Writings and observations

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This concludes our series on reasons Donald Trump should not become president. You can see the whole list here.

This list of 100 reasons posted on this site over the last three-plus months, reasons why Donald Trump should be disqualified from the presidency, is terribly incomplete. It could have been doubled or tripled without breaking a sweat.

On Halloween day, Slate magazine offered a list of “offenses and misdemeanors” on the part of both candidates, committed during campaign season. It listed 239 instances for Trump, and one for Hillary Clinton (“poor email server management”). Some of those admittedly were glitches or foolishness, not ultimately disqualifying. But they indicate the nature of the situation. By his words and action, recently and over the course of his adult life, Donald Trump has repeatedly, over and over and apparently obliviously, disqualified himself from high office – or really, any office of trust. After what I’ve learned about him this year, I wouldn’t trust him to park my car, much less stand two minutes away from global nuclear annihilation. I would not say the same of any presidential nominee in my lifetime, until now. I would not say any of those people (with maybe one exception in one election) had such serious and obvious disqualifiers placed before the public. Any of these reasons should be enough to say “no” to this man.

Still, we’re at the finish line and we need to focus.

What’s the single most compelling reason Donald Trump should not now or ever become president?

You can find that summarized in two words Trump delivered near the end of his acceptance speech at the end of the Republican National Convention:

“I alone.”

He recited a long list of ills in America – nearly all of misstated, exaggerated or outright fantastical – and then told a wildly approving crowd: “I alone can fix it.”

Thinking Americans should have written him off, if not earlier, at that moment. In this country we do not think that any one person is our solve-all – that is what dictatorships and monarchies like to proclaim, and history has proven them wrong. Our American way, government of, by and for the people, really is better – and at base, that is what Donald Trump is running against.

David Boaz of the Cato Institute said of Trump that “Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency — his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat.”

Presidents from the beginning, from Washington to Obama, have called on God (or “providence” other-named help from beyond) for help, and equally on the people of the country. If the American people are with you, Abraham Lincoln said, you will always succeed; if they are against, you will always fail.

Donald Trump, a massive failure at business, at human relations, at simple decency, inexperienced at and ignorant of governing, now has the gall to tell us what Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and all the rest would never have said: That he alone will solve all our problems.

Some people – more than some, by all appearances millions of Americans – actually buy this insanity.

Republican writer Michael Gerson warned, “it may not only be Republicans who abandon central tenets of their democratic faith. It is almost beyond belief that Americans should bless and normalize Trump’s appeal. Normalize vindictiveness and prejudice. Normalize bragging about sexual assault and the objectification of women. Normalize conspiracy theories and the abandonment of reason. Normalize contempt for the vulnerable, including disabled people and refugees fleeing oppression. Normalize a political tone that dehumanizes opponents and excuses violence. Normalize an appeal to white identity in a nation where racial discord and conflict are always close to the surface. Normalize every shouted epithet, every cruel ethnic and religious stereotype, every act of bullying in the cause of American ‘greatness.'”

We’d better not. Or we, and the rest of the world, will regret it forever. – rs

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Donald Trump is extraordinarily vindictive, and he makes no secret of it. He promotes it. He brags about it.

This is an extremely dangerous trait in a president.

We’ve had few presidents much associated with vindictiveness. Richard Nixon had a streak of it. But not many. Most have recognized the danger of a president taken over by the desire to get back at someone, whether for personal or national reasons, without considering the real political and policy implications. Most of our presidents have had at least a moderate amount of self-control.

Not Donald Trump. At the first, slightest slight, his first impulse is to strike back, however he can.

Richard Branson, the billionaire, got a view of this. He described a lunch with Trump:

Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help. He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people.

He didn’t speak about anything else and I found it very bizarre. I told him I didn’t think it was the best way of spending his life. I said it was going to eat him up, and do more damage to him than them. There must be more constructive ways to spend the rest of your life. (Hopefully my advice didn’t lead to him running for President!)

I was baffled why he had invited me to lunch solely to tell me this. For a moment, I even wondered if he was going to ask me for financial help. If he had, I would have become the sixth person on his list!

Afterward, Branson wrote that “What concerns me most, based upon my personal experiences with Donald Trump, is his vindictive streak, which could be so dangerous if he got into the White House.”

Many of the people who have crossed his path could testify to as much. As Raw Story reported a couple of days ago, “during a public appearance, Trump vowed to sue all 12 women who have recently accused him of sexual misconduct as soon as the election is over—which might seem not so unreasonable had he not explicitly bragged about such behavior in 2005. But Trump didn’t stop there. He threatened to sue The New York Times for publishing the women’s stories, and if his lawsuit history tells us anything, it’s that these are unlikely to be just empty promises.”

Do something he doesn’t like, and he’ll likely vow to sue you. Mostly these are empty bluffs, but even so he has been involved over the years in more than 3,000 lawsuits – surely a clear indicator of vengefulness.

In the case of lawsuits, at least, the courts will provide some barriers to outright loopiness. Make the man president, and the limitations come off – and won’t be limited to the courts. Criticize the president, as many Americans so traditionally do, and – historically – you get no official blowback. Don’t count on that if you get a President Trump: Who knows what may land on you?

Salon has even suggested this is his strongest motivation to become president: “Increasingly, the evidence is pointing to a certain conclusion: Donald Trump is running for president because he believes the power and fame of the White House will allow him to settle the score in his ever-expanding list of petty grievances.”

The danger from a President Trump, to any of us, would know hardly any limits. – rs

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One of the things a president, and only a president in a unilateral way, can do, is to set a mood, a tone, an attitude for the country. A president able to effectively do this can have a significant effect; the president is, after all, the single most-listened-to person in the country.

Typically the presidents who have some skill at it do it to encourage a sense of optimism and confidence – Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come to mind. A president who uses that pulpit for good purposes can do some important good for the country.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who has become known through his current campaign as America’s foremost mainstreamer of hate.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff said of Trump, “We need not be apocalyptic about it. This is not Kristallnacht. But Trump’s harsh rhetoric tears away the veneer of civility and betrays our national motto of “e pluribus unum.” He has unleashed a beast and fed its hunger, and long after this campaign is over we will be struggling to corral it again.”

He was speaking there about an incident in the town of Forest Grove, Oregon, near his rural home, where “in the middle of a physics class at the high school one day this spring, a group of white students suddenly began jeering at their Latino classmates and chanting: “Build a wall! Build a wall!” The same white students had earlier chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Soon afterward, a student hung a homemade banner in the school reading, “Build a Wall,” prompting Latinos at area schools to stage a walkout.”

It takes little imagination to draw that straight line from those (newly?) racist students directly to Donald Trump. Or to imagine how many other schools have been experiencing the same thing, coast to coast. Or how many other organizations, public and private, and for adults as well as for children, have been affected. And if this is the impact from a few months of a presidential campaign, what would happen if a President Trump, who seemingly never can get enough broadcast air time, spews this same filth day after day for four long years?

This is a diverse country. Race and ethnicity, and religion, and other elements that make us different from each other, often have provided points of tension. But for all these differences among our people the United States has not (with the partial exception of the Civil War) ever become the Balkans, because we learned how to live together. We learned how to get along, at least to a point. It’s a social fabric that has been stressed and violated at times, but never ripped apart completely.

Donald Trump would need considerably less than four years to do it. And America would never be the same again. – rs

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In July, the Economist magazine opined about Donald Trump, running through many ways he already has or might damage America, but concluding with this:

“The most worrying aspect of a Trump presidency, though, is that a person with his poor self-control and flawed temperament would have to make snap decisions on national security—with the world’s most powerful army, navy and air force at his command and nuclear-launch codes at his disposal.”

That was just the point First Lady Michelle Obama made days later, saying “Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military at your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well-informed.”

Steady. Measured. Well-informed. Does that sound anything like Donald Trump?

That Trump has at the least a difficulty struggling with it is something he has admitted himself – not least this week at a rally in Pensacola, Florida. After a few minutes of talking, he lapsed into this:

“We’ve gotta be nice and cool,” Trump said at his last rally of the day. “Nice and cool. All right? Stay on point, Donald. Stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald.”

He closed his self-administered public pep talk by repeating the word, “Niceeee…” He hung on to it for emphasis.

That’s the sound of a man desperately trying to keep from blowing up, from saying something insulting or idiotic or simply weird.

He has tremendous trouble keeping from doing that.

Watch him in his debates: For the first 20 minutes or so, he stays on message – whatever light prepping he has done is still in mind – and then he loses the plot, and wanders. He can be baited, easily; fooled, easily. And angered very, very easily.

This is a personality you want to put behind the most powerful military, most powerful governments, in the world? Who you would want two minutes away from launching nuclear missiles?

Seriously? – rs

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Back on July 1, a website called the Daily Banter said this:

“If you wanted a single statement from Donald Trump that conclusively illustrates why he is completely unqualified to run for office, this would be it. Speaking with New Hampshire’s NH1, Trump said this about the United State’s duty to commit war crimes:”

And what he said was:

“Well, it’s not the American way to have heads chopped off and have people drowning in steel cages. And so we can have our disagreements, but we’re going to have to get much tougher as a country. We’re going to have to be a lot sharper and we’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost.”

“We’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable”? “Almost?”

What’s unthinkable for Trump is hard to imagine, since he’s put on the table – approvingly – waterboarding and the assassination of family members of possible terrorists.

Onn February 17, Trump said “Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.”

There is the point the such efforts don’t work. Factcheck.org, like many other researchers, point out that “scientists have shown that the stress and pain induced by techniques like waterboarding can impair memory, and, therefore, inhibit a person from recalling information.”

But the matter of efficacy is the smaller issue.

The bigger issue is that torture is wrong. It is immoral. American leaders – with a partial hideous exception during the later Bush Administration – have long recognized this. No major candidate for the presidency ever has supported torture. The U.S. Constitution bans “cruel and unusual punishment,” including among its few policy prescriptions a requirement that torture is not what we do.

Torture is what the bad guys do.

My country, the United States, has not always been perfect, but we have been able to count it among the good guys.

Donald Trump, by his explicit statements, would change that. The United States would no longer be a moral exemplar to the word if he is elected. The damage would be irreversible. – rs

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In pursuing his seeming goal of insulting as many people as possible, Donald Trump may have found some efficiencies: Every time he insults women, he trashes more than half of all human beings all at once. Could that help explain why he does it so often?

After all this time, after all these cases, probably there’s no need to run through all the occasions when Trump has insulted women. There’s not enough room around here to cover all the cases, anyway. But to recap a few of the highlights:

Of women generally, he said, “You have to treat ’em like shit”.

In a 1991 interview with Esquire, he said “It doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass” from an interview with Esquire, 1991

He said he refused to take care of his children, contending that husbands who change diapers are “acting like the wife”/

Trump told a female contestant on his old show Celebrity Apprentice, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees”.

Maybe the best-known such case came when at the first Republican primary debate in August 2015, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly reminded him: “You have called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’, and ‘disgusting animals.” Trump’s response was to laugh it off, saying he doesn’t “have the time for total political correctness.” He later described her as a “bimbo”.

He said giving your wife “negotiable assets” is a terrible mistake. “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?” Trump is quoted as saying of his then-wife in a 1990 Vanity Fair piece.

In his 2006 book Trump 101: The Way to Success, Trump wrote: “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.”
Tweet from May 7, 2013: 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these genuises expect when they put men & women together?

When a lawyer facing Trump in 2011 asked for a break to pump breastmilk for her infant daughter, The Donald reacted very poorly. “He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re disgusting,’ and he ran out of there,” attorney Elizabeth Beck told CNN. Trump’s attorney does not dispute that his client called Beck “disgusting.”

In a way, none of these statements are terribly important, suggestive though they may be. What they’re very important for is telling us the mindset of a would-be president. And that’s plenty scary. – rs

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Yes, our news media is not passing through 2016 festooned by medallions of glory. Evidence point number one for that propositions is a statement from February by Leslie Moonves, chief executive officer at CBS, about the Donald Trump-led circus that had become the campaign for president: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS … the money’s rolling in and this is fun.” No presidential candidate in history has benefitted like Trump from the immense amount of free coverage he has received – estimated about six months ago to have been worth (by that point) more than $2 billion.

Hard to remember how broadcasters once spoke of television as operating in, gulp, the public interest. Circuses and ratings are all that matter now.

In some quarters. In others, actual journalism still manages to break through and make itself felt. And for every clod-minded misstep (to take the most recent example, the way so many in the media fell for last weekend’s FBI non-statement on non-Hillary Clinton e-mails), others manage to come up with serious reporting.

Which Donald Trump cannot stand. The Washington Post has probably been the single most effective investigator of the endless issues and problems associated with Trump, and the Trump campaign’s response (not one normal in politics, it should be noted) was to ban the paper from his campaign. Post editor Marty Baron called that “nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press”.

Actually, Trump may have done the press, and those of us who depend on it for information, something of a favor: By kicking them out, he forced them to rely on serious shoe-leather investigation like the great pieces on Trump finances by reporter David Fahrenthold, rather than “insider” pablum.

But there’s a lot more to Trump’s war on the press than playing games at rallies. (Where, by the way, he’s only barely stopped short of siccing ramped-up-for-violence crowds on the penned-up reporter.) He has, for example, said that he plans to go after Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post (as well as the founder of Amazon.com), should he be elected. This candidate well known for personal vendettas, who gets out of control in pursuit of them, will be all over the news media if he wins.

If that only meant some heat on the top players, our concern might not be so great. But it would mean much more.

As first-amendment attorney Marc J. Randazza said in an opinion piece early this year, “Donald Trump has said a lot of strange things – some funny, some creepy, but none scarier than what he said on Friday: that if he is elected president, he will “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue the media and “win lots of money.” No matter what you may think about his other policy ideas, if he keeps this promise, we won’t be able to effectively express dissent against anything else he might want to do. We can fight any bad policy if we have a robust First Amendment.”

Writer Matthew Yglesias sums it up, “His recent anti-media tirades have, again, featured the suggestion that he’s not just complaining but would genuinely like to subject the press to an unconstitutional censorship regime.”

To which Ezra Klein added, “In my experience, it goes yet deeper than this. Quietly, privately, political reporters wonder if Trump is a threat to them personally — if he were president, would he use the powers of the office to retaliate against them personally if he didn’t like their coverage of his administration? How certain are they that their taxes are really in order? How sure are they that a surveillance state controlled by Trump would tap their phones and watch their emails for leverage?”

The America a Donald Trump would lead is not the America we know. – rs

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You will search in vain for references to presidential candidates who actually encourage violence at their campaign events. Until, of course, Donald Trump.

This should come as no surprise, considering the more recent attention given to his statements to and about women. But when the nation’s prospective leader calls on his (unncommonly sheep-like and unquestioning) following to start whomping on anyone who isn’t a true believer, you can see where this can head – from coast to coast. This is one of the most important ways dictators keep the people in their country in line: The threat of violence not just from the authorities, but from the guy down the street.

The list of instances of calls to violence (just the opposite, obviously, of what a responsible public official – any public official – should do) runs long and deep. From various rallies and other public events:

“I’d like to punch him in the face.”

“I’ll beat the crap out of you … Part of the problem … is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

He would “love” to fight Vice President Joe Biden, he said: “Some things in life you could really love doing!”

On February 1, “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay? Just knock the hell.”

At a March event in Michigan, Trump observed as a protester was being aggressively taken from the building. Then: “Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it.”

Confronted about these and many other examples, Trump – in pattern with so much else – denied he had ever encouraged violence.

Go to the tape. And shudder. – rs

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Donald Trump has been widely and roundly called a racist. And depending on your definition of the term, maybe he is. Probably he is. He hasn’t really gone out of his way to repudiate it, though that may have something to do with not seeming to repudiate part of his base.

And mixed into that idea is something a little more important.

The idea has circulated that Trump has been accused of racism only since he became a candidate for president; that was the subject of a popular social media meme some months back. The fact-checking site Snopes took up the assertion, and concluded easily that no, there was more to the picture.

From Snopes: “According to the New York Times, one of Trump’s first newspaper appearances was in 1973, when the Trump Management Corporation was sued by the Department of Justice and charged for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968:
‘The government contended that Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals ‘because of race and color,’ ’ The Times reported. ‘It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available.’ Trump was also accused of racism in 1989, when he took out full page ads calling for the return of the death penalty in several New York City newspapers. The ads were published a few weeks after a 28-year-old woman was raped while jogging in Central Park.” During subsequent protests, activists specifically called Trump a racist.

Snopes also noted “Former employees of Donald Trump have also accused the real estate mogul of racism. John R. O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, wrote in his 1991 book Trumped! that Trump frequently used racial slurs: A book written by one of Donald Trump’s former casino executives accuses Trump of calling his biggest gamblers ‘slobs,’ of making racial slurs against black people and of being largely ignorant about the casino business.”

There is of course much, much more on the subject of Trump and his attitudes toward race. (The most famous may be his role in propagating birtherism.) But there’s another dimension to this too, hinted at by this line from a Fortune magazine report on Trump and race: “For the long followers of Trump’s career, however, none of these incendiary remarks are especially surprising. Trump has a long record as a provocateur on matters of race and ethnicity.”

Note that it says he is not simply a holder of certain attitudes, but that he is a provocateur on “matters of race and ethnicity”.

He has been a race provocateur on his campaign, not just on a few occasions but repeatedly. In a long list of these instances, the web site Vox earlier this month noted among other things:

“Trump has been repeatedly slow to condemn white supremacists who endorse him, and he regularly retweets messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He tweeted and later deleted an image that showed Hillary Clinton in front of a pile of money and by a Jewish Star of David that said, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” The tweet had some very obvious anti-Semitic imagery, but Trump insisted that the star was a sheriff’s badge … At the Republican convention, he officially seized the mantle of the “law and order” candidate — an obvious dog whistle playing to white fears of black crime, even though crime in the US is historically low.”

No major political candidate in the United States has so openly encouraged racism, and encouraged racists to act out their bigotry, since at least the days of George Wallace – and possibly earlier than that. Such encouragement creates an environment in this country far worse than the ugly attitudes of any single man. It creates a toxic country that may need decades more for serious detoxification.

The hatred and attacks generated by Trumpism are cropping up in many places, including the circles of anti-Trump conservatives. In the article “The Price I’ve Paid for Opposing Donald Trump,” conservative National Review writer David French starts, “I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called ‘race-cucking’ or ‘raising the enemy.’”

You can read on about where the abuse goes from there, but don’t do it on an empty stomach.

It’s not just that Donald Trump’s attitudes and personal actions are so vile; it’s that they spread the vilenesss so broadly an so deeply. Trumpism is America’s toxic sludge, and we will need the political equivalent of a superfund to clean it up. – rs

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