Anthony Scaramucci, during his 10-day reign, was at least entertaining. But there’s nothing funny about white nationalist propagandist Stephen Miller.
Benumbed as we are by the incessant assaults on American values, it’s barely shocking that the Trump regime has again trotted out this goon to be the public face of government. Miller has stayed behind the scenes since his winter TV stints flacking for Trump’s original Muslim travel ban — when he decreed that Trump’s powers “shall not be questioned” — but he surfaced at the podium yesterday to flack for the latest Trump brainstorm, a proposal (initiated by two Republican senators) to slash legal immigration in half and make it tougher for non-English speakers to enter the U.S.
Economists and business leaders believe that halving the number of legal immigrants would hurt the economy and retard annual growth. A number of Republican senators agree. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said this week, “We’re short of workers. We need migrant laborers to milk our dairy cows.” Yes, we could easily crunch the numbers and talk at length about the ideological underpinnings of Trump’s big idea; as political analyst Ronald Brownstein says, “In the Trump era, the chasm is widening between those who believe the best way to ensure America’s prosperity (and security) is to build bridges to the world — and those are determined to build walls against it.”
But we need not dwell in the policy weeds, because yesterday Miller said something that serves as a metaphor for the dark Trumplandian ‘tude. When a reporter quoted the poetic lines enshrined at the Statute of Liberty — “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free” — Miller swiftly dismissed those words as meaningless.
He said: “The poem you’re referring to — that was added later and is not exactly part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
Wow. Trump recently trashed the White House, telling at least eight witnesses that the building is “a real dump,” and now one of his flacks is trashing the Statue of Liberty. What’s next for these people, an assault on apple pie?
Miller was totally serious. By attacking that famous poem, and denigrating its message, he echoed the white nationalist extremist who predictably love this president. They’ve been attacking the poem’s author, Emma Lazarus, for a very long time – and now they’re getting aid and comfort from the inside.
Trump fan David Duke, an ex-Klan wizard, has written that Lazarus was “anxious to turn America into a refuge for the castoffs of the world.”In his inimitable words, “As I looked into the American fight over immigration laws during the last 100 years, the driving force behind opening America’s borders became evident: It was organized Jewry, personified by the poet Emma Lazarus.”
Yup, that’s the drill. The white nationalist website Stormfront.org has frequently attacked Lazarus’ poem and called her “the Jewess who tried to destroy the U.S.!” Richard Spencer, a prominent extremist and college classmate of Miller’s, attacked the poem in January: “It’s offensive that such a beautiful, inspiring statue was ever associated with ugliness, weakness, and deformity.”
This is how far and fast we’ve fallen as a nation, that a racist extremist infection has spread to the White House.
Miller was narrowly correct yesterday when he said that the poem was “added on.” Lazarus wrote it in 1883, the Statue was dedicated in 1886, and the poem was placed on a plaque at the Statue’s pedestal in 1903. But, as with the other Trump flacks, context and truth are not his forte. Lazarus wrote the poem for the purpose of raising funds for the Statue.
So the “huddled masses” theme was front and center from the start. The 1903 plaque merely underscored what was obvious – and what most people have deemed obvious ever since; according to a 2011 national poll, 62 percent of Americans believe that the Statue of Liberty’s message should be applied to immigration policy.
But just for fun, let’s follow the logic (as it were) of Miller’s thinking (as it were). This exercise leads us to some stunning observations:
The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is apparently meaningless, because it wasn’t “added on” to the U.S. Constitution until 1791.
The Oval Office is an apparently meaningless room, because it wasn’t “added on” to the White House until 1909.
The hallowed phrase “In God We Trust” is apparently meaningless and unhallowed, because it wasn’t “added on” to any American coin until 1864.
It’s also a tad ironic that Miller was trotted out to flack for a proposal that discriminates against non-English speaking immigrants, given the fact that he’s the great-grandson of non-English speaking immigrants from Belarus who fled to America the same year that Lazarus’ poem was added to the pedestal. But that’s another story.
The bottom line is that with Trump’s poll numbers in ongoing decline – his approval rating is 33 percent in the latest Quinnipiac survey, 38 percent in his favorite Rasmussen survey – he needs apparatchiks like Miller to staunch the erosion, to perk up the folks who love him most. White nationalists uber alles!