Columns

A candidate keeps getting a free ride at media’s expense

February 29 ,2024

With a Trump Trump here, and a Trump Trump there, here a Trump, there a Trump, everywhere a Trump Trump…e-i-e-i-o.
:  
Berl Falbaum

With a Trump Trump here, and a Trump Trump there, here a Trump, there a Trump, everywhere a Trump Trump…e-i-e-i-o.

The nation’s media might consider adopting “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” as their theme song when it involves covering Donald Trump. They are committing the same coverage sin they did in the 2015-16 presidential campaign, giving him inordinate free coverage around-the-clock.

When I check my email, I receive a summary of the day’s major news. Invariably, the top stories involve Trump more than 90 percent of the time. Every time I turn on the TV for news, the stories are generally about Trump. Only the commercials are free of any mention of the former president. Another example: The New York Times published nine Op-Ed pieces on one day of which seven -- that’s seven -- covered Trump and/or Trumpism. On other days, the paper publishes at least two-three Trump Op-Eds.

The media’s fixation with Trump is total; they simply cannot get enough of him.  No matter how egregious or meaningless his actions or speeches, they are sure to garner major coverage in newspapers and are subject to “intense analysis” on cable new shows.

In a word, it is inane but the coverage again reveals how the media, especially cable news, is addicted to Trump because they believe it helps their ratings. Cable news stations even followed his plane arriving and leaving cities where he had court hearings.

Then they broadcast his motorcades. Really?

Since Trump came on the scene as a presidential candidate in 2015, every single word by Trump, every action -- no matter how offensive or meaningless -- is subject to extensive examination, as if it were the first time that he uttered something controversial.

Studies on the 2015-16 campaign and election concluded that he received between $2-3 billion of free advertising. Research found that Trump received 2-½ times more free coverage in the 2015-16 campaign than Hillary Clinton.

The media tracking firm, mediaQuant, put the figure of free coverage at $5.6 billion in the 2016 campaign more than his competitors for the presidency, Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Cruz, combined.

A New York Times study revealed that Trump’s 13 Republican competitors in the 2015-16 campaign received just over $1 billion of free media coverage.

Robert Kagan, Washington Post editor-at-large, wrote that after Trump wins the Republican nomination for president, as expected, “He will again become the central focus of everyone’s attention. Even today, the news media can scarcely resist following Trump’s every word and action.” Indeed, he dominates the print and broadcast media without the nomination.

Consider the following example: One of Trump’s attorneys, John Lauro, appeared on all five major political talk shows during one weekend. At an average of 15 minutes for each interview, he received an hour and 15 minutes of free time to defend Trump on his legal woes.

In his appearance, Lauro told us that a “technical violation of the Constitution,” is not a crime, adding that when Trump asked numerous officials to overturn the election, he was not pressuring them but he was being aspirational. He said all this with a straight face.

I understand that some invited him to the shows, to “trip him up.” It ain’t gonna happen. For all his shortcomings, Lauro is no dummy; he knows exactly what will be asked, he has his talking points, and, most important, the objective is simply to be on the air. He wins as soon as interviews begin.

Of course, Trump’s defense deserves to be covered but a one-two minute summary of Lauro’s arguments would have been sufficient.

Elsewhere in the Trump media world, do we need news stories with film every time Trump appears behind a podium to call the latest charge against him a “witch hunt?” According to Trump, we have had more witch hunts than they had in Salem in the 1690s. I think I remember that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt as was the Stormy Daniels scandal, the January 6 committee hearings and the…

One more point:  Trump sucks up all the political air time on TV. Thus, there is little time to cover Joe Biden and his policies -- good or bad. Even a sitting president cannot break through the Trump-controlled news cycle.

The worst part?  The coverage is not going to change. Trump makes good copy (and he knows it) and the more sensational and uglier his remarks, the better.

In 2021, three years ago, Kyle Pope wrote in a Columbia Journalism Review essay titled “Our Damned Trump Fixation” that: “For too long, political journalism has listened mainly to the loudest talkers.

It’s time, finally, to hear from other voices.”

And, to that, let us say: e-i-e-i-o.  

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Berl Falbaum is a long time political reporter and author.

Black law (history) matters

February 22 ,2024

As we recognize the struggle and celebrate the progress of Black people in America this month, it is important to trace the evolution of landmark cases and decisions that have forged a not-so-linear path toward equality. From the Dred[ful] Scott decision in 1857 where the Supreme Court held that the rights guaranteed under the Constitution did not extend to African Americans to striking down affirmative action in education only last summer, the high court has perpetuated turbulent rather than steady progress for Black America.
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A. Vince Colella

As we recognize the struggle and celebrate the progress of Black people in America this month, it is important to trace the evolution of landmark cases and decisions that have forged a not-so-linear path toward equality. From the Dred[ful] Scott decision in 1857 where the Supreme Court held that the rights guaranteed under the Constitution did not extend to African Americans to striking down affirmative action in education only last summer, the high court has perpetuated turbulent rather than steady progress for Black America.

Up until the turn of the 20th century, the Supreme Court seemed complicit in the oppression of Black people in America. In 1883, the Supreme Court struck down — as unconstitutional — the first Civil Rights Act of 1875. It would be another 82 years (post reconstruction) before Congress would pass the modern Civil Rights Act of 1957. In 1896, a marginalized Black America took another blow from the Supremes when it held in Plessy v Ferguson that “segregation” is legal so long as it is “equal.” The decision did not draw protests or public outcry.  However, it sowed the seeds of division for many years to follow.

Favorable race-based precedence gathered steam in the early to mid-1900s when the Supreme Court rendered decisions in several key cases. In Powell v Alabama, the Supreme Court recognized the rights of 9 young Black men accused of raping two white women, to be represented by counsel and “in some circumstances” to be informed of their Fourth Amendment rights and to confront their accusers. A few years later, in Shelley v Kraemer, the justices ruled that a court may not constitutionally enforce a “restrictive covenant” to prevent people of a “certain race” from owning or occupying property. These decisions and the evolving socially conscious ideology of the country’s high court finally gave way to the celebrated 1954 decision in Brown v Board of Education in Topeka reversing Plessy and holding segregation [in public education] is a denial of the “equal protection” in laws. And rounding out the “baby boomer” era, the Supreme Court issued two important decisions recognizing the rights of minorities to equal protection under the law. First, in Heart of Atlanta Hotel (1964) the court held that a motel had no right "to select its guests as it sees fit, free from governmental regulation.” Secondly, in Loving v Virginia (1967) the prohibition on interracial marriages was determined to be unconstitutional.

However, the feeling of “one step forward and two steps back” was ever present when the Supreme Court decided Regents of University of California v Bakke in 1978. In this case, the court held that a university’s admission criteria using race as a definite and exclusive basis for an admissions decision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision marked a significant setback for minorities who did not have the privileges of White applicants. However, in 2023 the Supreme Court delt a deathblow to affirmative action in education when it held in Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard that any race-based policy on admissions impermissibly violated the Constitution, a decision that will likely substantially reduce the number of minorities being admitted to colleges throughout the country.

While not of precedential significance from a jurisprudence perspective, the fatal shooting of George Floyd poured gas on the flames of race-based bias and growing concerns over the brutal treatment of Black men in the United States. Despite the obvious nature of the crime, Americans tuned into the trial of Derek Chauvin with the anticipation of a potential miscarriage of justice.  The fear of a violent backlash prompted the deployment of military forces to Minneapolis as jurors “deliberated” over a murder that the country witnessed for themselves. While the guilty verdict provided a sigh of collective relief from the public, an uncomfortable question cast a shadow over the result: “Are there two systems of justice in America; one for Whites the other for Blacks?”

In the aftermath of the trial, the George Floyd “Justice in Policing” Act was introduced into the legislature. The bill addressed a wide range of policies and issues regarding police practices and law enforcement accountability. However, the legislation did not advance in the Senate and collapsed in 2021. The failure of the Act in Congress came on the heels of the Supreme Court declining the opportunity to abolish “qualified immunity” even with the support of Clarence Thomas, who questioned the validity of the defense doctrine under the §1983.  

This month is a time for thoughtful reflection on the egregious challenges Black people have faced in their quest for racial equality. While at times, it may feel as though we have made strides in the battle against systematic racism, these cases demonstrate that the law has failed, at times, to keep pace with social change.


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A. Vince Colella is a co-founder of personal injury and civil rights law firm Moss & Colella.

Post-World War II era set the stage for societal change

February 22 ,2024

This is the fourth commentary in a series examining two periods  that Donald Trump claims were “great.”
:  
Samuel Damren

This is the fourth commentary in a series examining two periods  that Donald Trump claims were “great.”

It was “boom times” in America during the post-World War II period. However, not to dampen the congratulatorymood, we should recognize that America enjoyed a competitive edge on a scale that no modern nation has ever before enjoyed.  

Starting in late 1942, American and British planes spent nearly three years bombing our industrial manufacturing competition in Nazi-controlled Europe and later in Japanese-controlled Asia to rubble. As a consequence, during the decade and a half following the war, American industry operated without competitive rivals. It was little wonder that the economy flourished.

There are other parallels between today’s economy and the economy of post-World War II America: inflation caused by pent-up demand.

Economists were not surprised by the recent spike in inflation following the cessation of COVID restrictions and the opening of markets in 2021. The same episodic spike occurred after World War II and the Korean War when markets were freed from wartime priorities and controls.

Inflation spiked to 20 percent in 1947 and to 10 percent in 1952. Both quickly dissipated just as the annual inflation rate spiked at 7 percent in 2021 and now is only 3.4 percent.

Additional forms of pent-up demand affected American life during the initial post-war era. Millions of individuals outside our borders sought refuge from a world destroyed by conflict, persecution, and mass murder.

Based on the 1890 census, the Immigration Act of 1924 established a National Origins Formula which limited immigration from foreign countries both in gross number and tied to the percentage of Americans that shared the same race, ethnicity or country of origin as prospective immigrant groups.

The selection of the 1890 census purposefully skewed preferences to strongly favor WASP immigration by ignoring the 14 million immigrants to the country between 1890 and 1920 from non-English speaking countries in Europe as well as longstanding historical limitations on Asian immigrants.

The restrictive policies contained in the 1924 Act coupled with a protective Congress severely limited the United States response to refugees fleeing Nazi and Japanese tyranny in the years leading up to and during the war.

Given post-war support for returning GIs and for the admission of their wartime brides, fiancées, and family members as well as the desperate circumstances faced by millions residing in “Displaced Persons” camps in Europe, America did make adjustments. They were modest and far from meeting the need, but it was a start.  

These types of policy adjustments would become a re-occurring theme during the1950s to address a variety of social issues.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Americans had an insatiable thirst to “get on with their lives” and make up for the four years of opportunities and hopes that had been side-tracked or lost.

Government policies supported individuals’ efforts “to get on with their lives” and together created the American middle-class. Specific policies included the GI Bill supporting education, funding for the interstate highway system, and the continuation of high rates of income taxation instituted during World War II.

These policies and efforts along with the increased influence of labor unions in raising wages for working families all contributed to the rise of the modern American middle-class.

The war effort – requiring “all hands-on deck” – also demonstrated to minorities, women, and the underclasses that their contributions had made a significant difference. In the decades to follow, those groups began to push back against male WASP-dominated American society.

The momentum for social change that started in 1950s through the de-segregation of the military and the beginnings of de-segregation in public schools would later explode in the dramatic Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and gain further momentum in the 1970s Feminist Movement.  

This series originated from Nikki Haley’s observation that racism was a lot worse when she was growing up in the 1970s than it is today. Her criticism of 1970s era racism applies with all the more force to the 1950s and the same can be said for a host of other social issues.  

One of the many achievements of the Civil Rights Movement was the passage of The Immigration Act of 1965 which eliminated the National Origins Formula contained in the 1924 Act and allowed Nikki Haley’s parents and tens of thousands of other Asians to immigrate to America.

No one expects MAGA Republicans to model income tax rates on the levels of the 1950s, improve race relations, or offer meaningful assistance to displaced immigrants of color. That has never been part of the MAGA agenda. There is a political playbook from the 1950s that Donald Trump unerringly embraces which has served as a model for his political career since its inception.

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Samuel Damren is an attorney and author in Ann Arbor,

Special Counsel inserts himself unnecessarily in ’24 campaign

February 22 ,2024

The warped political spirit of James Brien Comey, Jr. lives on.
:  
Berl Falbaum

The warped political spirit of James Brien Comey, Jr. lives on.

He has been reincarnated in the person of Robert Kyoung Hur, the U.S. special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to investigate Joe Biden’s handling of classified materials after leaving the vice presidency.
First, some relevant political history.

In 2016, Comey, as FBI director, was investigating the use of private emails by Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state.  At the time of the investigation, she was the Democratic presidential candidate running against the Republican Donald Trump.  She was the hands-down favorite to win.

 In July, Comey announced that the FBI found no criminality on the part of Clinton, stating that there was no evidence that Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information. Thus, charges were not warranted.

But on October 28, 2016, just 11 days before the November 8 election, when Comey dropped a bombshell by writing to Congress that he was reopening the Clinton investigation. Then, just a few days before the vote, he again exonerated Clinton.

However, the damage was done and many, including Clinton, believed Comey cost her the presidency.

Now, fast forward some 7 ½ years and we have Hur, repeating Comey’s political sabotage, in his year-long investigation of Biden.

In his 350-page report last week, Hur concluded that “no criminal charges are warranted in this matter.” Biden’s action did not establish criminality beyond a reasonable doubt, he maintained.

Despite this conclusion, Hur added that the investigation "uncovered evidence that Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.”

The materials included “marked classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, and notebooks containing Mr. Biden's handwritten entries about issues of national security and foreign policy implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”

Hur said FBI agents recovered the materials from "the garages, offices, and basement den in Mr. Biden's Wilmington, Delaware home."

Fair enough. Those are acceptable and important facts about the investigation. If only Hur had left it there.

For whatever reason, Hur abandoned his legal examination and added, inexplicably, hard-heartedly and unnecessarily, that Biden is a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and it would have been “difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him…of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

Apparently unable to stop himself, Hur added that Biden’s memory was “significantly limited” and his “memory appeared lazy.” He said Biden demonstrated “diminished faculties and faulty memory.”

If that were not enough, with insensitivity that is hard to comprehend, and seemingly wanting to cause the president pain, Hur wrote gratuitously:

“He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died."

(Beau Biden died at 46 of brain cancer in 2015.)

Even in the no-holds barred nature of national politics, this went beyond the pale.  Hur did not offer legal reasoning for his conclusion not to charge Biden. Instead, he based his decision on a political rationale, and an ugly one at that.

New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman, obviously angry, wrote that to imply Biden suffers some mental deterioration because he could not remember the year his son died in the midst of a world crisis (Gaza) is “disgusting.” One letter writer to The Times called it a “political hit job.”

Biden, enraged and emotional, responded at a hastily called press conference just hours after the report’s release to the public.

In remarks that surely touched any parent and anyone with a sense of humanity and decency, the president, close to tears, said:

"How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it was none of their damn business.

“Every Memorial Day we hold a service remembering him, attended by friends and family and the people who loved him. I don't need anyone to remind me when he passed away.”

The president pointed out that he still wears a rosary on his wrist which belonged to his late son. He appeared to choke up.

The GOP, of course, wasted no time exploiting Hur’s report, endlessly quoting Hur on Biden’s alleged diminished mental acuity. And, we can expect the report to be cited in political advertising when the expected Biden-Trump rematch takes off later this year. Trump and his loyalists are not exactly known for compassion.

Perhaps Hur was never able to purge himself of Trumpism politics.  After all, he was appointed by Trump to oversee one of the largest U.S. Attorney's offices in the nation as the chief federal law enforcement officer in Maryland from 2018 to 2021.

Regrettably, Biden should have waited to respond until he had his emotions under control.  At the press conference, he gave his critics more ammunition when, discussing the Hamas-Israel war, he mistakenly referred to the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, as the president of Mexico.

The good news? The controversy will probably fade -- at least somewhat -- as the campaign heats up although we can be confident that Republicans will do all it can to keep the Hur report before the electorate. Also, while the Comey crisis occurred just 11 days before the election, we still have nine months before this year’s vote.

However, we can be confident of the following: Hur will take his place, next to Comey, in the infested swamps of American presidential campaign history.

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Berl Falbaum is a long time political reporter and author.

Israeli leader’s ouster remains long overdue

February 15 ,2024

It is time for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign or be removed from office.
:  
Berl Falbaum

It is time for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign or be removed from office.

Why? If for no other reason that he apparently never heard of the fable about the turtle and the scorpion. To explain:

On a shore, a scorpion implores a turtle to let him sit on its shell as the turtle swims across the river.  When the turtle expresses concern about the scorpion poisoning him with a deadly sting, the deadly predator promises he will not harm the turtle.

The turtle agrees but halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the turtle which slowly, in agony, begins to die.

“Why did you do this?” asks the turtle. “It isn’t logical. Now we both die because you can’t swim.”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” replies the scorpion. “This is what I do. It is in my character.”

Netanyahu made a deal relating to Hamas -- the scorpion -- which led to the deadly sting, a war from which neither side will come out a winner, no matter how it ends.

Specifically, Netanyahu and his government, secretly approved -- although it was widely discussed -- millions of dollars in payments to Hamas from Qatar, money which was supposed to be used for government services but not for building 300-400 miles of tunnels for warfare.  

According to public reports summarized in The New York Times (Netanyahu denies them), he said that it was important to keep Hamas strong as a counterweight to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Such a strategy, the prime minister believed, would ease the pressure on him to negotiate a Palestinian state.

Dmitry Shumsky, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote that Netanyahu pursued a policy of “diplomatic paralysis” to avoid negotiations with the Palestinians over a two-state solution which is opposed by the right.

Shumsky said that Netanyahu’s mistaken strategy turned Hamas from “a minor terrorist group into an efficient, lethal army with bloodthirsty killers who mercilessly slaughtered innocent Israeli civilians.”

Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, told the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in 2013 -- in 2013 -- that "if we look at it over the years, one of the main people contributing to Hamas's strengthening has been Bibi Netanyahu, since his first term as prime minister."

So, as might have been predicted, Hamas, the scorpion, inflicted its deadly sting October 7 because that is what it does in order to live up to its charter’s credo:  Destroy Israel. It is in its character. Now, Netanyahu, who supported the payments to Hamas from Qatar, in a leaked recording, labeled Qatar “problematic,” further straining relationships.

If that were not enough to get rid of Netanyahu consider how he is alienating Israel’s closest ally -- the United States.  

He responds to each call for moderation in the war by President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken with hostility and angry, non-compromising language and behavior.

Even if he disagrees, he might do so with more diplomacy and respect for a U.S. president who has shown commendable patience in the face of Netanyahu’s petulance.

The prime minister displayed the same disrespect for President Barack Obama when, in 2015, he bypassed the president and gave a speech before Congress in which he disagreed with Obama’s policy pertaining to a nuclear Iran.

Despite Netanyahu’s insults -- and they are insults -- Biden had maintained his overall support of Israel in the war, but that cannot last forever. The pressure on Biden to be more “balanced” continues to grow and it would not be surprising for the president to change course and increase his criticism of Israel and do so on the world diplomatic stage.

Netanyahu has hinted that Israel does not need the U.S. to defend itself and he is wrong on that has well. The loss of sharing important intelligence and the financial aid Israel receives from the U.S. are vital blood lines.
Netanyahu might also consider that, presently, Israel does not have many friends in the world.

Finally, for this column, on why Netanyahu needs to resign or be ousted, are his efforts to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court.  

His controversial judicial reform proposal brought tens of thousands of protestors to the streets in Israel every week.  The proposed law would give the Knesset (Parliament) the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions which critics charge undermines Israel’s democracy and separation of powers doctrine which, while Israel has no constitution, operates similarly to ours.  

In January, the Supreme Court ruled against the proposed new law, writing, the change would have caused "severe and unprecedented harm to the core characteristics of Israel as a democratic state.” It is not clear how Netanyahu plans to proceed.)

Many believed that Netanyahu proposed judicial reform to protect himself from conviction of corruption charges for allegedly taking gifts from beneficiaries in exchange for favorable treatment from his government. (He denies the charges.)

The firestorm over judicial reform may also have caused Netanyahu’s government to take its “eye off the ball” and not recognize how Hamas was planning for war. Israel’s military and intelligence agencies had collected evidence of Hamas’s plans for the October 7 attack. Some of Hamas’s training was conducted just a few hundred yards from the Gaza-Israeli border.

But no one acted on it. As a result, Hamas was able to sharpen its stinger and Netanyahu failed badly in protecting the state from the scorpion’s deadly venom.

Not only did Netanyahu trust an inherently untrustworthy predator, but he failed to develop an antidote. Thus, he needs to leave office -- one way or another.


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Berl Falbaum is a long time political reporter and author.

A ‘model’ decade it was not, by any stretch of reason

February 15 ,2024

This is the third commentary in a series examining two periods in our history Donald Trump claims were “great” compared to the present era: 1900–10; and the post-World War II era through the 1950s. 
:  
Samuel Damren

This is the third commentary in a series examining two periods in our history Donald Trump claims were “great” compared to the present era: 1900–10; and the post-World War II era through the 1950s.  

The second commentary compared the absence of women’s rights, a social safety net, government oversight of working conditions, severe limitations on educational opportunities, and the rampant racism 1900–10 compared to today’s laws and policies..

The comparison of additional factors in this commentary will strengthen the conclusion that the decade cannot serve a model to “Make America Great Again.”

The economy was booming in 1900-10, but no more so than it is today. The “Gilded Age” consolidated disproportionate wealth in 1 percent of the population just as it has today.

However, unlike today, there was no middle class. Eleven out of 12 American families lived in poverty.  Approximately 12 percent of Americans live in poverty today.

In 1900-10, some 46 percent of Americans owned a home. The figure is deceptive because the vast majority of homes were in rural areas and (to be kind) modest.  In urban settings, most Americans rented and (to be accurate) lived in slums.

Today’s prospective homeowners feel burdened by excessive mortgage interest rates. However, securing affordable financing to purchase a home in 1900-10 was simply impossible. Borrowers were required to make a 50 percent down payment and pay off the principal balance in 5 to 6 years.

Government loan support through FHA and Fannie Mae did not exist until the late 1930s. Those programs, bolstered by the creation of Freddie Mac in 1970, made affordable mortgage financing available to the hundreds of millions of Americans who now own homes.

Immigration policy, the incendiary issue of 2024 politics, was vastly different in the decade of 1900-10.  But not in the way you suspect.

The borders were essentially open to all immigrants who could pay an immigration charge upon entry and were not suffering from contagious disease.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service did not exist.  

From 19-10, roughly 9 million immigrants were naturalized in the United States and increased the country’s population to 92 million. The sheer number of immigrants was amazing. By 1910, nearly one out of every 10 Americans had immigrated to the country during the prior decade.

If that rate of immigration were applied today, 33 million Americans out of the current population of 335 million would have been naturalized from 2012-22. The actual number is 8 million; roughly one out of every 40 Americans.

A majority of the immigrants in 1900-10 were non-English speaking economic refugees from eastern and southern Europe. One might speculate that because the immigrants were white, they were welcomed.

That supposition would be wrong.

Instead, so-called “nativists” publicly denounced the newcomers as immoral brutes, dumb, and criminal. If Catholic, then based on the bigoted assumption that they would place loyalty to the Pope above allegiance to America, nativists portrayed immigrants as security threats.

In fervent opposition to today’s immigrants, MAGA Republicans use the same playbook to impugn people of color and Muslims.

Reliable crime statistics do not exist for the decade 1900-10. The FBI did not come into existence until 1908 with 34 agents in total. Many crimes on the “books” today were either not crimes in 1900-10, went unreported or were not charged.  For example, marital rape was not a crime; child abuse was  seldom reported.

Race riots of the era involved white mobs attacking blacks, including the Wilmington Massacre of 1898 in North Carolina where a white mob murdered black elected officials and took over city government in a coup d’etat.

Based on the historical record, it is hard to understand why anyone would claim that the decade 1900-10 could possibly serve as a model to “Make America Great Again.”

But it depends on perspective. When Trump assesses the benefits of the era, he is thinking how Americans like him, rich business elites, were treated then and what liberties they enjoyed compared to the present day.

Rigorous financial and banking regulation did not exist in 1900-10. Many prominent judges and elites endorsed the “laissez-faire” approach to business long championed by Justice Stephan Field in the late 19th century. Some went so far as to regard government regulation as the confiscation of property rights.

Trump’s attitude toward the financial fraud case presided over by Judge Arthur Engoron in New York is emblematic of that mindset.  

Trump remains angered that any court should oversee his business practices. As to misrepresentations in loan applications, he asserts the banks were on notice to perform their own due diligence. As a consequence, and New York statutes notwithstanding, there was no obligation for him to be accurate or truthful.

Trump displayed the same Gilded Age attitude to the court and E. Jean Carroll in her recent defamation case.

From Trump’s perspective, Carroll was and is a person of “no account” who lacks  standing to hold him “to account” for allegations he “vigorously and strongly”denies. It was and is Trump’s position that his denial should have ended the case before it ever commenced.

As a person of “stature and wealth,” Trump also believed and believes that once the trial commenced he was entitled to provide testimony when he desired, regarding whatever issues he chose and without the constraint of rules and procedures that apply to others

.It was inconceivable to Trump that such deference was not fully accorded him by the trial judge.