Trump and the Trumpettes: In Stereo

Everyone’s worried about Donald Trump. As they should be. They should also worry about his friends across the aisle.

Division of Labor

Monday, which saw Trump reveal his plan to stop all Muslims from coming into the United States, also announced this convergence between right and left.

Newt Gingrich:

Nine percent of Pakistanis agree with ISIS, according to one poll. That’s a huge number. We need to put all the burden of proof on people coming from those countries to show that they are not a danger to us.

Michael Tomasky:

It [Obama’s statement] says to Muslim Americans that the rights you have as Americans have to be earned, fought for. And you know, that’s OK…But I do know that if other Americans had some sense that Muslim Americans as a group were really working to ferret out the radicalism, then this stalemate might be broken. If anything Obama should have been more emphatic about this. He should now go around to Muslim communities in Detroit and Chicago and the Bay Area and upstate New York and give a speech that tells them: If you want to be treated with less suspicion, then you have to make that happen.

You can see a neat division of labor here. Conservatives promise to take care of Muslims at the border; liberals will make them show their papers once they get in. Even if they’ve been in for over a century. Both positions assume that guilt is collective, not individual, and that Muslims are guilty until proven innocent.

Freedom, Et Cetera

Monday also brought us this meeting of the minds.

Donald Trump:

We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.

Hillary Clinton:

We’re going to have to have more support from our friends in the technology world to deny online space. Just as we have to destroy [ISIS’s] would-be caliphate, we have to deny them online space. And this is complicated. You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating.

Birds of a feather: that “freedom, et cetera” tells you all you need to know.


And today’s newspapers bring us this:

By an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the House of Representatives passed legislation intended to strengthen the visa waiver program in the aftermath of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

The legislation, which was approved by a vote of 407-19, would prevent any foreign national who has visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or the Sudan in the past five years from entering the US without a visa.

The legislation is considered likely to advance through the Senate and become law by the end of the year.

The change applies to citizens of the 38 countries that currently participate in the visa waiver program. The program allows citizens of those countries, which includes most of Europe as well as Pacific Rim countries like Australia and Japan, to visit the US for 90 days without a visa.


The measure has been supported by the White House, which saw it as a reasonable security step in the aftermath of the Paris attacks on 13 November when seven members of Isis murdered 130 people in a series of bombings and shootings.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, originally authored the proposal with these provisions as a bipartisan alternative to legislation passed by the House in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks that would make it more difficult for refugees from Syria and Iraq to enter the US.

Separately, some lawmakers are also talking about looking at the fiancé visa program that Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, reportedly used to come to the country. The Homeland Security Department has already announced a review of that program.

Butter in the Sun

For Hannah Arendt, reporting on the effects of McCarthyism to Karl Jaspers in 1953, it wasn’t the rampages of the right that were of most concern; it was the ease with which everyone on the other side gave way that worried her.

You probably know a lot from the papers. Can you see from them how far the disintegration has gone and with what breathtaking speed it has occurred? And up to now hardly any resistance. Everything melts away like butter in the sun….the whole thing eats its way farther and deeper into society.

It’s good to see people rallying against the more extreme statements and positions of Donald Trump. It’s worrisome to see them adopt milder versions of those statements and positions.



  1. Roqeuntin December 9, 2015 at 1:31 am | #

    Trump’s racism is like that raging alcoholic friend you have that makes you more comfortable with your own drinking. Obviously I say that partially in jest, but it serves the same purpose. It’s necessary for an extreme example like that to exist so you can project your own disavowed problems onto him or her. If Trump didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him. This way we get to be satisfied with ourselves while changing absolutely nothing.

    • Narc December 9, 2015 at 7:49 am | #

      “It’s good to see people rallying against the more extreme statements and positions of Donald Trump. It’s worrisome to see them adopt milder versions of those statements and positions.”

      Well, yeah. That’s how the Overton Window works, isn’t it?

  2. jonnybutter December 9, 2015 at 8:38 am | #

    Trump actually gives everyone else cover, unfortunately: “Well of course I reject Trump’s boorishness, but here is my sensible outlook going forward…”.

    I don’t care if he’s a real socialist or a back-to-FDR liberal or what: Bernie Sanders is the only sane person in his political class on this: ‘It’s crap”.

    • Will G-R December 9, 2015 at 10:34 am | #

      Wait, does Sanders really have a particularly noteworthy agenda on these sorts of issues? My impression has always been that he prefers to elucidate specifics only when it comes to domestic economic policy, leaving other areas to be either dealt with through generic boilerplate platitudes (e.g. a vague sense of being anti-racism or pro-diplomacy) or else interpreted strictly through a domestic economic lens (e.g. the “dey turk err jurbs!” anti-immigration stance he elucidated his Vox interview).

      Of course this interpretation is in line with the traditional leftist take on liberal social democracy: that its main plank is a Faustian bargain with capital to accept economic concessions for a racially/nationally privileged subset of the global working class in exchange for tacitly agreeing to abandon any meaningful internationalist or anti-imperialist praxis, issuing vaguely humanist rhetoric from one side of their mouths while gorging on the spoils of imperial exploitation with the other. So please, do correct me if I’m wrong about Sanders specifically, and he actually does have meaningfully fleshed-out proposals or a deep history of political engagement WRT interracial and/or international solidarity. I’d be glad to hear it.

  3. jasdye December 9, 2015 at 9:47 am | #

    Democratic Party, 21st Century: Your Party for SENSIBLE Islamophobia

  4. jonnybutter December 9, 2015 at 10:50 am | #

    Wait, does Sanders really have a particularly noteworthy agenda on these sorts of issues?

    Yes he does. He’s sane. He doesn’t mindlessly accede to the wishes of terrorist deadenders by obsessing about them, and he focuses on the pending emergency of climate change, which has more supranational social implications than all particular terrorist groups combined. His baseline is sane and adult. Unfortunately, that is not just noteworthy, but *particularly* noteworthy.

    • Will G-R December 9, 2015 at 11:26 am | #

      “He doesn’t mindlessly accede to the wishes of terrorist deadenders by obsessing about them”

      But see, that’s exactly what I’m talking about: whether or not a politician obsesses over “terrorist deadenders” (i.e. “someone else’s proxy militants”) is a carnival sideshow next to the frank reality of US geopolitical/strategic interests in the Middle East. A meaningfully fleshed-out agenda would be something like ending US defense subsidies for undemocratic regimes such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and committing the US to bear the resulting economic consequences (including greater volatility in oil/gas prices and a potential loss of military-industrial manufacturing jobs for the export market) as the necessary price for allowing democratic self-government in those countries. Calling Donald Trump a fascist for attacking members of the perceived non-Western “out-group” is easy; asking Western workers to accept more expensive commutes to scarcer jobs as part of a political-economic agenda to better the lives of members of said out-group would be more difficult, and the interview answer I linked to above on immigration suggests that even the sane, reasonable Sanders wouldn’t go near it with a 10-foot pole.

  5. jonnybutter December 9, 2015 at 11:56 am | #

    A meaningfully fleshed-out agenda would be something like ending US defense subsidies for undemocratic regimes such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

    Isn’t there another big military player in the region who is our ally, and a de facto ally of the two countries you mention? Some country the US supports very lavishly? Give me a minute and I’ll think of it. Let’s see – ‘undemocratic’..

    I don’t have the energy or heart to go back and forth with you today. I hope Sanders will evolve, particularly on I/P, but even if he doesn’t, just by being *sane* in the way I described, he is way ahead of anyone else seriously running for US pres.

  6. jonnybutter December 9, 2015 at 8:54 pm | #

    Like I said, Trump gives cover to a cavalcade of assholes. Notice that Netanyahu will still *meet* with Trump, because a meeting was ‘already scheduled’. But BN and Israel ‘reject’ his words.

    • jonnybutter December 10, 2015 at 9:57 am | #

      OK, I guess some people figured out that Trump can’t go to Israel now. I suppose there are different, as it were, ‘quantum’ gradations of obvious: *this* obvious is OK, *this* obvious isn’t, etc.

  7. Benjamin David Steele December 9, 2015 at 9:01 pm | #

    I came across this the other day:

    “This is addressed to all Muslim Americans, and makes two odious assumptions. The first is that Muslims have a collective responsibility for the behavior of other Muslims. Would a liberal say that about, say, Jews? And second, that citizenship rights have to be earned and don’t automatically apply to citizens. And this is coming from the editor of a journal called Democracy, of all things. (It’s impossible to resist pointing out that its publisher, Bernard Schwartz, is a weapons magnate, and its advisory board is laced with national security types.)

    “Tomasky’s argument—which he has the nerve to call “humane”—looks like an attempt to set a left boundary on acceptable discourse, and to write out any principled critique of the treatment of Muslim Americans—and Muslims, really—as an undifferentiated mass. It makes it far harder to fight the incendiary hatred of people like Trump, and then presumes to offer itself as the only realistic alternative to fulminating evil. I suppose liberalism has often played this role—see Truman and loyalty oaths—but it’s depressing and enraging to see it enacted before your eyes.”

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