Thursday 18 January 2018

Republicans happy to confuse the issues of refugees and terrorism

A protester interrupts Donald Trump's speech during the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday night Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
A protester interrupts Donald Trump's speech during the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday night Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Shona Murray

Despite emphatic proclamations to the contrary, the Republican Party is not any more united or much stronger after their four-day national conference. In fact, it was described by several delegates and prominent republicans in an off-the-record capacity as a total "s***t show".

Thursday night's 75-minute speech by confirmed presidential nominee for the party Donald Trump painted a dark, dystopian picture of a tragically unsafe America. The subject matters he addressed were all lightning rod issues, chosen to stoke a frenzied fear among many in the constituency he was speaking to.

He continued with his pledge to "build a wall" - an actual wall, not just a figurative one, to keep out Mexican immigrants. And he still expects Mexico to pay for it.

And for anyone who may not have been on board with such an impractical and outrageous plan, he listed off the names of three Americans who died at the hands of illegal immigrants. "Nothing has affected me more, nothing even close than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders," he stated with more than a hint of hyperbole.

"If there had been a wall, these people would still be alive today."

He also ridiculed the Obama administration's policy on allowing war refugees come to America for safety - something that is its responsibility under international law. He said America already managed "massive refugee flows" and derided the administration for agreeing to take more people as per agreements made at international level.

In the same breath, he went on to assure the audience he would only admit individuals who will "support our values and love our people".

"Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome in our country and never ever will be" - yet another dangerous and clearly conscious effort to confuse refugees with Islamic terrorism.

This message was also stated earlier in the week, when highly irate and animated former New York major Rudy Giuliani made similar assertions, telling the crowd that Isil "told us" they'd use refugee routes as a way of smuggling in terrorists, (even though many members of Isil were born outside Syria and Iraq). Last week, Giuliani condemned the taking in of refugees, saying "Hillary Clinton is for open borders".

She is "in favour" of taking Syrian refugees, even though Isil operatives are going to be "put in with the Syrians", he told the crowd, doing very little other than whipping up immense fear and hatred.

Islamic extremist terrorism is the enemy of the American people, said Giuliani - echoing much of what was said by several other speakers all week.

Indeed, Islamic terrorism is a legitimate cause for concern in the US, as it is everywhere in the world. Donald Trump has said on numerous occasions that he will "destroy Isis [Isil]", but hasn't said how he'll do this; it appears the only grouping he actively chooses to target are illegal immigrants, refugees, Muslims, women and the disabled.

In his opening on Thursday, Trump set the tone for his humourless speech.

"We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore," he said at the start, to much applause from the audience.

It isn't clear exactly what he means by this; nor what it is that is so destructive about political correctness.

In any case, Donald Trump has never sought to be politically correct; his campaign over the last few months has been littered with racist remarks about Mexican immigrants, some of who he referred to as "rapists".

He said women who have abortions should be "punished"; not to mention the deeply coarse Twitter tirade he engaged in with Senator Ted Cruz where the two candidate's wives were used as proxies in their campaigns.

It was Cruz's camp which started the clashes by tweeting a racy picture of Melania Trump during her modelling days with the slogan 'Meet your new first lady'; inferring that somehow her success as a former model made her unfit for the role.

Trump responded in an equally unacceptable way, by tweeting a flattering picture of his own wife juxtaposed to an unflattering one of Heidi Cruz.

And he mocked, in the most derogatory way, a 'New York Times' reporter who suffers a disability which affects the movement of his hands.

The last four days have been littered with calamities and drama; from the notable absence of party stalwarts, the Bushes, Romney, Ohio governor John Kasich and many other less-known or unknown members of the party who decided to stay away. There was also the rancour that ensued on Tuesday morning when members of the anti-Trump movement tried to initiate a roll-call and disrupt proceedings. And, of course, the plagiarism of part of a speech given by Michelle Obama, which was delivered by Melania Trump.

The clumsy cover-up was a "mea culpa" from the apparent speechwriter who said she wrote down passages from the Obama's speech given to her by Melania, but failed to check whether they were verbatim from the 2008 oration. In fairness, the Trumps managed to gain slightly from this when the writer in question said she offered her resignation but the Trumps refused it on the grounds that "people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from our experiences".

Then there was the pantomime from the much anticipated speech by Texan Senator Ted Cruz, which was supposed to salve some of the acrimony and bitterness which emerged during the lead-up to the convention.

Earlier in the day, he led supporters to believe that he would give his endorsement to Trump, for the greater good of the party. He gave a speech at a private event, where he spoke strongly about the need for "unity".

What ensued when it became clear that Cruz was withholding his support was an incredible spectacle - which is saying a lot during a week where a pervasive tone of almost risible hostility and at-times mawkish religious and patriotic fervour were present.

Trump's people knew in advance that Cruz was refusing to play ball. A senior campaign adviser told the Irish Independent that they'd "pretty much expected it all along" because the negotiations between both sides were "going nowhere".

Before Cruz got to end his speech, the unexpected appearance of Trump from the side of the arena sent the crowd wild. As if there wasn't enough drama in the room already, the confident swagger of an unflinching Trump, there to reclaim his convention, afforded him serious kudos.

Loud jeering and shouting emerged from the crowd. Cruz was not only standing in the way of a united party, he was trying to upstage their man at his own convention during a prime time slot.

"Get out", "Pull the plug" and "Get off the stage" were the demands of the party faithful on the ground.

Many of these were rumoured to have been plants. But they didn't need plants anyway, Cruz caused major rifts between his supporters and those who were now firmly behind their candidate.

So much so, that Cruz's wife Heidi was escorted from the convention for her own security.

Although Cruz did congratulate Trump at the very start of the speech, that was the only time he mentioned his rival.

Thursday's speech may have been strident and aggressive, but it appeared to hit the right note for those on the ground desperate for leadership and a return to "old American values".

Irish Independent

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