Friday, August 18, 2017

He Cannot Be Coddled




After Charlottesville, Michael Harris writes, Donald Trump becomes the touchstone by which we judge our own politicians:

The Trump White House isn’t the only North American political institution that has lost touch with the real world. The Conservative Party of Canada must now confront a hard fact: Their current leader lacks the nerve to pull the party back to the centre of what might be called ‘responsible conservatism’. In the wake of Charlottesville, that matters. If Conservatives don’t wise up, they may become the pot-bellied pigs of Canadian politics: yesterday’s fad that just smells up the house now.

Andrew Scheer says he won’t grant interviews to The Rebel, the Breitbart News wannabe run by Ezra Levant, under its current editorial direction. That’s nice. So what was it about Rebel’s former, pre-Charlottesville editorial direction that made Scheer comfortable enough to appear on the website several times when he was running for the leadership?

The Rebel was then, and is now, a collection of chocolate-encrusted nutbars — the lunatic villa of the alt-right.

And it should be said also that Scheer didn’t have any problem with having his leadership campaign run by Hamish Marshall, who was on the board of directors of The Rebel and is now, we are told, severing ties with the organization. So Scheer’s attempt to pretend he has only a passing familiarity with Ezra’s work is nonsense.

Justin Trudeau will ultimately be judged by how he deals with Trump:


And for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a postscript: Prime minister, you can coast a long way on selfies in a content-averse universe. But occasions arise when more is required of a leader than imagery. Donald Trump had already given the world his wish-washy take on Charlottesville. We didn’t need one from you.

What we needed from you was the straight goods. That means outing the racists by name and calling out the president of the United States for enabling violent, racist acts. That might have made your next meeting with Trump a little uncomfortable. But it’s a little like being told an off-color joke: If you don’t confront the person who told it, you might as well as laugh and walk away, realizing you have been diminished.

Trump is a force to be dealt with. He cannot be ignored. And he cannot be coddled.

Image: CBC

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Laughter Will Be Universal


Donald Trump disbanded all of his business councils yesterday -- before every member of each council resigned. The message is pretty clear: Donald Trump, the businessman par excellence, is bad for business. Vichy Mochama writes:

The time will come for all brands to dissociate from this administration. Based on the pictures of young men marching, it won’t be too long before polo shirt companies will disavow white nationalism. Somewhere, a public relations agency for Poly by Ralph Lauren and/or Lacoste is in the middle of a heated debate about if and when to change the name of their tennis whites.

From candy conglomerates to e-commerce giants like Etsy and AirBnB, there has been a steady stream of brands taking a stand against the president. Or at least tweeting that they have.

Earlier this year, New Balance, the running shoe company had to clarify whether they were, as claimed by some, the official shoe of white supremacy. Now, New Balance was once the unofficial show of “these are the sneakers I can afford.” But they’ve moved up in the world. They’re now the semi-official (as decided by me) show of Wearing Heels At the Office But Not On The Way.

But like, the official shoe of white people? Nah. Racist footwear depends on what the racist is doing. Flip-flops aren’t inherently racist unless they’re being worn by a non-Indigenous person who is also wearing a headdress at a music festival. Then, yes, those are racist flip-flops.

Increasingly companies and brands are making the connection between the American administration and the racists who support it.

It's all coming down around Donald's ears. And the only thing he knows how to do is go to war -- with everybody. Soon the derisive laughter will be universal. 

Image: Mane 'n Tail

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hopeless -- And Dangerous


When John Kelly took over as Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, many hoped that he would impose much needed discipline on the president. Monday's reworking of Trump's initial statement on Charlottesville had Kelly's fingerprints all over it. But, yesterday, we witnessed yet again how long Mr. Trump can be disciplined. This morning's New York Times editorializes:

Gone was the measured tone that the president’s aides had talked him into on Monday, when he said “racism is evil” and appeared to distance himself from his earlier claims about shared responsibility for the violence. In its place was a high-decibel defense of his original position, to which he added the claim that while there were “bad people” and “very fine people” on both sides, the “very, very violent” protesters on the “alt-left” who came “charging in without a permit” were at least as culpable as the neo-Nazi protesters.
In so doing, Mr. Trump took up many of the talking points of the white nationalists and far-right activists who have been complaining that the news media and the political establishment do not pay enough attention to leftists who call themselves anti-fascists. He also sympathized with the demonstrators’ demand — the announced reason for their rally — that Robert E. Lee’s statue in a Charlottesville park be saved. “Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” However deep their flaws, though, Washington and Jefferson are memorialized as heroes of American freedom, whereas Lee symbolizes violent division. It was hardly a surprise, then, that David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, tweeted to thank the president for his “honesty & courage” in denouncing “leftist terrorists.”

Some are still trying to put lipstick on this pig. But yesterday confirmed that exercise is hopeless. And that Donald Trump is a very dangerous man.

Image: Pinterest

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is NAFTA Dead?



Andrew Coyne's conservative soul was perturbed by what Chrystia Freeland said yesterday:

I said we should be prepared to walk away from the negotiations. I didn’t say we should deliberately sandbag them from the outset.

The government of Canada has at last revealed its objectives for talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a month after the Trump administration released its own. Of course, the nature of any such exercise is to reveal as much about each side’s perceptions of the other’s negotiating position; it makes no sense to come to the table with demands that haven’t a ghost of a chance of being accepted.

What particularly stuck in Coyne's craw was the Trudeau government's insistence that climate change, gender and indigenous rights be put on the table: "But do Trudeau’s people really think the Trumpians could be induced to accept bringing climate change into it? And gender? And Indigenous rights?"

Coyne suspects that the Liberals are betting that the talks will fail:

Of three possible outcomes — a successful conclusion to the negotiations, leading to an agreement between the three countries on a renewed NAFTA; failure, followed by Trump making good on his threat to abrogate the treaty; and failure, unaccompanied by abrogation — the third may well be the most likely.

Congress would have to approve Trump's backing out of the treaty -- and these days Congress disapproves of just about everything that Trump does. Canadians might not get their wish list. But Trump wouldn't get his, either.

Image: CNN Money

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Fake American


 Sarah Palin used to say that she spoke for "real Americans." Paul Krugman writes:

She meant rural and small-town residents — white residents, it went without saying — who supposedly embodied the nation’s true essence.

She was harshly condemned for those remarks, and rightly so — and not just because the real, real America is a multiracial, multicultural land of great metropolitan areas as well as small towns. More fundamentally, what makes America America is that it is built around an idea: the idea that all men are created equal, and are entitled to basic human rights. Take away that idea and we’re just a giant version of a two-bit autocracy.

Donald Trump's supporters showed up in Charlottesville over the weekend -- David Duke confirmed that fact. And Trump refused to condemn them. So what do these events tell us about the president? First, put them in context:

The man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth — a blood-and-soil argument if ever there was one — clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are as a nation.

But the present occupant of the White House has made no secret of preferring the company, not of democratic leaders, but of authoritarian rulers — not just Vladimir Putin, but people like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoganor Rodrigo Duterte, the homicidal leader of the Philippines. When Trump visited Saudi Arabia, his commerce secretary exulted in the absence of hostile demonstrations, an absence ensured by the repressiveness of the regime.

Trump's reaction to the events of the past weekend confirm that, despite his claim that he speaks for "real Americans," Trump isn't one:

Real Americans expect public officials to be humbled by the responsibility that comes with the job. They’re not supposed to be boastful blowhards, constantly claiming credit for things they haven’t done — like Trump bragging about job creation that has continued at more or less the same pace as under his predecessor — or which never even happened, like his mythical victory in the popular vote.

Real Americans understand that being a powerful public figure means facing criticism. That comes with the job, and you’re supposed to tolerate that criticism even if you feel it’s unfair. Foreign autocrats may rage against unflattering news reports, threaten to inflict financial harm on publications they dislike, talk about imprisoning journalists; American leaders aren’t supposed to sound like that.
 Donald Trump is what he has always been -- a fraud. He is a fake American.

Update: Apparently, the quotation I used in this morning's graphic is false. Sarah Palin did talk about real Americans. But she did not make that outrageous statement about her nation's first peoples. I apologize for the error. I have replaced the graphic.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bigotry And Fake History


What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend provides a vivid reminder of who and what propelled Donald Trump into the White House. Michael Eric Dyson writes:

In attendance was white separatist David Duke, who declared that the alt-right unity fiasco “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.” In the meantime, Mr. Trump responded by offering false equivalencies between white bigots and their protesters. His soft denunciations of hate ring hollow when he has white nationalist advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller whispering in his ear.

Their anger at the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee is rooted in a misreading of American history -- a misreading which justifies a bigotocracy:

This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.

They cling to a faded Southern aristocracy whose benefits — of alleged white superiority, and moral and intellectual supremacy — trickled down to ordinary whites. If they couldn’t drink from the cup of economic advantage that white elites tasted, at least they could sip what was left of a hateful ideology: at least they weren’t black. The renowned scholar W.E.B. Du Bois called this alleged sense of superiority the psychic wages of whiteness. President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise. They have emptied their ethical and economic pockets in support of him even though he turned his back on them the moment he entered the Oval Office. The only remnant of his leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.

William Faulkner understood that faded and corrupt dream very well. His novels are full of characters who are warped, violent and pathetic. It seems that not much has changed since his day -- except that today a Faulknerian character occupies the White House.

Image: Mother Jones

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On The Edge Of The Abyss



From the chair he occupies at McMaster University, Henry Giroux comments on what is happening in the United States. As Donald Trump edges closer to a confrontation with North Korea, Giroux's take on Trump rings truer than ever:

Ignorance is a terrible wound when it is self-inflicted, but it becomes a dangerous plague when the active refusal to know combines with power. President Trump’s lies, lack of credibility, woefully deficient knowledge of the world, and unbridled narcissism have suggested for some time that he lacks the intelligence, judgment and capacity for critical thought necessary to occupy the presidency of the United States. But when coupled with his childish temperament, his volatile impetuousness and his Manichaean conception of a world—a reductionist binary that only views the world in term of friends and enemies, loyalists and traitors—his ignorance translates into a confrontational style that puts lives, if not the entire planet, at risk.

Trump’s seemingly frozen and dangerous fundamentalism, paired with his damaged ethical sensibility, suggests that we are dealing with a form of nihilistic politics in which the relationship between the search for truth and justice on the one hand and moral responsibility and civic courage on the other has disappeared. For the past few decades, as historian Richard Hofstadter and others have reminded us, politics has been disconnected not only from reason but also from any viable notion of meaning and civic literacy. Government now runs on willful ignorance as the planet heats up, pollution increases and people die. Evidence is detached from argument. Science is a subspecies of “fake news,” and alternative facts are as important as the truth. Violence becomes both the catalyst and the result of the purposeful effort to empty language of any meaning. 

Words -- and truth -- mean nothing to Trump:

Anyone who communicates intelligently is now part of the “fake news” world that Trump has invented. Language is now forced into the service of violence. Impetuousness and erratic judgment have become central to Trump’s leadership, one that is as ill-informed as it is unstable. Trump has ushered in a kind of anti-politics and mode of governance in which any vestige of informed judgment and thought is banished as soon as it appears. His rigid, warlike mentality has created an atmosphere in the United States in which dialogue is viewed as a weakness and compromise understood as personal failing.

The United States is in deep trouble. But now -- thanks to Trump --  we all are in deep trouble.

Image: The Telegraph