Trump and Muslims and a Question that Answers Itself

As a child, actor Ross Bagley repeated one version of a joke much older than was he:

Quick! What’s the number to 9-1-1?

The humor doesn’t last long, but I’m addicted to the logic.

What’s another word for “thesaurus”?

Yeah, I laughed when Steven Wright came up with that. But then, I usually laugh at whatever Steven Wright says.

When did the War of 1812 begin?

It’s one of the oldest forms of primitive humor, the question that contains it’s own answer. It loses its punch with repetition, but the logic still appeals to me.

What is Mr. Paine’s last name?

I suppose it’s a defense mechanism of sorts. When tragedy hits, and hits hard, I sometimes find a bit of refuge by thinking through odd distortions of logic by those employed by my government.

Lawyers and Trump administration aides had invested a lot of time and effort slamming the mainstream press for mischaracterizing the President’s travel ban by calling it a “travel ban.” It is an important bandying about of words. Multiple judges in multiple federal courts have struck down Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from several countries. They don’t like the idea of banning people because of religion.

Lawyers insisted the ban wasn’t actually a ban. And it had nothing to do with religion. It was really only a tightening up of the vetting process. On Muslims from those countries. Courts said no. You can’t simply apply a ban to exclude a religion.

The ban was then rewritten by lawyers so that it was not actually a ban. A few years back, an Obama reform of vetting had tightened the admission process for people from those same countries. So…the new process was only an extension. You could think of the new don’t-call-it-a-ban as hyper‑extreme vetting. This new extreme process just happened to make it pretty much impossible for visitors from those Muslim countries to enter the United States.

Kind of like literacy tests in Jim Crow days that kept black people from voting because the tests pretty much only applied to black people.

“How many days a year is the Supreme Court in recess?”
Hell, I don’t know.
“Uh oh, you can’t vote.”

The new vetting would pretty much affect just Muslims, but – hey – life is filled with little trade-offs.

These extreme vetting procedures would apply to everyone from these Muslim countries. Except, of course, those who were from minority religions. If they’re a minority in a Muslim country, they could be discriminated against because they’re not Muslim. So, the effect was just to ban Muslims, but that was just a policy coincidence. Right? The don’t-call-it-a-ban wasn’t actually a ban.

Courts still said no. It was a ban.

So the Trump folks still insist the ban is not really a ban and they are sending an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. Since the don’t-call-it-a-ban is not a ban, SCOTUS will certainly see it their way. Well, for sure.

But someone in the administration slipped up and started calling it a ban. A ban? Yep, a ban, just like the lawyers and spokespeople and aides and pretty much all those in the Land of Trump said it wasn’t: said, in fact, that it couldn’t be.

Sounds like someone should be thrown out of the administration. Except the culprit was Donald Trump, President of the United States. He issued the truth in a tweet.

So much for courts.

In his rage at Muslims around the globe for terrorism anywhere, Donald Trump had an additional score to settle. In past months, Sadiq Khan, the Muslim Mayor of London; Muslim, in case you didn’t catch that; had pointedly criticized President Trump for his verbal attacks on Muslims, and for his proposed anti-Muslim policies. So now, Trump used the tragedy to strike back at Mayor Khan as well as, you know, Muslims.

It can be tempting to engage in collective accusation in the aftermath of a terrible infliction of pain and death, blaming everyone who shares with the perpetrators a religion, or an ethnicity, or a skin color.

Generally, I was not fond of George W. Bush. But I was proud of the President when he condemned terrorism, but was careful to insist on a distinction between terrorism and the Islamic faith. He urged Americans to act against terrorism by simply conducting their normal duties without hesitation, without fear. Commuting, working, shopping, even vacationing were each a small but significant act against terrorism.

I recall one speech on airline safety, barely two weeks after the attacks. He urged Americans to vacation as they normally would.

… tell the traveling public: Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.

He reassured us that government was doing its part to keep us safe. We should be vigilant, but we should also be confident about our own well being.

The American people must know that my administration is confident. Tomorrow nine Cabinet members will board U.S. airlines to fly around our country to do their jobs.

Less than a week after the 9/11 attack on New York and Washington, President Bush spoke of the unique fear with which Muslim Americans had to live, fear that they would be harassed or attacked if they ventured on the streets of their own neighborhoods.

In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.

Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.

I thought of President Bush at his best as I watched an interview with London’s mayor. Sadiq Khan warned that more attacks could be expected, and soon. Like President Bush before him, he too urged vigilance.

People should remain calm and vigilant, carry on in their normal business. The threat level remains at “severe”… “Severe” means that an attack across the country is still highly likely, and so we can all be vigilant. If we see anything suspicious, or worried about anybody, please report it to the authorities.

Sadiq Khan spoke of the ordinary freedoms that those in Britain enjoy: the ability to associate, to relax with others. And he spoke with urgency about how to answer terrorism. This time, it was not about shopping or traveling, or airline safety. It was about maintaining democracy itself.

One of the things these terrorists hate is voting. They hate democracy. They hate elections, and the public choosing who should be our leaders rather than leaders being imposed on us. So I’m looking forward to voting on Thursday.

My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today. You’ll see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There’s no reason to be alarmed by this.

He explained why the police were there. They were there to protect us.

One of the things the police, all of us, need to do is make sure we’re as safe as we possibly can be.

Mayor Khan spoke of the ordinary freedoms that those in Britain enjoyed, the ability to associate, to relax with others. And he spoke directly about upcoming elections. He wanted voters to show up, to cast their ballots, to make democracy work.

And so, my President responded on Twitter to the tragedy.

It is hard to see how the Mayor could have been more clear. Terrorism remains more than a threat. There is every likelihood of another attack soon. Remain calm and vigilant. Above all, defeat terrorism by making democracy work. Vote, vote, vote on Thursday.

And don’t be alarmed by the presence of police. They are there to keep us as safe as possible.

In the aftermath of such a vicious attack, to carry a vendetta against a public official working for the safety of the people of his city, twisting his words into something completely different, well, you would have to be a real stinker. President Trump qualifies.

This time it is not humorous. The context is painful, tragic, as we add another example to questions that contain their own answer.

What’s another word for “thesaurus”?

What’s the number to 9-1-1?

and now:

Why would Donald Trump tell lies about a Muslim mayor of a city under attack?

The question answers itself.

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS
to get episodes automatically downloaded.


Medicaid, Islamic Love, Climate Destruction, Conservative Cool

  • Let’s see. It’s only one part of an article by Wisconsin conservative James Wigderson.
    We know Medicaid provides health care for low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, elderly people, folks with disabilities – you know – those in need.
    A Democrat in Wisconsin doesn’t like that Governor Walker reduces health care for those many in need by turning away Medicaid expansion paid by the federal government. He points out that, under Obamacare, Walker is only canceling funding needed for Wisconsin families and sending it on to other states.
    James is indignant at the false charge. Walker didn’t send the money to other states. Since Obama invented Obamacare rules, Obama sent it back.
    No, really. That’s what he says.
  • Iron Knee at Political Irony sees victims hurt or killed, and churches vandalized, by American extremists, and surveys the very large number of very successful Islamic benefit campaigns to help and heal.
  • Infidel753 examines 3 results of the Trump climate change action: opprobrium, damage, and weakness. Insightful – typical for Infidel.
  • nojo at Stinque explains why climate change denial can be compelling for those in denial.
  • My president’s decision to leave the Paris Accord may be disastrous, but Jonathan Bernstein says voters will evaluate it on whether they like Trump, not the other way around. Won’t affect the 2020 election at all.
  • Looking at the latest Trump scandals, Green Eagle adds to the follow-the-money clues with the pattern we can find by simply following the international benefit.
  • Andy Borowitz reports satirically the claim by President Trump that he has seen Jared Kushner walking around the White House, but hardly knows who the young man actually is.
  • Last Of The Millenniums contrasts the expressed appreciation by President Obama of military generally and sacrifices specifically with attitudes expressed by his successor.
  • Pretty much everyone except her boyfriend and immediate relatives are throwing mudballs at Kathy Griffin. At The Moderate Voice, Joe Gandelman puts into words why they are right.
  • Well, except for David Greenberg at MadMikesAmerica. David defends Kathy by comparing her offensive little skit with the years of tasteless, racist, brutal portrayals of the Obama family.
  • George Will nurses fond memories of when conservatism was cool. driftglass racks his brain, but doesn’t share those memories. I must be getting old. All I recall is noxious opinions alternating with rancid attitudes.
  • Yellow Dog at Blue in the Bluegrass explains the weird slave-state relationship of Kentucky with the Civil War Confederacy and ignorance of that history within the state.
  • Tommy Christopher, at Shareblue, reports on more weirdness from the madcap world of Trump: the executive branch has lawyered up about Russia and spokespeople militantly refuse to admit to a simple typo. Questions on Russia are being referred to Trump lawyers and it seems “covfefe” was an inside joke.
  • This week, we dabble in non-Trumpian ‘Alternative Facts’. The Boston Globe is so entranced by the artform the Trump team has made of falsehood, Brian White takes a stab at three explanations for covfefe.
  • Vincent at A Wayfarer’s Notes seems understandably frustrated, continuing his own internal debate about how to do not doing.

How James Comey Became Lyndon Johnson

It was a bitter day for the better angels of our national nature when Richard Nixon became President Nixon.

It was worse, in many respects, than most of America could imagine at the time.

Behind the scenes conversations now reveal deep seated beliefs that were out of place, even four and a half decades ago. Did some of those views have an effect on policy? It is hard to see how they would not.

Nixon’s famous southern strategy, in the form of repeated appeals to the white racist segment of the electorate, was not entirely cynical. Much of it came from actual belief. He explained in private that black Americans really were inherently inferior. In his words, most were “just out of the trees.”

Most of them , basically, are just out of the trees. Now, let’s face it, they are.

Yeah, let’s face it.

His opinion of Jews was emphatic. With a few exceptions; Kissinger, Garment, Safire, for example; most were disloyal, not to be trusted:

Most Jews are disloyal … You know what I mean? You have a [Leonard] Garment and a [Henry A.] Kissinger and, frankly, a [William L.] Safire. And, by God, they’re exceptions. But, Bob, generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.

They were not only untrustworthy, they were arrogant about their disloyalty.

No, but they have this arrogant attitude, too.

Could this be dismissed as one more example of private bigotry, separate and compartmentalized from policy?

In July, 1971, the President ordered a search throughout the government for Jews. They had to be brought under control.

I want to look at any sensitive areas around where Jews are involved, Bob. See, the Jews are all through the government, and we have got to get in those areas. We’ve got to get a man in charge who is not Jewish to control the Jewish . . . do you understand?

He had to correct a bad situation.

The government is full of Jews.

Italians were dishonest. He would not tolerate Italians in positions of trust.

They’re not, we, ah, they’re not like us.

Difference is, the … they smell different, they look different, act different. After all, you can’t blame them. Oh no. Can’t do that. They’ve never had the things we’ve had.

Of course, the trouble is … the trouble is, you can’t find one that’s honest.

Like other Presidents, Richard Nixon’s prejudices were partly a product of his life and times. But even that explanation cannot take us past his enthusiastic embrace of bigotry, or his application of it to policy. He went way beyond prevailing attitudes.

The part of President Nixon’s legacy that endangered the nation, its laws, the constitution he was pledged to defend, was not prejudice. It was lawlessness.

Was President Nixon guilty of actually planning, of authorizing, the Watergate break-in?

Non est demonstratum. We do not have a mathematical proof. But we do have a preponderance of evidence in the form of an unmistakable pattern of behavior. He ordered at least one other break-in, that of the Brookings Institution. He ordered it twice.

In one tape, recorded on June 30, 1971, the President of the United States wants to know if the Brookings Institution has yet been broken into.

Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night?

The answer is no. President Nixon is furious. He can be heard pounding the table. He demands that his order be carried out.

Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute! safe! cleaned! OUT!

He wants the Brookings safe cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else look bad.

And have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else look bad.

The cover-up is what eventually cost him the last vestiges of Republican Congressional support. Actual recordings proved guilt to diehard Senators. Barry Goldwater reportedly told him it was hopeless. Later, in a conversation over a conference dinner, Goldwater is reported to have said that the President had told too many lies to tolerate.

I remember George Will’s sardonic summary: Nixon had exceeded the allowable number of falsehoods.

Of all the possible lessons of Nixon’s downfall…

  • It’s not the crime. It’s the cover-up
  • No-one is above the law
  • The system works
  • The system didn’t work. We came this close to losing democracy, freedom, everything
  • There IS a God after all

…one lesson is almost always missed.

There was one prelude that was known to a small group of non-conspirators. Richard Nixon had won the election for President in 1968, in part, by sabotaging on-going Vietnam peace talks. It looked to negotiators as if the talks were about to succeed when, suddenly, the South Vietnamese changed their minds and rejected any settlement.

President Johnson had meeting dates and places. He knew who was responsible. He had proof. Candidate Nixon had sent messengers to the South Vietnamese government. If the South Vietnamese stopped negotiating, if they blocked a peace agreement, Nixon would become President and he would guarantee much better terms. President Johnson is recorded in conversations with Senators Richard Russell, Everett Dirksen, and others. Here he speaks by telephone with Richard Russell.

The Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both. He’s been doing it through rather subterranean sources here. And he has been saying to the allies that, “You’re going to get sold out…”

In one recorded conversation, President Johnson used the word treason. He was right.

Now, this is not guesswork.

I thought of President Johnson as details came to light about James Comey and the Russian campaign to take over the government of the United States.

The FBI had received a document revealing a series of emails between the Clinton campaign and the Department of Justice. The emails showed that Comey’s bosses in the Justice Department and the Clinton people were cooperating, plotting together to close out any investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. It was a cover-up. At least it would be if it was true.

The documents were false, produced by the same Russian hackers who were already known to be conducting a separate campaign to elect Donald Trump. The FBI, and James Comey, knew the documents were fake. But Director Comey decided to act on them anyway. He felt that the fake emails would eventually be made public and would be believed by a large number of Americans. The reputation of the FBI could be damaged, perhaps damaged forever.

So Director Comey went public, at least partly public. He issued an open scolding of Hillary Clinton, an exaggerated rebuke that went way beyond the facts. His logic was simple. Hillary would win in any case, and the over-the-top public reprimand would insulate the FBI from later criticism.

Almost half a century before, Lyndon Johnson explained on tape that he would not reveal the treachery of candidate Richard Nixon. The nominee of a major political party was actively engaged in treason. President Johnson did not want to endanger public confidence in America’s system of government.

In both cases public servants wanted to protect an institution. Both were dishonest for honest reasons. Both decided the American public could not handle the truth.

President Johnson protected the American system of government. We got Nixon, years of death in Vietnam, and Watergate. Public confidence was shaken after all.

Director Comey protected the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We got, well, we got Donald Trump.

Their betrayal of principle was not deliberate. Both acts of deception came from the same crisis of faith.

History, and future generations who will live with that history, will come to a harsh judgment: These guardians could not bring themselves to trust the institutions they thought they were protecting.

Our institutions can survive the truth. If they cannot survive the truth, they do not deserve to survive.

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS
to get episodes automatically downloaded.