A brief history of Republican presidents as mascots

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Donald Trump makes an entrance fit for a Lady Gaga concert at the 2016 GOP Convention.

In a sixth season episode of The Simpsons, Springfield’s Republicans gather to discuss their next mayoral candidate. Mr. Burns insists on “a true leader, who will do exactly as he’s told.” A political strategist says the next mayor of Springfield is just behind the door. When it’s opened, there’s nothing there but a water cooler, prompting a round of applause. Moments later Sideshow Bob, a former TV personality, steps into frame, and the Republicans decide he’s even better.

Three of the last four Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump – could have easily been devised in such a meeting. In real life, as on The Simpsons, the Republican Party has shown a preference for presidential candidates who lack substance but put on a good show. It seems they don’t want a president so much as they do a mascot. Continue reading

What happens when the worst person in America becomes president

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After shoving a diplomat out of the way, President Trump adjusts his jacket and takes center stage.

Donald Trump is not, yet, the worst-ever president. He’s trying to be, but his administration has been too hamstrung by controversy to get much done. Part of this is because, on a personal level, Trump is almost certainly the worst person to occupy the White House. He’s crude, ignorant, abusive, and greedy – just for starters. Whatever he does or doesn’t accomplish in terms of policy, having such a toxic person in the nation’s highest office is already having destructive consequences. Continue reading

Far right blames negative Trump coverage for congressional baseball shooting

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At rallies across America during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called for violence from his podium.

At a practice for the Republican congressional baseball team Wednesday morning, a mass shooter opened fire and struck five people. One of them was Steve Scalise, the third-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives. The shooter, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with Capitol police. In the ensuing news cycle, Hodgkinson’s political persuasion became public knowledge. He was, apparently, a political progressive who volunteered on the Bernie Sanders campaign and despised Donald Trump’s presidency.

Figures on the far right wasted no time blaming Trump’s critics for the attack. Comments on right-wing message boards, and on Hodgkinson’s own Facebook page, excoriated liberals for dividing the country and encouraging violence. Sean Hannity, whose FOX News program is the leading Trump propaganda hour on cable, warned, “When Democrats continue to dehumanize Republicans… the climate around the country becomes more than toxic.” Newt Gingrich blamed “an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.” Continue reading

Left and Right PC outrage in the Trump era

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This picture earned more than its thousand words, but it didn’t get as many laughs.

From comedians to journalists, high-profile members of the left and right found themselves in Trump-related controversy in recent weeks. The incidents provide a useful microcosm to paint a bigger picture. When the political correctness of each side is analyzed one thing is clear: the left holds its own to a much higher standard than the right does. And while liberals spend much of their time infighting, Republicans are radicalizing further rightward and running away with the country. Continue reading

Media reinforces Donald Trump’s most dangerous behavior

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Iraqi citizens gaze at the devastation in Mosul, where Trump-authorized airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

For the first several weeks of his presidency, it looked as though mainstream media might hold Donald Trump at least partially accountable for his actions. Stories regularly aired that were critical of Trump’s brutal budget and discussed his pathological lying. All of it prompted Trump to label the media the “opposition party.” Then, late last week, Trump fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase. His fireworks show earned Trump bipartisan media and political praise.

Even before Trump launched the attack, Hillary Clinton called for it. Both the Democratic Senate and House Minority Leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, praised the attack, as did prominent Republican critics of Trump like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Liberal CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria declared Trump “became president of the United States” with the attack while NBC host Brian Williams described the bombing as “beautiful.” FAIR found that of 47 editorials published in major papers, only one was critical. Continue reading

Trump sticks to a script; media gushes with praise

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President Trump points for emphasis while Vice-President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud.

On Tuesday night, President Trump went before Congress to deliver an address to the American people. It capped off a day during which Trump courted controversy by blaming the military for a botched raid in Yemen and suggesting that Jews were committing their own acts of anti-Semitism to make him look bad. But in a classic demonstration of the 24-hour news cycle’s short attention span, all was forgiven when Trump stuck to script and delivered a serviceable speech. Continue reading

Bill Maher grants professional alt-right troll a mainstream platform

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Among the people Yiannopoulos makes a career out of hating are poor immigrants.

A micro-controversy is bubbling in the world of liberal infotainment. Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor and self-described internet supervillain, was booked as a guest on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher. In protest, Jeremy Scahill, a founding editor for The Intercept, canceled his own scheduled appearance on the show. Maher responded by saying, in part, “Liberals will continue to lose elections as long as they follow the example of people like Mr. Scahill.”

Maher further explained, “If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims – and he might be – nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night.” But Maher is missing the point. Exposure is precisely what Yiannopoulos craves. It doesn’t matter if he’s revealed as a full-throated Nazi and booed out of the building; he has already won. Continue reading

No, Donald, the ‘real story’ isn’t why there are leaks, it’s what they reveal

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During Trump rallies, Flynn, right, would lead the crowd in “Lock her up” chants. After 24 days in office Flynn has resigned over a likely violation of the Logan Act.

The biggest scandal this week in the Trump Administration is the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and hard-right conspiracy theorist who had no business in the position in the first place. Flynn was forced to resign when it became known that he communicated with his Russian counterpart prior to Trump’s inauguration and lied about what was discussed. After Flynn’s resignation Trump tweeted, “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?” Continue reading

How conservatives were able to normalize Trump

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield, Ohio, U.S., September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX

Even someone who doesn’t follow politics can see in Donald Trump a truly unusual president. Liberals are often astounded that conservatives don’t recognize Trump’s pathological lying and disregard for constitutional democracy as existential threats to civilization. But Republicans’ worldview has been shaped by relentless, far-right, corporate propaganda. In such a paranoid and disturbed bubble, Trump may be a bit unorthodox, but desperate times called him to office.

In many ways, the reality of Trump matches the caricature of President Obama in the conservative imagination. Conservative commentators hardly ever mentioned the former president without first rattling off a list of pejoratives. Consumers of conservative media spent years hearing Obama referred to as an arrogant, ego-driven, race-baiting, divisive, wannabe dictator. When someone like Trump came along who actually was all those things, and openly so, Republicans normalized him with relative ease. Continue reading

Donald Trump channels Noam Chomsky (sort of)

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In a pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Trump defended Vladimir Putin’s kills.

A statement President Donald Trump made to Bill O’Reilly during a pre-Superbowl interview landed Trump in more trouble than usual. In defending Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from O’Reilly’s allegation that he’s a killer, Trump said, “You think our country’s so innocent? Take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the War in Iraq from the beginning… a lot of people were killed, so, a lot of killers around, believe me.”

Establishment politicians and media fretted over Trump’s frank assessment of American foreign policy, but for once he’s not wrong. In fact, Trump went much further than most politicians usually do in his remarks, venturing into territory usually reserved for the likes of Noam Chomsky. His equation of the Iraq War with Putin’s murders suggests the Iraq War was not merely an honest mistake made with good intentions, but a crime. Continue reading