If there's one thing Donald Trump showed last week, it's that he knows how to please his base.
Not that that's a good thing, but it was evident in our latest journey down the rabbit hole of far-right media that pundits there just loved his execrable actions last Friday -- pardoning former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio for contempt of court and making a ban on military service by transgender people a bit more official.
"Trump Pardon Body-Slams Judicial Activism," trumpeted a headline on a World Net Daily column by Andy Schlafly (son of Phyllis, and not the gay one). "In pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, President Trump illustrated why he is a cut above other politicians. Without waiting for judicial activism to drag on for years in the 9th Circuit, Trump used his constitutional authority to stop the long-running witch hunt against a good man who has devoted 50 years to law enforcement."
Actually, that "good man" was illegally using his power to harass people simply because they're poor and Latino. Arpaio was convicted in July of contempt of court for defying a judge's order to stop sending his deputies to largely Latino neighborhoods, where they would detain residents for minor violations and then check their immigration status. One problem: As a county sheriff, Arpaio wasn't supposed to be enforcing federal immigration law. A judge in 2012 ordered him to stop the "sweeps" of Latino neighborhoods, but nevertheless, he persisted. That order came a year after the U.S. Justice Department found that the sweeps constituted racial profiling.
But no matter -- many on the extreme right love Arpaio and welcomed the pardon (however, now the judge who convicted him says she needs to hear from both his prosecutors and defenders before tossing out the conviction).
"Trump's audacious pardon confirmed why Phyllis Schlafly saw in Donald Trump something she had not seen in any other presidential candidate since she wrote her classic 'A Choice Not An Echo' more than 50 years ago," her son wrote. "Sheriff Joe is hated by the kingmakers who want open borders, and Trump's pardon delivered a stunning setback to their globalist agenda."
No, actually, most of us who dislike Arpaio like the rule of law and don't want to see people harassed solely because of their ethnicity. Oh, and Andy Schlafly had to remind us that in order to do some final damage before shuffling off this mortal coil last year, his mother supported Trump for president.
Over at Breitbart, John Nolte, like Steve Bannon a recent returnee to the operation, claimed not to be a fan of Arpaio, citing his inhumane treatment of prisoners, but he thought the pardon was "awesome" just the same.
His reasons? That Arpaio "is guilty only of upholding the law," as the judicial order "illegally legalized illegal immigration"; that he was denied a jury trial (which is allowed under Arizona law for crimes in which the maximum sentence is six months or less; and that "all the right people are furious" over the pardon).
"Once again something Trump did exposed the craven underbelly of the American Establishment, the same Establishment that hardly batted an eye after Barry pardoned an outright traitor," Nolte wrote, making the inaccurate assertion that President Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning. He didn't; he commuted most of her sentence, she still served far longer than most convicted leakers, and the conviction stays on her record. Trump himself, by the way, made the same inaccurate statement about Obama and Manning.
Another Breitbart contributor, Neil Munro, praised Trump's Friday directive to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, laying out how to reinstate the trans ban. "The decision likely will boost military effectiveness and also help Americans defend their two-sex, male-and-female society from pro-transgender lawyers and judges," Munro wrote.
He also claimed that few Americans support equal rights for transgender people -- when, in reality, Trump's trans ban is proving wildly unpopular -- and denied the reality of transgender identity, along with making a biology-is-destiny argument regarding even nontrans people. This the kind of thing that's been used to discriminate against women since time immemorial, and it has no scientific basis.
"Polls show that most Americans want to conserve their two-sex society, in which laws and civic practices are intended to help the two equal sexes manage their different and complementary biology-influenced desires and capabilities," he wrote.
Munro added, "Trump's formal opposition to the transgender ideology is pushing Democrats to make their unpopular transgender ideology an issue in the 2018 elections. However, Obama has said twice that his 2016 support for the ideology helped contribute to Hillary Clinton's defeat in the presidential election."
We haven't been able to confirm that Obama said that, and as Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi put it last year, "there's no evidence beyond anecdotal" that Obama's trans-supportive policies cost Clinton the presidency. And even if they did, Vennochi observed, "the supporters of transgender rights are on what's called the right side of history."
Speaking of transgender-related madness from the extreme right, Infowars' Alex Jones, who makes Breitbart look almost reasonable, recently made the claim that the Obamas had comedian Joan Rivers killed because she "revealed" that Barack Obama is gay and his wife, Michelle, is transgender. (Rivers did once make a joke to this effect. A joke.) Not that we would care if the Obamas were gay and trans, respectively, but of course to Jones that would be a bad thing. And we'll trust them that they've been honest about their identities and that they're not murderers.
And Chelsea Clinton pushed back against Jones, tweeting, "Michelle Obama is everything this site will never be -- honorable, brave, beloved, beautiful."
In other Alex Jones news, he issued a "travel advisory" to white men, saying they would face attack in certain major cities, as they'd be targeted as neo-Nazis if they had short haircuts. As evidence, he pointed to a white Denver man with such a haircut who said he was stabbed by a black man. It turns out, Media Matters notes, "that he lied about the attack and that in reality he had accidentally stabbed himself with a knife he had recently purchased."
Several other far-right commentators are busy making old arguments that have been thoroughly debunked: that same-sex marriage is wrong because marriage is about children (what about straight couples who can't or choose not to procreate?); that Planned Parenthood is racist (we've countered that argument here); and that LGBT-accepting churches are going against God. Really, people, we've been all over that.
But we'll keep reading the far right so you don't have to -- and so you know what we're up against. We'll be back next week with more.