FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points [449] -- Cleanup On Aisle Trump

[ Posted Friday, August 18th, 2017 – 17:39 PDT ]

Welcome back to Friday Talking Points! Let's see... anything big happen in the two weeks while we were away?

We're kidding, of course. The flood of sewage from Donald Trump's mouth was so pervasive, it was downright impossible to ignore it from anywhere on the planet. So last week we watched in fear as Trump got in a shoving match with Kim Jong Un, and this week we remained agape while Trump told us what he really feels about people who march with swastikas while screaming about Jews -- that they're "very fine people."

Hoo boy.

The most appropriate quote -- from inside the White House, mind you -- in reaction to Trump's impromptu press conference came from the Daily Beast:

"It was the president's decision to do this," another White House official (said) of Trump's free-wheeling at the press conference. Asked for a mini-review of Trump's press conference performance, the official would only respond, "clean-up on aisle Trump."

Brookings fellow Jamie Kirchick took the prize for best tweet in response to Trump: "When determining whether or not the president is a racist, I'll defer to the professional racists, who very much seem to think he is."

Trump's term in office has been a series of one bad week after another. Each time you think it can't get any worse, it does. Over and over again. It's Groundhog Day meets Nightmare On Elm Street, folks. But in the pantheon of very bad weeks, this particular week was clearly the worst so far. That doesn't mean Trump won't be able to top it next week, however.

Let's quickly run through the timeline. For context, here is Trump in 2015, speaking about Nikki Haley ordering the Confederate flag removed from the statehouse in South Carolina: "I would take it down, yes. I think they should put it in a museum and respect whatever it is you have to respect."

Last Saturday, neo-Nazis and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia. By the time they left, one was dead and dozens injured -- most from a terrorist attack made by a white supremacist using his car as a weapon.

Trump's first response was to condemn "hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides -- on many sides."

The next day, Jeff Sessions appeared on the Sunday morning shows and agreed it was an act of domestic terrorism. Trump still hasn't admitted this, though.

Monday, Trump had been forced to issue a much clearer condemnation of Nazis and white supremacists. He read the words someone else had written off a TelePrompTer, while doing an impression of a small child being forced to apologize for something he really isn't sorry for at all.

This, quite obviously, chafed on the president. The next day he was scheduled to give some introductory remarks on infrastructure, and instead went rogue and declared a press conference. His combative answers to the questions that ensued showed what he really thought (the entire transcript has to be read to be believed, really). There were some "very fine people" on both sides, and also on both sides those who committed violence.

Also during his busy week, Trump took the time to retweet an image of a "Trump train" plowing into a figure with the CNN logo where the face should be. Mere days after a car killed a woman in Charlottesville, mind you.

The reactions were swift. Corporate America is backing away from Trump as fast as they can backpedal. What began as a trickle of C.E.O.s quitting Trump advisory panels soon grew into a flood (ironic side note: when the first C.E.O. announced his departure, it took Trump only 54 minutes to rip into him on Twitter -- a stark contrast to the time it took him to address Charlottesville). When the members of one business advisory panel voted among themselves to disband the group, Trump pre-empted their announcement by dissolving both of his advisory councils of C.E.O.s. Later in the week, he was forced to announce that a new infrastructure advisory board was being cancelled (likely because nobody was willing to join it). Today, a presidential arts and humanities advisory council disbanded itself, and sent an open letter to Trump which ended:

Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.

Ouch. It was also announced today that multiple charities are cancelling their reservations for events at Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort.

Reactions from politicians was swift, bipartisan, and universal. Trump has indeed managed to unite Washington -- against him. Today's talking points section will cover the full range of Republican denouncements of Trump, in fact. The only African-American senator, Republican Tim Scott, admitted he could not "defend the indefensible." Senator Bob Corker was even heard questioning Trump's "stability" and "competence." Trump lashed out on Twitter against at least two GOP senators (John McCain and Jeff Flake), but there are now so many speaking out against him it'd take him hours to even respond to them all. In essence, everyone (including Democrats and most of the media, to boot) was saying the same thing: "There are no very fine Nazis and white supremacists -- period!"

In the midst of all this, Trump leaked that he was considering pardoning infamous Arizona ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been convicted of contempt of a federal court and faces jail time. Because (we suppose) the guy who ran the most racist police force in the country is also a "very fine person" to Trump. Or something.

Two pieces of historical context arose worth mentioning. The first was from a tweet from Daily Show writer Dan Amira, who pointed out: "In 1980 Trump demolished two historic sculptures bc removing them intact would have delayed construction of Trump Tower by a week and a half." So I guess Trump's professed love of history and statues is a recent thing, huh?

The second is an article about Fred Trump, Donald's father. The headline: "In 1927 Donald Trump's Father Was Arrested After A Klan Riot In Queens." Speaks for itself -- a chip off the old block, as it were.

But back to the present -- by week's end, Steve Bannon had been fired. Of course, he's not the only proponent of the "alt-right" in the White House. Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka still remain, although Gorka is rumored to be on thin ice. But no matter how hard Chief of Staff John Kelly tries, even firing the worst people around him still won't fix Trump.

As for other Republicans, it's fairly easy to tweet disapproval, but it's a lot tougher to actually walk the walk afterwards. Politico reports that GOP leaders in Congress are in no rush to hold any hearings of any kind into white supremacist and far-right movements: "[T]he House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Department of Justice’s handling of domestic terrorism, has no immediate plans to schedule [such a hearing], aides say." Paul Ryan isn't exactly a profile in courage, either, as he issued a statement on the ten statues of Confederates in the U.S. Capitol building: "These are decisions for those states to make." A Robert E. Lee statue within the seat of the government he was trying to overthrow is just fine with Ryan, apparently.

Huffington Post also pointed out that a grant of $400,000 to a group that "works to de-radicalize neo-Nazis" that was issued in the final days of the Obama administration will not actually appear. They're going to redirect the money to "fighting radical Islamic terrorism" instead.

Oh, and Salon helpfully notes that there is a Republican movement which has already resulted in bills being passed in North Carolina and Texas which would make it fully legal to run over protesters blocking roads with your car. Because what could possibly go wrong with a law like that?

Tweeting is easy. Actually standing up to the president (and racism) is a lot harder for Republicans to do, so far at least.

One positive note to end on: in the midst of this horrific week, former president Barack Obama tweeted out a quote from Nelson Mandela. It is now the most popular tweet of all time on Twitter. That's how to be presidential, as opposed to what Trump was spewing all week long.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We didn't write a column last week, but had we done so we would have had a tough time picking out a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, because we had seen so many impressive progressives all week long at the Netroots Nation conference.

We heard many fine speeches and presentations by all manner of experts, but were especially impressed by some of the Democratic candidates. Many of these are newcomers to politics, and all showed an amazing amount of dedication and willpower. The most impressive would be hard to choose, although we have to say one man stood out.

Randy Bryce (otherwise known on Twitter as @IronStache) is running to take Paul Ryan's House seat away from him. He's a Union ironworker, and he knows exactly what he stands for. His campaign is focused on healthcare, where Ryan is weak. Bryce wowed the crowd more than any other speaker we saw during the week, and we certainly wish him all the best in his race next year.

He's even getting under Ryan's skin already. Bryce has been berating Ryan for not holding a town hall meeting for almost two full years, and Ryan finally gave in and announced he would be holding one early next week (August 21, to be broadcast on CNN). So the Iron 'Stache is already having an impact.

There were plenty of other impressive speeches during Netroots Nation, including a call for Democratic unity (by championing progressive issues) by Senator Elizabeth Warren that is worth reading in full.

But that was last week. This week, two bits of symbolism caught our eye. The first was the letter the presidential arts and humanities council sent, announcing the disbanding of the group. The language in it is strong and bold, and a few paragraphs even draw inspiration from the Declaration of Independence. But the amusing part is that the first letters of all the paragraphs spell out "RESIST." Heh. We'd expect nothing less from artistic types.

But while that's deserving of an Honorable Mention, this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to another artist, for an absolutely brilliant image.

From a Salon story about the creation of this image:

Mike Mitchell, the creator of the image often forwarded by those advocating for the impeachment of Trump, designed the image in February after determining he wanted to stain the number Trump holds so dear. "I knew I wanted to take on 45, a number he was clearly proud of as he put it on his dumb red USA hat," Mitchell told Co.Design. "I definitely wanted to try and tarnish it."

. . .

"Perhaps [the connection between Trump and Nazis] wasn't as clear in February, but it's clear now, which is why I think it really took off," Mitchell said. "[The symbol] seemed fitting in February, is fitting in August."

Mitchell shared a high resolution version of the image on his Twitter account and has allowed people to use and distribute the image for free. And now that his image has gone viral, the artist wants just one thing: "Impeach this idiot already," he said.

Any regular reader of this column knows we're a sucker for well-done political theater of any type, and we have to say it's been a long time since we've seen such a poignant image. Really sums it up. No explanation necessary. Which is the highest praise that can be offered for a political symbol, really.

So this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is Mike Mitchell, for his most excellent "45-swastika-NO" design. Well done!

[Congratulate Mike Mitchell via his Twitter page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Sadly, this one is easy to call this week. Here is the full story:

Democratic state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal went on her personal Facebook page Thursday morning to vent two days after the president blamed "both sides" for the brutality.

"I put up a statement saying, 'I really hate Trump. He's causing trauma and nightmares.' That was my original post," she told the Kansas City Star. The Facebook post received many responses, Chappelle-Nadal said, and to one she replied, "I hope Trump is assassinated!"

Chappelle-Nadal later explained that she didn't actually wish harm to come to Trump but wrote it out of frustration.

"I didn't mean what I put up. Absolutely not," Chappelle-Nadal told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It was in response to the concerns that I am hearing from residents of St. Louis."

"There are people who are afraid of white supremacists," she added. "There are people who are having nightmares. There are people who are afraid of going out in the streets. It's worse than even Ferguson."

Though the senator quickly deleted the comment, an image of the statement swept social media, catching the attention of the Secret Service and prompting calls for her to step down.

We will leave it for her constituents in Missouri to decide whether she should continue to serve or not, but we must condemn such a statement no matter what frame of mind Chappelle-Nadal was in when she wrote it.

Calls for (or support of, or hopes for) political assassination are beyond the pale. This is a bright red line that should never be crossed. Every time a Democratic politician crosses it, they are automatically awarded the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, and this week is no different.

For shame. There simply is no excuse.

[Contact Missouri state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal on her official contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 449 (8/18/17)

There are just too many reactions to Trump's astonishing press conference to limit ourselves to just seven talking points this week. Instead, we're just going to throw them all together, for maximum impact.

Most of these are tweets from Republican members of Congress, it should be noted. Their language was unequivocal, unlike the president's. Of particular note was Marco Rubio, who has been one of the strongest anti-Trump voices on the right all week long. Rubio really deserves a few interviews this Sunday morning for pushing back so hard, in fact.

Note: All of these were taken from a number of different articles this week in the Washington Post. The final item is from a brilliant Salon article that everyone should take the time to read.

Further note: While not in reaction to Trump, we wrote yesterday about some sage advice Trump should listen to from General Robert E. Lee and Ronald Reagan. The Reagan speech, in particular -- his "evil empire" speech -- is incredibly apt for Trump to read, right about now.

But that's enough intro. Let's instead just get right to the talking points. Again, most of these are from members of Trump's own party

 

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

"[Trump's response was being praised by] some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation -- as our President -- please fix this. History is watching us all."

 

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

"Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK by the @POTUS is unacceptable. Period."

 

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

"We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."

 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)

"Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists"

"The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. They are adherents of an evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity or nation of origin.... These groups today use SAME symbols & same arguments of #Nazi & #KKK, groups responsible for some of worst crimes against humanity ever. Mr. President, you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain. The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We cannot allow this old evil to be resurrected."

 

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado)

"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

 

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R)

"Let's get real. There is no moral equivalency to Nazi sympathizers. There can be no room in America -- or the Republican party -- for racism, anti-Semitism, hate or white nationalism. Period."

 

Representative Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee chair

"I don't understand what's so hard about this. White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn't be defended."

 

Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas)

"Apologize. Racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, of any form is unacceptable. And the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that."

 

Mitt Romney (R)

"No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes."

 

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (member of Trump's cabinet, but a holdover from the Obama administration)

"I do feel like as an American and as a member of the Cabinet, that I can speak for my own personal opinions on this, and I am outraged by the behavior that I have seen with the Nazis and the white supremacists. I am outraged on the use of violence -- to be able to put one's ideals, and force them upon others. [It is] a dishonor to our country's veterans for the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged, and that we all have to speak up about this as Americans.... staying silent on these issues is not acceptable."

 

Former C.I.A. director John Brennan

[Brennan wrote a letter to Wolf Blitzer which he later allowed to be published, after hearing that Blitzer had lost all four grandparents to the Nazis.]

"I just want to extend my sympathies not only for their deaths but also to you and your family -- and countless others -- for the pain inflicted today by the despicable words of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump's words, and the beliefs they reflect, are a national disgrace, and all Americans of conscience need to repudiate his ugly and dangerous comments. If allowed to continue along this senseless path, Mr. Trump will do lasting harm to American society and to our standing in the world. By his words and his actions, Mr. Trump is putting our national security and our collective futures at grave risk."

 

Salon writer Chauncey DeVega

This was the best piece of writing we read all week. The points made are really impossible to deny. Different races are indeed treated differently, which we'd all do well to realize (which DeVega scathingly points out).

Ultimately, the Charlottesville police looked on and did very little to stop the white supremacist maelstrom. The orgy of white violence culminated with an ISIS-style attack when a speeding car crashed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and leaving many dozens injured. The alleged attacker was later arrested by the Charlottesville police. He was taken alive.

Imagine this: What if the white right-wing thugs in Charlottesville had instead been African-American or Hispanic?

The police would not have shown restraint. They would have been joined by the National Guard and other forces. A bloodbath might well have ensued. The events in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Mike Brown, demonstrate how America's police respond to unarmed black and brown American who dare to engage in civil disobedience and protest. People of color with guns or other weapons would be shown no mercy.

What if the white right-wing thugs in Charlottesville had been First Nations people?

As occurred last year at Standing Rock, they would have been treated brutally. Unarmed and peaceful Native Americans (and their allies) who tried to stop a toxic pipeline that will pollute the area's water supply were attacked by a militarized police force and private mercenaries.

What if the white right-wing thugs in Charlottesville had been Muslims?

A national emergency would have been declared. The violence and killing in Charlottesville would instantly have been labeled as terrorism. Donald Trump would immediately have given a speech to the American people about the grave danger posed by this terrorist assault on the "homeland." The full weight of the federal government would have been thrown against the Muslims running amok in Charlottesville.

-- Chris Weigant

 

All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post