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Does Trump Have The Balls To Throw Out The First Pitch?

In a recent episode of the TV series Madam Secretary, President Elizabeth McCord (played by actress Tia Leoni) has a nightmare about her scheduled appearance at a Mets-Cubs game to throw out the ceremonial first ball. She dreams that her errant pitch hits the Mr. Met mascot and she’s showered with boos from the fans at Citi Field in New York.

President Donald Trump has no doubt been having similar nightmares. Since becoming president, he’s declined to toss the first pitch on opening day or during the World Series. Trump likes to wear baseball caps adorned with the words “Make America Great Again” across the front. But offered a chance to wear a real major league baseball cap in a real baseball stadium, he’s balked.

In yet another break from tradition, Trump has declined an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first ball at the Washington Nationals’ opening day game in all three years of his presidency. Nor has he followed his predecessors’ custom of tossing the first pitch in the World Series.

Trump prefers to appear before crowds of loyal followers. Since he took office, his few appearances outside the White House have been highly orchestrated affairs where the audiences are vetted by the president’s operatives.

But this year, after much dilly-dallying, he promised to attend the fifth game of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, which will take place on Sunday at Nationals Park in D.C. Whether he would take the mound to throw out the first pitch was a matter of much chatter and debate. As late as Thursday, he told reporters in the Oval Office that he was not sure if he would throw out the first pitch. Then, on Friday night, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Trump had again demurred from participating in the first-pitch ritual. Recounting his conversation with Trump, Manfred said that the president would attend the game but had opted out of throwing the first pitch or making an on-field appearance.

“His view,” Manfred explained, “was that in order to make the fan experience as positive as possible, he would arrive at Game 5 sometime after the game began so it wouldn’t interfere with fans getting into the stadium. Quite frankly, we were very grateful for that. We thought it was a great decision on the President’s part.”

With the exception of Jimmy Carter, every president has tossed the first pitch on opening day at least once during their presidencies since William Howard Taft inaugurated the practice in 1910 at the Washington Senators’ Griffith Park. (There was no Major League team in Washington, D.C., when Carter was president, so he chose to throw out the first ball in the 1979 World Series).

These presidential outings have not been without controversy. Herbert Hoover was booed mercilessly when he showed up at Game 3 of the World Series between the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and the home team Philadelphia Athletics in 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression.   As reporter Joe Williams reported in the New York World-Telegram, the boos started slowly but then “grow in volume and pretty soon it seems almost everybody in the park is booing. They are booing the President of the United States.” Williams continued: “This must be the first time a President ever has been booed in public, and at a ball game of all places. There is something about a ball game that is supposed to make everybody kin and it’s a high honor to sit in on a ball game where the President becomes a fan, just as you and I.” But, according to baseball historian Marty Appel, neither the New York Times nor the Associated Press mentioned the baseball boo-birds. “All in all, it was a great day for the President,” the Times reported, in a story that one can only describe as fake news.

Trump is no doubt worried that, like Hoover, and like the fictional President Elizabeth McCord, he’d be greeted with a deafening chorus of boos as soon as he stepped onto the mound at Nationals Park. In 2016, 91 percent of Washington, D.C., voters supported Hillary Clinton over Trump. Voters in the suburban counties outside Washington, D.C., also gave Clinton landslide margins — 76 percent in Montgomery County, Maryland, 89 percent in Prince George’s County, Maryland, 76 percent in Arlington County, Virginia, and 63 percent in Fairfax County, Virginia.

In addition to the likely boos, Trump might have also been worried that he’d embarrass himself if he couldn’t hurl the ball from the pitchers’ mound to home plate, 60 feet-six inches away, or if he wound up and wildly flung the ball over the catcher’s head into the backstop. The video of his athletic misadventure would surely go viral. Whom could he blame for the humiliation? The groundskeepers for failing to properly manicure the mound? The workers who sew MLB’s baseballs in a sweatshop owned by Rawlings in Turrialba, Costa Rica?

That would be particularly embarrassing for a president who claims to be in excellent physical shape. As Trump watchers will recall, in December 2015, Trump’s personal physician Dr. Harold Bornstein wrote a letter indicating that “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Bornstein later revealed that Trump had “dictated the whole letter.”

Trump was a good athlete at his high school, New York Military Academy, but in typical style for this president, his excessive boasts about his prowess undermine his credibility. Trump bragged to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael D’Antonio, who wrote The Truth About Trump, that he was “the best baseball player in New York when I was young.” On April 3, 2013, Trump tweeted: “I played football and baseball, sorry, but said to be the best baseball player in New York state — ask coach Ted Dobias — said best he ever coached.” Interviewed in 2016 at age 90, Dobias recalled that Trump was a “good athlete,” but didn’t substantiate Trump’s hyperbole about his baseball skills. “I’d give him an 8 1/2 out of 10,” Dobias said.

During his days as a celebrity businessman, Trump threw out the first pitch at several major league games. The last time was in 2006 at Boston’s Fenway Park before a game between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Photos of that event reveal Trump with an awkward grimace, struggling to look athletic. In the 13 years since then, the 73-year old Trump has gained considerable weight. He doesn’t exercise and he follows a strict diet of unhealthy junk food.

Mark Lerner, now the Nationals’ principal owner and a big donor to Democratic candidates, was diplomatic about the president’s potential visit to the Nationals-Astros World Series game.

“Well, he has every right to come,” Lerner told the Washington Post on Friday night. “He’s the president of the United States whether you like him or not. It’s a special event. He should be at it.”

But Lerner disputed Commissioner Manfred’s chronology of events, insisting that he had already picked someone else to throw out the first ball at game five before Trump told Manfred that he wasn’t interested.

“The first pitches are our call, and we felt there are many other candidates that should be considered before [Trump],” Lerner told the Post.

Lerner said that he had already invited chef and humanitarian José Andrés to perform the task. Andrés, who is admired around the world for founding World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that serves meals to victims of natural disasters, has had a long-running feud with Trump. In 2016, he withdrew from plans to open a restaurant in Trump International Hotel in Washington, after then-candidate Trump’s racist comments about Mexican immigrants.

Later that year Andrés spoke at a “get out the vote” rally for Hillary Clinton rally in Tampa, Florida. After Trump took office, Andrés criticized his policies on immigration and his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Earlier this year, he opened a World Central Kitchen on Pennsylvania Avenue, not far from the White House, to feed federal workers who were furloughed during the government shutdown.

Lerner also said that once Trump arrives at Nationals Park, the president will sit with league officials rather than with him and other Nationals executives.

Mark Lerner took over control of the Nationals from his father Ted, who owned the team from 2006 until last year. Ted Lerner is a wealthy real estate developer who, like his son, donates to Democrats. Unlike the president, the older Lerner didn’t inherit his business empire. In 2015, accepting an award from the Urban Land Institute, Ted Lerner recalled that as a teenager, he worked as an usher at Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators, the Nationals’ predecessor.

“I never could’ve dreamed of owning a baseball team. And I never could’ve imagined over my life that I would build over 200 million square feet of commercial and residential space and that very few people would know my name. I guess I have a different approach to real-estate development than Donald Trump.”

In Madam Secretary, as President McCord starts walking onto the infield at Citi Field, she’s greeted with a smattering of boos, but reminds her nervous husband that “they’re just exercising their First Amendment rights.” When she gets to the mound, the Mets catcher is standing a few yards in front of home plate in order to make it easier for the president, but McCord – who had been practicing throwing a baseball in a White House hallway — insists that he get behind home plate, then throws a strike into his catcher’s mitt, and the crowd erupts in enthusiastic applause.

Through practice and perseverance, the fictional president turned her nightmare into a better reality. But our real president, too afraid to take the mound and face the fans, has turned our dreams into a nightmare.

 

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012). His next book, We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism – American Style, co-edited with Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin, will be published by The New Press in January 2020. 

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.

 

 

Why Joe And Mika Owe America An Apology

 Most media reports have portrayed Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski as aggrieved victims of Donald Trump’s Thursday Twitter tantrum. It can’t be pleasant to be attacked so personally by the president, but Scarborough and Brzezinski are fighting back. On their MSNBC show Morning Joe on Friday and in an op-ed column in the Washington Post titled “President Trump Is Not Well,” they chastised Trump for his vicious and vulgar attacks on her appearance, for referring to her as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and him as “Psycho Joe.” They denied Trump’s claim that she had plastic surgery and that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she and Scarborough visited Trump’s private club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida last year. They also levied a serious charge that Trump tried to blackmail them by threatening a negative story about the couple in the National Enquirer unless they asked Trump (who is close to the tabloid’s publisher David Pecker) to have the story killed.

America is aghast but hardly surprised by Trump’s latest social media assault. It is totally consistent with his regular attacks on women, his efforts to bully and intimidate his critics, and his narcissistic need to get revenge on anyone who does not swear uncompromising loyalty to him.

Understandably, Brzezinski and Scarborough are attracting lots of sympathy for being the targets of Trump’s vile comments. Democrats have used this episode to remind Americans about the president’s unhinged personality, his disrespect for women, and how he demeans the office and embarrasses the country with his crude and repugnant remarks. Republicans have been relatively tepid in rebuking Trump. They have sought to distance themselves from his comments against the influential MSNBC co-hosts and particularly his sexist remarks about Brzezinski, but not one Republican so far has proposed a motion in Congress to censure the president for this and other outrageous statements.

On air, Brzezinski said that, “I am very concerned about what this once again reveals about the president of the United States. It’s strange,” adding, “It does worry me about the country.” Scarborough pointed to the “alarming” pattern of Trump’s insults toward women. And in a tweet directed at Trump, Scarborough wrote, “Why do you keep lying about things that are so easily disproven? What is wrong with you?”

President Donald Trump is continuing his personal attacks on the anchors of Morning Joe. After facing criticism for a spat of Thursday tweets, the president continued to lash out at Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Twitter Saturday. From his New Jersey golf club, Trump wrote:

But Scarborough and Brzezinski are hardly emblems of journalistic integrity or political courage. Let’s not forget that the Morning Joe cohosts, particularly Scarborough (a former Republican Congressman from Florida), are partly responsible for Trump becoming president. They’ve known Trump for over a decade and were once among his biggest fans.

In late 2015 and 2016, when Trump’s campaign was gaining momentum, they defended him against his critics and offered him advice. For example, at an event at New York City’s 92nd Street Y in November 2015, Scarborough proudly recounted how he frequently called Trump to offer political guidance. Returning the bromance favor, in January 2016 Trump talked about Scarborough with Boston talk radio host Howie Carr. “He’s a great guy, and he has a great show … and we have a lot of fun,” Trump said. After Trump won the New Hampshire primary in February 2016, Trump appeared on Morning Joe and told the co-hosts: “You guys have been supporters, and I really appreciate it.”

A few days later, CNN reported that MSNBC officials were concerned about “Scarborough’s friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.” According to CNN, MSNBC insiders called Scarborough’s admiration for Trump “over the top” and “unseemly.” The Washington Post observed that Trump received “a tremendous degree of warmth from the show,” and that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often felt like “a cozy social club.”

That coziness was caught on tape during an MSNBC town hall with Trump in New York that Scarborough and Brzezinski hosted in February 2016. An unaired clip of banter between Brzezinski and Trump between segments revealed the two of them colluding about what questions she’d ask him. “Nothing too hard, Mika,” Trump says. “OK,” she responded.

Even after Trump’s most disgusting and troublesome traits were revealed to the entire country throughout the campaign – his abuse of women, his attacks on Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, and people with disabilities, his profound ignorance of basic issues and government policy, and the corruption and scandals surrounding Trump University and the Trump foundation – Scarborough (and to a lesser extent Brzezinski) continued to lend Trump their support.

Trump and Scarborough’s relationship was a bromance of convenience. Trump got sympathetic coverage. Scarborough got inside information and frequent interviews that boosted “Morning Joe’s” ratings. But inevitably the two big egos clashed, with Brzezinski (slightly more liberal but less outspoken than her partner) collateral damage.

During the spring and summer, however, the relationship waxed hot and cold. In June, for example, Scarborough blasted Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders for endorsing Trump despite his “racist statements.” He warned Republicans that if they don’t “back away from those endorsements” they will “lose your standing as a national party.” That month Scarborough also said that Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric “sounds a lot like Nazi Germany” and that Trump’s suggestion that Barack Obama was complicit in the shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub was “beyond breathtaking.”

In July, however, Scarborough parroted Trump’s criticism of FBI director James Comey for not recommending criminal charges against Clinton. After Trump gave a speech in Ohio that month, Brzezinski said that the candidate “got his groove back,” while Scarborough claimed that Trump looked “re-energized” and asked, “Is this guy really 70 years old?” On July 27, a week after Trump won the GOP nomination, however, Scarborough slammed Trump’s views on Russia. “He’s been an apologist for Vladimir Putin for a very long time,” he remarked, adding that Trump’s raise of Putin was “disqualifying.” By the end of July, Scarborough was calling on Republican leaders to “cut [Trump] loose.” But in August, reversing course, Scarborough backed Trump’s false claim that he had opposed the Iraq war.

In September, the couple met with the GOP nominee at Trump Tower to “rekindle” their relationship, according to CNN. After that meeting, they fawned over Trump for the next six months. They defended Trump’s call for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail to disarm, his ugly comments on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and reports that he misused his charitable foundation to support his private businesses. After polls revealed the Trump lost his first two debates with Clinton, they defended his performance and questioned the polling results. Scarborough argued that Trump’s shouldn’t be judged by normal debate standards. He even declared that debate moderators don’t need to fact-check statements made by the candidates – clearly a defense of Trump’s long-distance relationship with the truth.

At a September press event, Trump falsely claimed that Clinton had “started the birther controversy” (about Obama’s birthplace) but that he (Trump) had “finished it.” On their September 19 show, Brzezinski called on Trump to apologize for his long “birther” crusade but Scarborough quickly dismissed her comment. (This was not the first time that he publicly treated her with disdain and disrespect. He once told her, on air, that her political analysis “means nothing” because she is a Democrat).

In October, after the New York Times reported that Trump may have avoided paying federal income taxes for almost 20 years, Brzezinski came to his defense, claiming that he was “brilliant” for bragging how he had exploited the tax code to his advantage. Scarborough lashed out at journalists who criticized Trump for refusing to say if would accept the election results if he lost.

After Trump won the election, the duo continued to defend him, while Scarborough continued to give him advice during the transition. When Trump picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scarborough insisted that “I just know” that Trump “has to believe” in climate science. After Kellyanne Conway got a top White House job, she thanked Brzezinski for her “counsel and friendship.”

The MSNBC couple attended Trump’s New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago. Once Trump took office, he solidified his relationship with them. Scarborough bragged how he and Brzezinski have “known and have been friends with Donald Trump for a decade,” praising him as “the master of many things.”

By April, however, the duo stopped their love affair with the new president. While hardly joining the ranks of the “resistance” movement, their comments became more and more negative. As Trump became increasingly mired in scandal, Scarborough criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris environmental accords, which, he said, risked alienating China, India, and the U.S. business community. In May, Brzezinski bluntly stated, “This presidency is failing day by day by day through lies.” They began questioning Trump’s mental health.

In early June, while discussing Trump’s tweet rampages, including his attack on London’s mayor following a terrorist attack in that city, Scarborough observed, “There is not a sane rational human being who would have tweeted what he tweeted.”

Trump clearly took this about-face as a personal betrayal. Not unexpectedly, he overreacted and began attacking them via Twitter, even while falsely claiming that he rarely watched their show. Thursday’s Twitter tantrum was the latest, most personal, and most vulgar of his rants, but it was hardly out of character.

On Friday, the day after Trump’s attack, Scarborough said, “The guy that’s in the White House now is not the guy we knew two years ago.” Brzezinski agreed: “Not even close.”

That’s a lie.

People who have followed Trump’s career for years have remarked about his megalomania, vanity, need for flattery, hunger for adulation, nasty temper, thirst for revenge, instinct for humiliating his critics, sexist attitudes and abuse of women, racism, insistence on total fidelity, willingness to toss overboard anyone who fails his test of loyalty, and ignorance of history and current events. Scarborough and Brzezinski, who’ve known Trump for over a decade, had to be willfully oblivious to avoid seeing the true Trump.

All of Trump’s traits that they now find so objectionable were clearly on display last year when they embraced him and his campaign. They chose to ignore the obvious. Whether they wanted to get closer to power, out of personal loyalty, or (in Scarborough’s case) partisan allegiance, they helped normalize Trump even while he was violating every standard of decency expected of a presidential candidate and a president, while putting the nation at risk with his chaotic and impulsive behavior and unsteady leadership.

It is good that Scarborough and Brzezinski have finally recognized, or at least publicly admitted, that Trump is unfit to be president. If their recent critiques of Trump are the result of buyer’s remorse, a mea culpa for their previous fealty, atoning for past sins, or simply jumping off a sinking ship – well, better late than never.

But we shouldn’t forget or forgive them for helping this vile man become our nation’s president. We are reaping the consequences of their poor judgement and their unwillingness to speak truth to power. They should apologize to the American people.

Taunting Trump: How The Campaign To ‘Not Normalize’ Donald Is Driving Him Crazy

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

“Resistance” comes in many forms. In discussions about how to deal with the fear and alarm ignited by Donald Trump, no word has been used more frequently than “normalize.” Democrats and progressives engage in almost daily protest rallies to defy Trump’s agenda. But perhaps the most successful component of the anti-Trump movement has been its willingness to challenge his legitimacy.

The popular slogan and hashtag “#Not My President” doesn’t mean that people think the November election results were rigged, but that Trump’s Electoral Vote majority doesn’t translate into a popular mandate and that his views and policies don’t reflect the popular will. The anti-Trump movement refuses to “normalize” a president whom they view as an authoritarian, even a neo-fascist, who violates that basic norms of democracy and the rule of law. By poking fun at Trump and exposing his narcissism, conflicts-of-interest, and pathological lies, his opponents are undermining his credibility and destabilizing his presidency as much as any marches and demonstrations.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted February 18-22 found that Trump’s job approval rating stood at just 44 percent — a record low for a newly inaugurated president. Only 34 percent of Americans considered Trump to be honest and trustworthy. Just 18 percent said Trump had the proper temperament to be president, while 55 percent ranked his temperament as poor. A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted March 16-21 found that Trump’s approval rating had dipped even further – to just 37 percent. Particularly worrying for Trump is that is support among his base is slipping. In the past two weeks – in the midst of controversies over Trump’s ties to Russia and his claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower — approval among Republicans dropped from 91 to 81 percent. Among white voters it declined from 49 to 44 percent. The support among men dropped from 49 to 43 per cent.

The effort to not normalize Trump isn’t a conspiracy. It involves separate but overlapping components that, when viewed together, reflect a powerful effort to withhold from Trump the things he craves most: public approval and esteem.

Entertainment: Five nights a week, CBS “Late Night” host Stephen Colbert mocks Trump with jokes that depict him as a bumbling buffoon. Comedians Bill Maher, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver taunt Trump on a weekly basis, with no pretense to be even-handed. “Saturday Night Live’s” sketches eviscerate Trump each week, none more than Alec Baldwin’s uncanny impersonation and acerbic barbs directed at the Trump.

Trump can’t stand the stings. In December, Trump tweeted: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.” In January, five days before his inauguration, Trump still couldn’t contain himself, tweeting: “@NBCNews is bad but Saturday Night Live is the worst of NBC. Not funny, cast is terrible, always a complete hit job. Really bad television!” These reactions expose his inability to laugh at himself, a characteristic of all narcissists.

This year’s Golden Globes, Grammy, and Oscar award shows included fusillades of scorn directed at the 45th president. Meryl Streep’s six minute condemnation of the president at the Sunday night Golden Globe ceremony—without once mentioning his name—so got under Trump’s skin that in a series of tweets before dawn Monday, he called Streep, who has more Academy Award nominations than any other actor in history, “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood”— a gesture that revealed the magnitude of his vanity and the thinness of his skin.

At the Grammy awards, several artists used their time on stage to rebuke Trump. Pop star Katy Perry, not known as a political performer, debuted a new song, “Chained to the Rhythm,” wearing a white pants suit (in honor of Hillary Clinton) and an armband with the word “Persist” on it (in honor of Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced by Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell), while telling the audience “No hate!” The hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest performed “We the People” while Busta Rhymes said, “I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States. I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban.” While a sign saying “No Wall No Ban” flashed in the background, rapper Q-Tip joined them on stage holding the hand of a young woman wearing a hijab – a straightforward attack on Trump’s anti-Muslim policies.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, the rock band Green Day released its music video for their “Troubled Times.” It features an animated Trump-like figure wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat while spewing hateful rhetoric, images of the Ku Klux Klan, scenes from the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, and contemporary protesters holding signs that read “Make America Hate Again” and “No Border Wall.” The video ends when someone pushes a red button and the screen morphs into a mushroom cloud.

The Media: In his previous gig as the host of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Colbert coined the word “truthiness” not only to mock Fox News’ claim to be “fair and balanced” but also to jab at the mainstream media for trying its traditional “he said/she said” approach to reporting in which all claims are given equal weight, regardless of their validity.

Since Trump took office, the mainstream media have become bolder about calling out his lies and distortions. Now, the media is prepared to challenge Trump’s comments that are outright falsehoods. Rather than simply report what Trump says—making journalists little more than transcribers—the media have increasingly questioned the veracity of president’s statements, starting with his claim that the crowds at his inauguration were the largest in history.

After Trump said (during a January 11 press conference) that the public doesn’t care about his tax records, the media reported on a new Pew poll revealing that two-thirds of Americans want the president to release his returns. When Trump claimed that he had received more electoral votes than any Republican since Ronald Reagan, the media quickly reported that he was wrong.

On January 23, following Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if three million people hadn’t voted illegally, the headline on the New York Times front-page story read: “Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers.” In the past, the Times might have headed the article “Trump Repeats Assertion” or “Trump Repeats Claim” but in an unprecedented move, it called a lie a lie. Having broken that barrier, the Times headline writers were free to tell the unmitigated truth. In March, after Trump tweeted that Obama had ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower, the headline in the next day’s Times read “Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones.” The Washington Post headlined its story, “Trump, citing no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower.”

After the nation’s two leading papers changed the norms of journalism, other news outlets felt more comfortable doing so.

The Chicago Tribune and Washington Post have each initiated regular columns devoted to fact-checking Trump’s statements and exposing his lies. The media watchdog site Politifact has been working overtime to keep track of the validity of Trump’s assertions. It has discovered that through mid-March, 70 percent of Trump’s statements were “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” outright lies.

Since Trump’s inauguration, the media has ratcheted up its investigative reporting about Trump’s business empire, his ties to Russia, and the right-wing affiliations, regulatory abuses, and outlandish views of many of his cabinet nominees and advisors. NPR, for example, created a team devoted to covering Trump’s conflicts of interest. Media coverage of Trump’s links to Putin and Russian businesses has put the president on the defensive since he took the oath of office.

At a March 13 press briefing, NBC’s Pete Alexander got into a heated exchange with Trump spokesperson Sean Spicer, raising questions about Trump tweeting things without proof “When should Americans trust the president?” Alexander asked Spicer. “Should they trust the president, is it phony or real when he says President Obama was wiretapping him?”

Trump’s twitter tirades reveal that by doing its job, the media are getting under his thin skin. At 6:40 am on February 15, for example, Trump tweeted: “The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!” Forty minutes later, he was back on twitter, proclaiming: “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.” Two days later he tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” The following week he was still fulminating on the same topic: “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!”

Sports: But it isn’t only the liberal entertainment and media institutions that are challenging Trump’s legitimacy. In February six members of the New England Patriots said they wouldn’t accompany their teammates to the White House later this year, where the Super Bowl champions will be honored by Trump. Also in February, Baltimore Orioles Vice President John Angelos announced that he would refuse to allow Trump to throw out the opening game ball.

This year’s Super Bowl featured commercials promoting diversity and tolerance – a not very subtle criticism of Trump’s attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and others. Budweiser’s commercial eulogized its founder, Adolphus Busch, an immigrant from Germany, who was told, upon reaching this country, that he was “not wanted here.” Coca-Cola’s ad revealed a montage of young Americans singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages, with the tagline,. “Together Is Beautiful.” The ad for 84 Lumber, a little-known construction supplies firm, showed a Hispanic mother and daughter making their way north to the U.S. border, where they encountered a large wall. It’s A 10, a hair-product company, warned viewers that we’re “in for four years of awful hair.”

Consumer Boycotts: Some activist groups are directly going after Trump’s corporate allies and even trying to undermine Trump’s own business empire. Last year Color of Change initiated a campaign to persuade corporations not to sponsor the Republican convention. A number of the big firms – including Coca Cola and Microsoft – backed out in response to the pressure campaign.

This year, Color of Change, MoveOn and several other groups launched an anti-Trump social media campaign, #GrabYourWallet, which is urging consumers to boycott corporations with ties to the Trump. Its website listed companies owned by the Trumps or that are actively supporting or doing business with the Trump family. It not only targeted Trump’s golf courses and hotels, but also stores that stocked Trump-branded merchandise, including Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing and shoes and companies that advertise on the Celebrity Apprentice television show, that Trump is still executive producer of. This boycott list includes Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Zappos, Bloomingdales, Bon-Ton, Burlington Coat Factory, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Dillards, Neiman Marcus, Sears and T.J. Maxx.

The #GrabYourWallet activists have also targeted the CEOs who sit on Trump’s business advisory council. The first domino to fall was Uber. A separate online petition sponsored by the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents nearly 50,000 Uber drivers in New York City, called on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to resign, saying that Uber was built on a “foundation of hard work by immigrant workers.” In early February, for the first time in its history, downloads of Uber’s app on iOS were surpassed by those of its chief competitor, Lyft. A few days later, Kalanick resigned from the president’s business advisory council. The group’s next targets include Disney, Tesla, Wal-Mart, and Pepsi, whose CEOs also sit on Trump’s business group.

Yale students, alumni, and faculty are currently pressuring the university to give back a $150 million gift from alumnus Stephen Schwarzman, chair of the private-equity Blackstone Group, who is serving as chair of Trump’s business advisory group.

A new online group, Sleeping Giant, targeted consumer-oriented companies that advertised on Breitbart News, the right-wing white supremacist website run, until last year, by Steve Bannon, who chaired Trump’s campaign and is now his chief political advisor. The tech-savvy Sleeping Giant activists created a Twitter account that allowed consumers to send screenshots to companies who might have been unaware that their ads were appearing next to Breitbart’s offensive content.

Over 1,000 companies – including Allstate, Kellogs, Air Canada, and Nike — dropped their ads on the Breitbart site. So did AARP, Duke University and other advertisers that unwittingly found that their brand was being promoted on the toxic propaganda site.

Closer to Trump’s home, Nordstrom – the nationwide department store – told his daughter Ivanka that it would no longer sell her clothing line. The company claimed that it did so because the brand wasn’t selling, not make a political statement, but the president wasn’t buying it.

“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom,” Trump tweeted in February. “She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”

Mental Health Professionals: The comedians’ ridicule, the Super Bowl ads, the criticism by sports figures, and the attacks on Trump’s corporate allies and his daughter’s own business operation not only contribute to Trump’s declining favorability, polls show, but also drives Trump crazy.

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the constant ridicule directed at Trump brings to the surface or deepens his existing mental instability. In fact, a growing number of major news outlets, as well as the Columbia Journalism Review, have run columns, new stories, and broadcast segments interviewing psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who raise questions about Trump’s emotional health, sanity, and fitness to serve as president.

In 1964, opponents of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mocked his slogan, “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right,” with a slogan of their own, “”In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts.” That year, a magazine called Fact published a poll of 2,417 psychiatrists, the majority of whom said that Goldwater was “psychologically unfit” to be president. In addition to the survey, the magazine published 38 pages of psychiatrists’ comments, which including calling Goldwater a dangerous lunatic,” “paranoid” a “counterfeit figure,” and “emotionally too unstable,” as well as saying that he had an “impulsive quality” and a “Godlike self-image.”

In response, the American Psychiatric Association revised its code of ethics, saying that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person. It became known ever since as the “Goldwater rule.”

Since then, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have been wary of diagnosing presidential candidates and presidents. But this year, many of them decided to break the Goldwater rule and talk publicly about the condition of Trump’s mind.

Last month, for example, 33 prominent mental health experts signed an open letter to the New York Times warning that Trump’s mental state “makes him incapable of serving safely as president.” Trump’s “words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize,” they wrote. They noted his tendency to “distort reality” to fit his “personal myth of greatness.” The added that “Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions.” Their letter warns that Trump’s “grave emotional instability” makes him “incapable of serving safely as president.”

Explaining why they decided to break from the Goldwater rule, the mental health professions explained that “This silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.”

The letter to the Times reflects the growing willingness of mental health professionals to make public statements, including interviews with the news media, about Trump’s psychological condition and his fitness to be president.

Of course, it is impossible to assess the impact of all this ridicule and lampooning of Trump on public opinion. The accumulation of mockery may simply reinforce existing views of the president rather than change minds. Trump haters enjoy the scorn because it confirms their assessment. Trump supporters ignore the taunts or view them as evidence of the condescension of the bi-coastal liberal elite. But for Americans in the middle, the constant bombardment of anti-Trump satire, investigate reporting about his business failings and corruption, and the exposure of his penchant for lying can only serve to lead them to question Trump’s fitness for the job.

One challenge for the anti-Trump resistance movement is to raise the political costs for Republicans who remain loyal to the president and his unpopular policies. Typically, when a president’s poll numbers plummet, members of his party in Congress seek to distance themselves from his agenda.

In normal times, Trump’s sinking credibility would undermine his ability to advance his policy ideas and inflict harm on Republicans in the House and Senate running for re-election next year. But, as we’re learning about Trump, nothing about him is normal.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Donald Trump

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Asked to explain his political views, Theodor Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss — once said that he was “against people who push other people around.” Were he alive today, he would surely be using his sharp pen to make fun of Donald Trump.

On March 2, tens of millions of children and their parents read Dr. Seuss books as part of Read Across America Day, sponsored by the National Educational Association (NEA) in partnership with local school districts and some businesses. The NEA, which started the program 20 years ago to encourage reading, was smart to tie the program to Dr. Seuss, who remains — 26 years after his death — the world’s most popular writer of modern children’s books.

As kids and as parents, most Americans know all about The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, and many others of Seuss’s colorful characters and stories. What some may not know is that despite his popular image as a kindly cartoonist for kids, Geisel was also a political progressive whose views permeate his children’s tales. Many of his books use ridicule, satire, wordplay, nonsense words, and wild drawings to take aim at bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues. Trump would have been an easy target for Geisel’s artistic outrage and moralistic mockery.

His popular children’s books included parables about racism, anti-Semitism, the arms race, corporate greed, and the environment. But, equally important, he used his pen to encourage youngsters to challenge bullies and injustice. Many Dr. Seuss books are about the misuse of power — by despots, kings, and other rulers, including the sometimes arbitrary authority of parents.

In a university lecture in 1947 — a decade before the civil rights movement — Geisel urged would-be writers to avoid the racist stereotypes common in children’s books. America “preaches equality but doesn’t always practice it,” he noted. Generations of progressive activists may not trace their political views to their early exposure to Dr. Seuss, but without doubt this shy, brilliant genius played a role in sensitizing them to abuses of power.

In several early books — including The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938), The King’s Stilts (1939), and Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949) — Geisel made fun of the pretension, foolishness, and arbitrary power of kings.

In 1941, Geisel became an editorial cartoonist for the left-wing New York City daily newspaper PM. Fervently pro-New Deal, PM included sections devoted to unions, women’s issues, and civil rights. Geisel sharpened his political views as well as his artistry and his gift for humor at PM, where he drew over 400 cartoons.

Before many Americans were aware of the calamity confronting Europe’s Jews, Geisel — a Lutheran who grew up in a tight-knit German American community in Springfield, Massachusetts — drew editorial cartoons for PM that warned readers about Hitler and anti-Semitism, and attacked the “America First” isolationists who turned a blind eye to the rise of fascism and the Holocaust. Trump adopted “America First” as one of his campaign themes.

His PM cartoons viciously but humorously attacked Hitler and Mussolini. He bluntly criticized isolationists who opposed American entry into the war, especially the famed aviator (and Hitler booster) Charles Lindbergh, right-wing radio priest Father Charles Coughlin, and Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota. Trump has rekindled anti-Semitism, nativism, and isolationism with his bombastic and hateful rhetoric.

Through his PM drawings, Geisel was one of the few editorial voices to decry the U.S. military’s racial segregation policies. He used his cartoons to challenge racism at home against Jews and blacks, union-busting, and corporate greed, which he thought divided the country and hurt the war effort. Geisel would have used his pen to remind his audience about the vicious anti-union campaign that Trump waged at his Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas and his campaign comments about lowering America’s minimum wage in order to compete with China and other foreign countries.

After World War II, Geisel occasionally submitted cartoons to publications, such as a 1947 drawing, published in the New Republic, depicting Uncle Sam looking in horror at Americans accusing each other of being communists and disloyal Americans, a clear statement of Geisel’s anger at the nation’s right-wing Red Scare hysteria, which soon spiraled into McCarthyism. Geisel would surely have dipped into his inkwell to lambast Trump’s outrageous “birther” accusations questioning President Obama’s loyalty and American citizenship, which fueled Trump’s campaign for president.

Geisel devoted almost his entire post-war career to writing children’s books and quickly became a well-known and commercially successful author — thanks in part to the post-war baby boom. He was popular with parents, kids, and critics alike.

His 1954 book, Horton Hears a Who!, was written during the McCarthy era. It features Horton the Elephant, who befriends tiny creatures (the “Whos”) whom he can’t see, but whom he can hear, thanks to his large ears. Horton rallies his neighbors to protect the endangered Who community. Horton agrees to protect the Whos, observing, in one of Geisel’s most famous lines, “even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The other animals ridicule Horton for believing in something that they can’t see or hear, but he remains loyal to the Whos. Horton urges the Whos to join together to make a big enough sound so that the jungle animals can hear them. That can happen, however, only if Jo-Jo, the “smallest of all” the Whos, speaks out. He has a responsibility to add his voice to save the entire community. Eventually he does so, and the Whos survive.

The book is a parable about protecting the rights of minorities, urging “big” people to resist bigotry and indifference toward “small” people, and the importance of individuals (particularly “small” ones) speaking out against injustice. A reviewer for the Des Moines Register hailed it as a “rhymed lesson in protection of minorities and their rights.” It isn’t difficult to imagine that Geisel would have a lot to say, and draw, about Trump’s track record of discriminating against African Americans in his apartment buildings — a practice that led to a lawsuit filed against Trump by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the federal Fair Housing Act — or his ongoing attacks on immigrants and Muslims.

Geisel’s finest rendition of his progressive views is found in Yertle the Turtle (1958). Yertle, king of the pond, stands atop his subjects in order to reach higher than the moon, indifferent to the suffering of those beneath him. In order to be “ruler of all that I see,” Yertle stacks up his subjects so he can reach higher and higher. Mack, the turtle at the very bottom of the pile, says:

Your Majesty, please / I don’t like to complain

But down here below / We are feeling great pain

I know up on top / You are seeing great sights

But down at the bottom / We, too, should have rights.

Yertle just tells Mack to shut up. Frustrated and angry, Mack burps, shaking the carefully piled turtles, and Yertle falls into the mud. His rule ends and the turtles celebrate their freedom.

The story is clearly about Hitler’s thirst for power. But Geisel is also saying that ordinary people can overthrow unjust rulers if they understand their own power. The story’s final line reflects Geisel’s democratic and anti-authoritarian political outlook:

And turtles, of course … all the turtles are free

As turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be.

Geisel would no doubt make fun of Trump’s lust for fame and power and his climb to the top of his real estate empire on the backs of his employees — waiters, dishwashers, and plumbers, among others — and contractors whom he stiffed by failing to pay them for services they rendered. Geisel would also find much to criticize regarding Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his outrageous megalomania.

The Sneetches (1961), inspired by the Protestant Geisel’s opposition to anti-Semitism, exposes the absurdity of racial and religious bigotry. Sneetches are yellow bird-like creatures. Some Sneetches have a green star on their belly. They are the “in” crowd and they look down on Sneetches who lack a green star, who are the outcasts. One day a “fix-it-up” chap named McBean appears with some strange machines. He offers the star-less Sneetches an opportunity to get a star by going through his “star on” machine, for three dollars each. This angers the star-bellied Sneetches, who no longer have a way to display their superiority. But McBean tells them that for ten dollars, they can use his “star off” machine, ridding themselves of their stars and thus, once again, differentiating themselves from the outcast group.

The competition escalates as McBean persuades each Sneetch group to run from one machine to the other “until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew / Whether this one was that one or that one was this one / Or which one was what one or what one was who.”

Eventually both groups of Sneetches run out of money. After McBean leaves, all the Sneetches realize that neither the plain-belly nor the star-belly Sneetch is superior. The story is an obvious allegory about racism and discrimination, clearly inspired by the yellow stars that the Nazis required Jews to wear on their clothing to identify them as Jewish.

Were he alive now, Geisel would surely object to the similar ideas emanating from Trump during his campaign — including his anti-Semitic tweet depicting a Jewish star surrounded by dollar bills and his inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims, Mexicans, and people with physical disabilities. Nor is it difficult to imagine that Geisel would have a lot to say, and draw, about Trump’s failure to mention Jews when he issued a proclamation about Holocaust Remembrance Day, and his unwillingness to condemn recent hate crimes targeted at Jewish cemeteries, community centers, and day schools until he was pressured to do so.

Geisel’s The Lorax (1971) appeared as the environmental movement was just emerging, less than a year after the first Earth Day. He later called it “straight propaganda”— a polemic against pollution — but it also contains some of his most creative made-up words, like “cruffulous croak” and “smogulous smoke.”

The book opens with a small boy listening to the Once-ler tell the story of how the area was once full of Truffula trees and Bar-ba-loots and was home to the Lorax. But the greedy Once-ler — clearly a symbol of business — cuts down all the trees to make thneeds, which “everyone, everyone, everyone needs.” The lakes and the air become polluted, there is no food for the animals, and it becomes an unlivable place. The fuzzy yellow Lorax (who speaks for the trees, “for the trees have no tongues”) warns the Once-ler about the devastation he’s causing, but his words are ignored.

The Once-ler cares only about making more things and more money. “Businesss is business! / And business must grow,” he says. At the end, surveying the devastation he has caused, the Once-ler shows some remorse, telling the boy: “Unless someone like you / cares a whole awful lot / nothing is going to get better / It’s not.”

The Lorax is an attack on corporate greed — a trait that Geisel would certainly recognize in Donald Trump, along with his denials of global warming, his pledge to expand the use of coal to generate electricity, his attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency, and his pledge (during his speech to Congress this week) to weaken environmental regulations.

In 1984, Geisel produced The Butter Battle Book, another strong statement about a pending catastrophe, in this case the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, fueled by President Reagan’s Cold War rhetoric. “I’m not anti-military,” Geisel told a friend at the time, “I’m just anti-crazy.” It is a parable about the dangers of the political strategy of “mutually assured destruction” brought on by the escalation of nuclear weapons.

In this book, Geisel’s satirical gifts are on full display. The cause of the senseless war is a trivial conflict over toast. The battle is between the Yooks and the Zooks, who don’t realize that they are more alike than different, because they live on opposite sides of a long wall. The Yooks eat their bread with the butter-side up, while the Zooks eat their bread with the butter-side down. They compete to make bigger and better weapons until both sides invent a destructive bomb (the “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo”) that, if used, will kill both sides. Like The Lorax, there is no happy ending or resolution. As the story ends, the generals on both sides of the wall are poised to drop their bombs. It is hard for even the youngest reader to miss Geisel’s point.

Geisel would surely poke fun at Trump’s cavalier and bombastic attitude toward nuclear weapons as well as his proposal, announced at his speech to Congress this week, to increase the Defense Department budget by $54 billion.

Geisel wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books characterized by memorable rhymes, whimsical characters, and exuberant drawings that encouraged generations of children to love reading and expand their vocabularies. His books have been translated into more than fifteen languages and sold over 200 million copies.

His books consistently reveal his sympathy with the weak and the powerless and his fury against bullies and despots. His books teach children to think about how to deal with an unfair world. Rather than instruct them, Geisel invited his young readers to consider what they should do when faced with injustice. Geisel believed children could understand these moral questions, but only rarely did he portray them in overtly political terms. Instead, he wrote, “when we have a moral, we try to tell it sideways.”

Although Trump has been subject to much criticism and satire by columnists, editorial writers, TV pundits, and comedians, as well as Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, no cartoonist has been able to scrutinize and ridicule his bullying and buffoonery the way Geisel dissected the despots and blowhards of his era. We could surely use Geisel’s voice — and his pen — since Trump took office.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College.

IMAGE: Ron Ellis / Shutterstock.com

Another Trump Lie: ‘I’m Smart’

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The only two words Donald Trump has uttered more frequently than “you’re fired” are “I’m smart.”

He did it again Saturday during his visit to CIA headquarters. Trump’s handlers staged the event so he could demonstrate his full support for the agency (despite spending the past year bashing the nation’s intelligence community), and to divert media attention away from the tens of thousands of Americans who had come to Washington, D.C. that day to protest Trump’s presidency. But Trump’s scripted remarks turned into a rambling rant that included attacks on the media and his insistence that as many as 1.5 million people attended his inauguration (photos revealed no more than 250,000).

In the middle of his tirade, Trump felt the need to tell the nation’s top spies that he is a bright guy.

“Trust me,” Trump said, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Last month Trump repeated those same words while explaining why he’ll be the first president since Harry Truman to avoid getting daily updates from intelligence professionals about national security threats.

“I’m, like, a smart person,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

Trump has repeated that claim many times. Each time, it isn’t clear if he’s trying to convince his interviewer or himself.

In 2004, in an interview with CNN, Trump said, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I got very good marks. I was a good student. It’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

In 2011, in an interview with ABC, Trump said: “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country,” referring once again to Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968.

“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” he said during a speech in Phoenix in July 2015. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”

In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press in August 2015, Trump described Wharton as “probably the hardest there is to get into.” He added, “Some of the great business minds in the world have gone to Wharton.” He also observed: “Look, if I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time. The super genius of all time.”

During a CNN-sponsored Republican town hall in Columbia, South Carolina last February, Trump reminded the audience that he had gone to Wharton and then repeated his boast: “Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person.”

Anyone who feels compelled to boast about how smart he is clearly suffers from a profound insecurity about his intelligence and accomplishments. In Trump’s case, he has good reason to have doubts.

Trump has the kind of street smarts (what he calls “gut instinct”) characteristic of con artists and hucksters, but his limited vocabulary, short attention span, ignorance of policy specifics, indifference to scientific evidence, and admitted aversion to reading raise questions about his intellectual abilities; his capacity to absorb and analyze information and ideas.

Many observers have noted that Trump has a difficult time expressing himself and speaking in complete sentences. A linguistic analysis by Politico found that Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level. A study by researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University compared last year’s Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in terms of their vocabulary and grammar. Trump scored at a fifth-grade level, the lowest of all the candidates.

Some might suspect this is not an intellectual shortcoming but instead Trump’s calculated way of communicating with a wide audience. But Tony Schwartz, who spent a great deal of time with the real estate developer while ghostwriting his book The Art of the Dealnoted that Trump has a very limited vocabulary.

It would hardly be surprising if these observations infuriated the vain and insecure Trump. Trump’s persistent insults directed toward anyone who disagrees with him also suggest his deep insecurity. Before, during and since his presidential campaign, Trump has constantly denigrated his opponents and detractors, among them actresses Rosie O’Donnell, Cher, and Meryl Streep, civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, businessman Mark Cuban, GOP political operatives Karl Rove and Ana Navarro, NBC’s Chuck Todd, Jeb Bush, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and conservative columnist George Will.

Trump considers all of these people “losers.” It turns out that this is one of Trump’s favorite words. An archive of Trump’s Twitter account since 2009 found that he used the word “loser” 234 times. His other favorite insults include “dumb” or “dummy” (222 tweets), “terrible” (202), “stupid” (182), “weak” (154), and “dope” (115).

For example, on May 8, 2013, Trump tweeted: “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”

On Sept. 26, 2014, nine months before he announced his candidacy for the White House, Trump tweeted: “I wonder if I run for PRESIDENT, will the haters and losers vote for me knowing that I will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? I say they will!”

Last September 17 — after CNN anchors criticized Trump for promising a “big announcement” to get the media to come to an event, only to use the moment to tout his new hotel and then invite several military figures onstage to praise him — Trump had another Twitter tantrum: “CNN just doesn’t get it, and that’s why their ratings are so low — and getting worse. Boring anti-Trump panelists, mostly losers.”

In contrast to his attacks on “losers,” Trump frequently retweets comments from others congratulating him for how “smart” he is.

Only someone who secretly doubts his own intelligence would feel compelled to make these kinds of public statements.

Trump surely knows he didn’t get into Wharton on his own merits. He transferred into Wharton’s undergraduate program after spending two years at Fordham University in New York. According to Gwenda Blair’s 2001 biography, The Trumps, Trump’s grades at Fordham were not good enough to qualify him for a transfer to Wharton. Blair wrote that Trump got into Wharton as a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who knew Trump’s older brother, Freddy. The college’s admissions staff surely knew that Trump’s father was a wealthy real estate developer and a potential donor.

Moreover, Trump has for years exaggerated his academic accomplishments at Wharton. On at least two occasions in the 1970s, the New York Times reported that Trump “graduated first in his class” at Wharton in 1968. That’s not true. The dean’s list for his graduation year, published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper, doesn’t include Trump’s name. He has refused to release his grade transcripts from his college days.

It is likely that Trump was the original source for that falsehood, but it isn’t entirely clear, since neither Times article attributes it directly to him. But the fabrication that Trump was first in his class has been repeated in many other articles and books about Trump, so he clearly knew it was out there in the public domain and has never bothered to correct it.

“He was not in any kind of leadership. I certainly doubt he was the smartest guy in the class,” Steve Perelman, a classmate of Trump’s at Wharton, told the Daily Pennsylvanian in 2015.

Trump’s insecurity about his accomplishments is also revealed in his efforts to portray himself as a self-made entrepreneur.

“It has not been easy for me,” Trump said at a town hall meeting on October 26, 2015, acknowledging, “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

At a news conference last year, Trump repeated the same story: “I got a very, very small loan from my father many years ago. I built that into a massive empire and I paid my father back that loan.”

An investigation by the Washington Post in March demolished Trump’s claim that he made it on his own. Not only did Trump’s multi-millionaire father Fred provide Donald with a huge inheritance, and set up big-bucks trust accounts to provide his son with a steady income, Fred was also a silent partner in Trump’s first real estate projects. According to the Post:

“Trump’s father — whose name had been besmirched in New York real estate circles after investigations into windfall profits and other abuses in his real estate projects — was an essential silent partner in Trump’s initiative. In effect, the son was the front man, relying on his father’s connections and wealth, while his father stood silently in the background to avoid drawing attention to himself.”

Fred Trump’s real estate fortune was hardly due to his faith in the free market, but instead stemmed from his reliance on government subsidies. He made his money building middle-class apartments financed by the Federal Housing Administration.

In 1954, when Donald was 8 years old, his father was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on allegations that he had ripped off the government to reap windfall profits through his FHA-insured housing developments. At the hearings, the elder Trump was called on the carpet for profiteering off public contracts, including overestimating the construction costs of his projects in order to get larger mortgages from FHA. Under oath, he reluctantly admitted that he had wildly overstated the development costs.

Donald has followed in his father’s corrupt footsteps. Trump’s career is littered with bogus businesses, like Trump University; repeated ripoffs of suppliers, contractors, and employees whom he failed to pay for services rendered; and the misuse of the Trump Foundation to feather his own nest while trying to look like a philanthropist. Six of Trump’s businesses have gone bankrupt. Despite this, on April 18, 2015, Trump tweeted this falsehood: ”For all of the haters and losers out there sorry, I never went Bankrupt.”

Trump has also lied about the size of his wealth, as various business publications have pointed out. Many observers suggest one reason Trump has refused to release his tax returns is that they will show he has repeatedly and wildly exaggerated his wealth and thus his success.

Many observers have noted Trump’s sociopathic, thin-skinned, demagogic, authoritarian, impulsive, and vindictive personality. Although Trump has the self-awareness of an adolescent, it is obvious to many others that his compulsion to constantly boast “I’m smart” and to deride others as “losers” is rooted in his profound sense of insecurity.

Presidents don’t have to be geniuses. But a successful president must recognize his own limitations and be willing to rely on others’ expertise. He has to take constant criticism — from the media, political opponents, and his own advisers — without taking it too personally. Surrounding oneself with yes-men and yes-women who are afraid to tell the president he’s wrong is a recipe for disaster. Most important, an effective president needs good judgement, to be able to hear different viewpoints, weigh evidence, think several steps in advance rather than act impulsively, and be calm under intense pressure. Trump fails each of these tests.

Beneath Trump’s public bravado is a deeply insecure, troubled man who is unfit to be president. This makes him a danger to the country and the world.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College.

IMAGE: DonkeyHotey / Flickr

 

Donald Trump Poses A Never-Before-Seen Threat In American History

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

I have watched, listened to, and read many commentaries on the inaugural address but so far none of the mainstream pundits have used the one word that best identifies Donald Trump: fascist.

The United States is not Weimar Germany. Our economic problems are nowhere as bad as those in Depression-era Germany. Nobody in the Trump administration (not even Steven Bannon) is calling for mass genocide (although saber-rattling with nuclear weapons could lead to global war if we’re not careful).

That said, it is useful for Americans to recognize that we are facing something entirely new and different in American history. Certainly none of us in our lifetimes have confronted an American government led by someone like Trump in terms of his sociopathic, demagogic, impulsive, and vindictive personality (not even Nixon came close).

We are witnessing something new in terms of the uniformly right-wing inner circle with whom he’s surrounded himself and appointed to his cabinet. We must adjust our thinking and view with alarm his reactionary and dangerous policy agenda on foreign policy, the economy, the environment, health care, immigration, civil liberties; and poverty. We have to be willing to sweep aside past presidential precedents in order to understand Trump’s willingness to overtly invoke all the worst ethnic, religious, and racial hatreds in order to appeal to the most despicable elements of our society and unleash an upsurge of racism, anti-semitism, sexual assault, and nativism by the KKK and other hate groups. We need to suspend our textbook explanations about the American presidency in order to recognize Trump’s ignorance about our Constitutional principles and the rule of law; and his lack of experience with collaboration and compromise. We’ve never seen a president with so little familiarity with the truth; he is a pathological liar, on matters large and small.

We cannot take solace in the fact that Trump lost the popular vote or that only 25 percent of all eligible voters actually voted for him. Instead, we must face clearly the reality that Trump now presides over a federal government in which all three branches are controlled by right-wing corporate-funded Republicans. We may be lucky to discover that Trump might be an incompetent leader and unable to unite the Republicans, but we shouldn’t count on it.

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said. By branding his message “America First,” Trump was echoing and invoking a motto of the isolationist, anti-Semitic crusade in the 1930s that wanted the United States to appease Hitler.

Indeed, Trump’s entire speech was a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland crazy quilt of words that meant the exactly opposite of what was expressed. It was an angry rant, reflecting the personality traits of an insecure bully: narcissistic, thin-skinned, revengeful, and impulsive, lacking empathy or humility.

Fascists claim to speak for “the people,” while pursuing policies that overwhelmingly benefit a handful of the favored – families, cronies, corporations, and loyalists.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, “ Trump said today, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Later, he proclaimed: “January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”

Like other fascists, Trump claimed to speak for the “forgotten men and women,” whose voice has been ignored, whose job has been exported, whose neighborhood is unsafe, whose living standard has declined.

Fascists always attack current politicians while claiming the mantle of “the people.”

“We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action,” Trump said today, using the same words he used several days earlier to defame Cong. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who, unlike Trump, put his body on the line countless times to make America a more humane and inclusive society.

Fascists seek to unite the country behind a smokescreen of patriotism while scapegoating the weak and powerless.

“We are one nation, and their pain is our pain,” Trump said. “We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.”

But his speech was a series of deflections away from the core problem facing the United States: the growing power of a tiny wealthy elite – sometimes called the “1%” but in reality the .001% — over our economy and politics.

Trump has populated his Cabinet and top advisors with some of America’s wealthiest and greediest people, corporate robber barons, militarist zealots, Wall Street titans, right-wing conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, and racists, some of them (like Trump) born wealth but who have demonstrated no inclination for public service or even noblesse oblige.

To deflect attention away from the super-rich, Trump – like fascists throughout history – points his fingers at and scapegoats others. In today’s speech, he avoided explicit reference to Mexican immigrants, Muslims, China, Hollywood, the media, unions, and Jews – groups he castigated throughout the campaign. But his address included many dog whistles that his core supporters understand.

“We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own,” was Trump’s dog whistle to America’s white supremacist “alt right” movement, who want to deport undocumented immigrants while eliminating the social safety net from those who live here and contribute to our society.

Trump personifies the worst aspects of corrupt crony capitalism. He inherited his father’s real estate empire, made possible by federal government housing subsidies. He has curried favor with Democratic and Republican politicians at the local, state and national level by contributing millions of dollars in campaign donations. He has abused the nation’s bankruptcy and tax laws to avoid his responsibility to his lenders, employees, business partners, and the country as a whole.

In his address, Trump pledged that “We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” But Trump has used undocumented immigrants to construct his glitzy apartment buildings and hotels. Most of the ties, suits, shirts, and other clothing items sold as part of the Donald J. Trump Collection are made in overseas sweatshops.

Like fascists everywhere, Trump’s speech included a list of troubles he intends to fix, without pointing out that they were caused by the policies, people, and principles he embraces.

He described: “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation. An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Meanwhile, he’s appointed a corporate mogul as Labor Secretary with a track record of abusing his employees and opposing the minimum wage. He’s named a billionaire Education Secretary who has spent hundreds of millions of her inherited fortune to destroy public education in favor of corporate-backed private charter schools. He’s named as his Commerce Secretary a law-abusing hedge fund manager who has proposed a tax law that will provide huge tax breaks to the very rich and an infrastructure plan designed to enrich the rich while saddling the middle class with higher taxes.

“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes,” Trump said, having named as Treasury Secretary a Wall Street tycoon who made his fortune ripping off consumers, illegally foreclosing on working families, and discriminating against low-income and minority communities and borrowers.

In his speech Trump pledged to “harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.” But’s nominated to be Secretary of State the head of the nation’s largest oil company, someone who has made billions by polluting the environment, denying the reality of global warming, lobbying against clean energy technologies, and forging an alliance with Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s speech included no mention of human rights. He avoided any reference to police abuses or the epidemic of gun violence made possible our lax gun laws. He said nothing about rising inequality. He ignored the dramatic spike in hate crimes – against Muslims, Latinos, Jews, gays and lesbians, and others – that has plagued the country since his election in November. He evaded any mention of homelessness, climate change, or the plight of refugees around the world.

We should not have expected, and did not get, any remarks about civil rights or civil liberties – tenets which Trump has consistently violated and defamed throughout this career and his campaign.

We must view Trump as a real threat to our institutions, to our democracy, and to our future. The Trump presidency and Trumpism is a new phenomenon in our country’s history. Never before has such an authoritarian personality been president. We’ve had demagogues in the House and Senate, but never in the Oval Office. The best primer to understand what we’re facing is Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, a counter-factual history in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the 1940 presidential election by the pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic aviator Charles Lindbergh.

We can overcome.

Trump is already the least popular American president in modern memory.

Americans will soon see that Trump’s promises were empty.

Already, opposition movements are in motion, preparing to challenge his appointments, his lies, and his policies, and preparing for the 2018 and 2020 elections, when Trump can be neutralized.

In the not-too-distant future, we can try to translate our progressive policy agenda into actual policies — adopting campaign finance reform, immigration reform, stronger environmental regulations, stricter rules on Wall Street, and greater investment in jobs and anti-poverty programs; turning Election Day into a national holiday, reforming our labor laws, protecting women’s right to choose, expanding LGBT rights, making our tax system more progressive, reforming our racist criminal justice system, investing more public dollars in job-creating infrastructure and clean energy projects; adopting paid family leave, and expanding health insurance to all and limiting the influence of the drug and insurance industry.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College.

IMAGE: Donald J. Trump arrives at the inauguration ceremonies swearing him in as the 45th president of the United States at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Doug Mills/Pool

Donald Trump Is A Serial Anti-Semite

When this campaign is over, let’s not forget Donald Trump’s steady use of anti-Semitic stereotypes and images throughout the campaign—ideas we can expect he’ll continue to use when the election is over and he tries to re-invent himself as the leader of a white supremacist nationalist movement and the public face of a new media empire (Trump TV?) with his supporters Roger Ailes (former head of Fox News who has a history of making anti-Semitic comments and was responsible for Fox News’ anti-Semitic crusade against the phony “war on Christmas“), Stephen Bannon (head of Breitbart News known for his own anti-Semitic remarks), and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer (the money behind Breitbart News).

Trump’s anti-Semitism comes in different shapes and sizes.  He verbalizes it, encourages it, enables it, tolerates it, and makes excuses for it.  What he doesn’t do is condemn it.

Trump’s most recent anti-Semitic remarks were in a speech, and a tweet, last week that included this line: “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.” Trump didn’t need to use the word “Jew.” The imagery of a global banking cabal will be familiar to anyone who has read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic forgery that has fueled anti-Jewish violence for over a century. These are well-known anti-Semitic code words. The speech, typical of Trump’s paranoid conspiracy theories, was designed to fire up Trump’s white nationalist, anti-Semitic base.

Trump’s chronic anti-Semitism is often overlooked when reporters and others itemize the long laundry list of the GOP candidate’s bigotry and offensive comments, including sexism, racism, and insults directed toward Muslims and the physically disabled. Trump has often retweeted messages from white supremacists and anti-Semites, including the image of Clinton with a Jewish star and $100 bills in the background and the headline “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.”

In response to Trump’s repeated claim about the election being rigged, the popular right-wing site Daily Stormer wrote that “People aren’t going to quietly go home if the Jews steal this election from us.” Other sites supporting Trump have posted similar slurs.

Anti-Semitic comments on social media have skyrocketed, because Trump is bringing these ugly stereotypes, once relegated to the lunatic fringe of the internet, into the mainstream. A new Anti-Defamation League uncovered more than 2.6 million tweets with anti-Semitic comments and images between August 2015 and July 2016, a huge upsurge from the previous year. Many of them identified themselves as Trump supporters or Clinton haters, and many (including death threats) were directed at Jewish journalists who had been critical of Trump.

Trump’s comment about Clinton’s ties to an international banking conspiracy was not an offhand remark. He has a history of making anti-Semitic remarks, including this comment in a speech during this campaign to the Republican Jewish Coalition (a tiny group): “I know why you’re not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money …Look, I’m a negotiator like you folks, we’re negotiators.”

In an interview where he was asked if he’d read any of Hitler’s speeches, Trump said: “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them… My friend Marty Davis from Paramount gave me a copy ofMein Kampf, and he’s a Jew.” (Davis is not Jewish.)

Trump’s frequent references at his rallies and during the debates to Sidney Blumenthal, George Soros and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz—Jewish supporters of Hillary Clinton—is no accident. This is not random name-dropping; these are dog whistles aimed at his racist and anti-Semitic supporters.

He once tweeted: “I promise you that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz—I mean Jon Stewart @TheDailyShow. Who, by the way, is totally overrated.” While Stewart has often referred to himself as Jewish, only an anti-Semite would refer to Stewart’s Jewish-sounding real name in this way.

Earlier this year Trump initially refused to condemn and reject support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, the well-known racist and anti-Semite.

One of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, Joseph Schmitz, is accused of bragging that he pushed out Jewish employees when he was Defense Department inspector general a decade ago. He also made comments denying the magnitude of the Holocaust.

When accused of fostering anti-Semitism, Trump often reminds people that his daughter Ivanka is married to a Jew (Jared Kushner) and converted to Judaism. But even members of Kushner’s family have expressed their concern about his excuses for Trump’s ugly remarks.

In most presidential election over the past 50 years, about 70-80 percent of Jews typically vote for the Democratic candidate, higher than any demographic group except African Americans. Don’t be surprised if this year 85-90% of Jews vote for Hillary Clinton.

The likely uptick in Jewish voting for this year’s Democratic candidate is due as much to Jews’ overall liberal views on abortion and women’s rights, environmental and economic policy, and opposition to Trump’s ugly comments about Muslims and others than to their concerns about his repugant anti-Semitism. But Trump’s anti-Semitic remarks surely compounded their opposition to the Republican demagogue.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially ignored Trump’s anti-Hillary Jewish star tweet last July until they were embarrassed into denouncing it. But most Republican leaders have not condemned Trump’s persistent anti-Semitism or the upsurge of Jew hatred he has encouraged.

A handful of Jews still support Trump, including Steve Mnuchin, who is a Wall Street banker and hedge fund billionaire as well as Trump’s finance chair, and Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner and GOP mega-donor whose newspaper, the Las Vegas Review Journal endorsed Trump this week. When will they come to their senses?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet. 

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books).

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Delaware, Ohio, U.S. October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Despite a Century Of Women’s Rights Progress, Hillary Clinton Still Faces Outrageous Sexism

Published with permission from AlterNet

Fear of a female president is still going strong in 2016.

It has been 100 years since the voters of Montana elected Jeannette Rankin as the first woman in Congress and Margaret Sanger opened the nation’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn (1916);

96 years since women won the right to vote at the federal level (1920);

95 years since Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. (1921);

88 years since Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean (1928);

85 years since Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (1931);

83 years since President Franklin Roosevelt named Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor, the first woman appointed to the Cabinet (1933);

81 years since Mary McLeod Bethune organized the National Council of Negro Women (1935);

79 years since the Supreme Court upheld Washington state’s minimum wage law for women (1937);

73 years since the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was founded (1943);.

71 years since President Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as a U.S delegate to the newly established United Nations (1945);

68 years since high jumper Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal (1948);

67 years since Mildred “Babe” Didrikson and other women created the Ladies Professional Golf Tour (1949);

61 years since a majority (52%) of Americans first told Gallup pollsters that they would be willing to vote for a “qualified” women for president and Rosa Parks triggered the Montgomery bus boycott by refusing to comply with the city’s segregation laws (1955);

56 years since the Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill as safe for women to use (1960);

55 years since President Kennedy established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1961);

53 years since Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique (1963);

52 years since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job, and passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex (1964);

51 years since the Supreme Court’s Griswold v. Connecticut ruling struck down the one remaining state law prohibiting the use of contraceptives by married couples (1965);

50 years since feminists founded the National Organization for Women (1966);

48 years since the EEOC ruled that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers are illegal (1968);

47 years since California became the first state to adopt a “no fault” divorce law (1969);

46 years since 50,000 people marched in New York City for the first Women’s Strike for Equality and feminists published Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From The Women’s Liberation Movement (1970);

45 years since Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and others formed the National Women’s Political Caucus to encourage more women to participate in politics and run for office and a group of Boston feminists published Our Bodies, Ourselves, which put women’s health in a radically new political and social context (1971);

44 years since Ms magazine published its first issue, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments banning sex discrimination in schools, and Sally Priesand became the first woman ordained as a rabbi in the United States (1972);

43 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have the right to safe and legal abortion and Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the “battle of the sexes” tennis match in Houston (1973);

42 years since women trade unionists founded the Coalition of Labor Union Women (1974);

38 years since Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act banning employment discrimination against pregnant women (1978);

37 years since women constituted the majority of all college students for the first time (1979);

35 years since Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman Supreme Court Justice (1981);

33 years since astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space (1983);

32 years since feminists founded EMILY’s List to help elect pro-choice women and Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be chosen by a major political party to serve as its vice presidential nominee (1984);

31 years since every state had adopted a “no fault” divorce law (1985);

30 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination (1986);

29 years since Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987);

22 years since Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act that tightened federal penalties for sex offenders, funded services for victims of rape and domestic violence, and provided special training of police officers (1994);

19 years since Madeleine Albright was appointed the first female secretary of state (1997);

10 years since Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first woman to become presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States (2006);

9 years since Nancy Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House (2007);

7 years since President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck (2009);

6 years since Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director (2010);

3 years since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the ban on women serving in combat roles would be lifted and the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that states cannot ban same-sex marriage (2013);

2 years since Michelle Janine Howard became the first female four-star admiral (2014); and

Less than a year since the Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman’s portrait will be featured on the new $20 bill, the first woman so honored.

Despite this progress, Hillary Clinton still faces outrageous sexism by the media, Donald Trump, and many voters, as Peter Beinart discusses in “Fear of a Female President,” in the new issue of The Atlantic magazine.

Clinton will be our next president, adding another milestone to the ongoing battle for women’s equality. But the sexist backlash won’t end once she’s inaugurated. The struggle must continue.

Photo: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives at the airport following a campaign Voter Registration Rally at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, United States, September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Donald Trump And The ‘Banality Of Evil’

Published with permission from AlterNet

Donald Trump’s comment on Tuesday about how “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton if she gets elected is hardly subtle. This is a clear provocation to shoot his Democratic rival, however he and his handlers may try to spin it.

At a rally in Wilmington, N.C. , Trump told the crowd that “Hillary wants to abolish—essentially abolish the Second Amendment.” Of course, this isn’t true. This is how Trump and his NRA friends refer to people who want tougher gun control laws. But that wasn’t the most inflammatory thing he said.

“And if she gets to pick her judges,” Trump went on. “Nothing you can do, folks.”

Then his lack of impulse control kicked in:

“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is,” he added.

He was suggesting that “Second Amendment people”—clearly, gun owners—deal with Hillary before she gets to appoint Supreme Court justices who will permit strong gun laws. And he didn’t mean invite her to an NRA meeting.

A week ago, reporters were writing about whether Trump’s invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails was treasonous or otherwise illegal. That was bad enough. But now this. As Ezra Klein pointed out in a Vox column and video last week, there are no words to describe this kind of behavior. “Abnormal” doesn’t do it justice. Nor does “monstrous.”

“Sociopathic” might describe Trump’s condition, but it doesn’t describe our condition as we routinely hear such Trump statements on the campaign trail.

The only thing that comes close is philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.” She coined this phrase in her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the trial of Adolph Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, in an Israeli courtroom. If someone carries out unspeakable crimes often enough, he or she comes to accept them as “normal.” That was Arendt’s view of Eichmann.

But the “banality of evil” also applies to an entire society. We can get used to outrageous things—slavery, Jim Crow segregation laws, massive homelessness, widespread malnutrition, the frequent killing of Black men by police—until we are provoked to view them as unjust.

This is the dilemma now facing Americans—and particularly American journalists—in thinking about Trump’s presidential campaign. We’ve become so used to his daily outrages—about Mexicans, about women, about Muslims, about NATO, about nuclear weapons, about “Mexican” Judge Curiel, about renegotiating America’s debt with other countries, about getting Mexico to pay for a wall on the border, about Melania Trump’s plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech, about his Trump University con job, about his ignorance of basic issues like Brexit, and many more—that we’re almost numb to them. It is difficult to renew outrage day after day.

Many of his comments are just stupid. But others are dangerous, and some may be illegal. They reflect a temperament and mental instability that makes him unfit to be president.

It is a matter of what kind of words, and what kind of behavior, crosses the line so blatantly, and violates whatever standards of basic decency we have, that it is beyond contempt. But who draws the line? And what do we do to a public figure who crosses it?

New York Times’ media critic Jim Rutenberg–in his analysis in Monday’s paper, “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism”—did a good job of examining how difficult it is for the mainstream media, caught in the web of “he said/she said” reporting and admonitions to be “neutral,” to deal with Trump’s campaign and his almost daily outrages. Rutenberg wrote:

“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?”

Reporters don’t want to be glorified tape recorders, just transcribing what Trump (or any other candidate) says without providing context and, if necessary, correction.

Reporters faced this dilemma in 1950, when Senator Joseph McCarthy began giving speeches accusing the U.S. State Department of harboring Communists. In almost every speech, he used different numbers of alleged “reds” inside the department. Reporters who covered McCarthy knew he was lying, but they couldn’t write that. They couldn’t even say he was “inconsistent.” If they wanted readers to understand that McCarthy had gone overboard with his accusations, they had to find other politicians to say so. They had to be “balanced.” That’s what passed for “objectivity” back then. “He said” versus “she said.”

We’ve made some progress since then—allowing journalists to analyze as well as report—but reporters and editors still find themselves in a journalistic straightjacket when covering Trump on the campaign trail. (I was going to write “someone like Trump,” but although there are many whackos in recent politics — think Sarah Palin — there isn’t anyone else really like Trump, and certainly no one who has won a major party’ s nomination for president).

The stories about Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment reflect this journalistic conundrum. How do you report a story about a candidate for president implying that people with guns might want to consider killing his opponent? Yes, I know, that isn’t what he actually said but it is clearly what he meant or what he wanted his supporters to hear. That was his dog whistle. But you don’t need to be a dog to know what he was saying.

Even so, reporters and headline writers couldn’t report what Trump meant, only what he said. They could call his comment “controversial” or even “inflammatory,” but they did not say what was obvious to everyone in that room and anyone who watched the video.

The headlines about Trump’s comment that appeared on-line within hours of his speech reflect how constrained the media are in reporting such an outrageous beyond-the-pale statement:

  • “Trump Appears To Suggest ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Stop Clinton” (NPR)
  • “Donald Trump Says ‘Second Amendment People’ Can Stop Hillary Clinton From Curbing Gun Rights” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “Trump sparks uproar by saying ‘maybe there is’ a way for ‘2nd Amendment people’ to keep Clinton from naming justices” (Los Angeles Times)
  • “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton” (New York Times)
  • “Trump suggests ‘Second Amendment people’ could stop Clinton” (Chicago Tribune)
  • “What Ever Could Trump Have Meant With This Joke About ‘Second Amendment People’ and Clinton?” (Slate)
  • “Trump ‘Second Amendment’ Quip Seen as Veiled Threat Against Clinton” (NBC)
  • “Donald Trump says ‘Second Amendment people’ may be the only check on Clinton judicial appointments” (Washington Post)
  • “Trump in trouble over ‘Second Amendment’ remark” (Politico)

All these headlines are accurate but misleading. They don’t explain what he meant or put what he said in political context. The subhead on the Politico story—”The campaign says he was referencing gun-rights voter mobilization, but the remark was widely interpreted as a joke about using guns against his Democratic rival”—is about as close as any of them got to explaining the importance—and the outrageousness, and perhaps the criminality—of what Trump said.

Headlines or news reports suggesting that Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment was a “joke” reflect the “banality of evil” problem. A joke? Really?

Where is George Orwell when we need him?

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books).