Monday, November 30, 2015

Trump and Hitler

Donald Trump's incendiary, racist, scapegoating rhetoric is frighteningly reminiscent of the hate-filled rantings of Adolph Hitler.

This comparison is not intended to be insensitive or disrespectful to, or trivializing, the Holocaust and the many millions whose lives were savagely extinguished at the merciless hands of Hitler and his brutal Nazi regime. Rather, it's to draw chilling foundational parallels between this genocidal behavior, the hateful propaganda that preceded it, and the kind of dangerous demagoguery that spews from Trump's mouth daily. We cannot be afraid to make such comparisons, because doing so gives the hate-mongers a free pass.

Since announcing his candidacy in June, Trump has dominated the polls, the media and the public's attention. Despite several outrageously offensive controversial statements about women, gays, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, refugees, immigrants, Sen. John McCain, 9/11, his opponents and people with disabilities, Trump continues to defy conventional wisdom in maintaining a commanding lead.

Trump's blistering, irrational, ad hominem attacks on his detractors have drawn massive crowds at his rallies, have sucked the air out of the Republican primary season and have made it virtually impossible for any other candidate to gain meaningful traction. Prior to 2015, Trump's logic-defying gaffes surely would have killed a campaign. But in the current toxic political climate, his unprecedented missteps have incredulously served to fuel his reality-show bid for the presidency.

The real Trump phenomenon is that there simply doesn't seem to be anything he can do or say that will turn his rabidly loyally supporters against him. He's touched a raw nerve; pushed a very emotionally powerful button. He's given legitimacy to their ignorance and misguided vitriol. And that's where the similarities with Hitler become even more apparent.

Like Hitler, Trump has seized the opportunity to turn an "angry, fed up" segment of the population into his personal mob. They're rapaciously devouring his racially charged, divisive antics. The Trump mob has even resorted to physically attacking protesters who show up at his rallies, as they did recently in Alabama. Others have been pushed, threatened and intimidated. And if he passed out brown shirt uniforms, the kind Hitler's SS wore, many of these Trumpists would likely wear 'em as they fight "to take back America."

These angry citizens, like those in pre-World War II Germany, are looking for a scapegoat. Someone to blame for their frustration. Their poverty. For threatening their security. For destroying "America's greatness." In Nazi Germany it was fear, ignorance and seething underlying ethnic animus that gave rise to Hitler. The same ugly witches' brew that Trump is masterfully manipulating and exploiting as he stokes the flames of prejudice and hatred.

Listen to Trump's fiery attacks and lies about Mexicans, Muslims and refugees and it's not such a leap to Hitler's manic rantings about Jews. And what should we make of his rabble-rousing about walls, registries and the rounding up and deportation of millions of immigrants? While he's not talking of internment or concentration camps per se, he is without question dipping his toes in those ugly waters. This is a man who proudly endorses "Operation Wetback," the unconscionable immigration law enforcement initiative in 1954, which was not only inhumane but deadly.

At his rallies, Trump gesticulates wildly and manically mocks and ridicules anyone who's dared to cross him.  Listen to the cadence and rhythms of his speech. The sarcastic, disparaging tones. The high-pitch ranting. The intense levels of incitement. The narcissism. And yes, the scapegoating, the most chilling element of all. Then watch clips of Hitler's speeches. They're not terribly dissimilar.

Perhaps even more disturbing than Trump himself are the reactions from his "fans" seated behind him, whose nodding, approving, laughing faces you clearly see no matter how outrageously insulting and un-American his comments. The more outlandish and hateful his rhetoric, the more engaged and excited they appear.

Imagine that 2015 America was not enjoying a robust economic recovery, with appreciable growth in jobs, GDP, stocks and housing prices; flowing credit; low inflation; and low interest rates. Imagine instead that in was the Fall of 2008, when the nation's economy was on the verge of collapse. When financial institutions were failing, and savings were being pulled out of banks and stuffed under mattresses. When panic and fear ruled the day.

Now image Donald Trump coming along during this period with his toxic, polarizing, xenophobic, isolationist rhetoric pitting citizen against citizen, "real Americans" against immigrants, Christians against Muslims, whites against blacks and Hispanics. Imagine for a second how easily these "fans" could be provoked into widespread violence and persecution of certain minorities they seem to despise. You think 1930's Germany is so different?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Trump's 9/11 Lies Will Bring Him Down

It's here. The moment we've all been waiting for. That highly anticipated point in the presidential primary season when Republican front runner Donald Trump presumably has gone too far. This time his target was not Sen. John McCain, Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mexicans, gays or any of the countless other people and groups he's offended since he launched his campaign last June.

No. This time Trump committed the unthinkable in shamefully exploiting the September 11 tragedy for his personal political benefit. Worse, he's lied about it. Blatantly. And he's been doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on his lies.

"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," Trump said last weekend at a rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."

When challenged the next day by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Trump doubled-down:

"It was on television. I saw it. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good."

As the non-partisan fact-checking organization Politifact concluded, Trump's claim "defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence."

As usual, rather than apologize for his outrageous behavior, Trump's been repeating his "thousands and thousands" lie ad nauseam, despite a complete lack of evidence.

"Trump is plain wrong, and he is shamefully politicizing an emotionally charged issue. No one in Jersey City cheered on September 11," said  Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

Trump's claims have also been summarily repudiated by Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and John Farmer, Jr, the state's Attorney General at the time of the attacks.

To be sure, there are lots of reasons to utterly despise Trump. The litany of unconscionable racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic comments, as well as his buffoonish, un-presidential behavior, is more than enough. But now he's trampled on sacred ground. In one fell swoop he's shown unprecedented disrespect for the 3000 dead and their still-grieving families while offending the entire Muslim and Arab population of Jersey City. It's the apex of his ignorance-fueled, hate-filled campaign.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump will not be able to recover from this latest controversy. It will follow him everywhere he goes. He'll be asked relentlessly to explain how he was the only witness in America to "thousands and thousands" of Muslims celebrating in the streets of Jersey City. It'll dominate his rallies, upcoming debates, tv and radio interviews and press conferences. He will be forced to defend himself from charges of lying. Of not being trustworthy. Of not being worthy of the Office of the United States Presidency.  

Trump's 9/11 lies will accomplish the one thing that's heretofore seemed impossible: it will unite both his detractors and supporters. Because there's one thing on which all Americans can agree: you don't exploit the horrific 9/11 tragedy for personal political gain.

Monday, November 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters ("Fans")

To Supporters of Donald Trump:

Firstly, what the hell is wrong with you people!? Have you, like your hero, completely lost your minds?! Have you forgotten what America stands for and the principles it was founded on? Or have you, like your hero, turned into a vessel for bigotry, hatred and intolerance? Do you really not see the unprecedented ugliness of his campaign and your role in perpetuating it?

When you look at Trump, and you listen to his fiery, rabble-rousing, incendiary rhetoric, do you really see a United States president standing before you?  Someone who can handle the intense pressures of the job both domestically and globally? Someone with the diplomatic skills to succeed in difficult negotiations with world leaders? With our enemies? Someone who possesses the character and qualifications to engage, not alienate? To unite, not divide? Do you really see a statesman? A role model for your children? Someone who will make Americans proud on the world stage?

What do you truly think when you hear him talk of Mexican rapists? Or when he calls women ugly, fat pigs and bimbos? How about when he suggests that women who criticize him are menstruating? Or that decorated soldiers like Sen. John McCain are not war heroes because they were captured? Or when he says we should "bomb the shit" out of Syria? Or that we should round up and deport 11-million undocumented immigrants, ripping them away from their children? Or that we should register Muslims. Or that his "fans" were justified in beating a black protester at his rally?

Do you believe that a United States president should make outrageously offensive statements that suggest he's a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe? Should he act like an ignorant buffoon?

Does it not concern you greatly that he offers zero substance and cannot substantiate, with facts and specifics, his outlandish positions? Do you not worry that he speaks in empty, grandiose superficial language? That he believes he can accomplish anything, simply because "I'm Donald Trump, and I'll make it happen." Is this enough for you? Do you not expect more from your candidate? Do you not demand logic, rational thinking and intellectual curiosity?

Have you closed your eyes and contemplated what a Trump presidency would actually look like?  How it would grossly cheapen the Oval Office? Is it acceptable to you that a serious presidential contender has no political experience, curses like a sailor, offends everyone who isn't male and white, and incessantly reminds you how rich he is as he tells you that $15 an hour is too much for you? Does it worry and offend you that he boasts of using bankruptcy laws to screw his creditors while he promises to "make America great again." And most importantly, doesn't it bother you that he thinks America isn't great now? That's not very patriotic, is it?

I know you find him entertaining. You probably loved him on The Apprentice. So he's a tv star to you.  A celebrity. And Americans are obsessed with celebrity. That's why you flock to his rallies and watch the debates in record numbers. But that's not a reason to elect him leader of the free world, or for him to be commander in chief of the world's greatest military. Especially during such difficult, challenging times at home and abroad.

To be sure, what I've asked you above is rhetorical. I know that you think Trump is amazing and would be a terrific president. Thankfully, you are in a very small minority. Anyone who understands political math knows that The Donald will never win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency. And no one knows this more than Trump himself. Which is why, after he's done teasing, manipulating and exploiting you, he will break your hearts and abandon you. One thing we know for sure: Trump hates losers. He'll be gone from the race before he is one.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Here's How/Why Jeb Bush Will Win the GOP Nomination

A new poll out of New Hampshire shows front runner Donald Trump gaining momentum while Dr. Ben Carson is losing ground. And herein lies the makings of Jeb Bush's path to the Republican presidential nomination.

The current GOP primary campaign is like no other in political history. A pattern has emerged whereby anyone who gets too close to Trump gets eaten alive by the billionaire businessman. He's been a game-changing phenomenon, with an overstuffed arsenal of personal cash and outrageous bombast which affords him unprecedented levels of freedom to do or say anything he wants, no matter how offensive or counter-intuitive it may be according to conventional wisdom. And his rapacious fans eat it all up like funnel cakes at a state fair.

Make the mistake of attacking Trump and you'll soon find yourself on the outside looking in. He'll turn the tables on you through a ruthless, relentless barrage of insults, ad hominem attacks, expletive-laced rhetoric and generally unpresidential behavior. Seems the more he jumps the shark, the more the shark says, "F**k it, I'm outta here!"

Despite Trump's impressive domination of the race so far, there's still much uncertainty and a lack of consensus among party insiders over leadership and who's most electable. Let's face it: the ride's been fascinating in that 20-car pile-up kind of way, but the likelihood is that Trump will not be the party's nominee, no matter how much of a rock star he may appear to be right now. The math just doesn't add up. His 20+% support among the GOP's radical fringe is not enough to carry him to the convention next Summer (besides the fact that he's lately appeared mentally unhinged). So then who takes the mantle?

Carson, a truth-challenged empty suit with an impressive scalpel, is beginning to implode, and he will soon exit. The next in line candidates don't fare any better. Ted Cruz, like Trump, is too much of a crazy ideologue to garner widespread national support. And Marco Rubio is too young, too inexperienced and too obvious a choice for a solid vice presidential appointment. It's simply not his time to be president.

So who's left? Chris Christie? Too brash, too unpopular and too much baggage. No one wants an angry, obese, scandal-plagued president... especially one who's cut his teeth in New Jersey. That leaves a crop of zero-chance, almost-gone candidates including Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich (also a great VP choice) and Mike Huckabee. And then there's Bush.

Bush has the cash and, more importantly, the moderate-enough positions (and sanity) to wait patiently for the clown show to end. He's been Mr. Steady with his roughly 6%, and stands the best chance of winning the war of attrition with Trump. Bush's plan is for Trump to take down all the others and then begin imploding himself. One might argue that Trump's implosion is already underway, the same way volcanoes erupt: you can't really see how bad it is until the lava starts violently spewing from the top.  And then guess who's the last man standing?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Open Letter to Jeb Bush


Dear Jeb:

Let me establish for the record that I am a passionate, loyal, card-carrying Democrat. As such, you and I differ on virtually every political, economic and social issue imaginable. Furthermore, I consider your brother George one of the worst presidents in American history, and I can't fathom having another Bush in the White House. But ya know what? I desperately want you to win the Republican nomination.

It's not because I like you or think you're truly deserving of the job. It's because you are the only adult in a room full of buffoonish clowns. As un-moderate as I believe you to be, you're practically Barney Frank compared to the radical loons you're running against.

It's astounding, beyond inexplicable, that your party's front runners, with over 50% of voters' support, are Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. These two embarrassingly empty suits have made your party, and America's political system, the butt of jokes all over the world. And that's precisely why you must win the nomination.

The Trump/Carson freak show--replete with Mexican rapists, bimbos and stabbings--might be deliciously entertaining to some at this point in the primary season, but this frightening spectacle must come to an end soon. We need you to restore legitimacy, credibility and respectability to our election process and to the presidency. You cannot allow Trump and Carson, or Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Carly Fiorina for that matter, to hijack our political system and cause it irreparable harm. You may be a staunch conservative, but you're not nuts.

So you have to start getting yourself out of the single-digits. You have to start appealing to voters. Put forth policies that resonate with the middle class. You have to become likable. You have to show some balls and demonstrate that you're not the weak, low-energy wimp that Trump has defined. And most important, you must take Trump on, head on. Aggressively. Like in a street fight. Look, you're a smart guy, and he's an ignorant, offensive fool. This should be easy (I have lots of ideas if you're interested). Polling at around 4%, you have absolutely nothing to lose. Your candidacy is on life support. If you don't step up quickly, you'll be gone before Christmas.

We live in the United States of America, for Pete's sake. The greatest nation in the world. We deserve better than Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and the other GOP crazies. They are tarnishing everything we stand for as the land of freedom, tolerance and opportunity. The greatest act of patriotism you could ever commit is to win that damn nomination....

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Open Letter to Ben Carson

Dear Mr. Carson:
It's certainly been a busy week for you, hasn't it? I bet you never thought you'd be on the proverbial hot seat like you've been. Questions coming at you from the media in rapid succession over several controversial statements you've made about your personal life over the past fifty years. It's been a deluge. Requests for clarification. Demands for the truth. Elaboration. Affirmation. Substantiation. Confirmation. No wonder you seem exhausted, frustrated and just plain fed up.

I'd be too if I were you. Except I'm not you. I'm not running for president, but more importantly, I haven't boasted that I tried to slam a hammer into my mother's head, or that I stabbed someone in the "abdomen." Or that I met Gen. William Westmoreland in 1969 and was offered a full scholarship to West Point (it's a free school). Or that I saved a bunch of white kids during the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Or that I was the only "honest" kid in a Yale classroom.  

I also never suggested that millions of Jews in Nazi Germany could've escaped the Holocaust had they been armed with guns. I've never said that people go to prison straight and come out gay. I've also never said that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery. Or that Muslims should not be president. Or that rape babies shouldn't be aborted. Or that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. But you have.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "Crazy is as crazy does. Mama always said you can't outgrow crazy." Yeah, and you can't run away from it either. Or blame your crazy on the media. No, Dr. Carson, the shitstorm you now find yourself sailing in is completely self-inflicted. It's your outlandish comments, your bizarre behavior, your apparent pathology that's inviting this piercing scrutiny. But in an effort to gain sympathy and raise funds, you stood before the news cameras last week and chastised the media for "piling on" and perpetrating a "witch hunt." And you're continuing to play the victim card.

You're running for President of The United States of America. Leader of the free world. Commander in Chief of the world's greatest militia.  Yet you have no political experience whatsoever. Just a very compelling personal narrative of humble beginnings marred by violence; followed by intense ambition; tremendous career achievement; and all made possible by divine intervention. You brag of hurting people with bricks, bats and hammers, and that you stabbed someone. Yet your position is that the media is not supposed to question any of this absurdity. And if they do it's a witch hunt!? Can it be a witch hunt if it was you who brought up all this kooky stuff? And since it was you who brought it all up, isn't it therefore fair game for the media?

Oh how I long for the good old days, when the one thing we could all agree on, whether Democrat or Republican, was that our presidential candidates should never have stabbed anyone. But not you, Dr. Carson. You wear this alleged incident like a badge of courage. In fact, you seem upset that people are doubting the truthfulness of this story. One thing's for sure: should you be elected, thanks to America's racial progress, you won't be the nation's first black president. But you'd definitely be the first to have ever knifed someone in the gut! 

The fact that you're now getting battered in the press is no one's fault but your own. I'm sorry Doc, but lies matter. And they matter big time when you're running for president. You're on the hot seat now for sure, but it's not because, as you claim, you're a "threat" to progressives. Or because "there is a desperation, on behalf of some, to try and find a way to tarnish" you. Even the venerable Wall Street Journal, certainly no bastion of the 'liberal media', has questioned the accuracy and legitimacy of several major elements of your biography.

To be sure, you're woefully ill-prepared to run for the highest office in the land. You lack the necessary experience, and worse, you've been sounding like a loon. That press conference last week? You were whining and ranting and appearing unhinged. You think the kitchen is too hot now? I can assure you, Mr. Frontrunner, that it's only gonna get hotter.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

GOP Candidates and "Gotcha": 'Please Don't Hold Us Accountable For Our Outrageous Behavior!'

Wah, wah, wah! That's the collective whining of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and several GOP presidential candidates complaining of unfair, biased, mean-spirited debate moderators and their "gotcha" questions. 

But President Obama has it right. How on Earth can we expect these malcontents to firmly and effectively handle a complicated global nemesis like Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un when NBC's John Harwood makes 'em cry?! If the last GOP debate was a litmus test for leadership, well then, there doesn't seem to be a whole lotta litmus here.

What a bunch of petulant little babies! They need to put on their big boy pants for Pete's sake and act like they're qualified to be leaders of the free world. Why the heck should voters make candidates like Ben Carson, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio Commander in Chief when they can't even go toe-to-with CNBC's Rick Santelli and Becky Quick?!

It's time these White House wannabes stop all the disingenuous gotcha nonsense. You can't 'gotcha' someone if they haven't said or done anything 'gotcha.' It's as if the candidates are saying, "We're fed up with how the media makes us accountable for our ignorant, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, racist behavior!"

And it reprises the deliciousness of Tina Fey's brilliant Sarah Palin: "I just hope the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeatin' em verbatim."

Instead, perhaps Carson should stop making exploitative Holocaust references or saying that convicts go into prison straight and come out gay. And Trump should stop calling people ugly, stupid bimbos. And Rubio should stop saying women should be forced to carry rapists' babies. And Fiorina should stop lying about non-existent Planned Parenthood videos. And Cruz should stop saying Obama's foreign policy has left the world on fire. And Rand Paul should stop telling women reporters to "Ssshhh." I could go on, but the sheer tonnage of mind-numbing verbal diarrhea is simply too voluminous to recount here.

Those in the Republican clown posse need to appreciate that they're running for President of the United States of America, not checkout clerk at Target (although some folks would argue this crew is not even qualified for that job either). And so they need to demonstrate a level of resolve and character worthy of the office. To be able to explain and defend their statements and behavior in a dignified, respectful manner without mercilessly attacking the proverbial messenger.

It shouldn't matter if they believe the questions are unfair, petty and rude. Will they throw similar hissy fits when it's Bashar, Putin or Kim Jong ruffling their feathers? Is their thin-skinned peevishness a window into how poorly they'd handle a tough, challenging, even threatening opponent on the world stage? Having the right temperament is a valid, unconditionally required qualification for the presidency of the greatest nation in the world.

For the record, it's not like the Democratic candidates have gotten a free pass from debate moderators. For example, consider what CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Bernie Sanders: "A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?"

Or what he said to Lincoln Chafee regarding his early votes as a Congressman:..."what does that say about you that you're casting a vote for something you weren't really sure about?" To which Chafee replied, "I think you're being a little rough."

Or how he challenged Hillary Clinton: "Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.You were against same-sex marriage, now you’re for it; you defended President Obama’s immigration policies, now you say they’re too harsh; you supported his trade deal dozens of times – you even called it the gold standard. Now, suddenly last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?"