doesn’t work that way. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality did not die on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Nor did Adolf Hitler’s dream of racial extermination perish with him in that bunker beneath Berlin. Ideas, both transcendent and repugnant, are far hardier than the fragile lives of the men and women who give them voice.

So, any hope that Trump’s disappearance would somehow fix America is naive. America’s problem has nothing to do with him, except to the degree he has made himself a focal point.

No, America’s problem is fear. Fear of economic stagnation, yes, and fear of terrorism. But those are proxies for the bigger and more fundamental fear: fear of demographic diminution, of losing the privileges and prerogatives that have always come with being straight, white, male and/or Christian in America. It was the holy quadfecta of entitlement, but that entitlement is under siege in a nation that grows more sexually, racially and religiously diverse with every sunrise.

Trumpism is only the loudest and most obvious response to that, and it will not disappear when he does. Indeed, there is no instant cure for what has America unsettled. There is only time and the hard work of change.

In a sense, we are bringing forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women really are created equal. If for some of us, that fires the imagination, it is hardly mysterious that for others, it kindles a sense of displacement and loss. The good news is that their Trumpism cannot survive in the new nation.

In the end, you see, only one thing can kill a bad idea.

And that’s a better one.

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

“We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history. This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights are clear about that. And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect: the pluralism, and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

“Clinton Is Defining Trump”: In A Way His Republican Rivals During The Primary Couldn’t

In our soundbite culture, memes develop about politicians that become almost impossible to break. We’ve seen that over the last few years with regards to Paul Ryan. Much of the media defines him as a “wonk,” no matter how unserious his policy proposals actually turn out to be. In the 2000 election, George Bush was the affable guy people wanted to have a beer with, while Dick Cheney was the adult with gravitas.

This is likely why Hillary Clinton is spending so much of her time talking about Donald Trump lately. She is defining him for the public and the press in a way that his Republican rivals during the primary couldn’t. It’s not just that they were afraid of offending his supporters (although I’m sure that was a big part of it). But it’s also because challenging him meant taking on things that also made them vulnerable. When Trump became so extreme about Mexican immigrants and Muslims, it was all based on policies and rhetoric that Republicans had been relying on themselves. The case they were left with was to suggest that they would simply be either a little bit more or less extreme than Trump. None of them could successfully challenge the very basis of his extremism.

Hillary Clinton and Democrats face no such limits. Over the last couple of weeks, she and her surrogates have mounted blistering attacks on the presumptive Republican nominee. It is almost as if you can hear a collective sigh of relief from those who kept silent during the Republican slugfest of a primary. The challenges to Trump are not unfounded in the way attacks can sometimes be in elections. They are all things we’ve been noticing for a while now, but haven’t seen articulated very well.

It is also interesting to observe Trump’s response to all of this. He is doing the only thing he knows how to do – dive into the gutter and lash out. For example, after Clinton’s speech yesterday in which she challenged Trump’s fitness to be commander-in-chief, he said that she should go to jail over the email issue. That kind of thing will play very well with his rabid supporters – but when it comes to addressing his fitness for office, it simply reinforces Clinton’s message about him. This tweet sums it up pretty well:

@HillaryClinton pulling off what no GOP Trump challenger could: Taking him on in a way that makes her seem bigger, not smaller, than he

— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 2, 2016

I’ve heard some people suggest that Clinton is spending too much time talking about Trump and not enough on her own vision and proposals. My response to that would be that there are still five months left in this campaign. She has plenty of time to do that. But at the outset, she is setting the meme in place that will define Donald Trump throughout the election season.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For Trump, Muslims Are Terrifying, and Guns Are Great”: But Guns Kill A Lot More People Than Muslims Do

If a presidential candidate really wanted to keep American families safe, which threat would he focus on more: a), the one that has resulted in over 150,000 Americans being killed over the last 15 years on U.S. soil; or b), the one that has killed fewer than 50 Americans?

I’m going to bet that most would say the threat that has taken over 150,000 American lives including thousands of children. That threat, of course, is gun violence. In 2015 alone, 13,286 Americans were killed by firearms and over 25,000 were wounded.

Donald Trump, however, doesn’t want to talk gun violence. But he loves to talk about the danger posed by Muslim terrorism, which literally has resulted in zero American deaths in 2016 on U.S. soil. (The San Bernardino terror attack was in 2015.) In contrast, gun violence in 2016 has already claimed over 5,000 lives, including 219 children under eleven years old.

In fact since January, 23 Americans have been killed by toddlers with a gun, yet none by Muslim extremists. Can we expect Trump to call for a “total and complete shutdown” on toddlers until “our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” with them?!

Trump apparently cares less about keeping your family safe from the threat that’s killing over 30 Americans every single day—including today. Rather Trump wants to scare you about Muslims and then save you from this threat. The irony is Trump’s proposed Muslims ban is not the mark of a strong leader, but rather the frightened and irrational response of a very scared man.

A real leader would address the threat taking American lives on a daily basis, even if that proved politically challenging. But just last week we saw Trump do the opposite.

After the EgyptAir flight crashed early Thursday, Trump didn’t wait for the authorities to release the facts. Instead he chose to politicize the tragedy for political gain based on a hunch. So at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, even before French or Egyptian officials had made public comments about the possible cause of the plane crash, Trump tweeted his own conclusion: “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!”

Later Thursday, Trump doubled down, saying if you disagreed that the plane crash was a terror attack then “you’re 100 percent wrong.” (Apparently Trump knows more than Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi, who stated Sunday morning, “There is no particular theory we can affirm right now,” adding, “this could take a long time but no one can hide these things.”)

And then Trump tripled down, issuing a statement reaffirming his proposal to ban over a billion Muslims because of the sins of a few: “Look at the carnage all over the world including the World Trade Center, San Bernardino, Paris, the USS Cole, Brussels and an unlimited number of other places.”

Now, in the same week when Trump was doing his best to scare Americans about Muslim terrorism, he spoke at ground zero for guns: the NRA convention. A leader concerned about saving American lives would’ve used this opportunity to at least raise proposals on how to reduce gun violence, such as calling for universal background checks to close what is known as the “gun show loophole.” In fact polls show that even NRA members strongly support this measure.

Or maybe he’d talk about the need for a federal law to monitor or even close down “bad apple” gun dealers that have been linked to a big chunk of guns used in crimes. Astoundingly, 5 percent of the gun dealers are linked to 90 percent of the guns used in crime, as noted by the Brady campaign.

No, of course Trump didn’t mention those things. Instead he served up a rambling speech that included the lie that Hillary Clinton wants to “ban every gun,” called for the elimination of gun free zones and joked that his sons own so many guns that “I get a little concerned.”

Stunningly, while Trump has no problem taking to Twitter to comment on almost any issue, for some reason he doesn’t want to tweet about the epidemic of gun violence. For example, there’s no mention in Trump’s Twitter feed of the 17 Americans killed during the week of April 14 in various mass shootings. That’s more killed than in the San Bernardino terror attack that left 14 dead, an attack that Trump has invoked countless times during this campaign.

Why hasn’t Trump taken a break from calling people “losers” to tweet condolences to the family of Yvonne Nelson, a 49-year-old Chicago city employee killed Friday by an errant bullet after she exited a Starbucks. How about a tweet concerning five-year-old Haley Moore, who was killed Saturday when a gun accidentally went off in her house? Or what about Amy Koegel, a 43-year-old Lexington, Kentucky woman killed over the weekend after being shot several times Friday by her boyfriend? (Over half of the women murdered with guns in the United States in 2011 were killed by intimate partners or family members.)

Are ISIS and Al Qaeda threats? Absolutely, and we must be vigilant in defending our nation from them. But if Trump truly cared about keeping your family safe, he would be raising the issue of gun violence at least as much as he talks Muslim terrorists.

The reality, however, is Trump only cares about what helps Trump and his campaign. So expect to hear Trump talk a lot more about Muslims and nothing about gun violence between now and November. Except maybe to regurgitate the NRA’s talking points after future mass shootings.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Problem With Donald Trump’s Fact-Free ‘Instincts'”: Lack Of Basic Understanding Of Government And Public Policy

Donald Trump has a handful of core issues that help define his political identity. Indeed, one need not be a political news junkie to be able to rattle off the list: the New York Republican wants to “make America great again” by banning foreign Muslims from entering the country and addressing immigration by building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

It was literally in his surreal campaign kick-off speech that Trump made international headlines by declaring, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

For anti-immigration voters, Trump quickly became the presidential candidate they’ve been waiting for. But what does the presumptive Republican nominee actually know about his signature issue? Joshua Green has a fascinating new piece in Bloomberg Politics, which is largely about Trump undoing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ years of work, but the article included one anecdote in particular that amazed me.

He explained the genesis of his heterodox views. “I’m not sure I got there through deep analysis,” he said. “My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party.” […]

I asked, given how immigration drove his initial surge of popularity, whether he, like [Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions], had considered the RNC’s call for immigration reform to be a kick in the teeth. To my surprise, he candidly admitted that he hadn’t known about it or even followed the issue until recently. “When I made my [announcement] speech at Trump Tower, the June 16 speech,” he said, “I didn’t know about the Gang of Eight…. I just knew instinctively that our borders are a mess.”

For quite a while, it’s obviously been a problem that Donald Trump lacks a basic understanding of government and public policy. But anecdotes like these are a reminder about an alarming, related detail: he’s not particularly interested in current events, either.

I’m not even sure he’s clear on the meaning of “instinctively.”

The political fight surrounding the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill was a politically dominant issue for months, and given Trump’s apparent interest in immigrants and the Mexican border, one might assume he followed the debate closely. Except, he didn’t. As recently as a year ago, he launched a presidential campaign predicated in part on his immigration views, which consisted of a few offensive soundbites.

After all, he doesn’t arrive at his conclusions “through deep analysis.”

Instead, Trump says he understood U.S. border policy “instinctively.” That doesn’t make any sense. If he had literally no substantive understanding of developments at the border, it’s impossible to rely on instincts to understand the value of current border policy.

Let me put this another way. If I pitch Rachel Maddow on a story for the show, she can instinctively tell whether or not it’s a good idea because she has expertise in this area. If I were to ask her the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, she couldn’t offer an instinctive answer because she has a limited background in birds and physics.

If I were to ask Donald Trump about the value of a high-rise in Midtown Manhattan, he could probably give me a decent instinctive answer. If I were to ask him to reflect on U.S. border security, he can’t – because, according the man himself, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

When Trump refers to his “instincts,” he seems to mean guesses that result from superficial news consumption. For a guy having an argument in a bar, that’s fine. For someone seeking the nation’s highest office, it’s cause for alarm.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Governing, Immigration Reform, Public Policy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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