Film, GOP, Trump

Some Agreement …

When celebrated Hollywood producer Darryl F. Zanuck made his 1947 Academy Award winning film Gentleman’s Agreement, the United States – and the world – was only beginning to reckon with the horror of the Holocaust. 

Zanuck, a Nebraska boy who served in France during World War I before becoming a movie industry powerhouse, may have been the only Tinseltown big wheel who could have made a feature film about American anti-Semitism. Zanuck wasn’t Jewish.

Anti-Semitism was a potentially explosive issue, even given all that had become known about systematic genocide against European Jews during a horrible war that had ended just two years before the film premiered. With the exception of Zanuck, all the big studios – Warner Brothers and Metro Goldwyn Mayer, for example – were headed by Jewish movie bosses, the same people who had been attacked prior to US entry into World War II for disseminating anti-Nazi, pro-British propaganda.

Nazi Germany had been defeated on the battlefield and the Aryan nationalism – and anti-Semitism – at the core of Nazi ideology seemed to have been forcefully and finally repudiated. But Zanuck knew better. The particularly virulent strain of American anti-Semitism had not been repudiated. It wasn’t even underground, but existing in plain sight, tolerated and perpetuated by “good Americans” who couldn’t conceive that “those people” were really the subjects of widespread discrimination, or worse.

In many places American Jews couldn’t be a member of a country club, attend some colleges or own a home in certain neighborhoods. The US State Department, a Waspish collection of mostly-Ivy League Gentiles, was notoriously anti-Semitic. The radical right in the America of the 1930s and 40s trafficked the fiction that Franklin Roosevelt – a lifelong Episcopalian – was really a secret Jew, the mastermind not of the New Deal, but the Jew Deal.  

Deeply embedded in the American DNA is the old trope that Jews control the media, entertainment and high finance and are foisting a “globalist” agenda on us. The old slurs and hatreds are back with a vengeance, often accompanied by violence. As journalist Alexander Nazaryan noted recently, “Jews are targets of about 60 % of all religious-driven hate crimes across the United States, a fact that is especially surprising since Jews make up only 2.4% of the American population.”

In Gentleman’s Agreement the supremely talented Gregory Peck plays a hot-shot magazine writer, Phil Green, who is commissioned by a big national publication to write a piece on anti-Semitism. Peck’s character, a widower with a young son, struggles to develop an angle for his story. He could cite numbers and official reports, but such an approach would hardly be compelling. Finally, he settles on an approach – he will pretend to all but his immediate family to be Jewish in order to investigate the slurs, discrimination and hatred firsthand.

Predictably reporter Green begins immediately experiencing the sting of discrimination. His son is taunted as a “dirty kike.” His fiancé is one of the “good people” who abhors anti-Semitism, but nevertheless refuses to do much of anything about it. Green’s pal, an Army veteran and a Jew, is assaulted in a bar and struggles to find a home for his family. The hotel where the journalist and his wife plan to honeymoon is “restricted,” no Jews allowed due to an unspoken “gentlemen’s agreement.”

There is much to ponder in this old and important film and much that sadly remains all too relevant, particularly as a once and potentially future American president welcomes to his dinner table the pathetic rapper Kanye West and one Nick Fuentes, perhaps the most loathsome anti-Semitic white supremacist (which is saying something) in today’s radical right.

There is no real point, given all he has done, to further condemn Donald Trump for enabling and encouraging the racist, anti-Semitic right. Trump is what he is. Always has been.

A bigot, a white nationalist and an anti-Semite – certain titles interchangeable

Rather, this moment of anti-Semitic reckoning is about the “good people” who are smart enough to see this hate in technicolor, but still flinch from action, rather like the actress Dorothy McGuire in Zanuck’s film. In her heart McGuire’s character condemns discrimination, but by her inaction she acquiesces to evil.

This old movie story is little different than a host of Republican officeholders who have either remained silent – again – or condemned discrimination without denouncing the perpetrators of such hatred.

An exception is the most prominent Mormon in Congress, Utah Senator Mitt Romney.

“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney said of Trump’s dining companions. “Anybody else” would be a better party leader, Romney said.

“I don’t think he should be president of the United States. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024,” he said. “And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”

But hang he does. In the same way that hate hovers over the radical right stretching from Idaho’s lieutenant governor who appeared at a Fuentes sponsored event earlier this year to Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green who appeared at the same forum. Both used Trump’s lie – I don’t know this person – to excuse associating with Fuentes.

For the record, Fuentes, a big presence on social media, has called for a dictatorship in America with Trump president for life. He wants to prohibit women from voting, and even end elections. He’s the worst of the worst of the racist core of the radical right. Fuentes, says the Anti-Defamation League, “seeks to forge a white nationalist alternative to the mainstream GOP.”

How difficult is that to condemn? How hard is that to ignore? Ask your Republican congressman or your conservative state legislator, your governor. Good luck getting them to respond.

A remarkable feature of Darryl Zanuck’s 1947 film about anti-Semitism was the ease with which the script called out well-known racists of that time. Zanuck sought legal advice as to whether he risked libel by condemning by name notorious Mississippi racists Theodore Bilbo and John Rankin, as well as Gerald L.K. Smith, a white nationalist media star of his day not unlike Fuentes today. In the end Zanuck said, to hell with it.

“Let them sue us,” Zanuck said. “They won’t dare, and if they do, nothing would make me more happy than to appear personally as a witness or defendant at the trial.”

Smith did sue over the film – and lost, a fitting reminder that bigots confronted can be bigots defeated.

For far too long from Georgia to Idaho, from Arizona to Iowa those who make nice with the racist, radical right have gotten a nearly unlimited free pass from “good people” who know better. Their compliancy only begets more hate.

As one reviewer has noted, “Gentleman’s Agreement reaped high rewards for its bravery, intelligence, and entertainment value” and carried away awards for its director, Elia Kazan. Would it be that a bit more bravery and intelligence presented itself now when hatred once again so desperately needs unequivocal condemnation from conservatives.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items that may be of interest …

Stewart Rhodes’ son: ‘How I escaped my father’s militia’

The Oath Keepers leader, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted this week of seditious conspiracy, a huge development for legal and law enforcement authorities pushing back against the collection of radicals who stormed the Capitol on January 6. This story about Rhodes’ family is, well, something else.

Militia leader and convicted felon Stewart Rhodes

“Family life became Oath Keepers life. Tasha would welcome members into their home; Dakota would answer militia emails and, when he was older, drive his father to and from Oath Keepers events.

“But during long stretches when Rhodes was on the road, the rest of his family felt like life was closing in on them. ‘We were so insular and isolated that the date and time and what day of the week it was, or what year it was, had very little bearing on our internal lives,’ Dakota said.

“Today, Dakota lives in a one-room apartment down a country road outside a small Montana town, not far from the family home he escaped.”

Read the whole thing – from the BBC.


Elon Musk’s Twist On Tech Libertarianism Is Blowing Up On Twitter

You may have heard entirely too much already about about this guy, but this piece by Derek Robertson delves into the libertarian mindset of Musk and his ilk in Silicon Valley.

“Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter is a window into a distinct mindset, common to Silicon Valley but not exclusively of it, that glorifies individual dynamism over group consensus-building.”

I have some other thought, but I’ll leave it at that. Read the piece here.


How Virginia Woolf Shunned—and Then Embraced—T.S. Eliot

Tom and Virginia

“To be taken on by Virginia Woolf was a triumph for Eliot … It meant acceptance by London’s literary elite.”

From LitHub.


The Northwoods Baseball Radio Network Is On The Air

Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio is a full-length fake baseball game. There is no yelling, no loud commercials, no weird volume spikes. Fans call it “baseball radio ASMR”.

It is the perfect podcast for sleeping or relaxing, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.

Very clever and very funny.


See you next week. Be careful out there. Thanks for reading.

2022 Election, GOP, Idaho Politics

It Wasn’t Inevitable …

The moral collapse of the American conservative movement has taken place with remarkable speed.

The movement that advanced a measured, careful, temple worthy LDS Church bishop, Mitt Romney, as its presidential candidate just a decade ago has morphed at warp speed into an election denying, white-centric party of grievance and bat crazy conspiracy.

The Republican Party that put forward Romney and then-Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as its candidates in 2012 was, measured in the long arc of conservative politics, pretty standard issue: tax cuts and controlling the size of government with a conservative commitment to national security and foreign policy. Romney’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as the world’s greatest geopolitical threat was widely dismissed a decade ago. Now with many in his party openly embracing the Butcher of Ukraine, Romney seems a genuine prophet

Mitt was criticized for carrying his dog on top of his car not for wanting to be an authoritarian

Romney was hardly a great presidential candidate. His private equity career was easily demonized, particularly after his campaign was roiled by a tin ear remark claiming that “47 percent” of the country were effectively deadbeats. Even then few of his partisan detractors could reasonably claim that Romney was going to take his party over an authoritarian cliff.   

Mitt didn’t traffic in hate. Didn’t demean his opponent. He didn’t accuse Barack Obama of being a dangerous Muslim and didn’t surround himself with a bottom feeding collection of conspiracists, grifters, law breakers and people most of us would cross the street to avoid.

Unlike the current leader of his party, Romney hasn’t spread lies about the recent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and he didn’t refuse to concede an election he clearly lost.

So, what happened to the Grand Old Party? Well, start with the fact that the nutjob fringe has long been lurking in the dark corners of a party that once celebrated Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and The Gipper. Goldwater gave the Birchers and the Klan a dog whistle in 1964, while opposing civil rights legislation and claiming “extremism” as a conservative virtue. Nixon went all “law and order” in 1968, while stoking fear and loathing among his “silent majority.” And Ronald Reagan was smart enough to know that cementing a solid, deeply race conscious American South for the GOP long-term was essential to winning the White House. Ronnie was also savvy, as Democrats were not, about courting middle class, blue collar white voters who had seen their small towns and factories wither and die.

But this represents only a partial answer to what happened. The rest of the story is the near total capitulation of elected Republican “elites” who have hunkered in office while many of their followers celebrate political violence and rally to Putin.

Only since Romney’s run has his party come to resemble – and emulate – the full-on authoritarianism of would-be rightwing dictators in places like Brazil and Hungary. The current leader of the party of Reagan doesn’t praise the western democratic alliance. He likes the “strength” of the new Chinese Mao or the “brilliance” of a 21st Century Stalin. And who counters him?

This is a party of moral rot and character perversion, a danger to the very idea of democratic pluralism.

Idaho is as good a petri dish as any to assess the wholesale abandonment of conservative principle in pursuit of political power, no matter the cost to democracy.

Next week Idaho’s very conservative Republican governor, Brad Little, will win re-election against a no-name Democratic challenger and the widely acknowledged leader of a West-wide militia movement, a law breaking radical named Ammon Bundy, who is running as an independent.

This race is a political weathervane indicating how far, far right the unhinged Idaho white nationalists are willing to go – people I respect worry that Bundy will win 20 percent of what would  normally be the GOP vote – as well as a missed opportunity for Little and other officeholding elites who might have used the contest to assert control of a party they have largely lost.

Ammon Bundy gets a free pass from Idaho’s GOP “elites”

Imagine had Little, knowing he could coast to re-election, made the election a referendum on a more sober, sane and serious type of conservatism. What if he had made Bundy and his violent ways an explicit example of what is wrong with the radical right? Yet, near as I can tell Little hasn’t uttered a word about Bundy, his antics or lawless past. And no debate and not much of a campaign.

I’ll just remind you that Bundy organized demonstrations outside elected officials homes aiming to intimidate during the worst of Covid times. He and some of his followers broke down a door in the state capitol building, a stunt ultimately earning Bundy and his big hat a jail term. The judge who sentenced Bundy after he blew off a requirement for community service told the radical had made a “mockery of the sentence you received.”

Bundy threatened state police officers with a promise that, “I’ll come after you, each one of you personally.” He is still embroiled in a lawsuit with a Boise hospital where he forced a shutdown. Bundy’s ridiculous 2016 takeover of a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon where a protester died should have marked the end of his rise, but radical politicians in Idaho and elsewhere embraced him with little or no pushback from people like Brad Little. Now he’s on the ballot.

Bundy has been endorsed by the PAC connected to the radical Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), an anti-education, anti-government, anti-science lobby group that is no friend of Governor Little. Bundy also “enjoys” the endorsement of Roger Stone, the corrupt Trump advisor, Ron Paul, the crackpot former Texas congressman and Louisiana Klan leader David Duke.

If it’s true in politics that you are defined by your enemies these jokers would be worthy enemies.

Had Little the intestinal fortitude to cast the decency spotlight on this collection of radical right misfits he might have begun the process of leading the Idaho GOP back to sanity. That he has stayed quiet while Bundy peddled nonsense about schools, the state budget, the courts, Covid vaccines and more explains the ultimate moral rot that has eroded the foundations of legitimate conservative politics.

Little and other Republican elites know that Bundy – you could substitute the name Trump, as well – represents a real danger, long ago proving what he’s capable of doing. Rather than making him an example of what is wrong with the conspiracy mangled radical right, Little has ignored him hoping he’ll go away. He won’t.

At so many points in the remarkably swift descent of the modern GOP into a fun house arcade of conspiracy, mendacity and hate the Brad Little’s of the party could have – but did not – make an explicit stand for truth, decency, personal character and a better way. 

It’s really too bad history doesn’t offer us examples of what can happen when hate peddling demagogues given to violence are left unchecked by people who should know better.

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Additional Reading:

Some things I’ve found that you may find of interest …

Was Nixon’s Reelection Ted Kennedy’s Fault?

There is, for good reason, great anticipation about John A. Farrell’s new biography of Edward Kennedy. Farrell’s book about Richard Nixon is one of the great political biographies in recent memory. His Ted Kennedy book looks to be just as good.

John Farrell and the cover of his new book

This piece by Farrell appeared recently in Politico.

“Kennedy’s career has many might-have-beens. The most widely known occurred in 1991, when one of his investigators, Ricki Seidman, was the first Senate aide to speak to Anita Hill and hear her allegation that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her in the years before his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The piece goes on to explore Kennedy’s role in not investigating Watergate in 1972. Here is the link:


Reading Langston Hughes’s Wartime Reporting From the Spanish Civil War

Black Americans were some of the most powerful voices warning about the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s, including Langston Hughes’s warnings about Franco’s Spain.

“Hughes was not a bombastic speaker, but rather spoke in an even, assured tone. He could sometimes appear bored while reading his older poems for audiences, but when discussing contemporary events, his understated and direct speaking style conveyed passion and urgency. ‘Yes, we Negroes in America do not have to be told what Fascism is in action,’ he said. ‘We know. Its theories of Nordic supremacy and economic suppression have long been realities to us.'”

A fine piece by historian Matthew F. Delmont in Literary Hub.


Russians Used a US Firm to Funnel Funds to GOP in 2018

This story has flown under the political radar in the run up to the midterm election. It should be getting more play.

The story illustrates two huge problems: the toothless tiger of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the fact that vast sums of foreign money continue to pollute our politics.

“Anyone who follows campaign finance knows that the FEC has been toothless for years due to GOP commissioners’ opposition to any enforcement of laws designed to oversee money in politics. But Weintraub and Broussard suggest the agency hit a new low by letting the US firm, American Ethane, off with a deal in which it agreed to pay only a small civil fine.”

The FEC was created in the post-Watergate world and it’s never been particularly effective in policing money in federal politics. It’s a scandal. One of many, I fear. Here’s the story from Mother Jones.


That’s it. Vote for democracy.

2022 Election, GOP, Great Britain, Politics

So Goes The UK …

There is a particular type of American conceit, a persistent belief that our country is uniquely special in the world, indeed exceptional, a place that stands apart from other merely mortal nations with long traditions of democracy and respect for individual freedoms.

We are reluctant, perhaps even unable, thanks to this belief system, to see and absorb lessons unspooling in plain sight in other countries. It is in the nature of many Americans to think the rest of the world can’t really teach us much of anything.

We are in for a rude awakening.

Most Americans think we are in trouble, but act like it’s someone else’s problem

A recent New York Times/Siena College opinion survey contains this remarkable finding: “Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem.”

Furthermore, researchers who produced the study say, according to the Times: “doubts about elections that have infected American politics since the 2020 contest show every sign of persisting well into the future, the poll suggested: Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, said they had little to no faith in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.”

The Big Lie is, in other words, persisting and metastasizing. “So far,” say analysts at the Brookings Institute, “we have been able to identify 345 candidates who will be on the ballot in November who have expressed election denial beliefs—false claims that the presidential election in 2020 was flawed. All of them are running as Republicans. The most important group—governors, secretaries of state and attorneys general—consists of candidates for statewide offices who, if they are elected, will have a great deal to say about how elections in their state will be run in the future. A second group are members of Congress.”

All of this adds up, if you’re paying attention and particularly if you care more about American democracy than your partisan priors, to a real time crisis. The mid-term election in 18 days could be the tipping point.

If Republicans capture control of the House of Representatives, as history and gerrymandering indicate they will, they promise to spend the vast majority of their time ginning up more fear and loathing with investigations of everything from the laptop computer of the president’s son to the immigration policies of the secretary of Homeland Security.

Additionally would-be future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tells Punchbowl news that a House GOP majority will place the American economy at risk by leveraging an increase in the debt ceiling to force cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other government programs. It could well prove to be an example of the old GOP fiscal hostage taking on steroids.

Commentator Jonathan V. Last puts a fine point on all this when he writes “Republicans have announced that their electoral case to voters is a promise to create economic instability.”

McCarthy also says his House majority will curtail U.S. aid to Ukraine, a signal to Vladimir Putin that he should carry on his brutal war of genocide because the political party the Russian dictator supports in the United States really has his back.

A House Republican majority will also repudiate the essential work of the January 6 committee and will surely install election deniers and conspiracy theorists in key committee positions. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the utterly reprehensible congresswoman from Georgia, is already saying McCarthy better give her lots of power or he will live to regret it.

A recent profile of the far-right radical correctly places Greene’s craziness at the center of the modern Republican Party. “Over the past two years,” reporter Robert Draper wrote, “Greene has gone from the far-right fringe of the G.O.P. ever closer to its establishment center without changing any of her own beliefs,” beliefs that include insurrection encouragement and embrace of Q-Anon nonsense.

Republicans still have a legitimate chance to retake control of the U.S. Senate, as well, and if they do it will be through the election of a weird assortment of election deniers, insurrection promoters, a fraud doctor, a former football player who seems to really believe he’s a law enforcement officer and doesn’t know how many children he’s fathered and a guy who is running with the endorsement of the former president who says he provided that endorsement only after J.D. Vance kissed his, well, ample backside.

Add to this toxic mix an almost certain indictment – or indictments – of one Donald J. Trump, who will be running for president in 2024 from a courtroom in Georgia, or Florida, or New York or Washington, D.C., or possibly all simultaneously.

But back to that peculiar American conceit – we are special, a place where political chaos, even a democratic meltdown isn’t really possible. The country has persisted for nearly 250 years, after all, this conceit goes. We’re exceptional.

Nah.

There are many examples in the chaotic modern world of democracies fraying, even coming apart. Italy has installed the farthest right government since Mussolini marched on Rome in 1922. Hungary is dominated by a right-wing zealot who daily stokes fear and fans outrage, while being a role model for white nationalist zealots like Tucker Carlson. Trump fawns over authoritarian strongmen like Turkey’s Erdogan, China’s Xi and, of course, the murdering Putin.

On Wednesday Liz Truss said she was a fighter, not a quitter. On Thursday she quit

But if you care to really see where American conservatism is headed consider what’s happened to the Conservative Party in the UK where a hopelessly incompetent prime minister has destroyed her political career (and maybe her party), while simultaneously seriously damaging the British economy.

Liz Truss’s demise connects directly to her embrace of just the kind of economic policy future speaker McCarty is planning to implement – austerity, slashes to the social safety net and tax cuts for the most well off. Truss embraced and then u-turned on policies that she admitted would cause vast disruption. Now her approval stands at 9% and conservatives say they long to reinstate the disgraced former prime minister Boris Johnson. Whew.

This is a level of chaos and dysfunction that Americans should brace against. It is all possible here and then some.

British journalist Tanya Gold wrote about this British mess recently. My version of her conclusion changes just a couple of names. It amounts to a forecast for the future of our conceit.

“In time, America may free itself of Mr. Trump’s spell and Mr. McCarthy’s unreason — and choose leaders who deal in facts, not fantasies, and think of the country, not themselves. We may say at last: Enough of post-truth and extremism and drinking the dregs of empire. Yet that horizon is still a way off.

“Right now, we know, Mr. Trump (and McCarthy) will fall.

“For the Republicans, it won’t bring renewal. And for the country, it won’t bring catharsis.”


Additional Reading:

Some additional reading if you are inclined …

WILL PUTIN’S WAR IN UKRAINE CONTINUE WITHOUT HIM?

Dictators don’t often die in bed. We can hope.

We can also hope the loathsome ex-KGB agent’s days are numbered, but it may not matter to the war in Ukraine is Putin stays or goes.

Any new leader who seeks to extricate Russia from Putin’s war likely will face tough domestic hurdles. Russia’s current domestic political environment, as characterized by an intense blame game pitting political versus military leadership, would be especially dangerous for Putin’s successor and disincentive any move to abandon Russia’s war aims in Ukraine and seek peace, at least in the short term. This holds even for a successor who opposed or did not openly support Putin’s war prior to taking office. Thus, Putin’s war may very well continue without Putin.”

Shawn T. Cochran writes at the website “War on the Rocks” about Ukraine, Putin and what happens if he goes.


A Brief History of One of the Most Powerful Families in New York City: The Morgenthaus

“The Morgenthaus were called the Jewish Kennedys, and remained, as the former mayor Ed Koch remarked, ‘the closest we’ve got to royalty in New York City.'”

Andrew Meier on a Gotham dynasty.


Arsenic and Old Lace: Madness in the Family

Film critic David Cairns on the Frank Capra classic with lots of Cary Grant for his fans, and who isn’t a fan of Cary Grant.

Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace

“Grant had been a freelancer since 1936 and would always remain one, enjoying his pick of projects from all the majors; Capra had recently ended his twelve-year alliance with Columbia—a studio he’d made respectable—and had tried his hand at independence with Meet John Doe (1941), but with war looming, he ducked back into the security of a studio project. He was drawn to the novelty of a movie without a message: during the thirties, he had become closely identified with a kind of populist social commentary. This time, he just wanted to have fun.”

This is a great piece if you like stories about the stories behind a movie.


WHAT THE DODGERS AND GIANTS’ 1958 MOVE WEST MEANT FOR AMERICA

I’m pretty certain that if the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn I would be a fan. In LA, not so much. This is a good story about how the the “move West” changed baseball, among other things.

“During the first decades of the twentieth century, what passed for national culture was very much a product of the East, particularly New York City. By 1980 or so, that notion no longer held.

“The move by the Dodgers and Giants helped kill it. The baseball shift West sent the message that you didn’t have to make it in New York to make it anywhere. Anybody could leave and thrive.”

Lincoln Mitchell literally wrote the book on baseball moving West. Here’s his essay on the subject.


Thanks for reading. Be well. All the best.

2022 Election, GOP

It’s a Lie …

Faced with an ultra-conservative, reactionary opponent in 1964, Lyndon Johnson went for the political jugular – he attacked Barry Goldwater, the grandfather of today’s white nationalist, fear obsessed Republican Party, as a danger even to Republicans.  

Johnson’s campaign employed the services of what was then a brash, still developing New York advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), a collection of culturally aware ad makers that made names for themselves by introducing the Volkswagen to American car buyers and developing the “we try harder” campaign for Avis, the number two car rental agency behind Hertz.  

LBJ’s presidential campaign was the firm’s first foray into politics, and they debuted with a boom, literally, producing the famous – or to Goldwater Republicans infamous – “Daisy ad” featuring an adorable, freckle faced little girl counting to ten as she pulled the petals off a daisy. What was really happening in the ad was the countdown to a nuclear explosion. 

Perhaps the most famous political ad ever

“These are the stakes,” Johnson says as the screen fills with a mushroom cloud, “to make a world in which all of God’s children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.” 

White letters then fill the black screen – Vote for President Johnson on November 3 – as a male voice intones, “the stakes are too high for you to stay home.” 

Goldwater’s name was never mentioned. It didn’t need to be. The message was clear. The Republican candidate, with his reckless and casual talk about nuclear war, was too risky, even for Republicans. 

The ad aired only once in the middle of a network television broadcast of a movie, but the impact was as powerful as any political television spot ever made. A follow-up commercial featured another “deliciously beautiful little girl innocently licking an ice-cream cone,” while a gentle female voice explains the dangers of Srontium-90 in the atmosphere, making sure to mention that Goldwater had voted against ratification of a treaty to limit nuclear testing

The journalist Theodore White called the ad “as cruel a political film as has ever been show,” but effective. Goldwater scared people. The ads reminded them why. Another DDB ad simply showed the fingers of two hands tearing up a Social Security card and another featured “Confessions of a Republican.” That ad – a young, self-described GOP voter who had supported Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon speaking casually, if a little haltingly to the camera – defined the race. 

“But when we come to Senator Goldwater,” the voters says, “now it seems to me we are up against a very different kind of a man – this man scares me.” The best line in the “Confession of a Republican” was simply: “If you unite behind a man you don’t believe in – it’s a lie.” 

Teddy White, whose famous book “The Making of the President – 1964” became an instant classic, observed that Goldwater was forced to run against the fear that he himself had created, while pressed over and over to try and explain that he wasn’t a warmonger, a destroyer of Social Security or just flat out dangerous. Johnson, of course, won a historic landslide. Goldwater won only six states, five in the deep South where white voters rebelled against Johnson’s civil rights legislation that Goldwater opposed, and his own state of Arizona. 

There were predictions from serious people after the Goldwater debacle that the Republican Party, divided between ultra-conservative John Birch-types and moderately liberal northeasterners could not survive. The reports of the death of the party were greatly exaggerated, to say the least. The white nationalist party Goldwater led to defeat came roaring back, then as now home to plenty of cranks, adherents to the Klan and fear mongers who are obsessed by immigrants, minorities and socialists. 

While admitting there are no perfect analogies in politics – 1964 is not 2022 – there are increasing signs that a civil war is brewing inside the GOP, one not unlike the pushback against Barry Goldwater than Lyndon Johnson exposed nearly 60 years ago. The political weapon then, as now was fear of what a fringe Republican might do in elected office

Cases in point: 

Utah Republican senator Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential candidate, has refused to endorse fellow Republican Mike Lee, a schemer who advanced election denial claims in 2020 who now embraces the chief proponent of our “big lie.” Independent and former Republican Evan McMullinLee voted for him for president in 2016 – has made the race close, so close Lee was on Fox News this week literally begging Romney to help him survive. 

Utah Senator Mike Lee seems to need Mitt Romney more than the guy who has endorsed him

The Republican governor of New Hampshire, more a libertarian than a conservative, has refused to endorse the election-denying GOP candidate for the Senate in his state. Charlie Baker, the GOP governor of Massachusetts who is term limited, won’t endorse the Trump-back candidate who is trying to replace him. 

Marc Racicot, the former GOP governor of Montana and one-time national party chairman, has endorsed a Democrat over scandal-plagued former congressman and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. 

Fourteen family members of Trumpy Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt have endorsed his Democratic Senate opponent. 

Liz Cheney, the real conscience of the conservative movement, is supporting Democrats for governor and secretary of state in Arizona because the Republican candidates are lying about the last presidential election. This is but a partial list, not yet an avalanche of pushback to far out Republicans, but also more than trickle. 

A striking example of the GOP mainstream trying to rescue their party has emerged in always very conservative Idaho. More than 50 prominent Republicans, including Phil Batt, a venerated former governor, Lori Otter, the wife of another governor, Butch Otter, and an impressive collection of prominent former state legislators and elected officials have endorsed Tom Arkoosh, the Democrat candidate for attorney general. Arkoosh is an experienced non-politician lawyer, his opponent is a partisan radical who happens to have a law degree.

Long-time Idaho state senator Patti Anne Lodge, a Republican powerhouse for years, said Arkoosh is the “first candidate on the Democratic ticket I have supported in my 66 years of work with the Republican Party.” It’s impossible for Republican candidate Raul Labrador, a rabble-rousing, accomplishment-free Tea Party darling when he was in Congress, who is also an election denier to claim this collection of conservative luminaries is anything other than the heart and soul of the Idaho party, at least the party that once existed and might again. The clear message: many Republicans have real problems with the GOP candidate. They know of what they see. If only more had the courage to speak.  

The modern Republican Party finds itself in a truly awkward place, not unlike 1964. The party is dividing among practical, truth-telling conservatives who, despite the last few years of persistent lying and bad faith, still recognize a charlatan when they see one, and a faction that would rather burn the party – and the country – down in pursuit of a radical vision of conservatism. It all comes down to a choice.

After all, “If you unite behind a man you don’t believe in – it’s a lie.” 

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

A few other stories that you may find of interest …

New FBI clues reveal more about the mysterious couple who had a stolen de Kooning painting

A really fascinating story about an art theft, a mysterious couple and a $100 million dollar painting found in a remote house in New Mexico.

“The theft was brazen and bewildering, the getaway swift, the trail of clues sparse and long-since dried up.  

“None of their relatives could explain how the painting, years later, ended up in their house. Could this pair of retirees in southwestern New Mexico have pulled off such a clean heist?  

“Suddenly, Rita and Jerry Alter were infamous.” Anne Ryman stitches together the story in the Arizona Republic.

The stolen painting and sketches of those who might have stolen it

Just Do It: How the iconic Nike tagline built a career for the late Dan Wieden

A NPR piece on the advertising legend and Oregonian Dan Wieden.

“Wieden was widely known for his innovative and hugely successful marketing campaigns for companies like Old Spice, Procter and Gamble, and Coca Cola.

“But his biggest claim to fame came in 1988, when he created a slogan for his newly formed advertising firm’s first client: Nike.”

Read the story – some great examples of his work included – right here.


Did JFK Really Eat the World’s Largest Tamale?

The Boston-Irish Kennedy and Mexican food don’t typically fit in the same sentence, but this story makes the connection because JFK received – maybe – one really big tamale from Texas in 1961.

“The political heft of the gift was clear. But then came a mystery: the tamale disappeared. Three days after its grand send-off from San Antonio, the Tampa Tribune declared the ‘Giant Tamale for Kennedy Has Gone Astray.’ On May 26—less than a month removed from the Bay of Pigs invasion, and one day after Kennedy announced plans to put a man on the moon—White House reporters pressed the administration for answers about the tamale’s whereabouts.”

From the Texas Tribune.


That’s it for me this week. Be well. Get that next booster, and thanks for reading.

GOP, Trump

The Dilemma for Republicans … 

Elected Republicans, at least those not swamped by conspiracy theories about stolen elections or Hunter Biden’s laptop, find themselves in a really awkward place. It’s not really a new place, but it is a newly urgent place.

Day by day these Republicans watch as a legal dragnet closes around the leader of their party. What do they do?

Do they lash out at the FBI as the party leader wants them to? Some have done just that. The party that has owned the “law and order” issue since Richard Nixon – another crook who thought himself above the law – was in the White House now has members trashing the integrity of federal law enforcement officers

Top secret documents the FBI says were illegally at Trump’s Florida club

Do they join in, as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has, to summon another mob on the notion that a former president could actually be charged with crimes by the American judicial system?

The party leader is sending decidedly mixed messages. The documents recovered from his closet and office were planted. No, that’s not it, the papers are genuine, but he declassified them. No, on second thought they were his private property, and a federal judge had no business allowing the government he once headed to recover them. No, check that, a special master should review those documents. And the nation’s premier law enforcement agency was corrupt and out to get him.

This guy has had more explanations than a sixth grader caught red handed with a fist in mom’s cookie jar.

Do these Republicans just look away from this national security and potentially violent train wreck?

Some, like Idaho Senator Jim Risch, a senior member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, seem to be doing just that. These profiles in courage have gone silent. They got nothing for us – no defense of the rule of law, no support for the fact that presidential records, particularly top-secret records, are not legally permitted in a Florida resort no matter who lives there, no word about trashing a federal judge and disparaging individual FBI agents is, well, not a very conservative thing to do.

The senator is very focused on national security threats

These silent ones can’t even claim the dog ate their civics homework. What homework? Risch loves to tell his constituents he was once a prosecutor and knows a crook when he sees one, but not now. Risch routinely touts his Intelligence committee and foreign policy bona fides, but in the present case he’s the political equivalent of old, bumbling Sargant Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes fame. He see “nothing, nothing.”

When the leader of their party spouts absolutely ridiculous stuff, as the man did repeatedly this week, including a whole long list of Q-Anon nonsense, you might think it would be time for an intervention. Something like: Check up on the old boy, something is sadly amiss here. But when you allow the party brand to devolve into crazy conspiracy at the hand of a serial liar what are you gonna do? Speak out about it? Nah.

As journalist Bess Levin pointed out recently, “Even before the FBI came a-knocking, the 45th president was up to his neck in legal woes,” including, by Levin’s count, 17 different criminal and civil cases ranging from the party leader’s role in the January 6 insurrection, to the corruption of his family business, to credible allegations of sexual abuse.

This guy is Tony Soprano without the charm, and he will spend the rest of his natural life in and out of depositions, investigations, lawsuits and, as increasingly seems clear, indictments and trials.

But back to the Republican’s dilemma. On the one hand they know all this attention centered on a guy who twice lost the popular vote, was twice impeached and whose actions have shaken the quivering footings of American democracy is an enormous distraction, particularly heading into a midterm election.

On the other hand, they’re stuck with him. After excusing his lack of character and honesty, after shrugging off his misogyny and racism, after cringing, but still tolerating his coziness with Putin and other assorted thugs and low lives, they’re afraid to cross him. Cutting bait now means crossing his most deranged followers, and that is very dangerous politically and even personally. 

And they know it will get worse. Congress will soon return, and the January 6 committee will deliver more revelations. A plucky prosecutor in Atlanta is systematically building a case that a criminal conspiracy attempted to interfere with the presidential election in Georgia. The family business is under extreme pressure. Despite the fulminations and lying and constantly shifting storyline, the government documents case, which has become an obstruction of justice and false statements case is solid and will play out in ways that will almost certainly be detrimental to the party and its leader.

Even a frequent apologist for the former president like National Review columnist Andrew C. McCarthy sees where this is going. “I believe former president Trump is likely to be charged with obstruction of justice and causing false statements to be made to investigators,” McCarthy wrote this week. And he added: “It does not appear that those charges would be difficult to prove.”

So, these awkward place Republicans have squandered the high ground around “law and order” by enabling a guy in so much legal trouble he can’t find competent counsel to represent him. The tough, no nonsense foreign policy realists in the party have allowed their movement to be coopted by delusional fan boy adulation for the white nationalist president of, wait for it, Hungary.

And the MAGA movement is led by a guy, as The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols describes him, that is “one of the weakest and most cowardly men ever to serve as president,” a “leader” lacking the backbone – not to mention the judgment – to stand up for his country rather than bowing down to a former KGB hack.

Having let him off once for inciting an insurrection, these awkward place Republicans know from personal experience what their leader is capable of. He’s really cornered now, and the stakes are a lot higher than losing an election and lying about it.

Joe Biden, demonized as a socialist, a Marxist, a creepy old left wing radical (among the nicer things said about him), caught some grief recently for describing the other party as “semi-fascist.”

He’s not wrong, and we’re closer every day to seeing just how far the awkward Republicans will go to keep from confronting the monster that grew and grew while they wrung their hands, turned their backs and worried about their jobs.

What will they do? What will we do?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Molly Ivins on Roe v. Wade

The Texas Observer has gone to its archives to revisit this piece from the late, great reporter.

“One way to look at the struggle over abortion is the journalist’s way, sifting slowly through the clips, most of them yellow and brittle with age. Story after story is added to the big heap — the legal maneuverings year after year; the legislative reform efforts year after year; the obligatory “balanced” series from the women’s sections, some good, some poor; the case histories, all that terror and misery reduced to 10 inches of type; the brief death notices; the statistics stories, the opinion polls; the gory ads from the Right to Life groups; the Catholic papers, arguing again and again that that their position is not based on religious doctrine; doctors under indictment; the Florida woman convicted of manslaughter because she got an abortion; the slow changes, the medical association votes in favor of reform, the mental health organization votes in favor of reform, a legislator speaks out, a good government group; more deaths, more statistics, more polls.”

Worth your time. We rarely get a chance to go back in time, but that is where we are.


The John Birch Society Never Left

Another piece putting history – and our current moment – in context.

“Trump may have been our country’s first post-truth president. But the post-truth environment of conspiracy we are living in today has been a long time coming. We owe it in part to the truth-optional habits on the right that Robert Welch and the Birch Society exemplified—and in part to the same Republican elites who were complicit every step of the way.”

From Rick Perlstein and Edward H. Miller.


Retiring AP reporter chronicles 4 decades covering Congress

Longtime Associated Press reporter Alan Fram has thoughts.

“Trump’s norm-busting four years featured constant clashes with Congress including Republicans, from whom he tolerated no dissent.

“I prodded one Republican, privately critical of Trump, to talk on the record. ‘He’d send me to Gitmo,’ he said.

“House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., just 48, announced in early 2018 that he would retire. He later told author Tim Alberta he could not endure two more years working with Trump.”

Here’s the link.


See you again soon. Many thanks for reading.

2022 Election, GOP, Trump

Liz Lost, But Spineless Republicans Killed Their Party … 

Forty-eight years ago this month Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and House GOP leader John Rhodes, also an Arizonan, told President Richard Nixon the jig was up. Nixon had to resign. The president’s effort to obstruct justice related to the Watergate burglary was the last straw. If Nixon refused to quit he would surely be impeached and removed from office.

A few days earlier – August 6. 1974 – Goldwater, the party’s 1964 presidential nominee and among the most conservative men in American public life, let go at a meeting of his Republican colleagues. “There are only so many lies you can take,” Goldwater said of the president, “and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House – today!”

Barry Goldwater, center, flanked by Senate GOP leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and Representative John Rhodes after a historic meeting with Richard Nixon at the White House in August 1974.

Nixon resigned on August 9, pushed out of the White House with fellow Republicans holding the door.

That Republican Party is dead, buried and apparently not in the least mourned by the personality cult that is now prepared to “defund the FBI,” putting law enforcement officers at risk, while dismissing very real evidence that their cult leader committed serious crimes.

Ironically, the last shovel full of cultist dirt was thrown on the vanquished remains of the daughter of the man who served as presidential chief of staff to Republican Gerald Ford, the man who helped rescue the Grand Old Party from the stench of Richard Nixon’s corruption.

The vanquished Liz Cheney has done a favor for democracy by reminding us of what a stand on principle looks like, and her defeat at the hands of an outspoken defender of Donald Trump’s Big Lie should finally put the lie to idea that the modern Republican Party is anything more than a grave threat to the future of the country.

In the aftermath of Cheney’s thumping defeat in Wyoming earlier this week some delusional conservatives have argued that her defeat had little to do with Donald Trump, who endorsed her hack opponent and railed against Liz for months and was instead about Cheney failing to represent her constituents – “left them behind and stopped listening” as one revisionist historian put it on Twitter. 

Nonsense.

Cheney lost because she dared to point out the obvious shortcomings of the most corrupt man to ever consume a Big Mac in the Oval Office. Cheney won re-election two years ago with 73% of the Wyoming vote. Tuesday, she received barely 29%.

The difference between those two numbers is simply Trump. Trump and endless lies about the election he lost, about January 6 and about his efforts to corrupt our government, our military and intimidate election officials. A rational political party does not go immediately to the default position that a former president who carried away top secret documents and refused to return them is the victim of some “deep state” plot. You have to work hard at being that delusional.

Yet, that is the party that rendered its judgment in Wyoming this week and did so previously in Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere where embracing the Big Lie has become the only currency needed to stay in the good graces of “the base” and the cult leader.

There is an old saw in politics that holds that you “never blame the voters,” but enough of the cultists have grabbed the GOP steering wheel that you simply can’t explain their fascination with conspiracy and lies without also naming them the responsible parties.

The country didn’t reach the point it finds itself because Donald Trump took Putin’s side against his own government, ginned up fabrications about a fair election, summoned a mob to overturn his defeat and then squirreled away national secrets in a closet in Mar-a-Lago.

No, we are where we are because enough of our fellow citizens actively accepted this palpable nonsense, and even worse continue to encourage more of it.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Liz Cheney said of Trump and January 6. Uttering that uncomfortable truth doomed her, while nearly all her Republican colleagues in Congress either sat on their hands or openly celebrated her defeat.

There was a moment, admittedly in a land light years away from ours, that once-principled Republicans – people like Oklahoma’s Tom Cole and Idaho’s Mike Simpson – would have made a difference by making a stand in favor of genuine conservative principles, including telling the truth to their followers, rather than lending credence to the party leader’s grievance fueled claptrap. But that party is, sadly, as dead as Gerald Ford.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham ran against Donald Trump, called him unqualified, said the GOP would regret nominating him, criticized Trump after January 6 and today is among his biggest defenders

As Mark Leibovich wrote recently in The Atlantic: “Of all the elements of cowardice that have afflicted the Republican Party, a particularly pathetic one is the terror so many of Cheney’s colleagues appear to have about losing their jobs. Maybe they can’t bear the thought of forfeiting their congressional parking spaces or fancy pins, or maybe they simply lack the stomach to get called bad names by Donald Trump. So they do whatever it takes to pass their tribal loyalty tests and survive their next election. They’re so afraid of being called a ‘former member of Congress’ that they’ll never know what it feels like to be called ‘courageous.’”

The good news for Liz Cheney, unlike a Cole or a Simpson, is she won’t have to pretend to respect Kevin McCarthy, the reptilian House Speaker wannabe who can hardly take a breath without calculating how exhaling will play with Donald Trump. And it seems entirely possible that Cheney will emerge from defeat, unlike the spineess characters who survive to grovel again, stronger and even better positioned to call out the vast shortcomings of the cult leader

“Look, she’s going to go on into eternity, or as long as is necessary” to stop Trump, former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson told Leibovich. “She’s going to keep doing everything she can to bring down this oafish man, who’s filled with revenge and hatred and total disregard for the laws of the United States.”

Where would you rather be – defending democracy and truth or tolerating conspiracies, while sniffing the backside of the Prince of Mar-a-Lago?

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

Some additional good reading suggestions …

How Bolivia’s ruthless tin baron saved thousands of Jewish refugees

There was more to a cutthroat South American mining titan than anyone knew. From The Guardian.

“In 2004, after five years of sorting through thousands of pages of correspondence with consulates, businesses and international Jewish organisations, the team revealed their astonishing discovery. The papers demonstrated that Moritz Hochschild had helped to rescue as many as 22,000 Jews from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe by bringing them to Bolivia between 1938 and 1940, at a time when much of the continent had shut its doors to fleeing Jews.”

Fascinating story.


Does Preserving Democracy Require Letting Trump Off?

Mona Charon answers that question.

“The world is upside down. It is the Republicans who are completely politicizing the rule of law by declaring that any accountability for their master is ipso facto illegitimate. Hardly a single Republican office holder suggested waiting to see what the evidence was before reaching a conclusion. If they’d investigated for five seconds, they could have learned that the National Archives and Records Administration as well as the Department of Justice engaged in lengthy negotiations with Trump and his representatives to get the stolen documents back.”

From The Bulwark.


No Great Stagnation in Guinness

A really great piece about the famous drink from Ireland.

It’s good for you …

“The key to Guinness’ robustness has been innovation. Through a series of key innovations, Guinness was able to stay on top despite (among other things) a famine, mass emigration, two World Wars, a civil war, and the changeover from British to sovereign rule. Guinness is responsible for changes in workplace relations, several foundational advances in the physics of brewing, and even the famous Student’s t-test in statistics. Indeed, Guinness has been one of the key drivers of innovation in Ireland.”

The author is Will O’Brien.


Why Major League Baseball Tried to Rein in Babe Ruth

“For all his wealth and popularity, Ruth remained an outsider, even in the sport he popularized. In this, he demonstrated the chasm between America’s stated ideals and its nastier realities. His poor background did not win him respect; instead, it made him suspect among baseball elites, who wanted less volatile stars who would mold the game into a middle-class institution.”

Here’s the link.


Thanks much for reading. Keep the faith.

2022 Election, Democracy, GOP

America’s Choice …

On Monday night, February 20, 1939, a huge crowd of nearly 30,000 Americans packed into Madison Square Garden in New York City. Another 20,000 milled around outside, The crowd was orderly, at least for a while, but eventually became resistive, particularly after the main speaker began calling them to action.

On the platform uniformed guards stood watch, while “storm troopers” in the crowd “wore overcoats to conceal their uniforms.” Red and black and white flags were displayed everywhere. A large portrait of George Washington was suspended from the ceiling.

Under the guise of “Americanization” American democracy was under attack.

Police – more than 1,500 officers were on hand – expected trouble and had the Garden under tight lock down. One counter demonstrator was beaten and arrested. Event organizers claimed the principle speaker, a uniform wearing rabble rouser named Fritz Kuhn, was the subject of an assassination plot.

Celebrated reporter William S. White described the scene in newspaper accounts that appeared across the country. “In a Nazi demonstration that filled vast Madison Square Garden leaders of the German-American bund stood last night under the sign of the swastika to denounce ‘international Jewry,’ some members of the Roosevelt cabinet, and any American alliance with European democracies.”

Headline from the New York Daily News, February 20, 1939

Reaction was mixed with many defending the rally on free speech grounds even as the pro-Nazi gathering came at a time when Germany had rearmed, annexed Austria, taken over Czechoslovakia and imprisoned thousands of its “undesirable” citizens, particularly Jews. Oregon Republican Senator Rufus C. Holman, stoking class and race division, actually proposed in response to the gathering an end to immigration “until we can assimilate the discordant elements already here.”

Buffalo Evening News, February 21, 1939

Holman, who had been an officer in the Oregon Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s, would later say during a Senate speech: “I have always deplored Hitler’s ambitions as a conqueror. But he broke the control of these internationalists over the common people of Germany. It would be a good idea if the control of the international bankers over the common people of England was broken, and good if it was broken over the wages and savings of the common people of the United States.”

I thought about Rufus Holman, Fritz Kuhn and “the common people of the United States” while reading about the big confab of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in Dallas recently. CPAC once was a rather staid, establishment conservative outfit, with its annual meetings offering up servings of standard rightwing red meat for those Americans who still believe Barry Goldwater was a prophet and Gerald Ford a liberal squish.

Once at the fringe of the conservative movement, CPAC is now, as Texas Monthly described it, offering “a violent blueprint for seizing power.” This is now the conservative mainstream, a neo-fascist movement in thrall to violence and in support of coup plotter.

The principle CPAC speaker was, of course, the man who would be president again. “We have to seize this opportunity to deal with the radical left socialist lunatic fascists,” Donald Trump declared to rapturous applause. “We have to hit them very, very hard. It has to be a crippling defeat.” 

With uniformed Proud Boys standing by and Hungarian dictator Viktor Orbán thrilling the radical right multitudes with his anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, pro-Christian nationalist rhetoric, Trump repeated for the ten-thousandth time the Big Lie about his election defeat. He lamented the poor insurrectionists facing jail time for attacking the U.S. Capitol. He pitied his vast legal exposure. The crowd went wild.

Donald Trump and Viktor Orban

“If somebody has doubts whether progressive liberals and communists are the same, just ask us Hungarians,” Orbán earlier told CPAC. “We fought them both, and I can tell you: they are the same.”

Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at the non-profit group Right Wing Watch told The Guardian: “Rightwing leaders, and especially the religious right leaders in the US, love Viktor Orbán for the same reasons they love Vladimir Putin. This overt embrace of Christian nationalism, willingness to use strongman tactics and the power of the government to enforce so-called traditional values about family and sexuality.”

The cold civil war in America ratcheted up a big notch with the most prominent conservative conference in the country embracing a thug like Orbán and it went into overdrive when the FBI subsequently served a search warrant on Trump’s Florida compound.

To say we have entered uncharted territory is to understate the peril of the moment. The darkest forces on the fringe right are calling for war and the crowd that yesterday slammed Democrats for wanting to “defund the police” today wants to eliminate the FBI.

Perhaps only one thing seems perfectly clear – the GOP elite, every bit as much at the grassroots, is sticking with the party’s would-be Viktor Orbán.

As Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate: “Having witnessed the bulk of the party harden its commitment to protecting Trump at any cost after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, nobody should be shocked to learn that ranking Republicans – without any information about what was seized, or why – were willing to stake their political careers on the claim that it was a lawless, partisan ‘raid.’ The darkest versions of these claims called for doing away with federal law enforcement altogether.”

Or as David Frum noted in The Atlantic: “In the hours since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s freshest resentments have become the election manifesto of his party, whose leaders are one by one lining up to investigate and punish the Department of Justice for enforcing the law against Donald Trump. Usually, August of an election year is when a party shifts its message from red meat for the true believers to softer themes for the general electorate. Trump is trying to stop that pivot, and after the FBI’s visit, he may succeed.”

We can’t imagine what might happen next for the simple reason we have never been here before. Never before have we had a lawless former president, sponsor of an effort to overturn an election and mired in endless scandal, supported by the most radical elements of one of our major political parties and hoping to reclaim power.

After than big New York event in 1939, the vast majority of Americans rejected the forces of fear and division the rally represented and committed themselves to the preservation of a pluralistic, democratic country, eventually sending sons and daughters to defeat the forces of fascism in a great war that continues to define the modern world.

Today the forces of fascism are again on the march, but they do not march as our would-be dictator claims from the ranks of the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Biden. The pressing threat to American democracy comes from the opposite direction, those who would shred the rule of law, while dividing us at every turn with appeals to hatred and violence.

We haven’t seen the bottom with these deplorables because there is no bottom. There is only democracy if we care enough to save it.

—–0—–

Additional Reading:

For your consideration my carefully curated weekly selections …

Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen

A stunning investigative piece by the Associated Press. The AP obtained thousands of documents related to allegations of child abuse in Arizona and West Virginia, cases where Mormon Church officials had knowledge of the abuse but did nothing.

“Families of survivors who filed the lawsuit said they show it’s part of a system that can easily be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.”

It’s difficult to read, but one hopes this kind of story leads to reform.


How the FBI knew what to search for at Mar-a-Lago 

Scene of the crime …

Interesting Q-A with an expert on presidential records.

Q. How do the archivists actually know what’s missing? Isn’t that hard to figure out?

A. The archivists probably have a really keen idea of what is and what isn’t missing, based upon things that they’ve gotten out of other offices, like the vice president’s office and things that got deposited from the secretary of state, for example. There are a lot of papers that are referenced and cross-referenced, multiple copies or multiple things going in and out of offices.

Read the entire interview:


The maddening coverage of the Mar-a-Lago search

I’ve been a fan of the Columbia Journalism Review for years. This piece dissects some of the early news coverage of the big story out of Florida and hits hard at some of the shortcomings.

“After facing criticism yesterday, the Post changed its initial headline – ‘Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI raided Trump’s safe’ – at least once. It now reads: ‘FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago lands Merrick Garland in a political firestorm’; on Google, it displays as: ‘For Garland, FBI search of Trump property makes it hard to avoid political fray.’ The updates constitute an improvement in that they don’t implicitly accuse Garland of politicizing the rule of law. But they’re far from perfect, resting on DC clichés—’political firestorm’; ‘political fray’—that are worn and passive, offering no insight into who might have started the fire or frayed democracy. This might seem pedantic, but headlines, and language more broadly, matter.”

Good reading to understand some of why the “media” is constantly under fire in the Age of Trump.


A sage for all seasons

From The Guardian archives a John Updike appreciation for Henry David Thoreau and Walden.

Henry David Thoreau

“Thoreau was 27 when he took up residence in the cabin by Walden Pond; he had graduated from Harvard 19th in his class, tried teaching, helped his father in the family pencil business, did local odd jobs for a dollar a day, lived with the Emersons for two years as handyman and gardener, left Long Island after a brief spell of tutoring and testing the literary market, and, despite Emerson’s sponsorship and a few poems and essays in the Transcendentalist quarterly The Dial, had made no mark. He emerged from the cabin in 1847 as essentially the Thoreau known to literary history.”

You’ll learn something and may be inspired to read the classic again. Here is the link.


Thanks for reading. Be well.

2022 Election, GOP, Insurrection

The Insurrection Next Door …

“It was going to be an armed revolution. People died that day … There was a gallows that was set up … This could have been the spark that started a new civil war.”

So said Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, who testified under oath recently before the January 6 committee.

The Oath Keepers, for those keeping a domestic terrorist scorecard, claims tens of thousands of members, most of whom seem to be former military or law enforcement personnel. The group’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, has been charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in allegedly attempting to stop the peaceful transfer of power during the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes is in jail awaiting trial later this year.

A new civil war. Crazy, right?

Trump insurrectionists at the Capitol on January 6, 2021

Not so fast. Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently gathered opinions about political violence from a representative sample of 8,620 Americans. A top line result: one in five Americans believe, at least some of the time, that political violence is justified. Half of those surveyed believe an American civil war is coming and 40% admitted to believing that a strongman leader may be necessary to replace our clunky democracy.

“This is not a study that’s meant to shock,” Rachel Kleinfeld, a political violence expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Science magazine. “But it should be shocking.”

It should be shocking, and we must not ignore the conflict agitators festering in plain sight, some clearly hoping to ignite – and benefit by – the war they desire.

Gun violence has undergone a dramatic increase, with homicide rates in American cities rising 44% between 2019 and 2021. Every day – every hour – brings a new outrage fixed squarely on the ridiculously widespread availability of guns. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that angry people with a grievance see a gun as an answer.

Unhinged political characters are everywhere fanning flames. Dan Cox, an election denying, Trump-endorsed crackpot, was nominated by Maryland Republicans to be their gubernatorial candidate this week. The party previously supported moderately conservative Larry Hogan. Hogan, twice elected in a strong Democratic state, has called the Republican who wants to replace him a “conspiracy-theory-believing QAnon whack-job.”

All the major Republican candidates for governor in Wisconsin have, as writer Bill Lueders noted recently, “staked out fervently regressive, delusional, and extreme positions.”

Blake Masters, the likely Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona, has had to refute an anti-Semitic essay he wrote several years ago in which he both distorted American history and used a “particularly representative and poignant quotation” – his words – from, of all people, Hermann Goering, the second most powerful Nazi who committed suicide rather than face execution for his World War II crimes.

“People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders,” Masters quoted Goering as saying, perhaps not realizing that even nitwits can stumble on a telling quote. “That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

And, of course, the 35-year-old venture capitalist has already said if he loses the Republican primary in August voter fraud will be the cause.

In Idaho, the most extreme Republicans, as the Idaho Statesman noted, engaged during their recent convention in a political orgy of “fear, control and cruelty.” The party elected a radical rightwing chair who openly espouses the lunatic theory that Donald Trump won the last election. Dorothy Moon, the new chair, meets the Republican definition of diversity. She’s an election denier, a John Bircher, a defender of anti-government extremists like Ammon Bundy and served as a character witness for a fellow Republican convicted of raping a legislative staffer.

Dorothy Moon came close to being elected Idaho’s secretary of state. She’s now chairing the Idaho GOP

Moon, being unhinged is her default position, told the Republican convention, after easily dispatching an old-line party functionary, “We have to make sure with the Democrats coming at us with full force that we have our barriers up, our guns loaded and ready to keep this state free.” 

She will, of course, say she was speaking metaphorically, but she wasn’t. The gun imagery pointed at a political opponent and tied to “freedom” is part and parcel of the wingnut playbook. Moon’s defenders will say the meaning of her threats have been distorted. She didn’t really mean anything by “our guns are loaded.” Just like her party’s Dear Leader didn’t really egg on his supporters to hang Mike Pence.

Welcome to the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.

The writer and former Naval War College instructor Tom Nichols says he remains a conservative, but no longer considers himself a Republican because the GOP has fallen “to a bunch of kooks, opportunists, racists, and aspiring fascists.” Nichols suggests a critical question.

Where are the conservative adults who possess the character and guts to stand athwart this degradation of decency and reality? No senior elected Idaho Republican, for example, has uttered a word about their party going over a cliff into la la land with a crank at the wheel.

The party elite stir themselves to go after Joe Biden on inflation or “the crisis at the border,” but they can’t bear to look into their own garbage strewn back yard.

What are they waiting for? The civil war?

The modern Republican Party – “kooks, opportunists, racists, and aspiring fascists” – doesn’t really advocate public policy positions, it enables extremists, while making the party a clear and present danger to American democracy.

The investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol has revealed how close the violent events of that day were to ushering in our civil war moment. Sadly, the violent impulses of so-called “Christian nationalists” were barely tweaked by the real time reality of America turning on itself. If anything, the impulses have grown over the last year and a half. Many Americans believe the worst is yet to come.

It has never been more incumbent on any American who truly loves the country, values the Constitution and the rule of law and abhors violence to drop what they are doing and become urgently engaged in the work of saving our democracy from the radicals who aim to destroy it. Push back against this nonsense in your circle of friends and family. Defend the teachers, librarians, police officers and health care workers who are under assault. Preach the gospel that holds that while our democracy is far from perfect it is demonstrably better than a demagogue in a blue suit.

There are more people of good faith and common sense than there are wannabe insurrectionists. Don’t be complacent. Don’t give in. Celebrate democratic values. Vote the crackpots out. The country you save will be your own.  

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Additional Reading:

Some reading for the weekend …

“I said, Don, it’s time for you to reveal”: 50 years later, the truth behind American Pie

I’m old enough to remember seeing Don McLean perform while I was in college and his most famous song had just been released. Now a new documentary tells the story of that enduring tune.

He was younger then

“The first part of the film covers McLean’s early life, including his time as a paper boy in the suburb of New York City where he grew up. In an extensive interview for the film, McLean talks about delivering the paper that carried news of the crash, something he alludes to towards the start of the song’s lyrics. At the time, Buddy Holly was his musical idol. If his death instigated the song’s words, a more personal loss altered the course of McLean’s life.”

Here’s the link.


An Innocent at Rinkside

William Faulkner and hockey don’t go together … but they do.

The novelist saw his first hockey game in 1955 and wrote about it for Sports Illustrated.

“To the innocent, who had never seen it before, it seemed discorded and inconsequent, bizarre and paradoxical like the frantic darting of the weightless bugs which run on the surface of stagnant pools.”

The link to the S-I vault.


Where Was Kevin McCarthy?

Amanda Carpenter on the certifiably loathsome leader of the House Republicans.

The gentleman from Bakersfield

“Thousands of witnesses have voluntarily complied with the [January 6] committee’s requests for testimony; McCarthy is one of the few who have resisted. The committee asked him for a voluntary interview in January 2022, and after he declined, the committee issued a subpoena seeking his testimony. In response, McCarthy’s lawyer sent the committee an 11-page letter on Friday, questioning the committee’s legality and constitutionality and making other specious arguments previously rejected by the courts.”

Imagine what this guy will do as Speaker of the House.


Be well. See you again soon.

GOP, Johnson, Politics

Everything Old is New Again …

To understand the United States in 2022 you must understand the United States in 1964.

The country has many origin stories, the point from which you might glimpse the country we have become – the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s election in 1860, the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow, the Great Depression, the Good War.

All those moments are woven into the fabric of our big, diverse, increasingly contentious and perhaps ungovernable nation. Not many of us would peg 1964 an origin moment. It was.

Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

Consider for a moment this pivotal 365 days, the year the writer Jon Margolis, not altogether cynically, termed in his book of the same name – “The Last Innocent Year.”

 “There was a time,” Margolis wrote, “when the delusion of innocence was easy to believe, when the myth was at least as useful as it was deceiving. That time ended when 1964 did.”

John Kennedy, a deeply flawed but profoundly inspiring president was dead as 1964 dawned, shot down the previous November in Dallas, the epicenter of the radical right in the 1960s. The John Birchers considered Dallas a stronghold and local members organized a demonstration against the United Nations, and particularly UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson, a two-time presidential nominee. Things became so unruly Stevenson was hit in the head with a sign post.

The major newspaper in Dallas was stridently anti-communist, and anti-Kennedy. Ted Dealey, the publisher of the Morning News, famously told Kennedy to his face at a White House luncheon, “we need a man on horseback to lead this nation, and many people in Texas and the Southwest think that you are riding Caroline’s tricycle.”

When Kennedy was gunned down in Dealey Plaza – yes, named for that publisher’s father – not everyone was surprised that Dallas is where it happened. Somehow, in our age of conspiracy, it seems all too fitting that JFK’s murder in the Big D spawned a million crackpot conspiracy theories. It is also no coincidence that Texas with its school room murders, unconcealed cruelty to women and immigrants and divisive ultra-right politicians looms so large in our politics nearly 60 years later.

The Kennedy murder also gave the country a big, often crude, often eloquent Texan as president.

“In retrospect,” Jon Margolis wrote, “we can see that it was the opening days of his presidency that Lyndon Johnson took the steps that would cost him his job four years later; that rioting in city streets first began in 1964; that the anger of middle-class working people, whom Richard Nixon would later call the ‘silent majority,’ revealed itself in the first stirrings of ‘white backlash’ and in the distaste for cultural elites exploited by the Goldwater movement.”

Barry Goldwater doesn’t instantly spring to mind for most Americans as a defining character in the troubled country we now inhabit. But Goldwater is a defining character, and indeed the most consequential loser in American political history. He roared into our history in 1964 and never left.

Barry Goldwater on the campaign trail in 1964

Goldwater lost the presidency in a landslide that year to Lyndon Johnson, but in losing he nailed in place the foundation of the angry, grievance driven, conspiracy embracing modern conservative movement. Goldwater also accomplished what moderate Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican never invoked by today’s Trumpified conservative party, began – the American South’s turn to the GOP.

Goldwater won only six states in 1964, but he defeated Johnson, a southerner, in five states of the old Confederacy. In Mississippi, just to cite the most astounding number from that election, Goldwater won 87% of the vote. This was before Congress passed the Voting Rights Act – that happened in 1965 – and before that law most Black Americans couldn’t register to vote in Mississippi. The white voters who embraced Goldwater knew well that the Arizona senator had voted NO on the Civil Rights Act approved by Congress in the summer of 1964 after the longest filibuster in Senate history. It became his calling card.

That Goldwater opposed civil rights legislation, campaigned to eliminate the Tennessee Valley Authority, decried America’s moral decay and was comfortable among Birchers and Southerners waving Confederate flags recommended him highly to many white Americans. He became the face of opposition to “liberal overreach” across the South and beyond.

If you don’t hear echoes of all this today, you’re not listening.

As Goldwater pressed his campaign against Johnson in 1964, his messages were all about “communist infiltration,” the lying liberal, elitist press, pointy-headed college professors, traitors in high places, the dangers of a runaway federal government hell-bent on destroying American freedoms, the “phony” policies of the Democrats.

A Republican state legislator in Ohio or Idaho or Tennessee could give that speech today, indeed they are giving that speech.

Reporter Richard Rovere wrote about Goldwater’s campaign tour in the fall of 1964 for The New Yorker.

“It has been my lot to attend political gatherings of many sorts for many years, but never until I went South with Goldwater had I heard any large number of Americans boo and hoot at the mention of the name of the President of the United States. In Alabama and Louisiana, there were thunderous, stadium-filling boos, all of them cued by a United States senator.”

Contemporary conservative rhetoric is always derivative. Goldwater owed much to Joe McCarthy. Nixon refined the right’s appeal to middle America, dog whistling to the silent, angry majority and appropriating the rest of the South. Reagan proved to be a smoother, more likable version of Goldwater, while hitting the same notes.

Trump, the malicious narcissist, cares not at all for history, but he thinks he knows what works: the meanness of a McCarthy, the white grievance appeal of a Goldwater, the “law and order” and the enemies lists of a Nixon and the Big Top showmanship of a president from Hollywood.

But Barry is his true godfather.

“I have never seen as grim and uncomprehending a group of politicians as those West Virginia Republicans who sat on the platform with Goldwater in Charleston,” Rovere wrote in 1964. “They joined in two bursts of applause – once when he mentioned the Ten Commandments, and again when he said, ‘We will not convert the heathen by losing our own souls.’”

It has always been about a fight for the soul of America. It is who we are, and 1964 helped create what we are living with.

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Additional Reading:

For your consideration …

There Are 11 Types of Donald Trump Enablers. Which One Are You?

Tim Miller, a one-time consultant to conservative politicians and causes turned Never Trumper, has published what is sure to become a wildly popular new book.

Miller writes very well and he isn’t pulling a punch. He suggests there are 11 types of Trump rear end sniffers … you won’t be disappointed.

Miller divide them into these buckets:

• Messiahs and Junior Messiahs
• Demonizers
• LOL Nothing Matters Republicans
• Tribalist Trolls
• Strivers
• Little Mixes
• Peter Principle Disprovers
• Nerd Revengers
• The Inert Team Players
• The Compartmentalizers
• Cartel Cashers

As Miller says, “Here’s a field guide, my taxonomy of enablers, so you can identify them in the wild.”

Here is the link.


Dangerous as the Plague

From the Baffler.

“For those of us who grew up in the gauzy days of ‘Love Wins,’ recent months have been profoundly unsettling. For the first time in our lives, history seems to be running in reverse. Yet while this rhetoric may seem frighteningly new, it has a long, miserable history that stretches back to the nineteenth century and the very origins of LGBTQ rights.”

As my piece this week suggests all that you are seeing has been with us before.


‘A massive betrayal’: how London’s Olympic legacy was sold out

The rich get richer … the massive fail of the London games.

“Ten years on from the patriotic pageant that brought the nation together to bask in director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, with its pastoral vision of merrie England and cavorting NHS nurses, just 13,000 homes have been built on and around the Olympic site. Of these, only 11% are genuinely affordable to people on average local incomes. Meanwhile, in the four boroughs the site straddles – Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest – there are almost 75,000 households on the waiting list for council housing, many living in desperate poverty. Thousands of former residents have also been rehoused outside the area since the Olympics took place.”

The Guardian with the gory details of the shoddy legacy of a big, big money event.


Boris Johnson resigns: Five things that led to the PM’s downfall

The most odious man ever in British public life? Boris is in the running

The British PM is out after lies, fines for violating his own Covid rules, more lies and a few lies.

The BBC has an analysis of the why now? I feel compelled to add that nothing Johnson did, as bad as it was, comes close to matching the four years of Donald Trump. Nothing.

And as many have pointed out he didn’t ask his supporters to sack Westminster.

From the BBC.


Thanks for reading. Be well.

GOP, Idaho Politics, Insurrection, Trump

Political Survival …

Note: Adam Serwer, writing in The Atlantic, reminded us – again – this week that Republican senators had a chance in February 2021 to convict Donald Trump and guarantee that he would never again hold public office.

Most Senate Republicans twisted themselves into political pretzels to avoid hold Trump accountable for the Capitol attack on January 6, even though no one attempted to defend his actions.

As Serwer wrote: “Although seven Republican senators broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, most of the caucus remained loyal to a man who attempted to bring down the republic, because in the end, they would have been content to rule over the ruins.”

Which brings us to very Republican Idaho …


Idaho congressman Russ Fulcher was one of 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election for the winner, Joe Biden.

Idaho congressman Mike Simpson has called the House committee investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “a witch hunt.” Simpson’s dismissal of the investigation as a purely partisan exercise ignores the fact that a string of Republican witnesses – the former attorney general, several Trump White House staffers, the Georgia secretary of state and the Arizona speaker of the house – have provided unrefuted testimony under oath. Some witch hunt. 

Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher posted this photo on social media. He’s signing a document on January 6 objecting to the presidential election

Idaho senator Mike Crapo, while accepting the endorsement of the former president of the United States has had almost nothing to say about that president’s increasingly well-documented efforts to overturn the election and prevent Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty to count electoral votes.

Idaho senator James Risch, like Crapo, opposed creation of an independent panel to investigate the Capitol insurrection and what caused it. Risch remains mum as more testimony implicates the former president in what a federal judge has called “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Idaho attorney general candidate Raul Labrador, we know from text messages assembled by the congressional committee, implored then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6, as Labrador put it, to “get Trump to say something to calm down the people.” Labrador, who supported a bogus legal strategy aimed at overturning state elections, also said to Meadows: “I believed in Trump and I would probably object to the certification today.”

This is the top leadership of the Idaho Republican Party systematically ignoring a Constitutional and political crisis that makes Watergate look like a family picnic. And all in the name of party solidarity.

The Idaho Republican party once included the principled leadership of conservatives like Phil Batt, Jim McClure, Jim Jones and Dirk Kempthorne. The party’s elected leaders today seem as far from principled as Bonners Ferry is from Malad. To steal a line from the late columnist and commentator Mark Shields, these Idaho politicians make Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” 

In commentary in Idaho newspapers recently, former newspaper reporter and one-time GOP publicist Chuck Malloy suggests he knows what Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch are up to – I include Labrador, as well – with their not so artful dodge of the political issue of our time. The Idaho Republicans are, Malloy wrote, “political survivors,” and “political survivors” know “better than to cross” Donald Trump.

Idaho’s “political survivors”

“Political survivors” don’t “buck leadership” because survivors – guys like Crapo in Malloy’s telling – get ahead by making a “political career of being a loyal soldier for Republicans.”

I’m certain my old friend Chuck wrote that to explain – and excuse perhaps – the motivations behind a lack of character on the part of these political leaders. Perhaps inadvertently Chuck also hints at an even bigger truism. Idaho Republican leaders are scared – scared of Trump, scared of the most radical elements in their own party, scared of losing office and power, scared of the mob coming for them. They’re like Mafia capos, the middlemen in the crime syndicate, who aren’t directly in charge of the wrongdoing, but know about it and condone, afraid to cross the Big Boss.

“Republican lawmakers fear that confronting Trump, or even saying in public how they actually feel about him, amounts to signing their political death warrant,” Jonathan Martin, journalist and author of This Will Not Pass said recently. “For most of them, it’s not more complicated than that.”

Survival at all cost no matter the price. 

Rusty Bowers, the very conservative Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified recently before the January 6 committee, is a living, breathing example of the chaos and danger that has been unleashed by the Trumpian Big Lie about the election. After telling the committee that he told Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he would not violate his oath to defend the law and the Constitution to further the former president’s lies about the election, Bower related what happened to him and his family.

Pro-Trump supporters used bullhorns as they protested outside Bower’s Mesa home. Protesters filmed Bower’s house and at least one man showed up with a gun and threatened a neighbor. A recall effort was mounted against the devout Mormon and BYU grad. He was accused of corruption and pedophilia. His friends attacked him. Trump lied about him.

All this happened, while Bower’s daughter lay dying inside his home under siege. All this happened because a conservative Republican told the truth about Donald Trump and pushed back on the stolen election lies. Election workers in Georgia and elsewhere have similarly been threatened and intimidated.

It may well be that Idaho’s Republican leaders are merely pragmatically invested in continuing to be, as Chuck says, “political survivors,” toeing the line and tending to tribal loyalties, but what if they won’t tell the truth because they are merely political cowards rather than survivors? Considering the threats and intimidation raining down on who have dared to tell the truth – Rusty Bowers and this week former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson among them – who can really blame these small, timid and quiet men from Idaho?  

Yet, like Bowers, like the Georgia secretary of state, like young Ms. Hutchinson, like the Capitol Police officers who fought – and some died – to protect Fulcher, Simpson, Crapo and Risch on January 6, these Idaho Republicans also took an oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States.

That oath, as we heard from Speaker Bowers, is a solemn, honorable commitment. It doesn’t apply only when things are easy or convenient. There is no escape clause. You can’t suspend it when the politics get ugly, when Trump demands it, when the mob comes calling, or when too many of your constituents embrace nonsensical conspiracy theories. There is simply no oath that offers an “opt out” for “political survivors.”

Malloy suggests Idaho Republicans believe political courage is for losers. And they may be right. If that be so then we are all losers, and our democracy is the biggest loser of all.

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Additional Reading:

A few other carefully curated items for your consideration …

Punchbowl and power in Washington, DC

I’m admittedly pretty “old school.” My sense of journalism in rooted in the memory of Walter Cronkite, David Broder and Ben Bradley. Oh, I look at all the “new” stuff out there – the newsletters, Substack posts, and even Punchbowl, a strange name for a news organization, but OK …

If you care. He’s a dive into what is driving political news out of Washington, D.C. these days.

From the Columbia Journalism Review.


Mystery of Waterloo’s dead soldiers to be re-examined by academics

Waterloo …

“Writing in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Prof Tony Pollard, director of the centre for battlefield archaeology at the University of Glasgow, has collated vivid descriptions and images from those who visited Waterloo in the aftermath of the 1815 battle, which pitted Napoleon’s forces against a British-led coalition and a Prussian-led one.”

The image is, well, a bit grisly. From The Guardian.


The Early Life of the Renowned Leader of the Lakotas, Sitting Bull

Growing up in South Dakota I’ve always been fascinated by the great Sitting Bull. There is a new book.

“There was no such thing as emptiness in the world,” one Lakota remembered from his childhood. “Even in the sky there were no vacant places. Everywhere there was life.”

Here is an excerpt.


Liz Cheney at Reagan Library

Another tumultuous week in American politics and history. I’ll leave you with encouragement to listen to Liz Cheney’s speech this week at the Reagan Library.

“Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said.

Here’s a link to C-Span’s coverage.


Thanks, as always, for following along. Stay in touch. And stay informed. These are perilous times.