WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2015 – New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is still reeling a week after GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump failed to stop and lecture a supporter who characterized President Obama as a foreign-born Muslim.
And Dr. Ben Carson’s assertion that the religious faith of the nation’s chief executive must not be “inconsistent with the values and principles of America” – read Islamic Sharia law.
I guess it was only a matter of time.
Needless to say, Friedman is on edge with worry.
He cites the newly released documentary film “Rabin: The Last Day,” which blames the 1995 assassination of Israeli Labor Party Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on – what else – heated rhetoric from right-of-center opponents to his government’s now discredited “land for peace” policy.
Friedman begs GOP front-runners Trump and Dr. Ben Carson to tone down the hyperbole aimed at media-sanctioned sacred cows before they drag the Republican Party “across civic redlines, with candidates saying, rationalizing or ignoring more and more crazy, ill-informed stuff each week.”
And if they don’t? “It will play well with certain voters,” says Friedman. “And that is all that matters — until something really bad happens. And then, all of it — the words, tweets, signs and boasts — will be footage for another documentary that ends badly.”
When it comes to political demagoguery, Trump and Carson have hardly cornered the market.
That shark was jumped long ago.
During the Obamacare debate in 2009, Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson described the Republican “backup plan” to the president’s dictatorial health care monstrosity. “The Republican health care plan is this,” said Grayson, “Die quickly. That’s right, the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.”
After Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in the tea party shellacking of 2010, Democratic Rep. Andre Carson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told a gathering in Miami: “Some of them in Congress right now of this tea party movement would love to see you and me… hanging on a tree.”
In 2012, a left wing (pro-Democrat) advocacy group calling itself “The Agenda Project,” produced ads showing a Paul Ryan look-alike – the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee – tossing an old woman from her wheelchair and over a cliff. “Mitt Romney made his choice,” said the ad’s announcer. “Now you have to make yours.”
That same year, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused small-government Republicans of scheming to infect the nation’s children with E. coli so as to “give tax cuts to the high end.”
Friedman doesn’t really believe violence will erupt due to Trump and Carson’s rhetoric. His primary concern is that the political outsiders are blithely unaware of the unspoken understanding between conventional Republican politicians and the Democratic Party’s mainstream-media minions: We ambush and assail you, impugn your motives, and you just stand there like glum, kicked dogs hoping the New York Times flings a few kind words your way.
Donald Trump’s and Dr. Carson’s rise in the polls is evidence to future Republican candidates to come out swinging and never let your opponents tell you what you can or can’t say.
What Friedman really fears is that the GOP outsiders are out demagoguing the demagogues.