Campaign watch: The state of play at Trump events!

MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016

Perusing a pair of assessments–actually, three:
What's the actual state of play at Trump campaign events?

A pair of assessments–actually, three–are well worth your consideration.

For starters, we recommend Seth Stevenson's report at Slate: "What's It Like Covering Trump?"

Stevenson discusses the profoundly irresponsible way Candidate Trump behaves toward the press at his large events.

He behaves himself very badly.

Eventually, someone could be hurt, or worse, due to Trump's behavior. It only takes one unbalanced soul to create a tragedy in response to irresponsible conduct like this:
STEVENSON (3/21/16): I also could not abide large, repeated doses of in-person Trump. It infuriated me when he’d pause between telling blatant whoppers to point at the media pen and say, “Those are very dishonest people, I have to tell you.” On cue, his minions would spin around and boo us.

Sometimes, he gets personal with the press. At one rally, Trump referred to NBC News reporter Katy Tur as “little Katy, third-rate journalist” while she was in the pen, surrounded by his riled-up groupies. In February, Tur tweeted about another special moment on the trail:

Trump trashes press. Crowd jeers. Guy by press 'pen' looks at us & screams "you're a bitch!" Other gentleman gives cameras the double bird.

“Sometimes we get tense,” another journalist told me. “I’m surprised there hasn’t been an incident of someone throwing a blunt object and hitting a reporter in the head. I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.”
Trump has been doing this for months. It's deeply irresponsible conduct. We're glad Stevenson wrote about it.

It's our impression that the press corps has largely avoided discussing this conduct for one or two fairly obvious reasons, partly involving the desire to maintain their own safety. That said, we think Trump's irresponsible conduct should be described and discussed.

By light years, Trump is the most unbalanced person ever to attain the political status he currently holds. Clearly, that's one major part of the story from his events.

On the other hand, a Tucson police officer named Brandon Tatum has now offered a second perspective on the Trump events.

Tatum says he attended Trump's recent Tucson event as a curious private citizen. On-line at the Washington Post, Lindsey Bever discusses a ten-minute videotape Tatum has posted:
BEVER (3/21/16): Brandon Tatum, an officer in the Tucson Police Department, went to a Trump rally on Saturday as a civilian to see what was going on. In a subsequent video, he said he thought there was going to be “a full-fledged riot” at the event—but not because of Trump’s supporters.

The protesters were the problem, Tatum said.

“These people were acting so outrageous,” he said in the video,
which went viral after it was uploaded to Facebook. “You were just thinking that somebody was going to lose their temper and there was going to be a full brawl.”
In some detail, Tatum paints a very unflattering portrait of some of the protesters and disrupters at the Tucson event. How accurate is his portrait? We can't answer that.

You can watch Tatum's videotape at the link offered above. We'll cite one specific remark he made, then link to a third report.

Tatum, who seems to be maybe 30, is black. He says he attended the Tucson event out of curiosity, not as a Trump supporter.

Near the start of his tape, he describes chaos and F-bombs from Trump opponents as he entered the arena.

"Very, very uncomfortable feeling," he says. "I mean, people were directly yelling at me as if I'm a criminal, and all I'm trying to do is just hear what the man has to say."

He then describes the atmosphere he found inside the hall:
TATUM: When I got inside, you know, it was peaceful. Initially– The shocking thing is, is that everybody inside seemed to be peaceful. There wasn't a lot of hatred and maliciousness going on and lashing out at the protesters. Initially, there was nothing like that, and I didn't get that impression at all. When– But the thing that stood out to me was these protesters. I mean, from the door, and then some of them snuck inside...
Tatum, a black Tucson policeman, thought the protesters were outrageous. His statement about the attitude of the Trump supporters reminded us of this piece from the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post.

That piece was written by Sierra Thomas, a 21-year-old black college student from Virginia. Recently, Thomas interrupted a Trump event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thereby getting herself thrown out of the arena.

We were struck by the highlighted part of Thomas' report. It was echoed by Tatum's report from Tucson:
THOMAS (3/20/16): The organizers’ plan was for demonstrators to go into the event separately and sit by ourselves, so we wouldn’t attract attention and could pop up at different times to interrupt Trump. I walked inside and made small talk with the people sitting next to me, even though almost every second sitting there waiting was a challenge. They were very friendly, up until the moment I started protesting. Throughout the afternoon, I was texting with [the person who organized the disruption], and he helped me calm down and stay strong, saying, “Don’t let them shake you, and don’t be scared.”
By her own account, Sierra Thomas was there to interrupt Trump's event. According to our own tribal wisdom, she was sitting in the midst of a group of racists and bigots, not to mention the xenophobes, nativists, authoritarians and misogynists who were crowding the hall.

But how strange! Despite this perilous situation, Thomas–a well-intentioned young black woman–said everyone was very friendly until she interrupted the speech they had come to hear. Tatum, a youngish black police officer at a Tucson event, seemed to describe the same tone inside that hall.

Thomas' memoir is fascinating in various ways; we expect to discuss it further. From her and Tatum, we draw a key cultural lesson:

Increasingly, the racists and bigots seem devilishly skilled at hiding their ugly and evil intentions. What other conclusion could a tribal true believer reach?


  1. Wait, let me get this straight - Bob Somerby, publisher of the Daily Howler, is now claiming that its "deeply irresponsible" to sharply criticize the press as "very dishonest people?"

    1. I think you raise a good point. For clarity's sake I'll note that what TDH is describing is having the press sit in a specific area and point to them like they're a freak show. Complain as he does, at no point has TDH wished for any such thing to happen.

  2. So, I guess Rachel Maddow was correct in getting Sanders to instruct his supports to demonstrate rather than disrupt events, even though Bob found it obvious?
    The absolute objectivity of Tatum's account must be taken at face value, of course. I guess some people go to Trump events solely out of curiosity.
    Other than the implication (perhaps not outrageous) that the Democratic Candidates have encouraged this behavior with their indulgence of Black Lives Matters, I fail to see the point. Again, Bob's right, the point where it becomes offensive IS obvious. So maybe for once Bob should just say what he means.

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  5. Bob-haters will perhaps be happy to know that Rush Limbaugh made a point similar to Bob's point here:

    Let me give you an analogy to explain what I mean. Let's take protests at abortion clinics. Let's say protests at Planned Parenthood. What are the rules for those? Well, Planned Parenthood's what? It's a private company, whatever you want to call it, organization. It's private. It isn't public. So anybody that wants to protest what goes on in there cannot walk in and start harassing employees and start beating up employees. They have to stay outside the building, in many cases they're required by law to stay a few feet away.

    Imagine what you would do, imagine what Obama would do, imagine what anybody would do if anti-abortion protesters stormed Planned Parenthood facilities, actually went inside and started beating up people that work there and trashing the place. Do you think anybody would say, "It's the time-honored art of American dissent. Isn't it wonderful? Look at what these protesters are doing." No. It would properly be called criminal behavior. There would be arrests, and the cops or anybody would go in there and kick them out and get rid of them, forcibly remove them, as should be the case.

    Well, it's the same thing at a Trump rally or any of the other rallies. These are private events. They are not rallies held by an American politician open to the public. They are private rallies paid for by the candidates. They rent the arena. They have to provide security. The Secret Service does not go into the crowd and keep order. The only thing the Secret Service does is react to what they think might be a threat to the person that they are assigned to protect. And in this case, it's candidates.

    So if somebody storms a stage, yeah, they'll go into gear and they'll get into action. If they hear somebody make a threat against the candidate they'll take action. But if there are fisticuffs out in the crowd, Secret Service doesn't touch that. That's up to local security, local law enforcement and whatever private security the candidates have purchased. And in no instance is a protester allowed to come in there and do what they've been doing without being kicked out and arrested. But that's not how this is portrayed. This is portrayed as normal, everyday American people protesting what they think is the dangerous Donald Trump. These are purposefully planned and executed strategies to disrupt these events.

    The people doing this in no way will ever become Trump supporters. They are there to shut down these events. They are there to cause these problems; to make it look like it's Trump and his supporters. And I would say this if it were happening to Cruz. I would say this if it were happening to Kasich. I would say this if it were happening to Hillary. Except it doesn't happen to Democrats because our side abides by the law and doesn't seem to see the benefit in doing this kind of thing. But these groups are the same groups they've always been.

    They are climate change groups, global warming groups. They are Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter. Whatever the protest groups over the course of the years are, it's the same people, just with different names, the organizations that have been created that they supposedly are members of or represent. But the people that run the Trump rallies have every right to throw them out of there. They do not have the right to come in and disrupt these things under the guise of peaceful protests.

    Bob supporters will have a different interpretation. They will say that these protesters are behaving in a way that validates Rush Limbaugh, and they don't want to see Rush Limbaugh validated.

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