On the 2016-04-28 “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”‘s panel came close to painting a fair picture of Donald Trump versus President Barack Obama as ever while still missing the mark in a significant way: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama sends out drones to kill innocents weekly while Trump is a sexist, racist ass with no record of killing someone.
The panel on Wilmore’s show that night included Wilmore, Nightly Show contributors Rory Albanese and Holly Walker, and CNN’s Bakari Sellers. They played a clip of a recent Trump speech and then talked about the clip:
Wilmore: Okay, some people, some of your people (gestures toward Sellers) I would say, felt his tone seemed more “presidential”. I mean, to me it seemed more like he [Trump] was in a 5th grade remedial reading class of prompters or something.
[Crowd cheers, applauds.]
Wilmore: Why is the bar set so low for Donald Trump?
Sellers: I think that’s unfortunate because I believe when people are presidential then they have a lot less sexism, a lot less bigotry, a lot less racism, but Trump embodies all those things. So I don’t think that his speech was presidential, in fact, I think it was the antithesis of everything he talked about — it was chaotic, it didn’t make any sense, and it lacked any details.
Wilmore: So it was very ‘Trumpian’.
Sellers: It was Trump. It’s like we give him credit for being able to read.
Walker: Yeah, yeah.
Wilmore: That’s what I’m saying! Why is he getting credit for that? He barely read that.
Walker: The bar is set so low because when you’re a snake you don’t need a high bar.
[The crowd ‘oohs’.]
Walker: That’s right I said it.
Albanese: I know this won’t be popular to say but the bar was set low for Obama: Obama got a Peace Prize, like, a month in. He didn’t even do…
Sellers: He was a black guy that won President of the United States…
Albanese: That’s not deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize. He should have given that back and said “If I’m worthy in eight years, I’ll take that prize”.
Wilmore: Obama was criticized for speaking beautifully passionately and for inspiring millions even in Germany where people didn’t know what the fuck he was saying…
Albanese: Inspiring Germans isn’t always a good thing.
The problems with this abound:
- Obama was killing people in Afghanistan while accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. He’d go on to extrajudicially kill people with drones for nothing more than suspicion of wrongdoing (based on the judgment of a known-lying US Government) including killing Americans and killing children via drone attack. Waiting 8 years and re-evaluating the Nobel Peace Prize would have been wise; giving the award as soon as they did made it look like Obama won for not being George W. Bush despite continuing Bush’s wars and expanding on them in places such as Yemen.
- Albanese is right although he never spelled this out completely—overcoming racist adversity while committing politically-motivated murder, nor speaking “beautifully passionately and for inspiring millions” ought not be deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize; that bar is set way too low. The Nobel group would have been better off waiting for the end of Obama’s term to re-evaluate giving a war criminal a Peace Prize.
- We should ask what, precisely, were these millions were being inspired to do: follow in Obama’s footsteps with more war? BlackAgendaReport.com rightly points out that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agree that war making is right and proper:
Bernie Sanders presents no such threat to Empire. He supports President Obama’s illegal drone wars and the 15-year occupation of Afghanistan. Should he somehow be elected president, Sanders would follow Obama’s practice of reserving Tuesday’s for choosing targets from his “Kill List.” To circumvent U.S. and international prohibitions against assassination, Sanders offers the same “self-defense” justification as the Israelis do, when they slaughter Palestinians by the thousands. “There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a right to defend ourselves,” Sanders told Chris Hayes, of MSNBC.
The nominally socialist senator from Vermont claims that he differs from Hillary Clinton on foreign policy because she “is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.” During the New Hampshire debate, Sanders said the ouster of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein “destabilized the entire region” and the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi “created a vacuum for ISIS” in Libya. “Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow,” Sanders told the crowd, back in February, “but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS.”
His leftish boosters clung to these utterances as proof that Sanders was, deep down, a peaceable kind of guy, in sharp contrast to “Queen of Chaos” Clinton. Tuesday, however, as he was losing four of five primaries, Sanders showed that he is no less a warlord than Barack Obama – who, like Sanders, based his “peace candidate” appeal on his 2002 opposition to the Iraq invasion. Obama announced he was sending 250 more U.S. Special Forces troops into Syria, supposedly to fight ISIS and to arm and train more of those elusive, damn-near-extinct “moderate” rebels. It doesn’t bother Sanders a bit that the U.S. presence on sovereign Syrian soil is illegal, an act of war, as is U.S. funding and training of fighters attempting “regime change.”
- Where was the mainstream press righteous indignance when Obama semi-jokingly threatened to kill the Jonas Brothers (a band Obama’s daughters liked) by sending out drones to attack them as he said he could do at the 2010 Washington Correspondents Association dinner (“…but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”)? The thing that makes this joke go from tastelessly funny to semi-sincere threat is that Obama is one of the people who can actually make this happen and has a history of killing children in this way (Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, for example). Or when White House Press Secretary and senior adviser to the Obama reelection campaign Robert Gibbs said al-Awlaki should have “had a more responsible father” after the US killed al-Awlaki’s son, 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Since Wilmore & Company are so interested in taking bad speech to task, why don’t they repeatedly give these far more heinous quips their due? It wouldn’t take much to find the clip and play it every time they ought to remind the audience of the true context in which Trump says his nasty quips. Could it be that comedians who love to complain about Trump don’t want to put Trump in a larger context?
I find these points to be far more salient to a proper examination of Trump’s bellicosity and all too typical of the horrible politics of these awful comedy news programs (John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and Larry Wilmore, all coincidentally connected to “The Daily Show”): semi-articulate defenses of hideous behavior usually conveyed through profoundly poor priorities. They’re not even entertaining in their own right since they often repeat the same news clips (due to their narrow look at the already too-narrow allowable range of corporate media debate) they end up frothing about the same events with only minor variations on the same jokes.
Trump has said and stood behind horrible behavior at his rallies, he is not worth anyone’s vote. But it diminishes the real harm to complain so much about his detestable speech while a murderous US president carries out war crimes. Give Trump blame for what he says and whom he ejects from his rallies, give the Trump rally abusers blame for their choices too. People are fully capable of and should be expected to choose to listen to racist, sexist screeds, then decide Trump is an ass and leave it at that. But the main focus has to be the current power—punching up. After all, Trump isn’t saying anything new or radically different than what has come before him as policy from people far more powerful than Trump has ever been. Trump is really being chastised for not covering his bigotry in sufficiently distractive flowery language.
It’s hardly respectful to those killed in US-backed assassination campaigns to get too angry over bigoted language and a few instances of unwanted arm-grabbing and punching, as horrible as those actions are. What really lowers the bar of expected US presidential behavior is glossing over Obama’s weekly planned assassinations, and the US government not really knowing who is killed in its attacks. If any other country did what the US does in these drone attacks, we’d call them terrorists.
What happened in Brussels was a monstrous terrorist act, but it’s worth looking at the explanation that was given for it. ISIS took credit for it and issued a statement which basically said: ‘As long as you keep bombing us, we’re going to respond by attacking you.’. There’s something to that. There’s a real problem and we have to make a decision as to how to deal with it. One decision we can make is to follow the playbook that Al Qaeda and ISIS have presented and want us to follow, and they’re very explicit about it: Destroy your own societies, destroy your own freedom and liberties, and get into a war with the Muslim world. That’s their playbook. We can accept that if we like. We’ve been doing it for 15 years. […] There’s another possibility: We can try to get to the roots and causes of it and deal with them. That’s not dramatic and exciting, but it would work. And there’s plenty of research that tells us why people turn to terrorism. […]
Chomsky’s entire response and the rest of the talk from Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Noam Chomsky are well worth anyone’s time to hear in their entirety.
Keep that in mind next time you feel the desire to let someone get you worked up over Trump’s latest widely-reported racist and sexist screed: your anger and (more importantly) your activism have better targets.