Why Does Anyone Support This Buffoon?

I don’t get it.

Read a recent, snarky Dana Milbank column in the Washington Post. It began with a visit to Trump-speak–a language bearing less and less relationship to American English.

The Very Stable Genius is glitching again.

This week, he announced that he is not — repeat, NOT — planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He apparently forgot that he had vowed over and over again to do exactly that, saying as recently as a few months ago that Republicans “should never give up” on efforts to “terminate” Obamacare.

“I’m not running to terminate the ACA, AS CROOKED JOE BUDEN DISINFORMATES AND MISINFORMATES ALL THE TIME,” the Republican nominee wrote this week on his Truth Social platform. Rather, he said, he wants to make Obamacare better for “OUR GREST AMERICAN CITIZENS.”

Joe Buden disinformates and misinformates? For a guy trying to make an issue of his opponent’s mental acuity, this was not, shall we say, a grest look.

Milbank offered some additional examples of Trump-speak: “We’ll bring crime back to law and order,” “We just had Super Tuesday, and we had a Tuesday after a Tuesday already,” and “You can’t have an election in the middle of a political season.”

Whenever I am reminded of Trump’s intellectual lapses and/or his inability to use the English language, I marvel that this is the guy MAGA folks think should control the nuclear codes….

Much of Milbank’s column was focused on Trump’s selective memory. When he recently recited the time-honored political question “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Milbank theorized that he’d “forgotten all about the economic collapse and his administration’s catastrophic bungling of the pandemic.”

As the Supreme Court was hearing arguments about banning the abortion pill, Trump also conveniently “forgot” his previous emphatic support for that ban, and his proposal to ban it fortuitously disappeared from his web site. Given that polling shows some 7 in 10 Americans opposed to such a ban, the Heritage Foundation also experienced a website “glitch” that conveniently obscured that part of the Foundation’s Plan for 2025.

As Milbank wrote,

The Heritage Foundation-run Project 2025, to which Trump has unofficially outsourced policymaking for a second term, said that a “glitch” had caused its policies — including those embracing a mifepristone ban — to disappear from its website. The Biden campaign said it was “calling BS on Trump and his allies’ shameless attempt to hide their agenda,” and the missing documents returned — including the language calling abortion pills “the single greatest threat to unborn children” and vowing to withdraw regulatory approval for the drugs.

Evidently, the House Republicans didn’t get the polling memo.

The extremism isn’t just at Project 2025, stocked with former Trump advisers. The House Republican Study Committee, which counts 80 percent of House Republicans as members, put out a budget last week that would rescind approval of mifepristone, dismantle the “failed Obamacare experiment” and embrace a nationwide abortion ban from the moment of conception.

Sometimes its a convenient loss of memory; other times, it’s obvious mental illness compounded by jaw-dropping ignorance. Take Trump’s “explanation” of why Truth Social’s stock wasn’t listed on the New York Stock Exchange:

He said he didn’t list the company on the New York Stock Exchange because it would be “treated too badly in New York” by Democratic officeholders. So he instead listed the company on Nasdaq, which is based in … New York. Trump said the “top person” at the NYSE “is mortified. … He said, ‘I’m losing business.’ ” As CNN pointed out, neither the president nor the chair of the exchange is a “he.”

Then there’s the most recent grift: selling bibles.

Trump is getting kickbacks for selling the Gospel — marketing God the same way he sold Trump-branded “Never Surrender High-Tops” sneakers last month for $399 a pair and, before that, digital trading cards showing Trump as a superhero.

“All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many. It’s my favorite book,” Trump said in the video promoting his new bible hustle.

Trump’s campaign shows a video at rallies announcing that “God Gave us Trump,” and he has called himself “the chosen one.” He’s shared a post calling him “the second greatest” after Jesus. And Milbank reports that Trump recently posted a verse from Psalms, topped by a message likening Trump’s suffering in the fraud case to the Crucifixion. 

There’s much, much more–but it all begs the question: who in their right mind looks at this pathetic sociopath with his limited (and rapidly declining) intellect and his God complex and says “yes, that’s my guy!”?  Is giving his supporters permission to express their racism and hostility to “elitists” really enough to outweigh the daily evidence of his manifest unfitness?

I don’t get it.


About Those “Outsiders”

In Indiana, Republican candidates for Governor and Congress are spending megabucks on increasingly horrifying political ads. (Forget “dog whistles”–the ads for Governor, especially, are blatantly racist). Although it’s difficult to choose the very worst, a candidate for Congress in Indiana’s Fifth District probably wins that close vote: he faults the incumbent for sending tax dollars to Ukraine when we have an enormous problem in the U.S.– trans women competing in women’s sports.

Glad he has a sense of proportion…

Interestingly, the gubernatorial candidates’ attacks on each other have been for taking the few positions with which I actually agree, a tactic that certainly shows what they believe their base Republican voters think. If they’re correct, those voters are “base” in both senses of the word.

If there is a “through line” in these awful ads, however, it is the repeated claims to be “outsiders” rather than “career politicians.” It’s a laughable label for most of them: Braun has been a Senator for six years (granted, an undistinguished one, but it’s been six years) and he was a state legislator before that; Crouch was a County Auditor, served nine years in Indiana’s legislature and is currently Lieutenant Governor; Brad Chambers–who has really leaned on his “outsider” status–was Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce. Etc.

Not only are these claims to outsider status bogus, they’re stupid. Would you hire a job applicant who proudly proclaimed  ignorance of your business and emphasized a prior lack of experience?

James Briggs recently addressed this issue, somewhat tangentially, in a column for the Indianapolis Star.  Briggs was talking about his opposition to term limits–an opposition I share–but his reasoning is pertinent to the posturing of these “outsider” candidates. As he wrote:

State Rep. Chuck Goodrich, a Republican running in Indiana’s 5th District primary against Rep. Victoria Spartz, recently bragged about signing a term limits pledge, adding, “It’s time to break the grip of career politicians & ensure elected officials serve the people, not their own interests!”

That’s completely wrong.

A 2006 National Conference of State Legislatures report looked at states with legislative term limits and concluded “high turnover and relative inexperience create a steep learning curve for committee chairs and members, who are often less knowledgeable than their predecessors,” which “can result in increased influence by staff, bureaucrats and lobbyists.”

Essentially, term limits take power from the career politicians and hand it over to people who are less accountable to the public.

In Congress, the “newbies” are inevitably dependent upon and influenced by Congressional staff, who are familiar with the arcane rules of that body– and unelected by and unknown to the voting public.

Much like term limits, it’s popular to say the government should run like a business. I can’t think of any other economic sector where you’d find strong agreement for the statement, “The more experience you have, the worse you must be at your job.” We have a lot of job openings at IndyStar and I can assure you no one is running around yelling, “Find me some journalism outsiders!”

Briggs points out what most of us know: a professional body is more effective when it’s run by people who know what they’re doing.

The longer lawmakers serve in those jobs, the more they can learn how to navigate complex webs of rules and systems. They can also gain policy expertise, which is helpful for creating laws affecting virtually every part of people’s lives. They can develop relationships to help advance their goals.

The problems we face with government, especially in Indiana, aren’t a result of legislative longevity: they are a result of gerrymandering and low voter turnout. Briggs is dead-on with this paragraph:

Obviously, some elected officials don’t deserve to stay in office forever. The ills attributed to unlimited elected terms can more appropriately be linked to partisan gerrymandering, which creates safe spaces for ineffective, lazy and corrupt officials to win election after election. Yes, term limits would eventually knock those people out. So would competitive elections.

Let me repeat that last sentence: So would competitive elections.

I miss “career politicians” like Dick Lugar and Lee Hamilton. Joe Biden has been able to pass transformative legislation because he is a “career politician” who understands how government works, and how to get things done. I don’t know which of Indiana’s “know-nothing” Republicans will wind up on the general election ballot, but this year, for once, the Democrats have an unusually strong state ticket featuring experienced public servants who actually know how government works and what the positions they’re running for entail. They are also right on the issues.

Vote Blue, and make the GOP candidates actual outsiders.


Then And Now

A week or so ago, my husband and I watched an American Experience episode titled  “Nazi Town”–a PBS documentary about the extent of pro-fascist opinion in the United States in the run-up to World War II.

The documentary left me both saddened and (unexpectedly) hopeful.

I  was saddened–to put it mildly– to learn of the enormous numbers of Americans who had embraced Nazi ideology. Until recently, I had assumed that the great majority of Americans actually believed in democratic government and the protection of civil liberties. I knew, of course, that a minority of my fellow-citizens harbored less comforting views, but I had no idea of the extent to which the American people endorsed truly horrific hatreds and were ready–indeed, eager–to hand the country over to a strongman who would relieve them of any responsibility for political decision-making.

In the 1930s, the nation had dozens and dozens of “Nazi camps,” where children were indoctrinated with White Nationalism. The German-American Bund enrolled hundreds of thousands of Americans who affirmed the notion that the country was created only for White Protestant Christians, and endorsed a “science” of eugenics confirming the superiority of the Aryan “race.” Racism and anti-Semitism were rampant; LGBTQ folks were so deep in the closet their existence was rarely recognized.

All in all, “Nazi Town” displayed–with scholarly documentation and lots of footage of huge crowds saluting both the American flag and the swastika –a very depressing reality.

But the context of all that ugliness also gave me hope–even in the face of the MAGA Trumpers who look so much like the Americans shown giving the “heil Hitler” salute.

I’m hopeful because we live in a society that is immensely different from that of the 20s and 30s.

During those years, the country experienced a Depression in which millions of Americans were jobless and desperate.  America was also in the throes of Jim Crow, and most White and Black Americans effectively occupied separate worlds. Thousands of people–including public officials– wore white robes and marched with the KKK. Europe’s age-old, virulent anti-Semitism had not yet “matured” into the Holocaust, and Hitler’s invasion of Poland–and knowledge of what came after–were still in the future. Few Americans were educated beyond high school.

World War II and discovery of the Holocaust ultimately ended the flirtation with fascism for most Americans, and in the years following that war, the U.S., like the rest of the world, has experienced considerable and continuing technical, social and cultural change. As a result, the world we all inhabit is dramatically different from the world that facilitated the embrace of both fascism and communism. (In fact, it is the extent of those differences that so enrages the MAGA culture warriors.)

Today, despite the contemporary gulf between the rich and the rest, America overall is prosperous. Unemployment has hit an unprecedented  low. Many more Americans are college educated. Despite the barriers that continue to face members of previously marginalized populations, people from different races and religions not only live and work together, they increasingly intermarry. Many, if not most, Americans have gay friends, and some seventy percent approve of same-sex marriage. Television, the Internet and international travel have introduced inhabitants of isolated and/or homogeneous communities to people unlike themselves.

Although there is a robust industry in Holocaust denial and other forms of racial and religious disinformation (I do not have a space laser), Americans have seen the end results of state-sponsored hatreds, and even most of those who harbor old stereotypes are reluctant to do actual harm to those they consider “other.”

The sad truth is that many more of my fellow Americans than I would have guessed are throwbacks to the millions who joined the KKK and the German-American Bund. The hopeful truth is that–even though there is a depressingly large number of them–they are in the minority, and their numbers are dwindling. ( It’s recognition of that fact, and America’s changing demography, that has made them so frantic and threatening.)

I firmly believe that real Americans reject the prejudices that led so many to embrace Nazi ideology in the 20s and 30s.

Today, most of us understand that real Americans aren’t those who share a preferred skin color or ethnicity or religion. Real Americans are those who share an allegiance to the American Idea–to the principles enumerated in the Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

In order to send that message to today’s fascists and neo-Nazis, we need to get real Americans to the polls in November.


They Aren’t Even Pretending Any More

Jim Banks and J.D. Vance–two MAGA Republicans–have introduced a new bill, “The College Admissions Accountability Act.” It would create “a dedicated office for investigating race discrimination in college admissions.” A rightwing publication calls it  “the most dramatic effort yet to enforce the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action.”

Wow…just wow.

As described in glowing terms by the Washington Free Beacon (the rightwing publication), the Act

would establish a special inspector general within the Education Department—separate from the Office of Civil Rights—to probe potential violations of the colorblind standard set forth in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which ruled that race-conscious admissions programs violate the 14th Amendment. The bill would also bar schools that flout the decision from receiving any form of federal aid…

The bill would create a new mechanism for applicants and university employees to file discrimination claims against admissions departments. Those claims would be investigated by the special inspector general—nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate—who could then recommend enforcement actions, including the revocation of federal funds, to the secretary of education and attorney general.

The office would also submit quarterly reports to Congress on the allegations it has received and what corrective steps have been taken. That means the secretary of education and attorney general, while theoretically free to ignore the office’s recommendations, would face public pressure to lay down the law.

Universities, meanwhile, would be at constant risk of humiliation if they adopt the sort of race-based policies that have become de rigueur throughout higher education. Though focused on admissions, the bill also covers “financial aid determinations” and “academic programs,” empowering the inspector general to go after scholarships, fellowships, and research programs that exclude non-minorities.

“The federal government has given the universities free rein to discriminate against white and Asian students,” Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist behind numerous state laws banning critical race theory, said of the bill. “Senator Vance’s proposed legislation will put a stop to this.”

Rufo, you will recall, is Ron DeSantis’ go-to guy on education…

The questions just ask themselves…like, where were these proud opponents of racial discrimination when it was Black kids who were being discriminated against? (Answer: Nowhere to be found.) And what happened to those intrepid conservative warriors  who were battling big government and regulatory over-reach? (Answer: It doesn’t count as over-reach if government is imposing policies that benefit White Christian guys.)

I note from the above description of the bill that these Paladins of Non-discrimination are also working hard to ensure that those greedy Black kids who somehow manage to get admitted don’t get any “extra” consideration when it comes to financial assistance. 

Given Banks hostility to LGBTQ Americans, I’m only surprised that he didn’t manage to work some homophobia into his new appreciation for having government oversight and “accountability.” (Of course, I haven’t read the entire bill…)

When the Supreme Court  handed down its decision on affirmative action, the Congressional Black Caucus warned that ending the consideration of race in admissions policies in higher education would have far-reaching, negative consequences. Even that Caucus, however, could not have foreseen the way White Supremicists have rushed to bully and threaten universities in order to ensure that Black applicants receive absolutely no “special” consideration. (And clearly, from the language of Banks’ bill, White guys hostile to Black kids will be the ones who get to decide what “special” consideration looks like.)

When I read the language of this bill, it prompted a twinge of nostalgia for the dear departed days of the “dog whistle.” MAGA Republicans like Banks have substituted a bugle for that whistle. 

Ohio is responsible for J.D. Vance (about whom Mitt Romney recently wrote, “I don’t know that I can disrespect someone more than JD Vance”), but voters in a Hoosier Congressional district are the ones who inflicted Jim Banks on the country. Now Banks wants to take his fetid brand of MAGA fundamentalism to the U.S. Senate. WE CANNOT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN.

As Brian Howey wrote when Banks was supporting Jim Jordan for speaker, “Indiana has a history of Senate lions; Banks is a House hyena.”

We have a chance to get rid of Banks in 2024. Democrat Marc Carmichael is the antithesis of Jim Banks; he would be a Senator Hoosiers could be proud of. He actually wants to be a Senator for ALL Indiana citizens.

Go to his website. Volunteer. Send him money. Tell your friends. 

Help him defeat the hyena.


The More We Learn…

It’s a conundrum.

Any civilized society operates by creating and enforcing rules. Social tranquility depends upon choosing wise people to make the rules and fair-minded people to enforce them.Right now, America isn’t doing too well with either of those populations.

This blog spends an inordinate amount of time on the clown show that is the U.S. House of Representatives, but problems with enforcement–with policing–are equally thorny.

From the beating of Rodney King to the murder of George Floyd and the multitude of other unwarranted violent episodes, Americans have been inundated with video evidence of questionable police behavior.

And “questionable” is frequently the correct word. As public safety professionals will tell us, protecting the public often requires split-second decision-making in situations that are a lot more ambiguous than they appear after the fact. Given the difficulties they face, giving police the benefit of reasonable doubt is only fair.

But all doubt isn’t reasonable.

Reporters keep uncovering deeply disturbing evidence of a racist, anti-Semitic and thuggish culture that persists in a troubling number of police departments. A year or so ago, one such culture was exposed in Torrance ,California . Text messages that had circulated among current and former officers of the city’s Police Department “reveal a culture rife with racism, antisemitism, and homophobia going back at least a decade.”

The texts are extremely violent in nature and grotesquely racist, homophobic, and antisemitic.

According to reporting from the LA Times, one text shows a picture of a candy cane, a Christmas tree ornament, a star for the top of the tree, and an “enslaved person.”

“Which one doesn’t belong?” the caption asks.

“You don’t hang the star,” someone replies.

Another message reads “hanging with the homies,” attached was a photo of several Black men who had been lynched.

Another photo asks what someone would do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man. The captioned response was to break “a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him.”

Prosecutors say the messages go back years and could jeopardize hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests.

The LA Times identified 13 current and former police officers and one Long Beach cop who are now under investigation. At least nine of the officers texted images or commentary advocating violence against Black people and LGBTQ community members and ridiculing racial profiling.

There was much more, and all horrific. Discovery of the texts was triggered by an investigation of two former Torrance police officers who had spray-painted a swastika inside a resident’s car.

If Torrance was an isolated instance, it would be troubling enough, but in the last few years, we’ve seen repeated evidence that these White Supremacy attitudes are widespread among both the police and the military.

As the linked article by an FBI agent now with the Brennan Center warns:

For decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has routinely warned its agents that the white supremacist and far-right militant groups it investigates often have links to law enforcement. Yet the justice department has no national strategy designed to protect the communities policed by these dangerously compromised law enforcers. As our nation grapples with how to reimagine public safety in the wake of the protests following the police killing of George Floyd, it is time to confront and resolve the persistent problem of explicit racism in law enforcement.

I know about these routine warnings because I received them as a young FBI agent preparing to accept an undercover assignment against neo-Nazi groups in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. But you don’t have to take my word for it. A redacted version of a 2006 FBI intelligence assessment, White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement, alerted agents to “both strategic infiltration by organized groups and self-initiated infiltration by law enforcement personnel sympathetic to white supremacist causes.”

As the officer who wrote the above article pointed out, If the U.S. government found out that al-Qaida or a similar foreign terrorist organization had infiltrated American law enforcement, it would immediately launch a nationwide effort to identify those individuals and neutralize the threat.

Yet white supremacists and far-right militants have committed far more attacks and killed more people in the U.S. over the last 10 years than any foreign terrorist movement. The FBI regards them as the most lethal domestic terror threat. The need for national action is even more critical.

We the People need the police. But we need the right kind of police. That requires hiring practices capable of weeding out thuggish, bigoted applicants, and training that emphasizes service to all parts of the communities they will be hired to protect.

We have a problem, and public safety requires that we fix it.