Every presidential election year, Frontline, the superb investigative TV series on PBS, produces an in-depth look at the Democratic and Republican candidates.It’s called “The Choice,” and invariably offers some insights that likely you won’t see anywhere else.
When I first watched the 2016 edition, three things struck me as revelatory—aside from that now infamous Omarosa Manigault soundbite from the program that began, “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.” Yikes.
Today, after two and a half years of a Trump White House, these three remembered moments seem more pertinent than ever. First up was journalist Marie Brenner, who recalled Trump’s brother Robert telling her, “Donald was always the kid in the family who would start throwing birthday cake at all the parties, that you would build up a tower of blocks, he would come knock your blocks down.”
Second were the memories of fellow cadets at New York Military Academy, where young Donald was sent to deal with his behavior issues. One said that as a teenager, Trump “had a very Hugh Hefner Playboy magazine view of success.” Another agreed: “Our lives came from Playboy magazine. That’s how we learned about women. That was all of my adolescence. And that’s why getting out of military school was difficult. You had to realize that you couldn’t just follow the Playboy philosophy.”
He added, “The things that we talked about at that time in 1964 really are very close to the kind of way [Trump] talks now.”
But the third thing, the one that especially stuck in my head, is something Frontline reported Trump had learned from nature’s own Nazi, his martinet of a father Fred. It was a theory, according to the narration, Donald “especially liked.”
Interviewed for the documentary, Michael D’Antonio author of The Truth about Trump, says, “This is a very deep part of the Trump story. The family subscribes to a race horse theory of human development, that they believe that there are superior people, and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get superior offspring.”
In other words, he embraced eugenics—the science of human selection that’s just a hop, skip and a 23 and Me saliva test away from advocating the primacy of a master race.
Which is why what we’re seeing now, less than a year and a half before the 2020 election is no surprise. You know the litany: Trump and his father’s housing business censured by the Justice Department for racial discrimination; publicly attacking the young Latino and black men of the so-called Central Park Five, even after they were found innocent; ludicrous birther slurs flung at Barack Obama; the Muslim travel ban; offhand bigoted references to “shithole countries,” Nigerians in huts and Haitians with AIDS; Charlottesville.
On and on. And now, these attacks on four women of color, four members of the United States Congress told by the president to go back where they came from, even though only one was born in another country and all four are US citizens. While a few of his Republican colleagues voiced disgust at Trump’s tweets, most chose to remain silent, equivocate or to double down like the toadying Lindsey Graham, who screamed that Alexandria Octavio-Cortez,Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are “a bunch of communists”—sounding not like his late mentor John McCain but a raving, spittle-hurling Joe McCarthy.
(Lindsey and his man crush Trump would do well to heed—but won’t—the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who in a 1929 dissent wrote, "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”)
So yes, Donald Trump is a racist, a white supremacist, a misogynist, a right-wing extremist, and as he goes full tilt into maniacal campaign mode, with nary a GOP voice raised in protest, it’s only going to get worse. This is how he thinks he can win reelection and so these current ravings were inevitable. Recent and intentionally misconstrued comments by the women may have sped the onslaught up a bit. As per The Washington Post, he thinks the four are "good foils." But this always was going to happen. Always.
Don’t let your outrage at his words dim, but neither let this presidential pickpocket use these cruel verbal assaults—or his jeering rally crowds—to distract you from the truth as he falsely accuses these legitimately elected women of disloyalty and worse. Don’t let him deflect your attention from Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony this week (which apparently Fox News refuses to carry) or the Jeffrey Epstein pedophilia scandal and the role played by Trump’s now former labor secretary Alex Acosta.
Ignore not the ICE raids and the new rules restricting asylum requests and the continuing deplorable conditions in the detention centers, the separation of undocumented families, the failed attempt to cook the census. And keep your eye on which candidates are offering viable plans and solutions for climate change, immigration, health care, the opioid crisis, education and student debt, infrastructure, income and racial inequality.
As for those of you among Trump’s vaunted base, the ones to whom he’s pitching this poisonous snake oil, do you honest to God think that being given license to attack or mock a person’s skin color or religion is more important than having a job, a roof over your head and food and clothing for you and your family? Do you truly believe that Trump’s trade wars, tax cuts aimed at his rich cronies and slashing regulations to satisfy corporate fat cats are giving you a better life?
Is having a president who jabs his thumb in the eye of all who don't fawn over him here and abroad and who lacks a moral or honest bone in his body preferable to a leader who is respected here and overseas, who’s not a white nationalist but a patriot with an informed worldview embracing diversity and expertise?
Trump needs to return where he came from, and I say that with some hesitation only because that would be New York City and I live here. Even if he’s defeated in 2020 we won’t have heard the last of him, of course, but at least the power and bully pulpit of the presidency will be denied the bully who currently lives in the White House. We’ll put him in a special room where he can throw all the birthday cake and knock over all the toy blocks he wants. Just send him back.