Trump’s power base as a demagogue rests on this: racism and lying


A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from French “demagogue”, derived in turn from the Greek “demos” = people/folk and the verb “ago” = carry/manipulate thus “people’s manipulator”) or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower socioeconomic classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness. Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.

Following one of Donald Trump’s latest examples of blatant lying — through a sixfold exaggeration of the likelihood that a white person gets murdered by a black person — Daniel W. Drezner writes: Now we’re at the point in this campaign when Trump’s defense for this — and those of his supporters — will be predictable. Trump was just RTing someone else’s lie, so it’s not really his fault. Trump’s MO on this ever since he’s become a candidate has been a simple five-step plan:

  1. Say/tweet/retweet outrageous thing;
  2. Dominate the next news cycle;
  3. Bully the media that focus on the outrageous statement;
  4. Backtrack/claim misinterpretation;
  5. Sustain polling advantage.

[Continue reading…]

Michael Tesler writes: Political commentators have asserted for months that Donald Trump’s dominance of the Republican presidential field is fueled by his anti-immigrant rhetoric. As Thomas Edsall put it:

Donald Trump’s success is no surprise. The public and the press have focused on his defiant rejection of mannerly rhetoric, his putting into words of what others think privately. But the more important truth is that a half-century of Republican policies on race and immigration have made the party the home of an often angry and resentful white constituency — a constituency that is now politically mobilized in the face of demographic upheaval.

This is a very plausible hypothesis, but one with little comprehensive evidence to date. Now, thanks to a collection of survey data from YouGov, we can show how, and how much, voters’ concern about immigration has helped Trump. [Continue reading…]


The endless recurrence of the clash of civilizations narrative

Marc Lynch writes: Jihadists have always sought to use terrorism to polarize politics, spread their ideas, discredit moderates and advance their preferred narrative of clashing civilizations. They have not always been so successful [as they are now] in winning mainstream acceptance for their narrative.

I would highlight three possible explanations. One part of the answer may be the pervasive effects of social media. By this I do not mean the Islamic State’s use of social media for recruitment and propaganda, as impressive and interesting as this phenomenon has been. Instead, I mean the ways in which social media itself is structured, creating new openings for extreme ideas to gain traction with the broader public. Social media networks typically tend to encourage ideological clustering, in which self-selected communities of the like-minded cultivate shared narratives, identities and arguments. Today’s pervasive social media is organically interwoven with broadcast media and more traditional print publications in ways that facilitate the movement of these narratives from isolated clusters into the mainstream. The 9/11 attacks took place at a moment when blogs had only just begun to reshape the American political public sphere, but the Islamic State’s rise has occurred in an era of near complete social mediation of information and opinion. Such an environment seems highly conducive to the cultivation and nurturing of radical fringe ideas – and their transmission into the broader public arena.

A second strand is the absence of George W. Bush. For all his other foreign policy struggles, Bush was staunchly opposed to the demonization of Islam, and frequently argued — as Hillary Clinton does today — that America was not at war with Islam. He understood the importance of denying the al-Qaeda narrative of a clash of civilizations. Bush’s stance acted as a check on the anti-Islamic impulses of the right wing base. That obstacle has long since passed from the scene. President Obama’s invocation of the same themes invites the opposite response. The right wing now can be unified against this rhetoric, without Bush to restrain them. Meanwhile, the waning of the Obama presidency has encouraged a large portion of the policy community to position themselves against the outgoing administration, which typically means adopting more hawkish and interventionist positions. By the old political math, the majority of Democrats combined with the Bush Republicans to block the anti-Islamic trend. By the new political math, the vast majority of Republicans combines with enough Democrats to push the “center” well to the right.

A third factor is the real changes within the Islamist landscape, far beyond the Islamic State itself. Syria has generated a wide variety of jihadist groups, which often position themselves against the Islamic State. Local insurgencies that once took on the al-Qaeda label now embrace the Islamic State’s franchise. Above all, the 2013 Egyptian military coup and subsequent repressive campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood severely weakened one of al-Qaeda’s traditionally most powerful competitors. The destruction and demonization of the Brotherhood has likely contributed to eroding the idea of a mainstream Islamism buffering the jihadists. The political push by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to label the Brotherhood a terrorist organization has reshaped the politics of the issue as well. Propaganda from the region against the Muslim Brotherhood then refracts through the Western public discourse. Old debates revolving around the Brotherhood’s role as a firewall against extremism are now far less relevant, with its organization shattered and ideology of peaceful participation discredited. Analysts who follow Islamism closely are now in uncharted territory, creating openings for those peddling simple, well-rehearsed narratives about Islam. [Continue reading…]


Memo to Trump: The cheering in New Jersey on 9/11 was coming from Israelis, not Arabs

The Daily Beast reports: It seemed likely that after Donald Trump lied about the residents of Jersey City’s behavior on Sept. 11, 2001 — claiming they cheered the attacks across the river in New York City — Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, would be first in line to repudiate him.

That was a naive assumption. It turns out a Republican presidential candidate would sooner slow-dance with Hillary Clinton than criticize the party’s frontrunner in defense of American Muslims.

At a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, Trump said, “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering!”

This is, of course, incorrect. The New York Times reported that rumors of Muslims cheering in New Jersey were “discounted by police officials at the time.”

Trump then claimed on Sunday on ABC’s This Week that he had seen footage of the thousands of people cheering on TV — but no such footage seems to exist.

A request for comment from Christie, sent at around 10:30 Sunday morning, went ignored all day by his campaign. Which was curious, since the governor’s tough talk against “crazies” fear-mongering about Muslims — never mind his constant talk about the 9/11 attacks throughout the course of his presidential campaign — has been a defining aspect of his governorship.

In 2011, Christie nominated Sohail Mohammed as a Superior Court judge. When rumors began to circulate on the Internet that Mohammed was tied to terrorism and sympathetic to Sharia, Christie came to his aid.

“This Sharia law business is crap,” he said. “It’s just crazy and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post spoke to Jerry Speziale, the police commissioner of Paterson, N.J., for his response to Trump’s claims and he said: “That is totally false. That is patently false. That never happened. There were no flags burning, no one was dancing. That is bullshit.”

Speziale’s statement might not be completely accurate because as Jim Galloway, a journalist at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, noted yesterday: “As the towers came down, some people indeed saw a group of five — not thousands, but five — Middle Eastern men clowning around and photographing themselves in front of the burning towers from the New Jersey waterfront. They weren’t Arabs, and they weren’t Muslims.”

At that time, an FBI bulletin was issued warning law enforcement officers across the New York-New Jersey area to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack”:

White, 2000 Chevrolet van with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.

Twenty-five minutes after the alert had been sent out, the van was stopped by officers with the East Rutherford Police Department who arrested its five occupants who all turned out to be Israelis.

Christopher Ketcham later investigated the story in detail and published his findings in a 2007 report, “What did Israel know in advance of the 9/11 attacks?

I have reposted that report and an accompanying article, “The Kuala Lumpur deceit.”


How the U.S. Congress and the GOP became friends of Assad and enemies of the Syrian people

Two years ago, Bashar al-Assad said this:

Some observers — especially those currently promoting fear of Syrian refugees — might think this was a prescient warning, but what Assad’s tweet actually expressed was the consistency with which he has stayed on message in his contrived “war on terrorism” and the fact that the flow of refugees would undermine the future of Syria.

Throughout the war, Assad has insisted that his adversaries are all “terrorists.” He wants the continuation of his rule to be perceived as a way of insuring that the threat of terrorism does not grow. Yet anyone who believes this propaganda is willfully ignoring the reality that far from combating the expansion of ISIS, Assad essentially provided an incubator in which it could grow. ISIS and Assad have a symbiotic relationship.

At the same time, as Syrians fled Assad’s barrel bombs, taking refuge in neighboring countries, the regime was prescient in this sense: once the regime’s own supporters lost faith in Syria’s future, taking advantage of their greater resources they would likely head for Europe with little likelihood of returning. As the New York Times reported in September, “Now those departing include more middle-class or wealthy people, more supporters of the government, and more residents of areas that were initially safe.”

Thus, even before the westward flow had begun, Assad wanted to sow fear in the minds of those who would likely offer refuge to people the regime can ill afford to lose. And what better way of exploiting European xenophobia than by referring to such fleeing Syrians as “illegal immigrants” — evidence, I might suggest, that Assad has his own Western media advisers.

(It shouldn’t need saying but I’ll say it anyway: Refugee status must never be made contingent on political affiliations. Syrians fleeing the war, deserve help — irrespective of their religion, sect, or ethnicity.)

The U.S. Congress and the GOP have now become megaphones of Islamophobic fear, portraying Syrian refugees as potential terrorists rather than what they really are — victims of tyranny and terrorism.

In conjunction with this deranged hysteria which across the U.S. is twisting perceptions of Syria, the argument that Assad is the “lesser evil” goes from strength to strength.

Just as Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the 9/11 attacks, saying they were “very good” because they would unite the U.S. and Israel and “strengthen the bond between our two peoples,” Assad must have taken satisfaction in the slaughter in Paris, knowing that it would buttress his argument that he, his allies and the West face a common enemy.

Likewise, as The Guardian notes, the attacks strengthen Iran’s position in Syria:

Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, said: “President François Hollande, who cannot count on Washington deploying ground forces in Syria, is now reaching out to Iran and Russia to form an alliance in the fight against Daesh [Isis].

“This in turn legitimises Iran’s military engagement in Syria, which Washington considers as one of the root causes of emergence of Daesh in that country. In that sense, the terrorist attacks in Paris came as manna from heaven for Tehran.”

So many commentators have joined in the chorus that warns against the risk of playing into the hands of ISIS, saying that we must avoid rising to provocation and giving the terrorists what they want, and yet at the same time, with barely any protest and plenty of nods of approval, we now move in the direction of giving Assad exactly what he wants.


Republican Ben Carson compares Syrian refugees to ‘rabid dogs’

Reuters reports: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Thursday likened refugees fleeing violence in Syria to “rabid dogs,” and said that allowing them into the United States would put Americans at risk.

“If there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson, a front-runner in some opinion polls, said Thursday at a campaign event in Mobile, Alabama.

“By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly,” the retired neurosurgeon said, criticizing President Barack Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees within a year. [Continue reading…]


Ted Cruz, the Syrian Muslim Hunter

Dean Obeidallah writes: “We have no earthly way to know who they are,” exclaimed Republican Congressman Michael Burgess while speaking about the Syrian refugees on MSNBC Monday night. “The FBI doesn’t even have a database.”

But there’s one man who can sort it all out. A special dude from Texas, by way of Canada, who has the ability to decide which refugees are good and which are bad. And that person is Ted Cruz: The Muslim Hunter.

You see, Cruz, as opposed to Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, who oppose any Syrian refugees being admitted into the United States, has a more creative way to deal with this human catastrophe. He’s announced plans to introduce federal legislation to ban the Muslim refugees, but accept the Christian ones.

Why the distinction? Well, the Muslim Hunter tends to believe that any Muslim might be evil. In contrast, he declared that “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Ooops, looks like Cruz never heard of Christian terrorists like Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, the killer of “abortion doctor” George Tiller, Robert Doggart (the Christian minister on trial for plotting terrorist attack to kill Muslims in New York State) the KKK, Timothy McVeigh, etc.

With that aside, Cruz’s plan raises a few questions. For example, how do you accurately determine a refugee’s religion? I would imagine many would be willing to claim they are Christian in order to save their families and start a new life in America.

Have no fear because The Muslim Hunter undoubtedly will come up with some tests to sniff out those stealth Muslims. Maybe the refugees will be required to eat a bacon cheeseburger while drinking Jagermeister. Or perhaps each refugee will be shown a photo of Bill Maher—if they reflexively recoil, it’s no USA for them. Possibly Cruz will employ a subtler test like asking them which way is Mecca? If the refugee quickly points in the right direction, he’s got ’em! [Continue reading…]


Don’t ‘scapegoat’ Syrian refugees, Catholic bishops and evangelicals say

CNN reports: Two of the country’s largest and most influential religious groups, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, are urging the United States not to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees after the deadly terrorist attack in Paris last Friday.

“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” Leith Anderson, NAE president, said on Tuesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for a “pause” in the U.S. program accepting Syrian refugees and 27 governors have said they will not welcome them, though they have little legal authority to bar the federal government from settling refugees in their states. [Continue reading…]


Sheldon Adelson is ready to buy the presidency

Jason Zengerle writes: In a few weeks, when the nuclear deal Barack Obama negotiated with Iran comes before Congress, it’s all but certain that not a single Republican will vote in support of it. With the possible exception of Maine’s Susan Collins, who has yet to reveal her position, each of the 246 Republicans in the House and 53 Republicans in the Senate has indicated his or her opposition to the deal. Not that a mere vote could possibly express the intensity of even that unanimous opposition — or the fervid support for Israel that lies behind it. “It is a fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States and of our closest allies, first and foremost Israel,” Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has said. Cruz’s 16 Republican-primary opponents have denounced the deal in similar terms. One of them, Mike Huckabee, has gone so far as to argue that Obama “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

American Jews are not hard-liners on Israel. Obama won 69 percent of Jewish voters in 2012, even as American conservatives accused him of purposefully undermining the country’s security and status in the region. Indeed, according to a 2013 Pew study, only one in three American Jews feel a strong emotional attachment to the Jewish state. But over the past 30 years, and especially in the last decade, the GOP’s attachment to Israel has become remarkably fierce, to an extent that is basically unprecedented in modern American politics. On issue after issue — from military aid to settlement policy — the GOP now offers Israel unconditional and unquestioning support, so much so that some Republicans now liken the country to America’s “51st state.” The person most responsible for this development is the multi­billionaire casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. [Continue reading…]


Republican hopefuls reap $62m in support from donors with fossil fuel ties

The Guardian reports: Republican presidential candidates have banked millions of dollars in donations from a small number of mega-rich individuals and corporations with close ties to the fossil fuel industries that stand to lose the most from the fight against climate change.

Eight out of the 17 GOP figures currently jostling for their party’s presidential nomination have between them attracted a bonanza of at least $62m so far this year from sources either directly involved in polluting industries or with close financial ties to them. Three Republican contenders stand out as recipients of this fossil fuel largesse: the Republican climate change denier-in-chief, Ted Cruz; the party establishment favorite Jeb Bush; and the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry.

The funds have come from just 17 billionaires or businesses that have pumped enormous sums – in one case $15m for a single candidate – into the support groups or Super Pacs that work alongside the official campaigns yet are free to attract unlimited contributions. The $62m forms a substantial chunk of almost $400m that has been given to presidential contenders from both main parties in 2015, raising questions about the leverage that fossil fuel interests might seek to exert over the next occupant of the White House at a critical time for the battle against climate change. [Continue reading…]


Hawkishness is once again the hottest thing on the American right

Peter Beinart writes: Over the past decade, the foreign-policy debate in Washington has turned upside down. As George W. Bush’s administration drew to an end, the brand of ambitious, expensive, Manichaean, militaristic foreign policy commonly dubbed “neoconservative” seemed on the verge of collapse. In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group, which included such Republican eminences as James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Ed Meese, and Alan Simpson, repudiated Bush’s core approach to the Middle East. The group not only called for the withdrawal from Iraq by early 2008 of all U.S. combat troops not necessary for force protection. It also proposed that the United States begin a “diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions,” with the government of Iran, which Bush had included in his “axis of evil,” and that it make the Arab-Israeli peace process, long scorned by hawks, a priority. Other prominent Republicans defected too. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon called the president’s Iraq policy “absurd” if not “criminal.” George Will, the dean of conservative columnists, deemed neoconservatism a “spectacularly misnamed radicalism” that true conservatives should disdain.

That was then. Today, hawkishness is the hottest thing on the American right. With the exception of Rand Paul, the GOP presidential contenders are vying to take the most aggressive stance against Iran and the Islamic State, or ISIS. The most celebrated freshman Republican senator is Tom Cotton, who gained fame with a letter to Iran’s leaders warning that the United States might not abide by a nuclear deal. According to recent polls, GOP voters now see national security as more important than either cultural issues or the economy. More than three-quarters of Republicans want American ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq, and a plurality says that stopping Iran’s nuclear program requires an immediate military strike.

What explains the change? Above all, it’s the legend of the surge. [Continue reading…]


Israeli think tank with GOP ties at center of Iran deal opposition

McClatchy reports: With the U.S. Congress beginning hearings on the nuclear accord with Iran, Israeli opponents of the agreement are readying a full-court press to persuade that the deal has too many loopholes that would allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

“We will make our voice heard,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told McClatchy. “We will not miss an opportunity to tell our side of the story because it is our moral duty.”

One Israeli think tank at the center of the campaign is the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, whose largest donor is U.S. casino magnate and Republican benefactor Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $465,000 to political candidates and parties in 2014 – all to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Recipients in recent years included Republican presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and both House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. [Continue reading…]


The GOP’s core is dying off by the day

Politico reports: It turns out that one of the Grand Old Party’s biggest — and least discussed — challenges going into 2016 is lying in plain sight, written right into the party’s own nickname. The Republican Party voter is old — and getting older, and as the adage goes, there are two certainties in life: Death and taxes. Right now, both are enemies of the GOP and they might want to worry more about the former than the latter.

There’s been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there’s been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all.

The party’s core is dying off by the day.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this? [Continue reading…]


Imbeciles in U.S. Congress threaten Earth science

Elizabeth Kolbert writes: During last fall’s midterm election campaign, “I’m not a scientist” became a standard Republican answer to questions about climate change. The line seemed to invite parody, and Stephen Colbert (among others) obliged. He played clips of House Speaker John Boehner, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Florida Governor Rick Scott all offering, more or less word for word, the same refrain. “Everyone who denies climate change has the same stirring message,” Colbert observed. “‘We don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about.’”

The line worked — or, at least, didn’t not work — and Republicans won both houses of Congress. Now, it seems, they are trying to go one better. They are trying to prevent even scientists from being scientists.

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, headed by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, approved a bill that would slash at least three hundred million dollars from NASA’s earth-science budget. “Earth science, of course, includes climate science,” Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat who is also on the committee, noted. (Smith said that the White House’s NASA budget request favored the earth sciences “at the expense of the other science divisions and human and robotic space exploration.”) Johnson tried to get the cuts eliminated from the bill, but her proposed amendment was rejected. Defunding NASA’s earth-science program takes willed ignorance one giant leap further. It means that not only will climate studies be ignored; some potentially useful data won’t even be collected.

The vote brought howls of protest from NASA itself and from wider earth-science circles. The agency’s administrator, Charles Bolden, issued a statement saying that the bill “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate.” In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Marshall Shepherd, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia and the former president of the American Meteorological Association, said that he could not sleep after hearing about the vote. “None of us has a ‘vacation planet’ we can go to for the weekend, so I argue that NASA’s mission to study planet Earth should be a ‘no-brainer,’ ” he wrote. [Continue reading…]


GOP attempt to scuttle Obama’s Iran deal faces its own existential threats next week

Huffington Post: The fragile but growing congressional effort to bring oversight to ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran is at risk of unravelling, as lawmakers from both sides push for controversial additions to the bill.

On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) will formally introduce legislation for markup that would grant Congress the final vote on any nuclear deal and prohibit the president from waiving economic sanctions against Iran for two months while lawmakers review the terms of the agreement.

In the days preceding the markup, senators from both parties have introduced a slew of amendments, with several Democrats seeking to strike the more contentious clauses and Republicans vying to add even more restrictive language. The addition of any one of these could convince some of the more reluctant co-sponsors to abandon ship — giving President Barack Obama the margin he needs to ensure that his veto is not overridden.


Sen. Tom Cotton suggests war with Iran would be a breeze

ThinkProgress: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a strong opponent of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program, suggested on Tuesday that armed conflict with Tehran could be easily contained to “several days of air and naval bombing” and would not require the deployment of American ground troops. The comments eerily echoed the false predictions of Bush administration officials on the eve of the Iraq invasion.

Appearing on the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show, Cotton slammed Obama for suggesting that military confrontation was the only alternative to diplomacy in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“This president has a bad habit of accusing other people of making false choices, but he presented the ultimate false choice last week when he said it’s either this deal or war,” Cotton said, before adding, that “Even if military action were required…the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case.”