Duterte’s war on Rappler, Trump’s state of the nation
After one year, Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte continue the race to win the prize “Most Formidable Denigrator of Democracy,” heretofore known as the MFDD.
In this neck and neck competition, Duterte might have the slight nod.
No matter how bad Trump gets, he’s not involved in any extrajudicial matters, killings or otherwise (at least, not that we know). Duterte is at least linked to that possibility still. Deaths are still deaths, despite Duterte’s deniability.
Now on top of that there’s this little matter of the freedom of the press in the Philippines, which is even more frightening.
What the Philippine government has done to the Rappler site is an unforgivable encroachment of democratic freedoms. The Philippine American Press Club has condemned the Philippine government’s Securities and Exchange Commission for revoking the license for the website to operate.
Rappler is a hard-hitting, newsy website that according to the government has violated the constitutional provision against foreign ownership of Philippine media.
Smarter than Trump, really. Instead of trying to discredit saying Rappler is “fake news,” the Philippine government used a small technicality about its investor information. While it is generally known that there has been money given to Rappler by non-Philippine interests, the SEC hastily went to shutdown mode without giving Rappler the chance to address any error.
Such swift justice is no justice at all, but the signs of an autocratic government eager to flex its muscle. Rappler’s example should send a chill throughout the Philippines and all people who value journalistic freedom.
It’s pretty transparent.
Shutting down Rappler is a step toward Marcos and martial law, which is only partial for now.
The Rappler incident shows how the truth can and will be stretched to shut down a loud and vocal government critic.
Who’s the “Enemy of the People?” It’s not Rappler.
From Rappler to Donald Trump’s real fake news
For you American Filipinos, don’t think you have it so easy.
In one year, Donald Trump has made it clear, eroding democracy is his personal mission.
Press freedoms? Fake news. FBI? Fake spies! Russian investigation? Fake! America’s Immigration values of the last 50 years? Fake! Build a wall, protect America!
It has been a rough year. But coming up to his first actual State of the Union address, we need the president to come clean. What the U.S. really needs for Trump isn’t a speech, but a confessional.
Did he attempt to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller at the start of the Russia investigation last summer? The president doesn’t deny it, and just says “fake news.”
But those who believe in the rule of law will require something more. Because as more news organizations confirm that Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller was halted by White House attorney Don McGahn, then we have a pathway to impeachment.
Was Trump’s intent to obstruct justice? What was Trump trying to hide by firing the Special Counsel to end the investigation into Russia’s influence in the Trump campaign? And what of the endless statements by Trump and his toadies that there was no attempt to fire Mueller?
A State of the Union Confessional. #SOTUC. That’s what we need.
But why stop there?
With the American public watching, Trump could also come clean on DACA. Discard the statement from a former Bannon lackey who has become the lead Trump whisperer.
A pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented Dreamers in exchange for a $25 billion Border Wall was the headline. But the plan strikes at the heart of American immigration values.
Family values are supposed to matter to conservative immigration hardliners. But this plan would end family visas for parents and siblings and restrict immigration to spouses and children.
It’s the way many of our Filipino Asian American families have been built for generations. In immigration terms, we don’t have family trees so much as a strong family unit in the multi-generational homes we build in America.
But in these hateful and xenophobic times, “chain migration” is seen as the devil’s work.
The new plan also pushes the parents of Dreamers deeper into the shadows. When Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA–the parent version of DACA) was blocked by the courts, undocumented parents had no recourse.
In this new Trump deal, kids stay, parents go home. Can you hear Reality Show Don say, “Goodbye?”
That’s the “rule of law” Trump believes in. His rules.
Maybe the State of the Union will give Trump a pathway to the truth.
But I doubt it.
That’s why it’s best if he just keeps it short. Short lies are better than long ones.
Maybe he should just address us in his preferred mode.
Imagine a “State of the Union Tweet.”
#SOTUT would be short, not necessarily sweet, yet somewhat kingly– at least the “tut” part. Very fitting for the “very stable genius” who is “like, really smart.”
The SOTU address I’d like to hear
Unfortunately, protocol and ego probably won’t allow Trump to skip his first real State of the Union address. (Last year’s technically was just a speech before the full Congress).
But if President Trump is honest on Tuesday (don’t hold your breath), he’d at least say these words:
“The state of the union is chaotic because I am a president the likes of which the world has never seen! I caused the shutdown. I promised to sign whatever came before me, but I am not a man of my word. So sue me. My word is still worth more than Stormy Daniels’ word, and my lawyers under a fake name paid her $130,000 to shut up. Did she? How can you trust a porn star?
“So we had a shutdown, but thank goodness the shutdown didn’t cause the cancellation of this speech. Because even when I gave last year’s speech, which wasn’t really a SOTU, I knocked it out of the park, 47 million viewers! Higher ratings than Obama!”
Fantasy? Then imagine Alec Baldwin playing DJT. There’s truth in satire.
Still, after the recent government shutdown, Trump in his first State of the Union address has a special opportunity to show real leadership.
Trump should acknowledge that all our rancorous issues on border security and DACA are fixable.
He could say something like, “It will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.
“A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything….But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
“Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency–that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
“But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task–or any President’s–alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.”
Trump could say that. If he stuck to the prompter.
But then he’d be plagiarizing President Obama, who said it first in his very last State of the Union in 2016.
Trump could also say he understands diversity and say he’s inspired by “voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word–voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
Why not? A few weeks ago, Trump talked about DACA being vital and his wanting to sign a “bill of love.”
Wouldn’t it be great if Trump talked about love in his first State of the Union. He could stop talking about the stock market rising, and focus instead of his rising hopes for all of us, the American people to come together as one.
Maybe Trump could describe a vision of an ideal American: “Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.”
Once again, those are all Obama’s words in his last SOTU.
What a difference an administration makes.
Obama’s words are exactly what the country needs to hear on Tuesday. Something to unite us all.
Sure, it would be great to hear that kind of rhetoric again: Hopeful, inclusive, forward-looking. Not about the stock market’s rise. But a deep message about how we as a nation are together as a people with a common purpose.
But that’s not what we’ll get from the Big Birther.
Because in Trumpland, division is seen as a virtue, which makes the state of the union chaotic.
Emil Guillermo,an award-winning journalist and commentator, is an Inquirer.net columnist based in North America. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/emilamok Listen to his podcasts at http://directory.libsyn.com/shows/view/id/emilamokstakeout