Goodman: The targeting of journalists has to end

At Least 5 Killed In Shooting At Annapolis Capital-Gazette Newspaper
ANNAPOLIS, MD: Today’s edition of the the Capital Gazette for sale on a newspaper stand. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When I first heard reports of gunfire at a Maryland newsroom, my immediate thought was: all that journalist-hatred that’s going around. It’s caught up with us.

Admit it, you thought that, too.

The thundering from the president of the United States, calling journalists “the enemy of the people.” The finger-pointing at the writers and camera people in the pens at the back of his rallies, the crowd turning around to spew vitriol at the people who report the news.

The wish expressed, just days ago, by alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopolous, in a text message: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight” – which he’s now calling a joke.

It turned out that the man who killed five and wounded several others at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis was someone with a longstanding grudge against the paper. He had been convicted of harassing a woman who had been a high school classmate. When a Capital Gazette columnist wrote about the case, he unsuccessfully sued the paper for defamation and began harassing it – including making online threats to writers and editors.

Every newsperson can imagine this happening. Every newsroom has unbalanced people like this in its orbit. When I worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1980s and ‘90s, we called them “wackjobs” — almost affectionately, as if to kid away the latent threats they represented — and we had a long list of them.

What’s different now is, today’s wackjobs have the models of mass shooters to go by. The Annapolis shooter, if he didn’t think Parkland or Pulse sufficient, had the example of the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, where two brothers attached to an Al Qaeda group shot 12 people to death for the crime of satire.

And because mass shootings are a contagion, we must assume this will happen again. There cannot be a newsroom in America that, upon hearing word of shots fired at a newspaper, did not immediately begin reassessing its security. Yes, that includes our own.

An undated photo provided by the newspaper shows Rob Hiaasen, an editor and a features columnist for The Capital in Annapolis, Md.
Rob Hiaasen

And there cannot be a newspaper in America where it did not feel as though members of your family have died. At some important level, all of us in this business feel connected, especially those of us who have retained our love and commitment to it for some years. I did not know the Annapolis victims personally, although anyone who worked at The Palm Beach Post 20 years ago has fond memories of Rob Hiaasen, whose personality was brought to life Thursday in a beautiful, mournful column by an old friend, Frank Cerabino.

Yet these losses feel personal.

We have become so used to mass shootings in this country – we alone among advanced nations – that we usually feel little more than weariness when absorbing the news of yet another one. It’s different when the victims are much like you. Just as no student or parent feels the same degree of security after schools are turned to battlefields and children to casualties, so today does no American journalist feel as safe as we did before colleagues were slaughtered Thursday in their workplace.

And in the background, I keep hearing that hum: “Fake news.” “They lie.” “They make up sources.”

Today President Trump, in a show of sympathy for the Capital Gazette victims, said, “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free of the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

The gall.

This is a man who, using the biggest podium in the world, tears relentlessly into the honesty and patriotism of the reporters and news outlets whose job is to fulfill the ideal of uncovering and telling the truth.

And because the truth is often unflattering and threatening to this man, he has waged a three-year war against the credibility of journalists, just as he attacks the credibility of an independent judiciary, the FBI and members of Congress he can’t bring to heel.

No one has inflamed the present atmosphere more than he, this man who occupies the highest office in our land. He has set a tone which he feeds at every rally and almost every day on Twitter.

I am not blaming him for Thursday’s tragedy in Annapolis. But I do charge him with injecting a sense of hatred into the soul of this nation that journalists do not deserve and which — in a country with more guns than people — may all too easily turn into bloodshed.

All over social media, journalists have been sharing their thoughts. Some of the best came from a Sun Sentinel reporter, Ben Crandell, a former colleague of mine. On Facebook he wrote:

“There is not much money to be made as a reporter at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. There is no glamour, no prestige. There is only the benefit of knowing that they helped inform their neighbors about things they need to know, entertained them with a story they hadn’t heard, made them chuckle, or shed some light on the pivotal play that won the big game at the high school.

“There is no fake news at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. It would take too much time. Reporters there are only good at what they’ve been trained to do: Ask the questions readers would want asked, collect information, confirm the facts, discard information that cannot be confirmed, snap the facts together into a story that fairly represents what they’ve seen and heard, and submit the story to an editor, maybe several, who reconfirms the facts before publication.

“If there has been a mistake in one of their stories, they write an explanation with the correct information so it can be published on the website and in a prominent spot in the next day’s paper.

“And then they go home to coach the volleyball team, care for an ailing loved one, do military reserve training, volunteer at the church, see a band, drink a beer, cut the grass. They are not just like you – they are you.”

Should the U.S. rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

WEST PALM BEACH: President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe on Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport for a weekend together at Mar-a-Lago resort on Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, coming back to Palm Beach for talks with President Trump Tuesday, it’s a good time to ask if the U.S. should rejoin the multi-country trade agreement.

In a head-spinner of a reversal, Trump on Thursday said he was looking into rejoining the TPP. Tearing up the pact was one  of his bedrock campaign promises and first acts as president.

Back then, he denounced the deal as “a rape of our country.” But now many farmers, business people and Republican lawmakers are worried about threats of tariffs and trade barriers.

Trump made the comment to a gathering of farm-state lawmakers and governors, so maybe this was mind-boggling idea that evaporates as soon as the intended audience leaves the room, like the time he seemed to side with Democrats on DACA or that moment when he embraced universal background checks on gun purchases.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, forged during the Obama administration, was to unite 12 countries,  representing 40 percent of the world’s economic output, in a trading bloc. The hope was to strengthen economic ties by slashing tariffs and writing policies and regulations — and to counter China’s dominance in Asia.

Critics on the left, as well as Trump-supporting nationalists, assailed the pact as costing U.S. jobs and said it was developed with too little transparency.

So what do you think? Is the U.S. better off outside the TPP? Or should we get back in?

Goodman: In Boynton, tempers flare as the Trump Effect takes hold

Boynton Beach Commissioner Christina Romelus. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

The Trump Effect is playing out in Boynton Beach, and it’s not pretty.

With fears of deportation on the rise in immigrant communities, first-term city commissioner, Christina Romelus, suggested that Boynton declare itself a sanctuary city. The idea was quickly shot down by the City Commission.

But some residents were so incensed at Romelus for suggesting the idea, they demanded that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.

Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots demanding her ouster.

“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told The Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”

She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”

Romelus said she has no intention of resigning.

Good. She offers a point of view that needs to be heard.

And yes, this subject does merit attention. Let’s put the attention where it belongs: on President Donald J. Trump and the animosities and vitriol he has unleashed with his appeals to racism and xenophobia, ugly currents of American life that are usually held in check by a general sense of restraint, respect and decency.

Take sanctuary cities. This is a concept that’s been around since the 1980s, most famously when San Francisco declared itself a “City of Refuge,” claiming the moral high ground with the argument that asylum-seekers should be shielded from shortsighted federal law enforcement. Some 300 cities, states and counties now consider themselves sanctuary cities, largely on practical grounds: they don’t want immigrants and their families to be scared of relying on local police. And so they limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The republic has seemed to get along well enough with this state of affairs, despite efforts in the 2008 primaries by Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, and Mitt Romney to crank it into a campaign issue.

But these politicians didn’t have Trump’s gifts for drawing attention, slinging invective, devising phrases that stick in the brain, and using a single horrifying fatal shooting in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican to represent the whole of cities’ tolerance for illegal immigration.

Take a look at how the phrase “sanctuary city” spiked in Google searches after Trump made it a campaign issue. The chart’s timeline starts in 2004. Curiosity about the subject was minimal until June 2015. That’s the month when the billionaire real estate developer/showman declared for the presidency, telling us about the Mexican “rapists” sneaking over the border.

Since winning the White House, Trump and his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have placed a crackdown on sanctuary cities high on their agenda. And now it’s a boiling issue, the very mention of which is seen as grounds for impeaching a city commissioner.

Such are the heightened animosities in the United States under a president who speaks of “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville, Virginia, confrontation between neo-Nazis and people protesting neo-Nazis. Now, reprehensible views are free to roam — such as those of Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, one of the Boynton Beachers who called for Romelus to resign.

Cindy Falco-DiCorrado at the Dec. 5 Boynton Beach City Commission meeting. (Photo handout: Adam Wasserman)

According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him at a meeting this month to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”

Falco-DiCorrado says she was misconstrued, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”

Her denials would be more convincing if she didn’t have a Facebook page that, according to Post columnist Frank Cerabino, is filled with tripe, including a post that reads: “If you agree that racism is no longer an actual threat in this country, but a strategy that the Democrats and Liberals use to secure black votes = SHARE!!”

And her attitudes would be less significant if she weren’t a member of Boynton’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.

Now it’s being asked why someone with her views should advise an agency that aims to improve neighborhoods with large minority populations. Vice Mayor Justin Katz asked her this week to resign. She returned his email with a no.

The City Commission seems sure to take up the question at its meeting next Tuesday. Mulligan says, “We will keep pressing on until the City Commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”

Falco-DiCorrado insists she’s no racist but is now, herself, the victim of a “lynch mob” that’s harassing her with emails.

And so, welcome to Boynton Beach, where nerves are frayed, tensions are rising, and in no way can it be said that Boynton Beach is winning. Or being made great again.

What we need is a way to talk about these differences with a whole lot less anger. But we’re not going to have that with a president who sets a tone of disparagement toward minorities and pushes the buttons of white resentment every time he talks to his “base.”

The bully pulpit has become a pulpit that bolsters bullies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodman: Trump tweets on ‘bleeding’ ‘Crazy Mika’. Can the president please act like one?

Joe Scarborough, right, and Mika Brzezinski host MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” at NBC Studios in New York on April 14, 2010. (Michael Nagle/The New York Times)

It was just two weeks ago that a shooter with a rifle wounded a Republican congressmen on a baseball field, and pleas went out, from Republicans, Democrats and everyone else, to tamp down the hateful rhetoric.

Today, we have the president of the United States lashing out at a TV news team with undisguised rage, unmistakable sexism and intolerable vitriol.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump lit into Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough (“Psycho Joe”) and Mika Brzezinski (“low I.Q. Crazy Mika”), suggesting that he had seen the latter at Mar-a-Lago on New Year’s Eve “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

Thankfully, the backlash has been swift, the tweets being roundly denounced by Republicans as well as Democrats. The glaring exception: the White House itself. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemingly deaf to the ugliness of the president’s words, said, “This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media, and the liberal elites within the media.”

The June 14 shooting at an Alexandria, Va., park, which severely wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., elicited soul-searching prayers for more civility and unity in our increasingly fractious politics. Even Trump weighed in, after visiting Scalise in the hospital:

“Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room. “We’ve had a very, very divided country for many years, and I have a feeling that Steve has made a great sacrifice, but there could be some unity being brought to our country.” (CNN.com)

Today, we’re hearing much the same thing, but the catalyst isn’t some anonymous, disgruntled Midwesterner with a load of liberal resentments. It’s the leader of the free world. From earlier today:

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican whose vote is considered critical to the success of Mr. Trump’s health care plan, wrote on Twitter, “This has to stop.” She said, “We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also a Republican, wrote on Twitter, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” (New York Times)

We are accustomed to thinking that the occupant of the White House represents the highest standard of respectful discourse, if not always behavior.

It is jarring to realize that it is the rest of us who must school this president on how to act like a president.

Goodman: Trump’s travel ban betrays U.S. ideals, yet won’t keep nation safer

People protest against President Trump's ban on immigrants returning from a list of seven countries at the Palm Beach International Airport, Sunday, January 29, 2017. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
People protest against President Trump’s ban on immigrants returning from a list of seven countries at the Palm Beach International Airport, Sunday, January 29, 2017. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

We’re thrilled that more than 200 Palm Beach County citizens rushed to the airport Sunday to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from certain Muslim countries.

The overly broad and badly thought-through executive order, issued with sudden swiftness on Friday without consulting the government agencies that are supposed to interpret and enforce it, is billed as an essential tool against terrorism. In reality, it is dividing America against its allies and inflaming our radical-Islamic enemies.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat and former mayor of West Palm Beach, who joined the protest at Palm Beach International Airport, put it aptly:

“Lady Liberty is crying and ISIS is laughing,” she said.

We all want to reduce the threat of terrorism. But this temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen) is more of an emotional response to the threat than a logical one.

Since 9/11, none of the horrific attacks we’ve seen on American soil, such as the mass killing of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, has been committed by a migrant or a refugee, but by American citizens like Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, who was born in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

While Trump and his political adviser Stephen K. Bannon say the 120-day suspension is needed to review vetting procedures, the screening of Syrian refugees is already extensive — a process that takes 18 months to two years.

Trump’s executive order is a gift to his political base, to whom he promised muscular action against Islamic radicalism. But it is an intellectually-thin answer to a gnarly, difficult problem. Our suspicion is that it is a cynical tossing of red meat to Trump voters, rather than a serious effort to make America safer.

It is telling that Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the new secretary of defense, was not consulted during the formation of the order or given the chance to give input. Last summer, Mattis sharply criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration as a move “causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves through the international system.”

It is significant that tech-industry leaders, after months of cautiously engaging with the new president, attacked the travel ban. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp., Uber Technologies Inc. and other companies expressed concern about the immigration order’s effect on their employees, with some executives saying the ban violated their personal and company principles.

The ramifications of tighter immigration rules stretch from retail to finance to meat packing to construction. In Silicon Valley, which relies on skilled foreigners to fill key roles, the order resonates with prominent founders, executives and engineers, many of whom were also foreign-born.

The executive order is a betrayal of America’s traditions of openness, inclusion and opportunity for the world’s oppressed and the world’s talented. The order’s exceptions for Christian refugees veer ominously toward violating the First Amendment’s guarantee that the government will favor no religion over another.

The scores who braved the rain and an uncharacteristic Florida chill on Sunday to demand that America live up to those principles were standing in for millions of Americans who are refusing to sit by while this new administration attempts to lurch the ship of state in a dangerous, self-defeating, ultra-nationalist direction.

Be sure to take our poll above … and let us know what you think in the Comments section below.