Friday February 10, 2017
President Trump is being reviled for wildly exaggerating the peril of Muslim refugees. Some commentators fret that his rhetoric signals a new fascist era descending on America. A Washington Post news analysis on Saturday derided Trump’s fear-mongering: “Playing upon the nation’s anxieties about what might happen also stands as a stark contrast to how presidents have lifted the country out of actual crisis in the past.”
But presidential fear-mongering has a long and sordid history. We cannot understand the threat that Trump poses without recognizing how prior presidents used similar ploys.
Though former president Barack Obama’s popularity is now on the rise, he sometimes greatly exaggerated threats to push his legislative agenda. In a speech last year at the funeral of slain Dallas police officers, he asserted, “We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” But Amazon doesn’t deliver Glocks to your doorstep. Washington Post fact-checkers contacted the White House but none of the information it provided “directly made a connection between the ability of teens to buy handguns and their access to books or computers… There’s no minimum age or a background check required to get a book or use the computer for free at a public library.” The Post awarded three Pinocchios to Obama for his claim.