Tag Archives: Dana Milbank

Did Trump Hand Us A Mirror?

Mirrors can be vicious–and educational.

I know I’m not the only one who finds it easy to indulge in forbidden food and drink, and to ignore the consequences–until I take a good look at myself in the mirror and decide it’s past time to begin that long-postponed diet and exercise regimen.

In a recent column for The Washington Post, Dana Milbank suggested a political analogy to that common phenomenon.

Four years ago, Christopher Parker, an African American political scientist at the University of Washington, made the provocative argument that Donald Trump’s candidacy could “do more to advance racial understanding than the election of Barack Obama.”

“Trump’s clear bigotry,” Parker wrote in the American Prospect, a liberal journal, “makes it impossible for whites to deny the existence of racism in America. . . . His success clashes with many white Americans’ vision of the United States as a fair and just place.”

Milbank lists several examples of Trump’s increasingly brazen embrace of racism; interestingly, the column appeared before the most recent example: his incendiary speech at Mount Rushmore, in which he barely stopped short of donning a white sheet.

It’s not just Trump. it is getting more and more difficult to ignore the evidence that the GOP has become the party of white supremacy. As Milbank reports,

Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor.

Milbank reviewed the changing responses of Americans to a question that has been used by several pollsters over a number of years to determine racial animus: the question asks people to agree or disagree with the statement “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.

In 2012, 56 percent of white Republicans agreed with that statement, according to the American National Election Studies. The number grew in 2016 with Trump’s rise, to 59 percent. Last month, an astonishing 71 percent of white Republicans agreed, according to a YouGov poll written by Parker and conducted by GQR (where my wife is a partner).

The opposite movement among white Democrats is even more striking. In 2012, 38 percent agreed that African Americans didn’t try hard enough. In 2016, that dropped to 27 percent. And now? Just 13 percent.

What these statistics don’t reflect is the rapidly diminishing number of Americans who identify as Republican, and the growing numbers of Democrats, Independents and “Never Trump” Republicans who find the party’s racism abhorrent.  Milbank quotes other political scientists whose research confirms the extent of that revulsion; white women, especially, are offended by the GOP’s appeals to racism.

Vincent Hutchings is a political scientist at the University of Michigan who specializes in public opinion research. He has found that racist appeals disproportionately alienate white, college-educated women, and has opined that such appeals exacerbate the gender gap even more than negative references to gender.

I’ve previously noted that the voluminous visual evidence of bigotry, captured and disseminated by our  ubiquitous cellphone cameras, has made it very difficult for comfortable white folks to believe that America is the idealized, equal-opportunity country described in dusty government textbooks. Every day, Donald Trump adds to that growing, uncomfortable body of evidence by loudly and publicly reconfirming his own ignorance and racism.

The iPhone pictures and videos, amplified by the constant tweets and utterances of a repulsive President, are providing Americans an extended look in the full-length mirror, and most of us don’t like what we see.

We need to remind ourselves that we have the power to change it.

 

 

Laughing So We Won’t Cry….

Credit where credit is due… one thing Trump has been truly– even magnificently– good for  is satire and snark.

It isn’t only the late-night comedians, although they have dominated. Editorial comics have been unrelenting. Then there are Andy Borowitz’ headlines…Trump Plans to Destroy Coronavirus with an Incredibly Mean Tweet..Mexico Tightens Border After Trump Pardons White-Collar Criminals…Cruise Ship Passengers Demand to be Housed at Mar-a-Lago….

Think too about Randy Rainbow, whose most recent song parody is “Any Dem Will Do,” (Play it over and over if your favorite candidate isn’t the nominee), but who has issued dozens–maybe hundreds–of clever and devastating take-offs of popular songs, aimed directly at the buffoon pretending to be President.

Even the legacy press has gotten into the game; Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has been turning out some of the best snark anywhere. I particularly loved his column about “Dr. Trump.”

Do you have a nagging medical concern? A rash that won’t go away? Unexplained hearing loss? Are you currently bleeding out from a severed femoral artery?

Well, fret no more. America now has a leading medical expert — some say the best — who will dispense diagnoses and prognoses to all — for free! This bold new telemedicine initiative, “Ask Dr. Trump,” will be offered on an unpredictable but highly frequent basis to all Americans (whether they like it or not).

Granted, Trump has given him an enormous amount of material to work with.

Dr. Donald J. Trump, of course, is the pioneering scientist who first determined that climate change is a hoax and, more recently, discovered that windmills cause cancer. In between, he proved that forest fires could be contained by “raking”and identified a previously unrecognized tropical cyclone pattern targeting Alabama.

Dr. Trump acquired what he calls “a natural instinct for science” not through formal education but because “my uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years.” Sadly, the elder Trump didn’t live to see his nephew’s greatest discoveries in the medical field: The flu shot is basically “injecting bad stuff into your body” and exercise can shorten your life. Dr. Trump used his instinctive grasp of medicine to become “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” with an innate life expectancy of 200 years.

Milbank went on to incorporate recent quotations from our idiot-in-chief, whose “pathbreaking epidemiology” has allowed him to dispute the World Health Organization’s report that 3.4 percent of people with reported cases have died. Trump says that’s a “false number.”

Trump’s research, based extensively on “my hunch,” puts the true figure at “way under 1 percent.”

The entire column is worth reading. I also highly recommend the “oeuvre” of Randy Rainbow for those mornings when we get up, have coffee, listen to the news and contemplate suicide.

Laughing is better than crying…

I personally liked the advice of a young Facebook friend who says that–should he be diagnosed with the Coronavirus–he will spend the three-week quarantine period traveling to MAGA rallies….

Speaking of the Coronavirus, there may be one positive to emerge from the administration’s mismanagement of the pandemic.  It is demonstrating the massive incompetence of the administration and the increasingly demented behavior of the President to millions of voters who haven’t been laughing at the late-night jokes or reading the Washington Post. Recent polling finds large numbers of people saying the mismanagement makes them less likely to vote for Trump.

“By a 20-point margin, voters say his administration’s handling of the virus makes them less likely to vote for him this fall,” Public Policy Polling reported. “Independents say they’re less likely to vote for Trump by 32 points because of how he’s dealt with this issue.”

The day when the “Doctor” is out can’t come soon enough….

 

A Bill Of Particulars

I find myself quoting Dana Milbank a lot these days. Milbank, a columnist for the Washington Post, is the kind of writer I appreciate; much like Gail Collins of the New York Times, he is both informative and witty.

In his column yesterday, however, Milbank did us all a service; given Pelosi’s decision to commence impeachment proceedings, he lays out what I would label “a bill of particulars.” Milbank’s list illustrates the truth of an observation from Lawfare: “Trump’s misconduct presents what the military calls a target-rich environment.”

I cannot improve upon it, so I am taking the liberty of quoting the entire list.

Milbank begins that list by asking an obvious question: what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if a Democratic President–Elizabeth Warren, for example–was accused of doing the things Trump has clearly done, and  the GOP has simply shrugged off?

● Defies congressional power of the purse by unilaterally raiding the Pentagon budget to finance her pet projects?

● Rejects the authority of congressional oversight, disregards subpoenas and refuses to furnish documents, including a whistleblower complaintabout the president deemed “urgent” by the intelligence community?

● Is found by an independent prosecutor appointed by her own administration to have engaged in 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice but is not charged because regulations prohibit such a move against a sitting president?

● Approves and reimburses secret payments, in violation of campaign-finance law, to a person threatening to put out damaging information about her?

● Fires an FBI director who refuses to call off a probe of one of her close associates?

● Rescinds the security clearance of a former CIA director critical of her, as well as the press credentials of journalists who criticize her administration?

● Persuades a foreign leader not to admit Republican members of Congress into his country?

● Grounds the jet used for official business by the congressional leader of the Republican Party?

● Repeatedly releases highly classified intelligence, some to a foreign enemy and some only to Democrats?

● Threatens to cut off highway funds and disaster aid to states and territories controlled by Republicans, and declares she has the “absolute” right to move criminals to jurisdictions governed by Republicans?

● Funnels millions of taxpayer dollars to her own businesses, pressures federal agencies and international organizations to do business with her personal enterprises, invites foreign governments to pay millions of dollars to her businesses, and rejects a law requiring her to provide Congress with her tax returns?

● Calls for a boycott of the parent company of a media outlet critical of her, threatens an antitrust action against the owner of another media outlet critical of her, says she can unilaterally order businesses to disinvest from a country and calls for federal punishment of individual businesses she doesn’t like?

● Circumvents the Constitution’s advice-and-consent provision by running the government with “acting” officials (unqualified but loyal to her) not confirmed by the Senate?

● Offers to pardon those who commit crimes enforcing her policies, questions the authority of certain judges because they are GOP appointees and pardons a political ally who ignored court orders?

● Without congressional approval, establishes a de facto network of internment camps, run under inhumane conditions, for a class of people she disdains?

● And, finally, asks and coerces foreign governments to sabotage her Republican opponents’ campaigns?

When you see the whole list–which Milbank suggests isn’t even complete, it is impossible to justify the enormity of what the GOP has enabled and protected. I can’t help wondering what Trump’s toadies in the House and Senate will tell their grandchildren when those children study the history of this  retrograde and destructive Presidency.

How will they respond to the inevitable questions? What did you do, grandpa/grandma, while that mentally-ill, racist ignoramus was dismantling our government, spitting on the rule of law, and violating the Constitution on a daily basis?

 

 

A Perfect Analogy

Amid the chaos and corruption of this administration, there is one positive thing we critics all need to concede: Trump, Pence and company have been gold for political satire.

He’s probably less well-known than  the large and appreciative audiences for John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, et al,  but Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has also been turning out some really excellent snark. And since the mood–at my house and on this blog–has been pretty depressed, I thought I’d share one of Milbank’s more recent columns.

This one was titled “American Pharoah Joins the Resistance.” American Pharoah, for those who (like me) don’t follow such things, is a Triple Crown winning horse. And Mike Pence recently alleged that the horse bit him. Hard.

I saw the initial report of Pence’s accusation, thought “good for the horse,” and promptly forgot about it. Milbank didn’t.

On Friday, Vice President Pence informed House Republicans that Triple Crown winner American Pharoah “bit me so hard” on the arm during a Kentucky visit last year that he (man, not horse) “almost collapsed.”

Some might disbelieve the vice president’s tale of American Pharoah carnage, because Pence said nothing about this grievous injury at the time and because the manager of the racehorse-breeding company said that if the “sweet” thoroughbred had bitten Pence, “I’d know it.” Pence did show people a bruise on his arm back then, but that could have been from one of the many times President Trump walked all over him.

I’ve never known a member of the Trump administration to tell an untruth, so I have no reason to disbelieve Pence’s harrowing account.

Sweet-natured or not, Milbank says there are several reasons the horse might have chosen to bite Pence:

Pence saw him and another stallion grooming each other, and American Pharoah worried he’d be sent to the glue factory.

Pence told the stud that sex is only between one stallion and one mare, whom the stallion should call “mother.”

Pence advised American Pharoah not to eat oats with a mare unless others are present at the same trough.

Alternatively, as Milbank writes, since horses are very hierarchical and alpha horses bite those they consider beneath them, perhaps Pharoah had seen how Pence is treated at the White House? Or had drawn conclusions about status from Pence’s nauseatingly obsequious behavior around Trump?

The column is all worth reading, but here is my absolute favorite paragraph. It’s a perfect analogy to this disastrous–almost comically destructive–administration:

Trump might not have American Pharoah’s speed, but their behaviors are similar. The comedian John Mulaney likens Trump’s presidency to a horse loose in a hospital: “No one knows what the horse is going to do next, least of all the horse. . . . So all day long you walk around, ‘What’d the horse do? What’d the horse do?’ The updates, they’re not always bad; sometimes they’re just odd. It’ll be like, ‘The horse used the elevator? I didn’t know he knew how to do that.’ The creepiest days are when you don’t hear from the horse . . . those quiet days when people are like, ‘It looks like the horse has finally calmed down.’ And then 10 seconds later the horse is like, ‘I’m gonna run toward the baby incubators and smash ’em with my hooves.’”

Perfect.

Plotzing

Yesterday, Dana Milbank’s column in the Washington Post began as follows:

The Israeli tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth came out on Wednesday with a shocking report: Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann would join Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) at Glenn Beck’s rally in Israel in August.

It turned out that much of the report was wrong. The three candidates quickly said they had no such plans – a sensible decision. Beck’s hateful shtick encouraged even Fox News to end his show later this month. But, incredibly, another piece of the report was true. “I’d love to participate,” Lieberman confirmed when The Post’s Felicia Sonmez found him in a Capitol hallway. “It’s just going to be a rally to support Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Never mind that Beck, a Christian Zionist, supports Israel because the return of Jews to that ancient land is a necessary condition of the Rapture, during which Jews who refuse to accept Jesus and convert will be consumed by fire–a biblical prophecy with which Lieberman might be presumed to differ.

Milbank noted that Lieberman’s willingness to make common cause with Beck made him “plotz” (a word that very roughly translates into “‘become agitated.” The full meaning of “plotz” is probably appreciated only by those of us with Jewish mothers and grandmothers).

Milbank was astonished that Lieberman, who wears his religion on his sleeve,  would embrace Beck, one of the country’s most prominent anti-Semites. He failed to understand that what Lieberman and Beck share is far more than unwavering, uncritical political support for Israel. Both men lack any hint of self-awareness. Both are supremely confident that they own the Truth and have a duty to lecture everyone else about that Truth. Both engage in smarmy self-righteousness. Both are narcissists.  Both, in a word, are zealots–blinded to any worldview beyond their own and utterly convinced of their own moral superiority.

As the character of Yenta in Fiddler on the Roof might have put it, “It’s a perfect match!”