Monday, March 27, 2023


The Nashville shooter is dead, but I worry that we haven't seen the end of the bloodshed. The shooter was reportedly trans:
While police have called the suspect a female and a woman, and used she/her pronouns during their first press conferences, on LinkedIn, Hale indicated the use of he/him pronouns. Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Hale does identify as transgender, per a later press conference.

Hale’s family and friends have not commented if Hale was transgender or had transitioned from female to male or just preferred he/him pronouns. The LinkedIn also indicated Hale has used the name Aiden Hale, including links to a now-deleted Instagram page under the name “creative.aiden,” and a Facebook page with the name “Aiden Creates,” along with a still-active RedBubble site with the same name. Hale uses the name Audrey Hale on a personal website.
The wingers are feral in response to this news:

Until this story is no longer on the front pages, it's going to be very dangerous for trans people in this country. The right already believed that all trans people are mentally ill. I don't think that's a fringe view on the right. It appears to be a mainstream view. And now this.

A group of people will be blamed for the actions of this individual. In the next few days, sick-fuck right-wingers will undoubtedly respond with even more violence than is usually meted out to trans people on a random night.

Stay safe. I'd say "It gets better," because maybe it will in the long term, but I fear in the short term it's going to get worse.


After reviewing Donald Trump's weekend rally speech, Ed Kilgore conclues that Trump thinks America is a shithole country:
At the end, as his closing music swelled, Trump offered the most scorching, systematic denunciation of his country any alleged superpatriot has ever delivered. It made the famously dark “American Carnage” inaugural address of 2017 seem like something from Sesame Street. The climax of Trump’s 2024 stump speech is pitch-black doom and gloom....
I see Kilgore's point. Trump said:
We are a failing nation. We are a nation with the highest inflation rate in 50 years, where banks are collapsing and interest rates are far too high. We are a nation where energy costs have reached their highest level in our history ... We are a nation that is consumed by the radical left’s new deal ... everyone knows ... will lead to our destruction....

We are a nation that is hostile to liberty, freedom, and faith. We are a nation whose economy has collapsed ... whose stores are not stocked, whose deliveries are not coming, and whose educational system is at the very bottom of every single list. Large packs of sadistic criminals and thieves are able to systemically rob stores and beat up their customers and workers and leave with armloads of goods with no retribution.... Where the authority of our great police has been taken, where their families and patient — and pensions have been threatened, and their lives were being destroyed because of the mere mention of the words law enforcement ... Fentanyl and illegal drugs are more easy to get than formula for our babies ...
That's dark. Will it be too dark for voters' tastes in 2024? Probably not:
Patriotism, religious faith, having children and other priorities that helped define the national character for generations are receding in importance to Americans, a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll finds....

Some 38% of respondents said patriotism was very important to them, and 39% said religion was very important. That was down sharply from when the Journal first asked the question in 1998, when 70% deemed patriotism to be very important, and 62% said so of religion.

The share of Americans who say that having children, involvement in their community and hard work are very important values has also fallen. Tolerance for others, deemed very important by 80% of Americans as recently as four years ago, has fallen to 58% since then.

Democrats have long been accused of hating America, and in this survey only 23% say that patriotism is important -- but among independents the number is only 29%. And while far more Republicans value patriotism, the number is only 59%. In the last Journal poll to ask this question, in 2019, the GOP number was over 80% (and Democrats' number was over 40%).

Republicans used to talk about America as a country that was flawless except when Democrats temporarily wrested control of it and grotesquely (but temporarily) altered its obviously perfect nature. Now many Republican catastrophists seem to believe America may not be redeemable -- or simply doesn't exist now (or won't exist soon) because it is (or will soon be) unrecognizable to them.

I've been saying that Ron DeSantis needs to whine about being persecuted as much as Trump does if he wants the Republican presidential nomination. Maybe he also needs to stop crowing about how awesome a job he's done in Florida and tell voters that the barbarians are at the gate there, too, and he's having a hard time keeping them (us) out. He tells a story about Florida that sounds upbeat if you're a Republican. But to paraprhase Leonard Cohen, I think these days Republicans want it darker.

Sunday, March 26, 2023


Does Ron DeSantis really want to be the Republican presidential nominee? If so, this is how it's done:
Former President Donald J. Trump spent much of his first major political rally of the 2024 campaign portraying his expected indictment by a New York grand jury as a result of what he claimed was a Democratic conspiracy to persecute him, arguing wildly that the United States was turning into a “banana republic.”

As a crowd in Waco, Texas, waved red-and-white signs with the words “Witch Hunt” behind him, Mr. Trump devoted long stretches of his speech to his own legal jeopardy rather than his vision for a second term, casting himself as a victim of “weaponization” of the justice system.

... The speech underscored how Mr. Trump tends to frame the nation’s broader political stakes heavily around whatever issues personally affect him the most.
DeSantis needs to stop assuming that "putting points on the board," as he likes to put it, will be enough to get him the nomination. He can get his entire anti-trans, anti-CRT, anti-DEI, anti-abortion, and pro-gun legislation agenda passed and it will put him in a strong position, but he needs something extra. He needs to start whining.

Republican voters love self-pity. They'd love to hear DeSantis complain about how many people hate him and want to destroy him. This works for Trump, for Lauren Boebert, for Marjorie Taylor Greene. It works for the pro-gun movement, which never stops talking about how besieged gun owners are, and for the Christian right, which never stops talking about a war on Christianity.

It's probably a mistake for DeSantis to keep saying that Florida is "where woke goes to die." That suggests that he's already won the battle. Republican voters would rather hear that he's perpetually under attack from the forces of wokeness. That's how they feel in their own lives. As the right-wing media tells them every hour of every day, they have many damgerous enemies who are always on the verge of total victory. DeSantis probably needs to make them believe that he feels their pain because he's a victim, too.

In 1991, George H.W. Bush appears to have defeated Saddam Hussein decisively. In 2003 and 2004, George W. Bush seemed to be in a sustained fight against Saddam. The Bush who won reelection wasn't the one who'd declared victory and brought the troops home -- it was the one who said he needed to keep fighting the evildoers, people whose threat to America had been relentlessly exaggerated.

That's a lesson for DeSantis. In last night's speech, Trump said he's fighting powerful enemies:
He ... argued that the greatest threat to the United States was not China or Russia but top American politicians, among them President Biden, Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Mr. Trump said were “poisoning” the nation.
DeSantis needs to talk as if the enemy is at the gates, and he's their #1 target. That works for Trump.

And no, I don't mean he should attack Trump directly. Most GOP voters like Trump and DeSantis. As Mediaite notes, Trump's direct attacks on DeSantis fell flat last night. But he should whine about every other evildoer (i.e., us), otherwise he's going to lose the nomination fight badly.

Saturday, March 25, 2023


Even before Donald Trump began his speech in Waco tonight, his rally was a dumpster fire, thanks to Ted Nugent, one of his warmup acts:
The rocker was one of the first speakers for the DT event down in Waco, TX Saturday ... and when he took the stage, he started ranting and raving about the Biden administration's spending decisions -- including where they've sent money and supplies.

Zelenskyy and his wife were married in 2003 and have two children. Nugent is a ridiculous, ignorant person, but why does he believe Zelenskyy is gay?

I can't imagine that Nugent watches Russian television, although this clip might have found its way into right-wing propaganda streams in America:

In the clip, we're also told that "there is compromising gay material" on Oleksii Arestovych, who until recently was a presidential advisor in Ukraine. A crude Photoshop circulating online purports to show Zelenskyy and Arestovych in drag, as Reuters noted earlier this month:
A photograph from a 2006 Gay Pride Parade in New York has been digitally altered to include Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskiy and his former advisor Oleksiy Arestovych.

Examples can be seen (here) and (here)....

The earliest iteration Reuters could identify was posted on Flickr and shows a wider frame. (here). According to the description it was taken at “Gay Pride 2006.” The post includes the tags “new,” “York” and “city.”
Here's the fake photo and a portion of the real photo:

But more likely, Nugent is familiar with this:

Zelenskyy, of course, was a popular comic actor before entering politics. This parody, from 2014, is a bit hard to explain, but in a Medium post, an LGBTQ writer names James Finn tries to explain the meaning for non-Ukrainians:
You can’t understand what Zelenskyy and his buddies are saying without taking a look at the original English-language video Love by Kazaky, a Ukrainian boy band first formed in Kyiv in 2010 and still performing today, though without all the same members. The group’s name is spelled exactly like the Russian word for the Cossacks, a Turkic ethnic group that figures prominently in the history and culture of both Ukraine and Russia....

Kazaky became very popular for a while as a band, and Love was a 2011 smash hit that helped drive their fame:

... Straight guys all ... they prance about straight-up mocking stock Russian propaganda phrases, absolutely secure in their sexuality and masculinity as they flounce....
About the parody video, Finn writes:
They aren’t mocking queer people or Kazaky; they’re daring to embrace them and kick their art up a notch, or several notches. Considering background levels of traditional eastern European homophobia, this is brave stuff — hilarious and cutting without feeling the least queerphobic. In less deft hands it might have ended up offending everyone, but most Ukrainians loved it and experienced it as a thumb in the nose to Putin’s ideals of Russian supremacy in the slavic world.
You can find a translation of the parody lyrics in this Reddit thread. Here's a sample. I won't pretend that I completely understand this, but I think I get it, more or less:
Here's my bulava(Ukrainian weapon and traditional symbol of power) my brothers!
Tomorrow we go dancing against Moskovites(Russians)
We will dance Gopak(Ukrainian national dance), we have the strength
Ukraine is not dead yet, as long as we keep drinking well:
Borsht, salo(smoked pig fat), onion, bread, moonshine,
Drink, and eat,
I drink, I drink, I drink!

Those who were sent here(spies),
They are covered in glitter,
We spit on them.
Artists, stylists, move aside [can't tell]
Lip-stick, gay-parades, and in Rada(Ukrainian parliament) everyone is like that.
I don't want to, I can't, but for salo, let's do it.
I'm glad James Finn thinks the parody isn't queerphobic. I'm not so sure. But I imagine Ted Nugent just sees gayness -- which is what the people recirculating this video want.


Maybe you were surprised to learn the location of Donald Trump's first 2024 campaign rally, which is scheduled for tonight. I wasn't.
Mr. Trump ... announced last week that he would hold the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign on Saturday at the regional airport in Waco.

The date falls in the middle of the 30th anniversary of the weekslong standoff involving federal agents and followers of [David] Koresh that left 82 Branch Davidians and four agents dead at Mount Carmel, the group’s compound east of the city.
Joyce Vance states the obvious:
Over the past three decades, Waco has become a touchstone for far-right anti-government, Christian-nationalist white supremacists.... Going to Waco sends a clear message to anti-government groups.... Trump is willing to embrace far-right extremism, and everything it brings along with it, to restore himself to power.
Trump's specific plan -- probably devised by people more attuned to conversations on the right-wing fringe than Trump -- is to appeal to the marginal right, people who don't vote in every election but will vote for someone who seems comfortable with their fringe ideas. Trump sometimes sends signals to the QAnon crowd, even though -- unlike, say, Michael Flynn -- he doesn't actually appear to believe what QAnon believes. This outreach to anti-government extremists seems like more of the same. Trump is hunting where the low-propensity-to-vote far-right ducks are. (Turning out low-propensity voters seems to be how Trump beat his polling in 2016 and 2020.)

But whose idea was Waco? Vance reminds us:
Trump crony Roger Stone dedicated one of his books, The Clintons’ War on Women, to the Branch Davidians who died at Mount Carmel.
The Clintons' War on Women was published in 2015, a hatchet job intended to help defeat Hillary Clinton the following year. The book doesn't just include a dedication to the Waco dead. It blames Hillary Clinton for their deaths.

A couple of excerpts from the book:

A 2018 story in the Austin American-Statesman cited these passages and added this:
Asked to elaborate last week, Stone, who worked on Specter’s Senate campaigns and chaired his short-lived 1996 presidential campaign, said the comment from Specter came in a private conversation with him during the Waco hearings in 2000, “which I urged him to undertake to burnish his cred on the right going into a tough Pennsylvania GOP primary.”

Of Hillary Clinton’s presumed motive, Stone said, “HRC wanted Waco off the front pages so she could do Hillarycare.”
Joyce Vance quotes Mary Trump saying,
It’s clear to me that the decision to hold Donald’s next rally in Waco, TX, during the 30th anniversary of the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound is entirely intentional. I doubt it was Donald’s idea—more likely Stephen Miller or somebody of his ilk made the connection.
But Miller was seven years old at the time of the siege. I don't think it's one of his touchstones. (There are no immigrants for him to blame!)

So I blame Stone. Politically, Stone likes a bit of rough: In 1981, he ran the gubernatorial campaign of Republican Tom Kean, who won a very close race partly because an armed "Ballot Security Task Force" made up of off-duty police officers intimidated voters at Democratic precincts. Stone helped organize the "Brooks Brothers riot" that shut down the Miami-Dade recount in 2000. Before Election Day 2020, he famously said, “Fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence” (even though no one can imagine Stone actually engaging in violence). The Proud Boy initiate would probably like Trump to do more outreach to the tough guys from the anti-government crowd. He likes a frisson of danger. So I say it was his idea.

Friday, March 24, 2023


I know what Jamelle Bouie is trying to say in his latest column -- headlined "Don’t Be Fooled. Ron DeSantis Is a Bush-Cheney Republican" -- but I think his categories are wrong.
As a lawyer at Guantánamo Bay, according to a report by Michael Kranish in The Washington Post, DeSantis endorsed the force-feeding of detainees.

“Detainees were strapped into a chair, and a lubricated tube was stuffed down their nose so a nurse could pour down two cans of a protein drink,” Kranish wrote. “The detainees’ lawyers tried and failed to stop the painful practice, arguing that it violated international torture conventions.”

The reason to highlight these details of DeSantis’s service at Guantánamo is that it helps place the Florida governor in his proper political context. The standard view of DeSantis is that he comes out of Donald Trump’s populist Republican Party, a view the governor has been keen to cultivate as he vies for leadership within the party....

But what if we centered DeSantis in Guantánamo, Iraq and the war on terrorism rather than the fever house of the MAGA Republican Party, a place that may not be a natural fit for the Yale- and Harvard-educated lawyer? What if we treated DeSantis not as a creature of the Trump years but as a product of the Bush ones?
I don't understand why Bouie is dividing Republicans into these two neat categories. They're not distinct, even if Donald Trump regularly expresses contempt for the Iraq War, and for the Republicans who demanded that we fight it.

DeSantis went to Gitmo in 2006. At that time, if you were a Fox News Republican -- is that redundant? -- you liked Bushism. You liked the idea that American troops would travel halfway around the world and bring democracy to the Middle East at gunpoint. Being in favor of the Iraq War was also a way of giving the finger to the libs.

Thanks to Trump, if you're a Fox News Republican now, you have contempt not only for Bush Republicans but (at least to some extent) for pro-Ukraine Republicans, whom you regard as "globalists." But your goal is the same: to infuriate liberals.

DeSantis was a liberal-defying Fox News Republican in 2006 and he's a liberal-defying Fox News Republican now. He hasn't changed. The rules of lib-owning have changed.


There's a new marketing campaign in New York City, and nearly everyone hates the logo:

It's inspired by Milton Glaser's "I ♥︎ NY" logo, which was created for a state tourism campaign but became associated with the city at a time of high crime, urban decay, fiscal troubles, and pop-culture energy (disco, punk, early rap, graffiti). That logo is widely admired by design professionals, cultural critics, and the public.

The new one? New York magazine said it "kinda sucks," and that seems to be the general consensus.

But is it "woke"? BizPac Review thinks so:
New York City Mayor Eric Adams ... and Gov Kathy Hochul revealed the design Monday. It is part of a woke campaign to “cut through divisiveness and negativity.”

... The “I” was dropped for a more inclusive “We” and “NY” became “NYC.”
Omigod! The word "we" is "inclusive"! That's Cultural Marxist for "Kill all white people immediately"!

I have my own problems with the campaign:
“We’re hopefully going to be able to cut through divisiveness and negativity” that accompanied the pandemic, said Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a consortium of corporations and business executives that is leading the We ♥ NYC campaign.

She said that besides rejuvenating people’s spirits, “we want to remind them they can make a difference, whether it’s on the block or in the city as a whole.” She added: “We want to remind them we don’t have to maintain these divisions that have grown up between business and labor and rich and poor.”
New York magazine describes the Partnership as " a group of businesses and very rich people promoting economic growth and advising policy in the city." If I understand Wylde correctly, the plutocrats would like the non-rich to stop resenting them and give up on all this silly union organizing at coffee shops and warehouses and publishing companies ("we don’t have to maintain these divisions that have grown up between business and labor and rich and poor").
[Wylde] cited surveys her group had conducted during the pandemic. “The results we’ve gotten back are people in New York want to be part of fixing what they see as broken in the city,” she said.

In the most recent survey, she said, 67 percent of the respondents said the city was going in the wrong direction, but 70 percent of those between 18 and 40 said they wanted to volunteer to help improve it. For We ♥ NYC, the partnership has lined up more than 15 other nonprofit groups and churches that can serve as conduits to engage people across the city.
Don't worry your silly little head about economic inequality! Do some charity work instead!

But that doesn't seem to be the concern at BizPac Review. One complaint is the price:
New York City Mayor Eric Adams commissioned a new city logo a year ago, spending a whopping reported $20 million on it....

The price of the logo boggles the mind as critics argue that a ten-year-old could have just as easily done it in Photoshop for free in about five minutes.
I'm pretty sure $20 million is the cost of the entire campaign, not just the logo, although whether the campaign is worth the money is an open question. In any case, the campaign is being paid for by the Partnership and its donors, not the public:
Evidently, Admas and Hochul ... had $20 million in donations to burn through. Dozens of businesses donated to the new publicity campaign including Amazon, Google, Macy’s, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, and TikTok.
Gateway Pundit adds:
It’s good to know there is so much money in Google, Amazon, Macy’s, TikTok and other’s coffers that they can throw away money to fund something that could have been done by anyone with a cell phone, a tablet or Microsoft Word for 1/10000th the price tag.
But wait -- don't you guys always say, "Get woke, go broke"? And don't you think every corporation in America -- with the exception of MyPillow and Twitter -- is fatally infected with the woke mind virus? So how do all these woke companies have so much money to fritter away on this campaign?

(And I'm shocked that neither BizPac Review nor Gateway Pundit mentions the fact that one of the Partnership's co-chairs is Dr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer. The Antichrist!)

During the announcement of the campaign, Mayor Adams said,
... we took the “I” out of I love New York, and we brought the “we.” We're in this together.
That's communism, obviously. It's just so woke.

Thursday, March 23, 2023


Ron DeSantis does a walkback:
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida this week clarified his description of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” and said that Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, was a “war criminal” who should be “held accountable.”

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican who is expected to announce a presidential campaign in the coming months, made his latest comments in an interview with the British broadcaster Piers Morgan, who shared them with The New York Post and Fox News, both owned by Rupert Murdoch.
(I'm quoting from a New York Times story by Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, who should know that Piers Morgan didn't "share" DeSantis's remarks with the Murdoch media -- the interview was conducted for Morgan's show on the Murdoch streaming channel Fox Nation.)

DeSantis's clarification will be a relief to Republican Party boss Rupert Murdoch and to the GOP establishment, which is still anti-Putin and pro-Ukraine. But that's the problem. A segment of the GOP voter base now despises the GOP establishment, seeing it as part of America's "uniparty," and will regard this as more evidence that DeSantis -- unlike Donald Trump -- is a cuck who's sold out to establishment "globalists."

Murdoch may be one of those globalists, but his biggest star is not happy with DeSantis:
The change appeared not to have been lost on Mr. Carlson. Just hours after Mr. DeSantis’s new comments about Mr. Putin were made public, Mr. Carlson attacked what he said were people who give in to the news media, asserting that they are forced “to repeat whatever childish slogan they’ve come up with this week.” In a mocking voice, he said, “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.”
He's not the only one who's grumbling. Breitbart spotted these tweets:

(Miller has more than 90,000 followers on Twitter. Langman has nearly 80,000.)

Also see this post at an old-school right-wing blog called the Last Refuge (aka the Conservative Treehouse):
Returning to Neocon Roots – DeSantis Backtracks on His Tucker Carlson Ukraine Position as Territorial Dispute, Now Says “I think it’s been mischaracterized,” and “Putin is a war criminal”

After attempting to navigate through the politics in order to curry favor with the base Republican voters on a Ukraine position, when confronted by Piers Morgan who is a pro-NATO war voice, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now says his former position on Ukraine has been “mischaracterized” and Vladimir Putin “is a war criminal.”

The walk back highlights once again that Ron DeSantis is an empty vessel using poll testing to formulate his policy stances....

The professional political class of the GOPe, the DeceptiCons, are never as vicious against Democrats as they are against candidates who do not conform to the Republican UniParty orthodoxy. If you want to see the Republicans fight dirty, just become a Republican political candidate that does not comply with them. Then, and only then, will you see a side of the Republican wing that doesn’t surface against Democrats.

Threaten their GOPe Wall Street multinational corporate interests, ie. ‘their money‘, and the DeceptiCons get vicious.

If the professional Republicans are NOT targeting a Republican politician, you can be assured that Republican politician is a member of the GOPe club operation.

Yes, it really is that simple, and Ron DeSantis is a member of that club.
("GOPe" means "GOP establishment.")

The idea that DeSantis will destroy the America First movement and bring back Jeb Bush/John McCain Republicanism has been kicking around for a while on the right. Here's a TikTok from Jon Miller:

@gamerjonmillerstream Do you really think Ron DeSantis is our pick? Take a look at the people who support him.#republican #greenscreen ♬ original sound - We are Talk It

This might not be significant. If Trump falters and DeSantis wins the nomination, nearly all Republican voters are likely to close ranks around him.

But it looks as if there'll be at least some Never Ronners. Enough to cost him the election? That probably depends on the election.

In 2008, most of the country desperately wanted to deny the GOP a third term, so the anti-Obama movement known as PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) generated lots of headlines but had no impact on the general election vote. Four years later, in a much tighter race, the Bernie-or-Bust movement might have cost Hillary Clinon the presidency, as just enough disgruntled Democratic primary voters stayed home or voted for Jill Stein (or even Donald Trump). How close will the 2024 election be? I can't tell.

But there might be more Never Ronners than Never Trumpers in the GOP primary electorate, simply because Trumpists are so willing to believe that everyone they hate is an evil globalist who's one or two degrees removed from George Soros or the World Economic Forum. DeSantis probably should be trying harder to reassure these crazies that he's not with The Enemy. Instead, he just gave them more reason to believe that he's part of what they think Trump is fighting.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


We've been warned many times in the past week that indicting Donald Trump will make him more popular with his base. I'm not worried about that possiblility, because people outside his base are still allowed to vote in America, and they (we) aren't likely to rally around him because he's been indicted (especially if he's indicted several times in several jurisdictions on several different charges).

But now a meeting of the Manhattan grand jury that's considering charges against Trump has been delayed. Fox News reports:
Two sources familiar told Fox News Digital on Wednesday that the grand jury was canceled amid "major dissension" within the district attorney's office. One source claimed the district attorney is having trouble convincing the grand jury on potential charges due to the "weakness" of the case.

Despite rumors of a potential imminent indictment, sources familiar told Fox News Digital that Trump has not been formally notified about whether Bragg actually plans to bring charges against him.

Sources told Fox News, though, that there remains a real chance that [Manhattan DA Alvin] Bragg does not choose to indict the former president.
On the one hand, I'm sure Fox has many reliable sources within the overwhelmingly right-wing law enforcement community. On the other hand, even the Trump-hating Murdoch family wants to portray Bragg as a Soros puppet conducting a witch hunt, because that's what the Fox audience wants to hear.

So I don't know what to believe. But if you think the base will rally around Trump if he's indicted, you should also realize that the same thing will happen if he isn't indicted. He'll be the superhero depicted in those ridiculous NFTs. He beat Soros! He beat the Deep State! He beat the swamp!

If there's no indictment now, we know there's more legal peril awaiting Trump. But for the moment, he'll be the God Emperor again, and his numbers in GOP polls will skyrocket.


On Substack, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian who writes about authoritarianism, argues that Ron DeSantis's lack of charisma won't necessarily prevent him from being America's authoritarian leader someday:
Do you need charisma to succeed as an authoritarian? Not always. General Francisco Franco had little before he became head of state in 1939; General Augusto Pinochet, who became dictator after the U.S.-backed 1973 military coup in Chile, had even less. "He was a man in the second row, a man you did not notice," a retired Chilean general told the American journalist Mary Helen Spooner. As for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the former intelligence officer blended into a crowd by design. “Everyone could invest this gray, ordinary man with what they wanted to see in him,” as Masha Gessen notes.

The strongman's secret is that he works hard to develop that ineffable charismatic glow. In the 1920s, when he was trying and failing to get to power, Adolf Hitler hired Heinrich Hoffman to photograph him rehearsing hand gestures as he figured out how to stand out as a speaker. Voice lessons he took with the actor Emil Jannings also paid off.

Even Trump's easy performances, which have been key to the bonds he forges with followers, are the product of decades of practice. New York Times photographer Doug Mills, whose photo sessions with three decades' worth of U.S. presidents usually lasted just a few minutes, found that his sessions with Trump took "up to 90 minutes" because Trump was so "camera-conscious" and attentive to every detail of his image.
But DeSantis has just given a major interview to Piers Morgan for Morgan's streaming series on Fox Nation, and instead of using the opportunity to project a "charismatic glow," he's decided to be boring. The New York Post has published a preview under Morgan's byline, and where you'd expect fireworks -- remember, this is the teaser, the highlight reel -- there's just tedium. DeSantis makes clear that he wants you to see him as dull and workmanlike:
DeSantis ... slammed Trump’s chaotic, self-obsessed, divisive management style: “I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda. You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that. So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.”
DeSantis's affect is so management-consultant-who-uses-sports-metaphors that he says "points on the board" again:
As for the rude nicknames, he mocked: “I don’t know how to spell the sanctimonious one. I don’t really know what it means, but I kinda like it, it’s long, it’s got a lot of vowels. We’ll go with that, that’s fine. I mean, you can call me whatever you want, just as long as you also call me a winner because that’s what we’ve been able to do in Florida, is put a lot of points on the board and really take this state to the next level.”
In his press conference on Monday, DeSantis repeated the phrases "porn star" and "hush money," trying hard to sound like a moral scold, even as he also attacked the DA who's about to bring charges against Trump:
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair, I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis said. “What I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction, and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.”
In the Morgan interview, DeSantis remains on his moral high horse:
When I asked if he meant to be as censorious as he sounded when talking about Trump allegedly paying off porn stars, he doubled down and replied: “Well, there’s a lot of speculation about what the underlying conduct is. That is purported to be it, and the reality is that’s just outside my wheelhouse. I mean, that’s just not something that I can speak to.”

The message was clear: I’m nothing like Trump when it comes to sleazy behavior.

And when I followed up by asking if personal conduct in a leader matters, he contrasted Trump to past presidents with a higher moral code....

“You really want to look to people like our Founding Fathers, like what type of character, it’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life, but I think what type of character are you bringing? So, somebody who really set the standard is George Washington because he always put the Republic over his own personal interest. When we won the American Revolution, Washington surrendered his sword. [King] George III said he’s the greatest man in the world if he gives up power. I think the person is more about how you handle your public duties and the kind of character you bring to that endeavor.”
It's as if DeSantis is trying to be Mike Pence.

This might help explain why a Morning Consult poll conducted over the weekend shows Trump with a 28-point lead over DeSantis among Republican voters. (It was a 16-point lead five weeks ago.) And DeSantis's slippage in the polls came after the release of his memoir on February 28. The publication of the book should have been the opportunity for a rock-star tour, but if DeSantis is out there positioning bike racks between himself and the crowds, then he's squandering the opportunity.

Nevertheless, he's still one of the two front-runners, and no one else comes close. If you look at the Morning Consult polling going back to December, what's striking is that the numbers for Trump and DeSantis always add up to 80%, give or take a point or two. The rest of the field combined can't get past 20%. I think that will continue to be true for quite a while, maybe all the way through the primaries, because no one else in the field exasperates the libs the way Trump and DeSantis do -- it's not even close -- and no one makes lib-owning as much as fun as Trump does. But DeSantis will probably have to settle for second place if he continues running as the anti-fun, anti-excitement candidate.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Last night, The Washington Post reported on the failure of the Trump movement to turn out protesters:
Former President Donald Trump’s calls for protests before his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap.

... Ali Alexander, who as an organizer of the “Stop the Steal” movement staged rallies to promote Trump’s baseless claims that Democrats stole the 2020 election from him, warned Trump supporters that they would be “jailed or worse” if they protested in New York City.

“You have no liberty or rights there,” he tweeted.

... Alexander posted that he had spoken to [Alex] Jones and said that neither of them would be protesting this time around.

“We’ve both got enough going on fighting the government,” Alexander wrote. “No billionaire is covering our bills.”

... “How many Feds/Fed assets are in place to turn protest against the political arrest of Pres Trump into violence?” tweeted Rep. Marjorie-Taylor Greene. The Georgia Republican also invoked a conspiracy theory that an FBI informant had instigated the Jan. 6 riot.

“Has Ray Epps booked his flight to NY yet?” she tweeted on Sunday.

Epps, an Arizona man, was filmed encouraging others to enter the Capitol. Conspiracy theorists believe Epps was an FBI informant....
To some extent, this is MAGA World insisting that its inability to draw crowds isn't a failure -- it's a strategic choice.

But I think many of these people -- or at least their followers -- genuinely believe what's being said here. They think the January 6 protesters were innocents who've been unfairly persecuted by a tyrannical regime, so they believe that in any future protest they'll either be arrested for mere speech or brainwashed into behavior that's violent and illegal. (My response to the theory that Ray Epps sweet-talked the J6 crowd into breaking the law: Did they consider not doing the unlawful stuff they say he encouraged them to do?)

When you put this together with the belief many MAGAs have that the Deep State rigs all elections -- except, for some reason, the ones Republicans win -- it appears that we're deeper than ever before in the territory of "conservatism can't fail, it can only be failed." Apparently these folks win every election, only to have victory stolen from them by a cabal of left-wing evildoers. Now they can't even hold a protest march because the left-wing evildoers will inevitably subvert that. So while they really do represent the overwhelming majority of The People, sinister forces make them look like a minority, then make it impossible for them to show how overwhelmingly popular they are when they take to the streets. It's just not fair!


It's quite possible that Donald Trump won't be arrested today. Fox News says the arrest will come next week, citing law enforcement sources -- people you'd imagine are fans of Fox and might be inclined to tell Fox the truth.

But yesterday, right-wingers began flipping out in response to a series of tweets from CBS's Robert Costa:

Charlie Kirk and Andy Ngo retweeted Costa's video. The headline at the Post Millennial was "BREAKING: NYPD Erects Barricades Outside Manhattan Courthouse Ahead of Potential Trump Arrest." At PJMedia, a post from Robert Spencer was headlined "It’s On: NYPD and Capitol Police Putting Up Barricades, Expecting Riots When Trump Is Arrested."

Spencer's commentary was as calm and measured as you'd expect from the founder of Jihad Watch:
America’s descent to banana republic status, with the ruling regime having its principal opponent arrested on bogus charges, may not happen on Tuesday, but it very much looks as if it is going to happen this week. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) was busy on Monday setting up steel barriers outside the Manhattan Criminal Court as if it fully expects (and may even be hoping for) patriots to come out in force to protest against the destruction of our free republic and the weaponization of our justice system as a tool of partisan politics. No one seems to be backing away from the brink.

... The Democrats, having spent decades hollowing out our Constitutional protections, are now planning on doing a victory dance upon their empty shell and casting any people who dare to protest in their next Reichstag Fire production....
"Casting any people who dare to protest in their next Reichstag Fire production"? All this over a few metal barricades?

Maybe the readers of these right-wing sites don't see anything like this in their rural and outer-ring-suburban hometowns, but steel barricades are a fairly common feature of city life, especially here in New York. If you're up front along the parade route for the St. Patrick's Day parade or when a local sports team wins a championship, you're leaning (or climbing) on one.

Left-wing demonstrations are routinely hemmed in by steel barricades. Here are some preventing demonstrators from getting too close to the site of the 2004 Republican convention, which was held in New York. If any right-wingers thought those barricades were a sign of the death of the Republic, they sure didn't say so at the time.

And steel barricades are used here for ordinary traffic control:

So relax, righties. The barricades will come down, and there'll still be an America when that happens.

Meanwhile, the right's other favorite presidential candidate appears to make metal barricades a regular part of his campaign stops, as The New York Times recently reported:
Suzy Barker, a native Iowan dressed in an orange-and-blue University of Florida hoodie, waited in a crowd of fellow Republicans on Friday morning to meet Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

... Mr. DeSantis — dressed in a dark blue suit with a light blue, open-collar shirt and black boots — stood on the opposite side of 10 metal bike racks separating him from the crowd.
And as the Daily Beast noted in a subsequent story:
The governor’s aversion to pressing the flesh, and his concern over the risk of unexpected interactions with the public, is already so well-known that early primary state players are working to DeSantis-proof their events in order to attract the flinty would-be candidate and his tight-knit team....

During his Iowa swing, DeSantis’ apparent use of bike racks to create space between himself and a crowd didn’t go unnoticed elsewhere. “If they want 50 bike racks, we’ll give them 50 bike racks,” a New Hampshire GOP lawmaker quipped to The Daily Beast.
If anyone on the right has a problem with this, I'm not aware of it.