How conservatives were able to normalize Trump

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield, Ohio, U.S., September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX

Even someone who doesn’t follow politics can see in Donald Trump a truly unusual president. Liberals are often astounded that conservatives don’t recognize Trump’s pathological lying and disregard for constitutional democracy as existential threats to civilization. But Republicans’ worldview has been shaped by relentless, far-right, corporate propaganda. In such a paranoid and disturbed bubble, Trump may be a bit unorthodox, but desperate times called him to office.

In many ways, the reality of Trump matches the caricature of President Obama in the conservative imagination. Conservative commentators hardly ever mentioned the former president without first rattling off a list of pejoratives. Consumers of conservative media spent years hearing Obama referred to as an arrogant, ego-driven, race-baiting, divisive, wannabe dictator. When someone like Trump came along who actually was all those things, and openly so, Republicans normalized him with relative ease. Continue reading

Donald Trump channels Noam Chomsky (sort of)

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In a pre-Superbowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Trump defended Vladimir Putin’s kills.

A statement President Donald Trump made to Bill O’Reilly during a pre-Superbowl interview landed Trump in more trouble than usual. In defending Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from O’Reilly’s allegation that he’s a killer, Trump said, “You think our country’s so innocent? Take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the War in Iraq from the beginning… a lot of people were killed, so, a lot of killers around, believe me.”

Establishment politicians and media fretted over Trump’s frank assessment of American foreign policy, but for once he’s not wrong. In fact, Trump went much further than most politicians usually do in his remarks, venturing into territory usually reserved for the likes of Noam Chomsky. His equation of the Iraq War with Putin’s murders suggests the Iraq War was not merely an honest mistake made with good intentions, but a crime. Continue reading

Watch Donald Trump do a complete 180 in mere seconds

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On one of his many Howard Stern appearances, Donald Trump got seriously rankled by a joke – a joke he earlier claimed to like.

Since he announced his candidacy for president, Donald Trump’s old interviews and media appearances have been dug out of every conceivable archive. Some of the clips caused him great embarrassment, if not political consequences – the most amazing thing about Trump’s boast of using his celebrity status to force himself on women is that it didn’t cost him the election, or even a majority of white female votes.

Interviews with Howard Stern have yielded a trove of Trump’s sub-ape sexual impulses, but one clip that went largely unnoticed is perhaps even more revealing of who Trump is. In 2005 Trump visited Stern and praised then-Stern sideman Artie Lange for his performance at Trump’s Friars Club roast, saying, “Artie did a great job at my roast. He was the single best person… I’m telling you… he was the funniest out of 50.”

When Stern asks to hear some of the material, Lange recalls one joke in which Trump takes daughter Ivanka for a drive through Atlantic City and tells her, “Someday, honey, your name will be at the top of all these buildings. That’s if you marry a guy named Borgata.” Continue reading

“Alternative facts” becomes part of American political discourse

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If you say there are more people on the right side than on the left, it isn’t a lie – it’s a provable falsehood, an untruth, or an alternative fact.

One of George Carlin’s best bits was about euphemisms and how they obscure meaning. A truly stunning example of this took place on NBC over the weekend when prominent Donald Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway went on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Continue reading

Enough with the Russian hacking story

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Whether they have a formal agreement or not, Trump’s agenda certainly aligns with Putin’s.

Shortly before his first press conference as president-elect, a story broke that Donald Trump was being blackmailed by Russia with financial data and a sex tape filmed in a Moscow hotel. It was only the latest unverified scandal in the ongoing saga of Trump’s Russia connection which, despite scant evidence for many of the claims, has dominated mainstream coverage of our post-Trump world. Often the reports have come at the expense of adequately exposing greater evils being perpetrated in plain sight. Continue reading

For the love of God, Trump supporters, don’t worship the man

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A popular sub-Reddit devoted to Trump refers to him as a “God Emperor.” It certainly matches Trump’s view of himself.

Countless alarms, both at home and abroad, have been raised by the election of Donald Trump. Not everyone is worried, though. Many of Trump’s supporters are eager to defend his every lie, his every unconstitutional policy, and his every whining tweet. This part of his support base is drawn to him like a cult to its guru and feels he can do no wrong. That’s a dangerous attitude to have about any elected official, and about Trump in particular. Continue reading

Between Bannon and Trump, press freedom looks dim

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Bannon stepped down from Breitbart to join Trump’s campaign, but the site remained a loyal propaganda arm.

We’ve now had time to digest a week’s worth of President-elect Donald J. Trump stories. Already the prospects for democracy, civil rights and the environment look very dim. Far from “draining the swamp,” Trump is staffing his entire administration with lobbyists, corporate executives, and a cadre of far-right operators. But among the most ominous developments are Trump’s continued assault on the press and his appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsel.

The appointment has become a lightning rod of criticism for the incoming Trump Administration due to Bannon’s operation of Breitbart News. With Breitbart, Bannon has been accused of – and admitted to – providing an online safe space for the alt-right, a loose assortment of far-right internet trolls, racists, porn addicts, and even white nationalists. As a clue to the audience Bannon attracts, American Nazi Party Chairman Rocky Suhayda and former KKK grand wizard David Duke applauded his hire. Continue reading

‘Trump Tapes’ are important, but should not be the biggest election story

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Does this look like the face of a creepy sexual predator?

In newly unearthed audio from 2005, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president, brags about forcing himself on women, kissing them without permission, grabbing them “by the pussy,” and getting away with it because of his power and fame. Since then, several women have come forward with allegations that match Trump’s boasts perfectly. The scandal has fractured the Republican Party as never before and seems to have all but done in Trump’s chances of winning the presidency. Continue reading

Impervious no more: How the media makes and unmakes Trump

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Trump formally announces his candidacy for president.

Donald Trump has been receiving some very bad headlines. Last week his poll numbers took their first serious hit after he fought with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a Muslim Army captain who heroically sacrificed himself in Iraq. He topped himself on August 9 by committing an act of stochastic terrorism, using his pulpit to plant an idea in supporters’ minds that assassinating Hillary Clinton might be a good idea.

What lasting effect any of this will have on him remains to be seen. His supporters are cult-like and he has proven almost impervious to bad publicity. Yet for a man who relentlessly seeks the spotlight and who recently said, “All press is good press,” Trump has long had a tumultuous relationship with the media. Continue reading

How religion determines if a mass shooter is a terrorist

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A vigil in Thailand shows solidarity with the victims in Orlando.

In the wee hours of June 12, during a period of festivity and camaraderie, 49 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured by bullets fired from a military-grade assault weapon legally purchased by a man who had been a suspected terrorist. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, perpetrated by a US-born Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS. But if the killer had been anything other than Muslim, the national conversation in the tragedy’s wake might be much different.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump took the tragedy as an opportunity to pat himself on the back for “being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Since that widely criticized tweet, most pundits and politicians have characterized shooter Omar Mateen as a terrorist. They did the same for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and San Bernardino killers Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook. But not all mass shooters are called terrorists. Those with names like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Jared Loughner, for instance, usually aren’t. Continue reading