Please don’t vote for Donald Trump
An open letter to my parents
Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you? I know it’s weird to be writing you a letter for the first time since I stopped going to summer camp, but, despite our many lengthy phone calls on the matter, I’m writing to you to explain why I’m so opposed to the candidacy of Donald Trump — and to ask you (…again, and with like, a hundred more citations) not to vote for him. I hope you’ll forgive me for bringing you into the overwrought millennial corpus of “open letters,” but for all the thousands of words I’ve written, I’ve come to suspect these will be the most important.
I’m frustrated by how impersonal (and irritatingly condescending) this format is, but when we’ve talked about Trump out loud, I’ve struggled to explain why I find him to be so offensive. After a lot of consideration, I’ve realized that my contempt for him as a person and a politician is not rooted in any one particular trait that makes me point at him and say, “That guy is not good”; my revulsion for Trump is a mosaic made up of dozens of repugnant statements, fascist proposals and ignorant attitudes. They can be hard to keep track of in a conversation sandwiched between discussions about mortgage rates and train trips. This is the best way I can come up with to pull them all together.
I don’t have any interest in changing your mind on most questions of policy: We feel very differently about taxes, welfare, drugs, the environment, public safety, employment regulation, and, I’d guess, dozens of other issues too. I respect those differences without a single caveat, and I acknowledge that Trump is now the only major party candidate who might agree with you.
My position, which I’ve tried to support in painfully prolific detail below, is that Trump’s support of these policies — if he actually supports them at all — is not enough to justify voting for him. My position is that Donald Trump is a candidate so repulsive, so counter to the American ideals that have been cherished for generations, that he should be kept out of office even if it means voting for a candidate you dislike. The question I’m trying to answer is not whether Trump is right or wrong — only if he is good or bad.
There are plenty of would-be presidents I have disagreed with. I might oppose the political stances of Mitt Romney, or John Kasich, or Joe Lieberman, but I don’t think they would be bad presidents. Trump is different: I am, for the first time in my life, scared of a political candidate. I believe Trump is inherently unfit for political office, and has disqualified himself repeatedly and without reservation. What follows is a catalog of evidence I’ve collected to support that assertion. You might want to grab a snack at this point, because the “catalog” is… lengthy.
Chapter One: His advisors are terrible
The problem here isn’t Trump’s political inexperience; presidents have always found advisors to fill the gaps in their knowledge and abilities. The concern is that Trump has for years vested his trust and his businesses’ well-being with confidants that are at any given moment offensive, incompetent, violent or angry. They call women — I apologize — “cunt” and “fucking bitch.” They scream threats at total strangers on the telephone. They act like people who shouldn’t be allowed out of the house, much less put in charge of anything. Trump disagrees.
Let’s start with Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager. He doesn’t often get mentioned by name (especially lately), but he popped up in headlines back in March, when he was accused of grabbing a reporter by the arm and pulling her backward at a campaign event, with enough force that she tweeted a photo of her bruise afterward. His initial defense:
Lewandowski’s explanation to [Breitbart editor Matthew] Boyle, said these sources, was that he and [reporter Michelle] Fields had never met before and that he didn’t recognize her as a Breitbart reporter, instead mistaking her for an adversarial member of the mainstream media. Trump’s press secretary, Hope Hicks, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Nor did the usually responsive Boyle.
So, at least according to reporters on the campaign trail, not only did Lewandowski rough up Michelle Fields, but he then told her boss that he only did it because he thought he was attacking someone else.
Afterward, Lewandowski said Fields was “totally delusional”, and denied it happened. For his part, Trump suggested she was making it up. Once security footage surfaced showing Lewandowski grabbing Fields, however, Trump had to pivot, and changed his story to accuse her of being a potential assassin:
(As it happens, “what is in her hand” was a pen, though Trump proposed on CNN that it could have been — for real — “a little bomb.”)
If we assume that Trump is telling the truth, rather than the victim, witnesses, and a video tape, then we need to look elsewhere for evidence of Lewandowski’s incivility. Fortunately, it’s been well documented. From Politico:
In interviews with more than 20 sources who have dealt with Lewandowski during his nearly year-long tenure with the Trump campaign and in his previous job with the Koch brothers-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, complaints emerged about Lewandowski being rough with reporters and sexually suggestive with female journalists, while profanely berating conservative officials and co-workers he deemed to be challenging his authority. […]
Lewandowski boasted about threatening to “blow up” the car of AFP’s chief financial officer over a late expense reimbursement check during the 2012 election cycle… But some of his most fiery clashes came with a female official who ran one of the states under Lewandowski’s control. The relationship — and patience for Lewandowski within AFP — reached a tipping point in October 2013. On the sidelines of a meeting of the group’s board in Manhattan, Lewandowski loudly berated the employee for challenging his authority, getting in her personal space and calling her a “c — -” in front of a group of AFP employees, including some senior officials, according to three sources who either witnessed the exchange or dealt with its aftermath.
And here, from the Daily Beast:
“He was just a condescending, nasty brutish boor,” said Pat Maloney, an Ohio regional field director for AFP when Lewandowski took the reins. “In a position of real power, he would make H.R. Haldeman in the Nixon administration look like a Boy Scout.”
Maloney described Lewandowski’s management style as unusually aggressive, lacing his interactions with employees with expletives and calling individual staff members to berate them, even when they were not his direct reports.
When Maloney missed a conference call to attend to his ill grandmother, Lewandowski called him at his grandmother’s [bedside].
“My grandmother is literally dying, having Last Rites administered, and I get a call from Corey chewing me out, asking who the hell did I think I was missing this conference call,” he said.
While his own dealings with Lewandowski were unpleasant, Maloney said he felt Lewandowski reserved his worst behavior for female employees. “There was definitely a misogynistic streak to this guy,” he said.
Anyway, you get the idea. And once we meet Trump legal counsel Michael Cohen, it gets even harder to deny that maybe there’s something of a pattern: Last summer, Cohen was called for a comment on a story about allegations from the early 1990s by Trump’s then-wife, Ivana, that Trump had raped her. First, Cohen denied that sexually assaulting a spouse was illegal (it is, though I would hope that is beside the point), then proceeded to threaten the reporter who had called him:
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up… for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet… you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added. […]
“I think you should go ahead and you should write the story that you plan on writing. I think you should do it. Because I think you’re an idiot. And I think your paper’s a joke, and it’s going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit, like I told [you] I did it to Univision,” Cohen continued.
As you may have guessed, there was no $500 million lawsuit. Trump took no punitive action against his “special counsel” for threatening to do “fucking disgusting” things to a member of the press, and Cohen serves as the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, plus “as one of Mr. Trump’s primary troubleshooters as it pertains to a host of global projects and partnerships.”
I could elaborate on the menagerie of creeps and scammers that Trump calls peers, but we’ve got a long way to go, and two foul-mouthed, violent misogynists in senior advisory roles seems like enough to suggest he might not be the type of person we should be trusting to appoint cabinet members.
Chapter Two: He openly disdains anyone different from him
It was difficult to come up with a header for this chapter, as Trump’s prejudices routinely slosh over the boundaries of racism, sexism, and religious discrimination. I don’t know enough about race theory to explain the systemic risks of letting a man like Trump into the White House, but it is easy to see how his hateful, divisive rhetoric can lend legitimacy and confidence to the most sinister, ignorant supremacists among us. (I have to take for granted that we can agree on not supporting the white supremacy movement.) There’s a lot to grab in this section, so I’ve broken it up by group.
The demographic that Trump has maligned most aggressively on his way to the top. After suggesting President Obama, a Hawaiian Christian, might actually be a Muslim from Kenya because he was half black, Trump claimed on television that his “investigators” were in Hawaii and “cannot believe what they’re finding,” then never delivered a single piece of evidence.
Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has only grown since then, including a tweet from May that suggests radical Islam is so terrifying that Americans can’t even function because of it:
Appealing to baseless fear and imagined external threats is unfortunately a textbook move for demagogues throughout modern history, though around here it’s a charge that looks more familiar when leveled at Jews, Italians, Catholics, the Irish, African Americans, or the Japanese. Now, Islam gets to be the “other” that happens to be around when things aren’t going well. The United States has been scared of a fifth column since the beginning; we learn about these episodes in middle school, in history book chapters about America’s shame.
But I promised not to litigate things like this in the letter. Muslim relations in the United States have blown straight past mere religious discrimination and into the broader issues of national security and foreign relations, issues we could go back and forth on for hours and not get anywhere. My issue is more general: Trump’s Muslim control policies are an outward appeal to a totalitarianism that is, personally, revolting. For example, he took advantage of the panic after last November’s Paris attacks to say we should be tracking all Muslim Americans in a database. When asked how that differed from Nazi-era policies requiring the registration of Jews, his response was, “You tell me.”
I’ll give you that this particular incident smells like something of a setup, though it’s still strange he would so readily agree to it. Unfortunately, it’s far from the only time he’s said things like this, and to disconcertingly loud applause. He said we should block American citizens from entering the country if they’re Muslim (then changed his mind to only include a religious border test for non-citizens). He said “we’re going to have no choice” but to shut down some Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. and put others under overt government surveillance. When asked whether he’d consider giving Muslim Americans a separate identification card noting their religion, he responded this way:
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
This is among the scariest statements I’ve seen from him — not only does he promise that “certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country,” but refers to Americans — actual, real people, citizens whom we know — as “the enemy,” because they believe in a religion he disapproves of. The most concerning part isn’t that he’d propose this course of action against Muslims — it’s that he’d propose it against anyone.
Coupled with his statement that we need to “close up” the internet to prevent the spread of enemy propaganda, I can’t help but wonder: How far does Trump want to go? Internet censorship is a suppression tactic employed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, and numerous other nations that Trump looks down upon for their backwards rule and poor records on civil rights — what other tricks might he pilfer from their playbooks? He’s got the “outlaw certain religions” pot cooking on a back burner, at least.
Ultimately, the question is, how much freedom is Trump willing to take away from us, in the name of safety? He’s admitted that the answer is significantly more than he’s proposed so far, despite his current array of plans being so chillingly broad already.
Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric is offensive to me personally, but the facet that I’d emphasize to you isn’t that he hates and distrusts Muslims — it’s that his proposed actions against them reflect an embrace of despotism that could land any group in hot water. I find it terrifying that an actual politician could declare, “security is going to rule,” while outlining plans to surveil his own citizens. I find it entirely objectionable that Trump is supporting the notion that a government with adequate aggression can impose enough regulation of belief to eradicate the dangers of extremism.
I can’t believe that this is true, nor that it is in our national interests to oppress so many in order to ensnare so few — a view also held by Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan and served as director of the CIA. He called Trump’s policies “totally counterproductive: Rather than making our country safer, they will compound the already grave terrorist danger to our citizens.”
He continued, in a column in the Washington Post:
Setting aside moral considerations, those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims should realize they are playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The terrorists’ explicit hope has been to try to provoke a clash of civilizations — telling Muslims that the United States is at war with them and their religion. When Western politicians propose blanket discrimination against Islam, they bolster the terrorists’ propaganda.
At the same time, such statements directly undermine our ability to defeat Islamist extremists by alienating and undermining the allies whose help we most need to win this fight: namely, Muslims.
This one is less about dystopian government policy and more about good old-fashioned racism. Trump practically kicked off his campaign with the exclamation that Mexican immigrants were mostly criminals, drug dealers and rapists, then said the Mexican government was “send[ing] the bad ones” on purpose, citing anonymous border guards as if that would be adequate evidence to accuse an ally of intentionally shipping murderers over the border.
I won’t try to convince you to take a particular stance on immigration policy itself, except to point out that Trump’s signature issue, building a giant, 2,000-mile wall that stretches across an entire continent, is designed to slow immigration from a country with which we have a net negative immigration rate.
But my questions regarding Trump and Hispanics aren’t political. He perfectly illustrated his anti-Latino beliefs toward the end of May, when he repeatedly criticized a judge for what he perceived to be unfair treatment in a trial related to his for-profit university venture.
It’s absolutely his right to complain about his legal proceedings if he wants to, and it’s totally in-character for him to whine about how he only loses if the competition is unfair. But his only evidence for this “unfair” bias is that the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, is “Mexican.” (Curiel was born in Indiana, and is as closely related to immigrants as my grandmother is.)
Trump defended his claim to the Wall Street Journal:
In an interview, Mr. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over the litigation given that he was “of Mexican heritage” and a member of a Latino lawyers’ association. Mr. Trump said the background of the judge, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants, was relevant because of his campaign stance against illegal immigration and his pledge to seal the southern U.S. border. “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said.
There are many troubling questions that crop up from statements like this, but the most bizarre, to me at least, is the implication that Trump should not have to work with anyone Hispanic, because of their “inherent conflict of interest,” and that any federal judges of “Mexican heritage” should be forced to recuse themselves because of their inability to remain impartial. (It also seems at odds with his assertion that “the Hispanics love me,” but we’ll leave that alone for now.)
After the Journal article came out, Trump went on CNN to do an interview with Jake Tapper. The interesting part is about three and a half minutes long, with his “tells it like it is” attitude and “straight talk” conspicuously absent; he repeatedly refuses to answer Tapper’s questions, preferring instead to keep repeating “I’m building a wall” and asking the reporter if he knows trivia about wholly unrelated issues. You can probably skip the video if you want to save some time and avoid seeing a grown man squirm on television.
And, because Trump can’t stay off of television (and television can’t stop inviting him), he then further escalated his judicial ban to “possibly” include Muslims as well:
So, he’d also (“possibly”) require a religious test for cases he’s involved in. What about the cases he’s not? Should Muslim judges pull from a separate docket than Christian ones? What about Hispanic judges? How “Hispanic” do you have to be before you become suspicious? How do we determine which cases we can trust brown people to acceptably adjudicate?
And why have we suddenly stopped at questioning the abilities of only federal circuit court judges? Surely there are other public officials who are worth taking a closer look at, plus well over a million Muslims in private industry — not to mention the 5,000 serving in the U.S. military. If only a senator would start checking in on these things. Maybe make some kind of list?
The point is, Trump’s objections in this case are wholly divorced from his opposition to immigration policy, or a wall, or which illegal immigrants are criminals. The man you’d have in the White House is explicitly saying — on national television, over and over again — that a sworn public official is suspect because of where his family is from, that an American citizen is unable to do his job because his first name is “Gonzalo.”
What would it say to minorities all across this country that our president feels this way about them? What would it say to the world, that the land in which “all men are created equal” would marginalize some men because of their color, or creed? Again? And what would we get in return, for accepting a leader who asserts non-whites are inherently lesser? A reduction in refundable tax credits?
Trump has a bizarre and mixed history on women’s issues. He’s held multiple and contradictory views, sometimes in the same day. I’m going to skip an analysis of them, because my point is not that his policies are incorrect, but that his treatment of women suggests to me that he is flawed in such fundamental ways as to warrant his disqualification not only from holding public office, but from being a productive contributor to a society in which I would want to live.
He’s reported to have said, of women in general, “You have to treat ’em like shit.” He (allegedly) poured an entire glass of wine on a woman who wrote an article he disapproved of. He criticized primary opponent Carly Fiorina by saying, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” He told a contestant on his reality show, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.” He reportedly kissed unwilling beauty pageant contestants “directly on the lips.”
If someone at our dinner table acted this way, he would be chased out of the house at spatula-point. But you’d be OK with him leading our country?
When he was asked at a debate last year about calling women with whom he disagreed “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” he responded by saying, “only Rosie O’Donnell,” then calling the reporter who asked the question a “bimbo.” O’Donnell responded succinctly:
It’s a disarmingly good point. If Trump becomes president, there may be a day, 10 or 15 years from now, that I’ll have a daughter who will come across some of these statements. She’d see a president point at a woman’s face and say she’s too ugly to be in charge, a president call a woman a “fat pig” in the middle of a debate. If that’s how the chief executive of our country could talk to people who look like her, how should I explain that? What if she asked you instead? I’m not sure “he was tough on immigration” is going to fly.
I might as well lead with the Central Park Five, right? That he would spend $85,000 to demand the execution of five innocent minority teenagers seems indicative enough of his feelings toward African Americans, but New York in the 1980s was unlike any place I’ve ever experienced — I reluctantly admit that I may lack the perspective to put Trump’s 1989 statements in the proper context. I’d suggest, at least, that there is no context in which it would be appropriate to publicly call for the electrocution of 14-year-old children.
There is plenty of other evidence of his prejudices, however, both before and after the “Central Park jogger” case. In the ’70s, his company was twice sued by the Department of Justice over accusations of discriminating against black housing applicants, to which he responded by hiring Roy Cohn to sue the Department of Justice for defaming him. (He didn’t win, and that Trump literally shared a lawyer with Joe McCarthy is an association he made, not I.)
In the ’90s, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino wrote a book that quoted Trump as saying, of an African American accountant, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” When he was asked about the accusation in an interview, Trump said, “The stuff [John R.] O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true. The guy’s a fucking loser. A fucking loser.”
The most obvious recent instance of Trump’s prejudices was a graphic he shared online, which lists that 81 percent of white murders are committed by black people, as are 97 percent of black murders.
As you’d have guessed, these statistics are incorrect. Trump said in an interview that the numbers came “from sources that are very credible” — the cited organization, “Crime Statistics Bureau — San Francisco,” does not exist.
He shared it because it conforms to his many lopsided racial notions (that “the crime numbers are worse” in Ferguson, Mo. than Iraq, for example) — notions that have garnered him endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and a bevy of white supremacists, including one that the Trump campaign selected as a delegate in California.
Trump’s treatment of black Americans is more subtly disrespectful than his treatment of Muslims or “Mexicans,” but he’s clearly not particularly interested in cordial relations between his administration and “the blacks.” He’s taken similarly uncomfortable stances with the Jewish community, Cubans, and, somehow, Seventh-Day Adventists. He’s also drawn fire for making fun of a reporter with disabled use of his arms by saying, “you should see this poor guy,” then jerking his own limbs around while speaking at a rally:
Diversity, and Trump’s rejection of anyone who doesn’t look or think like he does, was a challenging section to add to this piece, because I can honestly never tell who simply doesn’t care about it. But I hope the information at least makes one thing clear: that Trump is a hostile, hateful man who believes certain religions are undeserving of constitutional protections, certain races should not be trusted to carry out their jobs, and certain genders are essentially sex objects undeserving of basic respect. Regardless of your views on “political correctness,” these are so far beyond the pale of basic human compassion that I can’t fathom how someone could accept them.
But, for all the hate he throws around, he’s remarkably unable to withstand a little criticism of his own. And so, on to chapter three…
Chapter Three: He is comically thin-skinned
There has never been an insult too slight for Donald Trump not to be offended by it. He picked a fight with the Pope and called him a “disgrace.” He calls for the resignation of reporters who cover him negatively, but is unable to find a reason to ask for any corrections. When the director of an ESPN documentary on the United States Football League mailed Trump an advance copy, he returned the letter with a message:
“A third rate documentary — and extremely dishonest (as you know),” Trump scrawled in marker. “P.S. You are a loser.”
When TV host Joe Scarborough went to commercial after Trump refused to answer any questions, Trump tweeted, “I don’t watch or do @Morning_Joe anymore. Small audience, low ratings!” When Hillary Clinton gave a speech that mocked his sensitivity and propensity for slinging insults on Twitter, he told the New York Times that the speech was “terrible” and “pathetic” before it had actually ended. He then turned to… slinging insults on Twitter:
Trump’s inability to take criticism as a civilian just has the effect of making him look insecure and silly. However, “thin-skinned, overly reactive to criticism” is not a safe descriptor for someone who would control the largest nuclear arsenal in the solar system. There are entire sections of websites dedicated to cataloging the people he has insulted on social media. He attacked John McCain by saying he was “not a war hero” and mocking his capture in the Vietnam War, a conflict that Trump got to avoid by going to Wharton instead. When the editorial board of the Des Moines Register called on him to drop out of the presidential race, he responded by banning their reporters from his events. (Their problem, of course, was that their criticism of Trump was “very dishonest.”) After a combative interview with Anderson Cooper, Trump left and called him a “dumb guy with no clue,” though of course not to his face. 25 years ago, after the editor of Spy called him a “short-fingered vulgarian” in the magazine, Trump took to mailing him photos of his own hands with captions like, “See, not so short!” He reportedly last sent one in 2015.
On their own, none of these cases is a disqualifying incident. But what do they say about him as a human? What kind of a person makes fun of prisoners of war, or accuses every critic of simply lying, or stews on a throwaway insult for more than two decades, or sits on social media sending messages like this one?
Trump’s delusions make him seem almost incapable of normal social interaction. In 2013, he sent his “best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11.” Would FDR have sent well wishes to “all the chumps” on December 7? Would Eisenhower have offered warm thoughts to “the morons and idiots” on June 6? Of course not — they were presidents, leaders and statesmen. Donald Trump is a petulant child.
This petulance, though, seems to work in his advantage sometimes: From a certain angle, his flailing public outbursts can be seen as coming from someone unafraid to challenge the powerful, someone who “tells it like it is.” Unfortunately, that angle is one that needs to disregard reason, logic and basic truth. He doesn’t “tell it like it is,” he tells it like he imagines it to be. Which brings us to chapter four.
Chapter Four: He is a liar
Many politicians wander out of the realm of rhetoric and into outright dishonesty when backed into a corner, I accept that. Somehow, though, Trump seems to be perpetually backed into a corner — when he isn’t just calling people names, he’s inventing accusations against them in order to save himself from some perceived embarrassment.
He told the NRA that Hillary Clinton’s plan was “to release the violent criminals from jail. She wants them all released,” even though there’s no proof she’s mentioned anything of the sort. He accused Ted Cruz’s father of playing an active role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, based on a report in the National Enquirer that no other expert has been able to verify. He said Bernie Sanders would tax the average voter at 90 percent, without any evidence and contrary to every statement Sanders has made on the matter. He said he was the first person to win 66 out of 67 counties in Florida’s primary, even though a simple search shows it to be a feat also recently accomplished by John Kerry, Al Gore, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. (Jimmy Carter won all 67.)
At a campaign stop in Arizona, he claimed a federal spending bill “funds illegal immigrants coming in and through your border, right through Phoenix”; unsurprisingly, there weren’t any line items for “pay for illegal immigration,” but it was the bill that provided continued funding for border patrols and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He said the federal government was sending “dangerous” Syrian refugees to Republican states, but not Democratic ones; Democratic states average more accepted refugees than those run by Republicans. He’s said repeatedly that the United States is “the highest taxed nation in the world” — depending on how you measure it, we’re ranked somewhere between 16th and 31st. He said he’d “always liked” New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, eight days after holding a rally where he said she was so bad at her job, he might have to run against her instead. These are not subjective opinions or minor nitpicks. These are provably false, and there are hundreds more.
That he lies, so compulsively and about things that don’t matter, is troubling. But his more dangerous habit is one he’s been practicing for years: When questioned about his blatant untruths, he responds not with any proof, but with attacks and threats. He’s never been wrong, only lied about. If he is confronted with evidence of his incorrectness, he insists the evidence does not exist, and that any “fucking loser” who would have mentioned it must be “very dishonest.” I know that we’ve had conversations about people like this, because I was one of them. The only difference was that I was an 8-year-old, and Donald Trump wants to run a country.
Let’s spend a minute on his ridiculous allegation that “thousands” of “Arab” people were celebrating on Jersey City rooftops, watching the World Trade Center attacks on September 11. Police say it didn’t happen, and the television footage Trump has repeatedly said to have seen can’t be located, or even corroborated by any other TV viewers. He refuses to concede that he made it up, electing instead to just continue yelling it.
PolitiFact, a popular non-partisan fact-checking site, wrote a story examining the evidence, of which there is none:
A more rampant rumor of Muslim or Arab-Americans cheering the attacks centered around nearby Paterson, N.J. But that turned out to be just a rumor, spawned by chain emails and perpetuated by shock jock Howard Stern’s radio show.
The Star-Ledger reported that as the rumors spread, “Paterson police rushed to South Main Street, the center of the city’s Middle Eastern community.”
“When we got there, they were all in prayer,” Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola said.
When asked about the “pants on fire” rating that the group had given his accusation that “thousands” were celebrating, Trump said simply that PolitiFact — a nationally acclaimed publication and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting — was “a very dishonest group,” before also admitting that “I don’t know what the number is.” He did not appear to see anything wrong with that combination of statements.
Another particularly ugly attack came at the end of May, when he had to hold a press conference to explain why money he had bragged about raising for charity had taken so long to get delivered.
You mentioned on one of our calls that the donations may have fallen through the cracks because Trump is so personally involved in all of his business dealings. I’d suggest that a leader who can’t delegate — even to ensure support for causes that are ostensibly near and dear to him — does not sound like a particularly effective leader.
The issue, though, doesn’t really have anything to do with charity. The concerning part is that Trump seems to have a problem with reporters doing any, well, reporting. More than $3 million of his alleged “donations” were unaccounted for; reporters asked why, because that’s their entire job. Trump’s interpretation was slightly different:
The billionaire had called the news conference to announce an accounting of his at least $5.6 million in fundraising for veterans groups, but spent most of the 40 minutes criticizing and insulting reporters — collectively and at times individually — as “dishonest,” “not good people,” sleazy, and among the worst human beings he has ever met.
And he vowed the White House briefing room would be just as combative as the Trump Tower lobby, where the developer addressed reporters Tuesday, should he ascend to the Oval Office.
“Yeah, it is going to be like this,” Trump said when asked if this is how he would behave with the press as president. “You think I’m gonna change? I’m not gonna change.”
Trump’s tantrum appears to be based entirely on the notion that “the press” should not saddle him with the indignity of having his statements questioned or verified, despite his lengthy history of stating things that are entirely untrue. He claimed (again, on television) to have raised money — including $1 million in personal funds — that he didn’t actually donate until a Washington Post reporter tried to confirm that it had happened, and found that it hadn’t. In that exchange, the reporter isn’t the one acting suspiciously. In return, Trump responded by saying, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy.”
Trump has always been the “nasty” one, and proudly so, particularly to reporters. Regardless of your feelings on the charity matter, Trump’s disdain for a free press would be troubling in someone leading a government that should be even marginally accountable to its people. Which leads into (I promise) my last chapter.
Chapter Five: He is un-American
I was reluctant to couch this section in terms as divisive as “un-American,” but it’s the best I could come up with. An “American” identity is a tricky thing to nail down in a country that professes to be a melting pot, and recently I seem to see it used mostly as an excuse to hang up the Ten Commandments in courthouses because we’re a “Judeo-Christian nation.” It’s used to exclude people because they don’t look like “us.”
I refer to it in something of a different way: I see Donald Trump as the antithesis of the ideals that have made our country so successful for so long, the values that have made the United States a place in which I’m proud to live. We have a long way to go on a long list of axes, but I believe strongly in the power of the Constitution, the chief shrine of our national values, as a force to preserve the liberties we have and to protect us as we move forward shaping our ideas of what a free nation should be. Trump appears not to be particularly interested in either of those activities.
I’ll start with Trump’s demands not only to refuse any Syrian refugees, but to actually deport the ones that have already arrived. When anyone brings up the Holocaust, politicians solemnly bow their heads and say, “Never again.” But when confronted with an international humanitarian crisis, a chance to help an oppressed people, Trump and his contemporaries instead respond with the same fear-mongering and rejection that played such a key role in most European Jews being turned away from American shores during World War II. Trump, late last year:
“They’re going to be gone. They will go back. … I’ve said it before, in fact, and everyone hears what I say, including them, believe it or not,” Trump said of the refugees. “But if they’re here, they have to go back, because we cannot take a chance. You look at the migration, it’s young, strong men. We cannot take a chance that the people coming over here are going to be ISIS-affiliated.”
I’d suggest that any president refusing to “take a chance” on refugees who are fleeing the exact enemy from which we’re hiding should have to personally pry the plaque off of the Statue of Liberty, but it might be too far of a walk from Trump Tower. Even his irrational assumptions about the makeup of the Syrian migrants are incorrect:
Of the about 2,000 refugees from Syria so far, about half are children, and another quarter are adults over 60 […] According to a senior administration official, only 2 percent of those admitted so far are males of military age who are unattached to families. This is because the intention is to focus on the most vulnerable applicants, generally women with children or their elderly relatives.
Trump is so scared of ISIS that he wants to turn away homeless “women with children or their elderly relatives” in the name of safety. Surely it would be even safer to turn away anyone wanting to come in at all — but that’s not who we are. We are the golden door, the city upon a hill, the land to which you can turn when there is nowhere else to go. I’d like us to stay that way.
Trump also seems to consider the Constitution less of a founding document and more a set of inconvenient guidelines that are in his way. For starters, he has practically made his hatred of the free press a plank in his platform, and, in addition to his constant insistence that reporters are leeches and idiots, he has promised to “open up” laws that are preventing him from attacking news organizations in the courts. (Those laws to be “opened up” appear to be federal libel statutes that don’t exist, plus a small sliver of the Bill of Rights.)
Again: A major presidential candidate is actively calling for the suppression of the press before he’s even been elected. When he was investigating Obama for being an imaginary Muslim, Trump claimed to be performing a valuable public service. But when a reporter has the gall to ask Trump a question about some baseless statement he refuses to support, Trump wants them fired. These are usually policies that even dictators have had the decency to obscure, at least until they were actually in power.
Similarly, he has on numerous occasions expressed the desire to suppress dissent and unapproved speech. I’ve already mentioned his willingness to censor the internet to “protect” us from dangerous ideas. Regarding protesters, he encouraged his supporters to attack potential disruptors, saying, “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously … just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.” When supporters on multiple occasions were filmed sucker-punching protesters, including some who were handcuffed, Trump told interviewers, “maybe they should have been roughed up,” and that he was considering paying one attacker’s legal fees. When asked if he was encouraging this behavior, he said, “I have no objection to what I said, I’ll say it again.” (He later insisted he’d never said any of those things.)
Protest is not polite or convenient, but it’s at the heart of our democracy. Right now, Trump says he’ll help attackers defend themselves in court — what happens when he’s literally at the head of the Executive Branch? Can you come up with a reason I shouldn’t be scared of a leader who sees violence as an appealing method of suppressing speech he doesn’t like? How long until he targets a picket line I’m standing in? How long before this letter is evidence of dangerous, subversive beliefs?
His anti-Muslim policies that I mentioned above seem to be almost entirely in violation of the Establishment Clause, and a frighteningly casual invasion of our personal freedom. He wants to literally legislate which deities are “safe” for Americans to worship and said he was “100 percent” in favor of the government going into “Muslim neighborhoods” in the United States to look for terrorists. When asked how that would work in practice, he simply said, “You do it, you do it,” then started muttering about how if police didn’t have to be so nice all the time, we wouldn’t have gangs anymore.
The wall between church and state, despite conservative attempts to render it a myth, is an invaluable bulwark against the policing of thought and belief in our country. It scares me that a candidate can make a signature issue out of ignoring it.
I was going to work my way through the entire Bill of Rights, to illustrate how Trump has proposed violating every amendment, but this is the seventh paragraph about the Constitution, and I haven’t gotten past the First Amendment yet. (Plus, I haven’t found any evidence of Trump supporting the quartering of troops in our homes. We’ve still got five months to the election; he’s got time.) I’ll point out that he literally calls for the repeal of the 14th Amendment on his campaign website and move on.
This next section is one that makes me feel physically ill. It took me longer to write than any other section, and it probably would have been quicker for me just to send you these few paragraphs (so… sorry for putting them at the end).
This is the section about how Donald Trump is an evil man, and how he would have us become an evil country to accommodate him.
Trump has, on numerous occasions, called for the torture not only of enemy combatants, but of people simply in police custody. He said he would “absolutely” reinstate waterboarding of terror suspects, “And I would approve more than that. Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”
In this case, some of the “stupid” people who said it doesn’t work are the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who compiled a 6,000-page report that concluded from extensive CIA records that torture “was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
Trump is calling to enact state-approved torture — including actions “a hell of a lot worse” than a practice that has already been condemned by the international community as illegally cruel — even if we have nothing to gain from it. This isn’t torture as punishment for a conviction, or torture to save lives in a race against the clock; this is torture for sport, and it should horrify anyone with an ounce of humanity.
Somehow, Trump’s wartime torture proposals are among the more legal ideas he’s endorsed. He spoke wistfully of a time when American generals could order mass executions of native peoples, even though the story appears to have been fictional. He said foreign police forces should be torturing arrestees for information. At one point, when asked about the U.S. strategy for fighting ISIS, he responded:
“We’re fighting a very politically correct war. And the other thing is with the terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump added.
“When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”
When former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden suggested that the order was clearly illegal, and that the armed forces would refuse to act, Trump brushed off the concern, saying, “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me… I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”
These are not minor proposals — he said that his force of personality was strong enough to compel the United States military to commit the war crimes he would order, and that he didn’t care about “the eggheads that came up with this international law,” because agreements like the Geneva Conventions are just consequences of being excessively “politically correct.” Your choice for the 2016 election intends to repurpose our armed forces as an international vendor of mayhem, torturing at will, committing murder and brushing off an international community he considers too weak to do what needs to be done.
Trump’s proposals are not novel. When the Chinese city of Nanking fell during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese army “went after their families” — at least 40,000 people were killed, in a city overrun with rape and mutilation. The Viet Cong approved waterboarding, and, as Trump says, “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Stories of their cruelty — starvation, broken limbs, bamboo splinters stuffed under fingernails, faces covered in biting ants until the victim fell unconscious — are a black mark on the history of the world.
I don’t want to live in Trump’s America. I don’t want to have my safety “protected” by a military that kills the children of our suspected enemies, or my government led by a man who thinks the way to improve U.S. relations in the international community is to bomb their nursing homes until they submit.
He said at a debate, “They can blow people up in shopping centers … and yet we have rules and regulations we can’t waterboard because it’s a little bit on the tough side.”
I don’t see anything wrong with that state of affairs. Of course the bad guys don’t play by the same rules as the good guys, that’s how you can tell which ones are the bad guys.
Donald Trump is the vulgar, blustering embodiment of the darkest impulses of our politics. Frankly, I don’t believe the fact that he happens to support a tax policy you like or immigration reform you’re in favor of should even enter the equation. He would ruin our already precarious standing on the world stage. He would systematically attack minority communities within our own cities. He would make us the bad guys. He is an American embarrassment and a shallow huckster without decency, and I want to be able to say I did what I could to stand in his way. I was raised to respect and aspire to the traits of “good men” — he is not one of them, and he does not deserve to be our president. Please don’t vote for Donald Trump.