Tuesday, August 02, 2016


NPR's Steve Inskeep, a reporter I respect, is praising an op-ed by Errol Louis, a generally reasonable New York newsman and frequent CNN contributor, who didn't like the Khizr Khan speech at the Democratic convention.

Louis writes:
On the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I cringed when Patricia Smith, the grief-stricken mother of Sean Smith, an information officer killed during the terrorist attack that destroyed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took the stage.

Smith, standing before thousands of delegates -- with millions more people watching on television -- openly raged at Hillary Clinton. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” Smith thundered from the podium. “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son!”

Where could the debate possibly go after that? The sad answer came the following night, when thousands of delegates chanted “Lock her up!” about Clinton as a smirking Gov. Chris Christie used his podium time to conduct a mock trial of Clinton for various “crimes.”

It was not a great moment for democracy....

I mentally wrote off Smith’s tirade as an unfortunate but unimportant moment of marred messaging -- but a similar feeling returned days later, when the Democratic National Convention staged a raw emotional appeal of its own from the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a soldier killed in action in Iraq more than a decade ago....

Another grieving parent, another conversation-stopping personal attack on the rival party’s candidate. We’d be better off without the highly produced moral grandstanding.
American politics crossed this line a long time ago. Smith didn't just emerge from obscurity at this year's Republican convention -- she's been a regular on Fox News for years. Here she is on Mike Huckabee's Fox show more than three years ago angrily wishing Hillary Clinton a happy Mother's Day:

I want to wish Hillary a happy Mother's Day. She's got her child. I don't have mine.
Does Louis seriously believe that Smith's speech led to the "Lock 'em up" chants at the Republican convention? Does he think Christie's mock trial just rode a wave Smith's speech created? Did he listen to the rest of the speeches? Has he paid attention to bloody-shirt right-wing rhetoric on Benghazi going back to 2012, in every corner, from the most obscure websites to the halls of Congress?

This is far from the only example of sustained bloody-shirt rhetoric on the right. Since the start of his campaign, Donald Trump has been talking about victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants; the father of one victim, Jamiel Shaw, spoke at the Republican convention and said Trump was "sent from God." Louis has overlooked that, I guess, because there's no Democratic analogue for it. I guess it isn't problem unless both sides do it.

Khizr Khan's speech wasn't expected to be a centerpiece of the Democratic convention -- Donald Trump is making it one because he thinks he has to hit back whenever he's attacked. Hillary Clinton has moved on to speeches with Warren Buffett -- she's not exploiting the Khan family.

Louis is wringing his hands about our coarsened political culture. He should have noticed that the coarsening started many, many years ago. It seems to have drawn his attention only when Democrats responded.


Victor said...

tRUMP just can't let go when he feels insulted!

He's like an emotionally scarred child.

trizzlor said...

I'm more generally puzzled by the equivalence of the two speeches. Smith personally accused Clinton of killing her son. Khan said his son is a hero and Trump's policies would have insulted and discriminated against him. Only one person is waving the bloody shirt here.

Unknown said...

The main story here would be Clinton's shamelessness in using the Khan family's grief as a campaign prop when she voted to send the son to his meaningless death in the first place - if it came as a surprise to anyone.

When her eagerly anticipated Syrian adventures start producing their own Gold Star mothers, should we expect their participation in Clinton's re-election bid?

CRG said...

Small thing: it doesn't look like Inskeep is praising her argument; he says he hasn't seen it before.

Anonymous said...

Um, Unk, so, the point of the Khans' statement wasn't "grief" at all -- it was outrage at Trump's disparagement of American Muslims.

Also, you're wrong about Hillary Clinton and not nearly as edgy as you think you are.

Glennis said...

Oh, horseshit, Unknown. What a piece of work you are, deflecting Trump's specious, vile and cruel attack on that family to Hillary Clinton. You're as vile as he is.

Feud Turgidson said...

We THINK we understand our herd. Many of us, tho, not entirely, or sometimes almost entirely not.

When is was like 6? 7? a new kid at school I was maybe befriending took me to his parents home for "Quik". Remember? artificially cocoa-flavored sugary powder, add milk and you get more kid-attracting milk. Unaccountably, some families went red (strawberry? WFT even knows) - weird. Anyway, that didn't overamaze me: what did that is my new possible BFF made us each a glass with tap water. I looked around & saw his most un-warm mom and jerk of a dad and thought: this place is different and these PEOPLE do not think as I do. From then on, I was as attentive to differences as to similarities. It got me into polling over summers, into service work, into taking a lot of political and political history studies, into a ton of travel and talking to strangers everywhere, in and out of their comfort zones.

It was a child's naive mistake for me to assume others thought about things like I did, like my family, like my parents' friends' children. If you take the tikme to talk and listen, What you find is full of surprise. A few year ago after weeks of just saying hi to a colorful, amusing, socially expansive Muslim businessman nearby, he invited me to midday meal, which turned out to be all men, and an array of ferociously-voiced opinions I'd never heard, such as on Obama. MANY of the things being said, but otherwise capable, industrious, thoroughly civilized, well-adapted business people, office workers, a could of younger attorneys, ranged from totally convention to just nuts - just on the subject of Obama! Then, considered on the whole, the herd seemed very much as ameliorated in its group behavior as any of the affinity-service clubs American businessmen have joined from as early or earlier than I was born, like Lions, Legionaires, Rotarians, Templars, daughters of the revolution, whaevs.

I've always preferred conversation to speeches, and boy-howdy does conversation ever reveal the unexpected range of thinking and ideas. We're luckier to live in these times than most of us realize.

KenRight said...

I believe true patriots like Cindy Sheehan and the Pat Tillman family would be closer to Patricia Smith than to the Khans and Clinton.


petrilli said...

Feud, You might like this short story by Richard Brautigan called, The Kool Aid Wino.

jsrtheta said...

If you will allow me to polish my nails for just a moment, I note (understanding that these words may form a souffle down the line) the Khan story has now been raging for four full days, and the end isn't in sight. The on-air machinations of the Trumpalos have descended to the outright hilarious, including Katrina Pierson's bizarre claim that Captain Khan died because Obama and Hillary changed the rules of engagement. This is laughable on any number of grounds, not the least of which is that Khan was killed in 2004, before Hillary and Barack had any power to change anything besides their lunch orders.

The onslaught of denigration for Trumpalos has been constant and unremitting. (My crush on Susan Del Percio has only grown, as she basically ate the resident Trumpalos for lunch on Anderson 360 tonight. Sadly, I think she's married.) Over in the government-in-exile, Lawrence O'Donnell (a fine Boston Irishman) likewise decimated the "Viva Trump!" forces as well.

Seriously though, I know it's early going, but I stick by my point that the Khan brouhaha has legs, and they are starting to sprint right now.