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Bill Straub: Reagan once said ‘there is no room for intolerance,’ but Trump didn’t get the message

WASHINGTON – I can’t say with absolute certainty that the filth that gushes from the mouth of President “Tiny’’ Trump-like sewage through a straight pipe contributed to the current run of violence plaguing the nation, including the incident involving two African-Americans gunned down at a Jeffersontown Kroger last week for being black.

There are experts who study the relationship between hate crimes, mass shootings, ceaseless demagoguery and its impact on the American psyche who can perform a significantly better analysis on the subject than I.

But what I can say without fear of contradiction is that the garbage that Trump continues to spew with little concern for the consequences, other than the need to sate his own bloated ego, is not helpful by any stretch. Even if his words didn’t spur a gunman to take action, leaving 11 dead as a result of an anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Trump is dividing this country, constantly denigrating people of color and all the while bullying anyone who is not a white male Christian.

His job is to get us all pulling in the same direction. He has failed. Miserably. The man is not fit to serve as the president of these United States. And the fact that this principle isn’t evident to every man, woman, and child who espouses love for this country leads to the bitterest of sorrows, creating new concerns for the future of Mr. Madison’s experiment.

Ronald Reagan: ‘There is no room for intolerance. . .’

This is not a partisan message. Recent history shows that even the most Republican of GOP leaders rejected any efforts to attract bigots, racists, and anti-Semites to their camps. In 1984, while accepting the Republican presidential nomination for a second term in Dallas, it was Ronald Reagan who said, “In the party of Lincoln, there is no room for intolerance… Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots.”

Twelve years later, in 1996, Bob Dole, the party’s presidential nominee, expanded on that thought during the GOP convention in San Diego.

“The Republican Party is broad and inclusive,” Dole said. “It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view. But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

But the party of Lincoln, cited by both Reagan and Dole, is now the party of Trump. And the message is altogether different. In August 2017 protestors confronted participants in a Unite the Right rally that included neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, white nationalists, neo-Fascists and members of various alt-right groups in Charlottesville, VA. A protester was killed.

In assessing the situation, Trump failed to denounce the various hate groups, condemning instead “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” He proceeded to judge that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

So in Trump world there exists some very fine people among the nation’s neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates. Why not throw in the KKK for good measure? Charlottesville, it seems, is a long way from Dallas and San Diego.

That’s not all, of course, Trump’s comments about women are so offensive they can’t be repeated, exhibiting a strong strain of misogyny as he belittles those who oppose him as a “dog’’ or “horseface.” His attacks on Latin Americans are chilling, referring to them as “rapists’’ and “murderers,” gang-bangers and every sort of terrible description at his disposal, creating an atmosphere of unease among millions of brown people who call the United States home — for no other reason than to gain a political edge.

The president is currently losing it over a caravan of Latinos, which started in Honduras, headed for the southern border of the U.S. where, if they ever make it, which is open to doubt, they intend to seek asylum, which is their right. Trump is frothing at the mouth to stop what he characterized as an “invasion,’’ deploying 5,200 troops to repel the migrants.

Now, in perhaps an empty gesture, he is threatening to issue an executive order to undercut birthright citizenship – essentially if you’re born in the U.S. you are a U.S. citizen – which is ingrained in the Constitution, in order to once again inhibit those whose heritage rests south of the border.

The dog whistle to white America is clear – fear brown people. And his references to African-Americans have been almost as alarming – characterizing certain African nations as “s—thole’’ countries, questioning the citizenship status of Barack Obama, his African-American predecessor as president, and uttering claims and taking actions perceived as anti-Muslim.

Even if you don’t consider Trump a racist or a bigot, his message of exclusion and vilification has certainly attracted the support of the nation’s racists and bigots while scaring off other large segments of Americans. One Florida man went so far as to send bombs to those holding prominent places on the president’s ever-growing enemies list -– Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Soros (always pegged as evil because he’s rich and Jewish) and CNN, the network that Trump has described with other news outlets as the “enemy of the people.”

No one was injured. But the message is clear.

There can be no debate the Trump’s demeaning rhetoric is driving a stake through the heart of America. Asked recently if he might “tone down’’ the bombast, his reaction was typical: “I think I’ve been toned down if you want to know the truth. I could really tone it up because, as you know, the media’s been extremely unfair to me and to the Republican Party.”

Given all that, there are, perhaps two rationales his supports can use to continue the cult of personality that follows him – the economy and the federal courts.

The latter is easiest to dismiss – since the Senate has ended all filibusters for judicial nominees, ending whatever say the minority might say in the matter, presidents can pretty much nominate anyone they want for a judgeship as long as his party maintains the majority in the upper chamber. Placing Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court shows that. Republicans don’t need Trump to pack the federal judiciary – any conservative will do.

And it’s true that the economy currently is thriving, following a trajectory set by his Democratic predecessor. But Wall Street is getting a bit anxious, inflation is thought to be looming, wages still aren’t keeping pace and Congress, with Trump’s backing, passed a tax cut measure that blew a trillion-dollar hole in the budget.

Being president is more than managing the economy. If that was the only job, get Paul Krugman or some other Nobel laureate to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The president is supposed to represent all of the people, not just the chosen few who voted for him. Trump has failed at the most important task accorded a president – leadership and keeping the peace. At this juncture, after all that has occurred, it will prove impossible for him to recover.

In this country, Dole said in his 1996 acceptance speech, “we have no rank order by birth, no claim to favoritism by race, no expectation of judgment other than it be even-handed. And we cannot guarantee the outcome, but we shall guarantee the opportunity in America.”

Trump has embraced none of this. The sooner he leaves the scene and takes his rightful place as a scourge of history, the better for America. And the gutless wonders on the GOP side, who have stood silently and failed to confront him on the damage he is causing, deserve no one’s vote on Tuesday.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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