Point of View Columns

Donald Trump and “Straight Talk”

One of the more interesting aspects of the Trump candidacy is how he is able to give voice to the major and minor prejudices and bias that infect the national bloodstream – doing so in a way that is supposed to be “straight talk”. His “straight talk” is appreciated by a significant part of the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party. We will see how far “straight talk will take him”.

We have already heard Donald Trump attack, demean and demonize Mexican American immigrants, and by extension immigrants from just about anywhere in the world where white people are not the native population. He took a baby step backward by admitting that not all Mexican American immigrants are rapists, and that was very kind of him. But he still paints these immigrants as the lesser, as the other, as the unwanted in America.

And because this is supposed to be “straight talk”, not bigoted and hateful discourse, he has not disqualified himself to be President of the United States. Indeed, on August 6th, The Donald will be center stage at the first Teapublican presidential debate, playing the role of the leading candidate. Clearly, “straight talk” trumps the dog whistle rhetoric engaged in by the likes of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, et. al.

It appears that under the heading of “straight talk”, Donald Trump can get away with saying anything. In his passionate crusade to denigrate President Obama at any and every opportunity, he has departed from his “birther cruise to nowhere” and now is intent on proving that the president is incompetent, weak and “the worst president in the history of this country”.

Never one to let the truth get in the way, Trump conveniently omits President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, his leading the country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, saving the auto industry, saving the banking industry, instituting a national healthcare system and establishing a financial services regulatory system that most probably would have saved this country from the aforementioned economic crisis had it been in effect in 2007.

Trump is so concerned about being a “winner”, despite the multiple bankruptcies of companies with the Trump name and his own flirtations with personal financial disaster. But being such a “winner”, one would think that Trump would appreciate the fact that Barack Obama won the presidency with more than 50% of the popular vote – twice. President Obama is the only person to do that since President Eisenhower over a half a century ago. That should make him a “winner” by the Trump standard. But then, Donald Trump has never let facts get in the way of a good diatribe.

And so, as he continues his rant about the failures and deficiencies of Barack Obama, Trump engages in “straight talk”, saying that President Obama will make it impossible for another African American to be elected president “for generations”. Such language and thinking is precisely the source of the racist virus that has afflicted this country from its very inception.

Even if one wishes to accept Donald Trump’s outlandish assessment of President Obama’s record, even if he were as bad as George W. Bush – he of the stolen election and lie-based wars – why would that keep another African American from being elected president? Jimmy Carter was not considered to have a particularly outstanding one term presidency, but that did not prevent another white Southerner, Bill Clinton, from being elected twelve years later.

The racist tone and logic of Donald Trump’s statements regarding the election prospects of future African Americans, in the name of “straight talk”, is actually an illustration of dog whistle politics without the dog whistle. He is only saying what too many white Americans still believe. The shame of Donald Trump’s rhetoric is that too many Americans are listening and liking it.

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Point of View Columns

None So Blind

The fact that John Boehner, John McCain and Lindsay Graham think that bombing Syria is a good thing should be all the warning that President Obama needs to know that his proposed military action is absolutely the wrong thing. Instead, in what seems like some improbable horror movie, President Obama continues to slip slide towards a bloody precipice that promises no reward but an outcome that will indelibly stain his legacy as president and while endangering Americans for years to come.

For anyone with an attention span greater than that of a goldfish, it is pretty simple to remember the young Senator Barack Obama voting against the entry of the United States into a war with Iraq. It was this principled – and intelligent – stance that served as one of the foundations of his successful candidacy for president. Indeed, it is not exaggerating to say that if Senator Obama had voted for the war in Iraq he never would have become President Obama.

We now watch the grotesque irony of President Obama going to Sweden (where he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just four short years ago) to encourage Europeans to join the United States in a military attack on Syria. And just to twist the barb of irony a bit deeper, we should remember that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize primarily because of he represented the promise of peace and a new direction in international relations.

We listen to the Obama Administration advocate this military disaster waiting to happen and have to wonder when did Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsay Graham and House Speaker John Boehner become foreign policy beacons for this country to follow.

John McCain was soundly rejected by the American people when he ran for president so why is his judgment and advice so meaningful to the Obama Administration?

Lindsay Graham will probably not be reelected in South Carolina, a state that hardly represents the mood of this country. And John Boehner is the leader of a Teapublican majority in Congress that represents less than half of the American people.

With his typical eloquence President Obama has presented the horrific images resulting from the chemical weapons attacks in Syria that were supposed to have been perpetrated by the Assad regime. This latest outrage is, we are told, the trigger for the United States to take military action – not to overthrow Assad – but presumably to punish him.

One has to wonder what was it about the other 80,000 plus deaths in Syria that did not warrant a military response? The use of chemical weapons is horrific but bullets and rocks leave their victims just as dead. And remember that over 250,000 people were killed in Rwanda over a thirty day period, most of the dead being victims of machetes.

The point, of course, if that this world is full of horrific incidents and violent outrages. As you are reading this column someone is probably being killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan and who knows where else. Should the United States take on the role of roving Global Marshal punishing evildoers wherever they might be?

Taking the Obama Administration’s proposition to its logical extreme there will always be a reason for the United States to violently intercede in this bellicose world. This notion is already the leading purveyor of weapons in this world. Will the United States also be the leading violent actor on the world stage?

Americans should also be careful to note that the United States has spent more than two decades bombing and killing the people in Arab and Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. This has built up resentment and a thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with the death and destruction of Americans. The fact that there are no American “boots on the ground” will mean little to the vengeful jihadists and nationalists who will perceive the proposed Syrian bombing campaign as one more example of The Great Satan at work.

The ultimate irony is that the Teapublicans, including Senator Rand Paul, seem to be the only opponents to this Syrian warfare who have found their voice. But one does not have to be an isolationist to realize that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans do not have the protective power of ancient moats. One does not have to be a Teapublican to understand that when American interests are not directly threatened bombs and missiles are not viable options.

There has been so much that has been good about the Obama Administration. It is truly sad to see this president sucked into the groupthink that has misguided this country into Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and now Syria.

And once the missiles have been launched, once the bombs have been dropped, the consequences will flow inexorably to the shores of this country.

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