By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
NC readers will recall that I regularly do close readings of speeches given by major political figures: Obama, Clinton, Rubio, and even Julia Gillard, then Prime Minister of Australia, using Magic Marker-style color coding to highlight, for example, neo-liberal catchphrases, or footnotes to annotate and interpret rhetorical forms.
Well, you’re not getting anything like that from me tonight. It’s been cold and rainy up here for days and I can’t garden, the goddamned furnace is running in the middle of June, and then — bathos alert! — there’s the Orlando Pulse Club mass shooting and the disheartening reaction to it, but worst of all I have a severe and painful case of cognitive dissonance from coping with the idea that anything Donald Trump says can possibly make sense. Then again, maybe there’s a reason Trump went through seventeen of his competitors for the Republican Presidential nomination like a hot knife through butter. Eh?
So I’m going to keep it simple. If you want to listen to Trump’s speech at St Anselm College in New Hampshire, or watch it, here’s the video:
Because coverage for Trump, as with Sanders, has been vile piece of jobbery by our Acela-rising scorps, I’m going to quote great slabs from Trump’s remarks. I’ll briefly compare and contrast what the press said to what Trump’s words were. I may add brief commentary of my own. I’m not going to quote the whole speech. Instead, I’m going to quote three topic areas from his prepared remarks. (The transcript of the speech as delivered, sadly in ALL CAPS, is here). The topics:
- Diversity and Multiculturalism
- War and Peace
So let’s look at what Trump has to say;
1. Diversity and Multiculturalism
After calling for a moment of silence, Trump says this:
TRUMP: Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT Community.
This is a very dark moment in America’s history.
A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.
It is a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation.
It is an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity.
It is an attack on the right of every single American to live in peace and safety in their own country.
We need to respond to this attack on America as one united people – with force, purpose and determination.
Let’s put aside the question of sincerity: that would require us to treat whatever Manafort and Stone have cooked up, versus whatever Clinton’s focus groups have emitted, as commensurate; but that’s not possible. Let’s focus on the fact that Trump, remarkably for a Conservative Republican, puts “solidarity” (!!!) with “the members of Orlando’s LGBT Community” up front, and treats the ability of people to “love who they want” at “the heart and soul of who we are as a nation.” That’s what we used to call, back in the day at Kos, performative speech; it changes who the Republicans are as a party by virtue of having been said. Now, politically I’d guess that Trump won’t be winning a lot of votes in the LGBT community over this any time soon, let alone turning around his unfavorables. I’d also guess there will be real, and more subtle, effects: Trump is disempowering certain Republican factions (especially the “Christian” right, proven losers), and empowering his own base not to act hatefully toward gays (and if you believe that Trump voters are authoritarian followers, that’s important).
That said, it’s quite remarkable to hear the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party say that he “stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT Community.” I’d even go so far as to say it’s newsworthy. WaPo did; Bloomberg did; the conservative hive mind managed to emit a “viral” pro-Trump letter by an anonymous gay person; but Times stenographers Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, in an Op-Ed somehow misfiled as reporting, omit to mention this portion of the speech altogether. Sad!
More seriously, Dylann Matthews of Vox does real reporting, connecting Trump ideologically to the European right, starting with the Netherlands’ Pim Fortuyn, gay himself, who combined support for LGBT rights with a blanket ban on Muslim immigration, and moving on through Marine LePen, concluding that Trump’s support is “a smokescreen through which to advocate anti-Muslim policies.”
But Fortuyn was open about his support of gay rights; and open about banning Muslim immigration, so isn’t “smokescreen” itself a smokescreen, begging the question? What Matthews really seems to mean is that Fortuyn’s support for LGBT rights is incompatible with Fortuyn’s support for banning Muslim immigration. Empirically, that doesn’t seem to be the case; Matthews certainly doesn’t document any decrease in LGBT rights after Fortuyn’s rise. So where is the incompatibility? At this point, we note that Trump shares, with Clinton’s liberals, and apparently with Fortuyn, although not with the left, the idea that to “express identity” is the essence of a “free people.” Speculating freely, we might imagine that Matthews believes that Muslims, like LGBT people, must also to be free to express their identities, and that to prevent them from doing so is “Islamophobia,” along the lines of homophobia.
Here identity politics founders on its own contradictions, as identities clash on both values and interests; identities cannot all be silo-ed in their own “safe spaces.” For example, immigration, like globalization, creates public goods but has economic costs that some classes disportionately bear, and economic benefits that some classes disproportionately accrue, as blue collar workers know but professional economists are only belatedly discovering. Does the expression of identity trump those costs? Why? And whose identity? One does not sense, for example, that liberals are fired with concern for heartlanders who identify as Christians (unless Christians serve a geopolitical purpose in faraway Syria), or with men who identify as gunowners. So if what liberals (and conservatives) mean by identity politics is really just power politics and the upward distribution of wealth, straight up, that’s fine and clarifying, but wasn’t the alpha and omega supposed to be justice? Even love?
Of course, by now we are far afield from Trump; but as far as accepting LGBT people as fully human, can’t liberals take yes for an answer?
America must do more – much more – to protect its citizens, especially people who are potential victims of crimes based on their backgrounds or sexual orientations.
It also means we must change our foreign policy.
The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow.
These actions, along with our disastrous Iran deal, have also reduced our ability to work in partnership with our Muslim allies in the region.
For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped unleash ISIS on a new continent.
(I think the Iran deal is one of the few good things that Obama has done.) Trump is describing what Chalmers Johnson called “blowback.” Isn’t it remarkable the Trump is the only candidate — including, AFAIK, Sanders — who’s even mentioning it? (See here for Clinton’s pivotal role in promoting the LIbya debacle in the Obama administration.) And if you want a good view into the heart of the foreign policy establishment, try the Foreign Policy podcast. They think Obama was weak because he didn’t put “boots on the ground” in Syria; they love Clinton because they think she’ll be “muscular”; and they hate Trump, and think hes’s a lunatic. Well, what’s more lunatic then setting the Mediterranean littoral on fire, and provoking a refugee crisis in the European Union? Moar blowback, anyone?
3. War and Peace
With respect to a military response to “radical Islamism,” the difference between Trump and Clinton can be summed up most effectively in the form of a table. (I’ve taken Clinton’s words from this transcript.)
Figure 1: Recommended Military Action Against “Radical Islam”
The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear: we cannot contain this threat – we must defeat it.
The good news is that the coalition effort in Syria and Iraq has made real gains in recent months.
So we should keep the pressure on ramping up the , , and pushing our partners in the region to do even more.
(Clinton’s speech was delivered at a Cleveland company that makes military helmets. Military Keynesianism, anyone?) AP [***cough***] labels Trump’s speech as “aggressive,” by contrast to Clinton’s, without mentioning (a) that Trump is conscious of blowback and (b) only Clinton recommends airstrikes and an “accelerated” ground war; ditto Politico; ditto The Economist. WaPo, omitting the same two points, labels Clinton as “sober.” I guess a couple three more Friedman Units should do it…
Just as a troll prophylactic, let me say that this post is not an endorsement of any candidate (not even Sanders, who snagged an F-35 base for Vermont). I’m not sure how to balance charges of racism, fascism, and corruption in the context of identity politics, when clearly all three are systemic, interact with each other, and must be owned by all (both) candidates. (Do the bodies of people of color char differently because they are far away? Doesn’t a “disposition matrix” sound like something Adolf Eichmann might devise?)
Rather, this post is a plea for citizens to “do their own research” and listen to what the candidates actually say, put that in context, and try to understand. The press, with a few honorable exceptions, seems to be gripped by the same “madness of crowds” that gripped them in 2008 (except for Obama, against Clinton) or in 2002-2003 (for WMDs, and for the Iraq War). Only in that way can we hope to hold candidates accountable.
Some brief remarks on Trump’s advance work:
1) Trump still needs practice with his teleprompter;
3) The staging looks like Dukakis (that is, provincial). It should look like Reagan (national);
4) Trump’s website is simple and easy to use and looks like it was designed for a normal person, not a laid-off site developer. However, it looks low budget. Hmm.
Here’s why I skipped Trump on guns and the NRA. To frame this in partisan terms: From Democrats, what I consider to be a rational policy on guns — taxing gun owners for the externalities of gun ownership combined with Darwin Awards over time, and ridicule — is not on offer, so it’s foolish to waste time with whatever ineffective palliative they propose, especially while they continue to take money from private equity firms that own gun manufacturers, and arrange overseas contracts for those same manufacturers. As for Republicans, it’s impossible to see how the country could be more awash in guns than it already is. So if you want to argue about guns, don’t do it here. There’s plenty of opportunity in both Links and Water Cooler.
 And don’t tell me all Republicans are crazy, because Clinton’s trying to appeal to them.
 Except for Section 3, “War and Peace,” I’m not going to compare Clinton’s foreign policy speech today to this speech by Trump, because I’ve analyzed several Clinton speeches already, and presumably NC readers already know how to parse her.
 I’m not going to analyze Trump’s rhetoric in in this post, but note the anaphora: “It is… It is.. It is….” Notice also the simple, declarative sentences, which Trump uses very effectively as hammer blows; the most complicated sentence we get in this passage is the parallel construction of “not only because… not because.” And note the sound patterning from the sentence containing that phrase, gutturals like gunfire: “A radial Islami terrorist tareted the nightub not only beause he wanted to kill Amerians, but in order to eeute ay and lesbian citizens beause of their sexual orientation.” Whoever Trump hired to write his speeches, they’re doing an excellent, and unobtrusive, job.
 That’s not to give the parties, let alone Trump, credit; they follow and don’t lead. LGBT people led, in particular the now almost erased ACT-UP, with its non-violent direct action.
 And if you’re extremely cynical, you might see Trump as posthumously rehabilitating Roy Cohn. But today is my day to be kind.
WANTED: CEO Must be detail oriented
Said no search firm ever.
Which is better: The candidate who gets the big picture right, and details wrong, or the candidate who’s great with detail, and bounces from one clstrfck to another? You tell me.