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While Trump’s racism continues to take center stage, Stephen Miller makes a rare appearance on Fox News in an attempt to defend the indefensible attacks Trump has made against four U.S. members of Congress in a string of deplorable tweets.
Here’s what leading national observers had to say in response:
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “Mike Pence and Stephen Miller are playing an ugly game”
Mike Pence and Stephen Miller both want you to know that President Trump totally disagrees with the voters who loudly chanted “send her back” about a nonwhite immigrant lawmaker. The vice president told CBS that Trump is not “pleased” about the chant, even as Trump’s top immigration adviser insisted on Fox News that Trump “disagreed with it.”
Trump didn’t disagree with it at all, which is why he looked on for 13 seconds while it reverberated in all its ugliness and hate. That’s also why Trump tweeted Sunday that the four nonwhite congresswomen he keeps attacking are not “capable of loving our Country” and why he called those who engaged in the chant “incredible patriots.”
But the fake walk-back from Pence and Miller is nonetheless revealing — both of the dangers that Trumpworld recognizes in wielding racism and white nationalism too explicitly as a political strategy and of how they’re trying to manage those dangers while also pushing the white identity politics as close to full throttle as possible.
…The darker dimensions of this intraparty argument are rarely spelled out explicitly. But the gist is that Democrats arguing for caution fear that being direct and honest about Trump’s racism will alienate white voters.
This is the bet that Miller is making, as his Fox appearance reveals. Miller echoed the laughable spin that Trump disagreed with the chant. But he also argued that the four nonwhite lawmakers do, in fact, hate America and that Trump’s attacks on them give voice to the rage that middle America supposedly feels over their supposed contempt toward its values.
The Washington Post’s James Downie: “Stephen Miller lets the mask slip”
When you’re a politician who has said something indefensible or an ally/staffer appearing on behalf of that politician, dealing with especially tough questions in interviews has a pretty set routine. The first time, you dodge the question and/or attempt a weak defense. If the questioner follows up, you try changing the subject. And if the interviewer still continues to press, you quickly answer the question to move the interview along. What you definitely don’t do is snarl like the killer at the end of a detective show and lay bare your hate.
That’s what you don’t do — unless you’re Stephen Miller. The senior policy adviser to the president made a rare media appearance on “Fox News Sunday” to defend the president’s repeated broadsides against four Democratic congresswomen of color.
…Miller’s words do more than just undercut his earlier whataboutism and distraction. They lay bare (again) the authoritarianism at the heart of the Trump administration: To disagree with this president is to disagree with America itself. To criticize the country is to tear it down. To suggest America, as “currently constructed,” is imperfect is to threaten Americans’ “very lives.”
As a political tactic, portraying policy disagreements as disloyalty has long been a staple of U.S. politics. We saw it, for example, during the Iraq War when cynical Republicans liked to imply that any critique of the war was an attack on the troops and the country. But Miller’s formulation, with its conscious inclusion of national identity and subconscious-but-no-less-obvious inclusion of race, is an especially hateful ideology. Sadly, as demonstrated on Wednesday, the president’s most loyal supporters agree with it. It is a chilling vision, and the sooner its adherents are out of power, the better.
Asawin Suebsaeng and Erin Banco of the Daily Beast: “Stephen Miller Keeps His Head Down as Trump Makes His Nativist Dreams Come True”:
…Stephen has ate, slept and breathed immigration policy for the past decade… and he’s the truest of true believers in Trump. So the President can always rest assured that Stephen’s going to execute on his wishes,” Cliff Sims, Trump’s former director of White House message strategy, told The Daily Beast. The two have known each other going back to Miller’s days working in then-Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) office when Sims ran an Alabama-based news organization.
“The handful of times he’s been public-facing have been as over-the-top as possible in his defense of Trump and advocacy for his policies,” Sims added. “But ultimately he prefers to just keep his head down and work behind the scenes. That’s when he’s most effective.”
One way in which Miller has continued to expand his grip on power and influence in the Trump era is through the Department of Homeland Security. Earlier this year, Miller successfully lobbied the president to oust multiple senior officials deemed “weak” or insufficiently ruthless on the immigration agenda. This included Kirstjen Nielsen, the former homeland security secretary, who for a year and a half was engaged in a bitter cold war of paranoia and backstabbing with Miller.