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Race, religion popping in US prez race

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By Kanika Rangray

With the campaigning for the US presidential elections 2016 going on in full swing, there is no scarcity of controversial remarks or statements being handed out by prospective candidates.

The most recent and highly controversial remark made by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson in an interview with NBC: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this country. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

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Carson’s statement came through during his dialogue with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd which was focused on Donald Trump’s, Carson’s presidential candidate rival, reaction to a supporter who made anti-Muslim remarks in one of his presidential rallies.

During one of Trump’s campaign rally in Rochster, New Hampshire, one of the audience members made anti-Muslim remarks saying: “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one… we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”

Trump did not denounce any of the statements causing uproar, which affected the prospects of other Republican candidates running for president. Trump defended himself by tweeting that he would have reacted the same if the supporter had opposed black people, and that he was not morally obligated to defend Obama.

 

Coming back to the statement made by Carson regarding Muslims, Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican – South Carolina) said in a show on Fox News Channel that Dr. Ben Carson should apologise for what he said.

Graham said: “During the second election of Karzai, I had an opportunity to go to a polling station during the election with military members in charge of security. One was a young man who grew up in Kabul, went to this particular high school. He came to America. He was a member of the United States Army. He was so proud to wear the uniform. I had a cup of coffee with him, and, yes, one day, I hope that young man could grow up to be president of the United States.”

“America is an idea not owned by a particular religion, race or anything else… I think Dr. Carson needs to apologize to this young man and every other Muslim serving their country and to the American Muslim Community. And if he understood the world and how dangerous it is he would not say things like this. We have to partner with people in the faith to destroy radical Islam. And most Muslims throughout the world reject what radical Islam is trying to do to the world and their faith. This is an example to me that Mr. Carson may be a good doctor, but he is not ready to lead a great nation,” he added.

He continued, “What would he say to the young man I met in Kabul who left Afghanistan, became an American citizen, joined the United States army? What would he say to the approximately 3,500 American Muslims who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for our freedom, risking their lives. What he should say is thank you for serving our great nation. We’re all in this together.”

But, this is not the first time that a debate has risen about the race and religion of a candidate running for presidency in the USA. The most obvious example is that of current president Barack Obama.

Obama is the first African American president of the US, or in simpler terms the first Black president of the US. During his presidential campaign and also after he was elected as president Obama was repeatedly subject to claims that he was not a US citizen and was thus not eligible to be the president. This controversy springs up from time to time even now. So does the other accusation thrown at him that he is actually a Muslim.

After Obama became president, there were questions if this would eradicate the racial gap between the blacks and the whites in America. The survey poll regarding this showed that a majority of the population did not believe that the issue would be resolved so easily, and continued racial discrimination incidents which followed through backed up these predictions.

The big and large question is that the United States of America—the biggest global power—is still trying to pull itself out of any kind of discrimination on the basis of ‘skin colour’ and religion, which has penetrated in the political platform of the country.

It becomes more ironic when you think that US stands first in line when it comes to advising a nation, such as our very own India, on how racism and religious discrimination stands the biggest hurdle between its goal of becoming a developed nation.

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“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

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“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)