President Donald Trump gave a speech in Poland yesterday that contained all the white nationalist talking points of his alt-right advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. Trump cast the world as being in a clash of civilizations between Muslim terrorists and the West. Transcript:
This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today, we’re in the West, and we have to say, there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life.
You see what’s happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats.
We are confronted by another oppressive ideology, one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe.
America and others have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop.
During a historic gathering in Saudi Arabia, I called on the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations to join together to drive out this menace which threatens all of humanity. We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding and their networks and any form of ideological support that they may have.
While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.
We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism. And we will prevail.
We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.
Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence and challenge our interests.
Then oddly, Trump identifies “government “bureaucracy” as enemies:
Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger, one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people.
The West became great, not because of paperwork and regulations, but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.
Americans, Poles and nations of Europe value freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.
If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.
This is Doctor Stragelove‘s General Jack Ripper: “I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”
The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
These nationalistic talking points of Bannon and Miller are the talking points of nationalistic political parties across Europe today, and are echoes of the nationalistic fascist political parties of the 1930s. Trump is giving support and comfort to these nationalistic political parties with his coded language.
At a news conference in Warsaw, Trump was asked point-blank by NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson: “Will you once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?”
Trump once again equivocated, casting doubt on U.S. intelligence agencies and their unanimous assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election:
“Well, I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries,” Trump replied.
“Nobody really knows for sure. I remember … how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what — that led to one big mess. They were wrong.”
Are we supposed to take solace in the fact that he did not revive the 400 pound fat guy on his bed this time?
Trump took particular exception to the “assessment of 17 intelligence agencies,” claiming that his staff researched the issue, and stated it was only 3 or 4 agencies and that the media later had to run corrections to their reporting. This is a favorite alt-right meme that is purposefully misleading. Politifact explained some time ago that:
The U.S. Intelligence Community is made up of 17 agencies, forming the basis of Hillary Clinton’s claim.
The 17 agencies are: Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Energy Department, Homeland Security Department, State Department, Treasury Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marine Corps Intelligence, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Navy Intelligence and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The 17 separate agencies did not independently declare Russia the perpetrator behind the hacks. Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said that this cuts against Clinton’s point, saying, “It is unlikely that all 16 of the agencies had looked independently at the Russian connection, which is what Clinton seemed to indicate.” (Cheung said 16 agencies because he omitted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from his count.)
However, as the head of the 17-agency intelligence community, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, headed by James Clapper, speaks on behalf of the group.
[T]he Director of National Intelligence, which speaks for the country’s 17 federal intelligence agencies, released a joint statement saying the intelligence community at large is confident that Russia is behind recent hacks into political organizations’ emails.
So once again, Trump made it a point to expressly lie about the U.S. Intelligence agencies assessment.
Trump then pivoted from saying “I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries” to his go-to talking point, blaming President Obama if the Russian interference did happen (note that he never blames Vladimir Putin and the Russians for their cyber war attacks on the U.S.) saying more than a half-dozen times that President Obama “did nothing” to stop it.
This is false. President Obama directly confronted Vladimir Putin last year over the Russian cyber attacks on our election — something that the Trump administration has stated in not on the agenda today for Trump’s face-to-face meeting with his man-crush Vladimir Putin. The Obama administration publicly announced the Russian cyber attacks in October — unfortunately on the same day that the Access Hollywood video of Trump joking about sexually assaulting women sucked up all the oxygen in the celebrity-driven news media. Obama authorized counter-espionage measures that, in the end, were not taken because the intelligence agencies believed that the Russians had the capacity to cause substantial disruption of the election in retaliation. After the election, Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in the U.S. election, seized two Russian diplomatic compounds and kicked those Russian diplomats out of the country — sanctions that the Trump administration is now seeking to reverse (Trump may even offer the return of the two Russian diplomatic compounds to Putin today in his face-to-face meeting).
Trump only offered up a right-wing talking point in support of his false claim: “The reason is, he thought Hillary [Clinton] was going to win,” Trump said. He tweeted this in the past.
As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post pointedly comments, Trump’s latest spin on Russia just left him badly exposed — again:
[L]et’s not forget that during the election, Democrats asked congressional Republican leaders such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to present a united front against Russian meddling. They refused, with McConnell questioning whether it even happened.
But all of that aside, if Trump is going to fault his predecessor’s failure to act in the face of the intel community’s warnings, his own administration should face more media scrutiny as to how seriously it is taking the intel community’s conclusion that Russia will try to do this again — and what it is doing about it.
Trump is doing nothing about it.
Finally, Trump used his press conference to continue his war against the U.S. news media and First Amendment freedom of the press. He did this in Poland, where a far-right nationalist government has taken power and attacked the independent media, replacing it with state-run propaganda media — something Trump, no doubt, would like here (he already enjoys a sycophant conservative media entertainment complex).
So let’s review: Trump used his trip to Poland to give aid and comfort to its far-right nationalist government, attacked the U.S. news media to signal to other nationalist political parties that their attacks on an independent media and freedom of speech are shared by him, questioned and thereby undermined the credibility of U.S. intelligence agencies regarding Russian interference in the U.S. election, attacked “government bureaucracy” (a check on his executive power), and demeaned the office of the presidency by his partisan attacks on his predecessor, all while on foreign soil.
It is unimaginable that any prior president of the United States would ever have engaged in such outrageous behavior.
What could possibly go wrong in Trump’s face-to-face meeting with his man-crush Vladimir Putin today? And will we ever know what is said in this meeting?
This is not normal, nor is it acceptable. We can never allow this obscenity that is Donald Trump to become normalized and acceptable. Trump’s undermining of democratic institutions, principles, norms and values is what is the threat to the West. To paraphrase Trump, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to resist” his deconstruction of liberal democratic democracies in favor of nationalistic authoritarian states?