“The system is rigged,” cried Donald Trump, GOP presumptive presidential candidate, after FBI Director James Comey announced that prosecutors have no case to take Hillary Clinton’s infamous email problems to court. Trump tweeted, “General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair!” Petraeus’ “trouble” came from his deliberately sharing classified information with his mistress; Clinton’s problems came from her using that a private server that never sent out classified information. The emails that keep showing “classified” came from reclassifications after Clinton sent them to others.
Trum followed that claim by accusing Hillary Clinton of bribing Attorney General Loretta Lynch following a report that said Clinton would consider keeping Lynch if she’s elected president. Today Trump called the FBI decision a bribe for Loretta Lynch because Clinton would keep her in the attorney general position for another four years.
FBI Director Comey’s personal criticism of Clinton, calling her “extremely careless,” has been fodder for the Republicans. He broke standard custom of law enforcement in his announcement that the investigation is ended without filing any charges when he took an extra step of verbally censuring the exonerated person. Comey’s accusations of the Clinton’s server also being possibly hacked was also unsubstantiated.His behavior is not exactly shocking: the FBI director is a Republican who served as a top official in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department.
Trump has company—of course—among other Republicans in crying foul. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants Clinton to be prosecuted, showing that FBI facts don’t hold any weight with him. Sen. Ted Cruz questioned Comey’s integrity. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Judiciary Committee chair, has written Comey, demanding the answers to eight questions by July 11. Among them is whether Clinton was treated differently than others regarding mishandling classified information. Actually she was treated differently because she was investigated; no other official has been investigated for using private email accounts including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, both of whom served GOP presidents or Vice-President Dick Cheney for using destroying emails.
For over 30 years, Clinton has suffered from bad press and the belief that she could be dishonest, based on the media repetition combined with an emotional charge. As Todd Gitlin wrote on Moyers & Company, “Repetition and charge. Repetition and charge.” A term connected with an emotion triggers that emotion with specific thoughts. Benghazi. Clinton’s emails. Both those immediately bring an emotion that’s completely disconnected with facts. They are a one- or two-word soundbite with no explanation.
The House could find no blame in Clinton’s treatment of the attack on Benghazi. The FBI could not find anything in Clinton’s emails for prosecution. Whitewater, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Vance Foster—all these bring up negative emotions although the facts don’t support this response. They’re like the false accusations of President Obama’s not being born in the United States and being a Muslim. Among Republicans, 53 percent think that the president was born in Kenya, and another 43 percent think that he is a Muslim.
The media focused so intently on the FBI decision about Clinton’s emails that it initially ignored the story of Donald Trump tweeting an image of Clinton’s photo atop hundred-dollar bills beside a red Star of David superimposed with the caption “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.” After social media respondents condemned Trump’s image, it was replaced within a few hours by a circle placed over the Star of David.
At first, the media tried to ignore the story. Nine hours after the story of the tweet broke, ABC, NBC, CNN, and NBC were all low-key on their websites, and Fox didn’t mention it at all while focusing on the FBI’s investigation of Clinton. The buzz within the independent media forced a sanitized version of the story in more mainstream media. Trump claimed it was no big deal and tweeted about the indifferent media, “Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!” As for calling the image a “sheriff’s star,” these law enforcement symbols have circles at the end of the points and a large circle around the outside.
The mainstream media decided to pursue the program of the star with surrogates to explain (aka defend) the problem. Appearing on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, RNC Chair Reince Priebus claimed that the image was pulled randomly from Microsoft Paint by the campaign staff. Trump’s former and fired campaign manager, followed the same party line on CNN when Brianna Keilar asked him why Trump keeps making mistakes. Finally pressured into explaining after repeated questions, Lewandowski spouted:
“The bottom line is this is political correctness run amuck. If this was a star next to Hillary Clinton that didn’t have the cash behind it, no one would be questioning this. This is the mainstream media trying to read into something.”
So if there were no money and the star didn’t have six points instead of five and the message wasn’t about corruption, it would have been okay? House Speaker Paul Ryan did admit that the tweet was anti-Semitic. “Candidates should know that,” Ryan said and added that Trump has “got to clean up the way his new media works.” By blaming Trump’s “new media,” Ryan can continue his position that he’ll vote for Donald Trump for president.
The attempt to claim the innocence of the star design dissipated somewhat after it was revealed that white supremacist groups have been circulating and promoting the image. The image follows a well-known anti-Semitic trope of Jews as corrupt money-grubbers out to secretly control the government. Even after that discovery, however, Trump refused to speak out against the hate groups that he hopes will support him. Trump has had a pattern of retweeting messages from neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the goal of “white genocide” from “at least 75 users who follow at least three of the top 50 [most influential] #WhiteGenocide influencers,” according to Ben Kharakh and Dan Primack at Fortune.com. One neo-Nazi said, Trump is “giving us the old wink-wink.” The mainstream media has frequently supported Trump’s racist and bigoted campaign.
This U.S. media soft-pedaling may be comparable to the coverage of Adolf Hitler when he campaigned in the early 1930s and the approval of Hitler in the United States at the same time because he opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Christian Science Monitor praised Nazism at that time because of its unequaled “capacity for organization.”
Trump already follows the Nazi pattern of media treatment. The presumptive GOP presidential candidate has removed press credentials from over a dozen news organizations, starting with the prestigious and conservative Washington Post, and accusing them of “inaccuracy.” Trump said that “journalists are among the worst people I know” and calls specific journalists “sleaze.” Journalists who challenge him are isolated for criticism.
Meanwhile reluctant supporters of Donald Trump are waiting for him to become, as he promises, “presidential.” A January 30, 1933 editorial in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin stated that “there have been indications of moderation” on Hitler’s part; on January 31, 1933, the Cleveland Press said, “Appointment of Hitler as German chancellor may not be such a threat to world peace as it appears at first blush.”
Trump repeatedly shows his admiration for murdering dictators. He has used Saddam Hussein, “the Butcher of Baghdad,” as a model for fighting terrorism. In talking about killing terrorists, he said, “[Hussein] did that so good.” [Trump skipped that part about Hussein killing tens of thousands of innocent people under his rule.] Earlier in his campaign, Trump lauded North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un for taking out his rivals and said the world would be “100 percent better” if dictators like Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi were still in power. The candidate also used the recent murder of 49 people in Orlando to call for the exclusion of Syrian refugees although the shooter was a natural-born U.S. citizen of Afghani descent.
Almost four years ago, the RNC autopsy after Mitt Romney’s loss for the presidency included the strong recommendation that the party become inclusive in order to survive. Donald Trump has thus far alienated people of color, indigenous people, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and Muslims. The weekend before Independence Day, he added Jewish voters to the list.
Trump gathers his followers in the same way that Hillary-haters work against Clinton—repetition. He retweets authoritarian racism because he’s an authoritarian racist. Constant retweets of white supremacist memes and twitter accounts win over his racist supporters. The more he repeats these hateful, bigoted statements, the more the crowds cheer him. These are the people going with their guns to Cleveland in less than two weeks to make sure that he becomes the GOP presidential candidate at the Republican convention. Just like in Germany.