The revulsion evoked by Donald Trump as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in Cleveland goes far beyond his speech, which was memorable only for its angry mood, not its vapid content. What repelled so many Americans in that moment was the realization — or simply the intuition — that the candidate of the Grand Old Party in 2016 is a living repudiation of every hope, every principle, and nearly every word that made this country great.
Imagine for a moment what George Washington might have felt in observing the personage of Trump, whose vanity, prevarication, and rage are so opposed to the modesty and restraint that the first president personified. It is impossible to conceive of Washington proclaiming that only he could solve the country’s problems, or insisting that he had never been wrong, or making any of the audacious boasts emitted by the Republican nominee whenever he opens his braying mouth.
Washington refused to accept a crown, leaving office voluntarily so that the new nation could find its way toward a democratic succession. His country’s future was far more important to him than his own aggrandizement. Of Trump, nobody can honestly say that.
To Washington, Trump’s vengeful and bloodthirsty attitude toward the nation’s enemies, real or perceived, would be as loathsome as his monumental narcissism. The seasoned general who led the American revolution — against the overwhelming force of the British empire — refused to imitate the brutal practices of the imperial army, rejecting the mass executions, torture, and mutilation that were then so common in warfare. He ordered that any Continental soldier who abused a British or Hessian soldier be punished severely, and commanded that every prisoner be treated humanely. He would have detested Trump’s vow to imitate the most barbaric conduct of the criminal Islamic State as well as his vile promise to murder the families of alleged terrorists.
Listening to Trump assume the leadership of the Republican Party, a degrading event compared to death by many Republicans, inevitably brought thoughts of that party’s founding president. While Abraham Lincoln remains among this country’s most revered leaders and always will, he is naturally despised by many of Trump’s most ardent supporters, especially those who still lurk in the remnants of the Ku Klux Klan.
Beyond the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, what Americans remember most about Lincoln was a brief address whose most indelible lines — “With malice toward none, with charity for all” — could never be comprehended, let alone uttered, by someone like Trump. For if there is anyone who literally embodies malice, both personal and political, it is this bullying braggart. He would not “bind up the nation’s wounds,” as Lincoln died trying to do, but delights in inflicting pain on the defenseless, the crippled, and the weak.
The third American titan whose shadow loomed over Trump’s triumph is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose creative government rescued the country from Depression and the world from Nazism. The crude promotion of fear in nearly every line of Trump’s convention speech is precisely the opposite of Roosevelt’s injunction in his famous first inaugural address, when he said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That same message lifted the nation through the searing challenge of the Second World War, when harbingers of evil and their dupes, both at home and abroad, predicted that American democracy lacked the strength to endure. Now only our chronic historical amnesia allows Trump to scream “America First,” the name of a movement that sought to undermine this country’s resistance to fascism, and was secretly subsidized by the Nazis for that purpose.
Like Washington and Lincoln, FDR would have regarded Trump and all that surrounds him as abhorrent.
It is not that any of these presidents was perfect, or that America has adhered in every hour to the ideals they tried to uphold. We know that they, and this country, veered too often from those aspirations, to say the least. But we now confront the rise of an authoritarian pretender who admires despotism and abandons fundamental principles, a political figure whose character is so deficient that his candidacy mocks our history. The only way to honor what is best in our heritage, to deliver what we owe to our ancestors and our heirs, is to defeat him in November with resounding force.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, July 22, 2016
“The ‘Wait and See’ Republicans”: The Idea Of Sending A Narcissistic Bully To The White House Should Be Unthinkable
Republican reaction to Donald Trump as their presumptive presidential nominee is all over the map. Of course there are those who are lining up to support him, some are digging in their heels and saying #NeverTrump, and a few are simply planning to remain silent. Regardless of how you feel about Trump’s candidacy, it is possible to make a case that those are principled positions. But the most bizarre (and unprincipled) reaction comes from those who are saying that they’ll “wait and see.”
“Donald Trump has the opportunity to unite the party, but if he’s going to build that wall that he keeps talking about, he’s going to have to mend a lot of fences,” said Collins. “He’s going to have stop with gratuitous personal insults.”
“You mean, like saying Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK,” the host interjected.
“Yes, that was the most bizarre yet, I think,” responded Collins, adding Trump needed to now articulate what his presidency would look like through policy, plans, and programs beyond his slogan.
“I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that,” Collins said. “It will be interesting to see whether he changes his style, he starts acting more presidential, and whether he brings people together.”
That is a bizarre position on a couple of levels. First of all, does Collins really need Trump to articulate in more specificity his proposals like banning all Muslims from immigrating to the U.S.? Or his plans to deport all undocumented immigrants? Or targeting the families of terrorists? Or reduce taxes by $1 trillion per year and balance the federal budget? Or his promise to torture prisoners? Or his plan to start a trade war with China? I could go on, but perhaps you get the point. Trump’s policy, plans and programs are absurd and dangerous. Getting into them in more detail over the next six months won’t change that reality.
Secondly, there is this ludicrous notion that the Donald is going to start acting “more presidential” and stop the “gratuitous personal insults.” What Collins probably means is that he will stop bullying Republicans and focus his attacks on Clinton. We all know that is coming. But the truth is that Trump hasn’t just been bullying politicians. He goes after anyone that he sees as a challenge to his ego. Over the last few months that has included Mexican immigrants, the disabled, reporters, women, etc.
I find it hard to comprehend how anyone would think that a man with a long history of narcissistic bullying is suddenly going to become “presidential” over the next few months. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, this isn’t an act that Trump has assumed since he became a reality TV star or decided to run for president. He has a long record on that front. Perhaps some people have forgotten about how he called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five before they were ever convicted. Recently we’ve been hearing about his attack on Native Americans when he was battling them over casinos.
The most egregious example of this came in 2000 in upstate New York, when Trump began bankrolling an ad campaign to stop a casino from being built in the Catskills. As the New York Times reported last month, the local newspaper ads showed “hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia … [and] warned in dire terms that violent criminals were coming to town.”
“Are these the kind of neighbors we want?” the ad asked, referring to the St. Regis Mohawks Tribe at Akwesasne, which was planning to build the casino. “The St. Regis Mohawk record of criminal activity is well-documented.”
This narcissistic bullying from Trump is not an act. Its who he is. As I’ve said before, if you doubt that, go back and read what Mark Bowden wrote about the time he spent with Trump in 1996.
It just might be possible for Trump to keep a lid on things over the next six months (although I doubt it). But this is the temperament of the guy the Republicans will nominate to be our next president. No one needs to wait and see how all of that is going to turn out. The idea of sending a narcissistic bully to the White House should be unthinkable.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 6, 2016
Sudden, horrific events in the middle of a presidential campaign provide an X-ray of the instincts and thinking of the candidates. We can see what their priorities are and pick up clues about their character.
The terrorist attacks in Belgium brought out the worst in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Cruz demonstrated that his only focus right now is to find ways of out-Trumping Trump. He seeks words that sound at least as intolerant and as dangerous to civil liberties as the formulations that regularly burst forth from the Republican front-runner.
Thus did Cruz declare: “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” He happily intruded on Trump’s trademark issues by emphasizing the need to seal the nation’s southern border against “terrorist infiltration,” and by declaring that “for years, the West has tried to deny this enemy exists out of a combination of political correctness and fear.”
Cruz touched so many hot buttons that it’s a wonder he did not have to wrap his hands in heavy gauze. And it tells us something about how far the Republican Party has veered to the right that its more moderate conservatives, including now Jeb Bush, have decided that Cruz is their best hope to stop Trump. It is hard to imagine Bush offering sentiments about Belgium remotely similar to Cruz’s.
But being more out there on these matters than Trump is, as the man might say, a huge reach. The big winner of Tuesday’s Arizona primary actually complained that the United States is a land where the rule of law prevails.
“They don’t work within laws. They have no laws,” he said of the Islamic State on NBC’s “Today” show. “We work within laws.” He said we should change our statutes to permit waterboarding.
Not content to imply that he’s for torture, he embraced it outright. He insisted that it could have helped prevent the attacks in Belgium. Speaking of Salah Abdeslam, the terror suspect captured last week, Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “Well, you know, he may be talking, but he’ll talk a lot faster with the torture.”
But a new terrorist episode was not enough to induce Trump to back away from his statements to The Post editorial board on Monday denigrating the United States’ commitment to NATO. At a moment when we should be declaring solidarity with our European allies, Trump seems ready to do the opposite.
You don’t have to be a socialist to share Bernie Sanders’s view that Cruz’s proposal to single out a religious group for special police treatment is “unconstitutional” and “wrong.” Hillary Clinton responded characteristically on Wednesday with a policy-heavy speech. She upbraided Cruz, saying that he was “treating American Muslims like criminals,” which was both “wrong” and “counterproductive.” She also condemned torture “anywhere in the world.”
Before the age of Trump, we valued sobriety in leaders when the country faced severe challenge. Clinton and Sanders apparently still think we do. But in the Republican primaries, sobriety has gone out the window.
The one Republican hopeful who hasn’t gotten that message yet is John Kasich. True, he did some partisan pandering, saying President Obama should not have gone to a baseball game in Cuba after the attacks. If he were president, Kasich added, he would have canceled the rest of the trip and returned to the White House to organize new anti-terrorism efforts.
But overall — and this is to his credit — Kasich’s reaction to Belgium contrasted sharply with the extremism of his competitors. “We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with radical Islam,” he said. “In our country, we don’t want to create divisions.”
In a more functional democracy, the campaign might provide the occasion for a serious debate on Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State (which, by the way, is what Clinton tried to start). Should the United States be more aggressive, or would such an approach, as the president seems to believe, lead us into unsustainable commitments? And how can we promote greater intelligence cooperation across Europe and give our allies a lot more help?
But such a discussion would not provide the incendiary sound bites that so much of our media seem to encourage and that Republican primary voters seem to reward.
With large parts of the Republican establishment giving up on Kasich and embracing Cruz as the last anti-Trump hope, we can now look forward to a GOP race to the bottom in which fear itself is the only thing its leading candidates have to offer.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 23, 2016
Hot off winning every state but Ohio last night, Donald Trump has taken his campaign of self-aggrandizement to the realm of international politics. According to Trump, there’s no one better suited to provide foreign policy insight than… himself.
Trump appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier today. When asked who his foreign policy advisors were, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”
What any of that means to anyone is unclear. But does Trump have “a very good brain” when it comes to foreign policy? Does he have the wisdom necessary to make decisions whose consequences may take years to unfold? History says no: just look at Trump’s vacillation over the 2003 Iraq invasion.
One of the greatest foreign policy blunders ever committed by this country, the power vacuum left behind in Iraq — after George W. Bush dismantled the Iraqi army — aided in the rise of ISIS years later. Trump, who presents himself as a tough guy who would bring back torture to keep America safe, started off by claiming that he was against the invasion of Iraq. In a 2002 Howard Stern interview, he was asked directly if he supported the invasion. “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
This was not a one-off case of supporting interventionist foreign policy. In his book The America We Deserve, he wrote, “We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I’m no warmonger,” Trump wrote. “But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”
In fact, in parroting the provocations of the Bush administration, Trump very much was a war-monger.
Fast forward to 2016, and Trump, in an effort to display his solid foreign policy insights, said during a Republican debate in Vermont, “I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’” It was not the first time he claimed to be opposed to military intervention.
Even then, his commitment to non-intervention is political opportunism at best, given only 32 percent of registered voters still think the invasion was a good idea. He returned to espousing militaristic rhetoric during a campaign rally in which he promised to bomb ISIS — and the millions of civilians living under their rule — out of existence. “I would bomb the shit out of them,” said Trump during a rally in November. “I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left.”
While Trump may think that he is the best at everything, from his relationship with “the blacks” to world-altering foreign policy calculations, his comfort with taking seemingly opposing positions should worry his supporters. But who are we kidding — it probably won’t.
By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, March 16, 2016
“The American Fascist”: Why Donald Trump Presents Such A Profound Danger To The Future Of America And The World
I’ve been reluctant to use the “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.
But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.
It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)
The parallels go deeper.
As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.
Trump’s electoral gains have been largest in counties with lower than average incomes, and among those who report their personal finances have worsened. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.
The economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.
Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.
Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.
Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.
That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.
They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.
Trump’s entire campaign similarly revolves around his assumed strength and confidence. He tells his followers not to worry; he’ll take care of them. “If you get laid off …, I still want your vote,” he told workers in Michigan last week. “I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”
The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy. To take one example, he recently tweeted that Chicago’s Ricketts family, now spending money to defeat him, “better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”
The old fascists incited violence. Trump has not done so explicitly but Trump supporters have attacked Muslims, the homeless, and African-Americans – and Trump has all but excused their behavior.
Weeks after Trump began his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists,” two brothers in Boston beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”
After a handful of white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”
There are further parallels. Fascists glorified national power and greatness, fanning xenophobia and war. Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations. Mexico “will” finance a wall. China “will” stop manipulating its currency.
In pursuit of their nationalistic aims, the fascists disregarded international law. Trump is the same. He recently proposed using torture against terrorists, and punishing their families, both in clear violation of international law.
Finally, the fascists created their mass followings directly, without political parties or other intermediaries standing between them and their legions of supporters.
Trump’s tweets and rallies similarly circumvent all filters. The Republican Party is irrelevant to his campaign, and he considers the media an enemy. (Reporters covering his rallies are kept behind a steel barrier.)
Viewing Donald Trump in light of the fascists of the first half of the twentieth century – who used economic stresses to scapegoat others, created cults of personality, intimidated opponents, incited violence, glorified their nations and disregarded international law, and connected directly with the masses – helps explain what Trump is doing and how he is succeeding.
It also suggests why Donald Trump presents such a profound danger to the future of America and the world.
By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 8, 2016