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Month: March 2017

Kaepernick’s Crime, to Trump: He Comes From Obama’s America

POLITICAL FOOTBALL: The President is ever on the prowl for events and people he can exploit to reassure his America that he’s looking out for them. And boy did he find one.

This was Trump’s worst week in office. By far. His approval rating dropped down to 37 percent—a historic low. His lie about Obama wiretapping him was debunked by the FBI. That same FBI told us that it is currently investigating Trump’s connections with Russia, and it may have found evidence indicating that Donald’s campaign communicated with Russia to coordinate the release of info damaging to Clinton’s campaign. Democrats announced that they’re going to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination. And the all important Trumpcare bill failed in a way that was a royal mess and made the Republicans look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

I struggle to think of what’s going right in this White House. The old man arrives at the office on time most days.

There’s that.

But put aside all of the important news swirling around right now. I refuse to let it distract me from the Trump thing that offended me most this week. Health care is crucial, but sorry, I can’t let this one go: Trump’s verbal attack on Colin Kaepernick way back on Monday from a podium in Kentucky at a rally where he said, “There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that?”

No.

So much to unpack there. We see Trump gracelessly celebrating what he thinks is Kaepernick’s downfall. We see Trump cock-blocking an American in the process of trying to get a job. We see Trump sneering at how Kaepernick has used his right to free speech.

We see Trump calling for Kap to be disciplined by his fellow one percenters as if he were telling the other masters how to handle their property when they get out of line. Can you hear the faint echo in the background of Trump’s words—‘We gon’ teach that boy a lesson!’

We see Trump using Kaepernick as a symbol of what’s wrong with this country, a strawman he can pound on to show his people he takes no mess from the blacks. He’s very Boss Hogg that way. To Trump, Kaepernick is a villain who forced politics into the glorious NFL, and he’s someone who dared challenge the authority of the almighty police. But in reality Kaepernick’s transgression was this: in a way that did not take anything away from the games themselves, he silently and briefly protested against black people being killed by their government. The NFL employs some men who viciously beat up their wives or girlfriends but the real enemy of the people is Kaepernick because he wants justice for black people? Kaepernick would have a better chance of getting signed if the issue was him beating up a woman.

We also see Trump quoting an anonymous source about a month after excoriating media for using anonymous sources. The article he’s referring to was a post on the sports blog the Bleacher Report. Its title was “Colin Kaepernick Sentenced To NFL Limbo For The Crime Of Speaking His Mind.” I’m sure they left out that title when they told Trump about the story’s anonymous GM who said the “fear of a tweet from the President was a factor for about 10 percent of NFL teams, which would be three to four squads.”

So he’s wildly misstating the facts—as he typically does—so much so that he’s essentially disseminating fake news and showing an overly grandiose sense of his own power. The bully pulpit is loud but does anyone think any games put on by the mighty NFL would not be sold out or rabidly watched on TV because of a tweet from Trump? Please. But Trump’s still in campaign mode. He’s still speaking to his people and only to his people and trying to fire them up at any cost. He’s using Kaepernick as a convenient villain to show who he stands with. Presidents are supposed to represent the entire country but this one can only hear his most ardent supporters. He has no willingness in reaching out to the other side. He has no interest in mollifying the millions of Americans who are scared by him. If you think differently than he does, then Trump doesn’t care about you.

This is a problem in a diverse nation. You can’t say one particular American is the quintessential American—this is a nation characterized by it consisting of a broad array of people, some of whom are at virtual war with one another. We are a nation that has been produced from variety and the resulting tension between opposing groups fighting over rights. America is the result of both Trump and Kaepernick. But Trump thinks only he and his folks are legitimate or real Americans. We are a bipolar nation that has learned to distrust and demonize the other side. That’s why both Kap and Trump are heroes to some and heels to others. In September of 2016, as the NFL season was in its first weeks and Kaepernick’s protest was resonating, he had the #1 selling jersey in the NFL. And at the same time he had people burning his jersey.

We see similar split with Trump. His overall Gallup approval rating is 39 percent but his approval rating among Republicans is 86 percent, a historic high. His base remains happy. How is this possible? He has not accomplished much of substance so far. The Muslim ban is failing to get through the courts, Trumpcare is failing to get through Congress, his budget isn’t going to get through, either. But then again he has accomplished something.

The Presidency has an almost spiritual component—the man in the Oval has his persona, his perspective, his priorities grafted onto the soul of the nation. His supporters feel affirmed by his success. He is a symbol of the nation and those who feel invested in his success feel personally affirmed as if his win means their worldview and way of life are right. Obama’s rise made many of us feel better about being Americans. But while we reveled in that joy, there were others who felt left out. Trump has given them a boost, he’s made them feel central again.

The last eight years the White House was sympathetic to Kaepernick and Trayvon Martin and Jay-Z. Now the White House is sympathetic to the police and the Patriots and Fox and Putin. So even though he cannot (yet) produce a significant legislative victory, Trump’s already given his folks something powerful—he’s given them their swagger back. Just by his mere presence in the White House he is making whiteness great again.

From The Daily Beast, March 25, 2017

The Liar-In-Chief & The Dangers of Post-Truth Politics

KAKISTOCRACY NOW: What happens when we lose American lives over a lie?

It’s hard to live with a leader you don’t trust. It makes you anxious. Makes you fearful. It’s not really a partisan issue. This president lies as constantly and as brazenly as a used car salesman trying to close at the end of the month.
Through 60 odd days we’ve had so many lies it’s hard to keep track. His inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. Voter fraud was rampant in 2016. The Yemen raid was a success. And on and on and on.

This week they laid to rest a big one. Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees said they found zero evidence of President Barack Obama surveilling Trump Tower.

This, I thought, must surely put the old man in a corner, boxed in by his own words, untethered from facts. He’d spun a distraction for us that had spiraled out of control like Mickey’s magic broomsticks in Fantasia. It’d bounced back and become a distraction for him. Now, to escape the distraction he would have to apologize or at least admit he was mistaken. He had to, I thought.

I was wrong.

Instead, he let Sean Spicer go out and take the heat and spread Trumpworld’s message: Despite having no evidence, the president continues to believe he was surveilled by the previous president.

Trump declined to speak directly to this scandal of his own making. He addressed it only cryptically, when forced by a German reporter, joking, “At least we have something in common,” referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel being tapped. Then he blamed the whole thing on something he’d seen on Fox News.

Wait, he’s joking? In a week when by all imaginable sense of human decency he should have come out and faced the problem he’d created for himself?

Here’s the thing: I don’t even know if I believe that Trump really believes that Obama tapped him. He’s the post-truth president.

Every president is supposed to be a paragon of integrity—the world hangs on his every word. The world needs to be able to trust him to understand which way the world’s greatest power will move. But Trump sows chaos by being the opposite of honest—by design.

It’s part of a much larger game that Trumpworld is playing. Trumpworld—by which I mean the major players in the administration: Bannon, Conway, Spicer, Miller, Preibus, etc.—they seem to be constantly telling lies, challenging accepted reality, gaslighting, giving us alternative facts, and spreading fake news.

Yes, Trumpworld has been effective at strategically using information to distract our attention from Russia or discussion of the Trumpcare bill and the mean-spirited budget both of which seem to come with the subtitle “The Poor Die In Darkness.”

But Trumpworld ultimately craves something much bigger from all this. They want the power that comes from destroying the media’s place in society.

Make no mistake: Their goal is to delegitimize media. If there’s no trust in media then there’s no objective broker of facts and then you’ve successfully destabilized the truth. You’ve created a climate where there are no agreed upon facts and no objective truth.

This week on CNN Kayleigh McEnany said, “If he said it happened, it did.” That’s an absurd suspension of disbelief. But that’s exactly the posture Trumpworld wants—believe Comrade Trump and do not question him no matter what media says.

Trumpworld wants to be your sole source of truth. If he has a monopoly on truth then he owns pricey real estate in your mind and he can get you to believe anything.

Sure, governments are always in the business of manufacturing consent, but this is different: Trump doesn’t want you to go along with an idea or a policy or a philosophy that he believes in. He just wants you to go along with him. Most of those who seek to destabilize the truth to get you to just go along with them are called dictators. Control of what’s considered the truth is critical to the domination of minds.

It’s sad but fitting that this game is working on the right. The once proud conservative movement has been corrupted by a weak relationship to the truth.

There are too many ideas in the modern right that stand on a foundation of falsity. Obama was born in Kenya.

Obamacare means death panels. Climate change is a hoax. Immigrants are streaming across the border. Voter fraud is rampant. The government is coming to take your guns. Welfare recipients are regularly dining on lobster, lazily enjoying handouts while you work hard. Bathrooms are dangerous because of trans people.

The modern left has problems but they do not include big ideas based on falsehoods, ideas perpetuated by the base and laughed at by the experts.

The right’s problem stems from conservative media’s tactic of attacking objective mainstream media.

Nearly every night O’Reilly dismisses The New York Times or CNN with the back of his hand, telling the audience in effect, “You know better than to believe anything they say.” The game is about winning audience loyalty—you can’t trust the other guys, you’ve got to get your news from us.

This leads to some on the right having less engagement with sources outside of their respective bubble versus those on the left—Maddow, O’Donnell, Maher, Krugman, Blow, etc.—who more commonly engage with objective sources. In contrast, Limbaugh, Levin, and the Fox prime time crew are out there doggedly disinforming people. And at a time when it seems like so many Americans believe so many fake stories and alternative facts, it’s easy to see how dangerous this game is for the country. It’s tearing us apart.

For Sean Hannity to attack objective media (or perhaps I should say for Hannity to figuratively point a laser-sight gun at them) this is not unlike a product knocking its competitor—Coke saying we taste better than Pepsi. Except Hannity is usually undermining the sense of integrity that journalism requires and thus undermining part of what’s needed to maintain a strong democracy.

So maybe it’s not really like Coke saying we taste better. It’s more akin to Delta saying if you fly American you might die. That might make you loyal to Delta in the short term but in the long run it would kill the airline industry.

This is the game Trump is now playing on the highest political stage. He hasn’t yet accomplished anything legislatively and his Gallup approval rating is hovering around 39 percent, far lower than any president at this point since polling began. What happens when this leader we can’t trust goes lower and lower in the polls? He’s going to need increasingly bigger lies to distract us from the self-inflicted mess he’s in.

Trump may be ignorant of history, but men like Bannon are not. They know that nothing unites a nation around a President like a war. So what happens when the President we can’t trust says something horrible has happened in another country. We may have a limited way of independently verifying what he’s saying. We won’t know if he’s telling the truth when he says we need to go to war now. What then?

We’re still paying for our mistakes in Iraq. What happens when we lose more American lives over a lie?

From The Daily Beast, March 17, 2017