It was a long time ago – Saturday, April 4, 2009 – in a place where nothing much ever happens – Pittsburgh – so it’s forgotten now. That was the day a twenty-two-year-old angry white guy set up an ambush for the Pittsburgh police and killed three of them – two others survived, barely. These were the first Pittsburgh police officers killed in the line of duty in eighteen years – Pittsburgh is that kind of place – and no one knew what that hell was going on. The young man, Richard Poplawski, was armed with an AK-47 and a shotgun and three handguns, including a Dirty Harry .357 Magnum, and he was wearing a bulletproof vest. He was serious, but how did it come to this?
That took some digging. It turned out that Poplawski was a white supremacist Stormfront kind of guy who had been filling his head with conspiracy theories for years, but there are lots of those. Something had pushed him over the edge. The investigators asked around. His friends said he was convinced Obama was going to take everyone’s guns and take over – he’d been listening to Glenn Beck – and he had posted a link to a video on the Stormfront website, of Ron Paul discussing the possible existence of FEMA-managed concentration camps with Glenn Beck, on Fox News. Obama was going to put anyone who disagreed with him in those concentration camps. Beck was sure of that. That was good enough for Poplawski. Beck had also been warning, over and over, that Obama was going to take everyone’s guns, so the people couldn’t do anything about the government they hated – other than voting, which never works out of course. Beck was sure of that too. That was also good enough for Poplawski. He decided it was time to do something about that.
At the time there was some talk about Glenn Beck being responsible for what had happened – “incitement to violence” is a serious crime and there had been other incidents of this sort, but cut off before anyone died. Glenn Beck fired back that sure, he had talked about those FEMA concentration camps, and he had said over and over that Obama was coming for everyone’s guns, but he NEVER told anyone to DO anything about it. He had never called for violence. Poplawski had acted on his own, and what about free speech? Beck had only been saying what he saw. Everyone has a right to say what they see. It’s a free country.
Then it was all forgotten – one news story drives out another every twenty-four hours – but Fox News eventually cut Glenn Beck loose. They have a legal department, and defending the network against incitement, in open court, is a loser, even if you win.
Get it straight. “We report, you decide” – and we disavow any responsibility for what happens next. No one here told you to go out and kill a few cops. Bill O’Reilly may have called that Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions a murderer on air over and over, but he didn’t say someone should shoot him dead in his own church. O’Reilly was clear about that:
When I heard about Tiller’s murder, I knew pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters would attempt to blame us for the crime, and that’s exactly what has happened. … Every single thing we said about Tiller was true, and my analysis was based on those facts. … Now, it’s clear that the far left is exploiting – exploiting – the death of the doctor. Those vicious individuals want to stifle any criticism of people like Tiller. That – and hating Fox News – is the real agenda here.
O’Reilly is the real victim here, and he’s angry about it. Speaking the truth isn’t incitement.
Maybe so, but as Dana Lind reports, this is happening again:
Two Boston men were charged yesterday in the beating of a homeless Mexican man. The victim was allegedly sleeping outside a subway station when brothers Scott and Steve Leader rummaged through his things, then started beating him around the face and neck and hitting him with a metal pole. One witness heard the brothers laughing as they walked away.
Here’s what police say Scott Leader told them to justify the assault: “Donald Trump was right – all these illegals need to be deported.”
Here’s what Donald Trump said when told about the alleged assault (according to the Boston Globe) at a press conference in New Hampshire: “I haven’t heard about that. It would be a shame, but I haven’t heard about that.” Then the crowd buzzed, and Trump added: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. I will say that, and everybody here has reported it.”
Lind is appalled:
When people are committing hate crimes in your name, you do not call them “passionate.” You do not say they “want this country to be great again.” You say they do not represent you or your beliefs. You talk about why your followers are different from people who beat up homeless men because they’re “illegal.”
Donald Trump isn’t explicitly saying it is okay to beat people up because of how they look, but at least two men have interpreted it that way. And instead of telling them, and the rest of his followers, that that interpretation is unequivocally wrong, he’s – at best – framed it as a moderately regrettable downside of his movement’s “passion.”
Even Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly knew better. They didn’t say ambushing and killing those cops, and shooting that doctor dead in his church, were understandable things that happen when true patriots are passionate about making their country great again – a bit of a shame, but quite understandable. These things happen. Cut them some slack.
Phillip Bump adds this:
Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess, and in the case of two intoxicated brothers that urinated on a homeless man and beat him with a pole simply because he’s Hispanic, the silver lining is that they are passionate about America.
The focus on Trump’s comments, though, distracts from another point worth isolating: Hispanic immigrants have been regular targets of hate attacks – and are more likely than non-immigrants to feel as though they’ve been mistreated in everyday life.
That latter point comes from data published by Gallup on Thursday. The firm asked Hispanics how many times in the past 30 days they’d felt as though they were treated unfairly because of their race. One in 10 said that this had happened to them at work, when interacting with the police, at a restaurant or when receiving health care.
But that’s not the half of it:
Perceptions of being treated unfairly differed widely between Hispanics born in the United States and those who’d immigrated here. In most cases, immigrants were four or five times as likely to report having been treated unfairly. …
Between 2011 and 2012, hate crime attacks on Hispanics increased three-fold. For every 1,000 Hispanics over age 12, two reported having been attacked.
There’s some reason to think that even what is reported is low. As Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center noted to the Huffington Post in 2011, “Latinos, and in particular undocumented immigrants, are among the least likely to report hate crimes because they fear deportation.” It stands to reason they also might not tell a pollster. So an actual figure is hard to establish.
Which makes it hard to say whether this incident is a function of the current critical focus on immigration – and the real estate magnate that prompted it – or a fairly common occurrence onto which was stapled a bit of 2016 rhetoric.
Trump’s response was newsworthy for how tone-deaf it was. It was also much more novel than the crime itself.
Heather Parton adds this:
Obviously these are bigots just looking for an excuse to beat people. But “movements” like the one Trump thinks he’s building tend to attract people like that, don’t they?
There is a very dark and dangerous side to Trump’s appeal. Yesterday he reiterated his earlier insistence that we have to “give power back to the police.” In his earlier comments he was referring to Black Lives Matter. Yesterday he was saying that the cops had to be given the ability to round up Latinos “very quickly” and deport them.
I know that nobody thinks this creep has a chance. But doesn’t it worry anyone that millions of Republicans think this stuff is just great?
There is something a bit disquieting about someone who wants to be a national leader approving of citizen mobs going out and beating the crap out of undesirables, but something is spreading here:
Iowa conservative radio host Jan Mickelson told listeners recently his idea to remove undocumented immigrants from Iowa – give them a deadline to leave and make them “property of the state” if they don’t.
Mickelson opened the Monday segment, which was flagged by Media Matters, by saying he had been asked by an “immigration open borders activist” how he would get all “the illegals” in Iowa to leave.
“‘Well how you going to do it, Mickelson?'” the radio show host said. “‘You think you’re so smart. How would you get thousands of illegals to leave Iowa?'”
He said he would “just put up some signs” that would give undocumented immigrants a deadline – perhaps “30 to 60” days – to leave. If they didn’t, he said, they’d become “property of the state” and be placed in “compelled labor.”
And they’d build Trump’s Wall on our southern border:
Mickelson said on his show that, under his plan, the “illegal Mexicans” and the “illegal aliens” will build it.
“We’re going to invite the illegal Mexicans and illegal aliens to build it. If you have come across the border illegally, again give them another 60-day guideline, you need to go home and leave this jurisdiction, and if you don’t you become property of the United States, and guess what? You will be building a wall,” he said. “We will compel your labor. You would belong to these United States. You show up without an invitation, you get to be an asset. You get to be a construction worker. Cool!”
A caller phoned to the program and said that Mickelson’s plan sounded like slavery. To which Mickelson responded, “What’s wrong with slavery?”
And how are the Republicans going to win the Hispanic vote again? Margaret Hartmann sees it this way:
Donald Trump is truly the Republicans’ worst nightmare, and they aren’t worried about waking up to a nasty pinch. Buried in the immigration plan Trump released last weekend – amid forcing Mexico to pay for a wall on the border and decreasing legal immigration – was a brief proposal to “end birthright citizenship.” On Tuesday night Trump clashed with Bill O’Reilly when the Fox News host argued that deporting American children of undocumented immigrants violates the 14th Amendment, which was adopted in 1868. “I don’t think they have American citizenship, and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers – some would disagree. But many of them agree with me – you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship,” Trump said. “We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell. We have to start a process, Bill, where we take back our country.”
Trump added that he wouldn’t pursue a Constitutional amendment (that “would take too long,” duh), but he said he intends to “find out whether or not anchor babies are citizens” by testing the law in the courts.
Ah, those anchor babies:
Someone who swore off political news just after the 2012 election, when Republicans were fretting about Mitt Romney’s poor showing among Hispanic voters, might assume that the party took this opportunity to woo Latinos by declaring Trump had finally gone too far. However, about half of the GOP’s 2016 candidates actually back Trump’s war on “anchor babies” and the 14th Amendment.
In the past few days, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Ben Carson said they agree with Trump. Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz had already registered their opposition to birthright citizenship, and Cruz thanked Trump in an interview this week, saying, “I welcome Donald Trump articulating this view.” Chris Christie said last week that the issue needs to be “reexamined,” adding that birthright citizenship “may have made sense at some point in our history, but right now, we need to re-look at all that.”
Even Jeb Bush, who famously called illegal immigration an “act of love,” tacked to the right. While he called birthright citizenship a “constitutionally protected right” and said he does not support revoking it, he used tougher language on immigration in a radio interview with Bill Bennett on Wednesday. “If there’s fraud or if there’s abuse, if people are bringing, pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement,” Bush said. “That’s the legitimate side of this. Better enforcement so that you don’t have these, you know, ‘anchor babies,’ as they’re described, coming into the country.”
NBC’s Suzanne Gamboa is not impressed:
Any GOP hope that time would ease the sting many Latinos felt when Donald Trump opened his campaign by deriding Mexicans may have been quashed by Jeb Bush and his use of the term “anchor babies,” which drew swift criticism from many in the community. … Trump has used the term as well, giving more fodder to Democrats.
“From the depths of my heart, I look at someone like Jeb Bush, who really should know better and that all I can think of is the Spanish term, sinvergüenza, which means somebody who is completely without shame to attack children this way,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Sanchez, the daughter of immigrants from Mexico, pointed out that her parents had seven children in the U.S., including two who are serving in the U.S. Congress and are “law abiding and tax paying.”
Like other children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, “I’m a citizen of the United States. Does that make me an anchor baby?” asked Sanchez, D-Calif.
The term is basically an insult, but, like “nigger” perhaps, to some, useful shorthand:
Bush, whose wife is from Mexico and has children who were born here, said he didn’t regret using the term on a radio show. He explained that he didn’t use it as his own language, but said “it’s commonly referred to that.”
“Do you have a better term? You give me a better term and I’ll use it,” he said when asked if the term was bombastic. When it was suggested he say children of undocumented immigrants, he said that was too many words.
Trump who was questioned about using the term at a town hall had a similar response, when asked if knew the term is offensive. “You mean politically correct and everybody uses it,” Trump said and then asked for another term.
He didn’t want to use the longer description of American-born children of undocumented immigrants.
He prefers the compact insult to the longer more descriptive term. He must think it’s a good thing the niggers settled on “black” – because African-American is seven damned syllables.
At least Jeb Bush gets the concept:
In response to a question about the 14th Amendment, which allows children born in the United States to become citizens regardless of the legal status of their parents, Mr. Bush said, “The courts have ruled that it’s part of the 14th Amendment of our Constitution and my belief is that it ought to stay that way, that this is part of our noble heritage.”
Then he mentioned Senators Marco Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba, and Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban-born father, to buttress his point.
“Now if people are here legally, they have a visa, and they have a child who’s born here, I think that they ought to be American citizens,” he said. “People like Marco Rubio, by the way, that’s how he came. You know. So, to suggest that we make it impossible for a talented person like that not to be a candidate for president – or Ted Cruz. I mean, I think we’re getting a little overboard here, and we’re listening to the emotion rather than to the reality of this.”
That may be the whole point, as Kevin Drum notes:
Right now, Donald Trump appeals primarily to voters who are just plain angry and want a president who’s willing to call a spade a spade. Still, these voters are also conservatives. They like Trump’s stand on immigration and political correctness and taking away all the oil from ISIS. But what are they going to do when they find out that Trump has an awful lot of liberal views? I’m not talking about stuff he said years ago and has since changed his mind about. I’m talking about views he’s advocated in the past couple of months.
That would be these:
He thinks affirmative action is okay.
He would fund Planned Parenthood except for abortion. (This is current federal policy, though Trump doesn’t seem to know it.)
He supports a progressive income tax. He does not favor a flat tax.
He doesn’t believe you should be able to fire someone just for being gay.
He doesn’t want to cut Social Security or Medicare.
He’s in favor of a ban on assault weapons.
He invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to his wedding.
He doesn’t “fully” believe in supply-side economics.
He wants to “lead from behind” on Ukraine. Trump believes that Germany should take the lead on Ukraine.
He hates the Iran deal, but he wouldn’t abrogate it after taking office.
This is odd:
Even one or two of these would sink any other Republican candidate – but ten? Even if Trump’s appeal is mostly based on bluster and affinity politics, how long can he last before his fans begin to wonder just how conservative he really is?
That may not be an issue as long as his fans can get together with their friends to go out and beat the crap out of some hapless undesirable, because they’re patriots, passionate about making their country great again, and do that with the tacit permission of a new national leader – not to say that Donald Trump is inciting that. He’s just calling as spade a spade, even if that term has racial overtones too. What happens next is not his business, unless it is.