Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Loose Lips Sink Ships*

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. has posted a message on Twitter likening Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles.

Seeking to promote his father’s presidential campaign, the younger Trump posted a tweet featuring a bowl of the candy Skittles with a warning.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?” said the tweet on the verified @DonaldTrumpJr handle.

“That’s our Syrian refugee problem,” said the post, which caused a stir and negative tweets on the internet into Tuesday.

Trump Jr.’s tweet said, “This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.”

Donald Trump Jr. likens Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, Associated Press, today

It is by now hardly a secret that Donald Trump Jr. has, let’s say, friends in the white nationalist crowd.*  I mean, personal friends; not just people he hobnobs with online.

A few days ago, in trying to emulate his father and his father’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway by attributing to Clinton, or the news media’s coverage of her, a high-profile trait of Donald Trump, or a routine practice of the mainstream media in covering the Trump campaign—the Trump campaign’s bizarre, kaleidoscopic modus operandi—Trump Jr. claimed that the political-news media was far harsher toward his father than to Clinton, whom, he said, the media had been letting off the hook.  His choice of analogy? Warming up the gas chamber.

In a blog post titled by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake last week titled “A lot of Donald Trump Jr.’s trail missteps seem to involve white nationalists and Nazis,” the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote about Trump Jr.’s comment:

“The media has been her number-one surrogate in this,” Trump said in a Wednesday interview with a Philadelphia radio station, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “Without the media, this wouldn’t even be a contest. But the media has built her up. They’ve let her slide on every indiscrepancy [sic], on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of this thing.”

Then he added: “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”

Blake noted also that after Clinton made her “basket of deplorables” comment, Trump Jr. “Instagrammed a mock-up of a ‘The Expendables’ movie poster with his, his father’s and his father’s supporters’ faces superimposed over the words ‘The Deplorables.’  The problem: One of the superimposed faces was of Pepe the Frog, a symbol that has been co-opted by white supremacists and nationalists.”

In response to criticism about it, as Blake recounted, Trump Jr. said a friend sent it to him:

On “Good Morning America,” Trump said he didn’t know the frog was such a symbol. “If I’m glib — perhaps that’s the case — I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog,” he said. “I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny. I had no idea that there’s any connotation there.”

It may well be that he—likely like most Americans (I, among them)—was unaware of the backstory to that image.  But what about the friend who had sent it to him?  And why did the expression “warming up the gas chambers” come so quickly to mind for him—an obviously weird analogy to news-media criticism of a presidential candidate?  This guy seems as mentally off as his father.

Although maybe this Wharton School bachelor’s degree holder, admitted there undoubtedly based, like his father before him, solely on his school transcripts, SAT score, and extracurriculars—I’m presuming no indiscrepecies there regarding the school’s admission of either father or son—inherited something else from his father: the sheer coincidence of regularly saying things that are misunderstood by, well, everyone.

Last weekend, NYT columnist Timothy Egan, in a column titled “America the Plunderer” that in my opinion should be nominated for a Pulitzer, discussed something that dismays be as much as it does him: During Matt Lauer’s infamous interviews of the two candidates two weeks ago, Trump reiterated his position, expressed during the primaries but (I believe) not in several months, that this country should have appropriated Iraq’s oil fields, and that it should do so now.  Yet virtually no one, including the Clinton campaign, noticed.  Or at least has cared to make this a major public point.

Egan wrote:

Because he’s being graded on a doofus curve that is unprecedented in presidential politics, Donald Trump said more than a dozen outrageous, scary or untrue things in the last 10 days and got away with all of them. But with at least one statement, marking a profound shift in how the United States would interact with the rest of the world, Trump should be shamed back to his golden throne.

He wants the United States to become a nation that steals from its enemies. He’s already called for war crimes — killing family members of terrorists, torturing suspects. He would further violate the Geneva Conventions by making thieves out of a first-­class military.

“It used to be to the victor belong the spoils,” Trump complained to the compliant Matt Lauer in the now infamous commander­-in-­chief forum. Oh, for the days when Goths, Vandals and Nazis were free to rape, pillage and plunder. So unfair, as Trump said on an earlier occasion, that we have “all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight.”

As with everything in Trump’s world, his solution is simple: loot and pilfer. “Take the oil,” said Trump. He was referring to Iraq, post-­invasion. And how would he do this? There would be an open-­ended occupation, as a sovereign nation’s oil was stolen from it. Of course, “you’d leave a certain group behind,” he said, to protect the petro thieves.

A certain group. Let’s be clear what he’s talking about: Under Trump’s plan, American men and women would die for oil, victims of endless rounds of lethal sabotage and terror strikes. That’s your certain group. He thinks we could get in, get the oil, and get out. Just like the cakewalk of occupying Iraq. And if such a seizure violates international law, what’s the rest of the world going to do about it? “Anything is legal” in war, as the deranged Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani explained.

For this kind of plunder, there is in fact a precedent for Trump’s plan: Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The United States fought the first gulf war because the Iraqi dictator tried to seize Kuwait’s oil. We were the good guys, fighting an invading military force that was trying to steal a small country’s most precious natural resource.

I remember upon reading about Clinton’s “basket of deplorables’ the day after she made that comment at an evening fundraiser sponsored by an LBGT group attended, at her invitation, by her campaign’s news media pool, why on earth she would squander the attention of the political press by not using it to describe and highlight information about Trump that most of the public wasn’t aware of—and maybe refute a key claim against her—instead of just reiterating the same-old, same-old about Trump.

What I had in mind specifically then concerned Trump’s financial assistance to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s reelection campaign, including his use of his ostensible charitable foundation to funnel a substantial donation to her PAC at the same time as the public revelation that her office was considering joining New York state’s lawsuit against Trump University and Trump Institute alleging rather clear consumer fraud.  The story finally was gaining steam as a story in the mainstream media, and a reporter-pool-attended Friday evening campaign event struck me as the perfect mechanism to reach a broad spectrum of the electorate.

Equally important—if not more so—it provided the perfect hook for Clinton to compare her own foundation with Trump’s, and to get across to the public what she had failed to even try to do in late August when the story about the emails to State Dept. aides about requests from people connected in one way or another to the Clinton Foundation was omnipresent: the actual specifics of what had occurred, why they had occurred, and the result.

I had not watched the Lauer debacle, and most of the torrent of media outrage about it focused on Lauer’s failure to call Trump on his false reassertion that he had voiced opposition to the Iraq invasion before it occurred—and had used as evidence of it an interview of him more than a year after the invasion.  And about Lauer’s extensive questioning of Clinton about her emails—on the theory that this issue hadn’t received enough news coverage.

And so I didn’t yet know that Trump, after bragging falsely that he had opposed the Iraq invasion before it occurred, then said that as long as we were, y’know, there anyway, we should have confiscated the country’s oil fields as our spoils of victory.  On the theory that we needed most then, and still need most, is to invite universal international outrage against us and deliberately incite terrorism here and worldwide. And do it at the cost of the lives of military personnel who along with their loved ones are, as a demographic, among Trump’s strongest supporters.  Including those who vote in swing states such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Iowa.

Trump Jr.’s latest comment will be treated as yet another appalling racist and xenophobic shout-out by this family and this campaign.  But that is not the only reason it should draw attention.  A hallmark of his father’s various proposals during the course of his campaign is that they demonstrate a key, discrete mental trait that should be addressed in and of itself: Trump lacks the intellectual capacity to understand that actions have certain or near-certain consequences beyond the immediate, narrow ones that the policy is intended to have.  He does not know that they do.  However obvious it is that they do.

Thus, he casually suggests that this country should threaten default of its debt in order to negotiate partial default with the country’s bondholders—utterly clueless of the unequivocal repercussions should this actually be threatened, or even hinted at.

He also says, expressly, that he does not know why we can’t use our nuclear weapons, since, after all, we have them.

And he says—repeated as recently as two weeks ago—that we should have appropriated Iraq’s oil fields.  To the victor should go the spoils.  But only if it’s other people’s blood, and other people’s loved ones’ blood, that effectuates it, for no purpose other than that we want to provoke terrorism, here and elsewhere around the world.

Donald Trump is often analogized to a child or adolescent in personality, but this is an intellectual trait, not merely a temperamental trait, of children.

Trump Jr. thinks his picture of a bowl of Skittles says it all.   Actually, it says only some of it all.  An image of U.S. military personnel in heavy combat at an Iraqi oil field in efforts to defend this country’s confiscation and appropriation of it, and a few images of terrorist attacks around the world during this ongoing combat or in the wake of belligerent comments by President Trump, would say some of the rest of it all.

As they used to say back during the two world wars: Loose Lips Sink Ships.

Let’s indeed end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.  And while we’re at it, make clear that the folks who incessantly invoke the moniker “politically correct” are the ones to whom it actually now applies.

____

*I just saw this, posted tonight at Slate.  The list it includes hopefully will be widely disseminated.  There are some additional indiscrepancies in it, and all should be noted.  Added 9/20 at 8:48 p.m.

____

UPDATE: You really, really should read Paul Waldman’s new post at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog about Post investigative reporter David Farenthold’s report in today’s Post about the massive illegality Farenthold just uncovered at the Trump Foundation–conduct that is at the  very heart of that foundation.

The title of Farenthold’s article is “Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems.”  The legal problems all concerned fines or debts his businesses owed.  His businesses, folks.

His tax-exempt non-profit, whose funds came entirely from others’ donations to this ostensible charity, paid Donald Trump’s for-profit businesses’ legal obligations. As well as Trump’s payoff to Bondi–as Waldman mentions.

Got that?

That report is just the latest in Farenthold’s series of investigative reports on the Trump Foundation, for which I expect him to be nominated for a Pulitzer.

Added 9/20 at 4:58 p.m.

 

*Yes, it’s loose lips, not lose lips, that sink ships, as reader MS 57 kindly mentioned to me in the Comments thread.  Usually it is, anyway, although losing lips might prevent indiscrepencies of that sort.

Aaaaaargggggh.

Corrected 9/21 at 10:45 a.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Comments (8) | |

Donald Trump says that if the leader of ISIS compliments him, he’ll compliment the leader of ISIS right back.

If [Putin] says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.

–Donald J. Trump, speaking to Matt Lauer during interview, Sept. 7

I didn’t watch the debacle Wednesday, and that line by Trump is one I hadn’t read about until just now.

But now that I know about it, it occurs to me that it’s a good thing Donald Trump wasn’t president or British prime minister in, say, 1939.  There was, of course, Neville Chamberlain, but I don’t think Peace For Our Time was maintained for a few extra months before Hitler marched into Poland because Hitler said great things about Chamberlain.

Although maybe that would have worked had Hitler thought of trying it. It could have cut down on the negotiating time in Munich that resulted in the Pact.  By a lot, I guess.

____

UPDATE:  Okay.  I just posted this in the Comments thread in response to, well, comments in the thread:

Lordy, folks.  The Chamberlain reference was intended as a flip joke.  I had thought that “but I don’t think Peace For Our Time was maintained for a few extra months before Hitler marched into Poland because Hitler said great things about Chamberlain” would be recognized for what it was intended to allude to: that Chamberlain based his action on extremely serious facts—England needed time to build a war machine, which notwithstanding the increasingly obvious threat it had not done because of overwhelming resistance to the very thought of war among Brits in the wake of WWI—not on the basis of some personal ego thing.

I didn’t expect most readers to know that Britain badly needed to buy time, or so Chamberlain presumed, since it had very little in the way of military capacity then.  But I did expect people to get that my point was that no leader or would-be leader in his or her right mind would base foreign policy decisions on some opposing leader’s personal compliments to him or her.

C’mon, guys.  Seriously ….

Hope that takes care of it.

Meanwhile, I just read that Hillary Clinton became ill today at a 9/11 memorial event in Manhattan today.  I hope she’s okay.  I hope she’s okay.

Added 9/11 at 2:23 p.m.

Tags: , , , Comments (9) | |

Garbo—er, Clinton—talks! (Here’s what she should say.)

“Generally, I’m concerned, frankly,” said former Democratic Senate leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). “It still looks positive, and I think if you look at the swing states and where she is right now, she’s got a lead. But it’s certainly not in the bag. We have two months to go, and I think it’s going to be a competitive race all the way through. I would say she’s got at least a 60 percent chance of winning.”

At the same time, Daschle said, “all the things that Trump has done, the numbers should be far more explicitly in her favor, but they’re not.”

Among Democrats’ concerns is the fact that Clinton spent a great deal of time over the summer raising millions of dollars in private fundraisers while Trump was devoting much of his schedule to rallies, speeches and TV appearances — although many of those didn’t go as well as his campaign may have hoped.

Clinton has focused more heavily on fundraising than Democratic strategists had hoped would be necessary at this stage, partly to help Democrats running for Congress and state offices who would be useful to Clinton if she is president and partly to hold off further erosion in the polls.

One new goal for Clinton now, aides said, is to spend more time trying to connect directly with voters by sharing a more personal side of herself — and by telling them where she wants to take the country.

Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?, Anne Gearan, Jenna Johnson and John Wagner, Washington Post, today

Back in the late 1920s, after The Jazz Singer, the first Talkie, proved a hit and foretold the rapid end to the silent-movie era and therefore to the careers of any of the stars of that era who could not make the adjustment, the newspapers would cover the transition by writing about various silent-screen stars’ first Talkie.  A famous headline in some tabloid—probably a Hearst paper—shouted: Garbo Talks!

But Garbo also became known for a line of her own, made to a Hollywood reporter: “I vahnt to be uhloohn.”

To be confused with, “I want to be with my close circle of longtime minions and my very wealthy friends and acquaintances.”

I thought of Garbo last week when I read that Hillary Clinton was stepping out after her six-week mostly-hiatus from speaking to the hoi-polloi and her months-and-months-long failure to speak to reporters except once-in-a-while to one or another chosen one.

The latter which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing had she actually said anything to those chosen reporters, rather than simply tried to seem appealing.  And I don’t mean just to talk about her own policy proposals.

I mean, at least as much, to talk about the several really, really important things some mainstream journalists had uncovered about Trump—such as his extortion payment to Florida AG Pam Bondi; his silencing of the plaintiffs who had sued him in the 2000s for what clearly constituted not just civil fraud but also criminal fraud in a Soho condo project, by settling the lawsuit for enough money to cause them to sign a silencing agreement which—for some mysterious reason—also had the effect of killing a criminal investigation because, um, the plaintiffs stopped cooperating in the criminal investigation.

Prosecutors and law enforcement agencies such as the F.B.I. have subpoena powers that trump such silencing agreements.  But, y’know … whatever.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (23) | |