Mountain Views News, Pasadena Edition [Sierra Madre] Saturday, August 12, 2017

MVNews this week:  Page B:3

B3 Mountain Views News Saturday, August 12, 2017 OPINION B3 Mountain Views News Saturday, August 12, 2017 OPINION 
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Excerpts From David A. Lehrer 


For decades civil rights organizations in the United States have toted

up hate crimes, tracked and reported on the growth (and decline)

of extremist organizations, and filed lawsuits against bigots who

engage in illegal or tortious behavior. Their efforts have chronicled an

America that is far more tolerant and accepting of differences than it

was thirty, forty or fifty years ago.

The advocates of inter-group progress knew that political leaders (Southern leadersexcepted for decades) were supportive of the general thrust for inclusion and diversity and thereduction in inter-group hostility. It’s hard to recall a national politician with much traction,
other than George Wallace, who flaunted open hostility to ethnic, racial or religious minorities.

However, the metrics that we have relied on are questionable in their applicability to the politicalsituation we have today--a president who flaunts the usual norms of civil behavior, who invokesunfounded conspiracy theories, who demonizes minority groups (Latinos and Muslims), whohabitually lies, who traffics in conspiracy theories, who ignores conventional notions of truth anduntruth, who evidences no humility or remorse in the face of error and who constantly claims tobe a victim of others’ acts. 

Having been a civil rights activist for over forty years and having been involved in combatting,
exposing and monitoring hate groups during that time, I speak with some perspective on theseissues; we are in uncharted territory. When the president of the United States engages in conductthat many of us have spent decades teaching young people and our peers to avoid, it’s not clear whatthe measurements we have long relied on mean.

Trump’s conduct has the potential to undo years of work. Young people can easily believe thatit’s now acceptable to make fun of the disabled, to caricature minorities as “criminals and rapists,” todemean whole communities as being so forlorn that they “have nothing to lose,” to treat women asobjects and to assume that criminal suspects are to be roughed up (the Bill of Rights be damned).

But the most insidious aspect of Trump and Trumpism may be his pervasive attitude of being avictim; someone else is ALWAYS to blame for what goes wrong.

Prior to November 8th, he alleged that the system was “rigged” against him. The media wasbiased and in the tank for Hillary, illegal voters would skew the election results, foreign governmentswere taking advantage of us, trade deals were harming inept and gullible Americans, etc. If he hadlost the election, there would be someone, or many someones, to blame.

Since January 20th the media remain a foil for him as well as illegal immigrants and innercity dwellers who are still to blame-as are the Democrats- but now, so are the Republicans (postTrumpcare’s defeat). America’s intelligence agencies, the Secretary of State was recently added tothe list of victimizers (Tillerson “flinched” on Iran), “leakers” in his White House and assortedothers are all responsible for the administration’s missteps and America’s ills.

This blame shifting, paired with the complete absence of introspection or willingness to entertainthe notion that HE has contributed to his failures, all take place while we have an economy that is indecent shape and a world that is not in the grip of an acute crisis (maybe).

How will the excuses and the blaming of others work when a crisis or crises arise? That may bethe measure of where we have come and how much damage Trump and Trumpism is doing totolerance and civility in society.

Today, the diverse face of America has numerous “others” to blame and Trump has shownno hesitation to blame and target and cravenly exploit differences to absolve himself of anyresponsibility for what he says is “wrong.” 

Leaders in Congress of both parties, religious leaders and opinion molders across the countrymust be vocal and uncompromising in rejecting the insidious victim role that Trump purveys andwhich he seeks to impose on the country. He wants us all to “split” and “project”; it is a dangerousgame to play. It may offer short term political payoff for him, but the long term harm-for him and 
for us- is inevitable and incalculable. 

Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, years ago warned of leaders and nations that seek to blame othersfor the problems they face-when their view of themselves no longer comports with the realityof their position in the world. As Rabbi Sacks warned, “Hate harms the hated, but it destroys 
the hater.” 




A North Carolina man walks into a popular Washington D.C.

pizzeria and opens fire, telling police upon his inevitable arrest

that he came to “self-investigate” a widely debunked conspiracy

theory involving former Democratic presidential candidate

Hillary Clinton.

In Hollywood, actress and model Jenny McCarthy andothers wage a campaign against mandatory vaccinations for children, despite mountainsof evidence showing they’re the key to preventing debilitating childhood diseases.

At the dinner table, your loudmouthed uncle holds forth on the events of the day,
insisting he’s right and refusing to accept counter-arguments, even as he mangles factsand disregards clear truths.

Separately, these are amusing - and maybe a little disturbing, anecdotes.
But taken together, they’re part of “the death of expertise,” a stubborn insistence by theignoramuses in our midst that everyone is as smart as everyone else; that expert opinionis meaningless and that any attempt to dismiss such claims is just “elitism.”

Tom Nichols, a former staffer to the late Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. John Heinz, anda professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I.,
stirred the pot of debate this summer with his new book, sensibly titled, “The Death ofExpertise: The campaign against established knowledge and why it matters.”

Despite having access to more information than ever before, Americans are notonly getting dumber, they’re also proud of their ignorance and can’t be moved off theiropinions - no matter how effective the counter-argument with which they’re presented.

“The bigger problem is we’re proud of not knowing things,” Nichols writes. “Americanshave reached a point where ignorance, especially of any public policy issue, is an actualvirtue.” 

He lays blame for this phenomenon in a couple of places.
Among them, the fever swamp of the Internet where “confirmation bias” reigns supreme,
the galaxy of “news” sources that exist to reaffirm and stoke those prejudices, and oncollege and university campuses, where students become “clients” to be coddled ratherthan challenged.

Of course, there’s always been a strain of “know-nothingism,” in our politics. Thedifference now is that when presented with facts proving him wrong, your drunk UncleHarry will dismiss contradictory evidence as “fake news” and “alternative facts” and goblithely on his way.

But it’s not “that people don’t trust experts or eggheads,” Nichols said in an interview.

Nope, it’s worse than that: “It’s that they have actually come to believe that they’resmarter than those experts.”

“Increasingly, laypeople challenge experts by trying to explain their own subject backto them,” he continued. “’Oh, you’re an expert on Russia? Well, let me explain Russia backto you.’ This is not skepticism, it is narcissism.”

And in case you’re inclined to dismiss that argument out of hand, think for a momenthow many times you’ve self-diagnosed a malady on WebMD and then quibbled with yourfamily doctor over what actually ails you.

That’s the kind of narcissism that Nichols describes. 

The “death of expertise” trend reached its absolute apogee in 2016 when billionaireDonald Trump, who pushed the debunked “birther” conspiracy involving PresidentBarack Obama, won the White House. 

Trump, who has been caught in seemingly countless fibs and fabrications since,
screams “fake news” at the slightest criticism.

And he routinely undercuts the credibility of government institutions, as in the caseof his ongoing fight with the intelligence community over Russian meddling in the 2016election. 

Trump’s bleating about “fake news” is dangerous because “it makes news the vesselfor partisan politics rather than a presentation of ideas or facts. We now distrust thepoliticians, and the sources that check on the politicians,” Nichols says.
So where does that leave us? Are we just doomed to get dumber and dumber until the flowchart of human intelligence looks like the “Ascent of Man” drawn in reverse?

Unfortunately, according to Nichols, the answer is “Probably, yeah” (and I’mparaphrasing here).

“My concern is that this won’t end until a populist fad like anti-vaccines cause a disaster.
Diplomacy will come back as a skill when we face war -- or are in one,” he said. “We mightstart consulting economists during the next depression. Populism always drives itself intothe ditch, and experts always have to fix it. It’s one of the reasons people resent experts;
we’re the people who generally have to repair the damage on the morning after.”

Note to self: Stock up on both canned goods and economists in the event of theapocalypse. 

An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and PoliticalColumnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him onTwitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at 



Usually it takes a lot of boring three-yard runs and a thickcloud of dust to drive any important piece of legislation acrossthe goal line in Washington.

But at this late stage of the game QB Donald Trump andhis Republican teammates are going to need a Hail Mary.

During the seven months they’ve been in control of thepolitical football in D.C. they’ve brought no significantlegislation before Congress.

Republicans in the Senate deserve most of the blame for thefailure of health care reform. 

But the president -- the owner, head coach, chief publicist and star quarterback ofTeam Trump -- remains the biggest problem.

Like a reckless rookie unable to learn from his mistakes, QB Trump is repeatedlyscrambling out of the pocket, throwing incompletions in every direction -- and thenblaming his blockers, receivers and cheerleaders on Twitter for his team’s negativeyardage.

Meanwhile, for him and the GOP the 2017 congressional game clock is runningdown fast. 

It’s already August. Congress is going home for vacation. Then you get intoSeptember and before you know it, it’s time for Congress to break for Thanksgivingand Christmas. 

Then comes 2018 and the mid-term elections. And then nothing important willhappen in Congress, except that Republicans and Democrats will point fingers ateach other and work hard overtime at getting reelected.

President Trump and the Republicans have to go into their hurry-up offense andpass something important on health care, tax reform or immigration and put theirstamp on it, or they might be looking at a Democratic Senate in 2019.

On healthcare, it’s clear that we can’t completely repeal Obamacare, but we canstill completely fix it.

Trump and Republicans, and maybe even some Democrats, now have to findareas where they agree, move forward and get some legislation passed. Then repeatand repeat and repeat.

It’s frustrating to see how Trump keeps hurting his own cause and the future ofthe Republican Party.

The stock market is soaring and the economy is showing signs of growth, but thatgood news is never heard in the media because it’s drowned out by the coverage ofthe president’s tweeting.

President Trump took a giant step in the right direction last week by makingGeneral John Kelly his chief of staff.

It was one of the best moves Trump has made and a sign of hope that he mayfinally be learning something on the job.

General Kelly will bring some long overdue order and discipline to the WhiteHouse operations, as he quickly proved when he had the president fire AnthonyScaramucci as White House communications director. 

We’ve written about how important it is for a president to have an adult like Kellyin the Oval Office, but the real issue is whether our president will listen to advicefrom the adult. 

President Trump is never going to change his personality or stop thinking that hemakes the Sun come up every morning.

But if he wants to fulfill any of his campaign promises, or even if he wants to pushhis poll numbers back into the low 40 percent range, he has to become disciplined.

He has to learn that presidents never slam their generals in public or talk out loudabout firing generals like John Nicholson in Afghanistan.

He has to learn to pat his people on the back, to uplift them, not stab them in the back.

He has to learn what my father knew – that when you have to attack your enemiesyour best weapons are a wink and a nod.

Most important, President Trump has to learn that he’s now in the business ofpolitics, not the business of business.

And in politics the bottom line is that in the end the blame – like the buck – stopsat the president’s desk. 


Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, andthe author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder ofthe email service and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visithis websites at and Send comments Follow @reaganworld on Twitter. 

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