President Obama observes that violence at Trump’s rallies threatens to tarnish the “American brand,” as he calls it. Yes, that is the casual “Yeah, we tortured some folks” leader who passed off the Senate’s report on CIA interrogation methods as no big deal. When the executive branch – not some protesters who want to express their opposition to Donald Trump, but the executive branch under the president’s supervision – tortures prisoners, doesn’t that do something to the American brand? Yet Obama appears to think things are okay until scuffles break out at Trump’s rallies.
I actually agree that the violence at Trump’s rallies is a significant phenomenon, but it is significant domestically. Actions of the national security state under George W. Bush and Barack Obama have harmed the country’s reputation abroad far beyond events that occur in the streets of our cities during an election campaign. Here are some remarks one might address to the president on the matter of reputation:
The American brand was tarnished a long time ago. Despite hope people had, based on your own statements, that you would restore America’s reputation for transparency and exemplary behavior, you did nothing at all. You went right along with the national security state. First you seemed to say torture is one of those things, in a boys-will-be-boys sort of way. Then, right in the midst of an amazing international effort to capture Edward Snowden, you made the anodyne comment that we should have a national conversation about privacy.
I actually agree that the violence at Trump’s rallies is a significant phenomenon, but it is significant domestically. Actions of the national security state under George W. Bush and Barack Obama have harmed the country’s reputation abroad far beyond events that occur in the streets of our cities during an election campaign.
Honestly? Your administration exiles a national hero who exposes criminal activity in your own administration, and you remark, as if you had no part in the illegal activity, that we should have a conversation about these matters. What kind of conversation can you have when your people promise they won’t torture Snowden if he returns to the United States? Who starts a national conversation that way? You might as well say, as police officers shoot and strangle black men at will on city streets, let’s have a national conversation about race.
When someone finally has courage to produce internal evidence of illegal surveillance, the only right reaction for a citizen and president is, “Good God, man, bring Snowden back from Russia and award him the Medal of Freedom! Then send him away again so some secret agent from the national security state doesn’t knock him off.” Wouldn’t that be an acknowledgement of Snowden’s heroism, and of how corrupt your own intelligence apparatus has become?
Violence at Trump’s rallies won’t do anything to address criminal activity within the executive branch, nor will any official response to the fighting. In light of the Trump’s own comments and spirit, the violence and its impact on free political expression compels attention. But remember, America’s reputation beyond its own election arena could not be lower than it already is, and you, Mr. President, have not taken even minimal steps to improve it.