Whereof One Can Speak 🇺🇦

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Making Crazy and Dangerous Sound Normal

The Orange Menace, campaigning for president for the third time, spoke at a gathering of rabid reactionaries this weekend. A reporter for HuffPost captured the scene:

Within minutes of taking the stage, [he] went into his typical remarks, disparaging the United States as a “filthy communist country” and attacking Democrats and the news media. “They’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you. I’m just standing in their way,” he said. “We will drive out the globalists. We will kick out the communists.”

And even though dozens of rows in the back remained empty, [he] thanked the fire marshal for letting in so many of his supporters. “Look at all these people. They’re up to the rafters,” he said.

[He] called prosecutors investigating him “racist” — the ones in New York and Georgia are Black — and claimed they only went after him because he is likely to win the presidency again. He continued lying about the 2020 election having been stolen from him: “We did much better in 2020 than we did in 2016.” He added later, “I won that second election, and I won it by a lot.”

He relitigated, at length, his two impeachments… And he promised that if he won reelection, he would take revenge on those who didn’t respect his followers. “I am your retribution,” he said….

He promised that if he won the White House, he would quickly end the war because he “gets along great with Putin.”

“I’m the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent — and very easily — World War III. Very easily. And you’re going to have World War III, by the way, you’re going to have World War III if something doesn’t happen fast,” he said.

His aides had promised reporters that [he] would offer a forward-looking vision for his return to the White House. Instead, his 105-minutes on stage was largely a repeat of his oft-repeated lies and grievances.

Even this relatively accurate description doesn’t capture what went on. CNN’s Daniel Dale added this (see here for his fact check of the “wildly dishonest speech”):

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But Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post points out that we still have a big problem.

We saw throughout [the Orange Menace’s] two presidential campaigns and four years in the White House a symbiotic relationship between mainstream media outlets and Republicans, in which both made [him] out to be a far more normal politician than he was.

On the one hand, there was Republican denial (Didn’t see the crazy tweet! I’m sure he’s learned his lesson!). On the other, there was the media’s determination to avoid claims of bias and maintain a false balance — which often resulted in their obscuring how loony he sounded….

Apparently, neither the media nor supposedly sober Republicans have learned anything from the past. [He] gave a bonkers speech on Saturday, musing about Russia blowing up NATO headquarters, claiming President Biden had taken the border wall and “put it in a hiding area,” and telling the crowd, “I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution.”

We do not get headlines acknowledging this is unhinged. Instead, we get from the New York Times: “[T] Says He Would Stay in 2024 Race if Indicted.” And a similar angle from CNNABC started its website report this way:“Former President [DT] continues to reign supreme over the conservative wing of the Republican Party.” From The Washington Post: “[T] takes victory lap at conservative conference”.

CBS intoned that [he] “aired grievances with his familiar foes: President Biden, the Department of Justice, and the litany of legal fights he is embroiled in.” Politico went with: “[T] ties a ribbon on the most MAGA CPAC [conference] yet.” Hmm.

From the coverage, you would never understand how incoherent he sounds, how far divorced his statements are from reality, and how entirely abnormal this all is. Talk about burying the lede.

The press and Republicans’ mutual distaste for candidly acknowledging [his] break with reality and the danger he poses to democracy was on full display on the Sunday shows [where Republican politicians said they’d support whoever the party nominates in 2024]. 

Coverage can be so bland and innocuous as to mislead. The audience — that is, potential voters — might easily come away from such coverage believing that [T] acted like a normal candidate, not a figure plainly unfit to handle any public position. And interviews can be so inept as to allow Republicans to repeatedly avoid explaining how in the world they could support someone so unfit for office.

If you put cowering Republicans together with media unwilling to accurately describe what is going on in front of them, you wind up gaslighting voters, who come away with the impression that [T’s] carnival of crazy is acceptable. We know how this ends: If [too few of us are] willing to call [him] out for what he is — and the danger he poses to the United States — we risk returning him to the Oval Office.

Whereupon, expect the headlines: “How did this happen?”

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