Sunday, August 06, 2017

Dark, Desperate & Divisive: Stephen Miller's Diversionary White House Tactics

Stephen Miller spars with CNN's Jim Acosta
The Trump administration's calculated habit of making intentionally-controversial policy announcements or proposals in order to deflect media attention from the non-stop chaos surrounding the presidency has become the new norm for a White House plagued by scandal.

24 hours before the Wall Street Journal reported that special counsel Robert Mueller was impanelling a grand jury in the Russia investigation, the White House trotted out its anti-immigrant zealot Stephen Miller with fresh red meat for the dwindling Trump supporters.

True to journalistic norms, practices and traditions, it's probably fair to assume that Del Quentin Wilbur, the WSJ reporter who first broke the story about the grand jury on Thursday, contacted the White House on Tuesday or Wednesday to advise them that the story would be published and to seek comment.

The WSJ is now owned by the conservative media mogul / wanna-be kingmaker Rupert Murdoch, so they're certainly not going to randomly blindside a Republican White House with a potentially damaging story - even if Murdoch was notably not a Trump fan during the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination.

So my guess is that the collective braintrust at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue quickly threw together another poorly-planned "policy announcement" (remember the disastrous Muslim travel ban rollout?) intentionally designed to stoke the fear and anger of the approximately 37% of Americans who currently approve of Donald Trump to get them to rally around in the face of the inevitable criticism.

As a detailed comparison of six different presidential approval polls released on Saturday by Nate Silver's shows, Trump is now the most unpopular president in modern American history - take a minute to click the link above, scroll down and look at the sinking green line to see how Trump's approval rating compares to the past 12 U.S. presidents going all the way back to Harry S. Truman.

Republican Senators Graham & Tillis co-authored
bills to block Trump from firing Robert Mueller 
With Trump having already alienated the intelligence community, a number of federal judges around the country and scores of career civil servants who work in the federal government - including many in the State Department, Department of Justice, Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency to name a few - as the recent healthcare debates have shown, he's now alienating Republican members of Congress who's support he needs to pass his legislative agenda.

Just a day after Stephen Miller's widely publicized confrontation with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta on Wednesday, the Senate introduced two bipartisan bills aimed at blocking Trump's ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller - especially given that a grand jury can issue subpoenas.

Make no mistake, the Senate was sending a clear message to the American people, the White House and Vladimir Putin that its members will not be distracted from getting to the bottom of finding out the extent of Russia's interference in the 2016 elections - and to what degree members of the Trump administration colluded with them to undermine fair and democratic elections in this country.

What was particularly troubling about Miller's petulant anti-immigrant tirade during his announcement that the Trump administration was seeking to cut the rate of immigration into the U.S. in half, was the degree to which this administration will sink to deflect attention from the scandal enveloping the White House and it's hugely unpopular part-time resident.

As Brian Lehrer astutely observed on Thursday morning during an interview with American Urban Radio Networks White House correspondent, author and CNN commentator April Ryan, CNN's Jim Acosta directly challenged Miller on the motivation behind the Trump administration's latest out-of-left field policy announcement.

White House correspondent April Ryan   
During Miller's response to Acosta's accusation that the desire to restrict immigration to those who could speak English was in fact "racial engineering" , (you should really should watch it if you haven't listened to it), he had the gall to suggest that the Trump administration's latest immigration crackdown was intended to address the disparities between unemployment rates among blacks and Hispanics with a high school education (or less) and their white counterparts.

In response, April Ryan the African-American reporter who Trump famously asked to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus during (what was for Trump) a disastrous press conference back in February, who was in the room on Wednesday during Miller's heated exchange with Acosta can be heard in the background saying, "We've now reached a new low." 

As if Miller's claims that the Trump administration's motivations to impose restrictions on immigrants was some kind of effort to "help African-Americans get jobs" (his words) and assist those blacks and Hispanics with a marginal education and limited job skills while opposing increases in the minimum wage, are some kind of noble goal.

A notion which is laughable considering the Trump administration's wide disconnect with anyone who isn't white and Christian and its open hostility towards immigrants, Muslims, the LGTBQ community and people of color.

During her discussion with Brian Lehrer, Ryan noted that during Miller's strange Q&A on Wednesday she cut right to the chase, asking him point-blank whether the Trump administration was highlighting the black unemployment rate to offer concrete solutions to tackle discrepancies in employment based on race and ethnicity.

Or just a transparent and blatantly self-serving effort to pit one ethnic group against the other.

Former labor official Seth Harris
In response to Miller's erroneous claim, she read Brian Lehrer a quote from Seth Harris, a lawyer who served as the acting deputy labor secretary under President Obama after having spent seven years as a policy advisor in the Department of Labor during the Clinton administration. He noted that:

"While low-skilled immigrants compete against the lowest skilled U.S. workers, mostly not African-Americans, they do not significantly displace U.S. workers - and immigrants are not the cause of stagnant wages."

So as Ryan noted, Miller's efforts to use concern for minority unemployment to justify an attempt to cut the rate of immigration in half was nothing more than an unsubstantiated lie - the latest of many for the Trump administration.

What's also remarkable is the fact that the White House actually put Miller in front of the press to open his mouth in the first place.

Especially given his long legacy of open hostility towards immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities and his cozy relationship with white nationalism.

Stephen Miller literally symbolizes the efforts of the Trump administration to normalize white supremacy by dressing it up in a suit and tie and giving it an office in the West Wing of the White House - Steve Bannon ain't the only one folks.

When you get a chance, take some time to read William D Cohan's recent Vanity Fair profile of Miller; given Miller's position as an influential White House policy advisor and spokesman, I think it's important that people understand just who this guy really is.

CNN's Jim Acosta confronts Stephen Miller 
His accusing Jim Acosta of "cosmopolitan bias" during his tense exchange with Acosta was an overt nod to the alt-right / white nationalist community's embrace of the term as not-so-secret code for anti-Semitism.

As Cohan observes, Miller has been a poster boy of right-wing bigotry for years, when he was a student in high-school in the progressive, wealthy enclave of Santa Monica, California, he was already hard at work.

Demonstrating a disturbing passion for sewing the seeds of the decidedly racist brand of virulently anti-immigrant white nationalism that was on display in his recent verbal confrontation with Jim Acosta over the Trump administration's latest attempt to enact draconian immigration policies.

As April Ryan noted during her interview on The Brian Lehrer Show, Miller has cited at least three virulently anti-immigrant groups classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center to justify the Trump administration's radical attempts to re-shape immigration policy.

But in the end it's important to note that he embodies the dark, desperate and divisive diversionary tactics of a White House intent on solidifying its credentials with the extremist right-wing faction of American conservatives who see Trump's unhinged presidency as an opportunity to normalize views that are repulsive to the majority of the American people and our allies around the globe.

Repugnant policy stances intended, in part, to distract from the taint of scandal and ethical morass that now defines the executive branch of the U.S. government.

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