Tag Archives: Graham

Mind the Words You Read – Part Two

A compelling third example of this issue may be found in the OZY Presidential Brief of October 17. https://bit.ly/2MV1HgE This email newsletter also reports on the Trump-Pelosi encounter:

Trump Has ‘Meltdown Over Syria Criticism

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused one another of having a “meltdown” during a tense meeting yesterday about the U.S. troop pullout in Syria. Trump, at least, had reason to fume: Amid growing bipartisan anger, two-thirds of House Republicans voted for a resolution condemning his decision, which left the formerly U.S.-backed Kurds open to attack from Turkish forces. Democratic leaders ditched the meeting after Trump reportedly called Pelosi a “third-rate politician.”

The key words, that I bolded in the quote, are “at least,” a usage that in this context clearly implies that Pelosi had no reason to be upset. The deck is subtly stacked in favor of Trump, by suggesting that Trump’s unhappiness about the House impeachment is warranted in some undefined way. The unstated further implication is that Pelosi, the woman in the room, was being unreasonable. The language reinforces the title of the article, further supporting the message that Trump, and only Trump, was justified in having a ‘meltdown,’ removing the implicitly negative implication of the title as regards Trump.

The OZY piece was not labeled “Opinion.” It was presented as a news story. There is no particular reason to think that OZY supports Trump. The writer of this piece may not even be aware of the effect of the language choice.

Finally, another example from the New York Times. https://nyti.ms/32CAV3h Its title is: What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To? The subtitle is “As she injects chaos into the 2020 Democratic primary by accusing her own party of “rigging” the election, an array of alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians have praised her.” [bolding added]

Clearly there is a lot to unpack here. For present purposes, however, let’s just focus on what is being conveyed. The implication is that Gabbard is “up to” something big — accusing the Democratic Party of “rigging” the primary election. If true, that’s pretty important. Having been thus primed for it, you would expect the presentation of compelling evidence to support those claims.

The “chaos” supposedly being injected by Gabbard consists only of her threatening to boycott the next Democratic debate [she ultimately participated though her poll numbers barely scraped by the threshold]. Other than her apparent attraction for white supremacy groups, detailed in the article, there is no apparent reason to credit her with injecting anything into the debate process. Indeed, “Both Ms. Gabbard and her campaign refused requests for comment about her support in right-wing circles or threat to boycott the debate.” If she won’t talk about it, why is the press making a “thing” of it?

The article speculates that “There is potential upside for Ms. Gabbard: Drawing more attention could energize her donors and perhaps attract more supporters, extending her candidacy’s life span.” But the “attention” seems to be from the media, not from the Democratic Party. In attacking the media and suggesting election rigging, we are seeing a familiar refrain used repeatedly by none other than Donald Trump himself. In a masterful deployment of self-contradictory double-speak and exaggeration, the article says “In a moment marked by fractured politics, Ms. Gabbard’s nontraditional positions are a major part of her appeal for voters seeking to break out of polarized partisan divisions…. she is representing viewpoints that draw support from an array of people in the United States as well as abroad.” How one sees supporting someone claiming election rigging as way out of polarization remains a mystery. And, I remind you, she is polling barely above 2 percent, just enough to squeeze into the debates she is decrying.

But most disturbing is that the article describes the embrace of Ms. Gabbard by the Russian media that were involved in the documented and indisputable 2016 election interference, then, in language reminiscent of the Mueller Report, takes her off the hook with “but there is no evidence of coordination between these networks and the campaign itself.”

Here I remind readers of the truism that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of the absence.” And, whether or not Gabbard’s campaign is in cahoots with Russia, it’s more than a little curious that, using some of the same tropes as Trump in 2016, she has attracted the same support from an adverse foreign power and has not rejected it. Then, the article cites Franklin Graham, described as an “influential evangelist” saying, “This whole thing the Democratic Party has done by putting forward this false idea that there was collusion between Russia and Trump has hurt our relations in a huge way with the Russians.”

That’s the Donald Trump party line. Isn’t it strange that Gabbard’s ardent supporters are repeating the Trump mantra in defending her political position? Is she a Democrat or a Republican? It’s hard to tell from articles like this and her political platform. The article recites her attraction to Middle Eastern dictators, another trait she shares with Trump.

So, you may be asking, where is the evidence of election rigging that was the chaos Gabbard supposedly was injecting into the Democratic debates? There is none, at least not in this article. I remain puzzled as to the true purpose of this article. I understand that it has a byline but that, by itself, does not disqualify it as an attempt at providing news. If we accept it as an opinion piece anyway, what is the opinion? Gabbard is in cahoots with Russians to influence the 2020 election? There is evidence, though not conclusive proof, of that. There is also much “equivalency,” albeit in the form of endorsements from Republican enablers of Donald Trump, like Franklin Graham. It’s a mighty curious thing, all this circling of Republican and Russian wagons around the marginal, barely-alive candidacy of a woman with few actual credentials warranting a nomination for the top executive leadership job in our government. Am I being too hard on her? I don’t think so. It was easy for her to reject the support of David Duke of KKK fame but she still sounds like a Republican and a Trump Republican at that.

********

As consumers of political reporting and commentary, we must remain constantly on guard against priming, framing and other psychological biases that work their way into the language of journalism. Taken to extremes, these techniques amount to ‘gaslighting’ which is defined as,

a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.… Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. [https://bit.ly/2Ep8mJV]

Over time, gaslighting erodes the public sense of what is trustworthy and leads to false equivalencies being accepted for blatantly untrue claims such as Trump’s claim that there were good people on both sides of the conflict in Charlottesville between pro-Nazi and anti-Nazi groups. Gaslighting eventually wears down people’s resistance to lying. Google “effect of indifference in politics” and you’ll begin to get an idea of how serious this is.

Trump’s Presidency – the Real Game of Thrones

I have just read that the Trump administration has refused to sign an international agreement involving New Zealand, France and the top social media companies headquartered in the United State that would combat online extremism. The cited objection: the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. While mouthing its general agreement that online extremism is a serious problem, the Trump administration suddenly is concerned that policies designed to more aggressively strike at the use of online platforms to promote extremist and violent behavior will conflict with freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.

This comes from the same president who, in the wake of the white supremacist/neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville declared there were “good people on both sides.” The same president who has declined multiple opportunities to take aggressive positions against extremist right-wing activities. The same president who ignores the all-too-frequent episodes of white assassins slaughtering children in schools and Muslims in their churches while jumping at every chance to complain that an immigrant person of color was involved in some crime.

This from the same president who has, dozens, if not more, times described the media as the “enemy of the people.”

So much for Trump’s concerns about the First Amendment. The truth is that Donald Trump supports online extremism from the racist right-wing white male cohort that produces most of it and that supports him no matter what he says or does. Trump cares nothing about the First Amendment except for its utility as a whipping boy when members of the free press speak negatively about him.

In this, as in most other things, Trump is a lying traitor to the United States.

Think that’s too strong? I have also just read that Trump’s attorneys have argued in litigation challenging a subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee for Trump financial records. Trump’s attorneys maintain that Congress may not investigate the president regarding violations of the law, but only about matters that have a “legitimate legislative purpose.” That position expressly bars Congress from looking into whether the president was personally financially involved in a conflict of interest arising out of a particular piece of legislation.

The ironies of these arguments are almost too glaring to comprehend. There is no question that Congress has the power to bring impeachment proceedings against a sitting president for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The president’s lawyers seem to argue that, despite the wording, the impeachment clause refers to something other than “law enforcement.” That position is not only contrary to the Constitutional language, the principle of separation of powers and plain common sense, it also sets up the president as a person who can, with impunity, violate the law, violate his oath of office, and, generally, act like a king, above reproach, immune to sanction, free to act as he wants without restraint.

There is one irreducible fact about the U.S. Constitution that no amount of legal legerdemain can overcome: the Framers of the Constitution intended to preclude the assumption of kingly powers by the future chief executive of the government under Article II. Trump’s lawyers appear to have forgotten the reasons the War of Independence was fought. It is also commonly called the Revolutionary War — it was a revolution against the tyranny of the English crown, the claimed right of the King of England to treat American colonists however he wanted, above reproach, immune to sanction, free to act as he wanted without restraint.

Trump is now also hinting that he may not respect the outcome of the election that will consider his replacement in 2020. It is only a short step from that position to a claim that he doesn’t actually have to stand for re-election at all, that he can simply suspend the “rigged” election and remain in office as long as he wants.

If that is where Trump and his enablers in the Republican Party are headed, I then suggest, in all seriousness, that we will have a second American Revolution that will remove him from office one way or the other way. If it comes to that, his promoters like Senator Lindsey Graham will face a similar fate. This is the same Senator Lindsey Graham who, in February 2016, stated in public that Donald Trump was a “kook” and “crazy“ and not fit for office,” among many similar statements. It’s all on video: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomnamako/kook Now Graham is Trump’s most ardent supporter but he has nowhere to hide from his treachery. Nothing about Trump has changed for the better since Graham accurately described him in 2016. Graham, like Trump, is unprincipled and apparently willing to say and do anything to keep Trump, and himself, in power.

It is hard to imagine that the courts will sustain Trump’s argument that he is above the reach of law, but anything is possible. Everyone must pay close attention to what may seem like peripheral legal squabbling but is in truth laying the groundwork for a repudiation of the Constitution.

Final Thoughts on Kavanaugh Hearing

Dr. Ford was entirely credible. She had no reason to expose herself to this notoriety if she were lying. She, and she alone, was prepared to subject herself to an independent FBI investigation.

Kavanaugh’s refusal to say, simply, “yes, I want an FBI investigation” is definitively and finally condemnatory. He was playing the Republican-Trump songbook and not prepared to deviate, even when trapped in the corner where Senators Durbin and Harris put him.

Kavanaugh’s opening intemperate outrage and hostility and the attacks on the “left-wing” Democrats are, by themselves disqualifying because they demonstrate a person of questionable temperament. These attacks raise the serious question whether Kavanaugh can fairly decide any case in which there are left-right political implications. Will he not be faced with demands to recuse himself from every such case if he is affirmed for the Supreme Court?

The Republican majority continued their partisan march to affirming the nomination. Chairman Grassley repeatedly interjected himself into the process to challenge what he thought were threats by Democrats to the pure record he wanted to come out of the hearing at the end of the day. Without explaining it, Grassley abandoned the Republican strategy of having Rachel Mitchell conduct the witness examinations. He did this to give Senator Graham to gain the floor, during which Graham went berserk in attacking the Democrats, playing into the Kavanaugh theme that his character had been assassinated and his reputation and family “permanently destroyed.” Graham’s performance was Oscar-worthy; in my view it was designed to do two things: (1) disrupt the rhythm of the hearing, and (2) show Donald Trump that Graham is still totally and relentlessly loyal to him. On the second point, everyone should read Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, wherein Graham’s very close relationship as consigliere to Donald Trump is demonstrated beyond a doubt.

In my opinion, every move, including the tenor of Kavanaugh’s remarks and his disrespectful responses to several Democratic senators, was likely cleared by Kavanaugh with the Republican strategists managing his campaign for the Court seat. The anguish of the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee was largely feigned political showmanship.

At the end of the day, even if it is true that the Democrats have somehow orchestrated the alleged “attack” on Kavanaugh in an effort to prevent the filling of the Supreme Court seat until after the midterm elections, a sufficient question of character and temperament has been raised to warrant two steps: (1) ask the FBI to conduct an independent investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, and (2) disclosure of all the withheld documents, including public disclosure of the “committee confidential” documents that do not contain national security or other serious private information. This should be done regardless of how long it may take.

 

Final Thoughts About the Judiciary Committee Hearing on Kavanaugh

On the verge of hearing Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, which should be very brief (“I am not guilty; I didn’t do it; I didn’t go it), Sen. Lindsey Graham has, in perfect character, come out as Trump’s attack dog, threatening Democrats with the idea that “if this is the standard by which to judge a nominee, Democrats will pay in the future.” Graham claims Democrats are just playing political games to prevent a vote before the midterms. Maybe, but so what? Remember Merrick Garland? Couldn’t even get interviewed and a vote? Never had a chance in Republican controlled Senate. If this is just politics, and not a serious issue regarding the composition of the Supreme Court, it is just desserts for Republicans whose perfidy has come around to hit them in the head.

Graham’s display of anger at what he claims was an “ambush” by Democrats is misplaced but that is par for the Republican course. Did he really expect that Dr. Ford would come in and confess to something? The extent of Graham’s rage is a direct reflection of the reality that Dr. Ford carried the morning.

A final total speculation: Rachel Mitchell, the professional interrogator, actually believed Dr. Ford and was, perhaps involuntarily, hampered in her ability to get hard new information about Dr. Ford’s story. She had a tough job and with the regular interruptions to hear from Democratic senators and an emotional but credible witness, she probably could not succeed no matter what she did. Good.