Tuesday, January 03, 2017

GOP Ethics & The Enigma of the Manigault Syndrome

Swamp Thing? Republican Congressman and
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte 
It's overcast, rainy and chilly on this first Tuesday of 2017 here in New Jersey.

In some ways, the weather reflects the gloomy mood of many Americans who are coping with an uneasy sense of impending dread as the inauguration of the most unpopular presidential candidate in U.S. history edges closer.

If nothing else, the importance of voting has been made painfully clear to Democrats and progressives who decided to stay home on Nov. 8th.

Well we certainly got a taste of what the new Republican super-majority has in mind for the American people yesterday when Republicans, secretly meeting Monday evening on a federal holiday, backed a proposal drafted by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would have placed oversight of the non-partisan independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) under the oversight of the Republican-majority House Ethics Committee.

As TheHill.com reported, the jaw-dropping Republican proposal actually called for blocking the OCE from considering anonymous tips about corrupt congressmen, or from hiring a communications director, in a remarkably sleazy effort to make it harder for the media to learn about ethics violations and charges.

Swift backlash from members of both parties (including the president-elect), the media and outraged citizens prompted Republicans to pull the proposal from the rules package for the 115th Congress today, but don't be surprised to see them take another crack at it within weeks.

But the fact that Republicans tried to do that on the very first day of the new Congressional session should raise serious concerns; so much for "draining the swamp".

One can only hope the thousands of Democrats, progressives and independents who decided not to vote on November 8th, or cast their presidential ballot for Green Party candidate Jill Stein or a write-in candidate as a symbolic but essentially meaningless "protest vote" are happy - and I like Stein but let's be frank, a vote for her was in essence a vote for the con man being sworn in two weeks from now.

But I don't think it's fair to "blame" any one demographic segment for the results of this election.

Donald Trump and Omaraosa Manigault
Meddling on the part of foreign nations, Republican efforts to suppress non-white voter turnout across the nation, conservative media's incessant misogynist slandering of Hillary Clinton's record and apathetic (dare I say pathetic) Democratic voter turnout all played a factor in the 2016 presidential election results.

Don't get me wrong, each of us has the right to choose whom we want in an election, but the highly public and remarkably enthusiastic support of Trump by some women of color in this nation still leaves me scratching my head.

"I am black, female, and Donald Trump is my friend." 

No folks, that's not a line from a Saturday Night Live skit, or the punchline of a joke.

Those were the opening words of a short op-ed piece by Omarosa Manigault that was published in a December issue of The Hollywood Reporter - actually her words as told to writer Seth Abramovitch.

Manigault is the reality show contestant who gained notoriety after appearing on various incarnations of Trump's reality television series The Apprentice, and later went on to appear in a variety of other reality shows including Fear Factor and The Surreal Life.

While her Wikipedia page notes that she held a position in the office of former Vice-President Al Gore and teaches at Howard University, she's basically "famous" for being liked by Trump before becoming his political surrogate.

In the THR article she basically tried to use her own experiences being on a reality TV show to make the case that Trump is not the bigot and misogynist that his own actions and words make him out to be.

From her appearances on topical news discussions about Trump's candidacy that I saw, Manigault, who served as Trump's "director of African-American outreach", always seemed to strike me as someone whose over-the-top enthusiasm was not rooted in any kind of specific policy analysis.

Her reasoning for supporting his candidacy seemed based more on a cult-like adoration and her comments reflective of Trump's intentionally vague style of political "non-speak" - like the debates where he talked as if trying to toss out disconnected sound-bites to earn applause or laughter without really saying anything of substance, relevance or meaning.

To me her support for Trump kinda borders on creepy.

For example, remember back in November the day after the election when Manigault hinted in an interview that Trump was calculating revenge against people who hadn't supported him?

"Mr. Trump has a long memory and we're keeping a list." 

That's what she told a journalist from the Independent Journal Review, partially in reference to Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's statement that he'd supported Evan McMullin rather than Trump.

Note her use of the term "we're" too.

In the same interview she went on to say: 

"It's so great that our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House we know where we stand."

"Our enemies" sounds like decidedly Nixonian group-think - I mean what's next?

Bugging the private communications and correspondence of members of the Democratic Party?

Oh, wait, sorry they actually already did that.

Again, Manigault, or any other woman of color can vote for whomever they please, but the handful of black women I saw interviewed on local or national television who voted for Trump never seemed to articulate what I (as an African-American) considered to be an informed reasoning that outweighed the flagrant racism that the Republican Party actively cultivated during the 2015 - 2016 presidential campaign season.

Let alone the reprehensible ways in which Trump spoke about women and ethnic and religious minorities.

In the Hollywood Reporter article, Maingault said that Trump "does not judge people on their gender or race. He judges them on their ability to do the job."

Trump's Sec. of Education pick Betsy DeVos
Yet back in August, as his campaign made efforts to try and draw support from black voters, Trump stood in front of an audience in the overwhelmingly white Lansing, Michigan suburb of Dimondale and reduced black Americans to a narrow stereotype, famously telling the crowd:

"You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed - what the hell do you have to loose?"

While high unemployment amongst young African-Americans is at critical levels, and that needs to be addressed on the federal, state and local level, not all African-Americans attend schools that are "no good" - does Manigault think that Trump tapping right-wing billionaire Betsy DeVos, a person with no experience as a school administrator, as Secretary of Education is a good thing for those students (of all races and ethnicities) who live in poverty?

DeVos is part of a group of billionaires and wealthy financiers around the nation who actively lobby for shifting billions in tax dollars from public schools to charter schools and private schools - maybe Manigault (who attended Howard University) thinks that will be a good thing for those public schools serving at-risk communities that struggle to attract quality teachers and administrators.

And while her orange-haired benefactor is correct that poverty levels in the U.S. are highest for blacks, according to statistics, 72.6% of black Americans do not live in poverty.

Donald Trump and his father Fred were sued by the
federal govt. in 1973 for housing discrimination 
So contrary to Manigault's statements, Trump's sweeping generalizations demonstrate a man who sees black Americans almost exclusively from the perspective of the narrow generalizations based on race that he grew up with.

And reinforced when he helped his father exclude blacks from renting at apartment complexes owned by the Trump family in New York and Virginia.

Maingault's access to affordable health care or the kinds of preventative cancer screenings provided by Planned Parenthood is never going to be jeopardized by Trump's promise to work with House Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Thanks to her BA from Central State in Ohio and grad degrees from Howard University she doesn't have to work in the fast food industry, or a large retailer to make ends meet - so her income isn't going to be affected by Trump's pledge to oppose minimum wage increases.

So Omarosa Manigault can afford to support Trump, in fact as a reality television personality now serving on Trump's White House transition team who's angling for a job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, she has a vested interest in continuing to do so.

As far as her assertion in the Hollywood Reporter article that "It's very difficult to make the argument that Donald Trump doesn't like black people and black women.", I must respectfully disagree.

His actions, personal history and words suggest quite the opposite.

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