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“The Weakness Of President Trump”: Trump Would Be Beyond Embarrassing For The United States On The World Stage

This is happening, America.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump—a man who has never held elected office—swept the Super Tuesday primaries last night, dominating seven of eleven contests. His authoritarian-enamored supporters remain inexorably drawn more than anything else to the candidate’s presumed strength.

That strength is supposedly a massive correction to the perceived weakness and fecklessness of President Obama on the world stage. The globe may be on fire, but it will fall in line—if only the American president would be more pugnacious and demanding towards allies and adversaries alike. In this view, Trump’s force of personality is a panacea; his self-fulfilling assurances about his own intelligence, likability, and winning record cease to be a means to policy and become the policies in and of themselves.

But what if Trump’s supporters aren’t just wrong (they are), but catastrophically so? What if that so-called strength—the forwardness, unapologetic aggression, and of course the distaste for “political correctness”—that they so love about candidate Trump turns out to be a debilitating weakness for President Trump and, by extension, our country?

Imagine, for a moment, how President Trump would actually function on the world stage.

Imagine President Trump listening to speeches at the United Nations General Assembly. Say another foreign leader bruises his ego, perhaps with a well-intentioned joke or a purposefully mocking barb. President Trump will not be able to sue, so where will he turn next? From denouncing the leader with juvenile insults to espousing racist sentiments on the world stage, the consequences are sure to be embarrassing.

Imagine President Trump’s childish demands falling on deaf ears in the international community. Suppose Mexico refuses to pay for his luxurious wall, or that allies like Japan and Germany decline to pay tribute for hosting U.S. military bases on their soil. President Trump will not be able to bend them to his will through endless bloviating, so what will become of American credibility? From the alienation of longtime U.S. allies to a full-scale evaporation of U.S. soft power, the consequences are sure to be crippling.

Imagine President Trump in top national security briefings, surrounded by patriotic men and women trying desperately to educate and advise him on the nuances of U.S. foreign policy. If he makes good on his campaign promises, he’ll be ordering them to pursue catastrophic escalations with rival states or execute war crimes against civilians and combatants alike. President Trump will not be able to force them to abide by his un-American dictates, so what will happen to our nation’s civil workforce? Whether we see mass resignations or a full-scale revolt by the people who spend their professional lives working to keep us safe, the consequences are sure to be disastrous.

There are plenty of policy-oriented reasons to decry the prospect of Trump as commander-in-chief—he has a childlike understanding of the world around him, including an astounding ignorance of the details about our enemies, the value of our allies, and the capabilities of our own country. There are obviously moral arguments against him too, among them his unabashed support of torture and his coziness towards any dictator that bats his eyes in Trump’s direction. But perhaps more than anything else, it is Trump’s temperament that disqualifies him from leadership: The “strength” he loves to flex to raucous applause would leave the United States weaker, isolated, and sapped of all credibility.

Trump would be beyond embarrassing for the United States on the world stage. His gaffes, infantilism, and self-assured ignorance would, intentionally or not, systematically destroy our reputation as a world leader, taking down the international order that the greatest generation raised from the ashes of World War II along the way. Trump’s unpredictable and fragile ego — the ego of a man who sends rebuttals to his “losers and haters” signed, literally, in gold sharpie—would become the proxy for how the United States is perceived in the world.

Since 1990, Trump has bemoaned that America is “laughed at” around the world. It is an emotional sentiment that resonates well with his base, but the joke is on them. Should President Trump make his way to the Oval Office, there is little doubt the world will be laughing even harder.

 

By: Graham F. West, The National Memo, March 3, 2016

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“2015: The Year Of The Crybaby”: Yo, America, Quit Lying To Yourselves

With a presidential election year coming, it’s tempting to call 2015 the Year of the Crybaby. Everybody’s a victim. Judging by TV and social media, roughly half the nation believes it’s being oppressed by the other half. Everybody’s throwing themselves a pity party.

There’s an awful lot of self-dramatization going on.

Everywhere you look, somebody’s getting fitted for a hairshirt.

I was first moved to this thought by an extraordinary “Voices” letter to my local newspaper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A fellow in Siloam Springs was offended by columnist John Brummett’s criticism of “extreme evangelical professed Christians in Iowa.”

Brummett thinks the Iowa GOP primary gives undue attention to people who think “that God forgives everything but liberalism.” This infuriated the reader, who proclaimed his constitutionally-guaranteed right to oppose “abortion, divorce, gay marriage, etc.” regardless of Supreme Court rulings. Should he lose it “these United States will cease being America.”

Sorry, friend, the First Amendment definitely guarantees you the right to obsess about other people’s intimate lives. But not to regulate them. Here in America, you can interpret God’s will any way you like. You just can’t make anybody obey.

That doesn’t make you a victim. It makes you a crybaby.

Ditto Donald Trump’s whining about “political correctness” while directing coarse insults toward his rivals. A woman using the bathroom is “disgusting,” but poor Donald’s the victim.

For most Republicans, it’s an imaginary threat. “In the telling of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly,” notes Paul Waldman, “conservatives live their lives in fear of the vicious mobs of liberals wielding political correctness like a nail-studded club.”

Poor little things.

Also on the subject of faking, check out Paul Farhi’s Washington Post article “Six Ways Donald Trump’s wrestling career previewed his campaign,” particularly the embedded video showing the pompadoured billionaire in action.

If that doesn’t open your eyes, they must be sewn shut.

Elsewhere, upwards of half the people in America tell pollsters they’re afraid they’ll be killed by terrorists. This time last year it was Ebola.

Yo, America, quit lying to yourselves.

Alternatively, you could try emulating Grandpa, who went off to fight World War II with no good expectation he’d be coming back. And you’re scared witless by a ragtag band of religious fanatics in pickup trucks?

No you’re not. You’re just titillated by the melodrama. Which is why CNN and the rest keep feeding it to you.

Of course where I live, cows are a bigger threat than terrorists.

No joke. A friend almost got himself killed recently after thoughtlessly entering a stall with a newborn calf and its normally placid mama. He escaped with a broken and dislocated shoulder.

Storms blow trees across fences, black Angus cattle wander into dark highways, and bad things happen. Just not on CNN.

Of course the cultural and political left has its own share of melodramatists, whiners and scolds, many on college campuses. Rather like the fellow in Siloam Springs, student “activists” see themselves as morally incorruptible, and their opinions as graven in stone.

Have you seen anything about the great Oberlin College food fight? Students on the Ohio campus decided their cafeteria served “racist” food. Because the sushi was no good, protesters called it “culturally appropriative,” an insult to Japanese-Americans. Things got very heated. If Oberlin kids got their way, you’d have to hire a Neapolitan chef to order a pizza.

All we ever worried about was saltpeter in the mashed potatoes.

An insult to my Irish ancestors, come to think of it, for whom a boiled potato and a six pack constituted a seven course meal.

But there I go, making light of something grave. Normally, I take my cues from the critical race theorists at Salon.com, where they celebrated Christmas with an article entitled “The thought of a white man in my chimney does not delight me”: Let’s stop lying to our kids about Santa.

And no, I couldn’t possibly make that up. Along with meditations upon the orgasm, tirades against white folks are pretty much the formerly-serious website’s entire stock-in-trade.

But the real holiday bell-ringer was a Christmas Eve essay in the New York Times entitled “Dear White America” by Emory University philosopher George Yancy. The professor offers his own struggles to transcend sexism as a model for white men in their efforts to comprehend black lives.

“As a sexist, I have failed women,” he confesses. “…I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life.”

Yeah, well me too.

In theory, I’m totally against “objectifying women,” but Jennifer Lawrence still makes my ears buzz. Then too, my wife kind of likes me that way.

As for renouncing my putative “white innocence,” a modest demurral:

Give it a rest professor, I didn’t make this world any more than you.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Americans, Politics, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Ben Carson’s Rise Says About America”: We’ve Reached The Point Where Ignorance Really Is Bliss

So it’s Ben Carson’s moment. He’s overtaken Donald Trump in a CBS/New York Times national poll and he’s ahead in Iowa now with the caucuses just three months away. The Times is writing nice profiles of him full of polite euphemisms like “lack of governing experience.” First we all got used to the idea that it wasn’t insane to think that Donald Trump could be the GOP nominee. And now we have to acclimate ourselves to the idea it could be Carson, too.

The only actual interesting thing about Carson is that he raises a question we rarely get the chance to contemplate: How can a man who is so obviously distinguished and brilliant in one field be such an across-the-board nincompoop in another? Because usually, if a man (or woman) is a good and knowledgeable and sure-footed doctor, or lawyer or department chair or any other position that could have been attained only through repeated displays of excellence and probity, then that person will also be a pretty solid human being across the board. He or she might be right wing or left wing, and he or he might have a weakness for French New Wave cinema or for Rock Hudson-Doris Day movies; but s/he won’t be an idiot.

But Carson is a political idiot. And it’s not all the Nazi and slavery talk, although those are certainly stupid and crude comparisons that can only be invoked by people who are dumb enough—and, I should add, insensitive enough—never to have given serious thought to the grisly particulars of what Nazism and slavery entailed. Whatever you think of Obamacare, you actually have to be a ghastly human being to compare it to practice in which horrors like this happened all the time, to many millions of people.

And these rants of his against political correctness! We’re getting to be like (again) Nazi Germany? Is he serious? Yes, he is. Imagine how ignorant of history a person has to be to think that today’s pc police, annoying as they sometimes are, can be compared to the SA or the SS? It’s insulting even to have to hear it.

So all that is plenty bad, but even more, I mean nearly everything else that comes out of this mouth. Just Google “Ben Carson ignorance” and you’ll see quickly enough that on subjects ranging from science to foreign policy to the Constitution to virtually any political or historical or policy topic on which he chooses to speak, he says something that has no basis in real-world fact.

How does a man who is (presumably, anyway) in his chosen realm a man of science and empirical knowledge and testing of hypotheses enter this other realm and become someone who just spends his time scouring the most lunatic right-wing websites there are and repeating back everything he reads there as if it’s true? That’s where that madness about how armed Jews could have prevented the Holocaust comes from—it started about 20 years ago, and there is nothing about it that’s true. But the notion lives a healthy life on right-wing and pro-gun websites and chat boards. Great weight is given in those circles to a supposed quote from Hitler extolling gun control. But as Alex Seitz-Wald showed in this Salon piece in which he quotes leading scholars, Hitler almost certainly never said it.

Now, none of this is shocking to you, if you follow these things at all. There are all kinds of matters on which conservatives have their own version of reality. I remember being astonished back when we were all first getting to know a certain half-term Alaska governor to learn, via some dodgy and weird creationistic answer she gave to some question, that there’s this excavation site in, predictably enough, Texas, called the Taylor Trail, where there exists “evidence” that man and dinosaur walked together. So this kind of thing goes on all the time out there in this big country of ours.

But what doesn’t go on all the time is that a man who gets his ideas about the world from conspiracy-theory websites is a leading presidential candidate—or that his idiot comments not only don’t hurt him but help him. I’d reckon some of you saw that poll last week asking Iowa Republicans whether X statement about Carson raised or lowered their esteem of him. His comparison of Obamacare to slavery was considered “attractive” by 81 percent of those polled, and gave just 16 percent the willies.

It’s one of the great cons of the year that Carson gets to be called “mild-mannered.” How many people who think that getting health insurance is worse than being held in bondage get to be called mild-mannered? And how arrogant a man must Carson be—what made him think he should be the president of the United States in the first place? There are lots of distinguished surgeons out there. So why him?

And now we have this debate coming up Wednesday. Carson did pretty badly in the first couple debates—he was unfocused and off-point and spoke in the kind of generalities that left you wondering what he really meant. But did it hurt? No, it helped him! Now, Trump and maybe some of the others are going to come after him. So we’ll see how he holds up.

But it hardly matters. If he misstates some facts, no one’s going to care. And if he pulls a big whopper—locating a country on the wrong continent, not knowing some obvious point of history—that too will just help him, because to the Carson people it will just be the liberal media piling on the poor man. We’ve reached the point where ignorance really is bliss.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 27, 2015

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Telling Shift In Dynamics Of GOP Politics”: Why 2016 Is Different For The GOP; The Establishment Is Divided, The Base Is Mostly United

Billions of pixels have been spilled about Trump, Fiorina, the radical extremism of the GOP base and the fecklessness of Republican establishment candidates. But while numerous ad hoc explanations exist for the bizarre way the GOP primary is playing out, the simplest story is often the most overlooked. Traditionally, hardcore movement conservatives find themselves split over who will be the anti-establishment candidate, while the establishment usually unifies early and rolls over the top of the divided opposition.

In the 2012 campaign, establishment Republicans backed Mitt Romney early. Romney never had the backing of a clear majority of Republican voters. A number of anti-Romneys collectively had a majority of the vote against him, and even as they dwindled to just Gingrich and Santorum those two continued to outpoll Romney collectively. Had either stepped aside and delivered their voters to the other, it’s conceivable that Romney could have been defeated. But Romney limped forward to the finish line and the rest is history. A similar pattern elevated John McCain from a nearly defunct candidacy to the nomination in 2008, despite widespread opposition from the most conservative GOP voters.

This year that pattern is reversed. The establishment is divided among a bevy of uninspiring choices. The leading favorite until now has been Jeb Bush, but his unimpressive campaign performance has prevented him from coalescing support despite numerous advantages. The other GOP establishment picks from Rubio to Kasich to Walker have all had their challenges as well.

Meanwhile, of course, the Tea Party right has mostly fallen in behind Donald Trump, with a side of support for Carson. Where once the far revanchist right was divided and the corporate right was unified, now the reverse is true.

That’s partly a reflection of the corruption-fueled billionaire primary in which a variety of wealthy plutocrats can dictate their own terms, backing their own preferred candidates long after they would have normally bowed out. Party leadership no longer has the control of the moneyed establishment the way it once did; the Kochs and Adelsons fund whomever they please all the way to the convention.

It’s also the product of Trump’s singularly powerful understanding of the anti-establishment right’s desire not for a traditional presidential candidate, but someone who will declare war on the sort of cultural decency they view as “political correctness.”

It’s possible, of course, that the GOP will return to form and that the establishment will mobilize around a single candidate as conservatives split. But there’s no guarantee of it. Without that, we could easily see a Donald Trump nomination and a telling shift in the dynamics of Republican politics.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 20, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Providing Breathing Room For The Dying Beast”: Clearing Out Space In Our Politics For White Nationalists

I recently wrote about Trump and white supremacists based largely on an article by Evan Osnos, who had been reporting on these groups when Trump-mania broke out. A few days later, Osnos was interviewed on NPR by Terry Gross. Their whole discussion of this topic is fascinating, but a couple of things during the interview stood out to me.

The first is that Gross notes that Osnos used the term “white nationalists” rather than “white supremacists” (I almost instinctively chose the latter for my title) and asks him why. Here’s his reply.

Yeah, it’s a subtle distinction. The difference is that, historically, white supremacist groups believed fundamentally in the idea that one race was superior above all, and that was essential to their ideology. This grew out of slavery and the legacy of it. White nationalist groups believe something slightly different. They believe, in fact, that whites are an endangered species these days, and they say that they’re not standing up for one race over another. They’re standing up for the preservation of their community.

You struggle as a writer, certainly – and we did at the magazine – about whether or not to call these groups white supremacist groups or white nationalist groups. And there are times when I go back and forth. I think we’re certainly not captive to what it is that they want to be called themselves. They prefer to be called white nationalists. Some of them don’t even embrace that term. They want to be called identitarians or other things. But that’s – the terminology, in some ways, can be a bit of a disguise from the fact that there is – there’s an enduring element of this, which is a sort of race-based division that is at the essence of their beliefs. And that hasn’t changed, but there is a distinction going on that’s subtle. And I think the subtle distinction is important because it captures that they don’t feel strong today. In fact, they feel weak, and that’s what being a white nationalist is about. It’s about the sense that, as they put it, we’re facing a cultural genocide. That’s a term that they use over and over again.

I’m not one to get caught up in names and labels. But I think that the distinction Osnos identifies is important for us to recognize. We give too much power to these folks when we assume that they are strong. They are, in fact, weak and are very well aware of the fact that their entire world view is under siege. As I have often said, they are part of the dying beast of white male heterosexual patriarchy.

But later in the interview Osnos identifies where there is cause for concern.

So what you hear in that message is really interesting because what they’re saying is that Donald Trump may not win the presidency, but what he’s doing is clearing out space in politics for ideas that were no longer possible – that were previously impossible to express. So what he’s saying is that – and I encountered this over and over again as I talked to people who considered – who know that they are way out on the fringe of American politics – that they say Donald Trump is allowing our ideas to be discussed in a way that they never have been before…It will give a validation in some sense. And that may be the most enduring legacy.

That is perhaps the best example of what Trump (and Carson) are talking about when they rail against “political correctness.” What they are doing is “clearing out space in our politics” for white nationalists. In other words, they are providing breathing room for the dying beast.

Update: Here’s what happens when you provide breathing room to racists: I’ve experienced a new level of racism since Donald Trump went after Latinos.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, White Nationalists, White Supremacists | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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