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“Impressed By His Efficiency”: For His Next Trick, Trump Offers Praise For Saddam Hussein

Donald Trump’s views on Iraq have long been at odds with Republican Party orthodoxy. The GOP candidate, for example, has said more than once that he believes the Bush/Cheney administration “lied” about weapons of mass destruction. Trump also likes to say he opposed the U.S. invasion from the start – a claim that’s patently false.

But the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee also appears to be the only politician in America who’s willing to publicly praise Saddam Hussein.

Donald Trump praised former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein Tuesday night, allowing that he was a “really bad guy” but had redeeming qualities when it came to his handling of terrorists.

Trump lauded the former U.S. adversary for how “well” he killed terrorists, recalling that he “didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were terrorists, over.”

Oh. So in Trump’s mind, Hussein may have been “bad,” but Trump is nevertheless impressed by the efficiency with which the Butcher of Baghdad massacred people without regard for due process.

Let’s also note that the Republican’s praise is at odds with reality. As the New York Timesreport noted, Trump’s recollections of Saddam Hussein thwarting terrorists “are not grounded in fact. While Mr. Hussein’s interests were not aligned with jihadists … Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department before the 2003 invasion. In the 1980s, Mr. Hussein fired scud missiles at Israel and used chemical weapons on tens of thousands of Iraqis.”

If Trump’s admiration for Saddam Hussein’s policies seems familiar, it’s because last night wasn’t the first time the GOP candidate praised the Iraqi dictator, though as defenses go, I’m not sure it helps his case to say, “Donald Trump keeps expressing admiration for Hussein.”

But as remarkable as it is to have an American presidential candidate publicly complimenting Saddam Hussein over and over again, there’s also the broader pattern of Trump praising authoritarian regimes.

I’m reminded of something Hillary Clinton said in a speech last month:

“I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength. He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.

“Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”

I take Clinton’s point, but perhaps it’s best not to leave this to the psychiatrists. Rather, it may be worthwhile for all of us – voters, journalists, officials in the political arena – to come to terms with Donald J. Trump and his frequent admiration for authoritarian regimes.

As of last night, it seemed some conservatives weren’t altogether pleased with the GOP candidate’s judgment. John Podhoretz, for example, responded to Trump’s praise of Hussein by saying the presumptive 2016 nominee is “f—ing insane,” while Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Ted Cruz, added, Seriously. “How do you screw up messaging Hillary’s ‘extreme carelessness’ by praising Saddam freaking Hussein”?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 6, 2016

July 6, 2016 Posted by | Dictators, Donald Trump, Saddam Hussein | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Declares War On The Press”: Trump Thinks He Literally Deserves A Constant Stream Of Praise And Kudos

This morning, Donald Trump held a press conference to answer questions about a fundraiser he held four months ago on behalf of veterans’ groups, and perhaps more so than ever before, he made explicit his contempt for the media that have given him so much attention over the past year. Not only that, he promised to continue to attack them whenever they fail to give him the kind of coverage Russian state-owned media give Vladimir Putin.

It was little short of a declaration of war.

The ostensible purpose of the event was to address that fundraiser, particularly the shifting stories and outright falsehoods about it that have come from Trump and his staffers. In recent weeks there have been questions about whether Trump had raised what he claimed, how much of it had actually been distributed, and perhaps most troublingly, the fact that on that night in January Trump said he had given $1 million to veterans’ groups, which was false. When the Post’s David Fahrenthold and other reporters began investigating where the money had gone, they found no evidence that Trump had given $1 million to any veterans’ group. Then last Monday — four months after he claimed to have given his donation and only after reporters’ questions had become more frequent and pressing — Trump finally called the head of a veterans’ group to tell him the group would be getting a $1 million donation from him.

When Fahrenthold asked Trump whether he had given the money only because he was getting questions from reporters about it — a perfectly reasonable question to ask — Trump replied, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re a really nasty guy.” That was a preview of what happened today.

In this press conference, Trump was as ridiculous as ever — he must have claimed “I didn’t want the credit” for raising money for veterans at least a dozen times, which is sort of like Kim Kardashian saying “I really don’t want to be famous.” But he spent most of his time attacking the media.

We should understand that Trump is hardly alone among politicians in disliking the media or thinking that his coverage isn’t what it should be. Where he differs is in the other things he believes. Trump thinks he literally deserves a constant stream of praise and kudos from reporters. He thinks that any challenging question from a reporter is not just inappropriate and unfair but evidence that the reporter is a terrible person. He thinks that it’s reasonable for a presidential nominee to look a reporter in the face, point at him, and say “You’re a sleaze,” for no reason other than that the reporter asked a question premised on something other than the idea that Donald Trump is a spectacular human being everyone should constantly be applauding.

“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. Reporters “are not good people,” he said. “The political press is among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met,” he said. “The press is so dishonest and so unfair,” he said, without identifying a single thing anyone in the media said on this topic that wasn’t true. When ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked Trump about his well-known penchant for exaggeration, Trump said, “What I don’t want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He’s a sleaze in my book.” When Llamas asked why, Trump responded, “You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.” And this may have been the most revealing part:

“Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying ‘Who got it, who got it, who got it,’ and you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”

He actually believes that it’s the job of political reporters covering a presidential candidate to write “Thank you very much, Mr. Trump.” It’s not the press’ job to discover the truth or ask questions or hold the powerful accountable; their job is to promote him and compliment him. And when he doesn’t get the glowing coverage he wants, he attacks.

I’m trying not to get tired of saying this, but just try to imagine what the reaction would be if Hillary Clinton came out to defend herself against some perfectly reasonable questions, and said “The press should be ashamed of themselves” or pointed to a reporter and said, “You’re a sleaze.” She wouldn’t be criticized or questioned, she’d be crucified. Reporters would ask if she had lost her mind and was having a nervous breakdown. There would be demands for her to pull out of the race immediately, since she had shown herself to be so unstable.

It’s going to be a real challenge for reporters covering Trump to continue to ask the questions they ask of every candidate, to demand answers and to point out falsehoods — which is already a herculean task when it comes to Trump, since he delivers so many of them. That’s not easy to do when you know your subject is going to assault you over it. And it’s not likely to change.

“Is this what it’s going to be like covering you if you’re president?” one reporter asked near the end of the press conference.

Trump’s reply: “Yeah, it is. I’m going to continue to attack the press.”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Press, Reporters | , , , , | 3 Comments

“Using The Government To Intimidate”: Here’s How Donald Trump’s Authoritarianism Would Actually Work

At various points in his career, Donald Trump has praised authoritarian rulers in places like Russia, China, and North Korea for having the ruthlessness to crush their political opponents. His worship of strength, contempt for reason, and appeal to base emotions has made many observers liken him to an authoritarian ruler, and even debate whether he is an actual fascist. But what would authoritarianism look like in the United States, as practiced by Trump? It would probably take the form of Trump using the powers of the federal government to intimidate his critics in the media — one of the key tools Vladimir Putin used to push Russia’s (far more fragile) democracy into outright despotism. In an interview Thursday night with quasi-official mouthpiece Sean Hannity, Trump responded to Washington Post investigations into his life by casually threatening retribution against its owner, Jeff Bezos:

It’s interesting that you say that, because every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from the Washington Post asking ridiculous questions. And I will tell you. This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power. So that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody … it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for antitrust. Because he’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much. Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing.

And what they’ve done is he bought this paper for practically nothing. And he’s using that as a tool for political power against me and against other people. And I’ll tell you what: We can’t let him get away with it. So he’s got about 20, 25 — I just heard they’re taking these really bad stories — I mean, they, you know, wrong, I wouldn’t even say bad. They’re wrong. And in many cases they have no proper information. And they’re putting them together, they’re slopping them together. And they’re gonna do a book. And the book is gonna be all false stuff because the stories are so wrong. And the reporters — I mean, one after another — so what they’re doing is he’s using that as a political instrument to try and stop antitrust, which he thinks I believe he’s antitrust, in other words, what he’s got is a monopoly. And he wants to make sure I don’t get in. So, it’s one of those things. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. What he’s doing’s wrong. And the people are being — the whole system is rigged. You see a case like that. The whole system is rigged. Whether it’s Hillary or whether it’s Bezos.

Obviously, one can debate Amazon’s antitrust practices (a case can be made it is a monopoly) or its tax levels. But Trump is making no pretense of evaluating these questions as public policies to be settled on their merits. His diatribe weaves in and out of Bezos’s finances and the Post’s coverage, and back again repeatedly, leaving no doubt that, in Trump’s mind, the two are one and the same.

Trump is making nice with the leaders of his party now, and the Republican holdouts have been reduced to a stubborn handful. But the GOP leaders going along with Trump should be under no illusion about the likelihood that the candidate they support, if elected, would turn the United States into at least a quasi-authoritarian state. And the ease with which he has brought other Republicans to heel gives every indication that they would help him do it.

 

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

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Authoritarianism, Donald Trump, Federal Government | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Has Happened To Our Election?”: No Candidate Has Ever Lied As Frequently, Blatantly, And Blithely As Trump

When a man’s fancy gets astride on his reason,

        imagination is at cuffs with the senses,

        and common understanding as well as common

        sense is kicked out of doors, the first proselyte he

                makes is himself.”

                                –Jonathan Swift, “A Tale of a Tub,” 1704

For a man with a satirical turn of mind, presidential election years can be trying. Apparently your humble, obedient servant here isn’t angry enough to participate fully in the festivities. This is interesting, because I’ve rarely been mistaken for Mr. Sunshine. I’d be a total failure as a game show host.

Everywhere you turn, people are shaking their fists in each other’s faces. On television and online, that is. Most days, it’d be a good idea to don a crash helmet before opening Facebook. And the summer bickering season has hardly begun. These are mostly Republicans and Democrats fighting among themselves. The main event has yet to come.

Elsewhere, people go about their normal daily activities with seeming equanimity — although there’s been a marked increase in convenience store parking space shootings, actually. Maybe an armed society’s not such a polite society after all. How surprising would it be to see gunfire erupt at a presidential campaign event?

But I digress, and ominously.

Chez Pazienza recently described a mob of Bernie Sanders backers who disrupted a recent Clinton campaign event in Los Angeles. According to one witness, “[t]hey were cussing at people, calling women whores, and telling people to kill themselves. They were shouting in children’s faces, blowing sirens in their ears, and making them cry.”

Such antics would be hard to believe, had Pazienza not posted video clips. Asked by Rachel Maddow to disavow such behavior, Sanders basically ducked the question. And this is the Hippie Party. On college campuses, Clinton supporters complain they’re called “evil,” poor things.

Do you suppose they require “trigger warnings”?

At such times I’m reminded of Jonathan Swift’s timeless satire of the root causes of political fanaticism. Writing roughly 300 years ago in the wake of the English Civil War, Swift concocted an imaginary religious sect called “Aeolists.” (Aeolus was the Roman god of wind.) His target was anybody who claimed to be “inspired,” or as he saw it, filled with hot air.

“Words are but wind,” Aeolists believed, “and learning is nothing but words; ergo, learning is nothing but wind.” Swift depicted true believers “linked together in a circular chain, with every man a pair of bellows applied to his neighbour, by which they blew up each other to the shape and size of a [barrel]…. When, by these and the like performances, they were grown sufficiently replete, they would immediately depart, and disembogue for the public good a plentiful share of their acquirements into their disciples’ chaps.”

Has a more apt description of candidate Trump’s cult of personality ever appeared? Is there nothing the man could say that would give his enraptured supporters pause? As Paul Waldman notes in the American Prospect, he’s a one man tidal wave of disinformation.

“First, there’s the sheer breadth and character of his falsehoods. Absurd exaggerations, mischaracterizations of his own past, distortions about his opponents, descriptions of events that never occurred, inventions personal and political, foreign and domestic, Trump does it all…There has simply never been a candidate who has lied as frequently, as blatantly, and as blithely as Trump.”

Trump outdid even himself on Meet the Press last Sunday, disemboguing a couple of thunderous falsehoods in our collective faces. First he allowed as how he means to stop undocumented immigrants from voting in U.S. elections.

Informed by Chuck Todd that they’re already prevented by law from doing so, Trump allowed as how “You have places where people just walk in and vote.”

If he could document even one such polling place, that would be newsworthy. But of course Trump cannot, so instead he doubled down.

“We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world,” he claimed. That one the interviewer unaccountably let go.

Actually, U.S. tax revenue ranks near the bottom of the developed world as a percentage of GDP — just above Korea, Chile and Mexico. Corporate tax rates are theoretically high, but as most people know, loopholes are so plentiful that few companies pay them.

U.S. tax revenue per capita ranks nearer the middle of industrialized nations. As conservatives never tire of pointing out in other contexts, most countries in the European Union pay twice as much as Americans.

But then why bother? One could devote whole columns as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler recently did, to debunking Trump’s epic falsehoods. Some of them are downright funny.

No, Vladimir Putin never called Trump a “genius.” He called him “flamboyant.” Only Trump, of course, would seek the Russian strongman’s approval.

But do such considerations matter to the man’s encircled supporters, each with a bellows discreetly inserted?

I don’t believe that they do.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Washington Playbook”: If You’re Not Responding Militarily, You’re Not Responding

Richard Cohen has finally gotten around to writing about President Obama’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that was the impetus for so much discussion almost a month ago. In doing so, he demonstrates exactly what the President referred to as the “Washington playbook.” As a reminder, here is what Obama said to Goldberg about that.

“Where am I controversial? When it comes to the use of military power,” he said. “That is the source of the controversy. There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions. In the midst of an international challenge like Syria, you get judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons why it does not apply.”

Cohen doesn’t so much champion the Washington playbook as he criticizes Obama for not employing it. For example, here is what he writes on the President’s statement about Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

It’s a rule that Obama himself should have followed. He speaks the unspeakable, conceding that eastern Ukraine, Moldova and Crimea are Russia’s for the taking. “Now, if there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they should speak up and be very clear about it,” he told Goldberg.

Ambiguity is not Obama’s forte. Rather than keeping Vladimir Putin guessing — and maybe restrained — he signals the Russian president not to worry. Putin already has Crimea. He’s got eastern Ukraine. Will Moldova be next? Just a matter of time, it seems to me.

The playbook Cohen is working from assumes that the only possible response to Russia is a war. If President Obama isn’t willing to do that in response to Crimea and eastern Ukraine, it’s just a matter of time before Putin goes into Moldova.

What that completely ignores is that there are other possible responses – like economic sanctions that are coordinated with our international partners and the European Union.

Cohen also doesn’t seem to think that President Obama is doing anything about the situation in Syria.

But the Syrian civil war has produced a humanitarian calamity, at least 250,000 dead and an almost unprecedented refugee crisis that is destabilizing Europe. Obama acts as though this is a minor matter, just another Middle Eastern dust-up, but the Syrian mess is an example of the slippery slope he does not mention when he mentions the one he wants to avoid. Like, possibly, Moldova, it is the consequence of inaction that may matter more than any action itself.

It seems as though Cohen is unaware of the fact that the U.S. is engaging in air strikes against ISIS in Syria. But even more importantly, Sec. of State John Kerry has been working tirelessly on the multilateral peace negotiations that are seeking an end to the Syrian civil war.

For people like Cohen, if the U.S. isn’t using military intervention to wield it’s way around the globe, it’s not doing anything. That pretty much sums up the Washington playbook that President Obama refuses to implement.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 5, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Foreign Policy, President Obama, Richard Cohen | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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