Pakistan birther theory: Trump was born Muslim (& Michael Moore: “Trump voters are not racist”)

November 14, 2016

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is another in an occasional series of dispatches about the American elections. I have split this into two emails for space reasons. (The other one is here.)

I attach a number of articles below. I don’t agree with all points in them. Specifically, while Aaron Sorkin’s writing for the West Wing is wonderful, and so are many of the Coen brothers films, I find their political commentaries attached below, to be exaggerated, and Sorkin’s use of the F word and World War Two comparisons, unhelpful.



1. “The Democrats Screwed Up” (By Frank Bruni, NY Times, Nov. 11, 2016)
2. “Don’t expect the supreme court to change much” (By Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg, Nov. 9, 2016)
3. “What will Millennials take away from 2016 results?” (By Dan Schnur, Wall St Journal, Nov. 14, 2016)
4. “Aaron Sorkin: Letter to my daughter” (Vanity Fair, Nov. 9, 2016)
5. “2016 election Thank You notes” (By Ethan Coen, NY Times, Nov. 13, 2016)
6. “Michael Moore: They voted for a guy named ‘Hussein’ twice, Trump voters are not racist” (By Rachel Stoltzfoos, Daily Caller, Nov. 11, 2016)
7. “Bizarre birther theory: Pakistani news report suggested Trump was born as Dawood Ibrahim Khan” (By Emily Chan, Daily Mail, Nov.14, 2016)



The Democrats Screwed Up
By Frank Bruni, Op-Ed columnist
New York Times
November 11, 2016

We geniuses in the news media spent only the last month telling you how Donald Trump was losing this election. We spent the last year telling you how the Republican Party was unraveling.

And here we are, with the Democrats in tatters. You might want to think twice about our Oscar and Super Bowl predictions.

Despite all the discussion of demographic forces that doomed the G.O.P., it will soon control the presidency as well as both chambers of Congress and two of every three governor’s offices. And that’s not just a function of James Comey, Julian Assange and misogyny. Democrats who believe so are dangerously mistaken.

Other factors conspired in the party’s debacle. One in particular haunts me. From the presidential race on down, Democrats adopted a strategy of inclusiveness that excluded a hefty share of Americans and consigned many to a “basket of deplorables” who aren’t all deplorable. Some are hurt. Some are confused.

Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. A 64-year-old Southern woman not onboard with marriage equality finds herself characterized as a hateful boob. Never mind that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton weren’t themselves onboard just five short years ago.

Political correctness has morphed into a moral purity that may feel exhilarating but isn’t remotely tactical. It’s a handmaiden to smugness and sanctimony, undermining its own goals.

I worry about my and my colleagues’ culpability along these lines. I plan to use greater care in how I talk to and about Americans more culturally conservative than I am. That’s not a surrender of principle or passion. It’s a grown-up acknowledgment that we’re a messy, imperfect species.

Donald Trump’s victory and some of the, yes, deplorable chants that accompanied it do not mean that a majority of Americans are irredeemable bigots (though too many indeed are). Plenty of Trump voters chose him, reluctantly, to be an agent of disruption, which they craved keenly enough to overlook the rest of him.

Democrats need to understand that, and they need to move past a complacency for which the Clintons bear considerable blame.

It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party – its think tanks, its operatives, its donors – for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.

In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.

After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”

Obama, too, contributed to the party’s marginalization. While he threw himself into Hillary Clinton’s campaign, he was, for much of his presidency, politically selfish, devoting less thought and time to the cultivation of the party than he could – and should – have. By design, his brand was not its. Small wonder, then, that its fate diverged from his.

He anointed Clinton over Joe Biden, though Biden had more charisma and a better connection with the white voters who ultimately supported Trump. Had Biden been the nominee, he probably would have won the Electoral College as well as the popular vote (which Clinton indeed got).

And had Bernie Sanders been? Michael Bloomberg would almost certainly have jumped into the fray, sensing unoccupied territory in the political center, and an infinitely saner and more capable billionaire might well be our president-elect.

Democrats bungled a terrific opportunity to retake the Senate majority by ignoring the national mood as they picked their candidates. A party that prides itself on looking out for the little guy went with the biggest names it could find.

That happened in Wisconsin with Russ Feingold, in Indiana with Evan Bayh and in Ohio with Ted Strickland, all of whom were defeated by Republicans who couldn’t be tarred as insiders or as emblems of the status quo because the Democrats had just as much mileage on them.

Senator Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican, campaigned as the outsider and the underdog, and he ended up beating Strickland, the state’s former governor, by more than 20 points. Like Feingold and Bayh, Strickland could hardly claim the mantle of revolution.

In contrast, Democrats had success in a House district in Central Florida that didn’t initially appear to be promising turf by running Stephanie Murphy, a 37-year-old first-timer, against John Mica, 73, who had been in Congress for nearly a quarter-century. “Change” was Murphy’s mantra, and, like Trump, she used it to turn inexperience into an asset.

A party that keeps the White House for eight years customarily suffers losses elsewhere, as if the electorate insists on some kind of equilibrium. That happened under Bill Clinton and again under George W. Bush – but not to the extent that it has happened under Obama.

His presidency will end with Democrats in possession of 11 fewer Senate seats (depending on how you count), more than 60 fewer House seats, at least 14 fewer governorships and more than 900 fewer seats in state legislatures than when it began. That’s a staggering toll.

While the 2016 race for governor in North Carolina remains undecided, the settled contests guarantee the G.O.P. the governor’s office in 33 states: its most bountiful harvest since 1922.

If Democrats don’t quickly figure out how to sturdy themselves – a process larger than the selection of the right new party chairman – they could wind up in even worse shape. They’re defending more than twice the number of Senate seats in 2018 that Republicans are, a situation that gives the G.O.P. a shot at a filibuster-proof majority.

Meantime, the perpetuation of Republican dominance at the state level through 2020 would grant the G.O.P. the upper hand in redrawing congressional districts after the next census.

But new presidents typically get an electoral whupping after their first two years, and there’s every reason to believe that Trump will govern – or fail to – in a fashion that prompts one. Will Democrats respond in a way that puts them in the best possible position to deliver it?

That hinges on whether they can look as hard at the errors in their party as at the ugliness in America.



Don’t Expect the Supreme Court to Change Much
By Cass R. Sunstein
November 9, 2016

The Donald Trump presidency, coupled with the new Congress, is likely to produce major changes in federal law. But for the Supreme Court, expect a surprising amount of continuity – far more than conservatives hope and progressives fear.

If, as expected, Trump is able to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, the court will look a lot like it did until Scalia died in February: four relative liberals (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor); two moderate conservatives (John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy); and three relative conservatives (Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and the new justice).

That means it would reflect the same ideological makeup as the court that upheld Obamacare and required states to recognize same-sex marriages. It would contain the same five justices – a majority – who recently voted to uphold affirmative action programs and to invalidate restrictions on the abortion right.

A court like that won’t license a Republican-led executive branch to do whatever it wants. It will assert the rule of law. It will rarely veer off in novel directions.

To be sure, things will be different if Trump is able to replace one of the liberal justices. Neither Ginsburg (who is 83) nor Breyer (78) is a spring chicken. But they both appear to be in good health; don’t be surprised if they continue to serve for the next four years.

Suppose, though, that one of them does resign. At that point, significant changes would be possible. But probably not many.

One reason involves the idea of respect for precedent. The justices are usually reluctant to disturb the court’s previous rulings, even if they disagree strongly with them. In this light, would a new majority really want to announce in, say, 2018, that states can ban same-sex marriage, after years of saying otherwise? That’s unlikely: Such an abrupt reversal of course, defeating widespread expectations, would make the law seem both unstable and awkwardly political.

Would a Trump court want to overrule Roe v. Wade, which has been the law since 1973, and thus allow states to ban abortion? Considering the intensity of conservative opposition to abortion, that is somewhat more probable. But judges are not politicians, and again to avoid the appearance of destabilizing constitutional law, any majority would hesitate before doing something so dramatic.

Would a court composed of Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and one or two Trump appointees be willing to grant broad new powers to the president? No chance. The current conservatives have expressed a great deal of skepticism about executive authority. They aren’t going to turn on a dime merely because the president is a Republican.

There is a more general point. Many judges (and Roberts in particular) are drawn to “judicial minimalism”; they prefer to focus on the facts of particular cases. Quite apart from respecting prior rulings, they like small steps and abhor bold movements or big theories.

An instructive example: In the 1970s, many progressives were terrified when President Richard Nixon found himself a position to transform a left-of-center court, led by Earl Warren, and to appoint no fewer than four “strict constructionists.” And to be sure, the Nixon court, as it was sometimes called, repeatedly disappointed the left. It halted the movement toward recognition of welfare rights, declined to expand the rights of criminal defendants and refused to recognize a constitutional right to education.

But the whole period is aptly described as “the counter-revolution that wasn’t.” The Nixon court maintained a lot of continuity with its predecessor. Believing that the commitment to the rule of law entails humility and respect for the past, it preserved most of its precedents, even as it refused to build on them.

It’s true that with further changes in the court’s membership, we should expect to see some incremental movements in the law, including expansions in gun rights, increased protection of commercial advertising and new constraints on the power of regulatory agencies. But there’s an excellent chance that in four years, constitutional law will look pretty much the same as it does now.

(This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.)



Beyond the Trump Protests: What Will Millennials Take Away From 2016 Results?
By Dan Schnur
Wall Street Journal (blogs)
November 14, 2016

Before last Tuesday, no American under age 30 had voted in an election in which a Republican was elected president. Those youths leading protests against Donald Trump the past several days have never lost a presidential election before. They may have come to believe that they never would, which could explain not only the anger but also the shock that propelled them into the streets.

Those demonstrating against Mr. Trump’s election appear to have derived much of their energy and inspiration from Mr. Trump’s bellicose public statements and personal behavior. But just as unsettling to the president-elect’s opponents were the policy pronouncements he has made on issues important to them, on topics as varied as climate change, immigration, and abortion rights.

We will all see if Mr. Trump acts to reassure Americans that he understands that his language and conduct must change. But for those protesting his election on policy–rather than personal–grounds, there is a difficult lesson as well. Neither side wins all the time.

Many of today’s millennials were not old enough to vote when George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004, when the shift of a small number of votes in Ohio would have given Mr. Kerry an electoral majority and Mr. Bush the larger number of popular votes. In retrospect, two consecutive victories for Barack Obama may have lulled many young progressives into a false sense of complacency. The election of another Republican–whether Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich–who does not share their ideological grounding would have been somewhat jarring. The disbelief they are exhibiting is partly a result of misleading public polls, but it’s also the shattering of an unconscious assumption that the other party could not elect a president.

I teach young people every day at the University of Southern California and at UC-Berkeley, and I see their genuine commitment to making positive change in their communities. But millennials vote in smaller numbers than any other U.S. generation today, and even the prospect of a president they considered both ideologically unacceptable and morally repugnant did not motivate them to the polls. Their lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton is an unpersuasive defense. The U.S. Constitution requires only that we hold a presidential election every four years, not that we be presented with inspiring candidates on the same schedule.

Many of us have become apologists for the lack of traditional political participation among young people, pointing to the extremely high levels at which many volunteer in their communities as evidence of civic engagement. Maybe they have now learned that this is not an either-or proposition; that volunteering is noble but that voting is necessary.

If this election does serve as a generational wake-up call, then many millennials will still be making transformational change long after Donald Trump has left office. If not, then they’ll eventually learn that protesting after a defeat might be cathartic – but not much else.



Letter to my daughter Roxy, 15, and her mother Julia Sorkin
By Aaron Sorkin
Vanity Fair
November 9, 2016

Sorkin Girls,

Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn’t protect us from. That’s a terrible feeling for a father. I won’t sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It’s hardly the first time my candidate didn’t win (in fact it’s the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.

And it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.” (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who’ll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.

And the world took no time to react. The Dow futures dropped 700 points overnight. Economists are predicting a deep and prolonged recession. Our NATO allies are in a state of legitimate fear. And speaking of fear, Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans are shaking in their shoes. And we’d be right to note that many of Donald Trump’s fans are not fans of Jews. On the other hand, there is a party going on at ISIS headquarters. What wouldn’t we give to trade this small fraction of a man for Richard Nixon right now?

So what do we do?

First of all, we remember that we’re not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.

Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, “coastal elites,” educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won’t give them that and neither will you. Here’s what we’ll do…

…we’ll fucking fight. (Roxy, there’s a time for this kind of language and it’s now.) We’re not powerless and we’re not voiceless. We don’t have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It’s also good to remember that most members of Trump’s own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren’t. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

America didn’t stop being America last night and we didn’t stop being Americans and here’s the thing about Americans: Our darkest days have always — always — been followed by our finest hours.

Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don’t think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we’ll make it through those four years. And three years from now we’ll fight like hell for our candidate and we’ll win and they’ll lose and this time they’ll lose for good. Honey, it’ll be your first vote.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.





2016 Election Thank You Notes
By Ethan Coen
New York Times
November 13, 2016

Such a surprise! So many people to thank!

1. Jill Stein voters: You helped elect a man who pledges that he will, in his first hundred days, cancel contributions to United Nations programs to fight climate change. If your vote for Ms. Stein did not end up advancing your green agenda, it did allow you to feel morally superior to all the compromising schmoes who voted for Hillary Clinton. And your feelings about your vote are more important than the consequences of your vote. So – thank you!

2. Gary Johnson voters: Thank you, for similar reasons. You, too, may now reward yourselves with feelings of warm self-approval, and your libertarian agenda will now be advanced (or not) by someone who admires the governance of Vladimir Putin. And to Mr. Johnson himself: Not only can no one blame you for this outcome – we’re all free agents, man! – but you can stop looking for Aleppo.

3. James Comey: Your publicity coup may have affected the outcome of the election. Or it may not have. But it will certainly breed speculation that it did. Such discussion will in some way serve the reputation of the F.B.I. Or not. You had to bravely contravene bureau protocols to make your contribution, so to you we owe a special thanks!

4. Anthony Weiner: You also found a surprising way to contribute! Thank you, sir – your act never gets old!

5. Jimmy Fallon: How did you manage to shine a nonthreatening light on someone who alarms so many women, frightens so many undocumented families and slurs so many minorities? Can’t have been easy! Thanks! Maybe now you could have the Grand Wizard on your show: He leans his head to you, you slip his hood off and ruffle his hair. Could be a cute bit!

6. All our media friends. Thank you for preserving reportorial balance. You balanced Donald Trump’s proposal that the military execute the innocent families of terrorists, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced pot-stirring racist lies about President Obama’s birth, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced a religious test at our borders, torture by our military, jokes about assassination, unfounded claims of a rigged election, boasts about groping and paradoxical threats to sue anyone who confirmed the boasts, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced endorsement of nuclear proliferation, against Hillary’s emails. You balanced tirelessly, indefatigably; you balanced, you balanced, and then you balanced some more. And for that – we thank you. And thank you all for following Les Moonves’s principled lead when he said Donald Trump “may not be good for America, but he’s damn good for CBS.”

7. The Electoral College. Thank you, for being you.

I cannot thank: Hillary Clinton. She is not a morally perfect person – her fault! She was not the perfect candidate – her fault! Misogyny may have magnified her failings so as to show them balancing the outsized failings of her opponent – and that might not be her fault. But she fought to the very limits of her ability to deny us Tuesday night’s surprise, so I do not thank her. Pooh on you, Hillary Clinton!

I do thank, lastly:

8. The American electorate. Because in the end, we all did it together. We did it! We really did it!



Michael Moore: They Voted For A Guy Named ‘Hussein’ Twice, Trump Voters Are Not Racist
By Rachel Stoltzfoos
The Daily Caller
November 11, 2016

Michael Moore disputed the notion that all the people who voted for President-elect Donald Trump are racist Friday, reiterating the fact that millions of them voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“They’re not racist,” Moore said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “They twice voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein. That’s the America you live in.”

Moore was pushing back against another panelist who said “deep racial animus” at the heart of the country was behind Trump’s win. “What I’m trying to get at, is at the heart of this country is some deep racial animus that animates the very communities we’re trying to lift up,” Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the African American department at Princeton University told the panel.

“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough replied: “I have to repeat it again because it’s maddening. People who live by data should die by data, and the data according to Nate Cohn of the New York Times says this, and let those who have ears to hear, hear: The very people who helped elect Barack Obama president of the United States twice just elected in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Donald J. Trump. It’s the data.”

Moore took it from there. “You have to accept that millions of people who voted for Barack Obama, some of them once, some of them twice, changed their minds this time. They’re not racist. They twice voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein. That’s the America you live in.”

Rammesh Ponnuru echoed Moore and Scarborough’s sentiment in a Bloomberg piece, taking issue with the notion that Trump won because White Americans are racist.

“Against that theory, I’d note, first, that Trump won several states that voted twice for our first black president,” he wrote. “The early exit polls suggest Trump won a tenth of voters who approved of President Barack Obama’s job performance. If that’s close to true, it means he wouldn’t have won without those voters.”

He continued: “And as I’ve noted in this space before, claims that bigotry are a major motivation for Trump voters have a thin evidentiary basis: They classify conservative views that aren’t necessarily rooted in racial hostility as ‘racial resentment,’ they ignore the decline in bigotry over time, and they overgeneralize about a very large and in some ways diverse group of people.”



Bizarre birther theory: Pakistani news report suggested Trump was born as Dawood Ibrahim Khan
By Emily Chan
Daily Mail (London)
November 14, 2016

A bizarre claim that Donald Trump was born in Pakistan before being adopted and taken to America has emerged online.

Pakistani news channel Neo News ran an extraordinary report suggesting that the President-elect was born as Dawood Ibrahim Khan in Waziristan in 1946.

Viewers immediately ridiculed the story, which was aired on Neo News last month before the election but has recently re-surfaced.

In the news report, the presenter claims: ‘Believe it or not, Presidential candidate Donald Trump was born in Pakistan and not in America.’

The news channel also showed a picture of a young blond boy, which they claimed was a young Trump in Pakistan.

The bizarre theory is that Trump was taken to London by a British-Indian army captain, after his birth parents died in a car accident, before being adopted and taken to America in 1955.

Social media users took to Twitter to mock the news report.

One person tweeted: ‘Seriously!????!!! . Pakistani news channel claims Trump was born in Pakistan !!! Seriously ????’

Another said ‘This is insane’, while one person simply added: ‘Lol... Pakistani media is reporting donald Trump was born in Pakistan!’

A series of unfounded tweets appear to be have been behind the report, with one person suggesting that Trump had been born into a Muslim family.

Hanna wrote: ‘Donald Trump born in #Muslimfamily in Shawal Valley North Waziristan June 14th 1946, name was Dawood Ibrahim Khan.’

Prior to standing for President, Trump himself had for months fueled conspiracy theories over whether Barack Obama was born in the US, and thus eligible to be president.

An exasperated Obama called this nonsense and held a press conference in 2011 to show off his birth certificate, which stated that he was born in Hawaii.


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