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Trump-ward, Christian Soldiers?

Aug 26 2015

Frank Bruni – The New York Times

Let me get this straight. If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant, judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making amount of sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I’m at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I’ve amassed? Seems to work for Donald Trump.

Polls show him to be the preferred candidate among not just all Republican voters but also the party’s vocal evangelical subset.

He’s more beloved than Mike Huckabee, a former evangelical pastor, or Ted Cruz, an evangelical pastor’s son, or Scott Walker, who said during the recent Republican debate: “It’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed.”

When Trump mentions blood, it’s less biblical, as Megyn Kelly can well attest.

No matter. The holy rollers are smiling upon the high roller. And they’re proving, yet again, how selective and incoherent the religiosity of many in the party’s God squad is.
Usually the disconnect involves stern moralizing, especially on matters sexual, by showily devout public figures who are then exposed as adulterers or (gasp!) closet homosexuals. I’d list all the names, starting with Josh Duggar and working backward, but my column doesn’t sprawl over an entire page of the newspaper.

Or the disconnect is between evangelists’ panegyrics about Christ’s penury and their hustle for funds to support less-than-penurious lifestyles. John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” has been making brilliant satirical fun of this by promoting his new tax-exempt church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Last Sunday he apologized to viewers that his wife, Wanda Jo, “cannot be with us this evening.”

“She’s at our summer parsonage in Hawaii,” he continued, “for a week of spiritual introspection and occasional parasailing.”

What’s different and fascinating about the Trump worship is that he doesn’t even try that hard for a righteous facade — for Potemkin piety. Sure, he speaks of enthusiastic churchgoing, and he’s careful to curse Planned Parenthood and to insist that matrimony be reserved for heterosexuals as demonstrably inept at it as he is.

But beyond that? He just about runs the table on the seven deadly sins. He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust. Wrath is covered by his anti-immigrant, anti-“losers” rants, and if we interpret gluttony to include big buildings and not just Big Macs, he’s a glutton through and through. That leaves envy and sloth. I’m betting that he harbors plenty of the former, though I’ll concede that he exhibits none of the latter.

In 2012, inexplicably, he was invited to Liberty University, where he digressed during his remarks to extol the prudence of prenuptial agreements. But all was forgiven: His host, Jerry Falwell, told audience members that Trump could be credited for “single-handedly” forcing President Obama to release his birth certificate. Oh how they cheered, as if ugly, groundless partisan rumor-mongering were on a saintly par with washing lepers’ feet.

Maybe it’s Trump’s jingoism they adore. They venerated Ronald Reagan though he’d divorced, remarried and spent much of his career in the godless clutch of Hollywood.

Maybe their fealty to Trump is payback for his donations to conservative religious groups.

Or maybe his pompadour has mesmerized them. It could, in the right wind, be mistaken for a halo.

I’m grasping at straws, because there’s no sense in the fact that many of the people who most frequently espouse the Christian spirit then proceed to vilify immigrants, demonize minorities and line up behind a candidate who’s a one-man master class in such misanthropy.

From Trump’s Twitter account gushes an endless stream of un-Christian rudeness, and he was at it again on Monday night, retweeting someone else’s denigration of Kelly as a “bimbo.” Shouldn’t he be turning the other cheek?

For politicians as for voters, devotion and grace can be fickle, convenient things. Courting the evangelical vote, Cruz used his own Twitter account last week to say that his “thoughts and prayers are with President Jimmy Carter,” whose struggle with cancer was riveting the nation. But then Cruz pressed on with a speech that bemoaned the “misery, stagnation and malaise” of Carter’s presidency. He couldn’t have hit pause on the Carter bashing for a week or two?

Carter pressed on, too — with his usual weekend routine of teaching Sunday school, which he has long done with little fanfare. His own Christianity is not a bludgeon but a bridge.

As for Trump, I must not be watching the same campaign that his evangelical fans are, because I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.
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Annex:

Latino News Media, Offended by Donald Trump, Shows It in Broadcasts

By ASHLEY PARKER – The New York Times

Ricardo Sánchez, known as “El Mandril” on his Spanish-language, drive-time radio show in Los Angeles, has taken to calling Donald J. Trump “El hombre del peluquín” — the man of the toupee.

Some of Mr. Sánchez’s listeners are less kind, referring to Mr. Trump, who has dismissed some Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and criminals, simply as “Hitler.”

Mr. Sánchez says that he tries to focus on the positive in presidential politics, but he, too, at times has used harsh language to describe Mr. Trump, a real estate mogul, according to translations of his show provided by his executive producer.

“A president like Trump would be like giving a loaded gun to a monkey,” Mr. Sanchez said in one broadcast. “But a gun that fires atomic bullets.”

The adversarial relationship between Mr. Trump and the Spanish-language news media, which has simmered publicly since he announced his candidacy in June, boiled over on Tuesday at a news conference in Dubuque, Iowa, when the candidate erupted at Jorge Ramos, a news anchor at Univision and Fusion, when he tried to ask a question without being called on. Mr. Trump signaled to one of his security guards, who physically removed Mr. Ramos from the event.

“Don’t touch me, sir. Don’t touch me,” Mr. Ramos said, as he was marched out of the room. “I have the right to ask a question.”

Mr. Ramos was eventually allowed to return. But for the Spanish-language press, which has grown in size and influence in politics, the tense exchange was a highly public flexing of muscle against a candidate who many outlets no longer pretend to cover objectively: They are offended by Mr. Trump’s words and tactics — and they are showing it.

Some, including Mr. Ramos, said that their networks have covered Mr. Trump more aggressively than their mainstream counterparts, which until recently, at least, largely dismissed Mr. Trump as a summer amusement — less a serious candidate than a ratings bonanza in the form of a bombastic reality television star. (After the dust-up with Mr. Ramos on Tuesday night, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists issued a statement condemning Mr. Trump.)

Mr. Ramos, who earlier this month delivered a searing indictment of Mr. Trump, calling him, “the loudest voice of intolerance, hatred and division in the United States,” attributed the difference in approach to how directly the issue of immigration affects Latino Americans.

“This is personal, and that’s the big difference between Spanish-language and mainstream media, because he’s talking about our parents, our friends, our kids and our babies,” Mr. Ramos said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Ramos, who has been called the Walter Cronkite of Latino America for the tremendous influence he holds with Hispanic viewers, said that he could not recall Spanish-language news media covering a story as aggressively as it has Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

And though cable news and the Sunday morning news shows have blanketed their political coverage with stories about Mr. Trump’s improbable campaign, the focus of Spanish-language news programs has been almost exclusively on Mr. Trump’s controversial stance on immigration.

About 58 percent of all mentions of Mr. Trump in mainstream news media — broadcast, cable, radio and online outlets — in the past month have focused on immigration, while on Spanish-language news programs, the proportion is almost 80 percent, according to an analysis by Two.42.Solutions, a nonpartisan media analytics company. The Spanish-language news media has also been more critical in its coverage of Mr. Trump’s positions on the issue, with nearly all of it negative in tone.
José Díaz-Balart, an anchor for Telemundo and MSNBC who takes a straight-news approach to his coverage and does not consider himself an advocate, nonetheless said that because of its viewership, Telemundo has delved deeper into the specifics of Mr. Trump’s immigration plan than many English-language outlets and has covered his candidacy with a sense of “urgency.”

“Our audience is very well versed, very knowledgeable, very well educated on the issue of immigration,” Mr. Díaz-Balart said, adding that his viewers are eager to hear “what are you realistically proposing and planning to do on the issues that are so important to the community.”

When Mr. Trump visited the United States-Mexico border last month, the Spanish-language networks devoted more time to Mr. Trump in their evening broadcasts than their English-language counterparts; Univision gave Mr. Trump six minutes, while Telemundo — which had Mr. Díaz-Balart anchor his nightly newscast live from the border — spent nine minutes on Mr. Trump.

In addition to his comments calling Mexican immigrants drug dealers and rapists, Mr. Trump’s immigration plan — which includes erecting a wall along the southern border and ending birthright citizenship — has also earned the ire of many Hispanics, who are expected to be a critical voting bloc in 2016.

Univision severed ties with the Miss Universe Organization, of which Mr. Trump is a part owner, because of his offensive comments about Mexican immigrants. Mr. Trump is now suing the network for $500 million.

Ken Oliver-Méndez, the director of the Hispanic media arm of the conservative Media Research Center, said that in the Spanish-language news media, “There’s just very opinionated, very sweeping condemnations of Donald Trump taking place.”

An analysis of news, blogs and forums by Crimson Hexagon, a nonpartisan social media analytics software company, also found that overall mentions of Mr. Trump in the Spanish-language news media since he announced his candidacy were 69 percent negative, but were less negative — 58 percent — in the English-language news media.

Critics of the Spanish-language news coverage, including Mr. Oliver-Méndez, say that the Hispanic press is engaging in advocacy and not journalism.

“The Spanish-language media is basically taking Trump through the prism of what’s best for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, so to the extent that Trump is coming out with statements that are threatening the existence of that community, he’s been covered like an enemy,” he said.

He pointed to several moments last week on the national United States evening news broadcasts of Azteca America, a Spanish-language television network. In one, an anchor said that Mr. Trump had nothing in his head but air, and in another, Armando Guzmán, a Washington correspondent, accused Mr. Trump of lying: “As in everything else, Trump is not telling the truth,” Mr. Guzmán said.

The last one-on-one interview Mr. Trump gave to a Spanish-language network was with Mr. Díaz-Balart on Telemundo, shortly after Mr. Trump announced his candidacy. The Trump campaign said it continues to give credentials to Spanish-language organizations for its events and treats them like all other news media.

Alex Nogales, the president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a civil rights organization focused on American Latinos, said that the Spanish-language news media’s coverage of Mr. Trump has broad implications for the presidential election, whether or not he becomes the Republican nominee.

He said that for Latino voters, there will be a “reinforcement in terms of what they’re hearing, what they’re seeing, what they’re listening to” from the Republican candidates.

Lawrence Glick, an executive vice president at the Trump Organization who oversees golf, called Mr. Nogales this month, saying “he wanted to make peace” and set up a meeting with Mr. Trump, Mr. Nogales said. (The coalition has been calling for the suspension of all professional golf tournaments from Trump courses). But the two men seem to have reached an impasse, with no meeting imminent.

Mr. Ramos, for his part, sees a possible bright spot in Mr. Trump’s 2016 role.

“The only positive thing I might think of for Mr. Trump is that he brought immigration to the forefront of the 2016 campaign,” he said. AUG. 26, 2015

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