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Alternative Fact of the Week: America’s grand-wizard-in-chief

Alternative Fact of the Week: America’s grand-wizard-in-chief
President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally at Williams Arena in Greenville, N.C., Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Nothing brings out the worst in human nature quite like a Donald Trump in front of a crowd of true-believers, but even by those miserable standards, Wednesday’s hate-fest in Greenville, N.C., was only the contents of a few linen closets and the presence a burning cross away from a Ku Klux Klan rally. If somebody has to explain to you why the chant of “send her back” directed at a Rep. Ilhan Omar, a naturalized American born in Somalia, is prime KKK material, there’s something seriously missing (complex organ, grayish-white, trillions of synapses, ring a bell?) from your cranium. Goading fellow Americans to be their best bigots isn’t something most of us regard as acceptable by any citizen of the U.S., let alone its elected leader. And good luck to the Trump apologists like Maryland Rep. Andy Harris still searching for an adequate rationalization. Even President Trump eventually expressed some regret over the incident, telling reporters on Thursday he “felt a little bit badly” about the chant.

But the name of this feature isn’t, “Is This The Week The MAGA Crowd Burns the Reichstag?” It’s Alternative Fact of the Week and, as it happens, President Trump’s attacks on Representative Omar and others of “The Squad” are premised on quite a few falsehoods in classic White House fashion. The most glaring of which was one America’s grand-wizard-in-chief repeated at the Wednesday mob moment, declaring that Ms. Omar said that al-Qaida “makes you proud.” Here’s what the president said in his attempt to quote Ms. Omar: “You don’t say ‘America’ with this intensity. You say ‘al-Qaida,’ it makes you proud. Al-Qaida makes you proud. You don’t speak that way about America.” That’s a remarkable misrepresentation of what the Minnesota Democrat actually said in a 2013 interview on a public TV show. In reality, she described a college class she had taken on terrorism and how the professor said the name al-Qaida with greater intensity than words like “America," “England” or “Army.” It was a product, she noted, of the way certain Arabic words with innocent meanings (al-Qaida means “the base”) have been freighted with such malign connotations that the language itself raises suspicion among English-speakers.

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In other words, she was acknowledging the exact same thing that President Trump was taking advantage of by linking a member of Congress with a terrorist group — the name packs an emotional wallop. And this is hardly the only example of Mr. Trump inventing reasons to crank up the fear and “other” status of Ms. Omar along with fellow Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, all women of color. In his now-infamous tweet of last weekend, the president suggested the four should “go back” to their native countries. Yet given that all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States, that’s not just racist, it’s premised on an assumption that dark-skinned Americans aren’t as loyal as others. And please don’t give us the excuse that it’s just like the old “America, love it or leave it” bumper sticker. For all the hatred Mr. Trump spewed toward the late Sen. John McCain, you never heard “go back to Scotland," from the current Oval Office occupant or his toadies. You did, however, hear bogus doubts about Barack Obama’s birth certificate about a thousand times from the Grand Wizard Wannabe for years and years. See the pattern?

We’ve written it before and we’ll probably have to write it again: It’s perfectly fine to object to The Squad’s political viewpoint, even to bristle at it. We don’t begin to defend everything they have said or done, and they are certainly more liberal in their beliefs than the average Democrat, let alone Republican. But in this country, we don’t assume people of differing views hate the United States or freedom or liberty, and we really, really don’t invent facts to make our fellow Americans seem disloyal and worthy of deportation without due process. How anyone could see themselves as more patriotic for failing to acknowledge the American right to free speech and dissent is something of a stumper. But that seems to be standard procedure when a Trump rally really gets going.

Hopefully, next week we can get back to the usual Trump misrepresentations like how this is the best U.S. economy ever (it isn’t) or how the jobless rate is the lowest in history (nope) or about how the Trump administration has come up with cheaper health insurance options than Obamacare (if you don’t mind having far fewer procedures and medications actually covered, maybe). All made appearances during the North Carolina rally, incidentally, but all seemed relatively minor compared to the despicable KKK-worthy content.

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