Another American Sunday

Perhaps one shouldn’t watch the Sunday morning political talk shows, but Meet the Press and Face the Nation have been around for many decades, and now there are many others – and how else are you going to find which way the nation is heading? Such shows book the current movers and shakers, and those who will soon lead us, and those that will do anything to stop them. This is the closest thing we have to an agora – the public square in ancient Greece where the people hashed things out in detailed debate. There’s no way to do that on Twitter. Want to know what’s coming next? This is where you’re likely to discover that.

Sometimes it isn’t pleasant:

Donald J. Trump on Sunday renewed his call for the United States to consider profiling as a preventive tactic against terrorism in the aftermath of the mass shooting last week in Orlando, Fla.

“I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense,” Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Trump issued a similar call in December after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., which left 14 people dead and more than 20 injured.

Yeah, his idea, which is also presumably the idea of the angry Republican base and a few independent voters, is to round up and isolate anyone of a certain religion, and watch them, but this is nothing new:

Profiling has been an occasional theme of the Trump campaign. In addition to his most recent comments, Mr. Trump has discussed increased surveillance of Muslims and mosques, and has said that he would consider registering Muslims in a special database or requiring that they carry cards that identify them as Muslim.

He hasn’t suggested badges for easy identification, like the little yellow Star-of-David patches Hitler had Jews wear in Holland and the Netherlands long ago, but it kind of is the same sort of thing. And some people love that sort of thing, although not Jews back then or American Muslims now, or this woman:

Loretta Lynch, the US attorney general, declined to directly respond to Trump’s remarks. But following him as a guest on the show, she noted: “We look into everything – we look into everyone’s community.” Coordination with those communities, Muslim or any other, is a critical component to all federal terror investigations, she added.

Work with them to help catch the bad guys – they really can help, and as Americans, want to – or badge and isolate and watch every single one of them very carefully – any one of them could be a terrorist – you never know. Which will it be? Donald Trump has made this another debate it seems we must have.

Fine, but some people don’t like the debates this man has suggested:

Appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, legendary journalist Carl Bernstein ripped into presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, calling him America’s first major party “neofascist.”

The former Washington Post reporter who was part of the team that uncovered the Watergate scandal in the 70s offered a very harsh assessment of Trump, saying “very little truth that comes out of his mouth.”

Trump has “shown himself throughout this campaign to be a pathological liar,” Bernstein stated. “There’s very little truth that comes out of his mouth, so let’s start there.”

“Really, this is about a candidate for president of the United States who does not believe in a free press,” he exclaimed. “He keeps talking about changing libel laws and suing the press and has instituted many, many lawsuits throughout his career. The underlying story here is who is Donald Trump? And I will say, and have said, that we are seeing the nominee of a major political party for the first time in our history, who is a neofascist, a particular kind of neofascist – a strong man who doesn’t believe in democratic institutions.”

Carl Bernstein is big on having a functioning free press, but he could have as easily been talking about the isolate-and-watch-the-Muslims thing. Trump doesn’t seem big on democratic institutions in general, but he has his fans – that’s America for you.

The odd thing is that this was the same Sunday morning he lost one of his biggest fans. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, who knows him personally and just likes the guy, had finally had enough:

He won’t pivot. So I have to.

Having seen Donald Trump as a braggadocious but benign celebrity in New York for decades, I did not regard him as the apotheosis of evil. He seemed more like a toon, a cocky huckster swanning around Gotham with a statuesque woman on his arm and skyscrapers stamped with his brand. I certainly never would have predicted that the Trump name would be uttered in the same breath as Hitler, Mussolini and scary menace, even on such pop culture staples as “The Bachelorette.”

She hadn’t thought he was all that bad:

Trump jumped into the race with an eruption of bigotry, ranting about Mexican rapists and a Muslim ban. But privately, he assured people that these were merely opening bids in the negotiation; that he was really the same pragmatic New Yorker he had always been; that he would be a flexible, wheeling-and-dealing president, not a crazy nihilist like Ted Cruz or a mean racist like George Wallace. He yearned to be compared to Ronald Reagan, a former TV star who overcame a reputation for bellicosity and racial dog whistles to become the most beloved Republican president of modern times.

Trump was applying his business cunning, Twitter snarkiness and bendy relationship with the truth to his new role as a Republican pol. The opposition was unappetizing: Cruz, a creepy, calculating ideologue; Marco Rubio, a hungry lightweight jettisoning his old positions and mentor; Chris Christie, a vindictive bully; Jeb Bush, a past-his-sell-by-date scion.

When Trump pulled back the curtain on how Washington Republicans had been stringing their voters along for years with bold promises, like repealing Obamacare, that they knew had no chance, it was a rare opportunity to see them called out. And when Trump was blunt about how cheaply you could buy and sell politicians in both parties, it made this town squirm.

She loved it. She likes to call Obama “Bambi” – only strong break-the-rules alpha males seem to appeal to her – but now she knows a Trump scam when she sees one:

Before his campaign became infused with racial grievance, victimhood and violence, Trump told me, “I have fun with life and I understand life and I want to make life better for people.” If he had those better angels, he didn’t listen to them. Seduced by the roar of the angry crowd, Trump kept dishing out racially offensive comments about “my African-American,” a black man he spotted at a California rally; the “Mexican” judge on the Trump University case; and the “Afghan” who committed the atrocities in Orlando. Mitt Romney is right that Trump’s rhetoric causes “trickle-down racism” and misogyny. The Washington Post had a front-page story on Friday about the vulgarities freely directed at Hillary Clinton by men and women at Trump rallies.

Trump told me he could act like the toniest member of high society when he wanted, and he would as soon as he dispatched his GOP rivals. He said his narcissism would not hinder him as he morphed into a leader. But he can’t stop lashing out and doesn’t get why that turns people against him.

That’s the flaw here:

Everything is filtered through his ego. He reacted to Orlando not as a tragedy so much as a chance to brag about “the congrats” he got for “being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

He’s history to her:

Trump shocked himself by shooting to the top of the Republican heap. It was like watching a bank robber sneak into a bank, only to find all the doors unlocked. But like Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin, Trump refused to study up on policy. So he has been unable to marry his often canny political instincts with some actual knowledge.

He has made some fair points. A lot of our allies do take advantage of us. Our trade deals have left swaths of America devastated. And it was a positive move to propose a meeting with the NRA on gun control for people on the terrorist watch list. But his fair points are getting outnumbered by egregious statements and nutty insinuations, like suggesting that President Obama is tolerant of ISIS attacks, an echo of the kooky birther campaign that he led, suggesting that Obama wasn’t qualified to be president.

Now Trump’s own behavior is casting serious doubt on whether he’s qualified to be president.

No one expected Dowd to abandon Trump, but she just did. If he had those better angels, he certainly didn’t listen to them:

Donald Trump argued again that the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., could have been less deadly had people in the gay nightclub been able to shoot back.

At a rally in The Woodlands, Texas, Friday night, Trump theatrically said he wished the shooter, Omar Mateen, would have been taken down by an armed Pulse clubgoer.

“If we had people with the bullets going in the opposite direction – right smack between the eyes of this maniac,” Trump said, pointing in a gun gesture to his forehead. “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist or right to their ankle, and this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting, and one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes boom, boom, you know what? That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks. That would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight.”

Hey, who doesn’t want to see a man having his brains blown out, right in front of your eyes? You don’t? What’s wrong with you? That may be another debate that Trump is now opening, although by Sunday morning, he had shifted that topic a bit:

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is reaffirming his stance on potentially restricting individuals on the terror watch list from being able to purchase firearms, a week after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns,” Trump told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl in an interview to air Sunday on “This Week.”

Asked by Karl if his position is that those on the no-fly or terror watch list should not be able to purchase a gun, Trump responded, “I’d like to see that, and I’d like to say it. And it’s simpler. It’s just simpler.”

In a tweet Wednesday, Trump announced he would meet with the NRA to discuss banning those on the terror watch list or no fly list from buying guns.

They haven’t met yet, probably because they told him he hadn’t thought this through:

Trump says he understands the NRA wants to protect the Second Amendment, and that creating a gun ban for those on the no-fly list may deny those individuals their Second Amendment rights without due process.

“Now, but what they say, and I understand that also, is the Second Amendment, they’re depriving them of those rights. And that it could be that people are on there that shouldn’t be on, you know, etc. etc.,” Trump said.

“I’ll talk to them,” Trump added. “I understand exactly what they’re saying. You know, a lot of people are on the list that that really maybe shouldn’t be on the list and you know their rights are being taken away so I understand that.”

What did we learn Sunday morning? He’s making this up as he goes, and Sunday morning the NRA got on his case about that other thing:

The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist and political strategist on Sunday pointed to radical Islamic terrorism in the wake of the massacre at an Orlando, Fla. nightclub, saying there is a “serious problem in this country.”

“What happened in Orlando was heartbreaking. Our prayers go out to those families, everybody impacted,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We have a serious problem in this country, a catastrophic situation. It has nothing to do with firearms. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment or even gun control and it has everything to do with radical Islamic terrorists.”

Yeah, yeah, but Trump did screw up:

Cox said the Pulse nightclub’s gun-free-zone policy didn’t prevent Omar Mateen from “mowing down innocent people.”

Cox, however, said he does not want people drinking at a nightclub armed to the teeth.

“What Donald Trump has said is what the American people know is commonsense, that if somebody had been there to stop this faster, fewer people would have died. That’s not controversial, that’s commonsense,” he said.

“No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms. That defies commonsense. It also defies the law. It’s not what we’re talking about here,” he added.

They really were ganging up on him on this:

Efforts by Democrats to introduce new gun control legislation amount to little more than a smoke screen intended to shift attention away from failed policy to combat terrorism, National Rifle Association Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre said Sunday.

“What happened this past week is the president, the whole gun ban movement said look over here, divert your attention, take your eyes off the problem,” LaPierre told John Dickerson on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“They don’t want to face the embarrassment of their failure in this terrorist area, and they want to cover their butts and not talk about it.”

LaPierre pointed to a measure introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would notify law enforcement should a suspected terrorist attempt to buy a weapon as an acceptable compromise, but noted concerns voiced by FBI Director James Comey that stopping a terrorist from purchasing a weapon could actually alert that terrorist that he or she is under investigation.

Yeah, yeah, but Trump did screw up:

Trying to fight terrorism with gun control legislation is like “trying to stop a freight train with a piece of Kleenex,” LaPierre said, arguing that terrorists in California and Paris used firearms to kills dozens of people in places with strict gun laws. He called for armed security in vulnerable targets like malls, churches and schools but stopped short of suggesting that people in bars and nightclubs, like the one where 49 people were shot in Orlando, should be carrying guns.

“I don’t think we should have firearms where people are drinking,” he told Dickerson.

Later, the NRA attempted to clarify LaPierre’s remarks in a post to Twitter. It’s fine to carry a gun in a restaurant or bar that serves alcohol, the NRA wrote on LaPierre’s behalf, but not if you plan to drink.

Digby (Heather Parton) senses something odd is going on here:

I didn’t think the NRA believed guns were inappropriate anywhere. In fact, LaPierre’s the one who popularized the fatuous bumper sticker, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I didn’t think it mattered whether the bad guys and the good guys are boozing.

In the past the NRA has helped with legislation in various states to allow guns in bars. I don’t know if they have decided not to do it anymore. But it’s the wording that makes me think something may have changed. In the past, they have simply said that if you carry a gun into a bar you should not drink alcohol. In that statement, LaPierre said he didn’t think there should be firearms where people are drinking. That’s not the same thing.

It’s hard to believe we’re even talking about this. Carrying guns in bars is completely daft, needless to say. And LaPierre may have just been speaking off the cuff and the NRA’s position hasn’t really changed. But he’s usually pretty careful with his words so it’s at least possible. It’s not much but maybe the pressure is starting to make them budge a little bit.

It was an odd Sunday morning in America, but the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne does suspect that something is changing:

The contradictions of the gun lobby’s worldview are not new, but it has taken a terrorist hate crime at an Orlando nightclub to force even the most slavish congressional followers of the National Rifle Association to rethink whether they can continue to resist every effort, however modest, to prevent violence.

This really shouldn’t be as hard as they have made it:

Those of us who have long favored what we typically call “common-sense gun laws” – including background checks, an assault weapons ban and restrictions on the ability of terrorism suspects and the mentally unstable to buy guns – have always seen the absolutists’ position as nonsensical. This is why we consider our ideas “common-sense.” Judging by most of the polls, a majority of the country agrees with us.

The truth is we already accept the need to subject the right to bear arms to reasonable restrictions. Otherwise, we would repeal laws regulating the ownership of machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. (Imagine the bumper sticker: “If RPGs are outlawed, only outlaws will have RPGs.”)

Those on our side of this debate cannot understand how earlier horrors, particularly the mass murder of children at Sandy Hook, did not change the hearts and minds of our opponents. Surely something is terribly wrong with laws that make such mass killings routine in the United States in a way they are nowhere else in the democratic world. But even very moderate legislation was defeated.

But then there was the special case of the Florida massacre:

What makes Orlando different is the clash the attack revealed between two powerful impulses of contemporary conservatism: the reflexive hostility to gun restrictions and the incessant assertion that we must do what it takes to protect the United States from terrorism. If you believe the second, you really can’t believe the first. This has always been true, but the murder of 49 people by a terrorist made the incongruity so stark that Donald Trump was moved to suggest he would talk to the NRA about ways to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists.

One can be skeptical about whether Trump will go beyond the NRA’s ineffectual solutions to the problem. But Trump’s verbal shift was a telltale sign of an intellectual system that is crumbling.

The signs of that are there now:

The demoralization of one side in a debate is often accompanied by new energy on the other. This is why the Senate filibuster last week to force votes on gun restrictions led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) was so important.

There was power to Murphy’s witness itself, coming as it did from a politician whose constituents include the families who suffered grievously at Sandy Hook. And his rejection of business as usual showed that the long accumulation of massacres has broken the patience of those demanding action. It was a signal that advocates of sane gun laws have moved off the defensive.

Since the NRA-inspired backlash against the gun laws passed in the 1990s, Democrats have been paralyzed by the fear that taking a strong stand on guns would be electorally hazardous. The rallying to Murphy and also Hillary Clinton’s aggressive use of the gun issue in her presidential campaign suggest that the toll taken by mass shootings is changing this political calculus.

After Orlando, it’s the gun-sanity rejectionists who are feeling the pressure.

So, perhaps, this calls for moderate hope:

It takes time for new political realities to take hold. The gun lobby still has many obedient followers in Congress. The Republican Party is still dominated by those who will do whatever the NRA tells them to do. Nonetheless, even the most fervently held dogma is not immune to reality and logic. The collapse of the opposition to reasonable steps toward making us a safer country may not happen all at once. But it is in sight.

That is why people watch or at least follow those Sunday morning political talk shows. Are any new political realities taking hold? Are reality and logic now in vogue? Is an inherently contradictory intellectual system finally crumbling? Will Donald Trump’s hair explode?

There’s always hope. There’s always another Sunday.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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