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Fri Jan 12, 2018, 09:46 PM

Friday Talking Points (467) -- Our Racist President

The mainstream media crossed two cultural lines this week, in reaction to one of the most offensive things any American president has ever been caught saying. The first line crossed was to overrule the censors. Standards and practices can't complain when a word used on the news is a direct quote from the president, after all. That would be censorship of a different (and darker) type. Still, last night we were rather surprised to here a reporter on the evening NBC news broadcast actually use the word "shithole." No bleeping, no asterisks, just: here is what the president called some African countries. On broadcast (i.e., non-cable) television, at 5:30 P.M. (not some late-night broadcast, in other words). That is a first in America, to be sure. The Washington Post used Trump's unexpurgated, unbowdlerized quote in so many headlines today it was tough to keep an accurate count.

The second line crossed in the media is that it is now absolutely impossible for honest reporters to deny a basic fact about Donald Trump. He might have gotten away with some lame explanation of "what he really meant" if he hadn't brought up Norway, which made such revisionism all but impossible. Here is how CNN anchor Don Lemon began his show last night:

This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist. A lot of us already knew that.


Anderson Cooper, on his own show, also did not mince words:

Not racial. Not racially charged. Racist. Let's not kid ourselves or dance around it. The sentiment the president expressed today is a racist sentiment.


A media observer at the Washington Post reviewed Trump's week on immigration:

On Tuesday, then, we saw Trump on immigration in front of the cameras: restrained and presidential, though clueless. On Thursday, we heard about Trump on immigration without the cameras: an ignorant racist.


Also at the Post, Jennifer Rubin -- a right-wing blogger who even calls her column "Right Turn" -- unloaded on Trump in a single, extraordinarily-detailed sentence:

The man who called Mexicans rapists, who declared he wanted to ban Muslims, who criticized a judge because he was a Mexican American (and therefore, in Trump's twisted mind, could not do his job), who painted African Americans as all living in crime-infested squalor, who said there were good people among the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, who praised and pardoned Joe Arpaio after he violated the rights of suspected illegal immigrants and who does not have a single nonwhite high-ranking White House staff advisor (and the smallest percentage of female and nonwhite Cabinet officials since Ronald Reagan) is a racist.


There is just no other way to read Trump's many statements on the subject. Countries with brown or black people are bad (shitholes, in fact), but countries with white people are good and we should get more of them to immigrate here. That is some stone-cold racism, folks. Some took it even further, with headlines such as: "Now Can We Call The President A White Supremacist?"

Once again, this puts Republicans in a tough position, that of having to somehow attempt a defense of the indefensible. This entire episode also puts the lie to all of the Republicans who try to spin their anti-immigration position as merely being anti-illegal-immigration. If that were true, they wouldn't be attempting to fundamentally change America's legal immigration policy, by drastically restricting who is allowed in. Even without Trump's naked racism, that is a purely anti-immigrant stance, and Democrats should really be pointing this out to everyone. Democrats want to strike a deal on DACA with perhaps some border security money added on for the Republicans, while the Republicans are trying to abolish both family immigration policy and the diversity lottery system. Even without Trump's racism layered on top of that, it is nothing short of being anti-immigrant, period.

A quick review of the week that led up to Trump's shithole (so to speak): peeved that the storyline making the rounds in Washington was that President Trump was mentally deficient (to be polite), the White House took the extraordinary step of allowing cameras into the first hour of a meeting with congressional leadership over immigration and the DACA bill. During this meeting, Trump essentially agreed with everything everybody said, even when it was directly contradictory to something else he had just agreed with minutes earlier. Senator Dianne Feinstein even got him to agree that passing "a clean DACA bill" would be a great idea. This proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump simply had no idea what "a clean DACA bill" even was. The White House ham-handedly tried to omit this from the official transcript, and had to be called out by the media to correct their blatant omission.

During this meeting, Trump inadvertently confirmed a suspicion we've long held, that he really does not care what is in the bills he gets to sign, as long as he gets bills to sign. Here's Trump in his own words:

I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. I know most of the people on both sides, I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides, and what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence. If they come to me with things that I'm not in love with, I'm going to do it, because I respect them.


In other words, I have no convictions and I don't really care to learn about any of the details, just put something on my desk, please.

The press were allowed into this meeting to show Trump was some sort of serious negotiator who could handle being presidential in a meeting. This was to counter the impression that he spent most of his day doing what is euphemistically called on his schedule "executive time." Executive time means lying in bed eating cheeseburgers and watching Fox News, for those of you who missed this story. Which Trump apparently does every morning, before his first briefing begins at 10:00 or 11:00. So the White House thought it'd be a good idea to prove Trump is still capable of sitting still for an hour with congressional leaders. Later, Trump claimed that he had gotten "letters" from network anchors praising his meeting skills to high heaven. When pressed, the White House had to admit that these letters did not actually exist.

Trump also petulantly tweeted out that he was a "very stable genius," just in case anyone still had any doubts. Then yesterday, Trump actually did remove all doubt, just not in the way he intended. The day began with a Trump tweet ripping into the FISA bill that Paul Ryan was trying to pass. Trump had seen something negative about it on Fox News, so he let his fingers fly. Ryan then had to make a hasty half-hour phone call to Trump to explain exactly what the bill was -- and why the White House officially supported it. After an hour or so, Trump tweeted out that he fully supported the bill.

Later in the same day, it was revealed that Trump thinks that "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.... I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised." It was unclear whether Trump has actually been talking with the leader of North Korea, or whether he confused him with the leader of South Korea.

Then, while Trump was ironically trying to record a Martin Luther King Jr. Day presidential message, the story broke about what Trump had said in another meeting with congressional leaders -- one without cameras rolling. "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" said the president, about African countries. He then clarified by saying we should let in more people from places like Norway, just in case the subtext was unclear. Later, he also said: "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out."

In an unrelated item earlier in the week, Trump bragged about the sale of some "F-52" fighter planes, which do not in fact exist (outside of the world of video games, that is). Donald Trump, the stablest of geniuses around!

The fallout has been pretty immediate, both at home and abroad. London cancelled a visit Trump was planning for next month, and the government of Botswana sent a letter to the American ambassador asking "to clarify if Botswana is regarded as a 'shithole' country." Perhaps the most devastating takedown of Trump here at home came from Republican spin doctor Frank Luntz, who tweeted:

43% of immigrants from "shithole" African countries have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 33% of the overall American population. Nigerian-Americans, for instance, have a median household income well above the American average.


What else has been going on outside of Trump's shitstorm? Steve Bannon got booted from Breitbart, continuing his slide into irrelevance. Joe Arpaio announced he'll be running for the Senate, and precisely nobody will be surprised when Donald Trump endorses him.

Gerrymandering was struck down in North Carolina this week, but the decision will be appealed (and who knows how the Supreme Court is going to weigh in). Darrell Issa and Ed Royce announced they won't be running for re-election to their House seats, marking the ninth GOP committee chair to retire as well as the 32nd Republican House member overall. Will the last Republican to announce he's leaving Congress please turn out the lights?





It was a crowded field this week for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. The week kicked off at the Golden Globes, where Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech that caused many (including us) to immediately begin speculating whether she was considering a run for the presidency.

In all the uproar that followed, there was one incredibly amusing footnote. The animated show The Boondocks did an episode over a decade ago on what would have happened if Martin Luther King Jr. had not been killed but instead entered a coma. He wakes up and his reactions to the changes in America are pretty hilarious. He winds up moving to Canada in frustration, but the final shot in the episode is of the front of a newspaper dated "November 8, 2020." The headline? "Oprah Winfrey Elected President." Life imitates art?

Even more amusing was Democratic Representative Brendan Boyle, who responded to Trump's earlier assertion by introducing the "Standardized Testing and Accountability Before Large Elections Giving Electors Necessary Information for Unobstructed Selection Act," or the STABLE GENIUS Act. It would require all candidates to "undergo a mental-health examination" and certify to the Federal Election Commission "that he or she has undergone medical examination by the medical office under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Navy" and release the results to the public.

Heh. Boyle explained his reasoning on Twitter: "The President believes he is a 'stable genius.' I do not."

One piece of serious legislation also deserves an Honorable Mention. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mark Warner introduced a bill to slap large fines on businesses like Equifax who suffer data breaches of the public's private information. From the story on the bill:

The cybersecurity bill would impose strict financial penalties on credit reporting agencies hit by data breaches, require significantly higher recovery compensation for affected customers, and establish an Office of Cybersecurity at the Federal Trade Commission tasked with annually inspecting credit reporting agencies' cybersecurity infrastructures.

Offending credit reporting agencies would also be subject to steeper penalties if they fail to meet the FTC's digital security standards or don't notify the agency of a data breach in a timely manner.


Sounds like a great idea to us.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week goes to Senator Dianne Feinstein, for unilaterally releasing testimony from the head of Fusion GPS, the company that put together the dossier on Trump during the election. Republicans on her committee had been selectively leaking quotes from this transcript in order to make their own case, which led to a plea in the New York Times from the Fusion GPS leadership to release the full transcript, so the full remarks and context could be seen by all.

Feinstein then did precisely that, by publicly releasing the full transcript. Up until recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee was seen as the most nonpartisan investigation into Russians meddling in America's elections, but recently Republicans on the committee have been trying to score political points without conferring with the Democrats on the committee. So Feinstein's release was in retaliation against these GOP moves.

Feinstein has a history of pushing for full public disclosure of sensitive items, such as when she got a redacted report on American torture released, over strenuous objections from all sides. We are glad to see her continuing this tradition, and for making the Fusion GPS testimony public, we think she deserves the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. When Republicans try to play games with selective leaks, sometimes the best answer is to shine a whole lot of daylight on the process.

{Congratulate Senator Dianne Feinstein on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.}





We must admit we're at a loss for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week. Perhaps it was Trump dominating the airwaves all week, but we just didn't notice any Democrats being massively disappointing.

We did consider giving the award to Tom Steyer, the California billionaire behind the "Impeach Trump" ads, since he announced this week that he would not be running for either Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat or the governor's office, because this probably disappointed many Democrats in the Golden State.

However, at the same time, Steyer announced he would be pouring tens of millions of dollars into the effort to take back the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, and that is in no way a bad thing. So whether you think he should have run or not, he will still be a factor in this year's elections, in House districts all across the country. Which kind of disqualifies him for the MDDOTW award, really.

So, as always, if anyone has any nominations for the MDDOTW award, please post them in the comments and we'll consider them. But for now, the award will have to go back on the shelf for another week.




Volume 467 (1/12/18)

As we pointed out at the beginning, the most obvious talking point this week isn't even a partisan one. More and more people in the media (and elsewhere) are just flat-out admitting that Donald Trump is a racist. Over and over again, he's let the world know how he feels about black and brown people, and how they compare (in his racist mind) with white people. He makes no secret of it, in fact. It's right there for everyone to see.

So instead of creating a talking point around Trump's obvious racism, we are instead going to take it as a given. The statement "Trump is a racist" should be classified with such truisms as "the sky is blue" or "the sun rises in the east."

We're only one-fourth of the way through Donald Trump's term, and this is where we find ourselves. One wonders what the next year will bring, in fact, because Trump's race to the bottom seems to be accelerating over time.

Truisms aside, though, let's get to this week's talking points for Democrats.



Shit for brains

We do apologize in advance for the language used in this one, but hey, we didn't open this particular door.

"The most offensive part of Trump's 'shithole' thinking is that he equates a country to its people. Republicans are now pushing for only 'merit-based' immigration, but at the same time Trump wants to exclude anyone from any 'shithole country,' period. This shows that Trump is incapable of understanding that even the worst countries on Earth have good, intelligent, hard-working people living there. Why shouldn't America want their best to come here? Trump is stating plainly that he doesn't just think there are shithole countries, but that all the people there are shitty people. There's a perfect phrase to describe Trump's misguided thought processes, in fact -- shit for brains."



Dick Durbin responds

Senator Dick Durbin, who was present at the meeting, had perhaps the best reaction we've yet heard:

The most disheartening thing to me is my belief that that was the first time words that hateful have been spoken in the Oval Office of the White House. I think back of presidents throughout history, and I cannot imagine a moment where a president sunk to that depth. That's what breaks my heart.




Conveniently selective memory

As for Republicans, well, their reactions have been pretty laughable.

"Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who were both present at the 'shithole' meeting, issued a statement saying 'we do not recall the president saying these comments specifically.' Wow -- sounds like they're practicing for upcoming court testimony or something! That's a pretty selective memory for an event that happened less than 24 hours previously. Either (1) they're lying, (2) they have advanced dementia and literally do not remember the most inflammatory part of the meeting they just had, or (3) they are so used to hearing racist garbage from Donald Trump that they didn't make any particular note of what he said yesterday. None of these choices is a good one, obviously."



Imagine what they'd say if it was a Democrat

This is a recurring feature, here, of course.

"Just imagine for one tiny moment what Republicans would be saying if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton appeared at a public sporting event and couldn't remember all the words to the national anthem. Just imagine what Fox News would have to say about that. Remember all the hyperventilating over flag pins? It'd be ten times worse than that. A Democrat who did so would immediately have their patriotism and fitness for office denounced by conservatives if they couldn't get through the first verse of the national anthem. Donald Trump just did so, and we've heard nary a peep about it. Of course, he's done several even more controversial things this week, but even so, the silence is deafening."



A new record!

Trump just loves breaking records, right?

"The Washington Post has updated its official count of how many bald-faced lies Donald Trump has told, just before he marks one year in office. Trump has now hit the milestone of 2,001 lies in only 355 days. That's pretty record-breaking, folks. It works out to 5.6 lies per day, in fact. If Trump ups his pace, he could even reach 10,000 lies during his term in office -- a truly extraordinary number. You could even call Trump a lying sack of... well, you know."



Executive time

Trump as toddler, once again.

"The most remarkable thing about Michael Wolff's book is that the people closest to the president -- not his political enemies, but those who work with Trump on his agenda -- all universally describe Trump as having the temperament of a small child. This has led to more and more of what is euphemistically named 'executive time' on his calendar, which is another way of saying 'recess,' really. The image of Trump is not of a 'stable genius' (as he puts it) but rather a cranky child allowed to sulk in his room, watch television, and fire off tweets. 'Executive time' will go down in history as one of the most laughable bits of spin from the Trump White House, that's my guess."



Go full Wile E.!

Why not?

"Trump should change the channel and watch some old Roadrunner cartoons. That way he could go full Wile E. Coyote and claim to be not just a stable genius, but a downright super genius! Right before a flying anvil knocks him off a cliff, of course."



Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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