Podcast: Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara

There’s a new podcast from Atty. Preet Bharara, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

I’ve embedded the first episode, below, and readers can subscribe to this and future episodes via iTunes or Stitcher.

On March 11, 2017 President Donald Trump fired US Attorney Preet Bharara. Preet tells the story in detail for the first time. Then, a conversation with former Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta about how to clean up a chaotic White House, trade Russian spies, and stand up for what’s right, even if it means defying a president.

Lauren Duca humbly presents…

Chris Cillizza, formerly of the Washington Post, presently of CNN, eternally a buffoon, wrote today that he thought Trump’s United Nations address was “much more poetic” than Trump’s prior speeches. From this, one can say that CNN wastes at least as much money as Cillizza’s salary & benefits.

(There are, probably, vile limericks that are more poetic than anything Trump has said. There are, with an equal chance, scribblings on bathroom walls more elegantly composed than anything thirty-something operative Stephen Miller has drafted for Trump.)

Lauren Duca, who would like more young women to write about politics, sees Cillizza’s remarks as an oppotunity to encourage others. Although I’m not much for the term idiot, in her observation about Cillizza, Duca’s on the mark…

The Premature Question

Over at the Daily Beast, Joy Reid asks What’s Going to Happen When the Trumpists Realize the America They Yearn for Is Gone?

It’s an interesting question, perhaps, but more importantly it’s a premature one. We’ve a long road ahead before Trumpism is finished, and you’ll excuse me if the time for pondering life after our present conflict is nowhere near. (Between now and then, the circumstances that planning will take into account will, no doubt, be changed, anyway.)

Concern over how that time will look matters far less than working for its arrival, however near or far that arrival may be.

For now, there’s no reason to relent or pause, no time to ponder the time after this time. We’ll have that occasion when success draws nearer.

Until then, we’ve an obligation to diligence, each day beginning again with the distance and detachment so useful for a long & demanding conflict.

The Existential (Imagined and Real)

It was Michael Anton (writing as Publius Decius Mus) who exactly one year ago famously declared that 2016 was “The Flight 93 Election,” an existential fight for survival for state-loving conservatives:

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!….

The Flight 93 Election, Claremont Institute, http://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/the-flight-93-election/

Anton now serves in the Trump Administration (“Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications”), so he may content himself with avoiding a figurative plane crash at the price of electing a man who received three million fewer votes than the leading candidate.

Anton saw an existential threat, with conservatism on the brink, yet he should have stopped at the observation that others might see his claims as histrionic: they were and are exactly that. Had Clinton won, conservatism would have gone on well enough, perhaps even a bit better, in a politics of sometime gridlock and sometime compromise between a Democratic executive and a Republican legislature. America would have seen a world of conventional politics, not of existential threat to either conservatives or liberals. For better or worse, Clinton (and Ryan and McConnell) would have held office in times mostly of business as usual, not of extreme dangers.

Contra Anton, whose false claims of existential threats look truly histrionic a year later, it’s Trump’s election that now brings America to an existential crisis: Trump daily manifests authoritarianism, bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance, subservience to a Russian dictator, and serial conflicts of interest and self-dealing.

Those who opposed Trump, had we seen Trump defeated, would have been no dire threat to anyone who supported him. Now in power, Trump and his remaining cultish operatives are, however, manifestly a threat to American liberty, to centuries of constitutional and political development on this continent.

Anton had it exactly backwards: it’s Trump’s rise to power that represents an existential threat to our ordered and civilized way of life. We are now in an existential struggle, one that Trump has forced upon us.

This struggle is fought daily in the vast space between two great oceans, gripping over three hundred million within that territory, and billions beyond for whom the outcome matters immensely.

While the field of conflict is continental, it is not – indeed cannot be – national everywhere and yet local nowhere. Much of the decaying matter from which Trumpism springs (a love of authority, entitlement, grandiosity, mediocrity, conflicts of interest) exist in even the most beautiful small towns. It’s a candid admission that many of us – and here I count myself – have not done enough to challenge these local vices that have engendered a national sin.

No doubt we had excuses for our indolence even as we saw the local fuel that now feeds this national fire, reassuring ourselves that those of that ilk were doddering & bumbling, irritating & ignorant, yet mostly harmless.

We were unwise – foolishly rationalizing our neglect as generosity. We’ve now local and national hazards before us, with neither setting able to compensate for the challenge of the other. One would think, as was rightly said during another national conflict, that ‘one war at a time is enough.’ We’ve not that compensation; we’ve both problems now, both of our own neglect.

Multitudes will see loss and suffering before all this is over. Innocent people ruined at the hands of a bigoted, fanatical nationalism.

There is, however, this advantage: those of us in opposition and resistance are holding our own even now, and we have not yet given our best. Principle and perseverance will favor us.

However late to having come to see it, this threat is unmistakable now.

What’s Left

It was Secretary Clinton who, during the campaign, controversially but memorably asserted that “[t]o just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables,'” Hillary Clinton said at a New York fundraiser on Sept. 9. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.”

This August, conservative Jennifer Rubin considered Clinton’s assertion, in a post entitled About the ‘deplorables’…

….there is no non-deplorable rationale for continuing to defend this president, his rhetoric and his moral obtuseness. No one is asked to confess error in voting for him (although some self-scrutiny would be appreciated). Nevertheless, continuing to deny he is unfit for office and to make excuses for his verbiage makes one complicit in his racial divisiveness and his determination to provide aid and comfort to neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

Some delude themselves by thinking that Trump can show “greater moral clarity” (!) (as the Republican Jewish Coalition preposterously did) or that staying in the administration prevents damage to the country (as Gary Cohn, John F. Kelly and others apparently do) or that the 2016 voters’ verdict cannot be upset with no regard for subsequent events (as Republican lawmakers insist). Let’s be blunt, these are rationalizations for continued support for an unfit, racist president. It does in fact make one deplorable.

Indeed. What’s left of Trump’s support is deplorable, and those who continue to look away are enablers of the deplorable.

Trump is manifestly unfit & those who actively continue to support him are the defenders of unfitness. In another, meaningful way, the national, state, and local politicians who are  publicly silent in the face of Trump’s daily abuses manifest a profound unfitness all their own.

For them, it’s a wager, perhaps: that in time, the rest of us will forgive or forget.

No: the future will write the history of the present, and will record Trump, his remaining supporters, and those officeholders who stayed silent, each in his or her own way, as deplorable.

Trump’s the Failure We Always Knew He Would Be

local scene Writing in the Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert finds that Donald Trump has squandered chance to broaden base, increase popularity, polls show:

“He’s done nothing to expand his base and, if anything, he’s sort of where he was, or experiencing greater erosion,” says Lee Miringoff, who conducted polls this month for NBC/Marist in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that showed Trump with a job approval rating in the mid-30s….

But here are some findings from the NBC/Marist survey of 910 Wisconsin adults, taken Aug. 13-17:

Trump has a negative approval rating from blue-collar whites, a group that is widely perceived as his demographic base, represents about half the vote in Wisconsin and favored Trump by nearly 30 percentage points last fall over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Among whites without a college degree, 38% approve of Trump and 47% disapprove. Democrat Barack Obama is today significantly more popular with these blue-collar voters in Wisconsin than Trump is. Obama is viewed favorably by 52%, Trump by 36%.

Trump’s standing with college grads, women and younger voters — three groups he struggled with in the campaign — is catastrophic. Only 24% of college grads in Wisconsin approve of his performance. Only 29% of voters under 45 do. Only 25% of women do, while 63% disapprove. It’s pretty extraordinary to see presidential numbers that lopsided from groups that represent broad demographic categories. Women make up over half the electorate. If you’re at negative 38 percentage points with an entire gender (25% approval minus 63% disapproval), it’s hard to overcome.

A significant minority of conservatives and Republicans express doubts, fears or disapproval of Trump. This is a polarized age. Modern presidents can expect almost unanimous opposition from voters in the other party, so they depend on nearly unanimous support from voters in their own party. But in the NBC/Marist Wisconsin poll, 19% of Republicans disapprove of Trump, 24% view him negatively, 25% think America’s role on the world stage has been weakened by his decisions, 31% feel embarrassed by his conduct as president, and 37% think he’s done more to divide the party than unite it.

There’s a telling aspect to political life in a rural small town, even if the town (like Whitewater) went for Hillary Clinton. While there’s no significant political cost to criticizing liberals (calling them weak, snowflakes, social justice warriors) or defaming former Pres. Obama (doubting his own religious identification, absurdly insisting he’s not American), there is a huge fear of upsetting diehard Trump supporters.

All these lifelong, proud middle class GOP town notables – so sure and smug – become shaking kittens when a Trumpist walks into the room. Even before Trump, this trend was pronounced.

(Funny story from two years ago. At a public meeting, a slovenly, brash woman asked some candidates if, after “all the money had been spent on special needs students and minorities,” what they would do for “normal people.” Obvious point, in Whitewater or other small towns: only a tiny fraction of any public money allocated goes to either minority or special needs residents. If one listens to talk radio or Fox News all day, however, one might falsely believe that most public expenditures go toward buying McMansions for Obama supporters or Special Olympians.)

For it all, it’s clear that Trump’s base is smaller than he ceaselessly claims, and that even among white working class voters who are supposedly his core constituency, he’s unpopular.

Those who’ve decided that local politics is only possible if they refrain from alienating Trump’s deplorable base are both weak in the face of that band and unnecessarily worried over its size. As it is, Trump doesn’t have a majority, and doesn’t even have a majority from a working class demographic, behind him. This makes sense: a majority overall and majorities within different groups now see well that Trump is an autocratic, bigoted confidence man.

Even if Trump had all the world behind him, opposition would be worth and necessary. It’s useful to remind oneself, however, that Trump never had and never will have all the world behind him. He doesn’t even have the formidable base he claims he has.

Three Tiers of Public Communication

Local government – and here I am thinking primarily of a small town’s local government – has three tiers of communication: saying nothing, saying something, saying the right thing. (In the third tier, right refers to a full and fair means of communication, and not right as merely agreeable and pleasing.)

Saying nothing. Common enough and easy enough to understand: nothing’s said, and especially nothing – however truthful and significant – that might reflect negatively on officeholders.

Saying something. This is the tier at which government officials are most frequently perched: they say something they believe to be positive, omitting other portions of a story no matter how relevant or material. The climb from nothing to something is the ascent from silence to sophistry. In every case at this tier, the goal is a particular presentation, with a particular goal.

Government may play this role on its own, or it may be luck enough to find a Babbitt to speak of local authorities the way a prophet would speak of God. There are always a few people like this, but it’s truly good fortune when someone will play this subservient political role with relish.

The key problem here is that to say something isn’t to say something sensible or well-considered. Indeed, at this tier, there are very few statements that are carefully vetted. There’s no tenth-man critique when one merely says something – there’s no effort to examine whether the statement might endure a sound critique: the self-serving statements in this tier are offered without foresight, almost cluelessly.

Three quick observations here:

(1) A collection of officials’ statements on significant issues would typically be a plaintiff’s counsel’s dream: a trove of revealing, somewhat clueless admissions of ignorance, bias, over-zealousness, etc. There’s either no one in these small communities who reviews statements before they’re published, reviews them with any competency, or whose review is adopted as policy even if it’s competent.

One can see this because so many statements are, in fact, a trove of revealing, somewhat clueless admissions of ignorance, bias, over-zealousness, etc….

Sometimes local officials will concede (if privately) that there are problems elsewhere in the government, but that they are the fault of another agency, leader, etc. Liability seldom works that way, at least as a claim: everyone in the chain, touching a matter at any level, usually finds himself or herself implicated. Litigation rarely begins narrowly – it mostly begins broadly.

(2) Public relations is more than a story in the paper – it’s a story that’s presented both persuasively to a target audience and safely against possible adverse claims. It’s been my pleasure to know one of the state’s leading public relations executives: her work isn’t merely about making people look good at the moment, but equally about keeping them from looking bad later on.  She’s successful because she has a powerful, worthy foresight. (I’ve never seen her assess a situation without quickly considering, and measuring, the likelihood of adverse reactions, effectively ranking them in order of probability, and so focusing only on the remaining, meaningful ones, if any.)

(3) Here’s a simple technique that works on the untalented: Although anyone can sense danger when presented with a long and complicated question, the untalented will not sense the risk in a simple question. ON the contrary, they’ll likely think it’s a sign that the questioner is untalented, and so they’ll answer at length and without careful consideration, on, and on, and on.

It’s in that lengthy answer that they’ll reveal much, and leave myriad hostages to fortune.

Say the right thing. Here one says not merely what’s favorable, but what’s true, good or bad, favorable or unfavorable, confident in one’s ability to present and manage either.

It’s also the only tier in which one sits honorably.

Update: Sunday: Mentoring.

‘Enough is enough’

The Los Angeles Times editorial board plainly states the truth about these times:

These are not normal times.

The man in the White House is reckless and unmanageable, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions.

Last week some of his worst qualities were on display: his moral vacuity and his disregard for the truth, as well as his stubborn resistance to sensible advice. As ever, he lashed out at imaginary enemies and scapegoated others for his own failings. Most important, his reluctance to offer a simple and decisive condemnation of racism and Nazism astounded and appalled observers around the world.

With such a glaring failure of moral leadership at the top, it is desperately important that others stand up and speak out to defend American principles and values. This is no time for neutrality, equivocation or silence. Leaders across America — and especially those in the president’s own party — must summon their reserves of political courage to challenge President Trump publicly, loudly and unambiguously.

Enough is enough….

Via Enough is Enough.

And yet, and yet, look around: how many officials in cities and towns – so quick to proclaim themselves proud Americans, influencers, notables, movers-and-shakers – now have nothing to say about the most important political question of our time?

Years of glad-handing, business cards, expectations of special treatment, self-promotion at every opportunity, lapping praise and ladling puffery, and in the end, each of them shown as nothing more than lions that meow.

Molly Ball on ‘The Trump Show’

Covering Trump’s recent appearance in West Virginia, Molly Ball writes that

“HUNTINGTON, W.V.—Every day brings new drama, but the Trump Show’s themes remain the same. He’s come to tell his people that everyone else is wrong and they are right….

They have come here, more or less, to be lied to: Trump, in his speech, will say, “We are building a wall on the Southern border,” which is not actually happening, though some preexisting fencing is being repaired. He will also claim that thousands more people were turned away outside, which isn’t true, and that coal jobs are “coming back strong,” though only about 1,000 coal jobs have been created during his tenure—a decrease from the previous administration’s pace….

“The news pisses me off,” says Jerry Pullen, a 45-year-old local who’s sitting at the end of a row of wheelchairs and motorized scooters. He’s tired of the phony statistics, the negative tone. “I don’t think they should keep letting people into America when I’m unemployed,” he says. Raised a Democrat, Pullen dislikes both parties now; he only likes Trump.

I ask Pullen what Trump needs to accomplish to satisfy him, and he says, “Quit letting the Mexicans and Muslims in here. All the other foreign people, too. They’re terrorists. There’s too many people in this country—we’re overpopulated.” When he’s out on the street, he says, he can tell certain people are looking at him with contempt. “They hate me because I’m a white guy,” he says. “I can feel it.”

See The Trump Show Never Ends (“This is what’s going to happen, day in and day out—an endless loop of shock and fury…”).

Pullen and his ilk dubiously claim to be victims while simultaneously calling for the victimization of others.

Before Trump, before the Russians who leash him like an organ grinder’s monkey, before white nationalism became the alt-right, before Fox spent years flacking birtherism and then Putinism, there were many in cities and towns across America who tolerated, excused, and overlooked the worst.

Fallacious arguments, dodgy data, puffery, Babbittry, and buffoonery: we grew complacent, in reasoning and diligence, and in came those who thrive on such weakness. If we had done more – if we had been even more diligent in our opposition – we might have prevented much of this.

Trumpism and Putinism (they’re related, to be sure) have this in common: they thrive in places lacking sound principles and practices.

We have allowed ourselves, in towns across America, to become other such people and places. When we have reclaimed our just & proper tradition, we’ll need to keep our own negligence in mind.

Too Little, Too Late

Brian Beutler writes that Jeff Flake’s Ridiculous, Fake Anti-Trump Rebellion Should Terrify Republicans:

[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.)

“The Leader is the Party and the Party is the Leader”

Embed from Getty Images

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.”

Of course the GOP should abandon Trumpism, but then they are now crossing that autocratic threshold where for Trump “der führer ist die partei und die partei ist der führer.”

When Lions Meow

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.

The Limits of Cultural Shelter

In difficult times, some will retreat to apolitical, cultural matters.

An apolitical approach is not one that I would take, but for others perhaps it seems the best that one can do. Indeed, in Whitewater, I’ve advocated that approach for those who would not take an overt stand on the principal political question of our time (where one stands on Trump). See An Oasis Strategy.

Two key points:

1. Although one should support a diverse society, with many cultural opportunities, that hardly means that all subcultures are equally beneficial to society. Subcultures that espouse racism & bigotry (e.g., white nationalists, neo-confederates), or reject basic principles of reasoning and economics (e.g., Russian-style propaganda & lies, anti-market economic fallacies) don’t deserve support.

White nationalism is a subculture, to be sure, but it’s a lumpen, inferior one. It deserves only obloquy.

A cultural oasis as a refuge from political strife will not be found with those who have, themselves, embraced the very subcultures that advocate the degradation of the constitutional order. 

2. Keeping in mind the maxim that ‘one war at a time is enough’, it’s still worth remembering that when Trumpism meets its political ruin – and it will – the subcultures that sustained it will thereafter meet their social ruin. This was true of the Klan and the Bund. So it will be true of those who, while professing a merely cultural position, in fact supported Trumpism’s political one.

That’s a battle for another time, but a time that will nevertheless will follow in due course.

For now, it seems both right and inevitable that our children and grandchildren will ask us where we stood on the matter of Trump.

There will be only one worthy answer: resolutely committed to the American constitutional order, and so necessarily & resolutely opposed to Trump.

Comms are secondary (at best)

In the video above, the Daily Show compares Trump’s gestures with those of new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The latter seems an impersonator of the former. (Imagine being so eager for power that one would impersonate Trump; it’s like wanting a banana so much that one would act like a chimpanzee.)

Michael Gerson, meanwhile, observes Why Anthony Scaramucci won’t make a dent in Trump’s problems:

Who can look at the wreck of the White House — bitterly divided, dysfunctional and hemorrhaging leaks — and think a better communications approach is the answer? Who can look at the wreck of Trump’s agenda — stymied in spite of Republican control of the House and Senate — and think the real problem is insufficient credit-taking on television? I could name half a dozen White House jobs that more urgently needed new blood — including the chief of staff — than communications director. Jobs in the press department are what the press and the president mainly see. But obvious problems are not always the most urgent….

Trump’s greatest need is not someone who will defend him on cable television. It is an administration capable of even the baby steps of governing — defining a positive, realistic agenda and selling it to Congress, starting with one’s own party. Trump does not have a communications problem; he has a leadership problem.

That’s true of most places: an exhortation that one should communicate, communicate, communicate.

And yet, and yet, these questions await: communicate about what, to whom, and to what end?

The Fellow Travelers

Jeremy Peters nicely describes the descent of far too many into mere fellow travelers for Putin, a dictator, imperialist, and murderer (Peters is far too mild about Putin, but he’s ably identified the self-hating Americans who support Russian’s dictator, and some of whom are perhaps even fifth columnists for Russia):

WASHINGTON — Years before the words “collusion” and “Russian hacking” became associated with President Vladimir V. Putin, some prominent Republicans found far more laudatory ways to talk about the Russian leader.

“Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, gushed in 2014.

Mr. Putin was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, K. T. McFarland said in 2013, before going on to serve a brief and ill-fated stint as Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser.

“A great leader,” “very reasoned,” and “extremely diplomatic,” was how Mr. Trump himself described Mr. Putin that same year.

Though such fondness for Mr. Putin fell outside the Republican Party’s mainstream at the time, it became a widely held sentiment inside the conservative movement by the time Mr. Trump started running for president in 2015. And it persists today, despite evidence of Russian intervention in the 2016 American election and Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies at home.

Via Reverence for Putin on the Right Buys Trump Cover.

Trumpism Down to the Local Level

I wrote last week, in a post entitled ‘What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump,’ about five degrees of culpability for Putinism’s insinuation and degradation of American politics.

One could modify that list only slightly, and thereby describe Trump’s present influence in America:

(1) those who have served the Trump as operatives and surrogates to advance his agenda in opposition to America liberty and sovereignty, (2) those sympathetic to Trumpism (including white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and theologically-confused & intellectually-stunted Americans who ludicrously think that Trump’s a moral exemplar), (3) those who wilfully refuse to see the damage Trump has done, (4) those who for years have maintained the low standards that have allowed Trump-style lies and misconduct to flourish (including every glad-handing Babbitt in every town in America), and (5) those of us who should have seen more clearly, and dealt with the rest more assertively & decisively, all these years gone by.

Most people, facing a conflict not of their wishes, would yet prefer to fight on only one front. America has not had that luxury in prior conflicts, and those of us in opposition do not have that luxury now. Some might have hoped to fight only nationally, and others to do so only locally. However one might apportion one’s time, there is a need to engage on both fronts.

Those supporting Trumpism declared boldly (and falsely) in 2016 that theirs was an existential struggle. I don’t believe for a moment that their situation was such; I’ve no doubt that they’ve now pushed those in opposition into such a conflict. What they unreasonably feared for themselves they’ve now unjustly inflicted on others.

So be it. Americans have faced secessionist slaveholders, copperheads, klan, and bund. Each threat we overcame, each danger in its time we consigned to the outer darkness.

We will slog through this time, through its dark politics, by use of law and a better politics, until it is no longer necessary to do so.

Local Newspaper Demographics

One of the interesting – but hard to answer – questions about local news is the composition of its readership. Of local news publications, this question implicates professional publications like the Daily Union and Gazette (and even a longtime politician’s website like the Banner).

One could guess – but only guess – that local readership of these publications is probably similar to that of Fox News. Nationally, newspaper readership skews to older Americans: half of newspaper readers in 2015 were over 65 years old. For Fox News, it’s a similar, if even older, demographic: half of Fox News viewers in 2015 were over 68. These are nationwide, rather than local, readership and viewership data.

Although Gazette, Daily Union, and Banner likely skew old, that doesn’t mean the same older people are consuming both Fox and these print media.

Still, it’s probably not a bad assumption. I’d guess that there’s a significant overlap between the readership of these publications and viewership of Fox. In some cases this is because the respective publishers lean the way Fox does; more significantly, the publications in this group (surely the professional ones) are probably financially beholden to a readership that looks to Fox for political guidance. An overt break would doom them with skittish advertisers. (More broadly, a lifetime of glad-handing and ingratiation now likely depends on toeing a none-too-sharp party line.)

Fox relies (at best) on mediocrity or (at worst) mendacity. (For an assessment of the habitual low quality of a program like Fox & Friends, for example, see Trump accuses James Comey of breaking the law — based on a misleading Fox News report,  Kill ‘Fox & Friends’ before it’s too late, and ‘Fox & Friends’ issues correction on Comey report.)

It must be a difficult atmosphere environment in which to work. The best decision one could make would be to chart one’s own course, avoiding having to fret over tension between a normal standard and one no better than Fox delivers.

One measures the strength of a position by whether one would abandon it for another. Sometimes a good decision simply requires that one turn away from others’ worse ones. I’ve felt from the beginning, and feel incrementally more so each day, that an independent course has been the right one.

We might have lived in easier times, when an independent course would count for less; these are not those easier times. Acquiescence seemed a bad choice five or ten years ago; it’s far worse than that now.

Gabriel Schoenfeld on ‘Trump and his whole circus – They have no good choices’

Gabriel Schoenfeld, the author of Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law, was a senior adviser to the 2012 Romney for President campaign. He observes the damage that Trump has done to the GOP:

Figures like Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, cogs in the White House machinery who today seamlessly defend Trump and his lies, did not come to Trump World from the fever swamps of Breitbart News. They are from the heart of the GOP apparatus, the Republican National Committee, where only yesterday — in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat — they were preaching moderation and inclusiveness.

Employing their skills to rationalize Trump’s fabrications, his misogyny, his debasement of discourse and language, and his strange admiration for and acquiescence to Vladimir Putin, these apparatchiks have compromised themselves even more than Trump’s band of true believers. There is no going back. The latter — figures like Jeffrey LordKayleigh McEnany,and Katrina Pierson — have come to resemble a cult of unswerving loyalty to Trump and the Trump line….

As the Russian collusion story enters a new and perhaps decisive phase, it would not be surprising to see these intellectuals [Bennett, Gelernter, Kimball], along with the political operatives and politicians, stick with Trump to the bitter end. Having wandered into the muck, they are loath to admit how badly they’ve soiled themselves, let alone turn back. Their dilemma is quite similar to the one their hero now faces as the lies unravel and the truth comes to light. They have no good choices. The rest of us can take satisfaction that the ship of fools has run aground.

Via Don Jr. Russia emails trap Trump and his whole circus. They have no good choices.

There’s much yet to come, and those of us in opposition will see it through, confident from the beginning that we have been right in that opposition.

About the 2017 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence to…Sean Hannity

Lachlan Markay reports that pro-Trump Sean Hannity will receive the 2017 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence from the conservative Media Research Center (see the announcement, below).

That’s risible for a few reasons: (1) Hannity’s not an example of media excellence if either media or excellence are to have any meaning, (2) Hannity’s nothing like Buckley in intellect or erudition (no matter what one might think of Buckley, anyone should see this), and (3) Buckley was deeply critical of Trump.

See, from William F. Buckley, excerpts drawn from an essay by William F. Buckley Jr. that appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of Cigar Aficionado, and since republished at National Review:

Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.

Here’s that announcement —