Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
A nationally known tycoon with a boastful personality, a penchant for tough talk, an aversion to illegal immigration and free trade, and a contempt for Washington norms: Before there was Donald Trump, there was Ross Perot. His two presidential campaigns planted seeds that would bear poisonous fruit 20 years later.
Perot, who died Tuesday, was the improbable candidate in 1992. Entering as a third-party challenger against President George H.W. Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton, he captured the spotlight and soon led in the polls. Despite pulling out in July, only to reenter in October, he got nearly 19 percent of the vote, the strongest showing by a non-major party candidate since 1912. Running in 1996 as the nominee of the Reform Party, which he founded, he got 8.4 percent of the vote.
In his races, Perot provided a road map for a populist charlatan to reach the White House. He was an unconventional candidate peddling crude and shallow solutions, many of which bear a strong resemblance to what Trump would later propose. Consciously or not, Trump borrowed liberally from Perot’s formula in his own campaign, and he made it work.
The parallels are many. NAFTA was a terrible deal? Perot fulminated against it in 1992. Stop spending money protecting our allies? Perot had the same idea. Slap tariffs on our biggest Asian trading partner for its unfair practices? Trump has gone after China the way Perot threatened to go after Japan.
Trump threatened to “send in the feds” to stop crime in Chicago, which apparently meant deploying the National Guard. Perot’s idea was to “declare civil war and the drug dealer is the enemy.”
Perot didn’t make the blatant appeals to white racism that Trump does. But in 2000, his Reform Party nominated someone who did. Pat Buchanan extolled the Confederacy, warned that immigration would make America “a Third World nation” and earned the praise of neo-Nazi David Duke. Trump is what you would get if you blended Perot and Buchanan over high heat.
Serious policy ideas are not the essence of Trumpism or Perotism. What distinguished the Texas computer magnate — who was the self-made billionaire Trump pretends to be — was his glib, cocksure manner, suggesting that all problems would yield to the blunt hammer of his common sense. After years of watching career politicians fall short, Americans were taken with his claim that a savvy business mogul would do better.
Like Trump, Perot was thin-skinned and given to bizarre fantasies. At one point, he whined bitterly, “The Republicans have had a nonstop saturation bombing to recast my personality.” He withdrew in 1992, he said, out of fear the GOP would smear his daughter and ruin her wedding.
Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, much as Perot vowed to “take out the trash and clean out the barn.” Trump’s demand to “remove bureaucrats who only know how to kill jobs (and) replace them with experts who know how to create jobs” sounds like it was plagiarized from Perot.
Like Trump, Perot had no appetite for complexity or details. His idea for education? “Let’s stop having two-day summits for governors that don’t amount to anything, and let’s get down to blocking and tackling and fixing it now.” The tax code? “No. 1, it’s got to be fair. No. 2, it’s got to raise revenue.”
Politicians, in his mind, were guilty of overthinking. “I’ve got a lot of experience in not taking 10 years to solve a 10-minute problem,” he bragged. Trump talks in exactly the same way, offering simplicity spawned by ignorance.
Perot did have a positive impact on the federal budget deficit. He laid out a bold plan to eliminate it, including tax increases and spending cuts that included both entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare and the military budget.
When Clinton became president, he was forced to take steps, in concert with Republicans in Congress, that yielded a surplus. Without Perot, it might not have happened.
Trump said he would not only balance the budget but pay off the entire national debt in eight years. But unlike Perot’s budget promises, Trump’s were utterly fraudulent. He signed a tax cut that was guaranteed to boost a federal debt that was already on a soaring trajectory.
For the most part, though, Perot was a false prophet, relying on glib bromides, a pugnacious attitude and a disdain for the compromises and trade-offs that democratic government requires. In 1992 and 1996, we managed to resist the coarse nativist demagoguery being offered. In 2016, we succumbed.
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.
IMAGE: Texas billionaire and Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot.
After the bombing Saturday night of New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood and subsequent discovery of many more bombs around New York and New Jersey, Donald Trump and his klan have been out in force, calling again for shutting down immigration from entire religions and regions of the world.
Donald Trump Jr., for example, who is openly buddies with a white supremacist, recently Tweeted a picture of a bowl of skittles, with the caption, “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. [sic] Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”
It’s wrong on its face: many more terrorist acts are committed by Americans than refugees or immigrants, and the bowl of Skittles, as reported by the Washington Post (and mentioned by Chris Cuomo this morning) would have to be one and a half olympic swimming pools large to accurately represent the risk of an attack. Also, though a poisonous Skittle may kill you, personally, there is no terrorist attack large enough to kill all of America, and deaths from terror attacks are a minuscule threat relative to things like heart disease or unstable living room furniture.
But when Chris Cuomo interviewed Trump surrogate Rep. Sean Duffy this morning, it was a bizarre display of just how irrelevant these facts have become.
No matter how frequently and accurately Cuomo insisted that our vetting system for refugees has been thoroughly effective (no Syrian refugees have attacked the United States), Duffy changed the conversation.
Ultimately, without the facts on his side, Duffy tuned to public opinion about “hot regions,” which we can assume from his description means any country with brown people in it. “America wants you to keep them safe,” he said, abdicating responsibility for his policy decisions to reflect reality.
It sure would be helpful if politicians like Duffy stopped letting the blind, politically-potent fear of their constituents drive America’s immigration policy.
After Terror Attacks, Fox News Brings On Anti-Muslim Fearmongers To Push Lies And Anti-Refugee Rhetoric
Published with permission from Media Matters for America.
Fox News is providing a platform for conservatives to spread misinformation about refugees and stoke anti-Muslim fears following a series of apparent terror attacks around the country. Fox’s open-door policy for fearmongers is in keeping with the network’s disconcerting history as a source of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment after terror attacks at home and abroad.
Authorities have arrested a suspect in the September 17 bomb explosions in Manhattan and Seaside Park, N.J.; a suspect was shot in a stabbing spree the same day in Saint Cloud, MN. New York Mayor Bill de Blasiosaid, “We have every reason to believe this was an act of terrorism,” referring to the two New York area bombings, and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Minnesota mall attack.
President Obama advised that “the press try to refrain from getting out ahead of the investigation” and warned against the dissemination of “false reports or incomplete information” — a warning Fox News ignored as it hosted a series of guests who peddled anti-Muslim talking points and xenophobic rhetoric.
During a segment that led off with Fox host Ainsley Earhardt asking, “Is the Somali refugee crisis now a terror crisis?” Fox contributor Pete Hegseth warned of the “incubation” of radical Islam in “radical mosques” in Minnesota, claiming that “the problem is that a lot of those communities have not assimilated the way we would want them to.” Hegseth then proclaimed that there “is a terrorist recruitment problem in Minnesota.” Hegseth regularly fearmongers on Fox’s airwaves about terror and the “concerns about integration” of Muslims.
Jim Hanson, executive vice president of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, argued for heightened policing of Muslim communities because the New York attacker was “conducting jihad” and “saying Allahu Akbar.” Hanson also baselessly speculated that the Chelsea neighborhood of New York was targeted because it “is a prominently gay area” and claimed that “there’s a decent chance that this might have been another attempt to attack the gay community.” Hanson has regularly appeared on Fox to spread fears about Islam and terror.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on Fox & Friends to fearmonger about refugees and immigration, claiming that President Obama’s policy of “letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands” will lead to terror attacks “happen[ing] perhaps more and more all over the country.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to Trump and a Fox regular, exploited the attacks to call for surveilling the Muslim community, adding that it “is absolute nonsense” to say that going “into these communities” for that purpose is Islamophobic. Flynn suggested that heightened surveillance of Muslim communities doesn’t occur because of “political correctness” and that “political correctness kills. It will cause death.” Fox has a record of responding to terror attacks by pushing profiling and mosque surveillance, which have been found to beineffective and, according to the ACLU, lead to stigma, interference with religious worship, fear, free speech violation, and damaged relationships with law enforcement.
Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich claimed that the government is letting refugees come “into the country unvetted from terrorism hotspots all over the world,” even though the United States has a rigorous and stringent vetting process for refugees and immigrants.
Fox News consistently turns to fearmongering, anti-Muslim narratives after terror attacks, adopting racially charged rhetoric and recycling distorted lies about Muslims and refugees. Fox hosts and guests exploited theEuropean refugee crisis and used the Paris terrorist attacks to stoke fears about admitting refugees into America; conservatives used Fox to advocate for profiling Muslim Americans following the San Bernardino, CA, shooting; and right-wing pundits twisted the Brussels attack to whip up anti-Muslim fears.
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