GOP Rhetoric Just Went from Clownish to Dangerous (Why We Need a Hillary Firewall)

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

UPDATE (11/23/15): From the Washington Post

Hillary Clinton is the most trusted 2016 candidate on terrorism.

A couple of weeks ago we noted that “a U.S. presidential election isn’t a political entertainment show – it is a vetting process that shapes our collective future, weeding out candidates who lack the vision, character, judgment, experience, knowledge or temperament to assume the monumental responsibilities of the presidency.”

For months, the Republican primary has teetered on the edge of the bizarre, from Ben Carson’s strange stabbing tales to Donald Trump’s billionaire bloviating. Democrats and the media have watched in awe, captivated by the spectacle of a political vetting process gone completely awry.

In the aftermath of a spate of terror attacks, that process has veered from the clownish to the downright dangerous. Just read these recent headlines: 

Donald Trump Says He Would Bring Back Waterboarding

Donald Trump Sets Off a Furor With Call to Register Muslims in the U.S. 

Jeb Bush: U.S. assistance for refugees should focus on Christians

Ted Cruz’s Religious Test for Syrian Refugees

Trump Says Falsely That New Jersey Arabs “Cheered” On 9/11

Rubio on the “political advantage” of terrorist attacks

We agree with the words of Senator Barbara Boxer and we suspect there are Republicans of goodwill who agree as well:

When Donald Trump said he would not rule out special identification cards for Muslims, I got the chills. It took me back to when I was a child, and I learned that Jews were forced by the Nazis to wear the Star of David on their clothing. 

And it isn't just Donald Trump. Ben Carson compared some Syrian refugees to "rabid" dogs. Chris Christie said he wouldn't let "even three-year-old orphans" into his state. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush said they support a religious test that would keep Muslim refugees out of the United States.

To say that much of this GOP rhetoric bears the stench of fascism is not an overstatement. The haters are making major inroads into the national consciousness. Religious registries, train cars full of undesirables heading for the border, the use of minority scapegoats and targeted violence – these shadows have clear outlines. 

While the Democratic primary race continues, we cannot help but feel that a single candidate in the race on either side is prepared to answer the call of these times and to stand against what appears to be a strain of American fascism rising in the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan. Simply put: Hillary is now America’s firewall, a voice of sanity, strength and wisdom that can head off the careening Republican Party.

Hillary is among the strongest non-incumbent candidates in modern political history, and certainly the most qualified. Although we believe that nominating her is now a political (and moral) imperative, it shouldn't be done at the expense of short-circuiting the Democratic primary process. We admire and respect Bernie Sanders and believe he has run a fair-minded race thus far. We look forward to hearing from voters rather than pundits and prognosticators.

That said, we forcefully reject the tactics of Martin O’Malley, whose personal, almost Trump-like attacks on Hillary, are unwarranted and deplorable.

Mired in the low single digits and running on fundraising fumes, O’Malley has gradually stepped up his cheap shot game against the candidate who is the odds on favorite to be the Democratic nominee. While we deeply respect the right of anyone to seek public office and honor the tradition of fair and principled political contests, we cannot ignore the growing nastiness from the O’Malley camp, and the sense of desperation that seems to be motivating his increasingly vitriolic and false attacks on his party's frontrunner.

Standing against the hatred and un-American values being touted on the Republican side, do Democrats like O’Malley really want to score cheap points that enlighten no one? These attacks show up gleefully on Drudge, in the feeds of right-wing Koch-funded PACs like America Rising, and on anti-Hillary talk shows like MSNBC’s Morning Joe. If there’s a place where O’Malley’s jibes actually are popular, it’s in those precincts.

We look back to what O’Malley said about Hillary in 2008: "Hillary Clinton is the kind of experienced leader this country needs. No one is better equipped to repair America's alliances abroad and address the urgent needs of our communities at home."

We agree.

The stakes are high. It’s time for Democrats (and all Americans) to acknowledge that Republicans have moved past entertainment and into incitement, past reason and into irrationality, past caution and into fear-mongering.

Thankfully, Hillary stands in their way. We stand with her.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.