Donald Trump’s demonstration of impotent machismo last week is beginning to get the scrutiny it deserves. The national press initially fawned over his missile attacks on Syria, suggesting that he had finally become “presidential.” It was an embarrassing display of the media’s war fetishism.
It didn’t take but a few hours for reality to set in regarding the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Trump’s pointless aggression. The bombed airstrips were back in use the next day, and there was no perceptible impact on Assad’s barbarism.
On Face the Nation (video below), host John Dickerson asked Sen. John McCain about the strike. McCain indicated his general support for military action and the “message” it would deliver to Assad and other brutal tyrants. However he also noted that the failure to do any sustained damage rendered the mission ineffective. But McCain went on to express an even more startling opinion regarding Trump’s first act as Commander-in-Chief:
Dickerson: Do you think the administration did anything to encourage this behavior by the Syrians by saying that the Syrian people would determine Assad’s fate? And that removing him is not a priority? Things that were said before the use of chemical weapons?
McCain: I think it probably was partially to blame. And Secretary Tillerson basically is saying the same thing. After kind of contradicting himself and then saying the same thing, argues vigorously for a plan and a strategy.
That’s a rather damning assertion coming from a senior Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. It’s the sort of blame that Republicans usually reserve to malign President Obama. But it isn’t the first time that a Republican has observed the potential harm of weak leadership. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney, seeking to ramp up the fear quotient during George W. Bush’s reelection, said this:
“Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness.”
The unintended implication of that is that the 9/11 terrorists perceived weakness on the part of Bush which invited them to attack. The same could be attributed now to Assad perceiving such weakness in Trump. After all, after Obama forced Assad to relinquish the chemical weapons he had at the time, Assad never tried to use them again during Obama’s tenure. It wasn’t until Trump came into office that he felt he could risk it.
It’s more than a little curious that both Bush and Trump had a foreign policy crisis early in their terms. In Bush’s case, he was suffering from low poll numbers and much of the nation didn’t consider him legitimate due to the Florida election controversies and the Supreme Court eventually deciding the presidency. His invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq bolstered his public image. Similarly, Trump has the worst poll numbers ever for a new president. And now he has an excuse to start another war. Does this prove anything conclusively? Nope. I’m just sayin. Particularly in light of this tweet by Trump in 2012:
Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.
One of the favorite stunts that conservatives use to try to shame liberals is the “man on the street” interview. Generally they purposefully skew the presentation to reflect their preconceived prejudices. Any responses that fail to advance their point of view are left on the editing room floor. Then they release a video with six people who agree with them, but never tell viewers that there were sixteen others who disagreed but were cut out.
This week on Fox and Friends they featured a “reporter,” Cabot Phillips, from the ultra right-wing organization Campus Reform. He visited Harvard University in an effort to expose the alleged liberalism of the students and faculty. The question he asked was “Who is more dangerous to Americans, Donald Trump or ISIS?” Of course, he fully expected to find students who selected Trump, whom he would then try to make look foolish.
Surprise! He found just what he expected. Then, after showing the video (posted below) on Fox News, Phillips sought to explain what could possibly cause these students to have such radical and shocking opinions. He said that:
“It’s from President Obama, who they all look up to. Who for so many years said, “Well, ISIS is the J.V. team. They’re not this real threat. And also it’s from professors and the media who are again constantly saying “Look, Donald Trump is the real threat here,” and trying to shield their eyes from actual threats.”
That analysis was wholly constructed from his over-active imagination. Nowhere in the video did any student attribute their views to either Obama or their professors. And Phillips didn’t bother to interview any of the faculty to ascertain their views. What’s more, while Obama did once try to marginalize ISIS as a J.V. team, he also spent years outlining precisely the peril they pose. More importantly, he attacked them relentlessly, killing thousands of their operatives, including many of their leaders.
However, what was most conspicuous about the video was the fact that the students who said Trump was more dangerous had good reasons for thinking so. One of the students spelled it out saying that:
“Do I think ISIS is going to cause a threat to me living my everyday life? Not really. Do I think the rhetoric that Donald Trump is using and empowering these folks hidden in a corner for a long time with hateful views … do I think that’s more of a threat than ISIS? Yes.”
Indeed, Trump has done more for hate groups in America who espouse prejudice and violence than any President before him. It is not coincidental that the KKK and white supremacists uniformly endorsed Trump and worked to get him elected. Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign and presidency has encouraged America’s bigots and increased the number of hate crimes. African-Americans, gays, Muslims, Latinos, and Jews have all been victimized in greater numbers in the Era of Trump.
The harassment and assaults that Trump has inspired have a much more direct impact on the safety of Americans. That doesn’t diminish the horror of terrorist activity by ISIS. It’s just a fact. It is not, therefore, the least bit surprising that people consider Trump more to be dangerous with respect to their personal lives.
A study by the CATO Institute last year revealed the relative dangers of common occurrences. Death by foreign terrorists came in 34th out of forty-eight items. Activities more likely than terrorism to be fatal included walking, choking on food, and police encounters. You are 260 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than by terrorists. You’re 129,000 times more likely to die in a gun assault.
Not mentioned in this video were risks posed by Trump’s actual policies. The president’s erratic behavior makes him a poor choice to be in charge of the nuclear codes. And his anti-environment stance could result in millions of lives lost due to famine, drought, extreme weather events and war.
Taking a logical approach to the question, it’s clear that Trump is potentially far more dangerous to America and the world than ISIS. He commands a much bigger military with far greater resources. The video is a blatantly partisan sham by conservative activists. Campus Reform is a project of the uber-rightist Leadership Institute that receives much of their funding from the Koch brothers. Their alumni includes hacks like Mitch McConnell, James O’Keefe, Ralph Reed, Karl Rove, and even Vice-President Mike Pence. That’s a fraternal order that speaks volumes as to their political and ideological mission. And it’s why Fox News devotes segments to their lies on a regular basis.
The videos of Syrian children suffering and dying from chemical bombings are almost too awful to watch. But even as Donald Trump castigates Assad, he pivots to blame President Obama for the atrocity. Trump’s public comments so far manage to produce nothing but bluster and impotent finger-pointing. He chastises Obama for not having done enough, but over the past couple of years Trump has repeatedly argued for doing nothing at all.
“President Donald Trump has told some members of Congress that he is considering military action in Syria in retaliation for this week’s chemical attack, and recognizes the seriousness of the situation, a source familiar with the calls tells CNN.”
In light of that news, let’s revisit his Twitter posts for the past three years:
We should stop talking, stay out of Syria and other countries that hate us, rebuild our own country and make it strong and great again-USA!
Those last two tweets have particular significance. Any military action has the potential of going awry. Civilians are too often the victims, even in well-intentioned missions. And already Trump has presided over more than 1,400 civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq, according to some reports. More than 200 in one incident alone. And he’s been in office less than three months. Is this what he meant during the campaign when he said that he would “bomb the hell” out of ISIS?
Also, it will be interesting to see if Trump will comply with his demand to get congressional approval before taking any military action. Needless to say, Trump has not exactly been a bastion of consistency. But on this matter he will be challenged by his Republican colleagues on Capital Hill. Sen. Rand Paul has already said publicly that he will oppose any military moves on Syria without authorization from Congress.
There really are no good solutions to this problem. Surface level analyses that advocate sending in the Marines will almost certainly result in painful losses. That includes both innocent Syrians and American troops. But more complex combinations of diplomacy and international cooperation are seemingly beyond Trump’s mental capacity to comprehend. And none of these routes guarantee a desirable outcome.
Unfortunately, America is now burdened with a leader who has no experience addressing these kinds of problems. Nor does he have any relationships with other world leaders. And he has recruited a staff that is just as unfit as he is. Does anyone really think that Jared Kushner or Rex Tillerson will find a path to peace? That leaves us with little more than crossed fingers and anxious hopes that the Pentagon will muster up some common sense and be able to exert some influence over our incompetent president. It isn’t much to hang onto, but it’s all we’ve got.
Another tragic instance of hateful violence was reported Sunday. This time a man entered a mosque in Quebec and shot fourteen people as they were praying, killing six of them. This massacre of innocents occurred shortly after Donald Trump signed an executive order banning Muslims immigrants and refugees from entering the United States. The measure was widely condemned as counter-productive to the fight against terrorism. And in some respect it encourages the impression of Muslims as dangerous and undesirable.
As the facts surrounding the shooting were still unfolding, Fox News rushed out a story that falsely identified one of two suspects as Moroccan. The story has since been edited to remove that assertion, but it was never corrected. A tweet is still live on the Fox News Twitter account with the same accusation:
[Update 1/31/2017: Fox finally issued a statement expressing regret for their error and they deleted the tweet]
For the record, there is only one suspect. He is a white nationalist Canadian named Alexandre Bisonnette. His social media profile includes “Likes” of France’s fascist Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump. There was a Moroccan individual who was briefly detained by the police, but who was later identified as a witness. That was all that Fox needed.
This is the sort of defamatory allegation that often finds a place on Fox News. If any event occurs that provides an opportunity to smear their perceived political foes, Fox News jumps on it. Therefore, Democratic protests, or Black Lives Matter rallies, are reported as assemblies of decadent liberals. And anything involving Muslims is automatically turned into a terrorist attack by radical Islamists.
The example shown here is not merely a journalistic mistake. It is representative of Fox’s deliberate intent to demonize Muslims. And that intention is getting support in the White House. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, referenced the Quebec shooting at the morning briefing. He said that:
“It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.”
Spicer’s comment makes the false assertion that there is a “reminder” in this shooting that relates to Trump’s policy. Of course, nothing in the Muslim ban implemented by Trump would have prevented this tragedy. That, however, didn’t stop Spicer from exploiting it. His irresponsible statement implies that there was a Muslim connection to the shooting. That falsehood can only exacerbate the bigotry that already infects the Fox News audience and Trump’s Republican Party.
At a time when victims and their families are trying to cope with this horror, Fox News and the White House are only making matters worse. Their misinformation spreads far more quickly than any attempt to correct it, which they haven’t made. So rather than receiving the sympathy and concern that was warranted, the Muslim community was victimized again by dishonest media and a bigoted administration that is more focused on political advantage than on truth or human decency.
With a flurry of executive orders this week, Donald Trump implemented some of the unsavory promises he made during his campaign. They include a revival of the KeystoneXL and DAPL oil pipelines, a gag order on women’s health services, laying the groundwork for repealing ObamaCare, and affirming his intention to spend billions on a pointless wall along the Mexican border.
However, perhaps the most abhorrent of his actions is an order that reeks of bigotry directed at victims of terror. He is prohibiting refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from immigrating to safety in the United States. Never mind that there has never been a terrorist attack in the U. S. by any refugee from these countries. Or that he inexplicably exempted countries with which he has a business relationship. For example Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9/11 terrorists came from.
Among the casualties of Trump’s callousness is Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian filmmaker. Farhadi is the director of “Salesman,” an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language film. Unfortunately, he won’t be at the awards gala due solely to his national origin.
So who really cares about whether the “Hollywood elites” get to honor a movie director for his work? Aren’t there thousands of more seriously at risk people who are also being denied entry to the U.S.?
Of course there are. The point of this is to illustrate the foolishness of Trump’s blanket ban. It punishes people based on their religion, regardless of their need. Farhadi doesn’t deserve to be barred from an honor that he earned. But Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice lumps Farhadi in with all of the evildoers he imagines are seeking refugee status. What’s more, Farhadi’s absence will likely hurt the marketing of the film. Consequently, Americans will miss the opportunity to witness the reality of this Iranian artist’s perspective. That should delight bigoted conservatives who prefer to propagate negative stereotypes.
If people like Farhadi are barred from entry into into the U.S., think about the fate of those who are persecuted. There are Iraqis who are helping American forces to defeat ISIS who will be turned away. Some of them will likely end up dead for their trouble. And thousands of families and children whose lives are at risk will be forced to endure further hardship and death. That’s a cruel fate to impose on National Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The impact of Trump’s policy is certain to result in more personal tragedy. But it is also likely to advance the cause of international terrorists. It will affirm their argument that the U.S. harbors a hatred for Muslims. That view is validated by the language in Trump’s executive order that prioritizes aid for Christian refugees.
Apparently Trump is unaware that Muslims are the most frequent victims of terrorism by ISIS and other radical groups. Then again, he is unaware of many of the critical issues that face the nation. And his ignorance will make America, and the world, more dangerous. Specifically, his policies can only incite an increase in terrorist activity, and particularly actions aimed at Christians. So, in the end, his racist outlook could become more accurate. Nice work, Donald.
At the last presidential debate Donald Trump thought he was smooth by bringing a few of Bill Clinton’s accusers from the past to the event. He apparently believed that their presence would rattle Hillary Clinton and he would rise to victory. He could not have been more wrong. Clinton never even noticed the ploy and went on to prevail over the second debate in a row.
Now, in a move that can only be described as desperate and clueless, Donald Trump is reprising the stunt. This time he has descended even lower into irrelevancy and smut. His guest at tonight’s debate will be Malik Obama, President Obama’s half-brother. How Trump thinks this will have any effect on Clinton is a mystery. Malik’s relationship with the President is, to put it mildly, distant. Consequently, Clinton’s reaction will likely be a barely perceptible smirk, if anything at all.
Malik endorsed Trump months ago and has long nursed bitterness and jealously toward Barack. His reason for backing Trump is that Clinton and Obama had killed his “best friend” Muammar Gaddafi. He also opposes the Democratic Party’s support for marriage equality.
However, the most disturbing aspect of this is that Malik has shown support for the terrorist group Hamas. He posed for a picture two years ago wearing a Hamas scarf with anti-Israel slogans on it. The slogans “Jerusalem is ours, we are coming,” and “From the river to the sea,” are popular with the group. Hamas advocates for the abolition of Israel.
Trump often pretends to be a strong supporter of Israel. He panders to American Jews with promises he can’t keep, while throwing obstacles in front of plausible peace initiatives. His hostile rhetoric is counterproductive and insulting to Israelis, the United Nations, and every American with whom he disagrees. He has been especially disparaging of the President who he believes is “trying to destroy Israel with all his bad moves.”
There is simply no justification for granting access to this debate to someone who has exhibited camaraderie with an anti-Israel terrorist group. Trump is demonstrating that his bluster over crushing ISIS is as meaningless as a diploma from Trump University. If you are opposed to “radical Islamic terrorism” you don’t hobnob with terrorist sympathizers.
As for the media, there has been virtually no mention of Malik’s abhorrent ties to Hamas. And this is the media that Trump asserts is “rigged” against him. Just imagine how the press would react if President Obama invited a terrorist supporter to the White House. It would be front page news for weeks. And Trump would be calling for his impeachment.
For much of the summer conservatives busied themselves counting the days that elapsed since Hillary Clinton held a press conference. To them it indicated that she had something to hide. The truth was that she was concentrating on local media and one-on-one interviews. She was hardly avoiding the press. However, if she wanted to she had ample reason. Her press conference this morning is a perfect illustration of why Clinton might be justified in dodging these affairs.
Following a weekend of bombings and stabbings attributed to terror-linked suspects, Clinton delivered a statement and took a few question from reporters covering her campaign (video below). She began by offering her support to the communities affected by the attacks. She also expressed concern for the victims and determination to prevail over the perpetrators saying, in part:
“Like all Americans, my thoughts are with those who were wounded, their families and our brave first responders. This threat is real, but so is our resolve. Americans will not cower, we will prevail. We will defend our country and we will defeat the evil, twisted ideology of the terrorists.”
After her remarks, Clinton invited the press to ask questions. You might think this would be a good time to dig deeper into her plans to defeat the enemy. But that would only be true if you considered the enemy to be Donald Trump. Because the press seemed far more interested in him than in ISIS. Here are the four questions Clinton was asked by our intrepid journalists:
Unidentified Reporter: The person of interest in this case is an Afghan immigrant, now U.S. citizen. What do you say to voters who may see this as a reason to consider supporting Trump’s approach to terror and immigration?
What do you say to those voters? Who gives a flying flapjack! Voters who are considering Trump’s approach to fighting terrorism are considering an approach that doesn’t exist. And his followers don’t care. In over fifteen months of campaigning he has yet to articulate a coherent policy. Trump’s ISIS “plan” consists of bashing Clinton and President Obama, while boldly declaring from the comfort of his gold-encrusted penthouse that he will bomb the sh*t out of them. Despite the obtuse phrasing of the question, Clinton’s reply was thoughtful, covering law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and immigration reform. All while respecting the civil liberties of American citizens and residents. Voters considering Trump have no interest in such trivialities.
Monica Alba, NBC News: Secretary Clinton, the White House has labeled these lone wolf attacks a top concern and given these weekend’s events, what more specifically should be done and what would you do specifically beyond what President Obama has done? Is the current plan enough?
Remember that question. You won’t hear another like during this event. It actually addressed a substantive issue and Clinton was able to respond in kind.
Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg Politics: Are you concerned that this weekend’s attacks or potential incidents in the coming weeks might be an attempt by ISIS or ISIS sympathizers or, really, any other group, maybe the Russians, to influence the presidential race in some way, And presumably try to drive votes to Donald Trump who, as you said before, widely seen as perhaps being somebody who they would be more willing to — or see as an easier person to be against?
Once again, the question was framed with an eye on how Trump figured into it. The reporter couldn’t simply inquire as to Clinton’s thoughts on the events of the day. Apparently the electoral consequences of terrorism are more important than defeating it. Nevertheless, Clinton soldiered on to provide an answer:
“We know that a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS, because they are looking to make this into a war against Islam rather than a war against jihadists, violent terrorists, people who number in the maybe tens of thousands, not but tens of millions.” […and…] “we know that Donald Trump’s comments have been used online for recruitment of terrorists. We’ve heard that from former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who made it a very clear point when he said Donald Trump is being used as a recruiting sergeant for the terrorists. We also know from the former head of our Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, that the kinds of rhetoric and language that Mr. Trump has used is giving aid and comfort to our adversaries.”
That business about “giving aid and comfort to our adversaries” was quickly snatched up by the Trump camp. They complained that Clinton was accusing him of treason. However, she was only citing the opinion of a counter-terrorism expert. The rest of her comments were accurate and well documented.
Nancy Cordes, CBS News: Secretary Clinton, as you know, Donald Trump has had a lot to say about your record on this issue over the weekend. Here’s one more example. “Under the leadership of Obama and Clinton, Americans have experienced more attacks at home than victories abroad. Time to change the playbook.” What’s your reaction to that characterization?
Cordes was referencing Trump’s tweet this morning. It hardly requires a response since it is so patently absurd. Americans have not experienced any near the number of attacks as the victories abroad. There have only been a handful of domestic terrorist attacks. That doesn’t diminish the tragedy resulting from them, but it’s simply a fact that there have been very few. Conversely, the U.S. has conducted thousands of missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, that have eliminated hundreds of terrorists including many of their top commanders. Clinton made that very point and ridiculed Trump’s “irresponsible, reckless rhetoric.”
Change the playbook? Trump doesn’t have a playbook at all, and we’re not even sure that he can read. Clinton, on the other hand, has laid out detailed plans for dealing with terrorism. She has the support of dozens of national security experts with credentials from both parties. While Trump has been shunned by members of his own party who say he is unqualified, ignorant, and dangerous.
The press showed itself in this candidate avail to be obsessed with horse-race politics to the exclusion of anything else. The issues that needed to be discussed today were the ones relating to the attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota. There were real people with real injuries involved. But the media seemed to be interested in only the political circus generally, and the Trump sideshow in particular. That’s a sad state of journalistic affairs. And it would serve as justification should Clinton want to ditch her press corps for the remainder of the campaign. Unless the media can divest itself of its Trump fetish, they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
[On September 11, 2006, I wrote an essay about how the American perception of its place in the world supposedly shifted after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I reprint it here today because, sadly, it’s still true. And in the midst of a historic election wherein one candidate has made fear his brand it seems worthwhile to revisit these thoughts]
In September of 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney, in a sinister demonization of Democrats, warned that…
“if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and it will fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact, these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we’re not really at war.”
The Pre-9/11 Mindset is much maligned as mindsets go. Disdain is heaped upon it as if it were a discarded hypothesis. There is now a stigma associated with a worldview that was perfectly acceptable 24 hours prior. And a cadre of power hungry fear merchants is restlessly hawking the notion that everything we thought we knew has withered into irrelevance. The Post-9/11ers propose that an imaginary line has been drawn that illuminates the moral and intellectual differences between those who stand on one side or the other. So what exactly does it mean to be 9/10ish?
I remember clearly what was on my mind. I was still upset that a pretend cowboy, whose intellectual marbles rattled around vacantly in his 2 gallon hat, had gotten away with stealing an election. I was recalling, with renewed appreciation, an era of domestic surplus and international cooperation. Or as The Onion headline put it when Bush was first elected, “Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.”
9/11 was undoubtedly an unwelcome milestone in American history. But the idea that everything changed on that day is shallow and puerile. The history of human civilization reveals that we simply do not change that much from one century to the next. And the events that actually do precipitate change are rarely the ones we presume them to be. There was terrorism before 9/11. There were birthdays and funerals and parking tickets and snow cones and life’s everyday extraordinary spectrum of pleasure no matter how painful.
What changed was that a nation that was once perceived to be inviolable and courageous was now seen as vulnerable and afraid. Like a child lost in a crowd, America was searching for a guardian, but what we got was no angel. As President Bush took to the mound of rubble for his megaphone moment, he was not alone. He was accompanied by a media that sought to construct a hero where none stood. I must admit that it was an ambitious undertaking considering the weakness of the raw material. They took an inarticulate, persistently mediocre, dynastic runt, who on September tenth was considered by many to be Crawford’s lost idiot, and transformed him into a statesman overnight. The enormity of this achievement underscores the power of the media.
My Pre-9/11 Mindset was thrust into fear on that transitory day because I knew that the imbecile we were stuck with in the White House was incapable of reacting appropriately to the threat. I remember vainly trying to persuade previously reasonable people that if they thought Bush was a moron the day before, there was nothing in his breakfast that infused him with wisdom on that sad morning.
What transpired since has, regrettably, proven me right. We toppled the Taliban but let the 9/11 commander escape. Now the remnants of the Taliban are rising again and creating havoc in an unprepared and unstable Afghanistan. We were misled into an unrelated conflagration in Iraq via fear and deception. Now tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been liberated – liberated from the confines of their physical bodies. It’s too bad that these liberated corpses will be unable to march in the parades celebrating their liberation. A world that had nothing but sympathy for us after 9/11, is now repulsed by our arrogance. At home we are paying for our adventures by burdening the next few generations with a record debt. And we pay a much greater price in the cost of lost liberties, courtesy of a despotic cabal in Washington that has more trust in fear than it does in our Constitution.
The historical revisionists that cast the Pre-9/11 Mindset as a pejorative are blind to its inherent virtue. The Pre-9/11 Mindset honors civil liberties and human rights. It recognizes real threats and inspires the courage to face them. It demands responsibility and accountability from those who manage our public affairs. It condemns preemptive warfare and torture. The Pre-9/11 Mindset is not consumed with fear, division, and domination. It is rooted in reality with its branches facing the sunrise.
The Pre-9/11 Mindset is superior in every aspect to the Post-9/11 apocalyptic nightmare that has been thrust upon us. Its adoption is, in fact, our best hope for crawling out from under the shroud that drapes our national psyche. Vice President Cheney also said that…
“Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness.”
If that’s true, then the terrorists must have perceived the weakness of the Bush administration and considered it an invitation to launch their attack. How do you suppose they perceive us now? They’ve seen the passage of the Patriot Act that limits long-held freedoms. They’ve seen our government listening in on our phone calls and monitoring our financial transactions. They see us lining up at airport terminals shoeless and forced to surrender our shampoo and Evian water. They see us mourning the loss of our sons and daughters who are not even engaged in battle with the 9/11 perpetrators. They see us as fearful and submissive. Is this not emboldening the terrorists for whom this perception of weakness will be seen as yet another invitation to attack?
Yes, I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset and it is not a yearning for a simpler bygone era of harmony. You could hardly call the maiden year of this century simple or harmonious. I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset because I’ve had it all along; all through the Post-9/11 defeatism and scare-mongering; through the war posturing and false bravado; through the sordid attempts to divide Americans and vilify dissenters; through the bigotry and arrogance of those who believe that their way is the right way and the world will concur as soon as we’re done beating it into them. I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset because I have not let the Post-9/11 Mindset infect my spirit with its yearning for a bygone era that more closely resembles the Dark Ages than the Renaissance.
Poverty and Debt
The Patriot Act
I have a Pre-9/11 Mindset because I have a mind, and I use it.
News reports of a horrific incident in Nice, France are unfolding in real time. The latest estimates of fatalities is in the seventies, with many more injured. There are few facts available to explain what occurred, but the media is speculating that it is an act of terrorism.
At times like these ethical leaders are expected to refrain from making irresponsible remarks that could muddy the waters and add to the confusion that is always present in breaking news. And most of all, they are morally prohibited from seeking political gain from the suffering of others. Suffice to say that Donald Trump is not an ethical leader.
While bodies were still strewn about the streets of Nice, Trump took to Twitter to exploit the tragedy. His first tweet was relatively innocuous saying only:
Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France. Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It is only getting worse.
How does that comment help the situation? Trump is stating the obvious and then asking an absurd question. Someone should ask him “When will we learn WHAT? Does he have a lesson plan on the threat of trucks mowing down pedestrians that he’d like to share with us? And his warning that “It is only getting worse” is typical of his campaign’s reliance on fear mongering.
The only reason he is commenting at all is to get his name into the news cycle. And that is even more apparent in the tweet that followed:
In light of the horrible attack in Nice, France, I have postponed tomorrow's news conference concerning my Vice Presidential announcement.
It would be understandable if Trump’s news conference tomorrow involved a subject that was frivolous or otherwise disrespectful following this event. But the announcement of a vice-presidential candidate doesn’t fit that criteria. In fact, it almost rewards the perpetrators of this act by demonstrating that they can disrupt our democratic processes with their brutal and cowardly attacks. It’s a victory for the terrorists.
There is no excuse for Trump canceling his announcement. It would not offend anyone if it went forward. So why did he do it? Because tomorrow the media is still likely to be tightly focused on what happened in Nice and Trump’s VP announcement would get buried. The only reason he canceled the news conference is so he can reschedule it at a time when he will get more attention. That I can tell you.
In addition to his tweets, Trump called into Fox News for an interview with Greta Van Susteren. Of course, the subject of the incident in Nice came up and Trump proved that he is utterly incapable of governing in a world with this sort of danger and turmoil. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Van Susteren: What would you be doing right now? Trump: I’d be making it very, very hard for people to come into our country.
That’s what he’d be doing RIGHT NOW? He wouldn’t be contacting President Hollande of France and other world leaders? He wouldn’t be assembling his national security team? He wouldn’t be assessing the threat level here in the U.S.? He went on to repeat his mantra of building a wall and banning people from “terrorist” countries. It’s as if all he knows is what’s been prepared for him in his stump speeches. And then:
Van Susteren: What do you think President Obama should be doing about this? Trump: Well, the first thing he should do is say that it’s radical Islamic terrorism. Van Susteren: And then what? Trump: And then not let people into our country.
Really? Van Susteren tried to give Trump opportunities to flesh out his answers with something coherent, but Trump was oblivious. The remainder of the interview was totally useless and flagrantly self-serving. It even included a swipe at Hillary Clinton when he said that “Hillary is weak and ineffective. She created ISIS.”
It is this type of ignorant blathering that illustrates why Trump would be downright dangerous if he had any real power. He is wholly ill-equipped to govern and every opportunity he is given to prove himself ends in embarrassment. If the media does its job, remarks like these by Trump will be showcased for voters so hat they can make an informed choice in November. If that occurs, the choice should be an easy one.
The tragedy of another terrorist attack on innocent people is once again stirring fear and sympathy as the world struggles to find a solution to this seemingly intransigent problem. And despite the fact that the tactics of these murderous swine proves that they are desperate and losing, the consequences are no less painful.
The responses to terrorist attacks are almost always insufficient. There is little one can say to comfort the victims and their families for their suffering and loss. There is, however, one thing that these events do not need, and that is more bellicose demagoguery of the sort that Donald Trump is wont to engage in. His post-Istanbul comments (video below) were typical of his impulse for impetuous violence and his embrace of ignorance. It’s a study in how a cranky child might react to not getting its way. But when seen in an adult who aspires to lead a great nation and a massive army it is downright frightening. Trump began his tantrum with an appeal to the infantile nature of his base saying…
“Folks, there’s something going on that’s really, really bad. Alright? It’s baaaad. And we better get smart, and we better get tough. Or we’re not gonna have much of a country left, OK? It’s bad.”
Apparently the key to Trump’s analysis is that terrorism is “bad.” What a revelation. If he had more time he might have added “icky” and lambasted the terrorists as “poopyheads.” It’s hard to know whether Trump was speaking down to the level of his followers or if this is just the limits of his intellectual capacity. In any case, it offers nothing useful to the discourse. But he was just getting started. He continued…
“Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better.”
First of all, who is the “they” to which he is referring? That’s important in order to confirm the status of their laws. To my knowledge there is no legal entity that grants the right to “anything you want,” nor grants unrestricted viciousness. Certainly terrorists have shown that they are willing to be vicious, but rhetoric like this serve no purpose and appeals only to blind emotion. Trump proceeded by saying that…
“So we can’t do waterboarding which is, it’s not the nicest thing but it’s peanuts compared to many alternatives. So we can’t do waterboarding but they can do chopping off heads, drowning people in steel cages. They can do whatever they wanna do.”
The jealousy in Trump’s voice is palpable. Clearly he is miffed that the terrorists can act more heinously than he can. It’s not fair. He is so upset that he veers off into a fantastical imaginary scenario involving a terrorist family supper:
“And you know they eat dinner like us. Can you imagine them sitting around the table, or wherever they’re eating their dinner, talking about ‘the Americans don’t do waterboarding and yet we chop of heads.’ They probably think we’re weak, we’re stupid, we don’t know what we’re doing, we have no leadership. You have to fight fire with fire.”
I’m sure that’s exactly what terrorists discuss while dining. What could be more appetizing than a discussion of decapitation with the kids while enjoying a tasty siniyah kebab?
Setting aside the cognitive breakdown of Trump’s storytelling, he does actually get to the heart of his philosophy at the end: fight fire with fire. He believes that the United States should adopt the tactics of the terrorists. He is literally calling for Americans to decapitate our enemies or burn them alive because that’s just so American.
It is that brand of vengeful mindlessness that really defines Trump’s idiocy. Not only would it be a violation of our principles, it would be against international law. What’s more, it would validate the tactics of those we are fighting. It would give them permission to continue, and even escalate, their brutality while simultaneously indicting us for crimes against humanity.
Finally, Trump’s rash and irrational proposals would remove any moral authority we have in this struggle and bring into question whether what we are fighting for is any better. Had Trump been around during World War II he would have advocated gassing the Japanese who were being unjustly held in concentration camps. That isn’t the legacy that America hopes to project. It is an abhorrent policy of hatred and vengeance that does nothing to advance our goals. It is the core of the Trump Doctrine and must be rejected in huge numbers. In fact, recent polling indicates that it is already being rejected:
“Clinton leads Trump 50% to 39% on who would best handle terrorism […] Those surveyed also believe presumptive Democratic presidential nominee showed better temperament than her Republican counterpart in response to the attack, 59% to 25%, respectively. Clinton is also favored in confidence that she can handle a similar attack as president compared with Trump (53% to 34%) and that she has better proposals for preventing future attacks (44% to 35%).”
That’s a hopeful sign that the American people are not falling for Trump’s vile campaign of hate. But we must do more than hope that this endures until November. We must unite and work our asses off to avoid the nightmare of a Trump presidency.