Saturday, August 27, 2016

Clinton's masterful speech pinning Trump's racist appeals and dog-whistle allusions squarely on him

Hillary Clinton gave a speech on Wednesday in Reno, Nevada that may long be remembered as the one that cemented the win for her.   It was about Donald Trump's racist and xenophobic statements and appeals, those dog whistles that are heard by what has come to be called the Alt-Right.

That term refers to "alternate right," which the Wall Street Journal describes as a loosely organized movement that "rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity."   It includes those who are part of white supremacist and nativist groups.  Trump has now brought the former head of Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon, in as CEO of his campaign.   Bannon has described Breitbart News as "a platform for the Alt-Right."

"In doing this, Clinton was speaking to moderate Republicans who are horrified by some of the things Trumps says but are still trying to rationalize voting for him.  His recent strategy of softening his positions on immigrants, as well as his awkward appeal for black voters, is really an attempt to hold on to those same, moderate, white Republicans by trying to show them that he is not racist or anti-immigrant.

However good Kellyanne Conway is with message and campaign planning, she has pretty poor material to work with in Donald Trump.  It's just not working.   And Hillary Clinton's speech may just have driven the spike through the heart of Trump's attempt to get back those moderate Republicans.   Campaign professionals and liberal pundits are calling Clinton's speech a brilliant strategy.   What she did, essentially, was to quote his own words and actions and to force him to own them -- or else deny them and the people he's been appealing to. 

Here's what Fox news host Shep Smith said about it:  "That was an extraordinary moment. . . .  [Clinton] just tagged her Republican rival as a racist, fearmongering conspiracy theorist who is tempermentally unfit to be president of the United States. The problem with any attempt to rebut her is that in this case she used Donald Trump's own words, was historically accurate on his policies, on all reviewed points."  Here are some highlights:

-- "From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.  He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of American's two major political parties."

-- "Trump's lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough.   But what he's doing here is more sinister.   Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters.   It's a disturbing preview of what kind of President he'd be."

-- "Now I know there are some people who like to give him a second chance.  They hope that he will eventually reinvent himself -- that there's a kinder, gentler, more responsible Donald Trump waiting in the wings somewhere. . . .  But the hard truth is, there's no other Donald Trump.   This is it."

"Maya Angelou once said:  'When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.'   Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is.   We should believe him."
Clinton then reviewed Trump's own history of racial discrimination, including a major lawsuit from the Department of Justice for refusing to rent apartments to black people, his being fined by state officials for racist hiring practices in his casinos -- and his being the ringleader of the "birtherism" which Clinton called "a sustained effort to delegitimize America's first black president."

She continued with other examples of Trump's own bigotry, including saying that a federal judge was incapable of doing his job solely because of his Mexican heritage -- which Paul Ryan described as "the textbook definition of a racist comment."  Back to quotes from Clinton's speech:
-- "His latest paranoid fever dream is about my health.   All I can say is, Donald, dream on.   This is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like Gospel. . . .  It's what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who . . . said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there.  Trump didn't challenge those lies.   He went on Jones' show and said:  'Your reputation is amazing.  I will not let you down.'"

-- "This man wants to be President of the United States. . . .  In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership . . . . clear thinking. . . and calm judgment . . .  The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can't tell the difference between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors."

-- "And don't be distracted by his latest attempts to muddy the waters.   He may have some new people putting words in his mouth. . . but we know where he stands."

-- "Don't worry, some will say, as President, Trump will be surrounded by smart advisers who will rein in his worst impulses.   So when a tweet gets under his skin and he wants to retaliate with a cruise missile, maybe cooler heads will be there to convince him not to. . . Maybe. . . ."

-- "But look at who he's put in charge of his campaign. . . .  Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called . . . . [who] shortly after the Charleston massacre [ran this headline] . . .  'Hoist It High and Proud:  The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage', when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides.  Breitbart tried to enflame them further.   Just imagine -- Donald Trump reading that and thinking:  'this is what I need more of in my campaign.'"

-- "The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement of the 'Alt-Right.'   A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party. . . .  On David Duke's radio show the other day, the mood was jubiliant.  'We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,' one white supremacist said."

-- "This is part of a broader story -- the rising tide of hardline, right-wing nationalism around the world.   Just yesterday, one of Britain's most prominent right-wing leaders, Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum on leaving the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi."

-- "The godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism is Russian President Vladimir Putin.  In fact, Farage has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs.   Now he's standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee.   Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embraces pro-Russian policies.   He talks casually of abandoning our NATO allies, recognizing Russian's annexation of Crimea, and of giving the Kremlin a free hand in Eastern Europe more generally.   American presidents from Truman to Reagan have rejected that kind of approach Trump is taking on Russia.   We should too."
-- "All of this adds up to something we've never seen before.   Of course there's always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment.   But it's never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone.  Until now."

-- "No one should have any illusions about what's really going on here.   The names may have changed. . . . Racists now call themselves racialists.   White supremacists now call themselves 'white nationalists.'   The paranoid fringe now calls itself' 'alt-right.'   But the hate burns just as bright.  And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well.   Don't be fooled."

-- "We know who Trump is.   A few words on a teleprompter won't change that.   He says he wants to 'make American great again,' but his real message remains 'Make American hate again.'"

-- "This isn't just about one election.  It's about who we are as a nation.   It's about the kind of example we want to set for our children and grandchildren.  Next time you watch Donald Trump rant on television, think about all the kids listening across the country.   They hear a lot more than we think.  Parents and teachers are already worried about what they're calling the 'Trump Effect.'   Bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially targeting students of color, Muslims, and immigrants."

-- "This is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. . . .  Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the Party to get out.  The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims 'love America just as much as I do.' . . . We need that kind of leadership again."

-- "I promise you this:  with your help, I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.   For those who vote for me and those who don't.   For all Americans.   Because I believe we are stronger together."
The speech was incredible, as the Fox host acknowledged, because it was so fact-based.   There was not a single accusation or demeaning characterization that was not backed up by his own words or action.   I just want to add one word about her presentation.   This was not only the best speech but also the best delivery she has ever done.   She has learned to control her voice:   it was modulated lower, she spoke more conversationally and more directly to people.   She was confident and, yes, I'll say it:   she was presidential.


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