The company he keeps
Donald Trump yesterday overhauled for the umpteenth time his campaign apparatus, bringing in Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon, promoting pollster Kellyanne Conway, adding former Fox News chief Roger Ailes as an advisor, and sidelining campaign chair Paul Manafort. He already had on board Walid Phares, who appeared last night on the PBS Newshour paired with top Clinton surrogate Wendy Sherman.
There is no better way to understand a candidate than from the company he keeps.
Breitbart News Network is an unabashed Trump supporter with a record of misleading, inaccurate and mistaken coverage aimed at embarrassing its political enemies on the left. Fox News is the leading right-wing news outlet, with no concern for anything resembling balance in its own coverage. Ailes has resigned as its chief, accused of sexual harassment that he denies. Manafort is listed as a recipient of millions in cash in the black book of Ukraine’s erstwhile pro-Russian rulers. Walid Phares is a former spokesman and leader of a Christian militia in Lebanon thought to have committed war crimes.
Conway is the only one in this lineup I would consider even remotely respectable. She is a Republican pollster who claims to have predicted correctly the outcomes of the major 2012 races. All have ridden the Trump wave and will likely be well paid for their services, but they are not folks I would want to sit down to dinner with.
Where are the Republicans who would make respectable dinner companions? Not supporting Trump is the short answer. Some say they will vote for Clinton. Others won’t go that far. But Trump has definitely made enemies of my Republican colleagues and friends.
Last night’s performance in West Bend, Wisconsin says something more about the company Trump keeps. Advertised as a “law and order” speech, Trump addressed the nearly all-white group in a 95% white community repeatedly as if he were in Milwaukee, which is two-thirds black. I have no idea why he thinks this subterfuge will get him any black votes. It is well known that he has avoided predominantly black audiences. He made an important point last night: black people are principal victims of street violence of all sorts. They know that well, but they also know that West Bend is not Milwaukee.
This kind of smoke and mirrors offends, but it was not the only offensive part of last night’s performance. Trump apparently has no more to say about law and order than he said about national security: he wants to use “extreme vetting” to make immigration more difficult and renegotiate trade deals. He had a few positive words for the police and promised more of them, but there was little more “law and order” substance than that, along with his usual promise to create lots of jobs. His recitation of statistics showing increases in crime was cherry-picked. While recently ticking up in some places, overall violent crime in the US is dramatically and pretty steadily down for more than 20 years:
Clearly Trump and his friends don’t keep company with the facts any more than they do with black people or objectivity in the media.