Wednesday, February 24, 2021

REPUBLICANS WON'T PERCEIVE A 1/6 COMMISSION AS BALANCED NO MATTER HOW MANY PARTY MEMBERS ARE ON IT

Politico Playbook writes about a proposed commission to study the January 6 riots:
When Republican TOM KEAN became head of the 9/11 Commission, he got a call from TIM RUSSERT asking him to come on “Meet the Press.” Kean said he’d only appear if his Democratic counterpart on the commission, LEE HAMILTON, were invited too.

Russert balked....
Which reminds us that the Sunday chat shows have had a pro-Republican bias forever, and there was no "golden age" in the Tim Russert era, as some seem to believe.
... Kean — believing the only way for the commission to work was for it to look and act completely bipartisan — told him to “find someone else.” Russert called him back five minutes later and relented. And the commission, which was split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, went on to become one of the most praised instances of bipartisan oversight in modern history.
This story is told as an admonishment to Nancy Pelosi:
Twenty years later, Speaker NANCY PELOSI is calling for a “9/11-style” commission to investigate Jan. 6. But instead of equal representation, Pelosi’s initial recommendation is for the panel to be made up of seven Democratic-appointed members and four Republican-appointed ones.

That would be a mistake, the leaders of the original commission, Kean and Hamilton, told Playbook. Republican voters will never accept the findings if there’s even a whiff of the investigation being driven by Democrats....

Pelosi’s office has said her proposal was only a “discussion draft.” And a Democrat familiar with negotiations over the commission said it’s the GOP that’s playing politics with it, dragging out the process and refusing to commit to a defined purpose for the panel.
In a better country, I'd agree that a 1/6 commission should have equal party representation. But members of the commission should agree on basic facts: that Joe Biden won the election legitimately; that citizens had a right to protest the election outcome but didn't have a right to overrun the Capitol with violent intent; that "patriotism" is not a synonym for "conservatism" or "support for Donald Trump."

But if you find Republicans who agree to all these things, no Republican voter will acknowledge that they're actually party members in good standing. They'll be described as RINOs, cucks, and members of the "Uniparty."

None of the members of the 9/11 Commission held elective office at the time of the appointments. Most were politcal retirees. That might be a better approach to follow now than a commission made up of sitting members of Congress.

But whoever sits on the commission, it will never impress conservatives as balanced unless it completely exonerates the right. An honest, balanced commission might impress liberal and centrist voters, but right-wingers will denounce even Republican members as Deep State puppets unless they conclude that the real villains of 1/6 were Antifa and Nancy Pelosi.

So it probably doesn't matter what the commission looks like. It won't help us achieve a national consensus.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

WHO'S AN EVIL ELITIST? LET'S ASK THE FOLKS ON THE HORSESHOE

An NBC News survey claims that over the past decade there's been a significant increase in the percentage of blue-collar Americans who identify as Republicans, and a significant decrease in the percentage who identify as Democrats. Whether or not this is the case, it has led to much crowing among Republicans -- particularly non-blue-collar Republicans like Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani boasted about this survey on Twitter, to which I responded with a snarky photo tweet -- at which point a Trumper responded to me:


This is why I believe that a large portion of America will just shrug if Donald Trump is charge with financial felonies, even if he's sent to prison. Forty years of Reaganite propaganda has persuaded much of America that people in business are doing the Lord's work, while history's greatest monsters are (ick! ptui!) politicians (who often become quite financially comfortable, but rarely live the lifestyle Trump has lived, unless they were wealthy before they ran for office). But that's right-wing "anti-elitism" -- it isn't anti the most elite of elitists.

And at the other end of the horseshoe are the liberal-hating leftists Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper, and their podcast guest Aaron Maté. I won't dwell on the first part of this clip, in which, among other things, Maté chortles over liberal concerns about Russia, such as the fear, once expressed by the hated Rachel Maddow, that Russia could possibly shut down part of the U.S. power grid with a cyberattack (even though Russia did precisely that to Ukraine in 2016). Maté regards the belief that Russia is dangerous as QAnon-level crackpottery -- he calls it "BlueAnon." Which leads to Taibbi's comments at 1:17 in the clip below.



Taibbi says:
I mean, it's funny because QAnon, in its specifics, is about as crazy as a thing can possibly get. I mean, it's -- the explanation is so we-- you would need, like, a chart this big to be able to diagram the ostensible plot to it.

But the underlying thought is that it's, you know, sort of a coalition of Trumpists who are taking on these elitists who, you know, want to take over the rest of society. So there's a core of, like, emotional truth animating the QAnon theory....
Yes, there's "truth," or at least "emotional truth," in the QAnon notion that "elitists" bent on global domination are being challenged by heroic "Trumpists" -- who are, we are to assume, totally not elitists and who totally don't "want to take over the rest of society."

So the MAGA right and the liberal-hating left agree: there's a dangerous cabal of elitist enemies, but it sure as hell doesn't include the previous Republican president -- who is a billionaire, or at least lives like one -- or his rich Republican allies.

WE WON'T GET WHAT WE NEED FROM TRUMP'S FINANCIAL RECORDS

If you're hoping we'll soon see the downfall of Donald Trump in a Manhattan courtroom, you might need to temper your expectations.
Terabytes of data. Dozens of prosecutors, investigators and forensic accountants sifting through millions of pages of financial documents. An outside consulting firm drilling down on the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.

That is the monumental task that lies ahead in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his family business after a United States Supreme Court order on Monday cleared the way for prosecutors to obtain eight years worth of Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records.
Settle in. This will take a while.

And if a case is brought against Trump, it's unlikely that it will tell an emotionally compelling story.
The subpoenas relate to a central aspect of [Manhattan DA Cyrus] Vance’s inquiry, which focuses on whether Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, inflated the value of some of his signature properties to obtain the best possible loans, while lowballing the values to reduce property taxes, people with knowledge of the matter have said. The prosecutors are also examining the Trump Organization’s statements to insurance companies about the value of various assets.
A monster like Trump and that's what we're going to get him on? Tinkering with the stated values of his properties so he can get better terms on loans and shave some dollars off his taxes?

Sure, if it happens, it will be satisfying to those of us who already despise him. And I'm not saying that we need to charge him with offenses so egregious that even MAGA Nation will turn against him -- that could never happen, even if he killed someone in cold blood.

But there are many Americans in the middle -- people who don't love or hate Trump. Their equivalents in the 1970s eventually acknowledged that Richard Nixon was a bad man whose resignation was good for the country.

Donald Trump is much worse than Nixon, and yet Trump's poll numbers never sunk to the mid-20s during his presidency, the way Nixon's did, even after two impeachments. Nixon was eventuslly regarded as the greatest living monster in American politics. Much of America still doesn't see Trump that way.

Many Americans assume that everyone in big business cooks the books. They think New York real estate is a tough, cutthroat enterprise, and that you have to work the angles to make money.

Many Americans won't understand what the crimes are. They'll be bored by the details. They won't see how they were harmed by what Trump did. Remember when The New York Times obtained Trump tax records and ran a massive story about the financial chicanery they revealed? Most of America yawned.

I'd love to see Trump go to prison. But I'd also love to see him become the national pariah that Nixon became, someone who's an embarrassment even to his party-mates. We're not there yet. And a long investigation into business crimes, followed by a trial focused on a complicated parsing of financial documents, won't get us there.

Monday, February 22, 2021

THE ELEVEN WORDS IN TRUMP'S "PERSECUTION" STATEMENT THAT SCARE ME

I'm sure you know that the Supreme Court has refused to block a demand from the Manhattan DA's office for tax documents from Donald Trump. As Jonathan Chait notes, Trump is flipping out.
He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.
The statement -- which, as Chait notes, "bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides" -- appears below, courtesy of CNN's Jim Acosta. I'll grant that it's emotionally satisfying to watch Trump sputter with rage -- but one phrase in this statement alarms me:


It's the phrase at the end of the third paragraph, in which Trump rails against "'headhunting' prosecutors and AGs." He says prosecutors want to "take [him] out" -- and then writes, "except that the people of our Country won't stand for it."

When Trump says, "the people of our Country," he always means the people of his country: Trump voters, whom he regards as the only legitimate Americans. And what does he mean when he says they "won't stand for it"? What right do the residents of MAGA Nation have to intervene in prosecutions by a DA in Manhattan? Even if they wanted to intervene, how would they do it?

After January 6, we know the answer to that: They'd do it by means of political violence.

I wrote about this back in November. I was reading about a pro-Trump demonstration in D.C. that, as it turned out, wasn't very large and never became violent, but what I feared at the time actually happened a couple of months later. I noted that in 2010 the Obama administration abandoned plans to try the 9/11 plotters in Manhattan, because the security plan for the area around the courthouse was deemed too onerous for the neighborhood and there was ongoing anxiety about violence surrounding the trial. I wrote:
I think a trial of Donald Trump in Manhattan -- or anywhere in America -- could pose similar security risks. I'm not sure there's as much reason to fear MAGA Nation if Trump is put on trial as there was to fear Al Qaeda sympathizers a decade ago, but I couldn't really guess at the relative risk.
We can guess now. The risk of a violent mass disruption of a Trump trial is great.

And in his statement today, I think Trump is trying to summon just such a response.

YOU POLLED REPUBLICANS, NOW POLL AMERICANS

This appeared yesterday:
An exclusive Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll finds [Donald] Trump's support largely unshaken after his second impeachment trial in the Senate....

By double digits, 46%-27%, those surveyed say they would abandon the GOP and join the Trump party if the former president decided to create one. The rest are undecided....

Half of those polled say the GOP should become "more loyal to Trump," even at the cost of losing support among establishment Republicans. One in five, 19%, say the party should become less loyal to Trump and more aligned with establishment Republicans....

Eight in 10 say they would be less likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supported Trump's impeachment....
And for good measure:
Asked to describe what happened during the assault on the Capitol, 58% of Trump voters call it "mostly an antifa-inspired attack that only involved a few Trump supporters." That's more than double the 28% who call it "a rally of Trump supporters, some of whom attacked the Capitol." Four percent call it "an attempted coup inspired by President Trump."
This is a poll of Trump voters, and it isn't the only post-riot, post-inauguration, post-impeachment polling limited to the right. Last week, as part of a general survey, Morning Consult posed a question to Republican voters exclusively:
According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted at the conclusion of the Senate’s weeklong trial, a majority of Republican voters (54 percent) said they would support Trump in a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary election – matching the share who said the same in late November, before his standing dipped in a survey conducted shortly after the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.


Yes, Morning Consult has polled GOP voters three times on this question since the election.

On the one hand, there's some value to this. We learned on January 6, and throughout the period between the election and the inauguration, that a thoroughly Trumpified Republican Party is a serious danger to American democracy and puts many people at risk of serious physical harm. We should know whether the backers of one of our two major political parties have thoroughly rejected the notion that the other major party can win an election legitimately, and whether they dismiss concerns about violent behavior by their ideological soul mates.

On the other hand, these polls seem to be a new variant of the media's many safaris into the heart of Trump country, in which reporters discovered every few weeks that, yes, white male retirees in rural diners who voted for Trump still like Trump.

The next midterms will take place 21 months from now; it's way too early to use polling to try to assess what voters will do then, much less two years later in the presidential election. But if we're going to poll, we should poll everybody. We should try to determine whether Trump and his party have alienated the rest of us.

How do voters say they'd vote in a Trump-Biden rematch -- or in a Trump-Kamala Harris matchup? What about Biden or Harris vs. Donald Trump Jr., Josh Hawley, or (if we want to test candidates who aren't Trump purists) Mike Pence or Nikki Haley? What does generic ballot polling look like -- when voters are asked which party they'd back in a vote for Congress, do Republicans do worse? If they do, does the Democratic share of the vote go up, or have alienated GOP voters moved to "undecided" (because they've heard for forty years that Democrats are evil and can't quite make the switch)?

Poll the whole country if you want to poll 2022 and 2024. It would tell us a lot about how all of America feels right now about events since the election, and about what the Republican Party has become. It's possible that swing voters still don't regard the GOP as completely in thrall to Trump, QAnon, and the Oath Keepers, or it's possible that they don't care. If that's the case, we should know. And if they are alienated, we should know that, so we'll stop treating Republican voters as normative Americans.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

BRUNI: LIMBAUGH'S CRITICS ARE THE REAL MENACE

I don't have to tell you that Frank Bruni's column about Rush Limbaugh is terrible, but I'm struggling to understand precisely what he's arguing.
“BIGOT, MISOGYNIST, HOMOPHOBE, CRANK: RUSH LIMBAUGH DEAD.” Those were the words, capitalized and adrenalized, that HuffPost splashed across its home page. Several other left-leaning sites took the same tack and tone....

I ... don’t quibble with the accuracy of the nasty nouns in HuffPost’s damning litany. But were they necessary at that exact moment and in that particular context? All of them were justly and repeatedly slung at Limbaugh when he was alive. In real time his critics labeled his hate and his ignorance — which were his steppingstones to fame and riches — for what they were, exposing them and pushing back at him. That was just. He earned it. If you’re going to fling your opinions at the world, you must be braced for the world to fling its reaction back at you. Those are the terms of the contract.
So Bruni argues that it was fine to attack Limbaugh while he was alive, but it's wrong now, when he's dead. Why? Did the effect of Limbaugh's words cease when he died? If the resentments he stirred up will persist long after he's gone, why shouldn't we talk about him as if the cultural space he occupied is now a toxic waste site that will take many years to clean up?

But Bruni then suggests that that's not really his argument:
... it would be journalistic malpractice and morally wrong to publish obituaries about Limbaugh that merely noted his role in the rise of talk radio and his adoration by millions of listeners. Those appraisals were obliged, for the sake of history and accuracy, to note and be reasonably blunt about how he used his format, what listeners were thrilling to and what impact it had on the country’s political culture.

The Times’s obituary did precisely that....

The headline: “Rush Limbaugh Dies at 70; Turned Talk Radio Into a Right-Wing Attack Machine.” That nails his significance and signals his destructiveness without hurling slurs.
So it's slurs Bruni has a problem with. Notice what Bruni believes: that "bigot," "misogynist," and "homophobe" are slurs. In fact, they're simple nouns that are shown to be accurate by the obituary he praises (and by the undisputed facts of Limbaugh's life).

Bruni also praises another Times piece on Limbaugh:
Remember — who couldn’t? — when Trump cheapened the Presidential Medal of Freedom by bestowing it on Limbaugh? The best response that I read to that was, as it happens, in The Times, by my colleague Talmon Joseph Smith, who didn’t wring his hands and beat his chest and overwork his thesaurus for synonyms for “shameful,” “abomination” and such. He simply put together a greatest-hits compilation of some of Limbaugh’s least charitable statements about women and minorities, laying Limbaugh’s sexism and racism bare without ever affixing those labels to it.
Oooh -- labels! Labels are bad! They're the problem!

And why is that, according to Bruni?
... the nastier stuff that I saw ... accidentally reif[ied Limbaugh's] aspersions against liberals as merciless jurists.... If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Limbaugh was just flattered to a fare thee well. He got posthumous company in the gutter, and I’m hard pressed to identify anyone who benefits from that.
I'll tell you who benefits from that: anyone who's leftist, liberal, or even moderate while stuck in a Republican oupost of the American heartland, someplace full of Trump flags and Limbaugh listeners. When we lash out at Limbaugh, we tell people in that culture that there's another way of looking at the world, and that there are parts of America where that isn't the dominant worldview.

And with his reference to "merciless jurists," Bruni implies that Limbaugh's critics are his equals -- a man who golfed with President Trump, conducted seven interviews with Dick Cheney when he was vice president, was made an honorary member of the House Republican class of 1994 after the GOP gained a majority in the midterms, and slept in the Lincoln Bedroom when George H.W. Bush was president. Limbaugh was a very powerful man with very influential friends in the party that has dominated American politics for more than forty years. Attacking him, even now, is speaking truth to power.

Limbaugh was part of the power structure. He regularly punched down. (Ask Sandra Fluke.) He doesn't need protecting, even in death. Stop treating him like a special snowflake, Frank.

Frank Bruni is 56. Given the fact that a Times op-ed job tends to be a lifetime appointment, Bruni is likely to be a columnist at the paper when we lose Jimmy Carter, Nancy Pelosi, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. There will be very, very nasty responses on the right to all of these deaths.

Will Bruni write a horiified column about the nastiness? No, he won't. Right-wingers are expected to be nasty. We're the ones who supposed to maintain decorum.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

WHAT IF THEY HAD A CIVIL WAR AND NOBODY FOUGHT?

Tim Miller of The Bulwark is right: There is no Republican civil war, and there'll be no friction in 2022 between what we're now calling the Mitch McConnell wing of the party and the Donald Trump wing:
The Ohio Senate race provides a nice preview to what I’d like to call the Republican party’s UnCivil Unwar. There are currently two major, declared candidates in the GOP contest to replace the retiring Rob Portman.

The first, Josh Mandel, was formerly the state treasurer and back in 2012 he ran for Senate against Sherrod Brown as your conventional Marco Rubio/Eric Cantor/Mitt Romney style Republican. The second is Jane Timken, the former Ohio GOP chair, a Harvard graduate and the wife of a steel magnate. Both had been allies of the centrist Republican Governor John Kasich, with Timken even supporting his bid for president in 2016.

If you were not familiar with Ohio politics, you might think that both of these candidates would be on the McConnell side of the “Civil War” and that there must be some rabid, Gym Jordan-style Trumpkin waiting in the wings.

But in fact, both Timken and Mandel are competing in the “Trump Lane” in the primary according to NBC News. No, really. After Trump beat Kasich in 2016, Mandel started vouching for Pizzagate Jack Posobiec while Timkin Brutused John Kasich and cleansed the state party of anyone who wore the scarlet K.

Trump fealty (and Kasich calumny) has been the coin of the realm in the nascent primary campaign. Ohio Capital Journal reporter Tyler Buchanan notes that over two-thirds of each candidate’s tweets have been about Trump since they launched their respective campaigns.
Yup:


Miller continues:
And forget Ohio: I don’t expect there to be any contested Senate primary in the lower 48 where there will be a viable Republican candidate who blames Trump for the insurrection, admits Biden won the election fairly, and argues we need to turn the page on Trump.

The Trump/McConnell Civil War is one big Spiderman Doppelgänger meme, with Spidey #1 supporting a Trump autocracy both privately and publicly and Spidey #2 supporting a Trump autocracy in public, while privately whispering to donors that the cop-killing coup went a tad too far for their taste.

In the Ohio Senate primary the “Trump Lane” is the entire highway.
But here's the thing: McConnell will be perfectly fine with candidates who fit the Spidey #2 template, just as he was fine with Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (both of whom nearly won). His only quibble with Trumpism is that he doesn't want candidates who are unacceptably crazy-sounding, and he doesn't want Trump going to candidates' states and telling the GOP base that the whole system is corrupt and all the elections are rigged in favor of Democrats. He just wants whatever wil work to get him his majority back.

One more thing: After the Republican primary is won by Timken or Mandel, the victor will probably tick slightly to the left and begin sounding a tiny bit less Trumpy (without, of course, saying anything to alienate the God Emperor) -- and the press will tell us there's nothing to worry about if this red-hat-wearing election truther wins, because he or she is really a conventional conservative. David Brooks and Kathleen Parker will tell us not to worry -- America will be fine.

By November 2022, the Overton window will be far to the right of where it is now -- unless Democrats find a way to win a few seats back. In addition to Ohio, there'll be Senate races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Iowa where Democrats should be competitive, and where they're likely to be running against Trumpers (or Trumpers of convenience). We look at the polls now and say that Trumpism is offputting to a significant majority of Americans. We'll see whether that's the case two years from now.

Friday, February 19, 2021

TED CRUZ WILL BE REELECTED IN 2024

We all know that Ted Cruz was hoping to run for president in 2024. After the Cancun trip, he probably can't run now -- but I think he'll run for reelection to the Senate, and he'll probably win.

Yes, even some conservatives are criticizing Cruz, but Roy Edroso is right:
I'm not starry-eyed about this apparent consensus on Cruz. First, no one actually likes him; Texans are simply unable to vote for Democrats, lest they question the unreasoning belligerence that passes for manhood there.
Certainly there's a segment of the Texas electorate that doesn't match Edroso's description -- but that segment always falls just short of an electoral majority, and I'm not optimistic that that will change in 2022 or 2024. Yes, Stacey Abrams got a couple of Democrats over the finish line in Georgia, but I don't see a Stacey Abrams in Texas, just as I don't see one in Florida, ehere Democrats routinely fall just short. And in both states, Republicans will undoubtedly find extremely creative ways to suppress the Democratic vote in the future.

Amanda Marcotte is also right:
The situation in Texas is so bad that it started to feed progressive fantasies that this might actually be the moment that Republicans start to pay a political penalty for years of neglecting basic governance duties in favor of endless culture war politics and liberal-baiting....

But I would not be writing the eulogies for Cruz's political career just yet....

Republicans have mastered the art of turning their own failures as leaders into a story about how it's the government that's the true problem — not their deliberate mishandling of it.

The expansive right-wing propaganda machine gets to work exploiting every catastrophe caused by Republican neglect and using it for a morality play about how government itself can never be trusted to handle important responsibilities. As such, their audiences are encouraged to vote not on the basis of policy, but instead to elect politicians based on culture war politics and trolling liberals.

...this is what Republicans are good at doing: creating crises and then using them as evidence that politics is useless for anything but for whining about liberals.
But maybe a Republican could beat Cruz, as Jamelle Bouie argues:


But Cruz will have an advantage over Republican challengers (assuming there are any) precisely because most of the critics of his Cancun trip are liberals, which means Cruz's is the enemy of Republican voters' most hated enemies, and because the liberal criticism of Cruz is that he could have done something to help, which, as Marcotte notes, is the complete antithesis of how Republican voters view the role of elected officials.

Marcotte writes:
There are, of course, many things politicians can do. As many liberals pointed out on social media, a lot of Democratic politicians are hustling to get aid to people in Texas, even ones like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York. More broadly, however, there's plenty Cruz, as a senator, could be doing to leverage this crisis to push for policy. For instance, he could be backing the Green New Deal, which tackles the twin problems of decaying infrastructure and climate change at once.
But opposing the Green New Deal and all other climate legislation is precisely what Texas Republicans want their candidates to do. So is being the polar opposite of AOC and Beto -- even when AOC and Beto are providing desperately needed aid to suffering Texans.

So once this crisis passes, Cruz will be seen as precisely what Texas Republicans love: a guy hated by liberals. His approval numbers will stay solid on the right. That should get him reelected.

FOR ONCE, A REPUBLICAN GETS ALINSKYED

I say this frequently: Saul Alinsky was a left-winger, but only Republicans seem to take him seriously these days. Among Alinsky's Rules for Radicals was this one:
Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Republicans are excellent at this -- the right-wing media personalizes every issue and devotes most of its energy to creating Democratic, liberal, and leftist demons. This makes it easy for every Republican candidate, in every race for every office, to run against Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Democrats in recent years have been good at focusing anger on Donald Trump -- but, of course, he all but begs his enemies to hate him. However, Democrats haven't been very good at personalizing their anger against Republicans in Congress. Few Democratic Senate candidates feature Mitch McConnell in their ads, and hardly anyone knows who Kevin McCarthy is. (Democrats didn't do much better with John Boehner, or even the better-known Paul Ryan.)

But the story of the Texas deep freeze got very, very personal this week. I wouldn't say the Democrats "picked the target" -- Ted Cruz's trip to Cancún just dropped in their laps. But there was clearly an appetite for an ad hominem. America can't get enough of the story.

Prior to this, our side was fighting the way it usually does: on policy. We were defending the idea of shifting away from fossil fuels, in response to right-wing disinformation about the cause of Texas's power crisis. To the right, it was all about AOC; to us, it was about the relative proportions of natural gas and wind power in the winter energy mix of Texas. And then the Cruz family booked a flight.

Demonization isn't high-minded, but it's emotionally satisfying. I wouldn't want our side to resort to it as often as the right does -- i.e., every minute of every day -- but couldn't we at least routinely target scoundrels like McConnell, or media figures like the Fox prime-time lineup, for Cruz-level scorn? Hell, we barely talked about the human carcinogen Rush Limbaugh in the last few years before his death.

Let's do this! It works!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

TRIAL BALLOONS SUNK

This was reported by the Daily Beast today:
A criminal investigation in the state of Georgia. The expansion of a New York-based probe into Donald Trump’s business empire. Lawsuits brought by women who allege Trump assaulted them. Billion-dollar defamation suits launched against people acting on Trump’s demands. Angry enemies and former friends who see fresh legal vulnerability. And continued litigation and possible charges stemming from the deadly MAGA riot at the U.S. Capitol.

... with the Senate trial in the rearview, Trump is now confronting a whole range of other legal dramas during his immediate post-presidency. No longer shielded by the considerable legal protection of the Oval Office, Trump has privately bemoaned that his foes are going to be investigating or “suing me for the rest of my life,” according to one person who’s discussed the matter with him in the past few weeks.
And I suspect it's no coincidence that the story appeared on the same day as this Maggie Haberman report:
Ivanka Trump will not run for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 2022, according to people close to her as well as an aide to Senator Marco Rubio, who holds the seat.

A person close to Ms. Trump ... said that a Senate run was never something she was seriously considering....

The discussion of whether Ms. Trump would seek the Senate seat in the battleground state came as her sister-in-law, Lara Trump, had let it be known that she was thinking of running for the U.S. Senate from her native state of North Carolina. But people briefed on the discussions said that Lara Trump was also unlikely to run.
I'm sure most of you suspected that Ivanka and Lara wouldn't really run, because you assumed that the Trumps would be overwhelmed with legal troubles over the next couple of years.

I guess I thought they'd brazen it out, the way Dad would, and just run anyway, declaring every lawsuit and indictment a "witch hunt." But they must know things look bad.

But if the law is really coming for Donald Trump, did they not foresee that? And if they did foresee it, why did they allow stories to be floated suggesting that they'd be formidable candidates in 2022? Why would they want that claim to be made if they knew they were only going to have to walk it back in a few weeks? Was it just too difficult to pass up the ego gratification?

THE PARTY OF REAGAN WAS THE PARTY OF TRUMP, AND LIMBAUGH WAS THE THROUGH LINE

Never Trump Republicans regularly lament: How did the party of Ronald Reagan become the party of Donald Trump? "Reagan’s sunny, inclusive vision and principles are the antithesis of what Trump preaches," we're told. But Reagan bashed Democrats at every opportunity -- often with cornball jokes, but never with the sense that Democrats are good citizens with ideas about government worth considering. Reagan brought us Interior Secretary James Watt, who said, "I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans." Reagan's administration gave us the angry, self-important culture warrior Ollie North. Reagan's rise was aided by Jerry Falwell Sr. and other proud haters of what was perceived as liberal culture.

And never forget precisely when Rush Limbaugh appeared on the scene:
In 1984, a station in Sacramento offered him a talk show....

Mr. Limbaugh’s daily dicing of California politicians, spiced with comedy routines and news updates packaged with pop tunes, was an instant hit.

... in 1988, ABC Radio offered him a deal that included a local morning show on WABC in New York and a nationally syndicated afternoon show.

He had an immediate knack for making headlines with his put-downs, as when he blasted “environmental wackos” and declared animal rights activists to be “a bunch of kookburgers.”
If Reaganism was sunny, genial, and inclusive, why was Rush Limbaugh's toxic conservatism able to go national in the last year of Reagan's presidency? Limbaugh's act caught on when it did because conservatives correctly regarded Reagan (and Reaganism) as much more hostile to liberals and Democrats than the misty memories of Reagan's right-centrist (and left-centrist) admirers would suggest. Limbaugh caught on because Reaganism was angry. Limbaugh's rhetoric was the logical continuation of Reaganism.

And as Jonathan Chait notes, Trump's rhetoric is barely distinguishable from Limbaugh's.
They were almost the same person. Perhaps the only only salient difference between the two men’s careers is that Limbaugh found his place sooner than Trump, at a time when a bellicose misogynist could find a valued position in the party but not as its presidential candidate. That had become a possibility by the time Trump found his way to conservatism as a viable exclusive brand.

... The line from Limbaugh to Trump is about an inch long.
Chait says the common thread uniting all right-wingers has been, as Limbaugh put it on the radio in 2016, "this united, virulent opposition to the left and the Democrat Party and Barack Obama." Remove Obama's name, or substitute Bill Clinton's or Ted Kennedy's, and the line goes all the way back to the 1980s (at least). It's all the same. It's hate, and there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the Reagan, Limbaugh, and Trump versions.