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Posts published in “Trump”

Trump 11: Abortion imprisonment

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Abortion is one of the most intractable of issues: While there are many shades of opinion, people broadly on one side or the other tend to stay there. But one of the areas of general agreement, on the "life" and "choice" sides both, is this: Imprisonment ought not to be a part of the picture.

This is not universal, of course, just a view widely held in this country. The irony is that diminishing abortion services around the country may be generating more cases in which, under current law, women are thrown into prison. There is the Indiana case of Purvi Patel who apparently had a deeply troubled pregnancy and then had either a miscarriage (her version) or a late-term abortion (the version of police) and was charged and convicted of a criminal offense which led to a sentence for her of 20 years in prison.

Much about that case, including many of the key facts, are unclear or in dispute. But, as an MSNBC report noted, "In the contemporary reality of illegal abortion, the woman and the provider are often one and the same. According to public health experts, a hundred thousand women have covertly tried to ended their pregnancies themselves in Texas alone, and legal abortion clinics closing across the country may make matters worse."

Donald Trump has personal history of being pro-choice on the subject of abortion, but that has been thrown overboard during this campaign. (Will the pro-life position be in turn thrown overboard? We'd have to wait and see.)

In March, he said that if abortion is made illegal, “there has to be some form of punishment” for the woman involved. That led to protests from the pro-life side, where the argument was that only "providers" should be prosecuted. And later, Trump revised his stance to say, “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”

But again, in a time when availability of abortion is so contricted across so much of the country, the provider now as often as not will be the mother. So what then? Should an illegal act be rendered legal based on who provides it?

A Trump presidency could lead to some very uncomfortable ideas, and practices, along these lines. - rs

Trump 12: Bias toward dictators

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Then there's Trump's own and heavily recorded personal bias in favor of dictators.

The more authoritarian they are, in fact, the more he likes them. Of leaders in relatively democratic societies, he prefers those who rule with a relatively heavy hand.

The world, he told CNN on October 25 (last year), would be "100 percent better" if Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi were still in power. Even most people who disapproved of the U.S. military actions in Iraq and Libya should have a hard time getting behind that one. (Trump, remember, once tried to set up a personal investment partnership with Qaddafi.)

The examples go on and on, most visibly probably in his bromance with Vladimir Putin.

But pause on a comment in Andrew Sullivan's old blog, that "It’s worth recalling that iconic photograph of the lone protestor facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square. Trump, remember, was on the side of the tank."

Trump 13: Wanting a dictator

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I'd never heard of the movie Gabriel Over the White House until a few days ago, when a friend (who also had just recently learned of it) screened it for me. If you're in a mood to be frightened, this one will do the job.

It was set for release early in 1933, within days of Frank Roosevelt's swearing-in, and at a peak (or depth) of the Great Depression. The film, technically advanced for the time, was set in that time and place, and focused on Judson Hammond (played by Walter Huston), the newly-elected president of the United States. At first he seems ineffectual, until an accident leave him in a coma. He revives from it, apparently with the help of the angel Gabriel, and becomes decisive - extremely decisive. He dissolves Congress and the Supreme Court, wipes out any remaining opposition within the country (the army is employed), then imposes his will on leaders of other countries - and miraculously saves the country. Whereupon, he dies.

The picture was pulled from general distribution after producers and others observed what was happening at the time in Germany. But it has a strong and eerie resonance now.

But for the last plot bit, Gabriel seems to be what a large portion of Trump supporters seem to want. Trump's statements have all the earmarks of a dictator-in-the-making, but he has never applied that term to himself. (Yet.) Some of hs followers have, though, and enthusiastically.

Huffington Post on July 29 reported how “Hundreds of posts in Reddit’s The_Donald forum ― where Donald Trump this week participated in a Q&A session ― refer to the Republican presidential nominee as “God Emperor.” The practice of using this name for Trump apparently caught on last spring. New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman wrote in May about the deluge of anti-Semitic hate he’d received from self-identified Trump supporters, including “Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew” from a user called “Trump God Emperor.” Among Trump’s active online supporters, using the nickname is now commonplace. The post announcing Trump’s participation in the Q&A heralded “our God Emperor,” and a search of the phrase returned over 200 posts in the day after Trump’s appearance."

I don't mean to overstate here: "Some forum members say “God Emperor” is simply a tongue-in-cheek attempt to rile up Trump opponents who fear he would be a strongman as president. The term is attributed variously to God Emperor characters in the science fiction series Dune and a tabletop game called 'Warhammer 40,000'. 'We know he can’t literally be one,' wrote member NewJersey908, but the phrase whips people 'into a frenzy saying that we literally want a dictator.'”

I've learned to be wary - and often dismiss - followup statements from this crowd saying something to the effect of, "We were only kidding." When eyes look away, that's often followed by statements that more clearly say, "No, we weren't."

The idea of We the People as the big boss of this country, of democracy as our form of government now and always, is so ingrained that many of us have a hard time imagining anything else - or that any significant number of Americans do think in any other way.

But there's no mistaking it. Quite a few Americans do think otherwise, and that's one of the scariest realizations of electiono 2016: That a lot of Americans really would prefer it be the last. - rs

Trump 14: Two or more parties

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Some of the sharper political analysts have speculated that the result of this year's election could be far more than the normal in this way: We could be seeing the fracturing of the two-party system.

The United States has had a two-party electoral system in place since very nearly the beginning. On those long-ago occasions when it did fracture, with the Federalists and the Whigs, the system of having to major parties - no more and no less - proved so durable that it quickly reconstituted itself. The two current parties, Republican and Democratic, have gone so far as to nearly exchange their historical positions in our country, but the structure of just two - as opposed to an ever-shifting collection such as most European countries see - has endured. And for good reason, since it has served us well for a long time.

Now one of those parties, the Republican, is on the verge of splintering, and the immediate, proximate, cause is Donald Trump. To a great extent of course he simply has brought into view forces and people and ideas that already were there. But they might stayed unnderground and eventually faded, left to themselves. With a leader to follow, the alt-right and its allies have shown themselves in confidence, and however the election turns out, they're not likely simply to go away after next month.

The problem will be greater if Trump actually wins election. The Democrats probably will be at least as united, in opposition, as they ever have been. But a Trump presidency would rip Republicans in two, as conventional Republicans struggle with what to support or oppose in "their" administration.

Not a few Republicans have warned that they would be far better off serving as the opposition to what they think is wrong, than having parts of their own organization in place and then having to oppose it.

So fierce might this become that some analysts even talk of splinter into three parties on the American right.

Some Democrats might cheer all this. But most probably realize that such an extreme internal war in half of America's political system could be dangerous for the country. There's some risk of this however the election goes. But the risk becomes a near certainty if Trump actually won. - rs

Trump 16: Perfection

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You don't need to be of any particular religious persuasion to to get the point of this religion-based question and answer.

In an interview before an audience (the point being that Trump knew he was in public), moderator Frank Luntz (a sharp Republican message consultant) asked Trump whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions.

Trump's reply: "I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

He did say that he has performed other religious rituals, such as Holy Communion: "When I drink my little wine - which is about the only wine I drink - and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of 'let's go on and let's make it right.'"

No, that doesn't fit at all, because it's not related to any particular thing the participant did, just a more generic "have we got the books balanced? okay?" sort of thing.

There's no surprise that these statements from a year ago got the attention of a significant number of Christians, for whom seeking forgiveness for the inevitable sin in life is central. But the import is much broader: This is a man for whom he has nothing to apologize to anyone, not to God and not to any person. The rare occasions when words like "I'm sorry" have crossed his lips have in no real sense been an apology; they have been no more or less than an attempt to get him past some controversy he'd rather see in the rear view mirror.

He does not see himself as flawed, or in any need of self-reflection.

That is the real point here, and for a prospective president, the scariest. - rs

Trump 17: The disinformer

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Previously I've made the point about Donald Trump as a persistent purveyor of outright lies - not just the number or kind that happens periodically in political discussion, but of a volume and expansive falseness that runs far beyond the norm, to the point of ...

Gaslighting the American people?

There's a separate point to be made here about the larger picture, the bigger sense of what is happening when the canvas of lies becomes an epic picture of disinformation.

Here's the difference, in two successive fact items in a James Fallows post about a Trump speech from July:

"Trump makes his claim that America has grown so dysfunctional that people were asking for “a moment of silence” for the man who murdered five police officers in Dallas. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I am not aware of any real-world evidence for that claim. Translation: I believe he is yet again making this up."

This was a clear falsehood, but compare with Fallows' next item:
"Right after that, Trump goes into his 'we never win any more' riff, about how the United States is an all-fronts failure. Lord knows that the United States has more than its share of grave economic, social, racial, public-safety, civic-culture, educational, infrastructure, and other problems ... But if you’re talking in crude “we win” / “we lose” terms, you have to ask: OK, which major nation is 'winning' more often, in more ways, than the U.S. now?"

But he repeats this stuff - the broad-brush "we never win any more" stuff - so regularly that much of his audience seems to internalize, accept it as received truth, and not bother to question it, when a sober-minded review of the world around us tells us otherwise. As in: We're sure not without problems, but lose all the time? The most powerful, richest, most influential country on the globe? Really?

Ask yourself how many of his larger conclusions, not to even mention his "facts", stand up to serious, sensible reflection? The answer is, not very many. Try it the next time you see him speak. - rs

Trump 18: Weaponizing the alt-right

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You might be able to argue there's an up side to this one: The spreading of hate, attack and fear into new quarters of America, to the ranks of people who never had to worry about this kind of garbage.

What kind?

Meet David French, a political activist but the sort of activist - a writer, a conservative message crafter for the almost archly-civilized magazine National Review - who observed problems with the Donald Trump campaign and called them out.

He did that, he recalled in an article out this week, in a short post about a year ago, "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.' I saw images of my daughter’s face in gas chambers, with a smiling Trump in a Nazi uniform preparing to press a button and kill her. I saw her face photo-shopped into images of slaves. She was called a 'niglet' and a 'dindu.' The alt-right unleashed on my wife, Nancy, claiming that she had slept with black men while I was deployed to Iraq, and that I loved to watch while she had sex with 'black bucks'.”

French goes on to describe his family's experience over the last year, which actually gets much worse, jaw-droppingly bad, and is by no means over yet. He said at one point, "I share my family’s story not because we are unique or because our experience is all that extraordinary, but rather because it is depressingly, disturbingly ordinary this campaign season. The formula is simple: Criticize Trump — especially his connection to the alt-right — and the backlash will come." He cites a substantial list of other conservatives who are enduring similiar attacks. And if fact if you Google the many other names in the article, you'll find some astonishing stories - stories of abuse for political activity unlike anything we're accustomed to in this country.

Political party activists have sometimes colored outside the lines before, but never, never, not in either party until now, on this kind of scale.

It's eerily reminiscent of an updated version of Jim Crow, aimed in new directions. Not that the old directions have gone away, which could mean that - and here's one small element of good that might come from this - these atrocities perpetrated by the alt right activists might actually draw a very widely based front of opposition.

It has to be opposed, because these kind of cowledly bullies traditionally accellerate their behavior if they're not called on it.

It also provides a compelling reason that Donald Trump must not become president. These alt righters are plenty bad now, but imagine how many of them will feel emboldened if their candidate is elected - a candidate who would have neither the guts nor the inclination to rein in this mob of incipient brownshirts. - rs

Trump 19: The dominator

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In his article for the Atlantic previewing this year's presidential debates, James Fallows talked with a variety of people offering perspectives relating to the event. One of the less expected was Jane Goodall, the renowned researcher of chimpanzees.

“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” she said. “In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

In the first and third debates, Trump (like his opponent Hillary Clinton) was locked in place at a piece of furniture. But in the second, he was able to move around. When he did, he instantly reminded many people (Fallows, for one) of Goodall's description - not only how the male chimps moved, but why.

To express dominance.

If you're looking for a through line connecting the disparate things Trump has done in this campaign, you can find it with the single word "dominance." It's not enough to defeat an opponent; he needs to dominate them. It's not enough to have a good positive outcome; what's necessary is to win, which means someone else has to lose.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has been arguing all year that the way to make sense of what Trump does, and why he does it, is through the lens of dominance: Either you dominate, or you're beaten and humiliated. There's no middle ground and no other outcome. Whether the United States or its people are prosperous and free is not the point, according to Trump speeches; the question is whether we "win" or "lose."

"Trump is the master of GOP 'dominance politics', the inherent appeal of power and the ability to dominate others. All of this has a deep appeal to America's authoritarian right, especially in a climate of perceived threat, which has been growing over the last two decades - something political scientists are now catching on to," Marshall said in March.

By July, he wrote, "the entirety of Trump's political message is dominance politics. To paraphrase McLuhan it is both the messenger and the message. Trump attacks, others comply and submit. Whether or not that is always true it is the story and the promise he has sold his supporters."

The way he treats New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as his valet? The way he introduced his vice presidential pick, Mike Pence, by spending a half hour talking by himself, bringing Pence on stage and then leaving? It's all about dominance.

And if he fails to dominate in a given setting? Look closely at the picture of Trump, in the seconds between the end of his third debate with Hillary Clinton, and before his family got to the stage to surround him. He stood there motionless, head down, seemingly lost in space. (Clinton had already bounded off stage to shake hands and greet supporters.) Trump had to have known he lost the debate, and with it his last good chance to change the trajectory of the race. But that was not all: He was beaten, humiliated, surely in his own eyes at least.

That may almost be cause for some sympathy. But imagine a Trump invested with the power of the office of the presidency, with a drive to dominate and humiliate all around him.

That means you, too. - rs

Trump 20: Accepting the verdict

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Even Hitler accepted the election results . . . But not, apparently, Donald Trump.

This was not always so. At the first presidential debate, asked about accepting the results, Trump said, “I want to make America great again. I’m going to be able to do it. I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her.”

But something - the polls? - changed. At several recent rallies, Trump made several references to questioning whether the upcoming elections were "rigged" and, implicitly, whether he would accept the results. There was, understandably, an outcry.

More recently, his daughter Ivanka and his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tried to walk it back. Asked if there was substantial campaign fraud, Conway told MSNBC, “No, I do not believe that. So absent overwhelming evidence that there is, it would not be for me to say that there is." Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence made a similar statement.

But Trump himself did put an end to that line of talk. In his Thursday (and last) presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked him explicitly if he would accept the results of the election. That was not, please note, a request to accept that the election was error-free, just that he - like every presidential candidate in this history of this country - would accept the results.

"I will look at it at the time," he said, then added, "I will keep you in suspense."

Compare that to the patriotism shown in 1960 by Richard Nixon and in 2000 by Al Gore, who easily could have demanded something closer to justice in their respective races, simply be insisting on a closer look at the results, and could have wound up with the presidency, but didn't because they felt the country needed closure and certainty.

An evidently stunned Wallace sought to clarify: "Not saying you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and the country comes together, in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?” Yep, that's exactly what he said.

The CNN news report said, "The comments at the Las Vegas showdown marked an extraordinary departure from one of the most fundamental principles of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power after an election. They exposed a divide with Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer before the debate 'we'll certainly accept the outcome of this election'." (Better have a chat with Donald about that.)

Trump's statement about not committing to accept the results is all by itself one of the most powerful disqualifiers from the presidency imaginable. Why? Consider this translation from Iowa editorial writer Jon Alexander: ""Will I start a civil war? I dunno. I'll tell you later." - rs

Trump 21: Worst presidential campaign ever

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The job of a presidential does not overlap exactly with that of a candidate for the office. If it did, we'd be electing nothing but wonderfully well-suited presidents. The needed skills for each are a little different.

There is some similarity, though, enough that by watching how a candidate runs, you can get some sense of how that candidate will handle many key parts of their presidency. Barack Obama ran what was one of the most brilliant campaigns for the top office, ever; that much usually is admitted even by many of those who opposed him, Republicans included. His display of many of the skills involved, from finding excellent help, demonstrating conversance with a large and wide-range collection of issues, inspiring large numbers of people, an understanding of new communications tools and how to use them, raising funds and spending them well (a little-noted part of the Obama campaign's success), honing a message and delivering it effectively enough to win support of a large number of Americans, gave many Americans confidence that Obama would also do a capable job once in office. (Obviously, not everyone agrees, but as his second term winds down, polls consistently show that a majority of Americans do.)

It can be said of Donald Trump and has been - maybe most often by himself - that his ability to vanquish 16 competitors in his own party for the Republican nomination for president is a demonstration of some political skill. But it's a demonstration that went only so far. He had a few genuine insights (most notably, the real nature and thinking of a large part of the under-served Republican core base), and a great deal of luck (his opponent's hapless efforts to cope with his unexpected presence, which ran outside their calculations). For a specific audience, he has been an electrifying presence.

None of those skills, or perceptions, much translate into the running of a presidency. And if you look at the other campaign activities and demonstrations of skill shown by Obama, and many of his successful predecessors of both parties, you find hardly any of those traits replicated by Donald Trump.

Finding excellent help? Not really, and he runs through top campaign staff like a kleenex box and a man with a bad cold: He's on his third campaign manager in six months, and apparently disregarding her (relatively sound) advice already. Demonstrating conversance with a large and wide-range collection of issues? Sorry, not in his litany. Inspiring large numbers of people? Only those in his hard-core base; few others can stand him. Understanding of new communications tools and how to use them? Aside from Twitter, which he over- and mis-uses, he seems to be a technical Luddite. Raising funds and spending them well? Somewhat surprisingly, he's shown little ability in either area. Honing a message and delivering it effectively enough to win support of a large number of Americans? Not close; he's far more comfortable riffing like a stand-up comic, the closest model available for his rally performances.

Donald Trump flukishly tapped into a vein of real concerns and grievances on the part of millions of Americans, but he has neither the understanding nor the skills to do anything useful with or about them. His campaign is a prime demonstration of that. - rs