Has Team O quietly abandoned the phrase “wrong side of history” for the more lyrical “dustbin of history”? When did that happen? Was it part of a general purge of disfavored expressions, like “radical Islam”?
Earnest sounds just like his boss here, which I suppose is the first duty of a spokesman. He’s guilty of the same smug moral sermonizing I wrote about earlier, guaranteed to irritate Trump fans and even some Trump skeptics into further reflexively defending Trump’s proposal. The difference between this guy and your average finger-wagging Republican, though, is that Earnest’s sermonizing serves his party’s ends. Not only is this what liberals want to hear, but the more the White House can annoy Republicans into siding with Trump by criticizing him, the deeper the rift between Trump’s base and the rest of the GOP will get. The real target here isn’t even Trump, it’s the “electable” Republican candidates like Rubio who hurried to slam him for his Muslim ban yesterday. Earnest and his boss know that the only thing that can make pro-Trumpers more angry at someone like Rubio for hitting their guy is to emphasize that Rubio is aligned with Barack Obama in doing so. It’s practically a tag-team effort between the White House and Trump. Trump says something controversial, the White House calls him an A-hole, and then all of the more mainstream Republicans are effectively forced to choose a side. If they choose the White House, they’re RINOs; if they choose Trump, they’re not all that mainstream. Trump wins, the White House wins. Everyone else, not so much.
Hillary’s trying to leverage this too, but because everything her campaign does is forced and unimaginative, this is what we get:
Tell Donald Trump: Hate is not an American value. pic.twitter.com/qlhuKPKwn0
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 8, 2015
You don’t need to love Muslims, or non-Muslims, to think they should be allowed to visit America unless they pose an individual security threat, but don’t think too hard about Hillary’s message. Obviously she’s borrowing the rhetoric of the gay-marriage debate and using it for Trump, for no real reason other than that this is how the more dimwitted progressives out there approach all culture-war issues now. It’s not a question of how we should vet people entering the U.S. for terror links or whether we should cap immigration levels for security or economic reasons. It’s a question of “love.”
Speaking of the White House attacking Trump, this is a lot more interesting than Earnest taking potshots at him:
[A] spokesman for [George W.] Bush took a step toward criticizing Mr. Trump on Tuesday over his call to ban Muslim immigration into the United States.
“President Bush spoke a lot about this during his presidency, and he won’t be weighing in anew now — or commenting on or giving oxygen to anything of Trump’s bluster,” said the spokesman, Freddy Ford, in an email. “You can find a wealth of President Bush’s remarks on this topic at the archived White House website. He has always said that those who murder the innocent in order to advance a political, ideological or religious objective are not religious. They are terrorists. True Islam is peaceful; radical Islam is “the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death.”
A speech by Dubya slamming a Muslim ban would force an interesting choice on Republicans who aren’t already committed to Trump. They’re worried about terror and probably think Trump’s proposal is worth a look, but most of them also like and respect Bush and know him as a guy not prone to be soft on jihadis. Trump would attack him afterward, of course — worst president ever, Iraq was a disaster, etc — but how that would play would be unpredictable. One reason some people defend Trump is because they think he’s a victim of unfair attacks, usually by the media. No Republican’s been attacked more over the last 15 years, including and especially by the media, than Bush, though. If Trump piled on, people who retain a soft spot for Dubya might get angry. Good thing Jeb Bush is running for president so that Trump can claim he’s attacking a rival campaign, not just a beloved elder statesman of the party. Just another way in which Jeb’s decision to run is making things harder for everyone.