Thursday, August 11, 2016

Apologizing for Trump: who says Americans are losing their creativity?

After proposing that "the Second Amendment people" might have a certain solution to protect their God-given rights should Hillary Clinton be elected president, Trump and his increasingly inventive apologists offered a smorgasbord of excuses for a candidate for the president of the United States proposing that his opponent and any Supreme Court judges she appoints be knocked off.

Take your pick! There's one to suit every taste and lifestyle:

1. Deny I was ever in North Carolina. Trump took his usual direct approach, insisting that he had not said what the entire world could see him on video saying. He tweeted the next day, "I said pro-2A citizens must organize and get out vote to save our Constitution!" But — believe it or not — that was not what he said, which unmistakably referred to what might happen if Hillary was elected:

Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But — but I'll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.

2. It was a joke — OK, a very, very bad joke. Speaker Paul Ryan:

I heard about this Second Amendment quote. It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that.

3. How about this: Blame the media! VP candidate Mike Pence:
It seems like every single day the national press latches on to some other issue about my running mate, just each and every day of the week.

4. Don't worry, he's not evil . . . he's just incomprehensible. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, one of the first GOP officials to endorse Trump:

You're treating Mr. Trump's words like he is the most articulate person who's ever graced our ears with his words, and that is not true. He is not a politician. He is not a person like you who's very articulate, very well spoken. He's a business person who’s running for president. So I don't think the way he said that, and the sequence of his statements, I'm not going to judge him on that, because I don't think that's what he meant. And I think he can be inarticulate at times.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Obama made me do it

By now nothing I suppose can surprise us that comes out of the mouth of Donald Trump, but I still find myself with a capacity to be astounded at the mealy-mouthed excuses, sleazy evasions, and pusillanimous justifications offered by Republican officials for even the most morally repugnant, socially destructive, and anti-American utterances of their Chosen Leader.

One of the more sickening manifestations of this has been the repeated theme from Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders that the only real problem with Trump has been his lack of "discipline" and his "inexperience" in the tactics and mechanics of a political campaign, and that if he can just get more "focused" and "on message" then they will be just hunky-dory with him.

Yesterday Ryan showed what a man of deep principles he is by offering this ringing denunciation of Trump's appalling weeklong attack on the Khans, the Muslim American parents of a US Army captain killed fighting in Iraq (Trump hit an all time low even for him when he said that the real reason Mr. Khan was "bothered" by him was that he, Trump, wants to stop "thousands of radical Islamic terrorists coming in"; his factotum Roger Stone meanwhile claimed that the Khans were actually secret al-Qaeda operatives). Here is what Ryan said:

“I wish [Trump] would be a little more disciplined. What I say to him privately and what I’ve said publicly is Hillary Clinton is the one to focus on, not another Republican, not a private citizen criticizing you.”

Yes, Trump's only mistake — in his crazed, callous, bigoted attacks on a family that had made the ultimate sacrifice as loyal, patriotic Americans — was that he should have been focusing on Hillary Clinton instead. Correct that little lapse in "discipline," and he's our man!

The refusal of GOP officials who do know better to take responsibility for the monster they have created is I suppose human nature, but it reflects a much deeper moral chasm that has encouraged and inflamed the truly vile racism, violent threats, and dehumanizing attacks that have characterized a disturbing part of the Trump phenomenon. Rather than denounce these violations of all norms of a decent society, democratic political values, and American traditions of tolerance and respect for opposing views, Republican leaders have been pumping the line that every new line their party has crossed this year has simply been a completely understandable counterreaction to the "divisive" policies of President Obama.

What exactly it is about Obama that is so "divisive" as to throw their party into the arms of a racist demagogue they can't quite seem to agree on. Bobby Jindal explained that the rise of Trump's no-nothingism was the direct result of Obama's being too "cool" and "weak" and "nuanced" and unreasonably refusing to adopt Republican policies favoring more tax cuts and slashing Medicare and Social Security benefits. ("After seven years of the cool, weak and endlessly nuanced 'no drama Obama,' voters are looking for a strong leader who speaks in short, declarative sentences," Professor Jindal opined in the Wall Street Journal.)

Jeb Bush claimed the exact opposite: that Obama was too strong, which forced "a few" in the Republican Party to overreact by adopting totally uncharacteristic Republican positions such as denouncing global warming as a hoax, vilifying immigrants, defunding Planned Parenthood, opposing same-sex marriage, and trying to bust unions:

"Eight years of the divisive tactics of President Obama and his allies have undermined Americans’ faith in politics and government to accomplish anything constructive. . . . In turn, a few in the Republican Party responded by trying to out-polarize the president, making us seem anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker and anti-common-sense."

So, the next time you hear Donald Trump's supporters chant at a rally, "build the wall, kill them all," remember that would never, ever have happened were it not for the "divisive tactics" of President Obama that make "a few" in the Republican Party "seem anti-immigrant."

Even before Obama even took office, lest we forget, Republicans were already vowing among themselves to oppose every initiative Obama advanced — to deliberately sabotage, in other words, "Americans’ faith in politics and government to accomplish anything constructive" — for the sole purpose of making his presidency appear to the American public a failure. "If he was for it," former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, describing a meeting of GOP senators in January 2009, "we had to be against it. . . . All [Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell] cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory."

In lockstep, the talking head faction of the right pointed to the Republican obstructionism itself as proof of how "divisive" Obama was, basically saying, "look what he made us do?" 

This is the rationalization of abusive spouses from time immemorial: If I got so mad I hit her, that shows how much she must have provoked me, right?

Perhaps more to the point, it reminds me chillingly of the circular justifications invoked by the white supremacists who destroyed Reconstruction and civil rights in a campaign of calculated terrorist violence against African Americans in the years following the Civil War. In my book The Bloody Shirt, which chronicled this terrible chapter in our nation's history, I quoted a typical specimen of this reasoning from a white citizen who explained that the vilest of their morally abhorrent acts of vigilante violence — whipping, mutilating, and murdering black men who tried to exercise their newly won political rights to vote and hold office — just went to show how sorely "respectable men" must have been pressed.

In the horrifying video clips the New York Times compiled and posted this week of the vilely racist and violent behavior of Trump supporters at his rallies, there is one bit where Trump repeats this well worn Republican talking point about Obama being the most "divisive" president.

A loyal Trumpite in the audience then clearly shouts out, "fuck that n-----!"

Yes, what can be more "divisive" than being black and being president? Why, he's so divisive he even makes us shout out the vilest racial slur in the book when we hear his name mentioned.

And no one, from Trump to anyone else in attendance, seemed to mind in the least.

Monday, August 1, 2016

"I've had a beautiful, I've had a flawless campaign"

The Washington Post has now posted a full transcript of Trump's interview on ABC this weekend — the one in which he sadistically and cruelly mocked the parents of the Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq and produced perhaps the single most incoherent foreign policy statement in modern memory — but once again it's the things that don't make headlines that are just as mind-boggling in affirming Trump's lock on the Jack D. Ripper look alike contest.

At the very start of the interview, he

• asserted a half dozen times that he has "one of the great temperaments"

•  offered the following syllogism

(major premise) I ran a "beautiful,  flawless campaign"
(minor premise) Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech "criticized my campaign"
(conclusion) therefore "she's a very dishonest person"

Extra credit to all logic students who can spot the flaw in this reasoning.

George Stephanopoulos began the interview by quoting Clinton's charge that "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons."

Here is how it went from there:

TRUMP: She's a very dishonest person. I have one of the great temperaments. I have a winning temperament. She has a bad temperament. She's weak. We need a strong temperament. And that's all it is. I have a strong temperament—I know how to win.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Polls do show some concern about this, that— whether you can be trusted with the nuclear codes.
TRUMP: Well, I think that's probably because Hillary, that's all they talk about is temperament. I think I have a great temperament. I beat 16 very talented people in— and I've never done this before. You don't do that with a bad temperament. I'm leading her in the polls, as you probably have noticed. And I think I have a great temperament.
I have a temperament where I know how to win. She doesn't know how to win. Honestly, she lies a lot. And she really— she should tell — the truth. I honestly believe, if she told the truth -- 'cause she made some reference to my campaigning, I've had a beautiful— I've had a flawless campaign. You'll be writing books about this campaign. And yet, she's criticizing my campaign.

• Later, after mocking the mother of the dead soldier for standing next to her husband while he spoke movingly of their sacrifice and love for America and the Constitution, Trump claimed credit for inventing the idea that NATO should fight terrorism—15 years after NATO sent troops to support the United States' fight on terrorism in Afghanistan:

I'm all in favor of NATO. I said, "NATO's obsolete." I was asked a question by one of your competitors. And I said, "NATO's obsolete. Because it's not taking care of terror."
You understand that. And it turned out I was right. A lotta people gave me credit for that. Then three months ago, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, they said, "NATO to develop a terror division." And somebody who's supposed to be very extraordinary is put in charge of it. That was all because of me. So I was right about that.

• And finally, he once again invoked his favorite pet narcissistic notion that even though he's running for President of the United States, and has spent a year publicly issuing a stream of inflammatory, insulting, divisive, hate-filled, unconstitutional, unethical, reckless, dangerous, and incoherent notions, anyone who criticizes him who "he's never met" is being unfair because they "don't know me" — including retired four-star Marine general John Allen who criticized Trump specifically for advocating the war crimes of torturing prisoners and killing the family members of terrorists:

The generals aren't doing so well right now. Now, I have a feeling it may be Obama's fault. But — if you look at ISIS — General McArthur and General Patton, they're spinning in their graves. The generals certainly aren't doing very well right now. And — General Allen, after I saw he was on ranting and raving about me, who he never met— I checked up. Guess what. They weren't so happy with him. He didn't beat ISIS. He didn't beat ISIS. He didn't do even well with ISIS.

Profiles in insanity

I defy anyone to read the following and still maintain that the guy is not completely off his gourd.

Appearing yesterday on ABC's "This Week," Trump insisted to George Stephanopoulos that if he were president, Russia's president Vladimir Putin would not send troops into Ukraine:

He’s not going into Ukraine, O.K., just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.

“Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Mr. Stephanopoulos pointed out.

O.K., well, he’s there in a certain way. But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take — takes Crimea.