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Trump Is Toxic But Americans Are Not

Donald Trump is a toxin in the American political bloodstream, and the resulting symptoms are not only ugly and unpleasant but also dangerous. Among the signs are expressions of racial prejudice, religious bigotry, sexism, and violent hostility for those deemed to be unacceptably different. It’s a debilitating malady.

Trump was an abnormal presidential candidate, indulging in overt antipathy for foreigners, crude slurs against women, juvenile insults of political rivals, and nonstop lies on matters big and small. But he won the election, giving rise to fears that he represented the true character of the American public.

On a daily basis, Trump does things that would have grievously damaged previous presidents.It’s impossible to imagine George W. Bush telling nonwhite members of Congress to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Barack Obama would never have called a poor, white, rural county a “disgusting” place “where no human being would want to live.”

Both Bush and Obama were fully capable of rising to the occasion when Americans were in pain. On the rare occasions when Trump is obligated to voice conciliatory, unifying sentiments, as he did after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, his words carry no conviction or credibility.

Most Americans expect the worst from him. So they could not have been surprised that he couldn’t make a condolence call on those cities without trashing local Democratic leaders.

There are two striking facts about his presidency. The first is that he did not adapt to meet longstanding expectations of how the highest elected official in the land should behave. If anything, winning the 2016 election inflamed his worst instincts.

The second, more encouraging, discovery is that Trump’s abnormality still looks conspicuously abnormal. Americans have not defined presidential deviancy down. They have not jettisoned their beliefs about what a president should do and not do. Even people who approve of his overall performance in office have no fondness for many of his habits.

Americans who feel distress, shame, and anger at Trump’s policies may be tempted to assume that all the people who voted for him share his worst traits. But they don’t. Voting is usually a binary choice between unsatisfactory options, and factors such as ideology, religion, and party heavily sway decisions.

Going into the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton had the second-highest unfavorable rating of any major party nominee since 1956 — worse than that of Barry Goldwater, who, in 1964, got a puny 39 percent of the vote in a two-person race. Plenty of Americans voted against Clinton, settling for Trump only as the lesser of two evils.

Their reservations help explain his persistently low approval rating. Since February 2017, Gallup has found, at least half of Americans have disapproved of how he has done his job, with spikes as high as 60 percent. His approval figure has sunk as low as 35 percent and has never risen above 46 percent. When Barack Obama left office, by contrast, 59 percent of Americans had a positive view of his performance, with 37 percent disapproving.

While regularly making use of racist code, Trump claims to be “the least racist person anywhere in the world.” Most people are not fooled. A July Quinnipiac Poll found that fully 51 percent of voters say he is indeed racist, with 45 percent disagreeing.

The public is not blind to his many serious defects of character and personality. An August YouGov/Economist survey found that a majority of people do not believe he is honest, intelligent, inspiring, patriotic, strong, or sincere. Just 18 percent deny that he is hypocritical, and 9 percent say he is not arrogant.

Only 21 percent regard him as a good role model for children, according to a March Quinnipiac poll. Just 20 percent think he is more honest than most previous occupants of the Oval Office.

“Trumpian” can mean many different things, but in almost any company, it is not a term of praise. Republican pollster Gene Ulm told The Atlantic, “You have a lot of people (who) like everything he’s doing but would never have him (over) for dinner.”

With his brazen appeal to dark impulses, Trump has encouraged hateful elements in American society. At the same time, he has awakened people of goodwill to cherish and defend the values that he threatens.

Trumpism has infected the American polity like a foul pathogen. But it has also stimulated a powerful immune response that just may leave us stronger in the end.

 

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

This Old Video Shows How Low GOP Has Sunk Since Reagan

The immigration policies of Donald Trump’s presidency would have no room for his GOP predecessors Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush—who both embraced work visas, family unification, easy border crossings and a better relationship with Mexico.

That counterpoint can be seen in a very short video clip from the 1980 presidential election where Reagan and Bush—who became Reagan’s vice president for two terms before winning the presidency in 1988—were asked about immigration at a campaign debate in Texas. Their responses show just how far to the right the Republican Party’s current leader, President Trump, and voters who have not left the GOP to become self-described political independents, have moved on immigration.

The responses by Bush and Reagan in a 1980 televised debate sound like today’s Democrats. The exchange was prompted by a two-part question from an audience member: should “the children of illegal aliens… be allowed to attend Texas public schools free? Or do you think that their parents should pay for their education?”

Bush was first to reply, beginning, “I’d like to see something done about the illegal alien problem that would be so sensitive and so understanding about labor needs and human needs that that problem wouldn’t come up. But today if those people are here, I would reluctantly say I think they would get whatever it is—what the society is giving to their neighbors.”

He continued, saying undocumented immigration needed solutions and offering some.

“But the problem has to be solved,” Bush said. “Because as we have made illegal some kinds of labor that I’d like to see legal, we’re doing two things. We’re creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law. And secondly, we’re exacerbating relations with Mexico. … These are good people, strong people—part of my family is Mexican.”

Bush went even further, saying that immigrant children should not be criminalized.

“The answer to your question is much more fundamental than whether they attend Houston schools, it seems to me,” he said. “I don’t want to see a whole… [generation]—think of six- and eight-year-old kids being… uneducated and made to feel that they’re living outside the law. Let’s address ourselves to the fundamentals.”

When Reagan’s turn to speak came, the former two-term California governor did not disagree, but said he wanted to “add to that.”

“I think the time has come that the United States and our neighbors, particularly our neighbor to the south, should have a better understanding and a better relationship than we’ve ever had,” Reagan said. “And I think that we haven’t been sensitive enough to our size and our power.”

Reagan said a smart policy would address the realities of economic insecurity in Mexico and seek to make the region—Central America—more stable.

“They have a problem of 40 to 50 percent unemployment,” he said. “Now, this cannot continue without the possibility arising, with regard to that other country that we talked about—if Cuba and what it is stirring up—the possibility of trouble below the border, and we could have a very hostile and strange neighbor on our border.”

Reagan, like Bush, said a working border, not a walled divide, was the best solution.

“Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit,” he said. “And then while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back, and they can cross. And open the border both ways, by understanding their problems.”

Both Reagan and Bush, as presidents, signed immigration legislation. Reagan granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented residents in 1986. Bush signed legislation in 1990 supporting family unification and offering “temporary protected status” for people who were fleeing from armed conflicts or environmental disasters. It also removed language allowing border agents to block the admission of “suspected homosexuals.”

At the time these laws passed, immigration reforms were controversial—but attitudes among opponents were not as hard-line as they appear to be among GOP loyalists today. In the 1990s, American attitudes toward immigration began a rightward shift more in response to the rise of conservative media than economic fears, the Stanford Humanities Review reported in 1997.

Today, President Trump’s verbal attacks against four congresswomen of color—raising the old anti-immigrant trope of “go back” to where they came from—boosted Trump’s favorability by 5 percentage points among Republicans, a Reuters poll found, but that remark saw his support drop among independents and Democrats.

“Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago,” the Reuters poll said. “His net approval—the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove—dropped by 2 points among Democrats.”

Other recent polls found that record numbers of voters are saying that immigration is the top issue facing the country—“the highest Gallup has ever measured for the issue since it first began recording mentions of immigration in 1993.”

But, crucially, that was only 23 percent of those polled by Gallup. “Americans still view immigration positively in general, with 76 percent describing it as a good thing for the country today and 19 percent as a bad thing,” its report on a mid-June poll said. A July report by the Pew Research Center noted that the number of “unauthorized immigrants” had fallen by 14 percent in the past dozen years (from 12.2 million to 10.5 million)

President Trump’s immigration stances are notably less tolerant than those taken by his Republican predecessor—Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. While the core of the GOP base today is embracing Trump’s virulent politics, it is also true that his race-based fulminations and cruel border enforcement are alienating independents and Democrats previously supporting him.

Trump’s dominance of the GOP may be growing. But the GOP is increasingly representing a shrinking share of the electorate. There is no room in Trump’s GOP for the immigration policies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, which, ironically turns one of Reagan’s most famous quotes upside down.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” the conservative icon famously said. On immigration, Reagan—and Bush—are back with the Democrats.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Why Trump Only Deserves A ‘C’ On The Economy

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

Donald Trump keeps boasting about what a great economy he should get credited for creating. But his administration’s own reports don’t support his claims, which also don’t come close to what he promised voters.

His results so far have been, well, just average.

As if it were a stellar achievement, Trump boasted last week, the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first three months of this year. Big deal. That’s precisely the average since 1947.

Candidate Trump boasted many times that he would boost economic growth. In October 2015, he said: “I actually think we can go higher than 4 percent. I think you can go to 5 percent or 6 percent.”

So far, the best he has done is 4.2% in the second quarter of 2018.

That figure was achieved by a threat that briefly juiced the numbers. Trump declared he would impose all sorts of trade tariffs. Smart importers and exporters took advantage of the delay between the threat and the effective to bulk up on deals early. That briefly pumped up economic growth by moving up deals scheduled for later in the year. The proof? In the next three months, economic growth fell by almost half to just a 2.2 percent rate.

Obama’s quarterly economic growth rate beat Trump’s best four times, George W. Bush five times, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan 13 times each. One-term president Jimmy Carter beat Trump six times and one-termer George H. W. Bush did it five times.

Carter’s best, by the way, was 16.4 percent growth, four times Trump’s best so far.

The tariffs gambit was not the only stimulus Trump used to pump up his short-term numbers and trick voters not steeped in economic data, fiscal policy and trade reports.

With solid backing from Republicans in Congress, Trump is borrowing extra trillions of dollars in our name. That’s a classic type of economic stimulus.

Republicans traditionally denounced borrow-and-spend as a tax on our children and grandchildren. A tax cut, like Trump’s, that does not pay for itself with equal or increased revenue, is just a tax increase deferred into the future – with interest.

Tax revenues this year are down about 10%.

The Trump/radical GOP tax cut that took effect last year mostly benefits the rich and corporations. That means the cost of the borrowing is an obligation we all must bear, but the benefits flow mostly to those who need help the least.

Trump’s last budget is projected to run a deficit almost 1.5 times the size of Obama’s last budget deficit according to the Trump administration’s own data, known as Historical Table 1.3.

Trump’s average annual budget deficit over four years will be the worst of any president from Carter through George W. Bush.

The average Trump shortfall will be 4.6 percent of the economy.

Obama’s was about the same as Trump at five percent of the economy, mostly because of the Great Recession that he inherited. In his second term, Obama’s budget shortfall was less than 2.5 percent of the economy.

George W. Bush came in at 3.3 percent. Clinton’s annual deficit was a mere 0.1 percent because he ran surpluses in his second term.

The cost to you of Trump’s borrow-and-spend approach? Instead of retiring the federal debt in eight years, as Trump told voters he could easily do because he was “the king of debt,” the federal debt is growing at the rate of $30 per day for a family of four. That’s almost $11,000 per year for that family.

Trump’s borrow-and-spend, however, has failed to stimulate faster jobs creation.

Under Trump, job growth is slower than under Obama. Trump’s average is 198,000 more jobs per month. That’s good, but far from great.

Obama, during his last six years and a month, averaged 204,000 more jobs each month

Why not rate Obama based on his full eight years? Because when he took office jobs were disappearing at the rate of 750,000 a month, clearly not his fault.

America’s population grew by 19 million people in the eight years between when Obama and Trump took office. Taking the larger population into account makes Trump’s job growth figures even less impressive since a larger population requires more jobs just to stay even.

Trump promised if elected the nation would add 25 million new jobs in 10 years. He’s on track to fall more than a million jobs short of that goal.

That goal was nothing to brag about, either. Before Trump started making campaign promises the projections of future job growth were about what Trump sold as a miracle waiting for him to make it happen.

The reality is that Trump’s economic performance, measured by his own administration, is merely average.

Given the strong and growing economy he inherited, average is nothing to boast about. And since attaining average has included tariffs that raise the price of some imported goods together with massive increases in federal borrowing the long-term consequences are going to be anything but great and probably not even average.

That suggests a new slogan for Trump’s 2020 campaign: Make America Average Again.

IMAGE: Former President Bill Clinton waves to the delegates as he stands with President Barack Obama after Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Remembering McCain, America’s Political Elite Rebukes Trump in Unison

It is hard to maintain one’s cynical detachment while watching an event like the memorial service for Senator John McCain.

Like almost everyone who watched, I was moved by most of the speeches – including those by Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Meghan McCain, and even Joe Lieberman (although not Henry Kissinger’s self-referential spiel), as well as the music (especially Renee Fleming’s rendition of “Danny Boy”).

In planning the service before he died, McCain understood the significance of the imagery of both Bush and Obama delivering eulogies. It required us to think about public service and patriotism. But the bipartisan event was not only a celebration of McCain’s life and legacy. It was also a rebuke to Donald Trump.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen people applaud during what was essentially a state funeral. But there was the assembled gathering of America’s political elite — present and recent past, Republican and Democrat – applauding after Meghan McCain said: “The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She is resourceful and confident and secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she is strong. America does not boast because she has no need. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.”

It was a remarkable moment – a rebuke to Trump by McCain’s daughter before both an international TV audience and a crowd of McCain’s friends, family, and colleagues. Their applause was like a wave at a baseball game. It started with a handful of people, but quickly expanded to a much wider group, eventually enveloping the entire audience in the National Cathedral.

The other speakers, including Bush, Obama, and Lieberman, were less overt than Meghan McCain, but they, too, used their eulogies to criticize Trump, whose involuntarily absence was deliberate and conspicuous.

McCain was hardly bipartisan during his political career. He was a conservative Republican who supported the Republican Party-line vote 87 percent of the time. But he was occasionally willing to buck his party on some key issues — including campaign finance reform, the use of torture against political prisoners, immigration reform, the regulation of tobacco, and, mostly famously, his decisive thumbs-down vote in 2017 against Trump’s top priority, the repeal of Obamacare.

Not a single speaker mentioned Trump’s name, but they all found ways to put the differences between the two men in dramatic relief. Unlike Trump, McCain was widely admired and respected, even among those who disagreed with him politically. Unlike Trump, who used his family ties and a phony physical excuse (“bone spurs”) to avoid military service during Vietnam, McCain demonstrated bravery and courage in combat. Unlike Trump, whose character is dominated by racism, selfishness, and an instinct for humiliation, McCain is remembered for his basic decency. Unlike Trump, whose entire life was spent seeking wealth, McCain devoted his life to public service and patriotism.

But when the camera panned on Mitch McConnell, I couldn’t help reminding myself that starting on Tuesday, things go back to normal. McConnell will still do Trump’s bidding on getting federal judges and Kavanagh approved, obstruct investigations into Trump, avoid commenting after Trump threatens to fire Sessions in order to fire Mueller and squash the investigation, and roll over on Trump’s statements and executive orders dealing with trade, immigration, and other issues.

I would like to believe – but strongly doubt – that this televised moment of national unity will persuade even one Republican in the House or Senate to do anything differently.

But perhaps the new Washington Post poll released on Friday — showing that 60% of registered voters disapprove of Trump and that an unprecedented 53 percent STRONGLY disapprove, while only 24 percent STRONGLY approve – will give some Republican politicians pause. Perhaps they will have second thoughts about kowtowing to the racist, neofascist megalomaniac who sits in the Oval Office (when he isn’t on the golf course).

Of course what matters most is what those poll numbers look like in their respective states and districts. But clearly the size of Trump’s following – not the hard core cultists, but other Republicans – as well as those independents and Democrats who voted for him with reservations – is shrinking.

McCain specifically prohibited Trump from attending the service. He knew that the president would be seething in anger, invisible to the global audience, forced to watch the event on TV, wallowing in self-pity.

No doubt Trump’s handlers had to work hard to restrain him from going on a Twitter rant during the ceremony. My friends and I were taking bets on when Trump would release his first Twitter rant and what it would say.

Trump is clearly panicking because he knows the walls are closing in, that many of his former close allies have turned on him and are cooperating with the Mueller investigation, that a blue wave is likely in November that will usher in a Democratic majority in the House (and perhaps the Senate) which will embark on tough hearings and perhaps impeachment proceedings, humiliating him even more.

I imagine that this is what Trump was thinking as he watched John McCain’s memorial service on Fox News from his Virginia golf club.