Thanks to David Bringman for this article! (And David, please register as a subscriber to this blog, so you can put your next piece online directly.)
Unless you get every bit of your news from this blog, you’ve already heard about the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The usual ritualized responses are being made again, with Republican after Republican insisting again that nothing can be done.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it was premature to discuss legislative responses, “if there are any,” while House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the focus should be on mental health.
Instead of quoting these do-nothings, let’s review what has already happened in countries that are governed by people who aren’t against government.
On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania. By the time he was finished, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history.
Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable. Led by newly elected conservative Prime Minister John Howard, it announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.
That quote is old. Is has been 21 years since the Port Arthur massacre. There have been no mass shootings in Australia in that time. They went from 11 mass shootings in the decade before 1996, to none in two decades. By contrast, in 2015 the United states averaged a mass shooting per day.
At the heart of the push was a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia. The country’s new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.
The NRA would have you believe that when citizens are unarmed, they are defenseless, and that violent criminals with guns will have their way with them. It didn’t happen. Homicides by firearm in Australia plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006. The NRA would have you believe that gun control can’t work, because when criminals can’t get guns, they will use other weapons. It didn’t happen: there was no increase in non-firearm-related homicides during that period. Home invasions didn’t increase either.
When someone tells you gun control can’t work, throw Australia in their faces.
The President has pardoned Joe Arpaio. Arpaio has been found guilty of criminal contempt of court, and faced up to six months in prison, for willfully violating a court order instructing him not to detain immigrants who were not suspected of any crime. He wasn’t sorry.
The message to racist public officials could not be more clear: it’s open season. If you’re on the wrong side of a racist vigilante sheriff, having the law on your side is no protection at all; you have been warned.
Perhaps there’s another audience for this message as well. Now we know—if we had any doubts—that Trump will use his pardon power to reward personal loyalty to Trump. If you’re being questioned in the Russia investigation, don’t worry about being charged with obstruction of justice or perjury. The rule of law is suspended until further notice.
Update: Joe Arpaio’s history of official abuse is not short. False arrests of reporters, inmate deaths, rapes unprosecuted, a federal judge investigated. This is what Trump considers worthy of a pardon.
It doesn’t matter that several Republican elected officials are now saying mean things about Trump. It doesn’t matter that Bannon is out. It doesn’t matter whether a resolution of censure passes Congress. It doesn’t even matter whether Republicans in the House vote with Democrats to impeach this President and Republicans in the Senate vote to convict. There’s nothing the Republican Party can do to escape the moral stain of having been the party of fascism.
Trump remains far from isolated. While some publicity-sensitive corporate CEOs have abandoned Trump’s advisory councils, his Jewish advisors won’t publicly criticize his support for Nazis. Indeed, no White House officials have resigned in the wake of Trump’s indefensible behavior. His evangelical Christian advisory council has stood with him, to the lasting shame of the evangelical Christians who helped elect him. None of the critical comments from Republican members of Congress have been followed by “and I will no longer approve his judicial nominees nor back his legislative program.”
When the rewriting of the history of this era gets underway in earnest, remember: even if Trump is eventually discarded by the Republican Party, it was the Republican Party who created him, backed him, elected him, enabled him. There are plenty of Republicans waiting in the wings who are just as racist as Trump, just as misogynist as Trump, just as eager to cut taxes on the rich as Trump, just as willing to make Christianity the state religion, just as willing to start another war, just as willing to protect corporations and unleash brutal cops and intimidate the press and promote lynching. Fixing Trump is not fixing the fact that one of the major political parties in the U.S. is now fascist, and permanently discredited.
Trump gave a half-hearted denunciation of racist, swastika-wearing, Nazi-saluting white supremacists on Monday, days after one of them murdered an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville. And if you think “half-hearted” is unfair, look at what he said today.
In a long, combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower, the president repeatedly rejected a torrent of bipartisan criticism for waiting several days before naming the right-wing groups and placing blame on “many sides” for the violence that ended with the death of a young woman after a car crashed into a crowd.
Mr. Trump repeated that assertion on Tuesday, criticizing “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is “blame on both sides.”
Sounding very much like a right-wing Twitter feed, the president added, “Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
Trump went on to defend the tiki-torch-wielding racists who gathered on Friday night, before saying, in reference to the racist activists, “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” …
He actually argued that there were “very fine people on both sides” and that he believes “there’s blame on both sides.”
If that sounds like a message white supremacists will be thrilled to hear, we don’t need to speculate: David Duke has already thanked Trump for this afternoon’s comments.
Where does it stop, indeed?
Donald Trump has canceled all press events today. Yesterday, he ran from reporters who asked him to call terrorism “terrorism.” Donald Trump, the “alpha” whose campaign dared Democrats to condemn “radical Islamic terrorism,” who finds it easy to condemn department stores and TV networks and Hollywood actresses in intemperate language, that man cannot find it in himself to risk the ire of his base by calling white supremacist terror “white supremacist terror.”
Donald Trump’s cowardice has made the Republican Party into the murderers’ party, the lynchers’ party, the party that stands idly by while their supporters murder anti-racists. The party that is, just maybe, a little happy to see it happen.
The largest hate gathering in decades is going on now in Virginia. White supremacists of all stripes, including the KKK and Nazis, are marching openly and proudly, chanting racist slogans like “White lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” One counter-demonstrator has been murdered and nineteen injured by a man who deliberately drove his car into a crowd.
The President of the United States has condemned…both sides. He is not in the habit of condemning violence, of course, inciting it is more his style. Now that the logical consequences are here, he suddenly doesn’t want the credit.
Today the President of the United States posted a video on Twitter, a modified version of an old pro wrestling show, in which Trump pretends to knock someone down and punch him repeatedly. The video has the CNN logo in place of the guy’s face. Watch the video here.
CNN responded in a statement:
It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.
Read the entire essay by Masha Gessen, “The Reichstag Fire Next Time“.
The war that began in 2001 is unlike other wars: The enemy is not a nation or an army but a tactic, one that has existed for millennia. This war cannot be won, because a tactic cannot be eradicated. A war that cannot be won cannot end, and so it has not. Nor have the liberties surrendered by Americans in response to 9/11 been restored. Under President Obama, the war on terror morphed into the more grammatically sensible war on terrorism. The Patriot Act became the Freedom Act. The use of torture appears to have been largely discontinued, but the camp at Guantánamo Bay continues its shameful existence—with a reduced number of inmates, though numbers are never a good measure of liberty. Millions of Americans who voted in the last election have lived with the war on terror for as long as they can remember.
In his farewell address in Chicago, Obama could claim only that he had “worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties. That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans,” he said, interrupted by cheers before continuing, “who are just as patriotic as we are.” Over the course of more than fifteen years, the essential premise—that the United States is at war, and that the Other in this war is Muslims—has remained unchanged. Trump claims that Muslim Americans celebrated 9/11, while Obama says that they are just as patriotic as we are; that they are not us is one of the few things the two men agree on.
In New York, Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park put on a production of Julius Caesar. The character of Caesar was made to resemble Trump, and of course Caesar was assassinated, so Republicans lost their minds. Unprecendented! Liberals would never have stood for something like this directed at a liberal President! Never mind the fact that there was a 2012 production of Julius Caesar that featured a charismatic black guy in the role of Caesar, obviously Barack Obama, with not a peep of actual objection from actual liberals. There’s no reason for facts to get in the way of the rage.
So why am I surprised that a Texas, repeat Texas, theater troupe has started getting death threats for producing Shakespeare?