Andy Rosenthal, 19 julio 2016 / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Way back in 1992, people were shocked when Pat Buchanan hijacked President George H. W. Bush’s re-election convention in Houston to declare war on those who didn’t share his right-wing Christian values.
“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America,” he said. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”
Buchanan was right in a way. That cultural and religious war has come to define American politics, for the worse. His speech showed the depths to which the Republican Party had fallen in practicing the dark art of the politics of fear and division. But the Republicans, it turned out, had a lot farther to fall.
This week, I felt almost nostalgic for kinder, gentler Pat Buchanan as the Republicans opened a national convention that has adopted the most right-wing platform in history and will soon anoint the most unqualified candidate for president in memory.
For President Bush in 1992, fear and division were a sideshow. Now they are the main event.
On the convention’s opening night, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, gave a speech that was raw anger and hatred. Giuliani’s tirade swamped whatever Trump hoped to accomplish by having his wife talk about what a wonderful guy he is.
Waving his arms and shouting frequently, Giuliani declared: “We must not be afraid to define our enemy. It is Islamic extremist terrorism.”
The former mayor, who has turned the tragedy of Sept. 11 into a career, was picking up on a favorite Republican theme — that not using the phrase he used or an alternative, “radical Islamic terrorism,” somehow suggests a lack of commitment to combating terrorism.
It’s absurd, of course, but the idea is to attack the “other” and still claim there is no bigotry in doing so.
“Failing to identify them properly maligns decent Muslims around the world,” Giuliani said, without explaining how, exactly. “It also sets up a fear of being politically incorrect that can have serious consequences.”
Trump likes to make the same claim that people who object to his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, women and others are being “politically correct.” That is not political correctness. It is calling out bigotry and racism for what they are.
Giuliani attacked Hillary Clinton over the Obama administration’s decision to help depose the Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. He said, rightly, that Libya is now in chaos. But he conveniently left out that President George W. Bush’s decision to wage war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq was the gigantic blunder that set up most of the subsequent horrors in that part of the world.
Giuliani’s speech led nowhere in terms of actual policies or ideas, only to this rather chilling statement: “If they are at war against us — which they have declared — we must commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them.”
I can think of a couple of conditions: Basic human decency and traditional American democratic values.
Giuliani’s speech was effective. It whipped up the crowd in the convention hall and, no doubt, Trump supporters watching on television.
It just would have been better delivered from a balcony, or at the head of a torch-bearing mob.
Andrew Rosenthal is an op-ed columnist for The Times