Photo of the day

Given that I went to the circus this week, this shot from National Geographic Found seems appropriate:

Children read a Sylvan Drew Circus billboard, 1931. Photograph by Jacob J. Gayer, National Geographic Creative

Children read a Sylvan Drew Circus billboard, 1931.PHOTOGRAPH BY JACOB J. GAYER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

Marco Rubio shows how to be a successful Islamophobe

Though Rubio has definitely shown he can be a charismatic and likable fellow, I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that there may be not such a good person underneath.  Yesterday, President Obama gave a well-received speech at a mosque asking for tolerance, diversity, etc., and Rubio used this to claim that Obama is “dividing us.”  Sure, it’s all politics, but I was truly appalled when I read about this.

Smartest take I’ve seen on the matter comes from Vox’s Max Fisher on how how Rubio, being an “establishment” candidate has managed to avoid the media pile-on Trump would take for such obviously inappropriate comments:

When President Obama gave a speech on Wednesday at a Baltimore mosque to discuss inclusion and Islamophobia, then, it wasn’t exactly shocking that some Republican candidates looked for a way to criticize it. So I’m not going to pretend to be surprised that Marco Rubio took issue with the speech.

But Rubio’s line of criticism didn’t target Obama. It targeted the very idea that anti-Muslim bigotry is a problem worth confronting, implying that such bigotry is not just permissible but indeed serves an important function.

“Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque,” Rubio said at a New Hampshire town hall. “Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam.” [emphases mine]

Rubio then compared anti-Muslim bigotry to friendly sports rivalries, and argued that Obama’s speech was really the thing causing division. “But again, it’s this constant pitting people against each other — that I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly,” Rubio said. “We can disagree on things, right? I’m a Dolphin fan, you’re a Patriot fan.” He warned that Obama was dividing America “along ethnic lines and racial lines and economic lines and religious lines.”

But what is really striking to me about Rubio’s comments is the media’s reaction, which has been fairly muted in contrast to how it covered Islamophobic comments from Donald Trump. That’s not to say that the media is endorsing or ignoring Rubio here, but the pretty clear distinction in coverage shows how an establishment candidate like Rubio can navigate the media’s unwritten rules and get away with participating in the tide of Islamophobia that has already become violent

Rubio’s message is that Obama went to the mosque because he has a secret agenda to “pit people against each other” and to divide Americans “along ethnic lines and racial lines”; that anti-Muslim bigotry is a non-problem on par with sports rivalries; and that challenging this bigotry somehow undercuts the effort to address “the bigger issue,” which is “radical Islam,” and that this is the real threat.

Rubio’s implied message is not just that anti-Muslim bigotry is overstated, but that efforts to combat bigotry are worrying because they “divide” Americans and because they enable the “radical Islam” that threatens Americans — and which Rubio has previously said credibly threatens the destruction of the United States itself.

And because I know Jon K will want the principle of charity, Fisher grants it, and Rubio still doesn’t look good:

If you want to be sympathetic, you could argue that Rubio sees combating Islamophobia as an unnecessary distraction. But unless you assume that all Muslims are at least potentially linked to “radical Islam,” or that Islamophobia is a useful tool in fighting terrorism, it’s not clear why Rubio sees the two issues as connected. The sympathetic reading doesn’t look much better here.

Even if Rubio doesn’t really believe all this, I find it very disturbing (though, admittedly, not all that surprising), that he thinks this is the best way to connect with Republican primary voters.  Some real leadership might be admitting that even Obama can actually be right and we should be more tolerant of Muslims in America, the vast majority of whom are good people.  Instead, like Trump, he is pandering to the absolute worst of the right.  And should he become president, that really scares me.

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