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.
The Republican Party has distinguished itself for its shameless, knee-jerk opposition to anything with even a faint fragrance of liberalism. Their robotic rejection of any policy proposed by President Obama, or any other Democrat, is evidence of their acute aversion to critical thinking – or thinking period. And now they may have demonstrated that their assholiness even extends to weakening America’s national security.
The Pentagon has long regarded Climate Change as a credible risk factor for international affairs. It is predicted that it will cause more severe natural disasters like hurricanes and drought, and multiplying refugee crises. All of this will profoundly increase the sort global tensions and conflict for which the United States must be prepared.
In response to these risks the Pentagon implemented a strategy (Department of Defense Directive 4715.21) for dealing with the consequences of a warming world. It was a fairly innocuous plan that mainly called for assigning specific people the responsibility of insuring that necessary measures were being taken to address potential problems. But even that plan was too much for the anti-science GOP, as reported by Politico:
“Last week, however, House Republicans voted to block it. By a 216-205 vote Thursday, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the department from spending money to put its new plan into effect. Not a single Democrat voted for the amendment, which was attached to the defense spending bill.”
The amendment was authored by Colorado Republican Ken Buck, who has no experience in either science or the military. His ignorance on the subject led to a defense of his amendment that makes little sense:
“The military, the intelligence community [and] the domestic national security agencies should be focused on ISIS and not on climate change. The fact that the president wants to push a radical green energy agenda should not diminish our ability to counter terrorism. […] The president has talked about an increase in the climate temperature on the planet. It is a fraction of a degree every year. How that is a current threat to us is beyond me.”
Indeed, this entire subject is beyond Rep. Buck. Apparently he thinks that the Defense Department, with 3.1 million employees and a budget of more $600 billion is incapable of concentrating on more than one thing at a time. Buck also believes that being prepared to respond to future military threats is part of a “radical green agenda.” His absurd position suggests that the U.S. should also drop any projects related to Russia, North Korea, NATO, cyber-warfare, or anything else not directly concerning ISIS.
Republican fear mongers, and their PR division at Fox News, are heavily invested in fighting a narrowly defined war on “radical Islamic terrorism” that mainly consists of reciting those three magic words and watching the bad guys dissolve into the ether. They have no affirmative suggestions for achieving victory, but they are overflowing with pointless criticisms. They mock those, including President Obama, who correctly assert that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than Climate Change.”
Conservatives who dispute the looming danger of a world with declining resources like water and arable land dismiss the warnings of 97 percent of the scientists who study the matter. They believe the whole crisis is a hoax that was invented to enrich greedy professors or, as Donald Trump laughably claimed, by the Chinese. However, the issue was laid out in stark detail by a Republican administration with an icon of modern conservative national security taking the lead:
“In 2003, under Donald Rumsfeld, former President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, the Pentagon published a report titled ‘An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.’ Commissioned by Andrew Marshall, who is sometimes jokingly referred to within the Pentagon as Yoda — and who was a favorite of Rumsfeld’s — the report warned that threats to global stability posed by rapid warming vastly eclipse that of terrorism.”
And Rumsfeld is not alone among security professionals in warning about Climate Change. The Politico article quotes several, with decades of military experience, who regard Buck’s amendment as foolish and more costly in the long run. In fact, four of the past Secretaries of Defense (Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, and Rumsfeld) all subscribed to the policy that Climate Change is one of America’s top strategic risks. And three of the four are Republicans. Those are the people Ken Buck and his fellow Republicans are overruling with this ill-considered budget cut.
So why would the GOP advance this nonsense that is contrary to the non-partisan opinions of most experts? Because conservatives don’t really care about national security. What they want is to terrify people by focusing on the immediacy and bloodshed of incidents like the recent massacre in Orlando. Which is, ironically, the same thing the terrorists want. And that purely political, self-serving objective overrides any genuine interest in the welfare of the American people or the world.
After offering condolences to the victims and their families, Obama gave an accounting of the progress being made in the fight against ISIL and other terrorist organizations and reiterated our objective in the fight saying resolutely that “Our mission is to destroy ISIL.”
While partisans on the right are constantly demonstrating their faltering patriotism by declaring that America is losing the war on terror, the facts enumerated by the President prove that the opposite is true. The evidence is in the significant losses of the terrorist’s leadership and foot soldiers and the shrinking geography and area of influence that terrorists control.
Obama covered all of that in detail. However, he also took some time to put to rest the absurd obsession that rightists have with the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” saying that “there is no magic to the phrase.” Nevertheless, and contrary to all reason, it has become an acute fetish with Republicans who hold that the mere utterance of the phrase will magically dissolve ISIS into the ether. Obama shot that down with eloquence and intelligence. He began with a direct hit:
“For a while the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL, is to criticize this administration, and me, for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.”
“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is it a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is “none of the above.” Calling a threat by a different name doesn’t make it go away. This is a political distraction.”
Indeed it is. And that is likely the goal of Obama’s critics who callously use this issue for political gain and as a cudgel against the President they never regarded as legitimate. Obama answers those who call for him to recite the magic phrase with a simple and logical observation:
“Not once has an adviser said, ‘Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around.’ Not once. So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting? If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are, that would come to a surprise of the thousands of terrorists we have taken out on the battlefield.”
“If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people and the country and around the world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously, that would come as a surprise to those who have spent these last seven and half years dismantling Al Qaeda in the FATA for example, including the men and women in uniform that put their lives at risk and the special forces that I ordered to get Bin Laden that are now on the ground in Iraq and Syria.”
And then Obama turned his attention to the person who is currently the most prominent presidential troll on this subject.:
“They know full well who the enemy is. So did the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spent countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans. Including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows. They know who the nature of the enemy is.”
Politicians who tweet? Obama went on to state that his reasons for not using the magic phrase have “nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.” He correctly notes that the terrorists want to make this a war between Islam and America, that they want us to validate them as the legitimate voice of all of the world’s Muslims. But if we fall into that trap, the President said, “we are doing the terrorists work for them.” He warned that “this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness” represents a dangerous mindset, one that he recognizes in Donald Trump:
“We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. You hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? […] Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want? It doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe.”
In closing, Obama recalled that our country has made mistakes in the past “when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it.” He made an impassioned plea to uphold the values that make America worth fighting for:
“This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our Founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that. And if we ever abandon those values we would not only make it easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect: The pluralism, the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties. The very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won, and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.”
Republicans have made their choice for a candidate who babbles in platitudes and hate speech; who has demonstrated a profound ignorance of the most pressing issues; and who has no respect for the truth (see the Trump Bullshitopedia). But America still has a choice to make and, if they are paying attention, it will be an easy one. No matter what anyone thinks about Hillary Clinton, the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency should be enough incentive to vote Democratic straight down the line.
In the childish imagination of American conservatives the only reason that terrorism still exists is that President Obama and other Democrats have failed to utter the magical incantation “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” The Wingnut Republican Tabernacle and the Pharisees of Fox News have devoutly concluded that this mantra is the key to defeating groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. They believe that it is rhetorical kryptonite to terrorists. And then they wonder why we think they’re stupid.
What we have here is the widespread adoption of the fabled “Reverse Beetlejuice Doctrine” wherein you shout “Radical Islamic Terrorism” three times and ISIS disappears. It’s clearly an obsession with these strategery geniuses. What’s more, they are convinced that babbling a few words of sorcery is a more effective weapon in the fight against terrorists than actually fighting terrorists. So even though as Commander-in-Chief President Obama disposed of Osama Bin Laden and eliminated thousands of terrorist operatives, including many of their leaders, he can’t possibly be serious about the mission until he chants that sacred three-word spell. Never mind the reports from the real world about actual military progress:
The Pentagon says it has killed about 26,000 ISIS fighters altogether, cut into the group’s cash flow, and driven the terrorists out of 40 percent of the land the organization once controlled. The population living under ISIS’s brutal reign has dropped from 9 million to 6 million people. U.S. strikes have killed several top ISIS strategists, and there are reports that ISIS fighters are retreating wherever they’re attacked, rather than fighting as fiercely as they once did.
And yet, draft dodgers like Donald Trump, who have no experience whatsoever in national security or counter-terrorism, continue to insist on adherence to a vapid slogan they’ve elevated to scripture. In a tweet shortly after the Orlando massacre was reported Trump asked:
“Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Those are the sort of deep thoughts that populate the mind of a man who when asked who he speaks to for advice on foreign policy responded that“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” It’s the same man who immediately after hearing the news of the gruesome shootings rushed to Twitter to congratulate himself – twice (here and here) for being right about his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Apparently his “very good brain” missed the fact that the shooter was an American citizen born in New York.
And set aside the fact that Trump is a confirmed birther who believes that Obama should resign in disgrace for being a Kenyan who faked his American citizenship. Now his first response to the worst mass shooting in american history is to taunt the President for not saying “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” I can’t help but wonder what Trump and his ilk think would change if the President humored them and said the three little words (which used to be “I love you”). Would there be even one more life restored or one more terrorist removed from the battlefield? Of course not. Yet Trump spent the majority of his first post-Orlando speech preaching the “Radical Islamic Terrorism” gospel as if it had some relevance to solving the problem.
On the other hand, there are concrete reasons for declining to say “Radical Islamic Terrorism” or to otherwise refuse to associate the entire Muslim faith with the acts of violent extremists. We have legitimate concerns regarding our ability to form coalitions with the Muslim nations in the Middle-East whose cooperation is required to prevail against ISIS. That objective is not helped by demeaning their faith. But it’s more than that. By accepting the terms and definitions of the terrorists, Republicans, Fox News, et al, are acting as the PR department for the terrorists who desperately aspire to be regarded as the legitimate voice of Islam. Why are people like Trump insisting on granting the terrorists that victory?
When you look at who is for or against directly tying the terrorists to Islam you’ll discover a set of alliances that is enlightening. Those is favor of connecting those dots are the terrorists themselves, Fox News, and the Donald Trump faction of the Republican right. On the other side is President Obama, religion and terrorism experts, and the vast majority of the world’s Muslims who, we must not forget, are also the vast majority of the victims. So the real question here is why is Donald Trump, the GOP, and Fox News on the same side as the terrorists in an effort to brand their heinous activities?
Conceding that terrorism is the way of Islam amounts to an acceptance of the terrorists demands. It is a form of appeasement that rewards them with precisely what they seek: religious legitimacy. And the Trump Crusaders are playing into their hands. They are, in effect, supporting the goals of the terrorists.
One of the arguments frequently proffered to assert that Islam and terrorism are inseparable is that the terrorists call themselves Muslims. By that logic they would also have to argue that Christianity and terrorism are inseparable because right-wing militias, the KKK, and abortion clinic bombers call themselves Christian. But don’t expect to hear that from tunnel-blind right-wingers. Their only interest is in spreading irrational hatred and employing fear to gain power. Sounds something like terrorism, doesn’t it?
The sad reality of having to cover yet another incident of mass gun violence in America is made all the worse by the revolting political opportunism of the knee-jerk hate mongers at Fox News. In the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, a gunman entered a nightclub with an AR-15 and other weapons and murdered fifty innocent people, wounding more than fifty others. It’s a tragedy that calls for the uniting of all Americans against the insanity that produces these maniacs.
However, instead of seeking the unity and solace that the nation so desperately needs at times like this, Fox News ventured off into a flagrantly biased political diatribe against President Obama (video below). Fox and Friends co-host Tucker Carlson was interviewing an author and alleged expert on terrorism when he asked the following question:
“Doesn’t the politicization of all of this, the relentless lying by the administration about the Islamic terror threat we face make it harder for people to want to step forward and say what they see?”
Carlson’s question is so rife with hypocrisy and hatred it is difficult to know where to begin. First of all, it is Carlson who is responsible for “the politicization of all of this.” Most of the people in positions of authority are withholding comments until more facts are known. The only statement from the administration was an acknowledgement of the horror of terrorism, committment to its defeat, and expressions of condolences. Carlson’s question is itself political in nature and aimed at maligning the president he hates.
Secondly, there is absolutely no evidence of “lying by the administration about the Islamic terror threat we face.” That’s a scurrilous fabrication straight from the warped mind of an anti-Obama bigot. The Obama administration has forthrightly addressed the terrorist threat and has done more to combat it than any other president in history. Under his direction the American military has killed or captured hundreds of terrorist leaders and operatives, including Osama Bin Laden, a task that President Bush was unable to achieve for seven years.
For the host of an alleged “news” network to make such reprehensible comments, only hours after the slaughter, while the victims and their families are still grief-stricken, is not unusual for Fox News. They have engaged in similar politicization of tragedies as disperse as Benghazi, Paris, Aurora, Newtown, and San Bernardino. It didn’t make any difference if the crimes were related to terrorism or not. They were always somehow the fault of President Obama.
Fox News is brazenly catering to the hatred of their audience. This is all to common for Fox as documented in The Collected Hate Speech of the Fox News Community. All it takes is brief glance at the comments on Fox’s website to see that the political obsessions and biases expressed by Fox anchors is mirrored by their viewers. These are just a few of the vile outbursts on their Orlando article:
Watch Tucker Carlson and his nauseating friends on Fox News:
In May of last year a radical Christian extremist was arrested for plotting a terrorist attack on a community of peaceful Muslims in upstate New York. Robert Doggart, an ordained minister in the Christian National Church, pleaded guilty to a detailed plan to kill people and destroy buildings, churches and schools. Fox News, however, failed to report this story because any terrorist who isn’t Muslim or otherwise dark-skinned isn’t worthy of coverage.
Doggart, whose original guilty plea was rejected by the judge (who filed new, more serious indictments against him), has been free on bond ever since and his case is still pending. However, a comrade in arms, William Tore Tint, has just pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the same activities as well as lying to FBI investigators. Tint was recorded plotting with Doggart to kill people and burn down buildings. Following his plea Tint was sentenced to only three years probation.
Neither of these stories were reported by Fox News. That in itself may not be surprising as Fox doesn’t regard any terrorism committed by white Christians, or anyone other than Muslims, to be newsworthy. In fact, they don’t even regard it as terrorism. What makes this extraordinary is that Fox News likely served as an inspiration for the crime.
You have to ask where Doggart and Tint got the groundless notion that the residents of Islamberg were jihadists in training. In January of 2015 Bill O’Reilly hosted Ryan Mauro, a “national security analyst” who claimed that Muslims were forming “no-go zones” in the United States where they would train and launch domestic attacks. These claims were never substantiated by credible sources in law enforcement, and the organizations to which Mauro belonged were well known anti-Islamic propagandists. These views were repeated on Fox News by other anchors and pundits across the Fox schedule for weeks.
This is not the only time that Fox News has inspired terrorism. Last year a San Diego man pleaded guilty to a charge of making a criminal threat directed at the offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. His lawyer offered a defense that included the claim that he had problems with alcohol, anxiety and depression and had just finished watching a week of Fox News coverage on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Two years ago an Indiana man pleaded guilty to arson for having set fire to an Islamic Center in Toledo, Ohio. When the judge asked him if he knew any Muslims or what Islam is he said “No, I only know what I hear on Fox News.”
If any of these criminals were dark-skinned Muslims Fox News would be running video of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan non-stop. They would be ratcheting up the Islamophobia across every program on the network. And they would be frightening their viewers with unfounded generalizations about imminent doom. Of course Donald Trump would be tweeting up a storm and blaming it all on President Obama. But since these were white Christians it wasn’t even worth a mention between segments on summer barbecues and Hooters.