“It’s Still Bullshit, And Dangerous Bullshit At That”

  • Oprah over that sociopath Trump, sure, but somebody qualified over either one of them. Turning the American Presidency into the prize of a celebrity Reality TV show is dangerously stupid. We truly are amusing ourselves to death.
  • Just hours before Trump’s address last night, he suggested Jewish Americans were responsible for terrorizing themselves (historically a ruse of Nazis and the KKK) and passed the buck for the botched, needless Yemen raid on to his generals and the Obama Administration. Then the circle jerks on cable news swooned over a speech in which he lied incessantly and calmly vowed to initiate an office dedicated solely to crimes of immigrants rather than, say, one that focuses on sexual predators in the White House. Van Jones and David Duke may have enjoyed a simultaneous orgasm.
  • A white nationalist candidate flanked by Bannon and Miller doesn’t get to disentangle himself from the racially motivated murder of an Indian-American man in Kansas and the serial desecration of Jewish cemeteries after a couple of sentences read from a Teleprompter, especially as he continues to paint bull’s-eyes on the backs of immigrants and minorities. The Make America White Again campaign didn’t end less night. It was just embedded in platitudes meant to normalize it. But Trump is still deeply abnormal.

A few excerpts follow.

From Calvin Woodward and Christopher S. Rugaber of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump boasted in his speech to Congress that new money “is pouring in” from NATO partners, which it isn’t. He also took credit for corporate job expansion and military cost savings that actually took root under his predecessor.

A look at some of his claims Tuesday night:

TRUMP: Speaking of the NATO alliance, “Our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that. In fact, I can tell you the money is pouring in. Very nice. Very nice.”

THE FACTS: No new money has come pouring in from NATO allies. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made a strong case when he met with allied defense ministers at a NATO meeting last month, pressing them to meet their 2014 commitment to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. He and other leaders said the allies understood the message and there was some discussion about working out plans to meet the goal.

Only five of the 28 member countries are meeting the 2 percent level, and no new commitments have been made since the NATO meeting.

In fact, Germany’s foreign minister said Wednesday he is skeptical about his country’s plans to increase defense spending, saying it could raise concerns in Europe by turning Germany into “a military supremacy.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country will meet its commitment to raise defense spending by the 2024 deadline. In any event, the commitment is for these nations to spend more on their own military capabilities, which would strengthen the alliance, not to hand over money.•

From Micah Zenko of Foreign Policy:

The White House pledged that President Donald Trump’s prime-time joint address to Congress on Tuesday night would “lay out an optimistic vision for the country,” adding that the theme would be a “renewal of the American spirit.” In keeping with his many previous speeches, Trump was incapable of delivering such an address. Instead, he offered repeated encouragement to Americans to show the “bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls,” which resembled nothing so much as the performance of a motivational speaker, only with less specific guidance for how the audience might improve their lives.

One poignant moment, however, unintentionally revealed a great deal not just about what sort of leader the president is but how disengaged America’s political class has always been with the country’s more than 15-year war on terrorism. In an overt and calculated effort to deflect attention from a failed military operation, Trump turned to the widow of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid in central Yemen for which, earlier in the day, the president had shirked all responsibility.

In fact, he went beyond shirking responsibility for the Jan. 28 raid, which killed Owens along with several suspected al Qaeda-affiliated fighters and an unknown number of Yemeni civilians — all while producing no significant intelligence, according to Defense Department officials. On Tuesday morning, Trump took the astonishing step of blaming his subordinates. During an interview with Fox and Friends, the commander in chief declared, “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something [the generals] wanted to do. They came to see me; they explained what they wanted to do — the generals — who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

In other words, Trump laid the blame for a failed military operation that he authorized on the previous administration and on the military commanders who oversaw it. This distancing of authority and redirection of accountability are unprecedented in modern military history. Several active-duty and retired military officers I have heard from in the past two days have (quietly) expressed their deep disappointment with Trump’s comments. Unfortunately, Republican congressional members who lead the oversight committees for such operations will likely defend or tolerate his actions, simply because the president belongs to their political party.•

From Charles P. Pierce of Esquire:

The speech was chock-full of barefaced non-facts regarding crime, immigrants, crime committed by immigrants, the accomplishments of the current administration, and the condition of the country when it handed itself over to his half-baked stewardship last November. I don’t care if you sell your mendacity in perfect iambic pentameter in the voice of Laurence Olivier. It’s still bullshit, and dangerous bullshit at that. And it will sell. That’s the heart and start of it. The people who bought this when it was poured out to them straight up during the campaign certainly will buy it now that it’s mixed with some sweetener lifted whole from every middle-school graduation speech ever given.

There is one portion of the speech that transcended the obvious prevarication and sent the speech spiraling into the near suburbs of outright fascism.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE—Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

What media ignored these crimes? What special interests silenced their families? He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care.

Is it even necessary to outline how perilous to democracy this is? You can see it even without being reminded that, a) under Steve Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart inaugurated a section called “Black Crime,” or b) the Nazi regime constructed an elaborate bureaucratic mechanism to catalogue alleged Jewish crimes against innocent Aryan citizens, although you probably ought to keep those two precedents in mind. The Department of Homeland Security never has been a terrific idea, but to invest something like this new propaganda ministry with the power and influence of an actual Cabinet department is like giving Steve Bannon’s old news sewer its own Special Forces.

From Jeet Heer of the New Republic:

While the more positive parts of the speech were articulated with generalities about working together, the dark passages were presented as vivid narratives with clear heroes and villains.

Immigrants, whether documented or not, commit less crime than other Americans, but Trump talks about these crimes with a melodramatic bluster:

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.

Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.  Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback.  But he never got the chance.  His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis.  Their husbands—Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis—were slain in the line of duty in California.  They were pillars of their community.  These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations. 

To address this imagined crisis, Trump said he has “ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims” of crimes committed by immigrants—a statistically minuscule problem, as crime in America goes. And in a press release sent during the speech, the White House heralded Trump’s Blue Lives Matter agenda by noting that he directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who engage in crimes against law enforcement officers”—also a statistically minuscule problem. In short, Trump’s meager policy solutions aren’t commensurate with his graphic portrait of a broken America.

It’s understandable why people want to believe that the Trump of “American carnage” has pivoted into a more inspirational president. But any attention to his words makes clear that an extremely disturbing, distorted vision of America still defines this presidency.•

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