Thursday, May 14, 2020

"Enemy of the People"

I strongly recommend watching "Reliable Sources" on CNN at 9 a.m. Sundays and subscribing to host Brian Stelter's nightly newsletter.  You can subscribe to it at  Here's the lead story from his Thursday night email:


I usually come up short when I reach for words to describe the radicalization of the far right in America. This short video conveys it like no words can. Kevin Vesey, a reporter for News 12 Long Island, covered a reopening rally in Commack on Thursday. Vesey was harassed by a bevy of pro-Trump protesters who called him "fake news," a "traitor," and so on.

After he shared the video on Twitter and it went viral, Vesey followed up by saying, "I'll probably never forget what happened today. I was insulted. I was berated. I was practically chased by people who refused to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic. All the while, I was there to tell THEIR story." He did, and he filed this fairreport at the end of the day.

Among the verbal arrows targeting Vesey: "You're disgusting." "You are the virus." "You are the enemy of the people!" "You shouldn't be here." "Traitor!" "F--- you. You guys are f---ing fake news." Some of the taunts were very personal, reflecting the fact that Vesey is well known in the community: "Tell the truth, Kevin, come on." At one point the crowd chanted: "Fake news is not essential."

This crowd didn't reflect all Trump supporters, nor did it reflect all Long Islanders. But these behaviors toward the news media... the intolerance... the indecency... have all been modeled by President Trump for several years. No one should be surprised to see it infect local communities. But everyone should be disturbed by it. Constructive critiques make journalism better, but destructive attacks make society worse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dems Need to Realize That People in Trump’s Base Are Simply Unreachable

Perhaps you’ve harbored the thought that if only you could show Trump supporters this or that story or this or that flaw in the president that they might vote against him or just stay home in November.  Forget it.  They’re unreachable.
If we’ve learned anything about them, it’s that there is nothing Trump can do or say that will change their minds. If what is already known and recognized about the man isn’t enough to sway his supporters, there is nothing Trump — or Biden — can say or do that will make any difference.
This became clear to me from the many pro-Trump emails, letters, phone calls and texts that I received as a result of my previous “Talking Turkey” columns. I want you to see this for yourself, so I have compiled 36 pro-Trump emails into a 13-page PDF that you can download and read.
A reader alerted me to the term “Cult 45” to refer to his supporters. (Trump is the 45th president.)  Googling the term, I found this in an Eric Zorn column in the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 11, 2019, which suggested the term go mainstream: "A Monmouth University survey asked 401 respondents who approve of the president's job performance, "Can you think of anything that Trump could do, or fail to do, in his term as president that would make you disapprove of the job he is doing?" Sixty-two percent answered no, nothing their dear leader could do or not do would shake their faith in him."
It’s common to speak of people on both sides of the political divide as being in a “bubble,” where they simply are unaware of the facts or pseudo facts fueling the other side of the political divide.  I’ve concluded that it’s more like an “iron dome,” a term coined to describe the anti-missile defense system protecting Israel from its neighbors.
Trump supporters have provided many videos to convince me that I’m wrong about Trump, and they’re worth watching. They reveal the strategy for expanding his base.
Central to their strategy is painting mainstream media as the enemy of the people. One video says simply, “DON’T WATCH THE NEWS!”  The argument is that anything negative about Trump must be a politically motivated lie, no matter how rooted it is in facts. The key is for people get all their news from Fox News, One America Network and Trump’s own tweets. (He has 79 million Twitter followers. FYI, Barack Obama has the most, 117 million, and Michelle has 15 million)
Turn-out in November will be huge for Trump, driven by fear mongering about socialism, gun confiscation and killing of newborn babies if Democrats win. A big political attack will be “Spygate,” re-banded as “Obamagate,” and it will be built up to a frenzy inside the iron dome he has created by isolating his base from fact-checked journalism.
Trump, however, will motivate turnout by Democrats too, and turnout will determine the winner. A huge concern for Trump is mail-in voting like we have here in Colorado, which makes voting easier.  Easier voting means bigger turnout, which historically has favored Democrats. It probably contributed to Colorado "going blue." 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

There’s Only One Woman for the Job

It has been widely reported that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wants to pick a woman — preferably a woman of color — as his running mate. And it has been widely reported that Michelle Obama has no interest in being on the ticket — but I hope she succumbs to a draft.

Michelle is probably the only person, man or woman, who will give “Sleepy Joe’s” campaign the energy it sorely lacks right now.
The documentary about her book tour for “Be-coming” was released last week on Hulu. It reminded Rita and me of two things — Michelle’s deep commitment to the values and policies of her husband; and how much the American people love this woman. Her book has sold 20 million copies and is still on the best seller lists. Rita and I loved it. She filled entire stadiums during her book tour. It is because she’s so authentic and real, unlike the current president. She would so energize the campaign.
Yes, Michelle has said she does not want to be a politician. She hates campaigning. But she is appalled, like us, at what the Trump administration has accomplished. She needn’t do much campaigning. All she needs to do is be interviewed a lot.
If Biden is to win, he must choose her for VP. If he waits until the August convention to name her, she will only have to campaign for a couple months.  I want to believe that her love of country will overcome her dread of politics, recognizing that without her on the ticket, it's less likely Biden will defeat Donald Trump. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Why Are Trump Supporters So Unwavering? They Have Given Me Some Answers.

Last week’s column generated a lot of emails and phone calls — mostly from readers thanking me for my “courage” and speaking out about what one reader called our “Moron-in-Chief.”  But it also drew the ire of many readers who were offended by the psychological analysis I presented of Trump supporters.
Mind you, it was not my analysis. I was publishing what psychologists near and far have written about Trump and some of his supporters. It’s a fascinating area of academic study these days.
I really appreciated (and responded to) all the emails I received, because they gave me additional insight into this phenomenon we know as Donald J. Trump.
It reminded me of my days as a bicycle activist in New York City, organizing a demonstration to create bike lanes on the 59th Street Bridge. It was so satisfying to see demonstrators on TV parroting the talking points which I had given them prior to the event. Donald Trump and his tribe at Fox News would be similarly gratified to see the president’s fans parroting a kaleidoscope of mistruths which are laid out for them. Some of them were new to me. Obviously I need to watch more of Fox News, especially the evening opinion broadcasts. 
By the way, have you noticed that what Trump calls the “lame-stream media” — NBC, ABC and CBS — don’t have any opinion shows during the evening? While Fox News Channel fills its prime time with pro-Trump, anti-Democratic rabble-rousers, the broadcast channels have nothing but entertainment programs — sitcoms, police shows, reality shows, and the like. There is virtually no opinion programing at any time of any day. All the president has to attack are the straight news reports of the evening news program and the Sunday programs which include guests with their opinions for and against the president.
But I digress. Back to the negative emails I received. More than one described Joe Biden as a “fantasizing senile plagiarist,” a picture being painted by Fox News. A woman I’ll call “Mary” was my favorite, diagnosing Trump with Aspergers Syndrome  (is Trump a savant?) with no mention of narcissism. She compared Trump to Einstein, saying “you will notice that geniuses generally are socially challenged and have unusual behaviors. Trump definitely is challenged and has unusual behaviors.”
She and I had begun to have a conversation via email, but she went silent after I wrote the following:
“So you believe that Trump is a genius – a stable genius, as he says?  This genius said yesterday that we should look into injection of disinfectants! He was touting hydroxychloroquine, so much that it was tried on veterans in VA hospitals. The results, reported today? Nine percent of veterans who were given standard treatment died, but 28% of those who got standard treatment plus hydroxychloroquine died. Because of his promotion of the drug, Trump actually caused the death of many veterans. And today his own FDA came out opposing the drug because of its failure to help and proven causing of death!
“This stable genius promotes coal, while the power industry itself is closing coal plants left and right in favor of cleaner, cheaper natural gas, wind and solar. You know the president only ‘digs coal’ for the votes it gets him in the Midwest.  He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord, making us the only nation in the world not to commit to reducing greenhouse gases. He ordered the EPA to remove the phrase ‘climate change’ from its website and all documents. This is a genius?  Geniuses [like Einstein] believe in the value of science.  If he were smart instead of narcissistic, he would leave the daily briefings to the scientists instead of using them to get screen time and make statements that appeal to his base and then require walking-back by the scientists at the very same briefings! This man is a walking disaster.  No I don’t ‘hate’ him, I see him for what he is.  And it’s scary for this country and this planet.”
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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Why Are Trump Supporters So Committed That Nothing Will Change Their Minds?

This question has haunted non-supporters of the President from the beginning. We saw his support unaffected by numerous actions and statements which would have deep-sixed any other politician.
I’m sure you remember when Trump said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose a single voter.  Or when he said he could get away with grabbing a woman’s private parts, and when nearly 20 women painted a picture of him as a sexual predator.
Now, remember when Gary Hart was photographed with a mistress on the yacht “Monkey Business”? That story of infidelity ended his 1988 presidential candidacy, yet multiple stories of marital infidelity haven’t had any effect on the support for President Trump -- including from the religious right.
As you might guess, the unwavering support of Trump has been a topic of academic study by psychologists. I suggest that you Google the phrase “psychological reasons people support Trump,” as I did.
One academic who has studied this phenomenon extensively and been published in Psychology Today is cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian, PhD, who is affiliated with George Mason University. On Dec. 31, 2019, he posted “Why Evangelicals May Be Hardwired to Believe Trump’s Falsehoods.” A post on June 14, 2019 was titled “The Psychology Behind Trump’s Unwavering Support,” and a Dec. 27, 2018, post was titled, “A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’s Support,” which includes a short video about “Terror Management Theory,” which I found really informative.

As Azarian wrote in that post, “The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface.”

Because of this ever-present sense or our mortality, he argues, we are easily manipulated by stoking fear, which Trump does most effectively. It started with immigration, but you see it in many of his other issues. In the “hardwired” post mentioned above, Azarian asserts (citing scientific studies) that it takes more brain effort and resources to question a statement than to believe it, and cites studies which show that people with a conservative worldview are more susceptible to fear-mongering than people with a liberal worldview.
In a June 24, 2019, post, Azarian wrote, “While the analytically-minded may see Donald Trump’s opinions and answers as superficial and uninformed, many people view them as straightforward and relatable. A certain degree of perceived ignorance can be beneficial for a presidential candidate, especially if he can pass it off as being folksy."
Of course, when the person promoting fear or telling a lie is a leader for whom you voted, it’s even easier to believe it, and having both TV and radio hosts echoing those fears or lies gives them more credibility. That’s the world we’re living in now, and Azarian addresses the issue of supporters not being exposed to other information or viewpoints. Fox News has given its viewers the impression that it is complete enough that viewers don't need any other television news source. By listening to AM talk radio, which is dominated by Trump supporters, the right's information bubble is complete and largely impenetrable.
In my previous “Talking Turkey” I wrote about Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn, who taught him that a lie repeated often enough becomes accepted as truth. According to Azarian, it may not have to be repeated much at all. Lies told only once by Trump immediately come to life in the echo chamber of Fox News and talk radio. And those same outlets, which Trump follows, have the power of starting those lies, which Trump then repeats in a tweet, and the outlets then attribute the statement to Trump, giving it greater and greater credibility.
    In the first month of my GoFundeMe campaign to raise $8,000 to cover the cost of Denver Post advertising space for this column through November, 37 readers have donated $4,865. Another four readers sent me checks totaling $350, along with many supportive comments that you can read at This support has definitely encouraged me to keep “talking turkey” through what we hope will be Donald Trump’s defeat in November.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Covid-19 Crisis Is Putting Trump’s Disdain of Science to the Test. How’s He Doing?

As I witness the unfolding of the Covid-19 pandemic in our country and our president’s handling of it, I find myself thinking about climate change.
Some cartoonist will draw a cartoon of Trump being hit over the head by a 2x4 labeled “Covid-19” and “Science.”
The pandemic is, hopefully, a wake-up call for Trump regarding the importance of science in addressing the world’s challenges, such as climate change.
Trump has said he knows more than the generals, more than the experts in every field of study. He bathes in the adulation of evangelists who actually believe that he was sent by God to save our country, to “make America great again.” They truly think he can do no wrong.  Or can he?
I’ll never forget the 2-hour Frontline program on Sept. 27, 2016, called “The Choice 2016” about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, which I wish PBS would air again.  You can watch the full program online.
In that Frontline report, we learned about “the Donald’s” personality in ways that ring even more true now that we’ve experienced over 3 years of him playing the role of President.

Fast forward to 36:18 of that documentary to see how Trump found a mentor in Roy Cohn, a lawyer hired to defend the Trump Organization in a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in their rental properties. In the following 4 minutes of that documentary you’ll see exactly where Donald Trump acquired the persona which we see every day in our president. The key rules instilled by Roy Cohn are:
  • Never settle or admit anything, never admit a mistake
  • If someone hits you, hit back harder and never stop
  • Even when you lose, claim victory
  • Tell a lie long enough and people will think it’s the truth
  • Use lawsuits like machine gun bullets
  • Take no prisoners
Roy Cohn was described as a “street fighter,” and in Donald Trump we see what it’s like when a street fighter becomes president.
I believe that history will not be kind to Donald Trump once he is gone, nor will it be kind to those who fell under his spell, whether they are US Senators or Representatives or ordinary citizens. The 2018 elections were the first proof that.

Thanks to All Who Donated to ‘Talking Turkey’

    In my column on March 26th, I said that this column, published in the Denver Post on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursday of each month, will cost me $8,000 to run through the November election. Within days, over 20 readers contributed over $2,000 at I welcome additional donations to help cover the cost of this ad.
   I did receive a few hate emails, phone calls and two anonymous letters telling me to “shut up!” But they were far out-numbered by support — and backed up by donations. Thank you so much!
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