Saturday, December 19, 2015

Donald Trump: The Marriage of P.T. Barnum and Rush Limbaugh.

Two editorials in the Washington Post together provide a good summary of politics in America today.  The first looks at the efforts being made by Barack Obama to keep reason and logic in policies and moving the nation forward in the face of Republican extremism and the embrace of ignorance.  The second looks at the way in which Donald Trump in particular has given racists and bigots free license to come out from the nooks and crannies where they have been existing out of sight much like cockroaches.  Indeed, many of Trump's followers seem to be of the same mindset as Germans who happily followed Hitler's nod to unfettered bigotry and ultimately violence.  Here are highlights from the first piece:
It’s a paradox that Obama can have so many successes, and yet be seen by some at home and abroad as weak.

Obama’s political education has been expensive, for him and the country. He came into office believing that good ideas would prevail. He disliked the messy, boisterous work of salesmanship and retail governance. Perhaps he worried deep down that some of the opposition to his policies was rooted in prejudice against him as an African American. Perhaps he was right.

From his first year in office, Obama encountered a raw rejectionism from the Republican right; it wasn’t just criticism of his policies but a challenge to the very legitimacy of his presidency. Many details were fabricated, such as the allegation that he was secretly a Muslim, or that he had been born outside the United States. Yet these themes were repeated so often on conservative talk radio and cable news that they began to constitute an alternative reality.

The rise of Trump has surprised most pundits, but it doesn’t seem to shock Obama. Trump is a crystallization of the angry rhetoric that Obama has been facing from the GOP since he took office. Trump is just louder, more shameless and more charismatic. He’s the marriage of P.T. Barnum and Rush Limbaugh. 

It would be good if Obama were better at projecting the rationalist’s faith in this moment of irrational politics. . . . Obama has made skepticism about easy answers and quick fixes the cornerstone of his foreign policy. In the Situation Room, he is said to quiz his advisers about unintended consequences — to ask what Iraq or Syria or Ukraine would look like in the months after a proposed action. Those are the questions the country should want asked, but Obama hasn’t found a way to make them sound like good leadership.
As noted, the second op-ed looks at the ugliness that Trump and to a lesser extent the rest of the GOP clown car has unleashed.  Here are highlights:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote: “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”

I cited a long list of incidents in which he targeted women, Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, Asians and the disabled. Here’s what I heard from Trump’s defenders:
“Let’s not mince words,” somebody tweeted under the name Helios Megistos. “Milbank is an anti-white parasite and a bigoted kike supremacist.”

“[Trump] may well be a bigot and a racist,” one Michael Banfield wrote me via email. “But one thing is certain: The only thing missing from your photo is a [vulgar word for penis] in your mouth, gay bastard.”
Various Trump defenders derided Muslims as “Muzzies” and “Mo-slimes.” One reader informed me that “Muslims worship a man who f----- a 9-year-old.” They spoke of the “sociopath Hussein” — President Obama — and his “Islamic butt buddies.” But mostly they zeroed in on my Judaism, which they discovered from Internet searches.
This is the seventh presidential campaign I’ve covered in some form over 25 years, and harsh criticism comes with the territory. But the Trump-backers’ venom is without precedent. His supporters surely aren’t all bigots — but he is bringing the bigoted in from the cold.  

I write this not out of any hope of changing the minds of Trump-backers, nor to reinforce the prevailing view among liberals that Trump has unleashed ugliness. I write this to conservatives of conscience: Is this what you want conservatism, the Republican Party and America to be? 

My Post colleagues Carol Leonnig and David Nakamura and others have documented the racial violence at Trump rallies  . . . . The Post’s Stephanie McCrummen wrote a powerful piece this week about a Trump rally in Mesa, Ariz., where a young man shouted “motherf---ing tacos — go back to Mexico” at two Latino protesters — and a 70-year-old retiree sucker-punched a demonstrator.

And where is the condemnation of this behavior? . . . . Trump is burning down the Republican house, and the American house, yet his rivals are on a march of the narcissists. 

Is this what Republicans stand for? Is this conservatism? 
 Trump and his base are nothing less than frightening.

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