Sunday on his CNN show “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Fareed Zakaria likened Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s rise to that of extremism in Islam.
According to Zakaria, elements in Islam have not denounced extremism in the same way that Republicans within the conservative world have not sufficiently denounced Trump.
Transcript as follows:
A main cause of the rise of extremism in the world of Islam has been the cowardice of Muslim moderates who for decades chose not to condemn bad ideas and ugly rhetoric. Fearing that they’d be seen simply as ideological weaklings, they avoided confronting the cancer in plain sight. It is now clear that a similar dynamic has been at play in the world of conservatism.
Mitt Romney should be congratulated for making a speech calling Donald Trump a phony and a fraud. But where was he when, in 2012, casting Trump was pushing his nasty and utterly false campaign casting doubt on President Obama’s American citizenship?
By Trump’s side in Las Vegas, as E.J. Dionne reminds us in his book, “Why the Right Went Wrong.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. Having his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And while he generally issued birtherism, Romney fed the fires later that year by joking, no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.
There have always been radicals on both sides of the political spectrum, but what is different about the conservative movement is that since the 1990s, some of its most distinguished mainstream members have embraced the rhetoric and tactics of the extremes.
A memo put out by Newt Gingrich’s political action committee that decade urged Republican candidates to use savage rhetoric against their Democratic opponents. Some of the recommended words were failure, pathetic, disgrace, and incompetent. In the last month, Donald Trump has called Mitt Romney a failed candidate, Jeb Bush, pathetic, Lindsey Graham, a disgrace, and President Obama, totally incompetent. Perhaps he read the memo.
It is courageous of dozens of Republican foreign policies leaders now to sign an open letter condemning Trump publicly and refusing his candidacy. But over the last decade I can recall conservatives with many of these individuals in which they refused to accept that there was any problem within the Republican Party, attributing such criticism to media bias.
We still see this denial by some commentators with their truly bizarre claims of the rise of Trump is really all the fault of President Obama. The logic varies. For some it is because he has been so weak. The “Wall Street Journal” editorial page opined, “The oldest truism in politics is that demagogues flourish in the absence of leadership.”
I must confess to never having heard that truism and wondered how it would explain the rise of Father Coughlin and Huey Long during Franklin Roosevelt’s reign, or Joseph McCarthy under Dwight Eisenhower. For others, however, it’s Obama has been too strong, abusing executive power and elevating himself to center celebrity stage.
Apparently having Oprah share the stage with you leads to authoritarian populism.
Here’s a much simpler explanation for Donald Trump. Republicans have fed the country ideas about decline, betrayal, and treason. They have encouraged the forces of anti-intellectualism, obstructionism and populism. They have flirted with bigotry and racism.
Trump merely chose to unashamedly embrace all of it, saying plainly what they were hinting at for years. In doing so, he hit the jackpot. The problem is not that Republican leaders should have begun to condemn Trump last year. It is that they should have condemned the ideas and tactics that led to his rise when they began to flourish in the last century.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor