Good morning, friends. I’m back from a trip to Germany, during which I spent a whole eight days not getting notifications every time the president tweeted something, and I honestly think I would have had an equally relaxing time if I’d just stayed home and put my phone on airplane mode.
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Today, let’s talk about rhetoric.
What’s at stake
To really understand the President’s retweets this morning of three unverified, anti-Muslim videos posted by the U.K. group Britain First, you’ve got to swing over to British Twitter, where they’re more familiar with the far-right fringe group. “Stunt-loving anti-Muslim far-right social media troll group increasingly ignored even in the UK,” the Buzzfeed UK reporter Jim Waterson tweeted. “Trump retweeting them is roughly akin to Theresa May retweeting videos posted by David Duke,” said BBC reporter Anthony Zurcher.
“At some point we have to stop saying, ‘Look at what he’s done,’ and say, ‘This is what he does,'” Zelizer said. “These are the kind of tweets he enjoys putting out there. And they’re dangerous. He brings this stuff into the center of power.”
“The closest we’ve seen in contemporary history to anything like this was George Wallace, who ran for president in 1968 and famously used this kind of rhetoric,” Zelizer said. “But he was a third party candidate. And he didn’t win.” Trump’s public rhetoric on race, religion and immigration, he said, is almost better suited to presidents of the 19th and early 20th centuries — and amplified through social media.
(Take, for example, Woodrow Wilson’s screening of the notoriously racist film Birth of a Nation at the White House — and if you’d like to be deeply depressed, take a spin through the Inquirer archives circa 1915 for a grim series of gushing reviews of the film).
“These [tweets] fall squarely within that historical record of shame,” said Jacob Bender, the director of the Philly chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The local angle
CAIR called the videos an incitement to violence this morning. “These are the types of materials we see on anti-Muslim hate sites on the Internet — we don’t expect to see them on the Twitter feed of the President of the United States,” said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. He said the organization has been concerned all year about anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., but that the tweets were a “quantum leap.”
Here in Philly, Imam Salaam Muhsin, of North Philly’s the Masjidullah mosque, told me that such rhetoric, ugly as it it is, makes him feel like the country is nonetheless leeching a poison.
“[Trump] represents a mentality that has to be exposed — it’s racist, it’s disrespectful to women. And now that mentality is on public display, and it has to die a public death,” he said.
What they’re saying
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.” — Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, dismissing reporters’ questions over the veracity of the Britan First videos her boss tweeted this morning.
“I think we’re on a path to getting this done.” — Sen. Pat Toomey on FOX Business this morning, talking about his party’s tax bill, which cleared the Senate Budget Committee yesterday.
“Don’t kill us, kill the bill.” — disabled protesters at the aforementioned Senate Budget Committee hearing, decrying the tax bill’s plan to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
In other news…
- North Korea tested a missile that could get in range of Washington, D.C.
- This morning’s anti-Muslim tweets have overshadowed the last Internet-breaking thing Trump said this week — making a “Pocahontas” joke at a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers.
- Hundreds of people arrested during the inauguration protests, including a few from Philadelphia, are going on trial this week.
- A federal judge, appointed by President Trump, has ruled in the president’s favor in the ongoing saga of who gets to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
What I’m reading
- Vox has a good rundown on the healthcare provisions in the tax bill: “The tax bill isn’t just a tax bill. It is a bill that has sweeping consequences for the American health care system.”
- The Washington Post’s story on a laughable plot from the right-wing gotcha group Project Veritas to fool its reporters into printing a false allegation against Roy Moore is a true ride from start to finish. (A chaser: The Guardian notes that federal prosecutors are using a Project Veritas video as part of the case against inauguration protesters.)
- The New York Times breaks the not-so-secret news that President Trump has been questioning the veracity of the Access Hollywood tape.
A non-political palate cleanser
Here’s a neat story from my colleague Jason Nark about the speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch: “They kept [the language] because keeping your culture was a way of being American. They were emphasizing their American-ness by saying, ‘We have the right to be who we are.”