NYT Sunday Tackles Scare-Mongering Trump, 'Race-Baiting' Reagan

June 20th, 2016 5:02 PM

The New York Times took a witheringly anti-Trump, anti-Bush, anti-Reagan stand on the front page of the Sunday Review. Veteran liberal journalist Michael Tomasky contributed, “No More Fear – Has political scaremongering lost its magic?” By “scaremongering,” Tomasky is talking about the Republican Party’s traditional tough stand against terrorism. He’s glad to see that it apparently doesn’t work anymore (according to the last polls he saw, anyway). Contributor Kevin Baker went further, falsely stating that "race-baiting" Ronald Reagan had launched his campaign at “an all-white gathering” in Mississippi.

Tomasky was glad to see that (so far) Trump’s tough stand on terrorism was hurting him in the polls.

This was an important and even revelatory week in American politics, and we should take note of it. Contrary to what I’d argue has been the single most firmly held conviction about this campaign by observers left and right, a terrorist attack did not help the Republican candidate in the race for president. Indeed, it seems to have weakened him.


But first let’s go back in time. Republicans have owned the “we’ll protect you” narrative for decades, arguably going back to the early years of the Cold War, but certainly since Ronald Reagan. They talked tougher than Democrats, and they were more willing to whip the electorate into a state of frenzy about this or that threat -- and more often than not, it worked. This we know.

....After 9/11 made people fearful to begin with, they spiked the punch with talk of weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, and now the public was ready to embrace all manner of responses, including a war on a country that, as awful as its leaders may have been, had never done anything to us directly and had nothing to do with 9/11.

It's Bush’s fault, while Hillary is positively presidential and Trump’s “fear-mongering” after Orlando has hurt his chances.

We may also have figured out, or most of us may have, that the bluster and gasconade of the fear-mongers hasn’t really done us much good. George W. Bush said “bring ’em on”; and bring it on they did, pitching us into hell. Maybe after these last 15 years of war, a lot of Americans hear Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and plans and think, “That’s the last thing we need.”

Meanwhile “Hillary Clinton, by contrast, looked and sounded like a president ought to.”

And so, while it’s too early to see the full impact in the polls, there’s no question that Mr. Trump’s post-Orlando fear-mongering hurt him...

....You can’t stoke fear if you can’t also reassure. It won’t work. If you want to make people scared and force them to turn to you as their protector, you have to demonstrate that you are worthy of being that protector. The far-right base that made him the putative Republican nominee grants Mr. Trump that status. But beyond that base, he fails this test every time he starts talking.

Historical novelist and essayist Kevin Baker got out of control in the other piece on the front of the Sunday Review, “Donald Trump’s Place.” Baker also reached back to smear Ronald Reagan with falsehoods.

So now we know.

It took the killings in Orlando, Fla., last weekend and Donald J. Trump’s reaction to them to prove what he’s been trying to tell us all along. He really is unique in American politics and maybe even the modern history of the Western world.

Later came a long string of "race-baiting" calumny against Ronald Reagan.

The modern politician Mr. Trump most closely resembles, as Mr. Rich pointed out, is Ronald Reagan, who also developed his immense verbal dexterity with the media during a career as a second-tier performer, and came to power during a time of extreme economic and racial anxiety. Reagan was nearly as unrooted as Mr. Trump, leaving his Illinois town for Hollywood as soon as he could, and barely looking back. Reagan, too, had his self-aggrandizing, demagogic side. His speeches and debates were laced with convenient untruths and slanders: his race-baiting lies about a “young buck” chiseling welfare and a wealthy Chicago “welfare queen” tooling around in her Cadillac; pollution-causing trees; his slandering of Michael Dukakis as an “invalid” in 1988. His decision to make his very first speech of the 1980 general election campaign for the presidency at an all-white gathering a few miles from Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights organizers had been murdered by Klansmen 16 years earlier. His claims that he went off to World War II, and even filmed a liberated concentration camp -- these were confabulations beyond anything even Mr. Trump has yet attempted.

Baker held Trump solely responsible for the violence at his rallies.

But the more urgent question is whether Mr. Trump can give up being Mr. Trump -- if he can resist the demands from the vociferous, yearning crowd that hangs on his every word, which wants him to speak the hidden truths he claims to know. He seems unable to do anything other than give them what they want, egging on their anger against every protester who dares to appear, quickening the spiral of violence at his rallies.

Mr. Trump has found his place at last, and it is with the mob.

Baker made Reagan out to be a canny exploiter of anxiety and racial fears based on a few stray comments (already endlessly rehashed in the liberal media) over the course of a long political career. His 1980 Democratic opponent, former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, had his share of racial comments during the 1970s, but the liberal media never bothers with those quotes, like a1976 interview with the New York Daily News, during his successful presidential campaign, that he saw “nothing wrong with ethnic purity being maintained” in urban neighborhoods.

And Baker’s part about “an all-white gathering a few miles from Philadelphia, Miss.” was pitched to sound sinister but is incredibly misleading. Reagan actually appeared at that year’s Neshoba County Fair (the same place Democrat Michael Dukakis spoke in 1988), a popular public event. The Times contemporaneous report from August 4, 1980 called it “a crowd almost entirely made up of whites,” which certainly wasn't written to be flattering, but also isn’t the same as some quasi-KKK “all-white gathering."

In an October 2012 rant for the Times, Baker talked of "radio ranters" of the right wing, bizarrely suggested D.C. was a victim of "lax gun laws," and accused Republicans of racist "dog whistles."