Sunday, August 13, 2017

Shoeless Jim Crow

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time." -"President" Donald Trump, 8/12/17

In the age of terrorism, every US President must anticipate, and meet, practically as a rite of passage a crucible to test their leadership skills: An act of domestic terrorism. Bill Clinton had his very early in his presidency with the first World Trade Center bombing. George W. Bush had his on 9/11/01. Barack Obama was, strangely, almost immune to major domestic acts of terror except if you include the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 (The consensus among the reality-based community is that the Pulse Nightclub shooting, while it may've been carried out by a Muslim male, was more about self-loathing homophobia than Islamic terrorism).
     Yesterday, Donald Trump had his own domestic terror test that left a lovely 32 year-old woman dead. The overall grade, even from his fellow Republicans? F-.
     From his own golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump eventually pulled off his golf duds, shrugged into his Rodney Dangerfield costume and awkwardly read from a prepared statement that initially appeared to condemn the acts of white nationalist terrorism. Then Trump, lacking the concentration of even a goldfish, looked up and obviously went off script as he's wont to do and said directly into the cameras, "...on many sides." Then he immediately doubled down by repeating, "On many sides."
     To anyone whose brain can generate enough electricity to move a single finger over a keyboard, Trump stopped being the President in the minds of even his own party. As Mike Lupica pointed out last April, Trump is quick to tweet about terrorism and its preemptive usual suspects (Read: Muslims) in the abstract but not in the particular when it actually happens. That especially applies to acts of domestic terror carried out by white Christian males, such as the second San Bernardino shooting.
     Trump's wide brush response was immediately regarded as unsatisfactory at best, craven at worst, drawing the ire from even Republican members of Congress. It was a reprise of that telling moment when Trump had his feet put to the fire on live national TV and asked if he would repudiate the endorsement of the KKK. He pretended as if he didn't know about them or had even heard of them.
     In fact, this is what the man who's infamously hypersensitive and hypervigilant about anyone who's ever mentioned his name had said that fateful night in late February last year: "I don't know anything about David Dukes. I don't know what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist. I don't know. I don't know, did he endorse me, or what's going on?"
      Purely in the interests of jogging 45's memory, a bizarrely rubbery-faced David Dukes essentially had this to say to Trump on Twitter and NBC News: "Don't forget who put you in the White House, asshole. We did this for you because you wanted us to." That included one of his sympathizers, James Alex Fields Jr, who did his part by plowing his car at 40 mph into a group of peaceful counter protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Those Empty Shoes
     When one looks at the photograph above, one of several taken by eyewitnesses to Fields' act of terror, one is struck by the empty shoes that had until a moment before been occupied by human feet. It's also symbolic of the empty shoes vacated by President Barack Obama on January 20th that Trump hasn't even begun to fill.
     When Benghazi occurred on September 11, 2012, Republicans, starting with Mitt Romney, were quick to take to podiums and blast the President for the language he used in condemning the terror attack at our embassy in Libya. Of course, the President's response was swift, heartfelt and well-articulated but the obstructionists on the other side of the aisle heard one thing while mainstream America heard what was actually said.
     While Republicans may be raising whispers and tweets criticizing Trump, the backlash isn't nearly as fierce as endured (with grace) by President Obama after Benghazi. In fact, Republicans, starting with Romney in his little moment in the sun next to a strip mall pet store named "Blazin' Reptiles", essentially accused Obama of siding with the Muslim terrorists who killed four of our people in Benghazi. Romney was immediately shot down not only by liberals and progressives but by his own party. But the mainstream GOP response persisted at 300 decibels: President Obama was siding with the terrorists by not calling them out. Which was false, of course.
     But this is essentially what Trump actually is guilty of- Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence (while not once mentioning the fatality that already happened) in an amazingly brazen, boneheaded and dangerous manner on everyone who was at Charlottesville this weekend. Trump might as well have said, "You all have Heather Heyer's blood on your hands."
     That's dangerous: Right wingers automatically looking for phantom progressive suspects with the industry of Chris Kobach will take Trump's words at face value and seek out revenge among those they think are the most guilty- The counter protesters, the antifa crowd. Their most vocal critics.
     And considering David Dukes's risible condemnation of Trump when he didn't even single out the white nationalists, the KKK and the neoNazis in attendance, Trump might as well have done the right thing whether or not his heart was in it, to at least give the momentary appearance of leadership in condemning the right wingers in Charlottesville. But he didn't because he couldn't being himself to condemn his own base any more than he can condemn the guy who really put him in the White House: Vladimir Putin.

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