‘You Didn’t Answer My Question, Mr. President’

On Monday, President Trump held a post-G7 press conference with French President Macron. In the last few minutes Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey asked Trump about climate change (see transcript below).

Trump missed or skipped the G7 discussion on climate, oceans, and biodiversity led by French president Macron. France is leading the Carbon Neutrality Coalition of countries that have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, in part to make up for the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Accords.

Greta Thunberg, the youth climate leader who sailed into New York harbor on Tuesday to attend UN climate meetings, was asked if she had a message for President Trump, who has expressed skepticism about the science behind climate change, Thunberg said, “If no one has been able to convince him about the climate crisis — the urgency — then why should I be able to do that?”


Josh Dawsey: Mr. President, there was a significant talk at the summit about climate change.  I know in the past you’ve harbored some skepticism of the science in climate change.  What do you think the world should be doing about climate change?  And do you still harbor that skepticism?

Trump:   I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth.  The wealth is under its feet.  I’ve made that wealth come alive.  We will soon be one of the — we will soon be exporting.  In fact, we’re actually doing it now — exporting.

But we are now the number one energy producer in the world.  And soon, it will be by far, with a couple of pipelines that have not been able to get approved for many, many years.  It’ll have a huge impact.

I was able to get ANWR in Alaska.  It could be the largest site in the world for oil and gas.  I was able to get ANWR approved.  Ronald Reagan wasn’t able to do it.  Nobody was able to do it.  They’ve been trying to do it since before Ronald Reagan.  I got it approved.

We’re the number one energy producer in the world.  Soon it will be, by far, the number one.  It’s tremendous wealth.  And LNG is being sought after all over Europe and all over the world, and we have more of it than anybody else.  And I’m not going to lose that wealth.  I’m not going lose it on dreams, on windmills — which, frankly, aren’t working too well.  I’m not going to lose it.

So, Josh, in a nutshell, I want the cleanest water on Earth.  I want the cleanest air on Earth.  And that’s what we’re doing.

And I’m an environmentalist.  A lot of people don’t understand that.  I have done more environmental impact statements, probably, than anybody that’s — I guess I can say definitely, because I have done many, many, many of them.  More than anybody that’s ever been President or Vice President or anything even close to President.  And I think I know more about the environment than most people.

I want clean air.  I want clean water.  I want a wealthy country.  I want a spectacular country with jobs, with pensions, with so many things.  And that’s what we’re getting.  So I want to be very careful.  At the same time —

Josh Dawsey:    But, Mr. President, do you believe in climate change?  Do you believe in climate change?

Trump:   At the same time — at the same time — you weren’t called.

At the same time, it’s very important to me — very important to me — we have to maintain this incredible — this incredible place that we’ve all built.  We’ve become a much richer country.  And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing — because that great wealth allows us to take care of people.  We can take care of people that we couldn’t have taken care of in the past because of the great wealth.  We can’t let that wealth be taken away.  Clean air, clean water. Thank you very much everybody.  I appreciate it.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Josh Dawsey: You didn’t answer my question Mr. President as to whether you believe that climate change is happening.

From August 26, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D8aTigGClw [Minutes: 1:08:12 – 1:11:09]

Initiate Emergency Protocols in All Houses of Worship

A Silver Spring, Md. church with a large immigrant population was vandalized with racist messages, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy Robert Harvey, Episcopal Church of Our Savior)
A Silver Spring, Md. church with a large immigrant population was vandalized with racist messages, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Courtesy Robert Harvey, Episcopal Church of Our Savior)

by Rose Marie Berger

President-elect Trump has promised a White Nationalist agenda that is already impacting  our communities. In response, we must form a circle of protection around those who are most vulnerable. As the new Vatican ambassador to the U.S. said this week, the church needs to “assume a prophetic role.”

In setting priorities we should ask ourselves three things: What things can President-elect Trump do easily and quickly (eg overturning executive actions like DACA/DAPA immigrant protections)? What actions by him will have high-consequence impact (eg Supreme Court justice appointment, permitting Keystone XL pipeline, enacting E-Verify)? What actions by him will be irreversible (e.g. rapid increase in deportations, changes to the Constitution, reversals on climate-change protocols)?

There are also things that Mr. Tump cannot do (such as “ban all Muslims”), but the inflammatory White Nationalist rhetoric encourages the rise of religious, race, and gender-based hate at the local level. All of which are generally accompanied by a rise of anti-Semitism and attacks on other vulnerable communities (LGBT, prostitutes, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and political dissidents). This is already occurring (see WJLA report that the vandals struck Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring, MD. A sign reaching out to the Hispanic community was defaced to read: “Trump Nation whites only”).

We have less than 70 days to prepare.

5 actions you can take right now

1. Initiate emergency response protocols for immigrant communities – especially mixed status communities. Establish a team trained in “What to do if Immigration comes to your School (or Church).” I suggest making this widely available at churches and schools. Perhaps even printing them out for distribution.

2. Initiate “emergency sanctuary teams” in all houses of worship to prepare for work-site raids, silent raids, and massive job loss (if E-verify is enacted). Learn the mechanisms of making your house a worship a “sanctuary church.” Read history of D.C. Sanctuary Churches and the national Sanctuary Movement and learn more at New Sanctuary Movement.

3. Initiate conflict-reduction teams in all houses of worship to defuse, intervene, and respond to hate speech and hate crimes. Contact Pace e Bene training, DC Meta Peace Team, or Cure Violence to organize trainings.

4. Initiate inter-denominational and inter-faith outreach teams in all houses of worship to establish open lines of communication between local houses of worship. Multicultural and immigrant churches are most vulnerable right now. Christian churches should reach out to local imams, rabbis, and leaders of Sikh gurdwaras. See Ten Ways To Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide.

5. Initiate a “pledge of resistance” letter-writing campaign in your churches and communities addressed to President-elect Trump (c/o Trump Tower / 725 – 5th Avenue / New York, NY 10022), Senate majority leader Mr. Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Mr. Paul Ryan. The body text would include:

If you pursue the policies you embodied during your campaign, the supremacy of white people over people of color, the literal and figurative creation of walls of division and hostility between people and nations, your misogynistic attitude and practice toward women, your disdain for the poor, disabled and marginalized, your disregard for and ignorance about the environment and your encouragement of the use of violence toward those who disagree with you, if your policies as President continue down that path, I make this pledge of resistance to you today.”

Spiritually, we must be clear-eyed about the level of threat and the ability for it to be carried out. We must not succumb to lethargy. We must also pray for a spirit of tenderness in our own hearts so that we refuse to allow hate or fear to take root. Pray continually for the conversion of Mr. Trump and our own conversion as well.

Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and a senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine in Washington, D.C.

Trump Supporters and Dignity, Part 2

usa-election-trumpYesterday, I highlighted two articles about Trump supporters. The first by George Lakoff examines the “strict father” conservative/”nurturent mother” liberal frames and tries to understand Trump supporters by looking at why Trump is effective with them. The second article by Emma Lindsay looks at how racism plays into the liberal-consesrvative debate. She argues that for liberals to call someone “racist” is the end of the argument. It implies they are morally deficient and that they now have to leave the field of debate. But Trump strategically uses racist language to consolidate his base. It is important to understand how and why this works if we are to actively engage in restoring self-worth and human dignity in our country.

Today I want to add Chris Hedges’ recent column on the Trump phenomenon, The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism. (Thanks John D for sending this one in!) Hedges’ historical review of the rise of fascists movements in Europe and what they teach us about today is very good. His tone is somewhat grating and you have to wade through some far-left rhetoric. He concludes that civil society has to figure out how to re-enfranchise the base because the established political parties have abandoned the base. Here’s an excerpt:

The Democrats are playing a very dangerous game by anointing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. She epitomizes the double-dealing of the college-educated elites, those who speak the feel-your-pain language of ordinary men and women, who hold up the bible of political correctness, while selling out the poor and the working class to corporate power.

The Republicans, energized by America’s reality-star version of Il Duce, Donald Trump, have been pulling in voters, especially new voters, while the Democrats are well below the voter turnouts for 2008. In the voting Tuesday, 5.6 million votes were cast for the Democrats while 8.3 million went to the Republicans. Those numbers were virtually reversed in 2008—8.2 million for the Democrats and about 5 million for the Republicans.

But do read Hedges whole piece for the analysis of fascism. And also see Jim Wallis’ America’s Flirtation with Fascism. By raising this explosive “f-word” one needs to be cautious not to blithely personalize it. “If fascism is happening, then these people must be fascists.” Not necessarily because it’s not true, but because it’s not helpful. Facism is an ideology that can be used to achieve certain ends. We have to understand it in order to fight it.

Trump Supporters and Dignity?

usa-election-trumpHere are two good articles that have helped me think about The Donald differently … or perhaps I should say the Trumpeters, differently. (Donald Trump is who he is.) Maybe the Trumpeters want something more from America than they’ve been getting–economically, culturally, or politically. Maybe they want their dignity back.

I’m not quite sure why, but Americans seem very willing to give over their dignity to whomever asks (as TSA pat downs  and social media shaming prove). Maybe it’s the cancerous capitalism and culture of consuming. If the market establishes the value on everything, then who am I to claim my own self worth?

George Lakoff is famous for defining conservative and liberal “frames” and the values associated with them. He says that to be effective one must argue from within the proper frame. Trump has mastered the conservative frame and is arguing brilliantly within it. Whether Trump is “conservative” or not, hardly matters.

Emma Lindsay unpacks Trumps strategic use of race-baiting to consolidate his base and confuse his opponents. In Duane Carr’s A Question of Class: The Redneck Stereotype in Southern Fiction he writes: “The practice of race-baiting by politicians, pitting working-class whites against African-Americans [or “Mexicans”] in order to control both, has been well-documented. … As [Kenneth] Stamp explains: ‘In a society of unequals–of privileged and inferior castes of wealth and poverty–the need to find some group to feel superior to is given a desperate urgency.'” Hence, seeking dignity.

1. Why Trump? by George Lakoff (Huffington Post)

Family-based moral worldviews run deep. Since people want to see themselves as doing right not wrong, moral worldviews tend to be part of self-definition — who you most deeply are. And thus your moral worldview defines for you what the world should be like. When it isn’t that way, one can become frustrated and angry.

There is a certain amount of wiggle room in the strict father worldview and there are important variations. A major split is among (1) white Evangelical Christians, (2) laissez-fair free market conservatives, and (3) pragmatic conservatives who are not bound by evangelical beliefs. …

Trump is a pragmatic conservative, par excellence. And he knows that there are a lot of Republican voters who are like him in their pragmatism. There is a reason that he likes Planned Parenthood. There are plenty of young, unmarried (or even married) pragmatic conservatives, who may need what Planned Parenthood has to offer — cheaply and confidentially.

Similarly, young or middle-aged pragmatic conservatives want to maximize their own wealth. They don’t want to be saddled with the financial burden of caring for their parents. Social Security and Medicare relieve them of most of those responsibilities. That is why Trump wants to keep Social Security and Medicare. …

2. Trump Supporters Aren’t Stupid by Emma Lindsay (Medium)

“Normally, when liberals talk about racism, they use “racist” as an end point. “Trump is racist” is, by itself, a reason not to vote for him, and “being racist” is an indicator of a person who is morally deficient.

But, if you don’t take this as an end point?—?if you instead ask “what do people get out of being racist?”?—?you’ll start to unravel the emotional motivations behind it. One of the best unpacking of this I have read is Matt Bruenig’s pieceLast Place Avoidance and Poor White Racism. To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.”