Erin Gloria Ryan, a senior editor at The Daily Beast, writes of Fox News in light of so many harassment allegations against Fox News hosts:
At this point, Fox News seems to be functioning less like a news organization with a sexism problem and more like a sexism organization with a news hobby….
For a certain slice of its viewers, Fox is fantasy. I should be able to spend all day hanging around skinny blonde Miss America types. I should be able to talk over these women, tell them they’re dumb but fuckable, and suffer no social consequences. I should demand physical perfection. I should have my needs catered to and feelings tiptoed around, while ironically decrying others who demand basic human politeness and consideration.
This sort of viewer demands being the central focus, taken seriously at all times except for when they are deliberately joking, and then celebrated as a comedic visionary. They can demand sweetness and beauty and give none of it.
(In these paragraphs, Ryan is describing some Fox News viewers (‘a certain slice of its viewers’), but elsewhere in her post she describes the Fox hosts who create what others view.)
Everything Ryan writes (accurately, I think) is about people who want others to be seen, and to behave, in a certain obliging way toward them. They’ve firm expectations of others’ deference and delicate regard. Ryan’s right to call it a fantasy (albeit, of course, a sometimes malevolent one).
By contrast, there’s always a fair chance that one will listen, express a view, reply to other views, and thereafter find a tomato flying in one’s direction. That’s one of the reasons there are laundries. So much the better not to expect a fawning reception from others (or worse, impose one on them).
[U.S. Senator from Arizona Jeff] Flake now professes alarm about Trump’s “affection for strongmen and authoritarians,” yet has done next to nothing with his extraordinary power—including a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee—to stop Trump from presiding over a pro-authoritarian administration.
Only a handful of Republicans can boast of having taken meaningful action to contain Trump. That may be changing now that it’s too late. Nearly all of them convinced themselves to hope for the best if Trump won, without expecting or preparing for the worst. They made their peace with a president they, like Flake, knew wasn’t good enough for America, which leaves them enormously exposed if the very things they agreed to overlook destroy his presidency and plunge the country into bitter chaos.
Trump will retain, to be sure, a core of support even if some Republican incumbents inch away. One should be clear, however, that many GOP officeholders either wanted Trump or tolerated him for the sake of a hard-right agenda. Very few opposed Trumpism all the way along – on the contrary, they went along.
Trump’s base of dead-enders won’t yield, but then they never were and never will be the principal focus of opposition and resistance. That principal focus remains Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders (“If Trump should meet his ruin (and he will), it will come from a relentless case against his mediocrity, lies, bigotry, character disorders, and authoritarianism. One needn’t ask why people support him now; it’s enough to show him again and again as unworthy of support.”)
Applying effort mostly toward the top will settle the matter of Trumpism. (Once Union victory was assured, it didn’t matter how assiduously the Copperheads had sought appeasement to secession; their efforts brought nothing. Destroying the Confederacy left the Copperheads with no secessionists to appease.)
When Trump meets his political end, the terms of Republicans’ political rehabilitation, if there should be any, will come not from Republicans themselves but instead with those who were at the forefront of opposition and resistance to Trumpism.
(This will be true across the country, locally, too: the reputations of local officials will be in the hands of those who prevail, of those who will have declared firmly against Trump. The future will write the history of this present conflict.)
Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of eighty-one. Sunrise is 5:54 AM and sunset 8:05 PM, for 14h 10m 52s of daytime. The moon is almost full, with 99.3% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred seventy-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On August 3, a handful of Twitter accounts launched a media campaign under the hashtag #FireMcMaster. The hashtag appeared in response to United States National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster’s recent personnel decisions at the National Security Council (NSC) and his recently leaked letter to former President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
The ensuing social media campaign to #FireMcMaster spread virally and, ultimately, forced President Trump to affirm support for his closest advisor on matters relating to national security and foreign policy, for now. Mobilization across alt-right social media platforms is commonplace, and this case shows another correlation between their mobilization and high-performing bot networks….
It is real spin, at best. And it feels a lot like real propaganda — or state TV.
In her first 90-second segment, McEnany makes a number of questionable claims, most notably about the credit President Trump deserves for continued strong economic growth. Below, I’ve transcribed the whole segment, with some reality checks interjected.
Hey, everybody. I’m Kayleigh McEnany. Thank you for joining us as we provide the news of the week from Trump Tower here in New York. More great economic news on Friday: The July jobs report added a better-than-expected 209,000 new jobs. Overall, since the president took office, President Trump has created more than 1 million new jobs, the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, and consumer confidence is at a 16-year high — all while the Dow Jones continues to break records. President Trump has clearly steered the economy back in the right direction.
First off, it is true that the July jobs report was “better than expected.” It is also true that the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2001. And these are legitimately good stories for Trump to tell.
But like Trump, McEnany takes it too far. Saying that Trump “has created more than 1 million jobs” and that Trump “has clearly steered the economy back in the right direction” is taking some real liberties. And that’s for one big reason: The jobs picture has largely continued the trends from late in President Barack Obama’s administration. In his first six months, the economy under Trump has indeed added more than 1 million new jobs — 1.07 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in the last six months under Obama, the economy added slightly more jobs than that — 1.08 million. And if anything, the average jobs growth under Trump is actually slightly slower than it was in Obama’s final years….
(One should expect Trump TV for as long as Trump is in power: his base consumes what he serves, and by consuming what he serves they remain mired as his base.)
For all of his adult life, Donald Trump has been telling people that he’s a brilliant businessman, a habit he continued, to great effect, on the campaign trail. So you’ll have to forgive Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,who may have been laboring under a similar assumption when he got on the phone last January with the newly sworn-in president. One of the primary purposes of the call was to discuss a deal that had been struck by Barack Obama to take in 1,250 refugees who had been detained by Australia, which Turnbull was worried would not be honored in light of the travel ban Trump had ordered the day before. But as Turnbull quickly realized, as revealed Thursday [8.3.17] by a leaked transcript of their conversation, Trump is completely incapable of grasping even basic facts about foreign policy—and is too ignorant to negotiate even the most basic deals. In fact, it seems highly possible Turnbull came away from the conversation not confident the president of the United States knows what Australia is….
(Levin is wholly right that Trump’s no deal-maker, but she’s only partly right about Trump’s reputation as such being dead: his base will still see him this way, as Trump is an ignorant person’s idea of a knowledgeable person, to paraphrase Jennifer Rubin’s description of Trump.)
There is no indication Rohrabacher is under investigation by the FBI or the House and Senate committees looking into what happened, but his name keeps popping up in connection to key figures and events in the investigation.
It’s a story that involves Russian tax fraud, foreign adoptions, dinner with a foreign agent and a meeting in Trump Tower with the soon-to-be president’s son. And much of it has just recently come to light….
FBI agents sat Rohrabacher down in the Capitol and warned him that a Russian spy was trying to recruit him as an “agent of influence” — someone the Russian government might be able to use to steer policymaking.
(One can’t show that Rohrabacher’s a fifth columnist, but by his own expressed suppport for Putin he’s an undeniable fellow traveler.)
This Tuesday, August 8th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Live by Night @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.
Live by Night (2017) is a crime drama about a group of “Boston-bred gangsters who set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.”
Ben Affleck directs the two hour, nine-minute film, starring Affleck, Elle Fanning, Remo Girone, and Brendan Gleeson. Live by Night received a Broadcast Film Critics Association nomination for Best Production Design. The film carries an R rating from the MPAA.
When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold-exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.
Readers who have Netflix can catch Icarus, a documentary that describes the decades-long sports-doping program that the Soviet Union and successor Russian Federation authorized from the highest levels of government.
Trumpist Kayleigh McEnany has left CNN (where she appeared as a Trump surrogate), for both Trump TV and the Republican National Committee as the RNC spokesperson.
Evan McMullin, a conservative opponent of Trumpism, rightly (but too optimistically, I think) observes that “[i]nstead of doubling down on Trumpism, GOP leadership would be well served by rededicating the party to our nation’s founding principles.”
Here’s the text of his recent email about Foxconn, so we may look back and see how the project fares against his promises:
Ryan: Foxconn deal is a game-changer for Wisconsin Milwaukee Journal Sentinel8/4/2017By now, you have likely heard the good news. The electronics giant Foxconn is coming to Wisconsin, with plans to add 13,000 jobs, in total, in our region.
This is an absolute game-changer. It means more good-paying jobs and opportunities for hard-working Wisconsinites. And it shows the rest of the country — and the world — that our area truly is a manufacturing powerhouse.
I could not have been more excited to make our case to Foxconn’s CEO, Terry Gou. It went something like this: I was born and raised in southeastern Wisconsin. In the late 2000’s, Wisconsin suffered manufacturing loses, and it was devastating for people all across southeastern Wisconsin. But Wisconsinites are resilient—in the face of adversity, we push through. And today, manufacturing in Wisconsin has made a remarkable comeback, and things are only getting better.
Of course, there is a lot more we can do, especially on the national level. Take taxes. Right now, we have this crazy system where successful small businesses in our country pay a top marginal tax rate of 44.6 percent. And our overall corporate tax rate is 35 percent.
We clearly need to fix our tax code. Our committees in Congress are working on a bold plan as we speak. This is something I have been talking about lately with workers throughout Wisconsin, including employees at Allis-Roller, LDV, InPro, Geneva Supply, and InSinkErator.
With tax reform, you get tax cuts that will ease the burden on you and your family. You get a simpler tax code—so simple that you can do your taxes on a form the size of a postcard. (Wouldn’t that be something?) And you get real fairness—fewer loopholes for special interests and a level playing field for everyone.
The bottom line is that, through all the drama and distractions in Washington, we are focused on the real problems that you care about—especially when it comes to jobs and paychecks.
Foxconn’s decision is exciting, but it is just one step. In Congress, I will continue to fight for pro-employee, pro-business, pro-job policies. It’s what my employers in the First District care about, and it’s a privilege to fight for them in Washington.
To read the op-ed online in its entirety, click here.
Last week, after posting the jazz standard Sunny Side of the Street (as sung by Marie Bryant), a reader kindly recommended an original song from The Pogues with that title. Here’s their song, one that I very much like. Enjoy.
Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-five. Sunrise is 5:53 AM and sunset 8:07 PM, for 14h 13m 17s of daytime. The moon is full, with 99.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred seventy-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
In retrospect, the battle lines of the Cold War — the West, NATO and democracy on one side; the East, the Warsaw Pact and dictatorship on the other — seem obvious and inevitable. The outcome — the collapse of the U.S.S.R. — feels now as if it were preordained. But at many moments in the half-century that the Cold War lasted, the battle lines were far from clear and the ultimate outcome very much in doubt….
Why does this history matter? Because we are living at a similarly fraught moment, in a time when international alliances are in flux. America’s reputation abroad has plunged in many countries. Conspiracy theories have never been easier to create and pass on, both abroad and at home. A part of the U.S. population right now believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “Christian” leader fighting against the Islamic State in Syria. In fact his government represses religion and is not particularly interested in the battle against the Islamic State at all.
Yet at the moment, there is no systematic U.S. or Western response to Russian, Chinese or Islamic State disinformation. Attempts to keep track of it are uneven. There is no group or agency inside the U.S. government dedicated solely to this task. And, thanks to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it looks like there won’t be anytime soon.
(There are surely American fellow travelers who consider Putin a moral exemplar; then again, there are Americans who consider Trump the same. Both views require a wilful perversion of religious teaching.)
If the Russians had done these things in the old-fashioned way, with real people lurking about, and if we’d caught dozens of their agents red-handed, riffling through sensitive papers or trying to steal ballots, we’d have probably treated it all as something close to an act of war. But because the operation was waged remotely, in the murky realms of the Internet, we continue to refer to it, halfheartedly, as a “hacking” — a word more often used when discussing stolen credit-card numbers, identity theft or even relatively harmless online pranks.
Yet this was, in fact, an attack — a large-scale, multidimensional, coordinated attack on the foundations of our democratic system. And even if you’re a Republican who shares President Trump’s repeated assertions that we can’t be sure who was behind it, surely this is something you’d want to get to the bottom of. You’d be pressing for a thorough review of what happened, and above all you’d be planning new defenses to prevent it from happening again….
Today, in August 2017, we receive confirmation that the Trump administration has done exactly zero to bolster our defenses against hostile information operations. Last year, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) co-authored a law aimed at providing the State Department with the resources to start pushing back. Even though Trump signed the bill into law, his administration has done nothing to act on its provisions. This week a report in Politico revealed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made zero effort to use the $80 million provided for the purpose by Congress.
But as one factory in Wisconsin is showing, the forces driving automation can evolve — for reasons having to do with the condition of the American workforce. The robots were coming in not to replace humans, and not just as a way to modernize, but also because reliable humans had become so hard to find. It was part of a labor shortage spreading across America, one that economists said is stemming from so many things at once. A low unemployment rate. The retirement of baby boomers. A younger generation that doesn’t want factory jobs. And, more and more, a workforce in declining health: because of alcohol, because of despair and depression, because of a spike in the use of opioids and other drugs….
In earlier decades, companies would have responded to such a shortage by either giving up on expansion hopes or boosting wages until they filled their positions. But now, they had another option. Robots had become more affordable. No longer did machines require six-figure investments; they could be purchased for $30,000, or even leased at an hourly rate. As a result, a new generation of robots was winding up on the floors of small- and medium-size companies that had previously depended only on the workers who lived just beyond their doors. Companies now could pick between two versions of the American worker — humans and robots. And at Tenere Inc., where 132 jobs were unfilled on the week the robots arrived, the balance was beginning to shift….
Tenere is a company that manufactures custom-made metal and plastic parts, mostly for the tech industry. Five years earlier a private-equity firm acquired the company, expanded to Mexico, and ushered in what the company called “a new era of growth.” In Wisconsin, where it has 550 employees, all non-union, wages started at $10.50 per hour for first shift and $13 per hour for overnight. Counting health insurance and retirement benefits, even the lowest-paid worker was more expensive than the robots, which Tenere was leasing from a Nashville-based start-up, Hirebotics, for $15 per hour. Hirebotics co-founder Matt Bush said that, before coming to Tenere, he’d been all across America installing robots at factories with similar hiring problems. “Everybody is struggling to find people,” he said, and it was true even in a slice of western Wisconsin so attuned to the rhythms of shift work that one local bar held happy hour three times a day.
Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.
Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.
During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.
Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of seventy-four. Sunrise is 5:52 AM and sunset 8:08 PM, for 14h 15m 40s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred seventieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
….how Republicans behave from here on out will play a huge role in determining the extent of the housecleaning/destruction of the GOP required. It makes all the difference in the world whether Democrats (by winning elections) save the country from Trump or whether the GOP (by impeachment, support for prosecution, primary challenge) takes matters into its own hands to expunge Trump. The latter would not erase entirely the original sin they committed when they backed him, but a Republican revolt against Trump (finally) would suggest internal reformation is possible. Republicans in office, running for office, in think tanks and other right-leaning groups should think long and hard about how they want the Trump presidency to end; it will become the defining event in their personal and political legacies. And the manner of Trump’s political demise will largely determine whether the 2016 election was the last to produce a Republican president.
“Anything that comes out of the South,” said writer Flannery O’Connor, a sometime exemplar of Southern Gothic, “is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” But, realistically, Alabama’s primary says more about Republicans than about this region. A Michigan poll shows rocker-cum-rapper Kid Rock a strong potential Republican Senate candidate against incumbent Debbie Stabenow. Rock says Democrats are “shattin’ in their pantaloons” because if he runs it will be “game on mthrfkers.”
Is this Northern Gothic? No, it is Republican Gothic, the grotesque becoming normal in a national party whose dishonest and, one hopes, futile assault on [Alabama candidate for the U.S. Senate Mo] Brooks is shredding the remnants of its dignity.
When TV news viewers saw Trump adviser Stephen Miller accuse Jim Acosta of harboring a “cosmopolitan bias” during Wednesday’s news conference, they might have wondered whether he was accusing the CNN White House reporter of an excessive fondness for the cocktail made famous on “Sex and the City.” It’s a term that’s seldom been heard in American political discourse. But to supporters of the Miller-Bannon worldview, it was a cause for celebration. Breitbart, where Steve Bannon reigned before becoming Trump’s chief political strategist, trumpeted Miller’s “evisceration” of Acosta and put the term in its headline. So did white nationalist Richard Spencer, who hailed Miller’s dust-up with Acosta as “a triumph”….
One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.
What makes this history relevant is that, all across Europe, nationalist political figures are still making the same kinds of arguments—usually but not always stripped of blatant anti-Semitism—to constrict the flow of ideas and the boundaries of free political expression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, has more and more embraced this idea that unpatriotic forces threaten the nation.
The recourse to “common sense” is probably not accidental, especially for a student of political movements like Miller. Nearly every contemporary politician is guilty of falling back on the phrase, but for centuries, populist movements in particular have invoked common sense as a justification for policy goals and as an antidote to expert opinion. Like President Trump, the people invoking it have often done so, as Sophia Rosenfeld writes in her book Common Sense: A Political History, as part of “a populist style of conservatism that celebrated authoritarian governance alongside the traditional ways, values, and language of ordinary people”….
“Common sense has … served to underwrite challenges to established forms of legitimate rule … in the name of the special kind of intuition belonging to the people,” Rosenfeld observes. “Common sense is typically evoked and held up as authoritative only at moments of crisis in other forms of legitimacy. Revolutions, which, by definition, result in divided loyalties and the upending of the rules to multiple domains at once, are a case in point. Otherwise common sense does not need to call attention to itself.”
Time and again, the Trump administration has embraced solutions that it has labeled common sense, but which are either highly disputed, wholly counter to expert consensus, or flat wrong. This has been true on immigration, on protectionism, on industrial policy, climate change, and a range of other issues.
Saturday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-six. Sunrise is 5:51 AM and sunset 8:09 PM, for 14h 18m 02s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 95.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred sixty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On this day in 1884, workers placed the cornerstone for the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty now stands: ” ‘the rain was pouring down in torrents’ which effectively kept away hundreds of ceremony invitees. Yet according to the New York Times, 1500 water-logged people still jammed onto the small island to be part of the historic event. About a third of the attendees were French. The steamship Bay Ridge was festooned with French and American flags and chosen to shuttle people from Manhattan to Bedloe Island. Because of the driving rain “its capacity was not tested.” Once the ceremony began the David Island Government Band played “Marseillaise” and “Hail Columbia” respectively while men lowered the six ton granite stone onto the northeast corner of Fort Wood’s foundation.”
As drug overdose deaths continue their record climb, Missouri last month became the 50th state to launch a prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP. These state-run databases, which track prescriptions of certain potentially addictive or dangerous medications, are widely regarded as an essential tool to stem the opioid epidemic. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens last month announced he was creating one in what had been the lone holdout state; legislative efforts to establish a program there had repeatedly failed because of lawmakers’ concerns about privacy.
Their concerns were not unfounded.
Federal courts in Utah and Oregon recently ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration, in its effort to investigate suspected drug abusers or pill mills, can access information in those states’ PDMPs without a warrant, even over the states’ objections. And last month in California, the state supreme court ruled that the state medical board could view hundreds of patients’ prescription drug records in the course of its investigation of a physician accused of misconduct. “Physicians and patients have no reasonable expectation of privacy in the highly regulated prescription drug industry,” District Judge David Nuffer wrote in the Utah case.
Speaking in New York Friday [7.28.17], President Trump encouraged our nation’s police officers to rough up suspects in their custody. In the days since, many law enforcement leaders and groups have denounced Trump’s comments as damaging to police-community relations. Some have responded by publicly reaffirming their commitment to serve and protect the public, but what about the president’s own oath?
“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice’,” Trump told the audience of officers, referring to the practice of shielding suspects’ heads when placing them in police vehicles. “Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. I said, ‘You can take the hand away, okay?'”
President Trump’s remarks encouraged officers to violate the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which grant individuals the right to be free from excessive force while in official custody. They also require police officers to protect those under arrest from unnecessary harm. As the Supreme Court once put it, “when the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well-being.” And since federal law makes it a crime to willfully depriving a person of a constitutional right, he asked them to violate federal criminal law as well.
Eric Bolling, a longtime Fox News host, sent an unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message to at least two colleagues at Fox Business and one colleague at Fox News, a dozen sources told HuffPost.
Recipients of the photo confirmed its contents to HuffPost, which is not revealing their identities. The women, who are Bolling’s current and former Fox colleagues, concluded the message was from him because they recognized his number from previous work-related and informal interactions. The messages were sent several years ago, on separate occasions.
The women did not solicit the messages,which they told colleagues were deeply upsetting and offensive. One of the recipients said that when she replied to Bolling via text, telling him never to send her such photos again, he did not respond. Four people, outside of the recipients, confirmed to HuffPost they’d seen the photo, and eight others said the recipients had spoken to them about it.
For this story, HuffPost spoke to 14 sourcesin and out of Fox News and Fox Business, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity either because they currently work at the networks and aren’t allowed to speak to members of the press without prior authorization or because they have confidentiality agreements with Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox.
Stephen K. Bannon had already been successful in Hollywood and on Wall Street when he flew to Hong Kong in mid-2005 to learn more about a promising new opportunity.
A start-up called Internet Gaming Entertainment, or IGE, had found a novel way to make millions of dollars each month in the exploding online video game industry. Working from the 19th floor of a skyscraper in Hong Kong, the company sold virtual goods for real money — magical swords and capes and other accoutrements that granted video game players power and access in more than a dozen popular online role-playing games.
There was one problem, though: The companies that owned and operated these fantasy games prohibited what IGE was doing, and even considered it illegal. Several IGE executives told The Washington Post that they thought Bannon could help change that. Bannon agreed to become the company’s vice chairman.
No one is obligated to think about politics, let alone write about politics. (Indeed, in a more libertarian world, for example, the state would be smaller, and there would be fewer political matters of which to speak and write.)
In Whitewater and cities nearby, however, there are more than a few who have public, political careers. Some hold full-time office (elected or administrative), others sit on major boards or commissions, some are publishers for who politics matters greatly, and a number beyond are occupied with influencing public policy as activists or lobbyists. They freely chose these occupations.
Of those who are politicians or hold major public positions, how many have taken a clear public stand on Trump? (Here one means any clear stand, favorable or unfavorable, to his administration.)
One can hardly find anyone who has done so: not among politicians, not among those in prominent public offices, not among publications otherwise professing a political bent while ‘serving’ their cities (Gazette, Daily Union, Register, Banner). These men are self-professed lions, ambling about, glad-handing, passing out business cards, asking if others know who they are, if others understand how important they are, etc.
A child, asked what sound a lion makes, would probably say that lions roar. This would be the right answer, in almost all places. Lions would sound like the MGM lion:
In Whitewater and nearby cities, however, our local lions do not roar at all. Our local lions sound like the MTM tabby:
Unlike real lions, our local counterfeit ones squeak and mew when the topic arises, lest they alienate some fraction of their Trumpist readership by roaring honestly about Trump, or alienate some fraction of their reasonable readership by roaring against Trump’s lies.
On the most important political topic of our time, these local political lions are mere tabbies.
Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of sixty-nine. Sunrise is 5:50 AM and sunset 8:11 PM, for 14h 20m 22s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 90.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred sixty-eighth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
So what follows is a clear guide to the biggest, most pressing issues about the investigation into Trump: how it works, what Mueller and his team are looking into, what we know about the Russia scandal so far, why it all matters, and what could happen next.
1) What is the Mueller investigation?
On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that he was appointing Mueller as a special counsel charged with investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 election.
“The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Rosenstein said in the announcement.
Though various congressional committees are investigating Russian interference in the election and the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Moscow, the Mueller investigation is where the real action is. It’s the one that can actually file federal charges. It’s also best positioned to get financial records, examine secret intelligence, and flip witnesses. When people talk about “the Russia investigation” these days, they’re usually talking about Mueller and his team.
In the ensuing months, that investigation turned toward examining the broader topic of what intelligence officials identified as a Russian government campaign to interfere with the elections, and whether the Trump campaign or Trump associates were involved. Other agencies — including the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit — also got involved, scrutinizing financial transactions and intercepting Russian communications.
Throughout all of that, the investigation followed the ordinary FBI chain of command. Then-FBI Director James Comey was the major figure overseeing the investigation, working with top Justice Department officials, who would in the end decide whether charges would be filed.
But on May 9, Trump fired Comey. Soon afterward, the president admitted that his unhappiness with Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation played a role in his firing. A series of leaks about troubling behavior by the president, including asking Comey to pledge his loyalty to Trump personally, made it into the press, raising serious questions about the investigation’s independence. Enter Bob Mueller….
A former frequenton-air guest at Fox News says that a Fox consultant and top lieutenant to Roger Ailes, the network’s late founder and longtime CEO, sexually harassed her repeatedly for more than a year, including dangling the possibility of a paid job at Fox if she would have sex with him.
The allegation appears in a written declaration by Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College who made numerous guest appearances on Fox starting in 2008. The Fox consultant, Woody Fraser, isa veteran television producer who helped create shows such as Good Morning America and Nightline and worked closely with Ailes at Fox for nearly a decade. Fraser’s relationship with Ailes dated back to the 1960s, when he hired a young Ailes to work on The Mike Douglas Show. “It was the best hire I’ve ever made,” Fraser told an Ailes biographer.
Heldman wrote in her declaration—signed under penalty of perjury and prepared as part of a potential lawsuit involving separate Fraser accusers—that Fraser “used coded language (an ‘arrangement’) on three different occasions, once in New York and twice in Los Angeles, that he wanted to have a sexual relationship with me.” Heldman says she repeatedly rejected his advances. She goes on to note: “Mr. Fraser insinuated on several occasions that a contributorship at Fox was contingent upon me having a sexual relationship with him. Even though I was a popular guest with numerous appearances and high ratings (according to Mr. Fraser), I was not offered a contributorship because I rebuffed Mr. Fraser’s sexual advances.”
Like its fellow mega-platforms Twitter and Facebook, YouTube is an enormous engine of cultural production and a host for wildly diverse communities. But like the much smaller Tumblr (which has long been dominated by lively and combative left-wing politics) or 4chan (which has become a virulent and effective hard-right meme factory) YouTube is host to just one dominant native political community: the YouTube right. This community takes the form of a loosely associated group of channels and personalities, connected mostly by shared political instincts and aesthetic sensibilities. They are monologuists, essayists, performers and vloggers who publish frequent dispatches from their living rooms, their studios or the field, inveighing vigorously against the political left and mocking the “mainstream media,” against which they are defined and empowered. They deplore “social justice warriors,” whom they credit with ruining popular culture, conspiring against the populace and helping to undermine “the West.” They are fixated on the subjects of immigration, Islam and political correctness. They seem at times more animated by President Trump’s opponents than by the man himself, with whom they share many priorities, if not a style. Some of their leading figures are associated with larger media companies, like Alex Jones’s Infowars or Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media. Others are independent operators who found their voices in the medium.
(The answer is to fill YouTube and other media with a competing, but intellectually superior, opposing view.)
The day after last fall’s presidential election, Kris Kobach got to work. In an email plotting action items for the new Trump administration, Mr. Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas and a champion of voter suppression campaigns there and nationally, said he had “already started” drafting a key legislative change that would enable states to impose rules complicating registration for millions of new voters — exactly the sort of rules he had advanced in Kansas, with mixed success.
Writing to a Trump transition official, Mr. Kobach said he was preparing an amendment to the National Voter Registration Act to allow states to demand documentary proof of citizenship for new registrants. Despite years of litigation and adverse rulings from courts, that same requirement in Kansas, in effect since 2013, had blocked more than 30,000 people at least temporarily from registering and, in thousands of cases, from voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which studies voting issues and has contested Mr. Kobach’s moves in Kansas.
Nearly all of those blocked in Kansas were eligible U.S. citizens who simply lacked ready access to passports, birth certificates and other documents, as at least 5 percent of Americans do. Disproportionately, those lacking such documents are minorities and younger voters — groups that tend to back Democrats.
Mr. Kobach now leads a presidential commission on election integrity, established by President Trump after his groundless assertion that 3 million to 5?million people voted illegally last November. The commission, stacked with Kobach clones who have made voter suppression into a political cottage industry, could undertake various forms of mischief intended to impede voting. Few would be as effective, or as damaging to electoral participation, as fiddling with registration by changing the NVRA, known as the “motor voter” law.
An anti-immigration position is for economics something like a flat-earth position would be for natural science: one may hold it only through either ignorance or disorder. (The ignorance would have to be profound, as even the weakest grasp of economics would incline a rational person to acknowledge the benefits of a free, transnational labor market; the disorder would have to be grave, as only obstinacy or prejudice would long resist a reasoned explanation.)
In this free, commercial republic, there are still some who are merely ignorant on immigration, but one has reason to believe that Trump pushes his line to fill empty vessels not merely with weak economics but with strong prejudices.
There are officials both in and outside the city who would bring Arizona-style ‘show us your papers’ laws to Wisconsin. They are wrong on economics, wrong on liberty, but at least they have this going for them: each and every one of these politicians (or the out-of-area mouthpieces on whom they rely) is an easily-identifiable troll for either ignorance or lumpen prejudices.
A quick note to the local officials of the city, school district, and university who are in the habit of inviting these anti-immigration politicians to public events: you debase the American tradition, and turn away from sound reasoning and thorough study, when you bring these few to your events. No supposed political necessity will justify their presence. One cannot profess a worthy education proudly and honestly while simultaneously offering a platform to the ignorant or biased.
A Washington Post survey of 18 economists in July found that 89 percent believe it’s a terrible idea for Trump to curb immigration to the United States. Experts overwhelmingly predict it would slow growth — the exact opposite of what Trump wants to do with “MAGAnomics.”
“Restricting immigration will only condemn us to chronically low rates of economic growth,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “It also increases the risk of a recession”….
But while moving to a merit-based immigration system, Cotton and Perdue also propose reducing the number of legal immigrants admitted into the United States every year by half — from about 1 million to about 500,000. They argue that having fewer immigrants will leave more jobs available for American workers.
But the economy simply doesn’t work that way.
Economists who study immigration overwhelmingly agree that immigration is an economic boon to our country. Indeed, nearly 1,500 Republican, Democratic and independent economists — including six Nobel laureates — recently released a letter stressing the “near universal agreement” among economists of all stripes on “the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”
To that consensus, Cotton responds: “Only an intellectual could believe something so stupid.” He instead points to Canada and Australia as models for limited legal immigration. However, while it’s true that Canada and Australia admit far more high-skilled immigrants, they also admit more family-based immigrants. In fact, on a per capita basis, they admit 2.4?and 3.5 times as many immigrants, respectively, as the United States does….
Because the bill went nowhere in April and will not make it onto the Senate calendar for the rest of the year, it’s an obvious, typical play to Donald Trump’s base, once more using immigrants as scapegoats and distractions. (“Trump’s appearance with the senators came as the White House moved to elevate immigration back to the political forefront after the president suffered a major defeat when the Senate narrowly rejected his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” The Post reported. “The president made a speech last Friday on Long Island in which he pushed Congress to devote more resources to fighting illegal immigration, including transnational gangs.”)
When introduced in April the bill was roundly criticized by more than 1,000 economists. There is near-uniformity among respected economists that immigrants do not “steal” jobs from native-born Americans (in part because they have different skill sets and in part because they make the economy bigger), have almost no impact on domestic wages (except for non-high school graduates, where the impact is less than 2 percent) and are essential to keep the economy growing. By reducing the number of immigrants by a half a million, the bill would shrink the U.S. economy and exacerbate the problem of an aging workforce (immigrants statistically are younger than the native-born population).
Nevertheless, for anti-immigrant groups who often insist they oppose only illegal immigration, it’s a revealing moment. They cheer the idea that we should take fewer hard-working, pro-American immigrants through legal avenues. (Trump, by the way, continues to hire substantial numbers of foreign workers at his resort in Florida.) No, the anti-immigrant forces simply want to keep people unlike themselves out of the United States. Their economic arguments are tired, wrong and a pretext for xenophobia.
Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a probability of afternoon thundershowers, and a high of seventy-eight. Sunrise is 5:49 AM and sunset 8:12 PM, for 14h 22m 42s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 84.1% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred sixty-seventh day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission meets at 6:30 PM.
That was the headline on a piece last week from the Washington Post, whose reporters continued the herculean task of debunking wave after wave of President Donald Trump’s lies. (It turned out there was a 30th Trump falsehood in that time frame, regarding the head of the Boy Scouts.) The New York Timeskeeps a running tally of the president’s lies since Inauguration Day, and PolitiFact has scrutinized and rated 69 percent of Trump’s statements as mostly false, false, or “pants on fire.”
Trump’s chronic duplicity may be pathological, as some experts have suggested. But what else might be going on here? In fact, the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the “Firehose of Falsehood.”
In 2016, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques seen in Kremlin-controlled media. The researchers described two key features: “high numbers of channels and messages” and “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”
The result of those tactics? “New Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”
(I’ve posted the RAND studypreviously; it bears repeating that Trump’s techniques are almost identical to Soviet and Russian ones.)
In a statement last week, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Congress’ nearly unanimous approval of the sanctions bill indicates that “in certain circles” of US politics “Russophobia and the course of open confrontation with our country have become entrenched.” The ministry added, “[T]he new law on sanctions clearly showed that relations with Russia have become hostage to the internal political struggle within the United States itself.”
Seva Gunitsky, a political-science professor at the University of Toronto and Russia commentator, notes that “by saying things like ‘certain circles’ in Congress are pushing for these sanctions, they are still trying to appeal to Trump. They are saying, ‘Look, these sanctions are not really Trump’s fault; they are the Congress’ fault or the deep state’s fault.’ They don’t say it in those words, but that’s sort of implicit.”
Writing on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev also eased Trump’s responsibility for the bill he just signed: “The news is mainly that Trump has given up,” he wrote, noting that Trump’s other option was to go against Congress.
Daniel Fried describes Russia’s Back-to-the-80s Foreign Policy (“Moscow has reprised Cold War tactics against the United States. It’s worth remembering that they didn’t work out well for the Soviet Union last time.”):
“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The latest round of Russian-American embassy staff hits—Russia cut hundreds of U.S. Embassy employees in an escalatory response to U.S. expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last December—recall the big Soviet-American embassy staff expulsions of 1986. Few recall the details of these Reagan-era fights. But many remember that the 1980s ended badly for the Soviet Union.
And that is the point: Moscow now, like then, has been going down a dark road of confrontation with the United States and aggression elsewhere. As with the Soviets and reactionary tsars, external confrontation coincides with, and may be compensation for, stagnation at home. Putin’s tactics, like the demonization of the United States in Russian official media, appear recycled from the Cold War. Russian cyber hacking and disinformation recall Soviet “active measures” of the 1980s. Russia’s low-grade war in Ukraine is different from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (for one thing, the Ukrainians are fighting for a European future), but both aggressions triggered resistance on the ground and from the West. Russia’s leaders can try to convince their people, and themselves, that their ability to bully neighbors, repress dissenters, and shake their fists at the United States, is a sign of strength. But, just like in the mid-1980s, this won’t work.
Despite the hopes of the Soviet regime then and Putin’s regime now, the West is not on its last legs. The anti-European, pro-Russian French nationalist whom Putin supported lost badly in France’s elections this spring. Whatever deal Putin sought or thought he had with President Trump, the power of American institutions and long-term American interests in the success of certain values—including the rule of law, human rights, democracy, and the prosperity these generate—is likely to prevail, which will not help Putin. Neither Putin’s aggression abroad nor his repression at home will fix a stalled Russian economy still dependent on oil, gas, and other raw material exports, or a political system rooted in staggering corruption organized from the top.
Conventional wisdom holds that the present situation in Washington is unprecedented. The hyperpartisanship, the dysfunctional administration, the accusations of conflicts of interests, the embattled and erratic White House and the president’s reliance on a small circle of trusted insiders, first and foremost his family, have stunned Washington and much of the country and the world. But veteran Russia-watchers have seen this before. They remember Russia in the 1990s.
The president, Boris Yeltsin, a charismatic figure often unable to control his impulses, was a prisoner of the Kremlin, or his out-of-town residence near Moscow. A heavy drinker, he was frequently reported to be unable to perform the duties of his office. He ended up relying on a small group of advisers who became known in Moscow as the “family.” At the center of it was his immediate family, who controlled access to him and his flow of information. First daughter Tatyana was his chief adviser and gatekeeper. Yeltsin’s press spokesman, Valentin Yumashev, who later married Tatyana and became Yeltsin’s chief of staff, was another key figure in the “family.” At one time or another, members of the “family” were reported to be under investigation by various Russian law enforcement agencies on suspicion of corruption. None ever went to trial, but allegations of corruption and ethical violations by those closest to Yeltsin became virtually an everyday feature of Russian political life, and in 1999 Yeltsin sacked the man in charge of the investigation.
(It’s worth noting that Yeltsin, at the right moment, defied the Communist party; Trump has never defied authoritarianism, even for a moment. Indeed, he daydreams of it. Yeltsin was the better, and Trump is the worse, man.)
It’s called Hamilton 68, after No. 68 of the Federalist Papers, in which Hamilton (writing pseudonymously as Publius) considers the danger of foreign interference in American elections (“These most deadly adversaries of republican government, might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the  chief magistracy of the union?”).
The Dashboard shows for Putin’s propaganda the top themes, top tweets of the last 24 hours, top hashtags, trending hashtags, trending topics, leading topics, top domains, trending domains, top URLs, trending URLs, distribution of tweets by hour, daily tweet counts, and distribution of tweets by day of the week.
The data are from the “activity from 600 monitored Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations.”
Midweek in Whitewater will see a likelihood of afternoon thundershowers and a high of eighty-one. Sunrise is 5:48 AM and sunset 8:13 PM, for 14h 24m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 76.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred sixty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
On July 12, 1939, Szilárd and [Hungarian physicist Eugene] Wigner drove in Wigner’s car to Cutchogue on New York’s Long Island, where Einstein was staying. When they explained about the possibility of atomic bombs, Einstein replied: Daran habe ich gar nicht gedacht (I did not even think about that). Szilárd dictated a letter in German to the Belgian Ambassador to the United States. Wigner wrote it down, and Einstein signed it. At Wigner’s suggestion, they also prepared a letter for the State Departmentexplaining what they were doing and why, giving it two weeks to respond if it had any objections.
This still left the problem of getting government support for uranium research. Another friend of Szilárd’s, the Austrian economist Gustav Stolper, suggested approaching Alexander Sachs, who had access to PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt. Sachs told Szilárd that he had already spoken to the President about uranium, but that Fermi and Pegram had reported that the prospects for building an atomic bomb were remote. He told Szilárd that he would deliver the letter, but suggested that it come from someone more prestigious. For Szilárd, Einstein was again the obvious choice. Sachs and Szilárd drafted a letter riddled with spelling errors and mailed it to Einstein.
Szilárd set out for Long Island again on August 2. Wigner was unavailable, so this time Szilárd co-opted another Hungarian physicist, Edward Teller, to do the driving. Einstein dictated the letter in German. On returning to Columbia University, Szilárd dictated the letter in English to a young departmental stenographer, Janet Coatesworth. She later recalled that when Szilárd mentioned extremely powerful bombs, she “was sure she was working for a nut”. Ending the letter with “Yours truly, Albert Einstein” did nothing to alter this impression. Both the letter and a longer explanatory letter were then posted to Einstein.
Over just a few days last week, President Trump and his allies stepped up attacks on Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the campaign’s connections to Russia. They tried to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office. They thought out loud about whether the president can pardon himself.
This all points to the same conclusion: Mr. Trump is willing to deal a major blow to the rule of law — and the American Republic — in order to end an independent investigation into his Russia ties.
It is tempting to picture the demise of democracy as a Manichaean drama in which the stakes are clear from the start and the main actors fully understand their roles: Would-be dictators rail against democracy, hire violent thugs to do their bidding and vow to destroy the opposition. When they demand expanded powers or attack independent institutions, their supporters and opponents alike realize that authoritarianism has arrived.
There have, in fact, been a few times and places when the villains were quite as villainous, and the heroes quite as heroic. (Think Germany in the 1930s.) But in most cases, the demise of democracy has been far more gradual and far easier to overlook….
(Dark those these times are, yet one can still reasonably believe that there are in America enough who see this, and from among them enough who will resist.)
NPR’s David Folkenflik reported Tuesday morning on a lawsuit filed by a man named Rod Wheeler that makes a remarkable claim: The Trump White House — or President Trump personally — may have been aware of or involved in a discredited Fox News story about the killing of a Democratic National Committee staffer last July.
It’s a complicated story that, we hasten to add, is based on allegations in a lawsuit filed by a person whose quotes in that discredited story were themselves discredited. But the lawsuit includes documentary evidence (like text messages), and Folkenflik was given access to recorded calls that bolster the story as presented. What’s more, the lawsuit is predicated on Wheeler’s assertion that he never said the quotes attributed to him.
Given the complexity of the story, we’ve taken the details in the lawsuit and arranged them as a timeline. First, though, it’s important to understand the cast of characters [charcaters and timeline follow]…
Now, though, we know that Spicer [despite his denial on 5.16.17] was indeed aware that Fox News was cooking up a story that would eventually be amplified and twisted into a huge, baseless conspiracy theory.
And — if you choose to believe everything in the lawsuit by former police investigator and Fox contributor Rod Wheeler — President Trump himself encouraged the bogus story in advance. (Wheeler’s suit claims he was misquoted by the network.)
At its most outrageous, the conspiracy theory that grew out of that initial Fox story suggested that Hillary Clinton arranged to have Rich assassinated after he betrayed the DNC by sending internal information to WikiLeaks during the campaign. All of this was based on the idea that an internal mole betrayed the DNC and that Russian hackers had nothing to do with it.
Let’s be clear: There’s no basis for that craziness and never has been. Although the killing remains unsolved, D.C. police continue to view the shooting of 27-year-old Rich as part of a botched robbery attempt.
So. We have a vulgar, unstable yo-yo with a toxic ego and an attention-deficit problem in the White House, and now we can see that government by Twitter is like trying to steer a ship by firing a pistol at the waves — not really useful — but what does it all add up to? Not that much, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but I’ll say it anyway.
We will survive this. He will do what damage he can, like a man burning books out of anger that he can’t read, but there will still be plenty of books left….
(I’d say that Keillor’s right that we’ll prevail in this, but not – as he believes – by thinking of other, better things. We’ll prevail when Trump meets his political demise, as he will through the efforts of millions of Americans committed to defending our constitutional order in active opposition to Trumpism.)
There is likely no way back from this choice. There are, of course, people who grew up in the Klan, for example, and later turned away. Of people who grew up in reasonable conditions, however, and only thereafter turned away into grave error, there are (for reasons inscrutable) far fewer redemptive outcomes.
Many will have ruined themselves, freely and with fervor, before Trumpism is finished.
A new month in Whitewater begins with partly cloudy skies and a high of eighty-one. Sunrise is 5:47 AM and sunset 8:14 PM, for 14h 27m 14s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 68.2% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the two hundred sixty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.
Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”
Over the next three days, multiple accounts of the meeting were provided to the news media as public pressure mounted, with Trump Jr. ultimately acknowledging that he had accepted the meeting after receiving an emailpromising damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.
The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported,adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.
The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the murder of a young Democratic National Committee aide, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The explosive claim is part of the lawsuit filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for the news network. The suit was obtained exclusively by NPR.
Wheeler alleges Fox News and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration’s ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story.
Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process? With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.
I will let the liberals answer for their own sins in this regard. (There are many.) But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.
I’ve been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn’t ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one’s own party. Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion”….
(I’ll assume that Flake is sincere in his views, but much more will have to be done than for a conservative senator to write remorsefully about Trumpism. Flake’s party nominated Trump, and attended his inauguration; by contrast, many millions of us have opposed and resisted him all the while.)
Trumpism wasn’t just some bottom-up movement. It, too, had its professors, politicians and journalistic commentators — the theoreticians, enablers, sanctifiers, excuse makers and Never Never-Trumpers — who gave the movement a patina of intellectual respectability and moral seriousness that Trump himself had done nothing to earn.
They are our new Antinomians, who believe the president and his administration are bound by no law, even the Mosaic one, because they have already been saved by a new version of grace — in this case, the grace of defeating Hillary Clinton. Thought exercise for Trump’s media defenders: If the president were to sexually assault a woman in the Oval Office tomorrow, would you still justify your vote on the view that Neil Gorsuch’s elevation to the Supreme Court made it all worthwhile?
“The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it,” Abbie Hoffman said in Chicago in 1968. This might as well be the slogan of this administration and its supporters, too.
In the meantime, we have a “No Guardrails” presidency, in which Trump’s contempt for law, procedure and decorum are a license for the behavior of his minions and a model for future American demagogues and their apologists.