I know you didn’t ask, but I have a piece of advice for those out there in Readerland: Turn off the TV, pull yourself away from the latest chapter in the Omarosa Manigault Newman dramedy and go see Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” I promise Manigault Newman will still be on some station when you get back.
You’ve probably heard about BlacKkKlansman’s absurdist, yet based-on-real-life plot, in which a Colorado Springs cop — the first black cop in the force’s history — somehow infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the ‘70s. It’s funny and it’s searing and it’s Lee at his near-best. And though it’s set in the still-too-recent past, it’s not really about the past at all. It’s more about how we look, but don’t see, and how, if we had been seeing, we should have known that someone, or something, like Donald Trump was coming. To cite Lee: Wake up.
The movie’s release was timed to the one-year anniversary of the very-fine-people-on-both sides white nationalist rally and riot in Charlottesville that left an anti-racist protester dead and the city where I went to college shaken and saddened.
Outside the theater, the story of race in America had turned to Donald Trump and his fired White House aide, Manigault Newman, who rose from reality TV villain to White House aide and loose cannon and is now on a book tour meant to sell books and to terrorize Trump. The draw is that she has the most provocative White House tapes since Nixon in her possession and that she’s playing them all over TV.
The consensus among political types is that Manigault Newman is hardly a credible source, and I don’t doubt that. She’s an Apprentice alumnus who praised Trump mightily — as Trump tweeted, he kept her on because she said GREAT things about him — until she was fired and wrote a book: “Unhinged.” Then comes a series of Trumpian texts, including the infamous one in which he calls her a “dog.”
But the fascinating question Manigault Newman raises — and now being raised to a higher level still by Trump spokesperson Sarah Sanders — is whether she has, in fact, heard (as she claims) the fabled Trump N-word tape, which, for all we know, is no more real than the Loch Ness Monster or, for that matter, the Michelle Obama “whitey” tape. But when asked whether there’s a tape with Trump using the N-word, Sanders said she “can’t guarantee” that there isn’t. Sanders, who routinely guarantees the validity of Trump lies, couldn’t guarantee this? Manigault Newman does have a tape, after all, from the White House Situation Room, the ultra-secure site where Chief of Staff John Kelly, for some reason, took her to be fired.
An N-word tape would be intriguing, of course. But does it matter? We don’t actually need it to know all about Trump’s impressively wide-ranging use of bigotry to get himself elected and to keep his voters happy. He does the dog whistle that anyone can hear — anyone who listens, that is — and if it offends you (and me), it seems to appeal to his base. Here are numbers for you: In the latest CBS News poll, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations, but 83 percent of Republicans approve.
And yet, there’s a case to be made that actually hearing the N-word uttered is the one word that goes too far, even in Trumpian America. Of course, Trump used the P-word on the Access Hollywood tape, and it apparently had no impact whatsoever.
The White House has denied that the dog tweet is racist by arguing — this is actually happening – that Trump says obnoxious things about people of all genders and races. And, of course, he does, but the D-word is not just a dog whistle. It’s a symphony of crassness and ugliness and bigotry. As Linda-Susan Bear, director of Africana Studies at Bryn Mawr College, said in the New York Times of Trump’s tweet: “The statement is brilliant in its ability to do double duty: to offer an attack that is simultaneously racialized and gendered.”
In his campaign against Manigault Newman, Trump has called her a “lowlife” and “wacky and deranged” — that seems more misogynistic — and “not smart,” which is his latest go-to move in attacking African-Americans. In just the last couple of weeks, he has denigrated the intelligence of LeBron James, CNN host Don Lemon and Rep. “Very Low IQ” Maxine Waters. In case you’re not keeping score, the Washington Post’sAaron Blake is, and according to his math, 13 of the last 22 people Trump has called “stupid” or “dumb” are black.
Which brings me back to Spike Lee and BlacKkKlansman. During the movie, Ron Stallworth, the black cop — played by Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, with the well-known Denzel cool — is talking to his white sergeant about his actual, fo’ real (as Lee puts it) conversation with Klan leader David Duke. At the time, Duke had given up, publicly at least, the title of Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for “National Director.”
That a black guy could actually have pretended to be a racist white guy on the phone with Klan members, including Duke, is what drives the movie. Of course, when Stallworth joined the Klan – and the real-life cop still has the membership card – he had a have a white cop play the role of Ron Stallworth, and the movie goes from there.
Anyway, the sergeant explains to Stallworth that Duke is taking his message mainstream — more about immigration and affirmative action than about burning crosses— and wants to move into politics, which, of course, he did, even running for president. Here, Lee goes for the least-subtle-joke possible, as Stallworth says, “America would never elect somebody like David Duke president of the United States.”
The sergeant says, “Why don’t you wake up?”
You could say the same thing, I guess, about the Omarosa Manigault Newman-Trump story. It’s a joke and it’s not a joke.
Here are 7 embarrassing arguments Republicans have tried to use to defend Trump
With the Senate impeachment trial in full swing, Republicans have launched an aggressive if scattershot campaign to defend President Donald Trump and discredit the Democrats’ case.
It’s not going well. Multiple recent polls have found that a majority of the country thinks Trump should be removed from office and many more think he has done something seriously wrong, even if they think he should remain in the White House until the next election.
While the Democrats have unleashed a torrent of facts and compelling arguments for the charges that Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress, Republican replies have been all over the map. Many of their arguments are completely beside the point of the case, and the sheer weakness of their defenses is an embarrassment to the party.
Impeachment trial makes it clear: Republicans are beyond reason, evidence, reality and hope
In liberal, politically plugged-in circles, it is an article of faith that if only Democrats did something different, they would do better at winning political battles. Dinner parties, social media, online chats, listservs, coffee hour: All are consumed routinely by discussion of what tweak to Democratic messaging would unlock all the political victories that we know belong to us. Progressivism vs. centrism? Are "identity politics" good or bad? Should Democrats embrace more forceful language, or maintain a genteel tone? Play hardball, or deliver placating language about "bipartisanship"?
The absurd antics of Trump’s lawyers have turned the Senate trial into a bad episode of the Twilight Zone
It’s hard to pick out the best moment for Absurdity around the impeachment trial. In this Twilight Zone-like courtroom reality, there are simply too many choices for Most Absurd.
Like the Oscars, the undramatic competition for the award leans unduly on older, white men, particularly those with preordained decisions already in mind before any outcome.
Certainly, the top three must include continuing claims by Republican senators that they have not learned anything new – after having voted 11 times to deny the admission of new evidence or witnesses beyond the transcripts of the House committee hearings that had led to an impeachment vote.