Fair and Unbalanced

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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Trump is right. This is a dark and frightening time in America.

Littwin: Trump is right. This is a dark and frightening time in America.

Donald Trump is right. This is a dark and frightening time in America.

How else to describe the moment in which thousands of Republican delegates were deliriously cheering the notion that Trump, alone, can solve all our nation’s problems, including those that exist only in an alternate cable-TV-news universe?

Trump, the gold-plated salesman, used his acceptance speech to sell fear to America, to have us look out our windows and see a world that doesn’t exist. It’s one in which crime is rampant, murder rates are soaring, undocumented immigrants are “roaming” the streets “to threaten peaceful citizens,” refugees are terrorists and the concept of law and order has given way to death and despair.

The subtext could not have been more clear. Black and brown people, especially foreign black and brown people, are upending the back-when-America-was-great social order. Cops are being picked off on the streets and Black Lives Matter is to blame. A drunk driver kills a college student — one of thousands killed annually by drunk drivers — and the fact that the driver is an undocumented immigrant is to blame. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are more concerned about politics than about keeping America safe from terrorism, and political correctness is to blame.

And if it takes a law-and-order candidate to put things right, Donald Trump is ready to be that person — and more.

“I am your voice,” he said to the cheering crowd.

“I alone can fix it.”

He didn’t say that Americans would see their way through because that’s what Americans do. He said to believe him. He might as well have said to believe in him, alone. It wasn’t an air kiss to authoritarianism. It was a full-on embrace.

And the ginned-up audience, not unlike those we’ve seen at the Trump rallies, responded with “Yes, you will. Yes, you will.” I’m sure the response wasn’t exactly spontaneous. It’s a play, of course, on Obama’s “Yes, we can” slogan, but think about it. Yes, you will.

Many books are waiting to be written that will try to explain the Trump phenomenon. The easy answers — rapidly changing demographics, globalization and the new inequality, race relations in the time of the first black president, the cable-TV-news effect, government dysfunction and the partisan divide — are probably all too easy. But what’s clear is that people reach out to a strong man when they feel there are no better options. Trump says he will speak for forgotten Americans, and obviously many are listening.

“I have a message for all of you,” Trump said early in his long speech. “The crime and violence that today afflict our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.”

For those listening for echoes of 1968, the speech was actually pure 2016. Forget that David Duke said he was thrilled by it and concentrate on the activists on the convention floor. Because the scariest thing would be if, in 2016, the speech works. At this point, we all know that underestimating Trump is a fool’s game. But what would it mean if the speech is just one more step for Trump on the way to the White House?

Obviously, it would mean we’d have to rethink everything. As John Weaver, the GOP strategist who is in the anti-Trump camp, put it: “Hell, speeches like this are a dime a dozen in Tegucigalpa, Caracas, Asunción, and Donetsk.” Meanwhile, chess champion Garry Kasparov, channeling his inner Molly Ivins, tweeted that he’d heard the same speech plenty of times, but usually in Russian.

No one has ever heard an acceptance speech anything like Trump’s, because there has never been one. No speech as relentlessly dark. No speech so free of ideals. In the absolute darkest of times, Roosevelt famously said the only thing to fear was fear itself. In a time when America remains the richest and most powerful country in the world, Trump said the thing to fear is everything.

Those expecting Trump to use his speech to broaden his base were quickly disabused. If we’ve learned nothing about else about Trump, it’s that he’s the ultimate double-downer. On nearly every day of the convention, the Trump people flirted with at least minor disaster. When it wasn’t a bout of plagiarism or a Ted Cruz open-floor rebellion, it was Trump telling The New York Times that he was prepared to possibly abandon NATO allies. But there actually was a theme to the week, which is that Trump can win simply by appealing to the same voters who won him the GOP nomination.

It was never going to be easy. Anger rarely wins in American politics. The fact that Trump decided to use a Teleprompter — yelling as he was reading — made an angry speech seem angrier still. He harped on immigration and crime as if they were the major issues facing America. He blamed foreign policy failures on Clinton. He said Obama had divided America on race and “has made America a more dangerous environment than, frankly, I have seen or anybody in this room has ever watched or seen.”

He also claimed he was reaching out to Bernie Sanders voters with his take on American trade policy, but Sanders, who was actually live tweeting the speech, wasn’t having it. At one point he asked, “Is this guy running for president or dictator?”

That turned out to be the question of the night. And if you’re looking for a scary answer, it’s this: He’d probably be happy with either one.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

8 Comments

  1. Will Morrison on said:

    This whole republican fear mongering is just more lying from the right. If you look at their greatest time, when Reagan was in office, crime was higher, murder rates were higher, robberies and break ins were higher, cops AND people got shot to death in higher numbers than they do now, it was NO utopia. Under Obama, you’re actually safer than you were then. Another republican lie.

    Immigration is actually going in the OPPOSITE direction, even the illegals can’t stand what this country has turned into and we’re LOSING these people in far higher numbers than they are coming here. But listen to the republicans, and they are coming here in bus loads. Another republican lie.

    Things aren’t NEARLY as bad as they say, not that they are great or perfect by any means. But listening to the right, this country is a veritable living hell, where it’s just too dangerous to get up in the morning. They even have their nut cases afraid to go to the restroom because there might be another HUMAN in there! God FORBID! It’s not like they HAVEN’T been in there before this, is it? Why is it SUDDENLY a HUGE issue? Because the right didn’t have anyone else they could pick on and make an issue for this election, that’s why.

    Republicans are and have been playing divide and conquer on this country for over a generation, I’ve been watching it and been disgusted with it since Nixon. This is, as they say, why we can’t have nice things.

    It’s a real sign that the right’s goal of making everyone hate government has worked quite well. They have not gotten what they wanted, a candidate entirely USELESS to the goals of government, making things better for everyone, not just the 1%. Vote for him at your own peril. And at the rest of ours, as well. Put him in office and you will deserve the absolute SCREWING you get. Unfortunately, so will the rest of the WORLD.

  2. Rob Prince on said:

    Not only did Mr. Trump tried to sell himself as the man who could – albeit by classic rightwing solutions – solve the country’s problems, but he promised to do so quickly! What more does the country long for than political instant gratification? It seems his message is resonating broadly with the idiot faction of the Republican Party to whome the whole convention was geared…and that the convention- along with vilifying Hillary C. – will energize the Republican Party base around the issues near and dear to their hearts – racism, the kind of cowboy capitalism so popular in our state, an authoritarian streak bordering on fascism and foreign wars.

  3. JohninDenver on said:

    I don’t read all the issues, but I can’t remember Batman giving such a long speech about Gotham’s problems. If things are as grim as Trump speaks about, shouldn’t he be issuing cowls and capes rather than baseball caps and “lock her up” tee shirts?

  4. Gilgamesh on said:

    Trump’s message is that if you are one of his chosen people your savior has come to redeem you from all of those zombies who have been let in to this country by the anti-Christ Barak Hussein Obama. Follow Trump and he, Trump, will be your savior. What a crock, but, seems to appeal to the the Republican party.

  5. jon bowman on said:

    I KNOW ED WAS A FRIEND OF YOURS BACK IN THE DAY…SO WITH REPUBS ALWAYS TOUTING REAGAN AS THE BEST PRESIDENT EVER… JUST BROWSE THIS TAKE ON THE BROKEN DOWN ‘B’ GRADE ACTOR WHO ONLY GOT THE WHITE HOUSE BECAUSE HE TOOK THE HEAD OF THE CIA WITH HIM AS A VP…WAS RONNIE SUPPOSE TO SURVIVE HINKLEY ATTACK??? I THINK NOT…CONSPIRARCY 101 ENJOY:
    Why Would They Want To Be Reagan?
    Published 20 January 2008 in the Denver Post.
    Copyright (c) 2008 by Ed Quillen. All rights reserved.
    Thanks to the voters in the great state of Michigan last week, there is no
    Republican front-runner for the presidency. And when one ponders the three
    leading candidates, it becomes clear why. They’re not campaigning for
    president so much as they’re running to claim the “Reagan legacy.”
    Willard Romney, for instance, said in late 2006 that “We must return to the
    common-sense Reagan Republican ideals, and just a few days ago, said “We’re
    going to have to make sure we have the kind of Reagan optimism that America’s
    looking for.”
    There’s John McCain, who said he “enlisted as foot soldier in the Reagan
    revolution,” and thinks about the former president “all the time.”
    Mike Huckabee wanted to be sure people noticed that his campaign had
    attracted Ed Rollins, Reagan’s 1984 national campaign director, as a senior
    adviser and national campaign chair. Huckabee also took a few shots at rival
    Fred Thompson, who “supported Gerald Ford in 1976 and not Ronald Reagan. He
    supported Howard Baker in 1980 and not Ronald Reagan,” while “some of us were
    for Ronald Reagan back in the early days.”
    But why would any sane candidate want to run as a reincarnation of Ronald
    Wilson Reagan? Consider his record and the issues Republicans raise today:
    — Illegal immigration. Reagan thought there was something wrong with an
    America where fruit rotted on trees for lack of labor to pick it. He signed
    the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which legalized 2.7 million
    illegal immigrants — in other words, he supported amnesty.
    — Standing up to terrorists. On Oct. 23, 1983, truck-borne suicide bombers
    crashed their way into a U.S. outpost at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon. The
    death toll included 241 American service members, among them 220 Marines.
    Reagan responded on Feb. 7, 1984, by ordering the Marines to withdraw from
    Lebanon. Talk about “cut and run.”
    — Fiscal responsibility. Although Reagan often talked about cutting the
    federal budget and paying down the federal deficit, that’s not how it worked
    during his presidency. In fiscal 1982, his first budget, federal spending was
    $746 billion. On his last budget in 1989, it was $1.14 trillion. The national
    debt more than doubled during Reagan’s tenure, from $1.137 trillion to $2.867
    trillion.
    — Domestic economy. While some parts of America might have thrived during
    the Reagan years, Colorado wasn’t one of them. More than half our counties
    lost population as mines and mills closed, energy prices dropped and
    agricultural prices fell. Downtown Denver teemed with empty buildings.
    — Party building. When Reagan won his first term in 1980, he carried enough
    Republicans with him so that the GOP gained control of the U.S. Senate,
    53-46. Democrats retained control of the House, 242-192. When Reagan left
    office, Democrats controlled the Senate 55-45, and had enlarged their House
    majority to 260-175.
    — Foreign Policy. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979, more
    than a year before Reagan took office. After he was sworn in, the United
    States began supplying arms to the Afghanis who were fighting against the
    Soviets, and Islamic radicals from many countries went to Afghanistan to
    oppose the infidel Communists. Among those beneficiaries of American help was
    Osama bin Laden, whose power and influence thereby grew. In an effort to slay
    one dragon, the Reagan policy hatched another.
    There isn’t room here to go into the Iran-Contra scandal, or the
    savings-and-loan collapse, or the influence-peddling by Reagan appointees in
    the HUD scandal.
    But there is room to conclude that some things Reagan did — e.g., amnesty
    for illegal immigrants, cutting and running, gross increase in the federal
    deficit — are the sorts of things Republican candidates denounce today even
    as they try to claim his mantle.

  6. Julie Ripley on said:

    Mike, I savored every word of your column. I wish the circulation were on the front of the NYT, WAPO, and every online metro daily that’s left. If my printer and my arches could hold up, I print off hundreds of paper copies and pass them out on the street corners. Keep on writing, and be sure to join the exodus to Canada if/when Trump wins the election!

  7. Keith Campbell on said:

    I miss Molly Ivans.
    Logic and reason don’t hack it anymore. For 8 years the republicans have been defaming Obama a telling people what a horrible president he was. They
    that Washington is broke; I seem to recall that they were actually in charge for the last few years.
    “Remember, remember, the forth of November, gunpowder, treason ????”. Trump will incite riots in our streets.
    Nice to see your column again.
    Keith Campbell
    Denver

  8. Don Lopez on said:

    First, a compliment (sort of): Mr. Littwin’s use of the word “dark” to describe Donald J. Trump’s Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech demonstrates he is still a member in good standing among the liberal media echo chamber who apparently chose that word as their adjective du jour to describe Mr. Trump’s speech. Whether Mr. Littwin chose the word on his own or on DNC instructions has yet to be determined.

    And to no one’s surprise there is yet another recent news story that Mr. Littwin has managed to ignore.

    No, not the attack on a shopping mall in Munich which killed 9 people and wounded 27 others and, according to the New York Times, was carried out by a gunman “with dual German and Iranian citizenship”. That story broke after Mr. Littwin’s column was published.

    And not that Mrs. Clinton has named (gasp!) a white male, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, as her running mate. That story also occurred after Mr. Littwin’s column was published and although he obviously will talk about Senator Kaine in the future he will not talk about either his ethnicity or gender unless he can spin it. Winning trumps diversity. But it was hard to watch Mrs. Clinton sitting behind Senator Kaine as he gave his acceptance speech without thinking of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in HBO’s Veep.

    And not the attack by a black gunman in Baton Rouge which left three law enforcement officers dead and three others wounded. That story will be added to the growing list of stories Mr. Littwin just doesn’t want to talk about. A list which already includes Laquan McDonald and Bataclan.

    I’m talking about the CNN/ORC instant poll taken immediately after Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech that, according to a story published July 21st on yahoo.com, showed:

    “The majority of viewers who watched Donald Trump’s speech to the Republican National Convention on Thursday night said it made them more likely to vote for him in November.

    The poll found that 56% of speech viewers were more likely to vote for the New York businessman after seeing him formally accept the Republican nomination.

    32% of viewers said his speech had little effect on them, and 10% said it made them less likely to cast their vote for Trump in November.

    Overall, 57% of viewers said they had a “very positive” reaction to Trump’s speech. Meanwhile, 18% said they were “somewhat positive” and 24% said it had a “negative effect.””

    That poll clearly puts Mr. Littwin in the 24 percentile. And the poll numbers are in stark contrast to Mr. Littwin’s belief/hope that “Those expecting Trump to use his speech to broaden his base were quickly disabused.”

    Hard to believe, isn’t it, that a man who once claimed he “always had a pretty good handle on politics” and so accurately predicted Senator Sanders would be a “benign summer fling” and who described Mr. Trump as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party” could be so out of touch.

    So, well, in the dark.
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    A top staffer at the Democratic National Committee has apologized after suggesting that the organization use Bernie Sanders’ religious beliefs against him in the Democratic primary.
    One email among the thousands of internal DNC messages released this week by Wikileaks showed DNC CFO Brad Marshall questioning Sanders’ Jewish faith, and suggested that painting the candidate as an atheist “could make several points difference” in several late primary contests.

    “It might may (sic) no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” Marshall wrote in a message to several DNC communications directors. – Politico

    The release of Democratic National Committee emails by WikiLeaks Friday reveals that DNC officials planned anti-Donald Trump protests.
    In multiple emails, DNC officials signed off and acknowledged the existence of two anti-Donald Trump protests in South Bend, IN and Billings, MT. The release of nearly 20,000 emails is the first in a WikiLeaks “Hillary Leaks” series. – Daily Caller

    Twitter lit up Friday night with allegations that it tried to suppress news that secret-leaking website Wikileaks exposed thousands of emails obtained from the servers of the Democratic National Committee. – Washington Examiner

    America was supposed to make big changes while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Clinton would spearhead a reset in U.S.-Russia relations. She’d usher in an era of new, internet-enabled democratic activism. And rather than focus on protracted wars in the Middle East, the U.S. would pivot toward Asia.

    None of that quite came to be. If there is a connective thread in Clinton’s tenure, it was an overestimation in the U.S. ability to shape events around the world and an underestimation of the unintended consequences of change.

    In places like Egypt, rather than democracy, there is a return to an even more aggressive police state, where thousands of opponents are in jail, free speech no longer exists and Islamist jihadists are expanding their grip. Rather than improved relations with Russia, the U.S. is trying to dodge a proxy war with the former Soviet bloc in Syria. Through competing airstrikes, the U.S. is supporting opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Russia has helped prop up the regime. And in Asia, rather than a pivot, the U.S. has only kept one eye on a rapidly changing region. China has increasingly claimed its stake to the South China Sea, and in North Korea Kim Jong-un’s ballistic missile launches have rattled his U.S. allied partner in the south. – Daily Beast

    Malik Obama, President Obama’s Kenyan half-brother, told The New York Post that he plans on voting for Donald Trump in the election. “Make America Great Again is a great slogan. I would like to meet him,” he said. Obama was specifically angered by the lack of indictment over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and same-sex marriage in the United States. – Daily Beast

    “Terrorism can’t be defeated by shrugging our shoulders or by civics lessons on democracy, as President Obama seemed to suggest Friday. This is a war — and it’s getting deadlier by the day.” – New York Post editorial

    “New swing-state polls released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University show Trump leading Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania — and tied in the critical battleground state of Ohio. In three of the states that matter most in November, the surveys point to a race much closer than the national polls, which have Clinton pegged to a significant, mid-single-digit advantage over Trump, suggest.” – Politico

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Garysinisefoundation.org
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

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