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This isn’t getting a lot of attention. But it should. Everybody took note when Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that American Muslims across the river in New Jersey celebrated and cheered as the Twin Towers fell on 9/11 – an entirely fabricated claim. Last night on Bill O’Reilly’s show and then separately at a rally in Westfield, Indiana he did something very similar and in so doing cemented his status an impulsive propagator of race-hatred and violence.
The details of a the rapid-fire fulmination are important. So let’s look at them closely.
Trump claimed that people – “somebody” – called for a moment of silence for mass killer Micah Johnson, the now deceased mass shooter who killed five police officers in Dallas on Thursday night. There is no evidence this ever happened. Searches of the web and social media showed no evidence. Even Trump’s campaign co-chair said today that he can’t come up with any evidence that it happened. As in the case of the celebrations over the fall of the twin towers, even to say there’s ‘no evidence’ understates the matter. This didn’t happen. Trump made it up.
The language is important: “When somebody called for a moment of silence to this maniac that shot the five police, you just see what’s going on. It’s a very, very sad situation.”
Then later at the Indiana rally: “The other night you had 11 cities potentially in a blow-up stage. Marches all over the United States—and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac! And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer!”
A would-be strong man, an authoritarian personality, isn’t just against disorder and violence. They need disorder and violence. That is their raison d’etre, it is the problem that they are purportedly there to solve. The point bears repeating: authoritarian figures require violence and disorder. Look at the language. “11 cities potentially in a blow up stage” .. “Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!” … “And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer.”
The Darwin Awards is a popular website that “commemorates individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.” I’d like to nominate a certain political party for one. It should win hands down.
The competition is tough. “All human races, cultures, and socioeconomic groups are eligible,” according to the contest rules. Though these rules do not specifically mention political institutions, the Republican Party, founded in 1854, meets the criteria for entry. No doubt about it.
Its story is true—as much a part of our reality as the sky and the stars. The voters that make up the party are, as the rules stipulate, “capable of sound judgment.” By supporting the least qualified, least knowledgeable, most unsuited major-party nominee for president in history, they are engaged in an “astounding misapplication of judgment.” Every week that Donald Trump remains the Republican nominee, the party comes closer to removing itself from the presidential gene pool. Self-selection is at work here. Trump’s supporters are choosing their party’s demise.
Donald Trump’s interest in Russia dates back to Soviet times. In fact, there’s extraordinary footage of him shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbachev. It comes from 1988, the peak of perestroika and Gorbachev’s efforts to charm the American public. On his legendary trip to Washington and New York, the Soviet in chief left the confines of his limousine and security cordon to glad-hand with the American people. Donald Trump suggested to reporters that the Soviet leader would be making his way to Trump Tower, a crucial station on his journey to capitalism. This was, in fact, a self-aggrandizing fabrication that Trump himself planted in the tabloids, but it was a convincing lie. A year earlier, Trump had traveled to Russia at the invitation of the Soviets. They wanted Trump to develop luxury hotels in Moscow and Leningrad to feed the regime’s new appetite for Western business. “The idea of building two monuments in the U.S.S.R. has captured his imagination,” Newsweek reported.
Trump likely reveled in the newspaper stories that reported Gorbachev’s forthcoming visit to his HQ as fact. But surely even he never expected his fake story to become reality. He must have been gobsmacked when he received word that Gorbachev wanted to pay a spontaneous visit to Trump Tower. The skyscraper’s namesake rushed down from his penthouse office to pay obeisance. From the video, we can see the blotched head of Gorbachev emerge from his car. Trump and his retinue push through the crowd. “Great, great honor,” the mogul says as he pumps the hand of the Soviet supremo.
One of Trump’s vulnerabilities is that he doesn’t always vet his people, whether it’s business partners, the dubious characters he retweets, or the foreign leaders who show up at his door. As it turns out, this Gorbachev wasn’t really the Soviet leader but an impersonator called Ronald Knapp. Trump was lavishing praise on the winner of a look-alike contest.
The House Oversight Committee had the perfect stage today when it brought FBI Director James Comey in for a hearing on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. The panel’s Republican members could have pressed him to detail what he had called Clinton’s “extreme carelessness” in using a personal communications system to conduct her work as secretary of state. Comey had reams of material to refer to, if they had cared to ask.
Instead, House Republicans chose to browbeat the FBI director for his decision not to indict her for her behavior. As a result, most of Comey’s time was spent defending himself — in effect, making the case that Clinton’s actions were not as bad as House Republicans believed.
In other words, Republicans overreached once again (as Greg Sargent pointed out Wednesday).
Why did they do this, since that general strategy has backfired on them in the past? I’ll offer three theories.