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“I Like People That Weren’t Captured, OK?”: Trump Takes The Wrong Message To The Wrong Crowd In The Wrong Way

For those unfamiliar with the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally, the point of the annual gathering is to raise awareness of prisoners of war and American servicemen and women missing in action. If you tried to find the most out-of-place individual imaginable for this rally, you could do worse than pointing to a New York billionaire who avoided military service and who’s publicly mocked POWs, saying last year, “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

And yet, take a wild guess which high-profile speaker graced Rolling Thunder with his presence this holiday weekend?

Republican Donald Trump told a motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation’s military veterans, without backing up his allegation.

“Thousands of people are dying waiting in line to see a doctor. That is not going to happen anymore,” Trump told veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the annual Rolling Thunder event, which brings thousands of motorcyclists to Washington each Memorial Day weekend.

The assertion that veterans often receive worse care than undocumented immigrants is demonstrably ridiculous, though that’s never stopped Trump before.

The presumptive Republican nominee was also apparently disappointed with the crowd size – organizers estimated about 5,000 people were in attendance – arguing that there were 600,000 people who wanted to hear his speech but weren’t allowed in.

Trump complained, “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington monument, right? Unfortunately, they don’t allow ‘em to come in,” without explaining who “they” are or where these 600,000 people were hiding.

Of course, the more Trump avoids King references when talking about his speeches, the better.

Regardless, think about the chutzpah it took for the Republican candidate to claim credibility of the subject of veterans in the first place.

Even if Trumps’ mockery of POWs wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s plan to privatize veterans’ care wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s avoiding military service during the Vietnam war wasn’t enough to keep him away, there’s also the fact that Trump and his campaign got caught lying about his financial support for veterans’ charities.

This happened, by the way, literally last week – just days ahead of his remarks to an audience committed to raising awareness about a group of veterans.

The GOP candidate might have been disappointed the crowd wasn’t larger, but Trump’s lucky those who were in attendance didn’t just laugh in his face.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, POW/MIA, Veterans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s Tricky Dick All Over Again”: Donald Trump Is Running For Richard Nixon’s Third Term

Conservative candidates usually beg for comparisons with Ronald Reagan, but Donald Trump’s political spirit animal is Dick Nixon.

And in true Trump fashion, he hasn’t been subtle about wearing his unfashionable influence on his sleeve. The signs are everywhere.

Travel through the primary states and you’ll see the placards plastered at events and scattered by the roadside: “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.” That is, of course, a direct lift from Nixon’s oft-resuscitated slogan, which was meant to resonate with the “non-shouters, non-demonstrators” during the Vietnam War.

It’s no small irony that the children of these “forgotten Americans” now are being asked to rally around the ultimate shouter in American politics, a billionaire who avoided military service during the draft. The economic and cultural resentments of the white working class Nixon courted have only grown more intense in the wake of the Great Recession amid a fundamentally more diverse America led by a black president.

But lifting Nixon’s Silent Majority slogan barely scratches the surface of the debt Trump owes Tricky Dick.

In 1968, Vietnam was raging and Nixon campaigned on a “secret plan to end the war.” Now we’re embroiled in a multi-front war with ISIS and—you guessed it—Trump has offered up a secret plan to end the war against ISIS.

Days after kicking off his campaign, he told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren: “I do know what to do and I would know how to bring ISIS to the table, or beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly… and I’m not gonna tell you what it is… I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing.”

Trump’s love of bluster balanced with a complete lack of policy detail doesn’t stop with war.

Take health care: Trump is running on a platform of “repeal and replace with something terrific.” When pressed for detail by George Stephanopoulos, The Donald replied, “Nobody knows health care better than Donald Trump”—retreating to Nixon’s favored third-person self-reference. “We’re going to work with our hospitals. We’re going to work with our doctors. We’ve got to do something… We’ll work something out. That doesn’t mean single-payer.”

In Trump’s world, it doesn’t matter that he once backed single-payer in a book that bears his name. And of course it doesn’t matter that Nixon’s own health care reform plan was considerably to the left of Obamacare. Our debates have been unburdened by fact for some time now, and that suits candidates like Trump just fine.

Nixon’s enemies list is another dark legacy Trump enthusiastically apes. Trump is quick to attack critics by name on the campaign trail—from mocking a disabled New York Times reporter to going after everyone from Megyn Kelly to George Will to The Daily Beast. For a candidate who loves to engage in rough-and-tumble verbal combat, his thin skin is a bit of a mystery. But Trump’s enemies list is so notorious that Vanity Fair lampooned it back in 2011 during his birther-backed flirtation with the presidency.

While Nixon’s enemies list can seem quaint almost a half-century later, they were far from simple partisan score-settling. We now know that Nixon’s lackeys looked at planting evidence on investigative journalist Jack Anderson, spreading damaging rumors about his sex life and even plotting to kill him, with the methods varying from putting poison in his medications to smearing massive doses of LSD on his steering wheel.

This is chilling stuff that smacks more of Vladimir Putin than an American president. But it’s a reminder of how much character matters in a commander in chief, because tone comes from the top. In an era of social media mobs and hardcore partisan news sites, pushback could turn to private citizen-directed opposition research and something uglier.

The deepest irony in the Trump-Nixon overlap has surfaced only in the past few weeks, as The Donald tries to appear more presidential. “Bring Us Together” was a signature Nixon 1968 campaign line, allegedly inspired by a sign held by a little girl at a rally and eagerly adopted by speechwriters like William Safire. Now Trump is punctuating his interviews and debate performances with the same line, promising to unite the nation if elected, despite all campaign tactics to the contrary.

Trump’s use of the line has already led to some surreal exchanges, as when Stephanopoulos asked him to explain how his opposition to marriage equality after the Supreme Court decision would lead to a more united nation. “It’s very simple,” he replied. “We’re going to bring our country together. We’re going to unify our country. We’re going to do whatever we have to do. I’m going to put the absolute best judges in position. If their views—we’re going to see what their views are. I will make the determination at that time.”

Such rhetorical tap-dancing means less than nothing and offers false comfort to some increasingly resigned establishment Republicans desperately looking for a silver lining if Trump is their party’s nominee. They hope the candidate doesn’t mean half of what he says, that he’s just pandering to get conservative populist votes. It’s a strained domestic extension of Nixon’s self-described “madman theory” in foreign policy, a belief that negotiating leverage is increased if your opponent believes that you might go nuclear. Extreme statements are all part of the art of the deal.

Perhaps not coincidentally, some prominent remaining Nixon aides have been backing or advising The Donald.

Trump’s sometime adviser Roger Stone, master of the dirty trick and artful smear, boasts a Nixon tattoo on his upper back. Former Nixon speechwriter and paleo-conservative populist Pat Buchanan, who innovated many of the anti-immigrant and anti-trade policies Trump now advances, declared him “The Future of the Republican Party.”

And while Trump’s once-close relationship with Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has been publicly strained with the recent Iowa debate boycott, Ailes basically innovated the cozy relationship between politics and television while working for Nixon in 1968.

Perhaps Trump is a secret political nerd who internalized all the divide-and-conquer strategies Nixon innovated at the time. Or perhaps he’s been getting advice on the dark arts of politics from acolytes of the former master.

Trump shares with Nixon a tough-guy pragmatism, a ruthless and occasionally unhinged determination to win driven by deep insecurity. Nixon also believed people vote out of fear more than hope. But whatever Nixon’s many failings, he was a policy wonk who loved the mechanics of politics. Trump is a blunt force instrument in politics, a born marketer with bluster a mile wide and an inch deep.

As he aims for the nomination, Trump might be taking Nixon’s cynical advice to “run right in the primary election, then run to the center in the general election” to heart. But as Nixon and the nation found out, character is destiny. And Trump’s exploitation of our worse impulses for political gain will also end in tears.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, February 15, 2016

February 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Richard Nixon | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Casting Himself As The Leader Of The GOP”: Donald Trump Wants You To Believe He’s The Commander-In-Chief In Waiting

After all the sturm und drang of the last few days of Donald Trump’s feud with Fox News—Trump again invoked the word “bimbo” about Megyn Kelly and exchanged insults with the network brass—the “special event” he organized as an alternative to Thursday night’s Republican debate turned out to be a surprisingly dull political rally dressed up as a celebration of patriotism and military service. But perhaps boredom was the point all along.

As Trump constantly reminds us, he leads in all of the polls. Another debate would have been risky, opening himself to attacks from his rivals—notably Ted Cruz, his closest challenger in Iowa. So the fight with Fox allowed the real estate magnate to duck the debate, draw more attention to himself, deprive the other candidates of needed media oxygen, and hold a safe event where he could bask in the valor of veterans. To be sure, Trump couldn’t resist a few of his old favorite jabs, like calling Jeb Bush “low energy.” But his event lacked the electric confrontation that has characterized the GOP debates. In contrast, the debate across town on Fox was more substantive and revealing about the candidates (and their flaws).

But the seventh Republican debate may have been pointless without Trump—that’s his gamble, anyway. Trump is casting himself as the leader of the GOP even before the first vote has been cast, and did so by assuming the role of commander-in-chief in waiting. Surrounded by vets in a room draped in American flags, and feted by rivals like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee (who hurried over after appearing in the undercard debate), Trump served as the master of ceremony of an evening celebrating the beneficence of himself and his rich friends, all of whom are allegedly donating money for veterans (although it appears the money will be funneled through Trump’s personal foundation).

Trump isn’t the only candidate to use patriotism and veterans for political gain recently—see Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz—but it’s striking how strong these themes have become. He presents himself as the champion of the vets, and he’s holding up their sacrifice and suffering as a model of American greatness, which he wants to restore. His chief claim to be president is that he’ll be tough: the sort of fighter these men deserve. Of course, this Trumpian narrative elides his deferments during the Vietnam War and mockery of John McCain’s suffering as a prisoner of war. But Trump is not one to let past behavior stand in the way of current claims.

Thursday night was the last major event before the Iowa caucus on Monday, when we’ll find out whether his strategy of playing it safe paid off. It’ll be up to the voters to decide whether Trump is really the frontrunner, or just the man who used polls to pretend he was the king of the world.

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, January 29, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Commander In Chief, Donald Trump, Veterans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump — Man Of War”: Do The Trumpeteers Actually Listen, Thoughtfully And Carefully, To What Trump Says?

We should all give thanks to Donald Trump’s reality-TV-show run for the Republican presidential nomination because of what it reveals about his fan base.

Assuming Trump’s supporters have actually listened to what the narcissistic real estate developer has been saying, what they want is multiple ground wars, an America that steals from other countries, an America that kills people because of their religion, and a massive police state constantly checking people (especially Hispanics and Latinos) to determine whether they’re undocumented and should be arrested and deported, and even have their citizenship taken away.

These Trumpeteers evidently want a president who believes his duties include humiliating anyone who asks questions he wishes had not been asked or whose business decisions he dislikes.

On a personal level, they want a president whose family values included years of keeping a mistress, Marla Maples, and who, after not having marital relations with his wife for more than 16 months, flew into a rage, tore hair from her head, and allegedly violated her sexually. Ivana Trump, after her testimony came out, said she did not mean “rape” in the sense that her husband should be prosecuted for a crime, but she has never wavered otherwise from her description of that violent bedroom assault.

Trump also abandoned his daughter with Maples, providing financial support but not much more, according to the girl’s mother. (If anyone has photos of Trump and daughter Tiffany taken in the last year, please send them to davidcay@me.com.)

The Trumpeteers also want a president whose own words indicate he is at times delusional, seeing demon-like changes in the face of Fox News personality Megyn Kelly. Her calm visage was visible to anyone watching the debate, yet Trump has said repeatedly that “everyone” saw Kelly become so visibly angry she had “blood coming from her eyes.”

Of course all of these observations rest on the assumption that the Trumpeteers actually listen, thoughtfully and carefully, to what Trump says — and that they understand our Constitution.

Trump has sold himself like a bottle of Coke – all fizz and fun with no substance. And my fellow journalists at the five major newspapers, the major broadcast outlets, and other news organizations have failed to vet the candidate — with minor and tepid exceptions.

The Donald’s marital violence has gotten some mention, for example, but with an emphasis on obfuscations by him and her fudging on the word “rape.”

Likewise, his extensive ties to the biggest Mafia figures in New York and Atlantic City, his history of cheating workers and vendors, and other unsavory aspects of his biography go largely unreported. I laid these out in an earlier National Memo column, but the major news organizations have tended to ignore skeletons in Trump’s closet — again there are exceptions, namely Michael Smerconish on CNN; Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC.

Trump gets a free ride because it’s cheap and easy to cover what candidates say, but takes actual work to examine what they have done. And work costs more.

Let’s start with war-mongering, because if Trump gets his finger on the button, that is exactly what we will get – not just a war, but multiple wars. He says we must have American troops on the ground in Iran, Iraq, and the “Islamic State” in parts of Syria and Iraq. This also means vast occupying armies, though Trump never mentions this fact and journalists fail to ask about that necessary step, if we are to steal the oil and install puppet regimes.

Trump has been urging war for almost 30 years. On Meet the Press in 1987, he said we should use the firing of a single bullet as a reason to invade Iran, seize its oil, and, as he put it, “let them have the rest” of their country.

As a presidential candidate, Trump has said he stands by those remarks and added that he wants American troops to invade the Middle East both to suppress the religious government emerging in parts of Syria and Iraq and to steal oil.

“I am the most militaristic person there is,” Trump proudly declared Aug. 10 on Morning Joe.

This assurance comes from a man who assiduously avoided the Vietnam-era draft, ultimately claiming “minor” bone spurs made him 4-F, though his accounts raise questions about his fidelity to facts. Trump has also said he opposed the Vietnam War, so his promotion of war as policy came only when other young men faced hostile bullets.

Trump has long walked with a bodyguard or two, and has an aversion to shaking hands with other people. (I have seen him go immediately wash his hands after he had no choice but to grip another person’s hand.)

Trump claims he speaks plainly, but he never says he wants to “steal” oil from other countries. Instead, Trump has repeatedly said over the last four years that America should “take the oil” of sovereign nations. In this context “take” and “steal” are synonymous.

Trump is not alone among Republican candidates in favoring another ground war in the Middle East — explicitly a religious war, waged against a modern caliphate (a theocratic government run by a presumed successor to the Prophet Muhammad).

For example, John Kasich, the Ohio governor who is always reminding us of his Christianity, also wants a ground war for the explicit purpose of destroying the emerging caliphate.

As with Trump’s preposterous claim that he can make Mexico pay for an impenetrable wall along the U.S. border, he shows no respect for the fact that Earth has about 200 sovereign nations. Instead he sees other countries as subservient to America and promises to dispatch ground troops wherever he thinks a country needs to be brought to heel.

Trump also seems unaware that no wealthy country has ever managed to keep ambitious poor people from entering it legally or otherwise, a lesson the Romans learned long ago.

His plans would require vast increases in government spending. So why do self-identified conservative Republicans, who want to pay less in taxes and enjoy a smaller government, favor his plans?

Creating a smaller government and lowering taxes is logically inconsistent with waging multiple wars while rounding up and deporting people who either entered the country illegally or stayed after their visas expired.

The long-term costs of more ground wars in the Middle East would run into the trillions of dollars with bills coming due well into the 22nd century as pensioners, widows, and the disabled children of veterans collect benefits for probably many decades after everyone old enough to read this is dead.

Worse, these unnecessary wars of plunder are likely to turn allies and nominal allies into enemies, inviting even more wars and, thus, more costs. America would be seen not as a beacon of liberty and opportunity, but a selfish, thieving, and dangerous pariah state.

The taxpayer cost for rounding up anyone perceived as an illegal immigrant could well be $200 billion. On top of that, there would be disruptions to business — adding billions more to the nation’s tab. And that doesn’t take into account the human cost of turning America into a police state where people turn in neighbors, perhaps for financial rewards or to avoid prosecution for misprision of a felony.

So yes, we should be thankful to Trump. His campaign is revealing just how many people in this country want America to become a modern Sparta, run by a president who demonizes others, wants to limit their personal conduct, seeks to control business decisions, and supports a massive expansion of the police powers of the state — which includes building a wall that will not keep people from coming to America uninvited.

What Trump’s rise in the polls tells us is that many Americans have no idea what our Constitution says, and wrongly believe that sovereignty is only for America. They do not know, or care, that the men who founded this country believed in the common defense, but never in attacking other countries, especially not to steal.

Of course all this assumes the Trumpeteers have actually thought through the reasons they support Trump, and have taken the time to understand what he has said and what he has done. Let us hope for the sake of our liberty and peace that is a wrong assumption.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, Featured Post, The National Memo, August 22, 2015

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Middle East, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“No, Hillary Clinton Is Not Spiraling Downward”: Clinton Cast As Lyndon Johnson, Email Controversy Is Parallel To The Vietnam War

There’s no question which is the more interesting and dynamic primary campaign right now, which inevitably leads reporters covering the other one to search for something new to write about. And in a race where there’s an obvious (if not quite certain) nominee, there will always come a point at which the press will decide that that candidate is spiraling downward, the cloak of inevitability is torn and tattered, the campaign is in crisis, the whispering from party loyalists is growing louder, and the scramble is on to find an alternative before the fall occurs.

This is the moment we have come to with Hillary Clinton.

First there was the fevered speculation about Vice President Biden running against her, based on second-hand reports that Biden has had conversations about the possibility of running. I’m sure that Biden thinks about being president about as often as he brushes his teeth, but that doesn’t mean there’s an actual candidacy in the offing. But it isn’t just him. ABC News reports that “a one-time high-ranking political adviser to Al Gore tells ABC News that a group of friends and former aides are having a ‘soft conversation’ about the possibility that Gore run for president in 2016.” Gore himself is not interested, but who cares? People keep asking John Kerry if he’s going to jump into the race, no matter how many times he says no. Time magazine says Democrats are headed for a repeat of the 1968 election, with Clinton cast as Lyndon Johnson and her email controversy offered as a parallel to the Vietnam War (pretty much the same magnitude, right?).

Guess what: you put two or three former staffers to just about any major politician in a room, and they’ll have a “soft conversation” about how he really ought to run for president. If there’s one thing that stories like these should never be based on, it’s the mere fact that people who used to work for a particular politician would like that politician to run. Longtime political figures like Gore and Biden trail behind them a tribe of former staffers, advisers, fundraisers and the like, all of whom have entertained fantasies about either a job in the West Wing or at least a heady proximity to the most powerful person on earth. If you called up any of them, you could extract a quote that would make it sound like maybe, just maybe their guy might get in the race.

So right now there’s virtually no evidence that the Democratic field is going to expand beyond the current five candidates. And what about the idea that Clinton is in a drastic decline? Bernie Sanders has generated plenty of interest and some support, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats are rejecting Clinton; if there’s any evidence that Sanders supporters won’t be perfectly happy to back her if and when she’s the nominee, I haven’t seen it.

If you look over the long term at Clinton’s favorability ratings, you do see a drop, but it’s not a huge one, and not the kind of precipitous decline you’d associate with a campaign in free fall. Her favorability is down substantially from when she was Secretary of State, but that’s a natural consequence of her becoming a partisan political figure again. A year ago her favorability was just under 50 percent, and now it’s around 41 or 42 — not what she’d like, surely, but hardly a crisis. As a point of comparison, at this time four years ago, Barack Obama’s job approval was in exactly the same place, 42 percent. You may recall who won the 2012 election.

As Nate Silver observes, whether or not the movement in the polls is terribly meaningful, reporters have an incentive to describe it as such, and then run with the implications:

Even if there were no Clinton scandals, however, she’d probably still be receiving fairly negative press coverage. The campaign press more or less openly confesses to a certain type of bias: rooting for the story. Inevitability makes for a really boring story, especially when it involves a figure like Clinton who has been in public life for so long.

Instead, the media wants campaigns with lots of “game changers,” unexpected plot twists and photo finishes. If the story isn’t really there, the press can cobble one together by invoking fuzzy concepts like “momentum” and “expectations,” or by cherry-picking polls and other types of evidence. The lone recent poll to show Sanders ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire made banner headlines, for example, while the many other polls that have Clinton still leading, or which show Sanders’s surge slowing down in Iowa and nationally, have mostly been ignored.

As a result, the flow of news that Americans are getting about Clinton is quite negative. Indeed, the steady decline in her favorability ratings seems consistent with the drip, drip, drip of negative coverage, as opposed to the spikes upward and downward that one might expect if any one development was all that significant to voters.

Perhaps Republicans will get their wish, and we’ll learn that Clinton sent an email ordering the attack on Benghazi to cover up the fact that she’s the leader of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell whose goal is to enslave all Americans into a satanic Alinskyite death cult. If that happens, I’m sure some other Democrats will declare their candidacies. The other possibility is that the race will have some ups and downs, Bernie Sanders may even win a primary or two, and in the end Clinton will prevail.

That’s not as dramatic a story as a reporter covering the campaign might like. But at this point it’s still the most likely outcome.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 17, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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