Monday, February 22, 2016

Trump joke isn't funny any more

General John "Black Jack" Pershing

     Conventional wisdom says that Donald Trump is going away.
     Any minute now.
     Cooler heads, supposedly still in charge of the Republican Party, are convinced that once a few of the crowded GOP field drop out, his popularity will plunge and he'll be relegated to the dustbin of extremist zealots who excited the fringes early in primary season then faded away.
     Those 7.8 percent of South Carolina voters who cast a ballot for Jeb Bush in South Carolina Saturday will, now that he's given up, embrace Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or any of the remaining non-Trump candidates.
     I sure hope so.
     Because while I, like many Americans, at first smiled in a kind of rapt, fascinated horror at Trump walking, unscathed, through a succession of lion's dens that would have shredded other candidates, his victory in South Carolina, and the vile hate-mongering he committed leading up to it, have to make any patriotic American reason recoil in disgust, and finally realize: this isn't funny anymore.
     South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. To this day, South Carolina nurtures its bigotry more openly than most places in 21st century America. It was only last year that its state government offices finally took down the Confederate battle flag, 150 years after Appomattox.  Demonizing black people, at least publicly, has fallen from acceptability, even in South Carolina, so those who try to comprehend a confusing world by hating others have turned their attention to Muslims, susceptible because some terrorists claim to be acting in the name of Islam.
     On Friday in Charleston, Trump trotted out a story about General Black Jack Pershing in the Philippines.
     “Early last century, General Pershing — rough guy — they had a terrorism problem,” Trump began. He never explicitly says Pershing was dealing with Muslims, but in the half-sly way that bigots have, sets it up this way: “They have a whole thing with swine, and animals, and pigs. You know the story."
     "He caught 50 terrorists who caused tremendous damage and killed many people. … He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig's blood. And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person he said "You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.' And for 25 years there wasn't a problem, OK?"
     After the applause died down, Trump added, ”We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant and we better start using our heads or we're not going to have a country."
     Trump told his audience they could read about it in their history books, though “not a lot of history books because they don’t like teaching this.”
     Actually, not in any history books, because it isn’t true. The story is a lie.
     But set aside its untruth — Ronald Reagan confused what happened in the movies with what happened in real life. Look at Trump’s intent in telling the untrue story. To direct hatred at Muslims and, in doing so, draw votes to himself.
     Think about that.
     I don’t understand how a candidate does that on Friday and on Saturday wins a statewide primary, even in South Carolina. Muslims are frightened and aghast, of course, but to anyone who belongs to any persecuted group, or simply cares about people, it should be a firebell in the night. For Jews, it is the blood libel, given a slight twist. For blacks, it is the state that enslaved them, looking for a new victim to abuse. For Catholics, women, gays — anybody really, who belongs to a group that can be ostracized and maligned — to hear Trump say it, to see his opponents, maybe hoping for a VP spot, not call Trump out on it, it should grab our attention like a house ablaze next door.
     “We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant and we better start using our heads or we’re not going to have a country.”
     Because a country with Muslims in it isn’t America, I guess.
     They said the same thing about Jews. They said the same thing about blacks. We didn’t belong either.
     How can we let Trump do this?
     Maybe Trump is a joke, maybe he’ll go away and just be a bad memory. Some blame the media for paying attention.
     “Neil, I can’t believe you would give this asshole a minute of your time!” reader Glenn Hoffman wrote.
     Here’s the deal, Glenn. I’ll stop listening to Donald Trump when Republicans stop voting for him. If he’s a joke, he’s a bad joke. If he’s a joke, it isn’t funny. If he’s a joke, too many people are laughing along. If he’s a joke, he’s a joke that has gone on far too long.


  1. Kudos for this column, NS. I still feel Trump is living on borrowed time; at least I sincerely hope so.


  2. Neil, thought you felt Cruz was worse than Trump, a couple of months back.

    Trump gives new meaning to the word revisionist History. More like fictional History. Surprised he didn't pick up on Pershing's foray into Mexico against Pancho Villa who had attached border towns, but Trump probably wasn't much of a student.

    The idea of President Trump is a nightmare, but don't worry, he won't be rounding up Muslims into concentration labor camps.

    1. I still do. But one reason Cruz is worse is that he has the discipline to suppress his true nature. With Trump, it's all out there. As to your last thought: What makes you so sure?

    2. Can't speak for the other poster but I'd guess the ACLU and government laws and agencies outside of the executive branch, wouldn't let that happen. It's not 1938 and no President can be a dictator.

  3. If Donald Trump is the answer, how dumb is the question?

  4. My students held a mock debate last week in our American Lit class. The topic, should all followers of a religion be prevented from entering this country? There was some back and forth on constitutional issues, but the side for prevention and complete banishment of Muslims shouted down the other side.

    ==Yes, they should be banned from entering this country as every one of them wants to kill us. Any one of them could have a bomb strapped to their body. Even Muslims who live here should be forced to leave, as they want us all dead.==

    I was surprised at the vehemence, even more so because the students making these statements were African Americans. Their last retort -- "Muslims take jobs away from us!"

  5. We keep waiting for the moment he goes too far,I think people are so sick of politicians that are beholden to lobbyists that they overlook his hatred. I hope that's the case,the alternative is he's identifying with a multitude of racist Americans.

  6. We keep waiting for the moment he goes too far,I think people are so sick of politicians that are beholden to lobbyists that they overlook his hatred. I hope that's the case,the alternative is he's identifying with a multitude of racist Americans.

  7. This may be the first time we hope a presidential candidate doesn't deliver on his campaign promises!


  8. Like most historical fictions this one has a slight grounding in a related fact. Although he did not himself participate, General John "Black Jack" Pershing noted in his autobiography that some American officers ordered dead enemy fighters buried with pigs as a measure of intimidation. The American Army expedition to pacify the Moro tribes of the southern Philippines was characterized by atrocities on both sides, but Pershing, going against the sentiments of many fellow officers, acted as a peacekeeper, forging alliances with non-Jihadist Muslim authorities. In that connection, it is instructive that our forces prevailed in the long run in part because the American ambassador to Turkey persuaded the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, acting in his religious capacity as Caliph, to send a letter to the Philippine Muslims forbidding them to enter into hostilities against the Americans inasmuch as no interference with their religion would be allowed under American rule -- unlike the Spaniards, who were proselyting Catholics. It is a historical lesson that points out the practical dangers of Trump stirring the anti-Muslim pot. If we are to make any headway in sorting out problems in the middle east it will only be in cooperation with the Saudis, the Iranians, the Jordanians, the Iraqi's and the Turks, all Muslim nations. Hard to get if we keep saying how much we hate them. In general religious wars are a bad idea. Winston Churchill, wearing his historian hat, once said "the wars of the peoples turned out to be much worse than the wars of the Kings." Frightful to think what the wars of the Priests, Reverends, Rabbis, Ayatollahs and Imams would be like.

    Pershing's nickname originated from his early assignment commanding the all black 10th Cavalry, one of the famed "Buffalo Soldiers" regiments. He was originally called "Nigger Jack," manifestly not meant as a compliment, by West Point cadets who disliked his strict enforcement of rules when he was an instructor there.

    Tom Evans

    1. Tom - Great points. I would only add that, not only won't we get cooperation from Muslim nations if the monkeys keep howling, but no president will be able even to seek such cooperation in the first place without hearing a lot of screeching about being "soft on Islam."

    2. Yes, trouble in the Phillipines caused us more time and effort and death than the Spanish American War. This was one of the spoils.

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    5. Another bit of historical irony, the American Ambassador, Oscar S. Straus, was Jewish, later, under Teddy Roosevelt, becoming the first Jewish Cabinet member. President McKinley sent him a congratulatory letter about his efforts as Ambassador to Turkey saying his "wonderful piece of diplomacy" had saved the U.S. at least 20,000 troops in the field and helped avert a holy war.

      Back to the Trump phenomenon, reading the Washington Post gives an instance of almost nothing being entirely bad. George Will is in despair.


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  10. Having Donald Trump as president, it could always get worse. That comedian who impersonates Tina Fey could be his VP.


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