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“Enough Is Enough”: It’s Time For Reporters To Break Out Of The Trump Rally Press Pens

Is the only thing more shocking than Donald Trump’s campaign manager being charged with simple battery of a reporter the fact that the crime isn’t all that startling, given the bullying campaign’s open contempt for reporters?

Enough is enough.

With Trump’s top aide, Corey Lewandowski, now facing charges, focus has shifted back to the increasingly abusive relationship between the GOP front-runner and the campaign press, and the unprecedented barrage of attacks journalists have faced, including constant insults hurled at them by the candidate himself. (Reporters are “disgusting” “horrible people,” Trump regularly announces.)

Sadly, news organizations have brought some of the degradation on themselves by acquiescing to all kinds of Trump campaign demands, such as the rule that they camp out inside mandatory press pens at events. Basically, the Trump campaign disparages the media, and news organizations do nothing in response — except shower him with even more coverage. (Talk about a win-win for him.)

“For ratings and clicks, they’ve allowed themselves to be penned up like farm animals at his rallies and risked scuffles with the Secret Service for covering the events like actual reporters,” wrote Eliana Johnson at National Review.

In fact, the press pens have become a hallmark of Trump’s war on the press.

“Unlike other presidential campaigns, which generally allow reporters and photographers to move around at events, Trump has a strict policy requiring reporters and cameramen to stay inside a gated area, which the candidate often singles out for ridicule during his speeches,” Time reported.

And Time should know.

In February, a Secret Service agent lifted Time photographer Chris Morris up off the ground and choke-slammed him onto a table after Morris momentarily “stepped out of the press pen to photograph a Black Lives Matter protest that interrupted the speech.”

It’s long past time for journalists to demand their freedom from Trump press pens. It’s like deciding to finally stop taking Trump’s phone-in interviews. Escaping from the pens represents a simple way for news organizations to assert their obvious right to cover the Trump campaign on their own terms, rather than being penned in at campaign events and living in fear of having access denied if coverage is deemed to be too critical.

Covering the Trump campaign on a daily basis today appears to be a rather miserable media existence. Reporters are threatened by staffers, and the Trump communications team seems to be utterly nonresponsive to media inquires. (“There is no Trump press operation,” one reporter told Slate.)

But it’s even worse than that. Just ask CBS News reporter Sopan Deb. In January at a Trump rally in Reno, a Trump supporter demanded to know if Deb was taking pictures on behalf of ISIS. Then, in March, after Trump’s raucous would-be rally in Chicago was canceled, Deb was covering mayhem unfolding on the streets when he was “thrown to the ground by Chicago cops, handcuffed, arrested, and detained in jail.”

I give journalists on the Trump beat credit for trying to make the best of a very bad situation. My question is why aren’t bosses standing up more forcefully for their staffers on the Trump front line? Why aren’t executives saying “enough” to the campaign bullying? And why don’t they take collective action and fix the obvious problems with how the Trump campaign is mistreating the press?

In case you missed it, last year 17 journalists representing scores of news organizations met for two hours in Washington, D.C., because they were so angry with how Hillary Clinton’s campaign was limiting access for journalists.

“The problems discussed were the campaign’s failure to provide adequate notice prior to events, the lack of a clear standard for whether fundraisers are open or closed press and the reflexive tendency to opt to speak anonymously,” The Huffington Post reported.

Looking back, the press’s Clinton complaints seem minor compared to the disrespect and invective the Trump campaign rains down on the press. But at the time, news organizations banded together and insisted that changes be made. (“The Clinton campaign is far less hostile to reporters than Donald Trump’s campaign,” The Huffington Post recently noted.)

So why the relative silence in light of the constant Trump mistreatment of the press? Why did news outlets quickly marshal their forces when Democrat Clinton was the target of criticism, but they apparently do very little when the Republican front-runner is trampling all over the press? Why the obvious double standard for covering Trump and Clinton?

Note that last November, several news organizations discussed their concerns with the Trump campaign. “Representatives from five networks — ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CNN — discussed their concerns about the Trump campaign restrictions on a Monday conference call, but did not present the campaign with any specific access requests,” according to The Huffington Post.

But very little came of it. “Facing the risk of losing their credentialed access to Trump’s events, the networks capitulated,” BuzzFeed reported.

Indeed, in the wake of that meeting, press pens at Trump rallies have recently become even more restrictive, with longer avenues of exit and entries created to separate journalists even further from rally attendees.

More recently, BuzzFeed reported, “Two network sources also confirmed the unprecedented control the television networks have surrendered to Trump in a series of private negotiations, allowing him to dictate specific details about placement of cameras at his event, to ensure coverage consists primarily of a single shot of his face.”

So yes, news organizations have had behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Trump campaign. But the result has been to let Trump “dictate specific details about place of cameras at his event.”

Just amazing.

And note that it’s not just the press pens. Here’s a list of the news organizations that have had reporters banned from previous Trump events, presumably because the campaign didn’t like the news coverage: The Des Moines Register, Fusion, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Politico, The Huffington Post, National Review, The Daily Beast, and Univision.

Over and over we’ve seen this pattern play out: Report something negative about Trump and watch your press credentials get yanked. This kind of bullying, of course, is unprecedented for American presidential campaigns. The tactic goes against every principle of a free press, inhibiting the news media’s unique role in our democracy to inform the public, without fear or favor.

Yet to date, I’m not aware of outlets banding together to make concrete ultimatums in response to the Trump campaign’s bullying. Instead of collective action, we get sporadic, nonbinding complaints from editors.

But what kind of signal does that send, other than capitulation?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, March 31, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Press, Donald Trump, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Campaign Is In Line With Their Beliefs”: Former KKK Grand Dragon Explains Why Racists Like Trump

Donald Trump will never own up to just why racists and white supremacists are flocking to his presidential campaign, or why his rallies are increasingly marred by ugly outbursts of racially fueled violence.

One outspoken anti-racist has an explanation: Trump speaks to the issues that America’s white supremacists care about.

Scott Shepherd, a former Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan—who once called ex-KKK leader David Duke a good friend—sees strong similarities between Duke’s campaigns for public office and Trump’s GOP Presidential bid.

“Their campaigns are pretty much parallel when I look at it,” Shepherd told The Daily Beast in Austin, Texas, where he appeared in the new documentary Accidental Courtesy, about R&B musician Daryl Davis’s crusade to convert Klansmen by befriending them.

“Trump won’t take a direct stand in Israel, and these are the things white supremacists are looking at,” said the soft-spoken Shepherd. “They’re latching onto him because his campaign is pretty much in line with their beliefs.”

Shepherd grew up in Indianola, Mississippi, the birthplace of the White Citizens Council; he was 17 when he pledged himself to the Ku Klux Klan. By the age of 19, he’d reached Grand Dragon status, leading the KKK’s operations across the state of Tennessee.

“I was a very shy, unhappy child with low self-esteem,” he’d explain years later to the IB Times. “I was looking to fill a void.”

There was a time when the college-educated Shepherd was chosen to act as one of the KKK’s public faces. Nowadays he incurs the Klan’s wrath as one of its most visible detractors. He left the group in 1992 after a court-mandated rehab stint stemming from a DUI and gun possession arrest led him to a life-changing epiphany, and devoted himself to making amends for the hate and trauma he’d long perpetuated.

Shepherd shares his story in Accidental Courtesy, which also depicts his friendship with African-American activist Davis, who refers to Shepherd as his “brother.” Decades ago he ran for public office in Tennessee, twice campaigning on a white supremacist platform, and served as the spokesperson and recruiter for onetime KKK leader David Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White People. His business cards now read: “Scott Shepherd, Reformed Racist.”

The Duke-Trump connection resurfaced again last week when the former KKK Grand Wizard drew favorable comparisons between Trump’s messaging and that of Adolf Hitler.

“The truth is, by the way, they might be rehabilitating that fellow with the mustache back there in Germany, because I saw a commercial against Donald Trump, a really vicious commercial, comparing what Donald Trump said about preserving America and making America great again to Hitler in Germany preserving Germany and making Germany great again and free again and not beholden to these Communists on one side, politically who were trying to destroy their land and their freedom, and the Jewish capitalists on the other, who were ripping off the nation through the banking system,” Duke, who endorsed Trump for president, said on his radio show last week.

Shepherd offered an explanation for why the kind of people attracted to the KKK are also drawn to candidates like Trump. Duke, after all, successfully won one term as a Republican Louisiana House Representative before going on to wage several other campaigns for state governor, U.S. Senate, and the White House.

“They all feel like they’ve not been given a fair handshake, and that their rights have been taken and priority has been given to people of color,” said Shepherd. “But what attracted me to [KKK Imperial Wizard] Bill Wilkinson was a self-emptiness within myself… I was introduced to the Klan and I felt part of something, in a way.”

 

By: Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast, March 19, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ku Klux Klan, Racists, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Must Be Defeated Through Democratic Means”: Donald Trump Poses An Unprecedented Threat To American Democracy

Last month, I made the case that a Donald Trump nomination would be better for America than the nomination of one of his Republican rivals. I no longer believe that. I began to change my mind when a report circulated highlighting his 1990 interview with Playboy in which he praised the brutality of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. This is not the first time I had seen Trump praise dictators. (He has effused over Vladimir Putin.) But Trump’s admiration for Putin seemed to spring from a more ordinary Republican partisan contempt for President Obama, and closely echoed pro-Putin comments made by fellow Republicans like Rudy Giuliani. Trump’s quarter-century-old endorsement of Chinese Communist Party repression went well beyond the familiar derangement of the modern GOP. This was not hatred of Obama, or some obnoxious drive to stick it to his supporters; it was evidence of an authentic and longstanding ideology. Trump has changed his mind about many things, but a through-line can be drawn from the comments Trump made and 1990 and the message of his campaign now: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”

My previous view of Trump was as a kind of vaccine. The Republican Party relies on the covert mobilization of racial resentment and nationalism. Trump, as I saw it, was bringing into the open that which had been intentionally submerged. It seemed like a containable dose of disease, too small to take over its host, but large enough to set off a counter-reaction of healthy blood cells. But the outbreak of violence this weekend suggests the disease may be spreading far wider than I believed, and infecting healthy elements of the body politic.

I remain convinced that Trump cannot win the presidency. But what I failed to account for was the possibility that his authoritarian style could degrade American politics even in defeat. There is a whiff in the air of the notion that the election will be settled in the streets — a poisonous idea that is unsafe in even the smallest doses.

Here is another factor I failed to predict. Trump, as I’ve noted, lies substantively within the modern Republican racial political tradition that seamlessly incorporates such things as the Willie Horton ads and the uncontroversial service of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who once called himself “David Duke without the baggage,” as House Majority Whip. But Trump’s amplification of white racial resentment matters. His campaign has dominated the national discourse. Millions of Americans who have never heard of Steve Scalise are seized with mortal terror of Trump, whose ubiquity in campaign coverage makes him seem larger and more unstoppable than he is. And terror is corrosive.

Marco Rubio, channeling the conservative movement’s response to Trump, has tried to connect him to President Obama, a figure who is Trump’s antithesis in every respect. Rubio has compared Trump’s rhetoric to “third-world strongmen,” an analogy he has in the past used to describe Obama (“It was rhetoric, I thought, that was more appropriate for some left-wing strong man than for the president of the United States.”) Rubio has fixated on the notion that Obama’s appeals to racial tolerance amount to an assault on white America, even condemning the president for speaking at a mosque. Speaking on Fox News Friday night, Rubio connected Obama’s style to the political correctness found on many college campuses and other left-wing outposts:

President Obama has spent the last eight years dividing Americans along haves and have-nots, along ethnic lines, racial lines, gender lines in order to win elections. I think this has gone to the next level here and you know, we’re seeing the consequences of it and that, in combination with the fact that, you know, I think there’s a need to remind people that the first amendment allows people to disagree with issues and say things you don’t agree with, which obviously is just being lost here. And then this sort of sense now on the left that if you don’t like what someone is saying, you have the right to just shut them down as you see happen on many college campuses across America and you saw tonight there in Chicago.

This is mostly laughable. Obama has condemned political correctness on several occasions, urging liberals not to try to prevent political opponents (even the most offensive ones) from making their case, but to win arguments with them instead.

But Rubio is not wrong to draw a connection between p.c. and elements of the left’s response to Trump. Donald Trump may or may not have been forthright about citing safety fears in cancelling his speech Friday night in Chicago, and disrupting the speech may or may not have been the protesters’ goal. But it is clear that protesters views the cancellation of the speech as a victory, breaking out in cheers of “We stopped Trump!”

Preventing speakers one finds offensive from delivering public remarks is commonplace on campuses. Indeed, more than 300 faculty members at the University of Illinois-Chicago signed a letter asking the University administration not to allow Trump to speak. I polled my Twitter followers whether they consider disrupting Trump’s speeches an acceptable response to his racism. Two-thirds replied that it is. Obviously, this is not a scientific poll, but it indicates a far broader acceptance than I expected.

Because Trump is so grotesque, and because he has violated liberal norms himself so repeatedly, the full horror of the goal of stopping Trump from campaigning (as opposed to merely counter-demonstrating against him) has not come across. But the whole premise of democracy is that rules need to be applied in every case without regard to the merit of the underlying cause to which it is attached. If you defend the morality of a tactic against Trump, then you should be prepared to defend its morality against any candidate. Now imagine that right-wing protesters had set out to disrupt Barack Obama’s speeches in 2008. If you’re not okay with that scenario, you should not be okay with protesters doing it to Trump.

Of course it is Trump who has let loose the wave of fear rippling out from the campaign. And it is Trump who has singled out African-Americans peacefully attending his speeches for mistreatment, and Trump who has glorified sucker-punching attacks on non-violent protesters. This is part of the effectiveness of authoritarian politics. The perception that Trump poses a threat to democracy legitimizes undemocratic responses — if you believe you are faced with the rise of an American Mussolini, why let liberal norms hold you back? The anti-Trumpian glory falls not upon the normal, boring practitioners of liberal politics — Hillary Clinton with her earnest speeches about universal pre-K and stronger financial regulation — but the street fighters who will muster against Trump the kind of response he appears to require. Just the other day, a man charged Trump as he spoke, and came disturbingly close to reaching him. More of this seems likely to follow, and it can spread from Trump’s rallies to those of other candidates.

A huge majority of the public finds Trump repellent. Some of his current unpopularity is the soft opposition of Republican voters who are currently listening to anti-Trump messaging from party sources and would return to the fold if he wins the nomination. But there is simply no evidence that the country that elected Barack Obama twice, and which is growing steadily more diverse, stands any likelihood of electing Trump. He can and must be defeated through democratic means. He is spreading poisons throughout the system that could linger beyond his defeat. Anybody who cares about the health of American democracy should hope for its end as swiftly as possible.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 13, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Racism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“From A Pipe Dream To A Train Wreck”: How Donald Trump Sparked An Unprecedented Crisis Among Jewish Republicans

The Republican Party has a serious Jewish problem.

With the party failing to foresee and later oppose Donald Trump’s rise, Republican Jewish outreach faces an unprecedented crisis. The party could end up with a nominee who alienates both Jewish conservatives by breaking with Republican orthodoxy on Israel and Jewish liberals by promoting authoritarianism, racism, and xenophobia.

Jewish Republicans have rested their case for drawing Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party on what they portray as stronger Republican support for Israel. They play to Jewish affection for Israel by disingenuously depicting President Obama as undermining the historic U.S.-Israeli alliance and snubbing the Israeli prime minister. They claim Obama has posed a dangerous threat to Israel itself, both through the Iran nuclear deal and the administration’s efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Because American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, multi-issue voters, this strategy was always a bit of a fool’s errand. But it could be subverted completely if the party nominates Trump.

It could have been easy to anticipate this predicament. At the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in December, Trump drew criticism for promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes while speaking to an audience of Jewish activists, many of them wealthy donors to the party. He suggested that they might not support him because he wouldn’t take their campaign contributions. He called himself a “negotiator, like you.” He said they were, like him, great dealmakers.

The speech, a characteristic Trump mash-up of insult and purported flattery, at the time provoked a nervous discomfort in the audience, but little tangible opposition.

Even Trump’s promise to use his negotiating skills to reach a “great” peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians — a heresy in conservative pro-Israel circles — failed to produce a coherent anti-Trump strategy from Republicans. The reception he receives at his scheduled speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) next week will be telling.

As his campaign has marched on, Trump has become more brazen with his Islamophobia, his scapegoating of immigrants, and his promotion of “roughing up” protesters at his rallies, who are frequently black.

The Trump campaign also has failed to explain how it gave press credentials to a white supremacist radio host to broadcast live from a rally in Tennessee. When confronted by his refusal to disavow support from the anti-Semitic former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, Trump said, “I don’t like to disavow groups if I don’t know who they are. I mean, you could have Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in groups.” The Anti-Defamation League called Trump’s statement apparently likening neo-Nazi groups and Jewish charities “obscene.”

Jews do not make Hitler comparisons lightly, but increasingly Trump’s rallies, at which he has deployed strongmen and incited followers to violence, are inviting them.

Rather than acknowledge these echoes, though, Trump has derisively dismissed them. After video of Trump supporters raising their arms in a gesture reminiscent of the Nazi salute went viral in Jewish and Israeli media, Trump trivialized his detractors. At last week’s debate in Miami, he called the criticism “a total disgrace.”

In that same debate, in a crucial state in which Jewish support can be pivotal, Trump defended himself with a word salad of some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jewish rhetoric. “I’ve made massive contributions to Israel,” he said, because — don’t you know? — Jews value money over everything else. “I have tremendous love for Israel. I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, okay? And two grandchildren that are Jewish.”

Trump’s Republican opponents appear helpless to defend themselves or their party against Trump’s assault on their standing among Jewish voters. The second place contender, Ted Cruz, has strained to portray himself as the most dedicated friend of Israel. Leading a campaign that depends on the support of evangelicals, he has touted his endorsements from supposedly pro-Israel evangelicals. But that comes with its own pitfalls. Cruz has singled out the support of Mike Bickle, a controversial Missouri preacher who claims Jews are “spiritually blind” and must be brought to Christ in order for Israel to be “restored” for Jesus’ return.

The GOP’s 2016 Jewish outreach may have started as pipe dream. It has turned into a train wreck.

 

By: Sarah Posner, The Week, March 14, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Israel, Jewish Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dawn Of The Resistance”: Chicago Shows Americans Will Not Take Trump’s Outrageous Nonsense Lying Down

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The organized protest in Chicago that led Donald Trump to cancel a planned rally Friday may someday be remembered as the dawn of the resistance.

Trump has fueled his campaign’s rise with the angriest and most divisive political rhetoric this nation has heard since the days of George Wallace. No one should be surprised if some of those Trump has slandered or outraged respond with raised voices.

The Constitution’s guarantee of free speech applies to everyone, Trumpistas and protesters alike. Trump said over the weekend that he wants demonstrators who gate-crash his rallies to be arrested, not just ejected; he vows that “we’re pressing charges” against them. Someone should educate him: Peacefully disapproving of a politician and his dangerous ideas is not a crime.

Trump seems not to understand that demonstrators have the legal right to protest — and that a candidate for president of the United States has no countervailing right not to be protested. I’m talking about nonviolent demonstrations, of course — but nonviolent does not necessarily mean quiet, timid or small.

On Friday, thousands of Trumpistas gathered in the arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago for one of the candidate’s set-piece rallies. They knew what to expect from Trump — the bragging about the size of his lead in various polls, the dissing of rivals “Little Marco” Rubio and “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, the ranting and raving about immigration, the repeated vow to “make America great again.” They might have anticipated that a few demonstrators would briefly interrupt the proceedings, giving Trump the opportunity to strut and preen in alpha-male splendor as he ordered security to “get ’em outta here.”

But what no one fully realized until too late was that the crowd had been infiltrated by hundreds of highly organized protesters. As this circumstance became clear to Trump’s supporters, tension mounted. The demonstrators held their ground, knowing they had as much right to be there as anyone else.

Aware that the demonstrators would do something but unsure of what that might be, Trump canceled the event. Announcement of the decision drew a big cheer from the protesters — and a howl of frustration from Trump supporters, who expressed their displeasure with epithets and shoving. Three people were injured in the skirmishes that ensued.

Trump later groused that “troublemakers” and “thugs” had violated his free-speech rights. But consider what he tells his audiences: Mexican immigrants are rapists, foreign Muslims should be barred from entering the country, the United States should reinstitute torture for terrorism suspects and “go after” their families. He has the absolute right to say these things. But those who believe in the hallowed American values of openness, tolerance, decency and the rule of law have the absolute right to say “No!”

Earlier that day, there were 32 arrests in demonstrations against a Trump rally in St. Louis; a large group of protesters had gathered to confront the candidate and his supporters. At almost every Trump event these days, in fact, at least a few individuals rise to protest — and face the rage of the crowds, which Trump stokes rather than soothes.

These protests are important because they show that Americans will not take Trump’s outrageous nonsense lying down. The hapless Republican Party may prove powerless to keep him from seizing the nomination, but GOP primary voters are a small and unrepresentative minority — older, whiter and apparently much angrier than the nation as a whole.

There is a school of thought that says, in effect, do not push back against the bully. Those who take this position argue that protests only heighten the sense of persecution and victimhood that Trump encourages among his supporters. And the net effect may be to win him more primary votes and make it more likely that he gets the nomination.

I understand this view, but I disagree. I believe it is important to show that those who reject Trumpism are as passionate and multitudinous as those who welcome it. Passivity is what got the GOP into this predicament in the first place; imagine how different the campaign might be if so many Republicans who abhor Trump hadn’t meekly promised to support him if he became the nominee.

Protests show the growing strength of popular opposition to Trump. They may not embolden Republicans to take their party back at the convention in Cleveland. But vivid displays of outrage might help energize voters to come out and reject Trump in November. That might be the last line of defense.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 14, 2016

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Non-Violent Protests | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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