Trump’s response to Orlando massacre proves just how dangerous he is

By Adam Quinn | (The Conversation) | – –

Those who’ve been wondering when Donald Trump would switch from the wild bombast of his primary campaign to the sober mode traditionally demanded by a general election now have their answer: never.

The dreadful gun massacre at the Pulse club in Orlando, Florida on June 12 presented Trump with as clear an opportunity as he will ever have to rise above his well-earned reputation for bigotry and divisiveness and to find the presidential voice more becoming of a major party nominee.

Instead, he opted to double down on the traits that most terrify those who regard the prospect of his presidency as a threat to national security.

This is not hyperbole. To get a full sense of just how unmoored Trump is, let’s just cast our minds back to September 2001, when George W. Bush was called upon to govern in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history.

9/11 put conflict with terrorists citing extreme Islam as their ideology at the centre of US security policy, but on one rhetorical point, Bush kept his feet on the ground: Muslims as a group should never be conflated with the tiny sliver engaged in violent extremism. Moderate Muslims, which is to say, the overwhelming majority of Muslims, both in the US and overseas, must be treated as crucial allies.

In his remarks after Orlando, Donald Trump took this standard of discourse, set light to it and stamped on it.

First, he appeared on Twitter, his favoured medium for rash, unreflective pronouncements, to claim the attack as evidence of his correctness in having called for more aggressive policies and to thank all those he claimed had congratulated him for his prescience.

In interviews and most of all in a speech in the hours that followed, he reiterated his pledge to impose a total ban on Muslims entering the US. He blamed “political correctness” for allowing such attacks to happen. He highlighted the decision to allow the Orlando shooter’s Afghan parents to enter America as the root cause of the threat.

He warned Muslim Americans of “consequences” unless they co-operate with “us” by turning over the terrorist sympathisers in their midst, suggesting that they “know where they are”. He asserted (inaccurately) that refugees and asylum seekers were admitted to the US without background checks, and that his opponent Hillary Clinton favoured admitting hundreds of thousands more Muslim incomers on this basis.

Most outlandish of all, he mused aloud that President Obama might himself be in sympathy with the terrorists. And when it dared to report and parse his semi-coherent remarks, the Washington Post then had its credentials for access to the Trump campaign revoked.

Combined with Trump’s longstanding promises to intensify the bombing of Islamic State-held territory (which could only be done by knowingly bombing civilians), to return to waterboarding and other torture, and to kill terrorists’ families, and one could not design a platform better designed to alienate Muslims worldwide.

It is no exaggeration to say that implementation of Trump’s platform is exactly the Islamic State’s hope: to present Muslims with a binary choice between itself and an irreconcilably hostile West.

Highway to Hell

Trump’s post-Orlando performance has sent a new wave of horror through those senior Republicans who find themselves manacled to him for the rest of the campaign.

Even in the week before the massacre, senior party figures such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had publicly rebuked their presidential nominee for suggesting that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly adjudicate in a case against one of Trump’s businesses because he was “Mexican” and therefore biased against him (Curiel is from Indiana). Ryan, who had said he will vote for Trump only days before, said this fit the “textbook definition of a racist comment”.

Now these most reluctant supporters find themselves obliged to say whether they endorse their candidate’s litany of falsehoods regarding Muslim immigration or his plan to abruptly terminate it. Ryan has publicly said that he does not.

[Donald Trump Speech After Orlando Attack 6/13/16:]

There is an argument that Trump is simply the predictable apex of a trajectory the Republican Party has been on for some time. For years its candidates across the country have appealed to their voters’ fear of the threat presented by non-white “others” as a way of mobilising support and attacking opponents.

But Trump is far more frightening than any recent Republican candidate of note. He has not stayed within the rules of the insidious dog-whistle playbook; he has expanded them dramatically, both with the explicitness of his appeals and the extremism of his actual proposals.

His persona seems not to be a calculated act, a front behind which lies a cool and balanced actor with rational plans. On the contrary, his intellectual incoherence and erratic emotionalism appear to be his most genuine features.

Perhaps Trump could have shown a new, restrained and responsible self in his response to Orlando, and simply chose not to – or maybe he is actually incapable of modulation and reflection. Perhaps he simply doesn’t have another face to show the world. What we can now be sure of is that he isn’t going to change.

He is a new departure for modern America: a European-style ethno-nationalist populist of a kind largely alien to either the conservative or liberal camps of American politics. His election would represent a turn away from much of what has hitherto made the US exceptional, and towards the dark side.

The Conversation

Adam Quinn, Senior Lecturer in International Politics, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

9 Responses

  1. Corporate-controlled media has consistently ceded Donald Trump BILLION$$ in free coverage since the odious quest was announced – far more than any Presidential candidate in history. Why? Trump is no less an erratic reactionary, nativist pandering and h8mongering demagogue than any number of media •••clowns. And Trump is very DISTURBING to see and hear in action.

    Corporate-owned and controlled media is solely responsible for swapping out the GOP/Republican brand for the “take the pledge” Donald Trump brand in the coming Presidential election. Again, why?

    The much vaunted businessman image is tarnished at best with excessive litigation, tax evasions, enterprise failures and posing quasi-ethical sales training in a “Scientology-esque ruse” deceptively designated as a “University.” Donald Trump is not a thoughtful leader, his business dealings belies a grasping, risk-taking BS-artist by nature.

    There is not one justification to make this person actually qualified to be a Presidential candidate.

    Why is Donald Trump even there?

    • Why is Donald Trump even here?
      Because for 350 years, the plantation owners and their capitalist successors have had a Contract With Rednecks. 90% of the time that Contract is very biased in one direction. But every now and then, the rural (in spirit if no longer in fact) White lower-to-middle class Christian tribe demands blood, and the businessmen have to decide whom to sacrifice.
      It’s been a very successful system over all that time, hasn’t it? The poor Whites and the minorities they gleefully persecute, between them, did all the actual work of building the country while their mutual hatred held down wages. The former were even law enforcement – since the White men’s lynch mob acted as the unpaid secret police enforcing our secret laws. The businessmen collected bigger marginal profits, giving the USA an advantage over its European competitors in capital, technological R&D, and mind-boggling land acquisitions for railroads, etc.
      Maybe this is the secret history of the United States.

      • So, historically, the Donald Trump sideshow is “white man’s burden?” Good point.

        I was thinking that tacit agreements by persons of wealth where certain things are left unsaid and BILLION$$$ in free prime time exposure is bestowed gratis may be the immediate 21st Century reason he is there?

  2. Unlike some people we can name Trump has not started any wars or instigated any regime changes which have only made thinks much worse.

  3. Virtually all U.S. polling organizations showed a decline in public support for Trump in the general election following the Pulse shootings

    Clinton had been ahead by only about 3 to 4 percentage points in the week immediately prior to the Orlando carnage. He is now trailing Hillary by approximately 5 to 9 percentage points.

    Even the conservative Rasmussen Reports organization has recorded a drop in Trump’s polling numbers

    Trump would likely have scored more points with the public by expressing sympathy for the families of the victims rather than bombastic self-congratulations over apparent vindication of his policies.

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