Trump, Obama and the Politics of Evasion

O.K., now here’s hoping you’re revolted by each of the six preceding points. Because, if you are, then maybe we can at last rethink the policy of euphemism, obfuscation, denial and semantic yoga that typified the Obama administration’s discussions of another form of terrorism.

.. Islamist terrorism, or what former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used to call “man-caused disasters”

.. Napolitano’s “man-caused disasters” didn’t survive the political laugh test, but the fantastically elastic phrase “violent extremism” did.

.. there is a record of what Obama believed were the causes of terrorism. “Extremely poor societies and weak states,” Obama explained in 2007, “provide optimal breeding grounds for disease, terrorism and conflict.”

.. “lack of opportunity for jobs” as the “root causes that lead people to join these groups.”

.. If Iran had taken Americans hostage and killed hundreds of our soldiers, well, as Obama often noted, hadn’t we helped overthrow the Mossadegh government back in 1953?

.. it indicts him all the more, since it’s precisely the sort of bizarre and blatant evasiveness he used to denounce in his predecessor.

.. But it should also be a reminder that when it comes to looking the other way in the face of extremism and violence, failing to call evil groups by their correct names and providing economic alibis for moral depravity, liberals have their own accounts to settle.



.. Obama’s reluctance to conflate “Islam” with terrorism and violence was a credible effort to differentiate the vast and growing world population of muslims from the aberrant, militant minority of radical Islamists. It was a formalist, intellectual position, easy to misunderstand, and vulnerable to exploitation by Republicans and Right Wingers wishing to exploit blind hatred (for political gain) of muslims based on horrific terrorist stereotypes.

I don’t see the equivalence between the Obama administration’s carefully considered strategy to separate religion from politics, and the Donald’s unwillingness to confront the re emergent darkness of an unamerican fascist movement.


.. Wow – even with this, the right wing cannot avoid false equivalence.

Let me say this in simple language that Brett can understand. If the response to C’ville was to say “this proves that all white people must be monitored and condemned because they are all fascists”, or “this means that all christians and all supporters of the second amendment are dangers to the republic”, then we might have a comparable situation. But that didn’t happen.

.. However, they never avoided condemnation of the acts of violence. It is a world of difference.

.. The first difference is that the KKK and white supremacists are white and we know lots of people who are white but do not hold these ideologies. Therefore, we do not paint all white people with the broad brush of white supremacists who may incite violence. We are not passing white people in the street looking at them suspiciously or designing laws to discriminate against white people because they may harbor these views but since we can’t tell just by looking at them, we’ll just treat all white people as potential violent white supremacists.

Conversely, not many of us know any Muslims, or at least not well. So, our beliefs about them are developed by what we see on TV. If we only see this group of people as a bunch of terrorists, then every Muslim we meet are going to viewed as a potential terrorist.

.. The Obama Administration was walking on eggshells to protect millions of innocent Muslims from vengeful people who target them because of how they look, where they come from, how they worship.

Trying to balance public safety against the appropriate condemnation of violent jihadists, and people who use their religion as an excuse to murder and brutalize others, and as an excuse to commit mass murder for political gains is a tricky proposition.

The truth is that James Alex Fields, and Dylan Roof are cut from the same cloth, inspired by vile and evil rhetoric, as the lone wolf Islamic terrorists. But the other truth is that angry mobs are unlikely to go and attack random white people assuming they are terrorists. That’s not true for Muslims, as we saw in Kansas, just being there got two Indian men shot, or at the Sikh temple, or at the recent Mosque bombing.

.. This is a great example of why it’s been so hard for moderates to talk with conservatives. The conservative response is always: “But Obama” or “What about her emails”. Where’s the frank evaluation of Trump’s response?

.. Criticizing specific Islamist beliefs (e.g. martyrdom, Paradise, jihad, apostasy, etc.) is criticism of ideas, not bigotry against people. Criticism of these illiberal ideas is as legitimate and worthy an enterprise as criticism of the alt-right’s ideology. In fact, criticizing the ideology of both Islamism and the alt-right isn’t just intellectually honest – it’s also the *liberal* thing to do.

.. Linking terrorism to Islam ties all Muslims to terrorism. Linking terrorism to white supremacists ties only white supremacists to terrorism, not all white people. The situations are not equivalent.

Besides, what Obama did is part of a critique of Obama. It’s not a validation of Trump, who is operating in different circumstances. He has the burden of riches, not blackness. Trump is an independent individual supposedly capable of making his own choices and decisions, and he is entirely responsible for those.

.. Jeffery Goldberg had a long essay in The Atlantic explaining why he thought Obama’s soft talk on terrorism was tolerable – his actions, according to Goldberg, killed many terrorists and thus he was walking softly and carrying a big stick. I don’t agree but its a fair point.

We’ll see if Trump’s Justice Dept. carries a big stick re: Nazis and KKK. It must.

.. This weekend wasn’t the time for Trump to drag in the Antifa groups but they will have to be reckoned with at some point: what they did in Berkeley, Hamburg and so many other places- harassing, assaulting, rioting, vandalizing and looting behind balaclavas and kerchiefs – tears at the social fabric and is dangerous business: anarchy for the sake of anarchy.

.. Here’s a frank evaluation of Trump’s response. His statement was a measured 100% accurate response which nicely summed up the situation. Violent National Socialists (Nazis) were confronted by violent International Socialists (Antifa), and a young woman whose connections to either group is unclear, is now dead. Until you condemn both sides, your just playing partisan politics.