Bob Woodward (2018) Fear: Trump and the White House, New York: Simon & Schuster
Last night was Halloween. We went with our two young grandchildren and their parents to the annual pumpkin walk of the Waldorf School in Cowichan Station. What a delightful way to celebrate Halloween. Parents come with their children from the whole area and, when admitted to the school grounds, were invited to give a donation. The suggested amount is $10 per family. I estimate that there were well over 300 carved pumpkins, almost all carved by the students of the school, very many works of art in their own right. Lit up with the usual candles inside, they lined the pumpkin walk through the grounds of the school.
There were about a dozen “stations” along the walk where teachers or students put on very short scenes that celebrated nature, the turning of the seasons, the gathering in of crops and, more broadly, the love of humans for the blessings of this earth and of the people who inhabit it. Though the Cowichan Valley is overwhelmingly “whitebread,” coming from Toronto, it was very familiar and delightful to see a Sikh family and a Chinese family in the crowd. It was very evident that this organization and the people in attendance would be very welcoming to anyone, whatever their background.
This is important because it is racist to assume that, because a community is overwhelmingly white, that it is prejudiced against “foreigners” or Canadians from different backgrounds. This was not true of Canada in 1979 when the country agreed to admit 60,000 Indochinese refugees into the country. At the time, the National Citizens Coalition launched full page ads in key newspapers opposing the first Liberal and then Conservative initiatives in welcoming and receiving these newcomers. At Operation Lifeline, the organization founded to encourage the private sponsorship of refugees, we were afraid of these almost explicitly fear-mongering racist ads, not because they would lead to any policy changes, but because, if influential, they would damage the dominant cultural ethos of |Canada that celebrated diversity and welcoming the stranger. Further, they made it uncomfortable for the new arrivals in their efforts at integration.
We launched “Operation Intellectual Kneecapping,” which I have referred to briefly in previous blogs. It was a stupid name, but the strategy used was not dumb.
Though the dominant national political culture in Canada at that time was pluralist and welcoming of all refugees, a majority of Canadians were not. There was only minority support for an intake of 50,000 Indochinese refugees. The National Citizens Coalition (NCC) emerged to lead a barely-hidden racist attack on the program that could have damaged support for the program, its successful implementation and the atmospheric reception. The campaign against the NCC entailed getting wealthy and conservative members of the NCC, but social progressives in favour of pluralism to withdraw their financial support of the NCC. Key influential members agreed to do so and the racist campaign came to an abrupt halt.
I offer this summary as a foil to the last-minute desperate advertisement campaign of Donald Trump and the Republican Party to stir up fears of immigrants and refugees. Threats from Iran and North Korea, the rise of right-wing autocrats to power around the world, and domestic racist and antisemitic terrorists were not seen by Trump or most Republicans the key enemies of the United States.
The advertisement can be found on https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/23/trump-and-gop-unleash-anti-immigrant-onslaught-to-sway-midterm-voters.html
Very briefly, the ad, widely distributed with Donald Trump tweets, begins with a familiar claim: “President Donald Trump and Republicans are Making America Safe Again.” Then a flash:
Illegal Immigrant, Luis Bracamontes
“KILLED OUR PEOPLE!”
A laughing bulldog of a man is presented asserting, “I killed (expletive) cops.”
“They’re (expletive) dead. I don’t (expletive) regret that. (expletive)”
“I will break out soon and I will kill more.”
“I would kill (expletive deleted) cops again.”
Then more scare headlines:
“DEMOCRATS LET HIM INTO OUR COUNTRY.”
“I DON’T (EXPLETIVE) REGRET THAT (EXPLETIVE). The only thing that I (expletive) regret is that I (expletive) killed two, I wish I (expletive) killed more of those (expletive).
More scare headlines: “DEMOCRATS LET HIM STAY”.
Scenes are then shown of a crowd marching and then crashing against a gate.
“WHO ELSE WOULD DEMOCRATS LET IN?”
“PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS ARE
MAKING AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!”
There is no subtlety in the ad, especially against the background of Trump policy announcements and tweets. Latino immigrants and intended refugee claimants are cop killers. The caravan from Central America has to be stopped. It is a direct threat to the security of the United States. Fifteen thousand troops will be mobilized and sent to the border at an estimated cost of $100-150 million for a political campaign stunt. (Yesterday, in a press conference on the lawn of the White House, Trump said they would be instructed to respond to stones with rifles.)
Who is Luis Bracamontes? Does he have any connection with the caravan making its way up the spine of Mexico? Bracamontes is a Mexican deported from the U.S. a number of times both under Republican and Democratic governments. The individual who first set him free without taking him to court was the very sheriff Trump pardoned when he was convicted.
Bracamontes was involved in the drug trade. He reentered the U.S. illegally, got into an altercation with the police in Sacramento, killed two police officers, Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr., wounded a third as well as a civilian bystander. He was sentenced to death.
The ad echoes the “Willie Horton” campaign ad on behalf of George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election. Horton was a convicted murderer and rapist, crime he committed while on furlough from prison.
The Willy Horton ad was very effective. Perhaps Trump had plans all along to use a similar one in a pinch. After all, at his first address to a joint session of Congress on 28 February 2017, he had invited Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, the widows of the two slain policemen, to attend. The new ad revived the Sacramento murder of those cops in the public media.
Tweets sent out by Trump reinforced the message that the Democrats facilitated murder. “I Will Make America Safe. It is outrageous what Democrats are doing to our country. Vote Republican now! Vote GOP.”
Another tweet and a total fabrication:
“The Caravans are made up of some very tough fighters and people. Fought back hard and viciously against Mexico at Northern Border before breaking through. Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable, or unwilling to stop Caravan. Should stop them before they reach our Border, but won’t!” Two stones were thrown and two police officers were treated for lacerations.
Trump was the lead shrill screamer in the most vitriolic and racist, the most divisive and emotionally charged campaign message in the last three decades. Essentially, Trump was accusing Democrats of letting Latino killers into the country and allowing them to stay. The caravan of Central American potential refugee claimants was seeded with cop killers, Trump implied.
According to American law. they were entitled to claim refugee status. They might not get it. They might not be able to prove that they had a well-founded fear of persecution. But reporting to a border officer and claiming refugee status was perfectly legal.
Law! Shmah? What does Donald Trump care about the law? His other assault against foreigners was directed at non-citizens whose babies were born in the United States and who were entitled to American citizenship in accord with the 14th Amendment of the American constitution. Incendiary ads, total mischaracterizations of would-be refugees and mobilizing fifteen thousand troops to send to the U.S.-Mexican border, were not enough. Trump was ready to dismiss the American constitution as well.
Amendment XIV, Section 1, reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereofat excludes diplomatic personnel], are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
There are four other clauses of great importance, but the key relevant amendment is section 1. The privileges and immunities clause applied to citizens (section 2) is critical in American law, but not to this blog. What is important is that Trump would single-handedly try to set aside Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the American constitution in his frantic and frenzied effort to stir up fears of foreigners who seek refugee status or who have babies in the United States.
The 14th Amendment, otherwise known as the Reconstruction Amendment, passed in 1868 after the Civil War addressed issues of equal rights that would be guaranteed to any citizen or anyone born on the territory of the United States. Citizenship was to be based on birthright and not jus soli.
Disregard of the law. Disregard of due process. Fear and Hate! Fear and Hate! That is the core of Trump’s frenzied and frantic last few days of the American midterm election. The Republican Party has been supine, though Paul Ryan did dismiss the President’s birthright gambit. Trump appeal was one that Canadians avoided in 1979 when conservatives stood Trump’s xenophobia against xenophobic fear-mongering. They shut the campaign down.
With the help of Alex Zisman